The details of Joe Biden’s tax plan emerged on Thursday—“emerged” because the campaign has yet to release a plan on its website. Instead, Bloomberg News obtained and published details of the tax proposal.
Most news coverage of the plan has to date focused on two issues. First, Biden’s plan proposes raising a relatively modest amount of revenue—“only” $3.2 trillion over a decade, compared to $20-30 trillion for the likes of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). As an additional point of comparison, the 2017 tax cut, which Biden called “the dumbest thing in the world,” reduced revenues by $1.46 trillion over 10 years—less than half the fiscal impact of Biden’s tax increase. (Biden has said he wants to repeal those tax cuts, most of which are not included in his $3.2 trillion tax increase proposal.)
Second, stories have centered around the fact that Biden’s proposed revenue raisers would hit corporations and the affluent, while sparing the middle class. But few if any stories on Biden’s tax plan have mentioned one tax he has not proposed increasing—the one he failed to pay himself.
The List of Tax Increases
The Bloomberg story listed ten tax increases included in Biden’s $3.2 trillion plan:
- Taxing capital gains as ordinary income for individuals making more than $1 million ($800 billion revenue increase over ten years);
- Increasing the corporate income tax rate back up to 28% ($730 billion);
- Ending the “stepped-up basis” of taxation, under which the cost basis of inherited property (e.g., stocks, real estate, etc.) for determining capital gains tax liability is the value of the property at the time of the inheritance, rather than the value of the property when the deceased individual purchased the asset ($440 billion);
- Imposing a 15% minimum tax on all corporations with net income over $100 million, but who paid no federal income taxes ($400 billion);
- Doubling the rate of tax on profits generated overseas to 21% ($340 billion);
- Limiting the value of deductions for the wealthy to 28%, a proposal included in several Obama administration budgets ($310 billion);
- Raising the top rate of tax back up to 39.6% ($90 billion);
- Imposing sanctions on countries that “facilitate illegal corporate tax avoidance” ($200 billion);
- Eliminating real estate tax loopholes ($70 billion); and
- Ending fossil fuel subsidies ($40 billion).
Among that list of revenue raises, Biden did not incorporate a proposal submitted by the Obama administration in its budgets. That proposal, which would have raised taxes by an estimated $271.7 billion as of February 2016, attempted to end the practice of individuals funneling their profits through S corporations, to avoid paying self-employment taxes on their earnings.
The omission might come because, as previously reported, Biden and his wife used this loophole Obama wanted to close. In taking more than $13 million in book and speech earnings as income from their corporation, rather than wages, Joe and Jill Biden avoided paying as much as $500,000 in taxes—taxes used to fund Obamacare and Medicare. Experts interviewed by the Wall Street Journal over the summer called the maneuver “pretty aggressive” and a “pretty cut and dried” abuse of the system, because the Bidens’ speech and book income clearly came from their own intellectual property, rather than as a result of a corporate creation (e.g., profits from a restaurant, a car business, etc.).
As noted above, Bloomberg News broke the story of Biden’s tax plan. Its story mentioned not a word about how Biden’s plan omitted the Obama proposal on self-employment taxes, or Biden’s history of questionable tax maneuvers. The silence comes as Bloomberg said it would not conduct investigative reporting into declared candidate, and Bloomberg News owner, Michael Bloomberg’s rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination—but would continue to investigate President Trump.
At some point, reporters should stop colluding with each other to avoid investigations into Joe Biden’s sordid tax history. And they should start asking why a candidate who has campaigned on preserving and building upon Obamacare didn’t want to pay the taxes that fund it.