Tax Planning in an Election Year

It Doesn’t Matter Who Wins The Election – Higher Taxes Are Expected, So Get Ready.

— By Eunice Park, Senior Contributor

Every four years when the U.S. presidential election approaches, Americans must think about the vast implications of the potential presidential outcome. With the economy struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, candidates’ proposed tax policies take on more importance. While past election platforms have implied tax hikes or reductions to lure or sway voters, it’s highly likely that taxes will rise regardless of whether the Democrat or Republican party win this election. This is primarily because of the excessive federal deficit and economic recovery spending from the health crisis.

Don’t be alarmed or take any action yet. However, there are things that you should be aware of as a taxpayer, especially if you’re a small business owner, that may affect your taxes. High income, self-employed individuals often can reduce their taxes with retirement strategies that allow the highest tax-deductible contributions – this means lower taxes and more money for the future.

Whichever political party wins, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 will be affected. Former Vice President Joe Biden has proposed higher taxes for wealthier Americans and seeks to repeal parts of the TCJA. President Trump has not provided many details about second-term tax plans, but has indicated he would seek permanent status on some of the TCJA provisions. Trump also has discussed plans to expand existing tax breaks, create credits for specific industries and activities, and other undefined tax cuts for individuals.

The Need for Tax Hikes

Even before the health crisis, the federal government was experiencing a historic federal deficit of nearly $1 trillion, which is the highest the deficit has been since World War II. The pandemic has caused enormous economic disruption, prompting Congress and President Trump to increase spending in response to the crisis. The deficit won’t be shrinking anytime soon – it’s projected to quadruple to $3.7 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. At some point, no matter which political party is in power, the U.S. government will need to raise revenue, which often is in the form of taxes, to curtail the deficit.

Expect Tax Overhaul Regardless Who Wins

There is no way of predicting the outcome of the election. However, the one likely result (despite the winner), is that there will be adjustments to our current tax laws. A general tax increase seems to be an inevitable way to offset our recent, increased debt. Based on the current landscape, here are some potential outcomes for each candidate.

If Democrats Win the Election

Biden has proposed many tax changes and increases related to spending proposals for various issues including climate change, infrastructure, health care, education, and research and development. While Biden has not proposed a “wealth tax,” most of his proposals revolve around raising income taxes on high earners as well as on businesses.
If Democrats win the 2020 presidential election, taxpayers can expect to overhaul their tax planning. Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders formed a unity task force and created a 110-page policy agenda that details the goals of Democrats. Democrats favor building a more progressive tax system, which is stated in the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations in which taxes would be used as a tool to reduce inequality and concentrations of wealth and to pay for investments in U.S. productivity and fund government needs.

If Republicans Win the Election

If the Republicans win the 2020 General Election, it isn’t clear yet how taxes will change. Trump has eluded to the fact there will be a tax cut, but his campaign team has not revealed many details.
Trump deferred employee contributions to payroll taxes that fund Social Security benefits, meaning employees and employers are exempt from paying taxes. In theory, this allows workers to receive more money in their paychecks, but could hurt Social Security in the long run. While this was just a deferral, Trump has said if he were reelected, he would forgive the payment of these taxes. Trump also has stated he wants to end payroll tax permanently.

Higher Taxes for Individuals Earning $400,000

Biden has stated there won’t be new taxes on people earning under $400,000 and no tax hikes on small businesses that employ less than 50 people. However, Biden wants to increase tax rates for those earning more than $400,000, which will raise the top marginal rate back to the pre-2017 TCJA rate.
Biden’s tax plan seeks to keep Qualified Business Income (QBI) deductions for those with less than $400,000 in earnings, but phases out pass-through deductions for those with over $400,000 in earnings. The qualified pass-through business deductions allows small business owners to deduct up to 20% of their business income under the TCJA. But for individuals and couples earning over these thresholds, there are rules that determine whether or not you’re allowed to take QBI deductions.
Trump has said he won’t raise taxes on people earning less than $400,000. Recently Trump has been in the spotlight regarding taxes, so it’s likely that more of his plans will be made public leading up to the election.

Corporate Tax Rate Increase

The biggest change from the TCJA would be the partial undoing of the tax cut passed along to corporations. Under the TCJA signed by Trump, the peak marginal corporate tax rate was slashed from 35% to 21%. Under the Biden tax plan, the corporate tax rate would be increased to 28%. Also Biden has suggested that he would impose a 15% minimum book tax on corporations with $100 million or greater in income.
Increasing the corporate tax rate to 28% would help raise about a third of the $3.3 trillion to $3.7 trillion in estimated extra revenue to pay for the deficit over the next decade.

Trump Administration Wants to Extend TCJA Provisions

Some experts say a Republican victory would be seen as approval of President Trump’s handling of the economy – and his tax policies.
The Trump administration has not unveiled a second-term tax strategy, but one thing that they aim to do is extend the 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act provisions beyond 2025, which means the lower individual income tax rates would be extended across the board.
Republicans may push for additional reforms with priorities that include a further reduction of the corporate rate, a payroll tax cut, immediate expensing for businesses that bring operations and jobs back to the United States, a middle-class tax cut, indexing capital gains to inflation and introducing new tax-free savings and investment accounts.

It Doesn’t Matter Who Wins the Election, You Can Lower Your Taxes

From a planning perspective, investors should keep their sights on the long-term trends that extend beyond the election. No matter which candidate wins the 2020 presidency, the outcome will likely impact tax policy for many years.
There’s a tax strategy that can help high-income individuals reduce tax liability, regardless of who wins the election. For instance, a Defined Benefit or Cash Balance retirement plan is a tax solution that can save high-income, self-employed individuals big on taxes. Defined Benefit plans are a tax-advantaged plan that allows maximized retirement contributions. If you’re interested in making double or triple contributions and reduce taxable income by up to $100,000 a year, a Defined Benefit plan may be ideal for you. There are online tools that can help you get an estimate on how much money you can save on taxes. It’s never too early to reevaluate your tax planning strategy.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dedicated Defined Benefit Services or its affiliated companies. Dedicated Defined Benefit Services, part of FuturePlan by Ascensus, is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or investment services. If legal, accounting, investment, or other similar expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

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