What Is Joe Biden’s Tax Plan?

Learn more about Joe Biden's proposed tax plan and how it would affect you.
Joe Biden speaks with attendees at the 2019 Iowa Federation of Labor Convention hosted by the AFL-CIO at the Prairie Meadows Hotel in Altoona, Iowa. – August 21, 2019 (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)

Joe Biden speaks with attendees at the 2019 Iowa Federation of Labor Convention hosted by the AFL-CIO at the Prairie Meadows Hotel in Altoona, Iowa. – August 21, 2019 (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)

What is Joe Biden's tax plan?

While former Vice-President Joe Biden does not have a named tax policy on his site, the not-for-profit, independent Tax Policy Center (TPC) extensively analyzed his various plans for a comprehensive look at his tax proposals. Overall, Biden seeks to shift the tax burden to the earners most capable of paying, spur environmental planning and relieve middle-income taxpayers of some of the financial crunch related to issues like housing, caregiving, healthcare, and retirement. It’s worth noting any changes to the tax code require acts of Congress.

Approach

Biden’s tax policies seek to promote economic growth and stability, adding, according to the TPC, $4.0 trillion in revenue over 10 years. Biden addresses specific, financially problematic life issues, largely with credits or deductions. Reversing the tax breaks for high earners provided by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Biden’s plan shifts the tax burden upward while encouraging environmental, housing, and retirement planning.

How Individuals Will Be Taxed

Biden’s platform utilizes a number of credits intended to address issues affecting the middle class, like housing costs, retirement and caregiving, with many classed as “refundable” credits, aka credits for which you get a refund after taxes. The earned income credit is a “refundable” credit, one Biden would expand to include workers aged 65 and older without qualifying children.

Under Biden, the top income bracket would return to 39.6%, and he would apply Social Security tax to earnings above $137,700, the current cap. The tax rate would go up for people making between $250,000 and $400,000, and earners making more than $1 million would see capital gains taxed at the same rate as ordinary income. Itemized deductions would be capped; Biden also would repeal tax cuts for earners above $400,000. Capital gains taxes would apply to assets of deceased taxpayers.

While Biden’s plan does not spell out increases for all tax categories, according to TPC’s analysis, everyone would see an increase, though much smaller the lower the income. Its modeling attributes the change to corporations indirectly sharing out their new higher tax burden:

“His plan would raise taxes on households in the top 1 percent of the income distribution (those with income more than $837,000) by an average of about $299,000, or 17.0 percent of after-tax income. By contrast, taxpayers in the middle-income quintile (those with income between about $52,000 and $93,000) would experience an average tax increase of just $260, or 0.4 percent of after-tax income. Taxpayers in the bottom quintile (those with income less than$26,000) would see an average tax increase of only $30, or 0.2percent of after-tax income. In total, almost 93 percent of the tax increases would be borne by taxpayers in the top quintile of the income distribution. Nearly all of the increase in tax burden for the bottom four income quintiles would be because of the indirect effect.”

Education:

When it comes to student loans, Biden would no longer treat forgiven loans as taxable income. The income-based undergraduate federal loan repayment plan would increase as well.

Caregiving:

To offset the expenses and loss of time in the workforce, Biden provides credits for caregiving. Parents can claim up to $8000 in child care expenses and informal caregivers for people with disabilities could qualify for a new credit up to $5000.

Housing:

Biden suggests a refundable credit of up to $15,000 for first-time home buyers, payable at time of purchase. He also provides for renters, with a refundable tax credit based on income and a taxpayer’s rent or the Small Area Fair Market Rent. Biden addresses low-income housing by expanding the existing credit by $10 billion in a ten-year span.

Retirement:

Encouraging retirement saving and planning through taxes, Biden would increase the tax benefits for older Americans who use their retirement funds to purchase long-term-care insurance, increase benefits for contributions for the middle class, and allow caregivers access to tax-preferred payments even during periods they would otherwise be ineligible. He would also use credits to offset retirement plan costs for small businesses, and allow hardship 401(k) withdrawals for domestic violence and sexual assault. Biden wants to make 401(k)s more widely available.

Healthcare:

Biden offsets the price of plans through the ACA healthcare exchange by extending eligibility for health premium tax credits to people 400 percent above poverty, or at $104,800 for a family of four with the 2020 guidelines, reducing overall cost. Credits would be calculated using a more comprehensive gold, rather than a silver, plan. To further lower the cost of coverage, the most a person would have to pay would be reduced to 8.5% of income from the current 9.6%.

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How Corporations/Businesses Will Be Taxed

When it comes to business, Biden’s plan fosters retaining wealth in the country, with rules encouraging the purchase of American-made cars, sanctions on countries aiding tax evasion, and increasing the minimum tax on profits for U.S. subsidiaries of foreign firms to 21%, up from 10%.

Biden would raise the highest corporate bracket to 28%, and impose a 15% minimum tax on book income, or income before taxes, allowing for taxes paid to other governments. He provides for carryover loss, which means allowing companies to use previous losses to offset current profits.
To support new markets, Biden proposes providing $5 billion in credits each year, and suggests several changes to the tax code to promote energy efficiency, discussed in greater detail below. For areas hit by layoffs, Biden creates a credit to encourage new manufacturing communities, with five-year funding.

To prevent abuse of “independent contractor” categorizations, Biden would tighten the definition. He also wants to end some of the real estate industry’s tax preferences while encouraging more low-income housing by expanding the tax credit.

Environment

To encourage environmental practices and innovation, Biden suggests restoring tax credits for solar investment, eliminating fossil fuel tax preferences, and increasing incentives for better emissions practices. In creating a manufacturing sector dedicated to low-carbon production, Biden would offer credits for environmental upgrades, construction and expansion, and technologies. Biden also encourages energy efficiency and emissions reductions in commercial buildings.

For middle-income Americans, restoration of the electric vehicle tax credit, with an emphasis on American-made cars, encourages reduction in fossil fuel use and promotes American manufacturing.

What’s Joe Biden’s record on tax reform?

In 1995, then-Senator Biden was one of two Democrats to support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution; fast-forwarding to now, a columnist at the Washington Post called Biden’s current tax plan “surprisingly liberal.” Over his long political career, times have changed, and Joe Biden’s tax stances have changed as well.

Dubbed a “deficit hawk” by some who hearken all the way back to his support of spending freezes in the 80s--yes even for Social Security--over thirty years ago, Biden’s tax plan reads more like an evolution of thought in some respects and consistency in others. It also reflects our current moment, with attention to the problems looming large, including our impact on the environment, healthcare and the challenges faced by the so-called “sandwich generation.”

In many ways, Biden continues to march onward from the tax policies under the Obama Administration, which had the wealthiest Americans paying more tax than they had since before former President Ronald Reagan. “Pragmatic” best describes President Obama’s approach, at times embracing Republican ideas, like the individual health insurance mandate under the ACA, which Republicans now seek to overturn. Biden appears to have moved left of such attempts at common ground, or Republicans have moved right, or a bit of both circumstances.

Some express concerns about Biden not always treating Social Security, Medicare and other such programs as untouchable, but the complaints do not always take into account what is required to keep those plans available or prevent their entire elimination. Given that drastically cutting or eliminating entitlements, perhaps as quietly as possible, is core to the current Republican stance, voters concerned about these programs have far more to fear from a Republican Congress or from President Trump. Biden also offers his “Biden Plan for Older Americans,” which devotes an entire section to “Preserving and Strengthening Social Security.”

The Rantt Rundown

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden does not offer a “tax plan” as such on his campaign site, but the Tax Policy Center compiled and analyzed the tax platforms behind his plans. Designed to shift the greatest tax burden to the highest earners, Biden’s tax plan also includes provisions intended to spur environmentalism, particularly within industry; to generate $4 trillion in revenue over ten years; and to relieve some of the common financial issues with retirement, healthcare caregiving, education and housing. While some criticize Biden for past comments about Social Security, his platform calls for “preserving and strengthening” the program. Biden’s approach to taxes appears the practical culmination of a long political evolution.

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Rantt 101 // Democratic Primary / Finance / Joe Biden / Taxes