The Washington Post
President Donald Trump and his GOP allies are planning to hand out trillions of dollars in tax cuts. It’s one of a few major goals for Republicans now that they have control in Washington.
Yet a new poll suggests that ordinary Republican voters lack enthusiasm for broad tax relief, and might even object to current plans to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Although the GOP plans might address other concerns that Republicans shared with pollsters about taxes in America, the results suggest that more Republicans want to see an increase in taxes for the rich than want to see their own taxes reduced.
More Republicans say they pay about the right amount in taxes than complain about paying more than their fair share, according to the poll published Friday by the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, large groups of Republican voters say they were already upset by the fact that some corporations and rich households pay too little.
Last year, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the speaker of the House, and his GOP colleagues put forward a proposal for tax relief that would primarily benefit the well-off. After a decade, 99.6 percent of the savings under the plan would accrue to the richest 1 percent of households, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
In the Pew poll, however, 40 percent of Republicans said they were bothered “a lot” by the fact that some wealthy Americans do not pay their fair share of taxes.
The plan would also reduce the rate on corporate income from 35 percent to 20 percent and reduce taxes on corporations by $891 billion in total over a decade. Yet even more Republicans worry that corporate taxes are already too low. In the poll, 44 percent of GOP respondents said corporations paying too little bothered them a lot.
During the campaign, Trump advanced a plan that was similar to Ryan’s in terms of the benefits for wealthy taxpayers, but also included generous reductions for the middle class.
To be sure, some Republicans would welcome a broad tax cut, but high taxes do not appear to be an issue uniting and animating GOP voters. Just 35 percent said the amount they pay in taxes bothered them a lot.
Even more than how much they themselves pay in taxes or the rates imposed on corporations and rich households, Republicans are concerned about the complexity of the tax code. Nearly half — 49 percent — said they were bothered a lot by how complex the system is.
On this point, Ryan’s plan could address some GOP taxpayers’ concerns.
The plan would increase the standard deduction and eliminate all the itemized deductions in the system — except for the deductions for mortgage interest and donations to charity. As a result, most taxpayers would no longer have to itemize their deductions. They could simply claim the standard deduction without giving up any money, saving time for themselves and their accountants.
About 84 percent of people who would otherwise itemize could use the standard deduction, according to the Tax Policy Center.
Trump’s plan would also reduce the number of taxpayers who itemize — by about 60 percent — but could make the tax code more complex in other ways, according to the center. Trump’s plan includes a major break aimed at small businesses, but experts on taxation have warned that provision could be abused by workers with high salaries, who could claim to be operating small businesses contracting with their current employers.
During the campaign, Trump’s advisers did not make clear how they would address this potential loophole, and the White House has yet to issue a revised plan now that Trump is in office.
Among working-class and poor Republicans, there is even greater concern that corporations and the rich are not paying enough.
For instance, a majority of Republicans with annual family incomes under $30,000 — 51 percent — were bothered a lot by corporations not paying their fair share, according to Pew. In that group, 45 percent said the same about rich taxpayers. And only 25 percent said the amount they themselves pay bothers them a lot.
The opposite was true among Democrats: Less affluent Democrats tended to have more conservative views of the tax system.
Twenty-four percent of Democrats with incomes below $30,000 said they were bothered a lot by the amount they pay in taxes, compared to 13 percent of those with incomes above $75,000. Meanwhile, 19 percent of Democrats with less than $30,000 a year said that the poor did not pay their fair share, compared to just 8 percent of Democrats with incomes above $75,000.
Regardless of income, roughly three-quarters of Democrats are bothered a lot by how little corporations and wealthy Americans pay.
The Republican plans to reduce taxes for those groups are also at odds with the concerns of a majority Americans as a whole. Nationally, 60 percent of respondents told Pew they were already bothered a lot by the rich paying less than their fair share, and 62 percent said the same about corporations.