House Republicans passed a major tax reform package on Friday, known as the “Tax Cuts 2.0” package, in an attempt to follow up on last year’s massive tax-cut effort.
While the package will now head to the Senate, it’s likely that the second tax cut is dead on arrival in the chamber.
What’s in the package?
The Tax Cuts 2.0 package is three separate bills: The American Innovation Act, the Family Savings Act, and the Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act of 2018.
The centerpiece is the third bill, which would extend the individual tax cuts from last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA.
Republicans were forced to choose last year whether to make permanent corporate tax cut or individual tax cuts, due to Senate rules around the federal deficit. To have the bill qualify under the rules, the GOP chose to let the individual cuts to expire after 2025 while making corporate cuts permanent.
The Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act would extend the individual cuts into 2026 and beyond. The bill passed the House by a 220-191 vote, with three Democrats voting for the bill and 10 Republicans voting against it.
The other two other elements of the package, which would change the tax treatment for certain retirement accounts and allow businesses to deduct start-up costs, passed by wider margins of 240 to 177 and 260 to 156 respectively.
What would be the effects of Tax Cuts 2.0?
Similar to the TCJA, most independent analyses show the bill would provide a modest boost to the US economy in the short-term, while the benefits would be tilted toward wealthier Americans.
According to the Tax Policy Center (TPC), a nonpartisan think tank, the individual tax cut extension would cut taxes for American households by $1,600 on average in 2026. But the gains would not be shared equally among different income cohorts.
“The bill to extend the TCJA’s individual and estate tax cuts has the same structural flaws as the original. It is an enormous budget-buster that primarily benefits high-income households,” Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at TPC, wrote.
- For example, households in the lowest income quintile (households making up to $28,600) would receive an average tax cut of $100, or a 0.5% boost to after-tax income.
- Those in the middle-income quintile (incomes of 54,800 to $95,000) would get an average cut of $980, a 1.3% average boost to incomes.
- People in the top 1% of income earners (making $836,200 and up) would get an average cut of $40,180, a 2% boost to after-tax income.
- Additionally, while most people — around 66% of households — would receive a tax cut, roughly 9% of households would actually see their tax bills increase due to the elimination of some tax credits.
- The other 25% would see a change in their tax bill of $100 or less.
The TPC and the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation also estimated that the bill would boost economic growth, but they differ on how much. The TPC estimated a 0.5% GDP boost in 2026, 0.4% in 2028, and 0.1% in 2038. On the other hand, the Tax Foundation estimated the extension would boost GDP by 2.2% over the long-run.
The package would also add to the federal deficit. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the extension of the individual tax cuts alone would add $545 billion to the federal deficit between 2019 and 2028 when factoring in the economic boost from the law.
TPC estimated that the entire package would add $631 billion to the deficit through 2028 and another $3.8 trillion from 2029 to 2038. The Tax Foundation estimated that the move would decrease federal revenues by $576 billion through 2028 and $113 billion every year afterwards even when factoring in the economic growth benefits.
Is this going to become law?
The TCJA was able to make it through the Senate despite the GOP’s narrow majority because Republicans used a procedure known as budget reconciliation. This meant that the bill only needed a majority vote in the Senate and was not subject to a filibuster.
By contrast, Tax Cuts 2.0 is being advanced outside of the budget reconciliation process and would need 60 votes to avoid a filibuster. Given the GOP’s 51-49 seat margin in the Senate, this would require nine Democrats to support the bill.
Even if Republicans could pick up a few votes from across the aisle, it is not clear that every GOP senator would even support the package. Many Republican members, such as Sen. Bob Corker, were barely able to stomach the TCJA’s contribution to the federal deficit and the prospect of adding another heap of debt could be a nonstarter.
Jon Traub, managing principal at Deloitte’s Tax Policy Group, wrote after the House passage that there is unlikely to be more movement.
“This may be the last action we see taken on this issue in 2018, as its unlikely those changes would get to the White House this year,” Traub wrote.