Both presidential candidates battled it out during their first debate Monday but didn’t detail their tax plans as much as some hoped.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton focused primarily on taxing the wealthy to support public services. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump wants to lower taxes to keep companies in the country. The National Taxpayers Union hoped the two would focus on specific plans to reform the current tax system.
“We probably would be setting the bar too high to ask for incredibly specific details from the presidential candidates tonight on how they would reform the tax system,” NTU President Pete Sepp told reporters on a call prior to the debate. “Unfortunately the details really are what counts.”
Sepp was hoping the candidates would discuss in detail their tax plans and what their priorities would be on day one. He also hoped they would address the costly burden of recently proposed rules, unreported errors within the tax code, oversight and protecting domestic companies against discriminate foreign tax practices.
“This is also about the president himself, or herself, exercising leadership directly within the executive branch to move tax reform forward,” explains Sepp. “There are several issues immediately confronting the next occupant of the White House”
Trump believes decreasing the tax burden from 35 percent to 15 percent for companies will help boost job growth. He argues lowering taxes and regulations will incentive companies to create jobs domestically. Clinton, in contrast, believes raising taxes on the rich will help counter wealth inequality.
“We also, though, need to have a tax system that rewards work and not just financial transactions,” Clinton stated. “And the kind of plan that Donald has put forth would be trickle down economics. It would be the most extreme version, the biggest tax cuts for the top percents of the people in this country that we’ve ever had.”
Another group, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, also hoped the candidates would take the time to detail their tax plans. It warned that new regulations and taxes are crippling economic growth. TPA President David Williams noted the candidates have a responsibility to address the tax system.
“For far too long under the Obama administration there has been a record number of crippling new regulatory measures and attempts to raise punitive taxes on select industries,” Williams detailed in a statement provided to InsideSources. “This troubling trend has denigrated economically robust sectors of America’s economy.”
NTU’s Sepp noted that discriminative foreign tax policies are negatively impacting businesses now. He notes the next president has the tools to combat it but that he or she must not be too timid to do so. Sepp notes the president has the authority to double tax any foreign entity engaging in discriminative tax practices.
“[It] has been regarded as nuclear option of sorts with tax policy and has been dismissed in the past as crazy talk,” said Sepp. “Yet, members of the Senate Finance Committee have urged the Treasury to explore potentially using this tool in very isolated incidences.”
Taxpayer advocates also hope the next president will fix those portions of the tax code that aren’t being properly administered by the Internal Revenue Service.
“The next chief executive needs to take a look at portions of the tax laws that are currently not being properly administered within the executive branch,” says Sepp. “One of these has to do with the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act which passed way back in 1998.”
The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act provides the president a powerful tool for fixing tax code issues. The IRS is required to produce an annual report to detect errors and unnecessary complexities within the tax code. Sepp states the agency hasn’t produced such a report since 2002.
“The IRS has failed to produce an analysis, required by law, to be issued annually of sources of complexities in the tax code and potential remedies,” he explains. “A chief executive could simply instruct the Internal Revenue Service to resume those reports and we would already have a head start on tax simplification.”
Sepp adds the report actually provided lawmakers useful raw materials for addressing the issues. He hopes the next president will tackle issues with the oversight board too. The IRS Oversight Board has been unable to function for the past few years because the Congress cannot agree with the president on a new nominee to the board.
“This was a body of individuals who, until a couple of years ago, was providing good solid guidance on the IRS business and management practices,” says Sepp. “Unfortunately because of a spat between Congress and the White House there have been no new nominees to the IRS oversight board.”
Sepp also warned there is a costly proposed tax rule that the candidates should be paying attention to. The new rule changes the tax code so that the IRS can use corporate debt as stock.
“Democrats, as well as Republicans, on the tax-writing committees, have expressed concern that the rule is too broadly drafted,” he cautions. “[It] will dramatically impact the cash management practices of firms across the economic spectrum and will lead to a great deal of additional compliance burdens.”
The U.S. Treasury estimates the rule will cost businesses somewhere around $13 million. Sepp expects the rule to be much more costly than the government estimates.