Tax Planning

How Trump's tax plan will actually affect you

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The tax proposals outlined by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in his economic speech Monday include simplifying income-tax brackets, eliminating the estate tax and making the cost of child care fully tax-deductible, though he hasn't released details on the deduction.

Yet the gains from reforming the system may hinge on the details.

3 income-tax brackets

Trump's proposal to streamline the tax system into three brackets of 12 percent, 25 percent and 33 percent is similar to the tax plan of House Speaker Paul Ryan, said Scott Greenberg, an analyst with the conservative Tax Foundation.

The Tax Foundation analysis of Ryan's plan found that it would reduce federal revenue by $191 billion over the first decade, but may lead to 9.1 percent higher GDP, 7.7 percent higher wages, and an additional 1.7 million full-time jobs.

The economic costs and benefits of Trump's plan "will all depend on how wide the new brackets are and how large the standard deduction is under the revised tax plan," Greenberg said.

Child-care expenses

The federal government currently provides two tax breaks for child care for working parents: the child and dependent care tax credit and the ability to pay for child care with a flexible spending account.

The child and dependent care tax credit provides a credit worth between 20 percent and 35 percent of child care costs up to $3,000 for a child under age 13. The credit is income based and is reduced for people with higher incomes. Eligible child care expenses are limited to $6,000 per family.

About 12.1 percent of families with children benefited from the child and dependent care tax credit last year, according to estimates by Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

Employees also can set aside up to $5,000 per year of their salary, regardless of the number of children, in an employer-provided flexible spending account to pay child-care expenses.

Making child care fully tax-deductible might cause high earners to spend more on their child care than they would without the deduction.

"There would presumably be a trade-off, I assume that Trump would also get rid of the current child and dependent care tax credit," said Roberton Williams, a fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. "For low-income families,the credit is worth more than they would save from the deduction so the swap would make them worse off."

Some policy analysts worry making child-care costs fully tax-deductible is a regressive policy.

"The bulk of the deduction would benefit people who can afford to pay for their child care," said Chye-Ching Huang, a senior tax policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Public Priorities, a progressive think tank. "It's a proposal that helps high-income investment bankers more than nurses."

The Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, wants to cap expenses for child care at 10 percent of annual income. Under her plan, the federal government "would use a combination of subsidized child care and tax credits" when costs exceed that limit.

Estate tax

You have to earn a lot to be subject to the estate tax. For 2016, the estate exemption is $5.45 million per individual. That means you could leave your heirs up to $5.45 million and pay no federal estate taxes if you died this year.

Only about 10,800 individuals who died last year left estates large enough to require filing an estate tax return, according to estimates by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. After allowing for deductions and credits, that number drops to less than 5,400.

Small farms and businesses paid an estimated $10 million in estate tax in 2015, less than one-tenth of 1 percentage point of the total estate-tax revenue, the Tax Policy Center found. Nearly 85 percent of these taxable estates came from the top 10 percent of income earners and more than 40 percent will come from the top 1 percent alone, the Tax Policy Center found.

Because so few households are affected by the estate tax, it is not a big revenue generator for the federal government. The federal government collects about $25 billion annually from the estate tax compared to the $2 trillion it collects in income taxes each fiscal year.

Ending the estate tax could hurt charitable giving from wealthy people looking to keep the net worth of their estates below the tax's threshold, Williams said.

Meanwhile, Clinton has proposed increasing the top estate tax rate to 45 percent and lowering the estate tax exclusion to $3.5 million. That change would restore the federal estate tax to 2009 levels.

Increasing the estate tax would raise an additional $106 billion over the next decade, according to an analysis by the Tax Foundation.