- Republicans have worked hard to sell their tax reform bill as a middle-class tax cut. But President Donald Trump stands to gain hundreds of millions of dollars from provisions likely to end up in the bill.
- Eliminating the alternative minimum tax, capping the tax rate on pass-through income and abolishing the estate tax would all likely boost the Trump family's bottom line.
- Still, Trump told the public this week that the bill "is going to cost me a fortune."
"This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me. This is not good for me," President Donald Trump told a friendly crowd in St. Charles, Missouri, this week.
Trump was speaking, of course, about the Republican tax reform bill that's moving through Congress. Friday afternoon, the Senate GOP's version looked increasingly likely to pass that chamber with a simple majority.
Republicans have worked hard to sell their bill as a middle-class tax cut, despite numerous nonpartisan analyses of it that show the majority of the benefits would go to the very wealthy.
But few have worked harder at this than Trump. "Our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mailrooms and machine shops of America," he said in Missouri. The GOP tax bill, Trump said, will help "the plumbers and the carpenters, the cops and the teachers, the truck drivers and the pipe fitters."
It will also help Donald Trump — a lot — despite his claim that it's "not good" for him. And while it's difficult to gauge exactly how much Trump stands to benefit from the bill, given that he refuses to release his tax returns, a partial return from 2005 offers a good starting point.
It's also unclear exactly what any final bill will contain — the House and Senate each have their own versions, and the Senate's final version has yet to be released. Nonetheless, the broad outlines of the bills are known.
Below are some of the ways Trump, his family, and their trusts and LLCs could benefit most from the passage of a GOP tax bill.
Eliminating the alternative minimum tax
Trump's accountants use sophisticated methods to keep Trump's tax bill as low as possible, and Trump himself has admitted that for several years in the 1990s, he paid no personal federal income tax at all. The alternative minimum tax is designed to ensure that wealthy people can't use deductions and losses to avoid paying any taxes at all. According to data from The Washington Post, in 2005, the alternative minimum tax increased Trump's tax bill by $31 million, from $5.3 million to $36.5 million.
Both the House and Senate tax reform bills include eliminating the AMT, potentially saving the president tens of millions of dollars a year in taxes.
Capping the top tax rate for pass-through income
Most of the Trump family's 500-plus individual companies are set up as partnerships and limited liability corporations — the types of businesses that pass income to their owners, and which the owners pay individual income tax rates on, rather than corporate rates. The House version of the tax reform bill caps the top tax rate for pass-through income at 25 percent, which is significantly lower than the top rate for individual income earned through wages, which is 39.6 percent.
In 2005, Trump reported $109 million in income from closely held partnerships and small businesses. At a 40 percent individual tax rate, Trump owed $43.6 million in taxes on the income. But at the new, lower rate of 25 percent, Trump would have owed more than $27 million in taxes, a savings for him of more than $16 million. Over a decade, Trump could potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes by paying the new, lower rate.
Eliminating the estate tax
Here's the biggie. Both the House and the Senate are proposing an eventual elimination of the estate tax, which currently applies only to individual estates worth more than $11 million. Trump, according to Forbes, is worth $3.1 billion, although the president claims to be worth much more.
Using Forbes' figure, the Republican plan to eliminate the estate tax would save Trump's heirs as much as $1.24 billion.
That would be enough money to fund the entire children's health insurance program, known as CHIP, for America's three poorest states for two years. Congress has yet to reauthorize the CHIP program for 2018, after it was allowed to lapse earlier this year.
Speaking on Wednesday in Missouri, Trump promised that the GOP tax bill would bring "relief from the horrible, crushing, unfair estate tax."
"I see people right here. They're obviously very rich, and they love their children," he said, looking out into the audience. "They want to pass on what they have without having to have the kids sell the property, [or] mortgage up half of it."