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Viewing Clinton vs. Trump through the Lens of Tax Reforms

Posted by Marty Williams, CPA on Aug 24, 2016 11:38:55 AM

iStock_000090815599_Large-432178-edited.jpgUnderstanding the Differences Can Help Voters Make Informed Choices

As we near the home stretch of this year’s presidential campaign, the din of July’s Republican and Democratic national campaigns seems like a distant memory. Indeed, the presidential race has taken so many unexpected twists and turns in the weeks since those two conventions, even jaded veteran political journalists are shaking their heads in disbelief.

With all the attendant hoopla surrounding the campaigns now in the past, voters must make a decision. Part of that means evaluating the tax plans that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are proposing to the American people.

Expounding on our nation’s tax policy provides an opportunity for all candidates – from presidential down the line – to align their beliefs with those of the constituencies they seek to woo at the ballot box. This year is no different—we are not surprised that the two main candidates have widely disparate points of view on taxes. Here is a look at how the two candidates square off on the main issues, as well as their overall approach to taxes.



Hillary Clinton wants to reform the tax code to ease the burden on the middle class by having the wealthiest pay more taxes. Her largest increase would be on those earning the top one percent, or more than $732,000 a year, while holding the line on all other incomes levels. Her plan would generate slightly over $1 trillion in additional revenue over 10 years and another $2 trillion over the next 20 years.

Clinton wants to reform international tax rules for corporations, and increase estate and gift taxes.


No surprise here—Trump’s tax perspective is counter to Clinton’s. He wants to cut taxes at all income levels for individuals and businesses, with the greatest breaks going to those with the highest income. Trump has repeatedly said that he favors a tax cut for the middle class. On the corporate side, he has called for “massive business tax cuts.”

Trump also wants to increase the standard deduction to nearly four times its current amount. Trump’s tax approach would cost $10 trillion over 10 years.

The Specifics

Issue #1: Tax Brackets


  • No change in tax brackets
  • Clinton would impose the “Buffet Rule” requiring taxpayers earning more than $1 million per year to pay at least 30% in taxes
  • Further, she proposed a 4% “Fair Share Surcharge,” on those with incomes over $5 million a year, aimed at those she deems most likely to avoid paying their fair share of taxes by exploiting tax loopholes
  • Results:
    • Top 10% (over $3.8 million) would pay roughly $520,000 more per year
    • Top 20% ($209,000 or more per year) would pay roughly $4,500 more per year
    • Middle class ($80,000 to $142,000) would pay $44 more per year
    • Bottom 20% ($23,000 or less) would pay $4 more per year in 2017


Three tax brackets:

  • 12%
  • 25%
  • 33%

Issue #2: Individual and Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)

Clinton: Creates a new minimum 30% rate on individuals earning over $1 million

Trump: Repeal

Issue #3: Estate and Gift Tax


  • Exempt the first $3.5 million of an individual estate; $7 million for married couples
  • Increase the top estate tax rate to 45%, lower the estate tax exclusion to $3.5
  • Cap lifetime gift tax exemption at $1 million


Issue #4: Deductions


  • Limit the value of non-charitable deductions and exemptions to 28%
  • Favors a $1,500 apprenticeship tax credit for every new worker a business trains and hires

TrumpRetain both the charitable giving and mortgage interest deductions

Issue #5: Capital gains, dividends and interest income


  • End the carried interest loophole
  • Raise rates on medium-term capital gains (investments held for less than six years) to between 24% and 39.6%
  • No change in the long-term rate
  • Tax carried interest as ordinary income

TrumpEliminate the net investment income surtax

Issue #6: Corporate Income Tax

Clinton: No specific proposal


  • Cut top corporate tax rate to 15%
  • Create a new business income tax rate for freelancers within the personal tax code for pass-through businesses that would match the 15% corporate tax rate

Issue #7: International Income


  • Restrict corporate inversions by increasing from 20% to 50% the post-merger threshold of foreign shareholder ownership for an American company to be considered foreign
  • Impose an exit tax on companies that undergo an inversion to ensure U.S. taxes are paid on un-repatriated earnings held overseas


  • Provide a one-time deemed repatriation of corporate tax held overseas at a 10% rate
  • End deferral of taxes on corporate income held overseas but preserve the foreign tax credit

Issue #8: Affordable Care Act

Clinton: Uphold and establish a 20% caregiver credit to help taxpayers offset up to $6,000 in caregiving costs for elderly family members

Trump: Repeal

The tax experts at Machen McChesney will keep close tabs on the latest news and events surrounding election-related tax issues, and we will keep you updated on all late-breaking developments. For questions about the information presented in this piece, please contact Marty Williams, CPA at (334) 887-7022 or by leaving us a message below.  

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