Business owners are likely saving more than $10 billion annually in federal taxes through state laws that circumvent the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of state data.
The state laws blunt the cap’s effect on owners of closely held businesses such as law firms, hedge funds, manufacturers and car dealerships, while workers earning wages generally can’t take advantage. The strategy, now available in 27 states, converts business owners’ personal income taxes into deductible business taxes that escape what is known as the SALT cap on state and local tax deductions.
Much of the money flows to high-income people in California, New York and New Jersey, while those in Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Connecticut are likely saving hundreds of millions of dollars as well. It isn’t just a phenomenon in high-tax Democratic states. The proliferating workarounds mark a rare case where a state-tax policy trend has been swift, national and bipartisan, and Utah, Georgia, Arizona, South Carolina and Kansas now have similar laws.
For states, approving the workarounds has been easy, because their residents benefit and state tax collections are barely altered. For business owners, the chance to lower federal tax bills is attractive, and industry groups are lobbying in the states that haven’t yet enacted workarounds.
An unprecedented gush of income-tax revenue is flowing into the federal government, driven in part by investors and business owners, and the size and speed of the increase has surprised even the nation’s fiscal-policy experts.
Individual income tax collections are poised to reach $2.6 trillion, or 10.6% of the economy in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That is up from 9.1% in 2021 and would mark a record in the 109-year history of the tax, topping the war-tax receipts of 1944 and the dot-com boom of 2000.
The surge has been particularly notable in taxes outside paycheck withholding, a signal that capital gains and business income are driving the trend. The Penn Wharton Budget Model estimates collections of non-withheld taxes reached an inflation-adjusted $522 billion in April 2022, compared with just over $300 billion in 2018 and 2019, before the pandemic.
As inflation trends near a 13-year high, middle-income workers will benefit from automatic annual adjustments to tax provisions such as the standard deduction for income taxes. Some other provisions are frozen in time, stuck to specific dollar amounts from decades ago. Those provisions tend to pinch higher-income households.
For example, the standard deduction for married couples is likely to rise to $25,900 from $25,100, according to Wolters Kluwer NV, which provides tax services to accountants and others. As nominal wages and prices rise, that adjustment will shield more money from taxation and block inflation — currently above 5% on an unadjusted annual rate — from causing a sharp tax increase.
Some home sellers, however, will be squeezed because married couples can exclude up to $500,000 in gains from capital-gains taxes. That figure hasn’t changed since a 1997 law, while the median home sale price has more than doubled since then.
An agreement by wealthy countries to impose minimum taxes on multinational companies faces a rocky path to implementation, with many governments likely to wait to see what others, especially a divided U.S. Congress, will do.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen hailed the deal, reached by finance ministers of the Group of Seven leading rich nations over the weekend in London, calling it a return to multilateralism and a sign countries can tighten the tax net on profitable firms to fund their governments.
In countries with parliamentary systems, governments can quickly deliver on pledges, turning them into local laws and regulations. In the U.S., however, a slim Democratic majority in the House, an evenly split Senate, antitax Republicans and procedural hurdles complicate passage.
Buy-in will also have to come from a broader group of 135 countries in what is known as the Inclusive Framework. Some countries with very low tax rates — such as Ireland, with a 12.5% charge on profit — are reluctant to sign up. The U.S. has proposed tax changes that would penalize companies from countries that don’t impose the minimum taxes.
Author(s): Richard Rubin, Paul Hannon, Sam Schechner
A 15% minimum tax on large, profitable corporations that is part of President Biden’s infrastructure proposal would affect far fewer companies than the version he campaigned on, according to details the Treasury Department released Wednesday.
The tax — aimed at companies that report large profits to investors but low tax payments — would apply only to companies with income exceeding $2 billion, up from the $100 million threshold that Mr. Biden pushed during the campaign.
The Biden plan would now also let companies subject to the tax get the benefit of tax credits for research, renewable energy and low-income housing, a recognition that the campaign-trail version could have undercut the president’s preference to encourage companies to invest in those areas.
The result is that just 180 companies would meet the income threshold and just 45 would pay the tax, according to administration estimates that assume the rest of the administration’s plan gets implemented. Nearly 1,100 U.S.-listed companies would meet the $100 million threshold, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Many of them would still face sharply higher tax bills from the rest of the Biden proposals, which raise rates on domestic and foreign income.
Progressive Senate Democrats suggested that their new plan to tax unrealized capital gains at death should come with a $1 million per-person exemption, setting that line 10 times higher than an earlier Obama administration proposal and shielding a larger swath of upper income households.
A discussion draft released Monday by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) and others marks a first attempt to put details on an idea that President Biden endorsed during last year’s campaign. Capital-gains taxation is likely to spur significant debate in coming months as Democrats look to raise money from high-income households to pay for Mr. Biden’s proposed spending on infrastructure and social programs.
Under current law, someone who dies with appreciated assets—including homes, businesses and stocks in taxable accounts—doesn’t have to pay capital-gains taxes on that increase. Instead, the heirs have to pay capital-gains taxes only after they sell and only on gains after the original owner’s death. That “stepped-up basis” is a longstanding feature of the tax code, but it has come under increasing attacks from Democrats who see wealthy people’s profits escaping the income tax.