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The Future of U.S. Tax Policy: Key Issues for 2023 Presidential Candidates

The early Presidential debates for the 2024 election cycle have begun, and one topic expected to take center stage is the future of the U.S. tax code. Tax policy questions loom large, and the 46th person to serve as United States President – remember, Grover Cleveland was elected twice, non-consecutively – will have to grapple with some significant tax issues.

Foremost among these are the expiring individual and business tax regulations brought about by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and the growing deficits and national debt.

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Details

The tax code changes brought about by the TCJA are scheduled to sunset at the end of 2025, leading to potentially major changes for taxpayers. Kiplinger notes that now is the time to begin planning to mitigate the financial impact of these expiring provisions – talk to your tax professional for planning strategies that might help you keep more of your hard-earned money.

It is also imperative for all of the 2024 Presidential candidates to address how they intend to prevent these expirations from negatively affecting Americans in all demographics and at all income levels. TCJA questions surrounding the following topics will likely play a vital role in future debates.

Individual Tax Expirations

The TCJA, signed into law in December 2017, introduced temporary changes that significantly alter the taxes paid by individual income earners. Most Americans have enjoyed increased after-tax income for the last several years. Some notable provisions that are set to expire include:

Lower Tax Rates and Brackets

Before the TCJA changes took effect, the U.S. tax code had seven brackets with rates from 10 percent to 39.6 percent. The TCJA lowered rates for several brackets and widened the brackets to reduce so-called marriage penalties. Furthermore, the TCJA lowered the top tax bracket from 39.6 percent to 37 percent, which has saved high-earners significant amounts of money.

Expanded Family Benefits

The TCJA reformed the Child Tax Credit (CTC), personal and dependent exemptions, and the standard deduction. This gave lower- and middle-income households with children more significant benefits. It also simplified the tax filing process. For example, it doubled the maximum CTC to $2,000 per eligible child and extended overall eligibility to more families.

It is important to note that the aforementioned Child Tax Credit changes took effect before the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in additional legislation to expand the credit even further temporarily.

Itemized Deduction Limits

The TCJA imposed limits on itemized deductions for home mortgage interest and state and local taxes to offset tax cuts. It doubled the standard deduction, eliminating millions of taxpayers needing to itemize their deductions. The legislation also temporarily eliminated select miscellaneous itemized deductions.

These changes are set to revert after 2025.

Business Tax Expirations

Small business owners and corporations also face tax uncertainty due to scheduled changes to American tax policy. Throughout the debate season, 2024 Presidential hopefuls will need to address several key business tax issues, including these:

Research and Development

Companies can no longer immediately deduct research and development (R&D) expenses, which may discourage R&D investment. Instead, companies must now amortize their costs over five years.

It is worth noting that there has been a bipartisan Congressional effort to introduce new R&D tax credits. In March 2023, for instance, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Todd Young (R-IN) reintroduced the American Innovation and Jobs Act. This aimed to extend and expand the R&D tax credit to allow more startups and small businesses to take advantage of the popular tax credit.

Machinery and Equipment

The TCJA temporarily allowed business owners and corporations to immediately deduct the costs associated with short-lived assets like machinery and equipment. However, this provision, called bonus depreciation, is phasing out with other TCJA changes, possibly discouraging investments in these goods.

What Happens Next?

The next President will be able to reshape crucial sections of the tax code, impacting American families' finances and business decisions. Before you vote in 2024, ensure you understand the policies each candidate intends to prioritize – and how these priorities will play a role in your day-to-day life.

Beyond expiring TCJA policies, the newly elected President will face other tax policy issues, including the 138-nation Global Tax Agreement, international trade issues that could have substantial import tax implications, and a seeming resurgence of industrial policy.

Additionally, the federal budget is on an unsustainable trajectory, and. Fitch Ratings recently downgraded the U.S. credit rating, citing the "alarming rise" in the federal government's interest costs. With the debt ceiling expected to be reached in early 2025, all candidates must outline their plans for proactively addressing these issues.

The tax questions at the forefront of this election season have the potential to shape the U.S. tax code for years – or even decades – to come.


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