This plan sends relief to some of the more challenged segments of the American population that don't qualify for welfare protections but are still falling behind. It will likely result in more people with low income paying no taxes at all.
Let'snot forget the stubborn segment of the population that cannot or simply will not buy a home. Homeownership in America is stuck in the low 60 percent range, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau reports. That's basically the lowest it's been since 1967, and it means millions of Americans are missing out on the massive tax deductions homeowners enjoy for mortgage interest and property tax costs.
It also means that more Americans are missing out on the benefits of holding what has historically been one of the most solid investments in history. Sure we had a major housing crash just eight years ago or so, but no one can deny that was the exception as opposed to the rule. Perhaps with a massive standard deduction boost, millions of Americans will now be more able to raise the cash for a down payment and get into the home ownership club. In any case, it gets more money into the hands of people who need it.
Another large and growing group of American taxpayers are so-called "gig economy" workers who do not hold traditional salaried jobs with one employer. Itemized tax forms are a major hurdle for these workers and are fraught with easy pitfalls that could lead to overpayment or underpayment of taxes. We've known for years that the complexity of itemizing taxes often leads people to choose not to itemize and take what they can get with the standard deduction even if that loses them some tax-refund money in the end. Now add the super complexity gig economy workers face in their returns and the chances they won't itemize is even greater.Boosting the standard deduction should be a big boon for a lot of them.
Of course, anything that makes the tax code simpler will almost always benefit the middle and lower middle class. Richer Americans can and do hire accountants,lawyers, and other staffers to help them swim through the dizzying laws and find the loopholes and caveats that help them. Most pundits are probably going to focus on how this plan simplifies taxes by going from seven tax rates to three.
But this boost in the standard deduction might actually do more to simplify the tax-filing process for a lot more people than any change to the rates. Not itemizing your taxes makes doing your taxes easier, period. And now there could be a much bigger incentive to not only make filing easier, but also reduce your tax bill.
Earlier this year, I noted how difficult it is to find some way to give middle and lower middle class Americans any level of federal tax relief because they don't pay much of the overall taxes anyway. In other words, what they do pay is probably a big deal for them, but there aren't many ways to cut their burden. But along comes this plan and it does that in a big way.
Other pundits will likely spend most of their time wringing their hands over the plan's call to reduce the highest tax rate of 39.6 percent to 35 percent and increasing the lowest tax rate from 10 percent to 12 percent.
Too much of our tax debate in this country and all over the Western world has for decades been dominated by a push to punish the rich over all else. As the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once loudly pointed out, these critics would rather see the poor get poorer than the rich get richer.
We should reject that old obsession and look at the numbers. When 70 percent of American taxpayers stand to gain such a significant increase in their tax deductions, and a significant number of the other 30 percent has a new incentive to a simpler filing process, that's where the main focus should be.Otherwise, we'll just be arguing about or for that 1 percent forever.
Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.
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