Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trump’s Giant “F-You” to Working People: Playing Games with Capital Gains Tax Rates

Photo source Fibonacci Blue | CC BY 2.0

Okay, I’m going to plead guilty to playing lawyer without a license. The NYT reports that the Trump administration is proposing to unilaterally (as in no congressional action) change the way that capital gains are calculated for tax purposes.

The plan is to allow people to index capital gains for inflation. For example, under current law, if you bought 100 shares of stock for $100 per share ten years ago, and sell the shares today for $200, you would pay the capital gains tax on the full difference of $10,000. (100* $200 = $20,000, 100* $100 = $10,000. $20,000 minus $10,000 = $10,000)

Under the Trump administration’s plan, you would be able to adjust the original $10,000 purchase for the inflation in the last decade. Let’s say that the inflation over this period has been a total of 20 percent. This means that instead of deducting $10,000 from the current sale price to calculation your gain you would deduct $12,000. This would leave a taxable gain of $8,000 instead of $10,000.

In this case it means a 20 percent reduction in the tax rate on capital gains. The reduction would be greater for longer held assets and less for assets held a short period of time.

In case there is any doubt, almost all of the savings would go to rich people. The article cites an analysis showing that 97 percent of the savings would go to the top 10 percent of the population and more than two thirds would go to the richest 0.1 percent.

And, just to be clear, don’t be foolish enough to think this is about helping the middle class Joe and Jane with their 401(k)s. These suckers have the capital gains in their 401(k)s taxed as ordinary income. They won’t be helped one iota by this change in the tax law. As the Republican motto goes, “tax cuts are for rich people.”

Now for my cheap legal thoughts. Congress has repeatedly changed the tax code with the understanding that a capital gain was defined as the difference between the selling price of an asset and the purchase price. This is one reason why the tax rate on capital gains is so much lower than the tax rate on wage income. (The top tax rate on capital gains is 20 percent, compared to 37.0 percent on wage income.)

In effect, the Trump administration would be saying that Congress didn’t know what it was doing when it was setting capital gains tax rates. That they actually meant for the gains to be indexed to inflation, it was just some weird misunderstanding that persisted for all these decades that caused capital gains to be measured by just taking actual purchase price.

I suppose this would be surprising, but given the open contempt that the Trump administration routinely shows for the rule of law, inventing a huge tax break for the richest people in the country is pretty much what we have come to expect. After all, if they didn’t get to lie, cheat, and steal, how could rich people get by on today’s rapidly changing economy?

This column originally ran on Beat the Press.

More articles by:

Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. 

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail