More stories

  • in

    Pastries and Persuasion: How a Global Tax Deal Got Done

    Over Zoom calls from basements and a breakfast in Brussels, faltering negotiations to remake the world’s tax architecture were revived.WASHINGTON — Over a two-hour breakfast of tea and pastries at the Hotel Amigo in Brussels in July, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen tried to persuade Paschal Donohoe, the Irish finance minister, to abandon Ireland’s rock bottom corporate tax rate and join the global deal the Biden administration was racing to clinch.The closing pitch was simple: Ireland cannot go back in time. The days of American companies moving their headquarters to Ireland for tax purposes were largely over, and more than 100 countries had already agreed in principle to join the agreement.That meeting kicked off a three-month push to hash out the most sweeping changes to the international tax system in a century, which culminated in an agreement that President Biden and other leaders of the Group of 20 nations are expected to complete this week in Rome. The deal has become crucial to Mr. Biden’s domestic agenda, with the White House and Democrats in Congress now relying on revenue from a new 15 percent global minimum tax and other changes to help pay for the expansive spending package still being negotiated.Getting to yes was not easy. In the end, the United States had to convince Ireland that its economy would be better off raising its cherished 12.5 percent corporate tax rate and joining rather than remaining a tax haven and leaving the global tax system under a cloud of uncertainty. With the European Union needing all 27 nations to be on board, the pressure was on to get Ireland to come around.Officials from countries involved in the negotiations said the outcome was not clear until hours before the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development announced on Oct. 8 that Ireland and two other holdouts — Estonia and Hungary — had joined the pact.Nearly 140 countries agreed to adopt a global minimum tax of 15 percent and settled on terms to tax large, profitable multinational corporations based on where their goods and services are sold, rather than where they operate. The agreement aims to end corporate tax havens that have for decades siphoned tax revenue away from governments, leaving infrastructure and public health needs languishing.“I think the world had come to understand that at the end of the day, all the countries trying to raise tax revenue are the losers, the companies are the winners, and the workers are the losers,” Ms. Yellen said in an interview on Tuesday. “No country really feels it can act independently to raise taxes because its firms will be uncompetitive, so the only way to do this is to hold hands and say enough is enough.”The deal is a signature achievement for Ms. Yellen, who has spent the past eight months trying to persuade nations to agree on a global tax pact that sputtered during the Trump administration.The push to reach a deal stemmed from the administration’s concerns about a global race to the bottom on corporate taxation, a phenomenon that was viewed as a big obstacle to Mr. Biden’s plan to increase corporate taxes domestically.The administration viewed persuading the rest of the world to set a global minimum tax as crucial to its own plans to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, since that would minimize any competitive disadvantage. The Treasury Department estimated that its international tax plans could raise $700 billion in tax revenue over a decade.To show that the new administration was taking the negotiations seriously, Ms. Yellen told her counterparts in February that she was abandoning a Trump administration stance that would have effectively blocked other countries from imposing new taxes on American companies. She offered a plan that would allow the world’s richest companies, regardless of where they are based, to face new taxes in exchange for the removal of digital services taxes.“It had been a show stopper in these negotiations that had been going on for many years,” Ms. Yellen said.The next big obstacle was settling on a rate. The United States wanted a minimum tax of 21 percent, very likely a nonstarter for a country such as Ireland, which has relied on its 12.5 percent tax rate to attract international investment. In May, the United States agreed to continue negotiations on the basis that the rate would be “at least” 15 percent — while hoping to nudge it higher.“The turning point has been the support of the American administration,” Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister, told The New York Times this month.Mr. Grinberg, a tax law professor at Georgetown University, worked in the Treasury Department during the Bush and Obama administrations.Lexey Swall for The New York TimesTo get the deal over the finish line, Ms. Yellen relied on two tax experts, Itai Grinberg and Rebecca Kysar, whom she tapped in early February and describes as “invaluable” partners in navigating international negotiations.Mr. Grinberg, a tax law professor at Georgetown University who worked in the Treasury Department during the Bush and Obama administrations, was initially viewed with skepticism by some progressives, who noted that in 2016 and 2017, he lamented America’s “singularly high corporate tax rate” during congressional hearings and called for the rate to be slashed in favor of a consumption tax.But in early 2020, Mr. Grinberg wrote in a Foreign Affairs essay that European digital services taxes could open a dangerous front in the Trump administration’s tariff wars and warned that the “decay of the century-long international tax order is likely to accelerate” without a deal. Later that year, Mr. Grinberg alerted Mr. Biden’s campaign advisers on how their international tax proposals meshed with the stalled discussions of a global minimum tax. After the election, he joined Mr. Biden’s transition team.Ms. Kysar, a professor at the Fordham School of Law and a tax treaty expert, has been a vocal critic of the 2017 Republican tax overhaul. In 2018, she told the Senate Finance Committee that the law’s international tax provisions “fundamentally botched general business taxation.” Ms. Kysar had collaborated on research with David Kamin, deputy director of the White House’s National Economic Council, who helped recruit her to join the transition team and administration.With the Treasury Department working remotely, Mr. Grinberg and Ms. Kysar spent months juggling Zoom meetings with officials from finance ministries around the world and fielding calls with tax directors from America’s largest companies, which have been anxious about what the agreement will mean for their tax bills.Working from their basements in Washington and Connecticut, they regularly exchanged emails in real time during negotiations, but they had never met until they traveled to a gathering of finance ministers in Venice in July. At such summits, they would often employ a divide and conquer approach, with Ms. Kysar joining Ms. Yellen in meetings with her counterparts and Mr. Grinberg negotiating separately with Irish tax officials.The final months of negotiations centered on the United States and Ireland, but with moving parts falling in and out of place from Peru to India, which threatened to back out of the deal shortly ahead the announcement.Ms. Yellen’s approach with Ireland was to cajole more than to pressure.“Where once upon a time this tax advantage may have been important to Ireland, Ireland has built a really strong economy with a very well educated labor force,” Ms. Yellen said. “It is an extremely attractive base for American multinationals to choose as their E.U. headquarters.”In a call with Ms. Yellen in early September, Mr. Donohoe said that the deal hinged on the United States agreeing to drop language suggesting the rate could be higher than 15 percent.Ms. Yellen signed off on removing the “at least” 15 percent language, yet what Mr. Donohoe would do was still not clear. That was, until Oct. 7, when he called Ms. Yellen and Ms. Kysar to say that Ireland was in.Ms. Kysar, a professor at the Fordham School of Law , is an expert in international tax treaties.Lexey Swall for The New York Times“Ireland is a country that believes that smaller economies like our own do need to be competitive,” Mr. Donohoe said in an interview. “But we also know that for economies like our own, for societies like our own, we deeply value cooperation, we deeply value compromise.”To demonstrate American solidarity, Ms. Yellen will visit Dublin next month.The next steps could be even more challenging. A deal among countries does not mean there is agreement within those nations, including the United States, which will need to change America’s tax code and potentially rewrite tax treaties to comply with the agreement. That could require Republican support, which is not guaranteed. Top House and Senate Republicans have assailed the pact, calling the deal a “surrender.” More

  • in

    Biden’s Plans Raise Questions About What U.S. Can or Cannot Afford to Do

    Democrats are debating whether doing nothing will cost more than doing something to deal with climate change, education, child care, prescription drugs and more.WASHINGTON — As lawmakers debate how much to spend on President Biden’s sprawling domestic agenda, they are really arguing about a seemingly simple issue: affordability.Can a country already running huge deficits afford the scope of spending that the president envisions? Or, conversely, can it afford to wait to address large social, environmental and economic problems that will accrue costs for years to come?It is a stealth battle over the fiscal future at a time when few lawmakers in either party have prioritized addressing debt and deficits. Each side believes its approach would put the nation’s finances on a more sustainable path by generating the strongest, most durable economic growth possible.The debate has shaped a discussion among lawmakers about what to prioritize as they scale back Mr. Biden’s initial proposal to dedicate $3.5 trillion over 10 years to programs and tax cuts that would curb greenhouse gas emissions, make child care more affordable, expand access to college and lower prescription drug prices, among other priorities. The smaller bill under discussion could increase the total amount of government spending on all current programs by about 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent over the next decade, depending on its size and components. Mr. Biden has proposed fully paying for this with a series of tax increases on businesses and the wealthy — including raising the corporate tax rate, increasing taxes on multinational corporations and cracking down on wealthy people who evade taxes — along with reducing government spending on prescription drugs for older Americans.As the negotiations continue, Democrats are considering cutting back or jettisoning programs to shave hundreds of billions of dollars off the final price to get it to a number that can pass the House and Senate along party lines. One key part of Mr. Biden’s climate agenda — a program to rapidly replace coal- and gas-fired power plants with wind, solar and nuclear energy — is likely to be dropped from the bill because of objections from a coal-state senator: Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia.The discussions have focused attention on Washington’s longstanding practice of using budgetary gimmicks to make programs appear to be paid for when they are not, as well as opening a new sort of discussion about what affordable really means.The debate about what the United States can afford used to be pegged to its growing budget deficits and warnings that the government, which spends much more than it brings in, could saddle future generations with mountains of debt, sluggish economic growth, runaway inflation and enormous tax hikes. But those concerns receded after no such crisis materialized. The country experienced tepid inflation and low borrowing costs for a decade after the 2008 financial crisis, despite increased borrowing for economic stimulus under President Barack Obama and for tax cuts under President Donald J. Trump.In its place is a new debate, one focused on the long-term costs and benefits of the government’s spending decisions.Many Democrats fear the United States cannot afford to wait to curb climate change, help more women enter the work force and invest in feeding and educating its most vulnerable children. In their view, failing to invest in those issues means the country risks incurring painful costs that will slow economic growth.“We can’t afford not to do these kinds of investments,” David Kamin, a deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, said in an interview.Take climate change: The Democratic think tank Third Way estimates that if Congress passes an aggressive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, U.S. companies will invest an additional $1.3 trillion in the construction and deployment of low-emission energy like wind and solar power and energy-efficient technologies over the next decade, and $10 trillion by 2050. White House officials say that if the country fails to reduce emissions, the federal government will face mounting costs for relief and other aid to victims of climate-related disasters like wildfires and hurricanes.“Those are the table stakes for the reconciliation and infrastructure debate,” said Josh Freed, the senior vice president for climate and energy at Third Way. “It’s why we think the cost of inaction, from an economic perspective, is so enormous.”But to some centrist Democrats, who have expressed deep reservations about spending $2 trillion on a bill to advance Mr. Biden’s plans, “affordable” still means what it did in decades past: not adding to the federal debt. The budget deficit has swelled in recent years, reaching $1 trillion in 2019 from additional spending and tax cuts that did not pay for themselves, before topping $3 trillion last year amid record spending to combat the coronavirus pandemic.Mr. Manchin says he fears too much additional spending would feed rising inflation, which could push up borrowing costs and make it harder for the country to manage its budget deficit. He has made clear that he would like the final bill to raise more revenue than it spends in order to reduce future deficits and the threat of a debt crisis. Mr. Biden says his proposals would help fight inflation by reducing the cost of child care, housing, education and more.A few economists agree with Mr. Manchin, warning that even fully offsetting spending and tax cuts could fuel inflation. Michael R. Strain, a centrist economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who supported many of the pandemic spending programs, said in an interview this year that additional spending that stoked consumer demand would “exacerbate pre-existing inflationary pressures.”President Biden visited the Capitol Child Development Center in Hartford, Conn., on Friday. He has warned that if Congress does not act to invest in children, the United States will face slower economic growth for generations to come.Sarahbeth Maney/The New York TimesRepublicans, who have vowed to fight any version of the spending bill, argue that the national economy cannot afford the burden of taxes on high earners and businesses that Democrats have proposed to help offset their plans. They say the increases will chill growth when the recovery from the pandemic recession remains fragile.“The tax hikes are going to slow growth, flatten out wages and both drive U.S. jobs overseas and hammer small businesses,” said Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee. “There will be a significant economic price to all this spending.”U.S. Inflation & Supply Chain ProblemsCard 1 of 6Covid’s impact on supply continues. More

  • in

    Biden Presses Democrats to Embrace His Economic Agenda

    The president canceled a trip to Chicago in an attempt to salvage a pair of bills containing trillions of dollars in spending on infrastructure, education, climate change and more.WASHINGTON — President Biden and his aides mounted an all-out effort on Wednesday to salvage Mr. Biden’s economic agenda in Congress, attempting to forge even the beginnings of a compromise between moderates and progressives on a pair of bills that would spend trillions to rebuild infrastructure, expand access to education, fight climate change and more.Mr. Biden canceled a scheduled trip to Chicago, where he was planning to promote Covid-19 vaccinations, in order to continue talking with lawmakers during a critical week of deadlines in the House. One crucial holdout vote in the Senate, Kyrsten Sinema, a centrist from Arizona, was set to visit the White House on Wednesday morning, a person familiar with the meeting said.Ms. Sinema was one of the Democratic champions of a bipartisan bill, brokered by Mr. Biden, to spend more than $1 trillion over the next several years on physical infrastructure like water pipes, roads, bridges, electric vehicle charging stations and broadband internet. That bill passed the Senate this summer. It is set for a vote this week in the House. But progressive Democrats have threatened to block it unless it is coupled with a more expansive bill that contains much of the rest of Mr. Biden’s domestic agenda, like universal prekindergarten and free community college, a host of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tax breaks for workers and families that are meant to fight poverty and boost labor force participation.Ms. Sinema and another centrist in the Senate, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, have expressed reservations over the scope of that larger bill and balked at the $3.5 trillion price tag that Democratic leaders have attached to it. Moderates in the House and Senate, led by Ms. Sinema, have resisted many of the tax increases on high earners and corporations that Mr. Biden proposed to offset the spending and tax cuts in the bill, in order to avoid adding further to the budget deficit.Mr. Biden has thus far failed to convince Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin to agree publicly to a framework for how much they are willing to spend and what taxes they are willing to raise to fund the more expansive bill. If Mr. Biden cannot find a way to address their concerns, while also assuaging progressives and persuading them to support his infrastructure bill, he could see the warring factions in his party kill his entire economic agenda in the span of a few days.Some Democrats have complained this week that the president has not engaged in talks to their satisfaction, though he has cleared his schedule this week in hopes of brokering a deal. He welcomed groups of progressives and moderates to the White House last week, for example, but met with each separately, as opposed to a group negotiation session.Both Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin visited the White House on Tuesday, but after their meetings, neither they nor White House officials would enumerate the contours of a bill they could support.“The president felt it was constructive, felt they moved the ball forward, felt there was an agreement, that we’re at a pivotal moment,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Tuesday, characterizing the meetings. “It’s important to continue to finalize the path forward to get the job done for the American people.”White House officials said late Tuesday that Mr. Biden remained in frequent contact with a wide range of Democrats, including phone calls with progressives, and that he would have more conversations on Wednesday. More

  • in

    In Push to Tax the Rich, White House Spotlights Billionaires’ Tax Rates

    A White House analysis using an unconventional methodology says the wealthiest Americans pay far less in taxes than others.WASHINGTON — President Biden is leaning into his push to increase taxes on the rich as he seeks to unify Democrats in the House and Senate behind a $3.5 trillion bill that would expand federal efforts to fight climate change, reduce the cost of child care, expand educational access, reduce poverty and more.“I’m sick and tired of the super-wealthy and giant corporations not paying their fair share in taxes,” Mr. Biden wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, amplifying an argument that Democratic strategists believe will help sell his economic agenda to the public and potentially lift the party’s candidates in midterm elections. “It’s time for it to change.”To buttress that argument, White House economists published on Thursday a new analysis that seeks to show a gap between the tax rate that everyday Americans face and what the richest owe on their vast holdings.The analysis suggests that the wealthiest 400 households in America — those with net worth ranging between $2.1 billion and $160 billion — pay an effective federal income tax rate of just over 8 percent per year on average. The White House is basing that tax rate on calculations using data on high earners’ income, wealth and taxes paid from the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances.The analysis, from researchers at the Office of Management and Budget and the Council of Economic Advisers, is an attempt to bolster Mr. Biden’s claims that billionaires are not paying what they actually should owe in federal taxes, and that the tax code rewards wealth, not work..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}“While we have long known that billionaires don’t pay enough in taxes, the lack of transparency in our tax system means that much less is known about the income tax rate that they do pay,” administration officials wrote in a blog post the budget office released accompanying the analysis.The White House’s calculation of what the wealthiest pay in taxes is well below what other analyses have found. The difference comes from the White House officials’ decision to count the rising value of wealthy Americans’ stock portfolios — which is not taxed on an annual basis — as income. It finds that between 2010 and 2018, those top 400 households, when including the rising value of their wealth, earned a combined $1.8 trillion and paid an estimated $149 billion in federal individual income taxes.Most measures of tax rates do not use the White House method of counting asset gains as annual income.The independent Tax Policy Center in Washington estimated this year that in 2015, the highest-earning 1,400 households in the country paid an average effective tax rate of about 24 percent, compared with an average rate of about 14 percent for all taxpayers.The White House economists — Greg Leiserson, senior economist at the Council of Economic Advisers, and Danny Yagan, the chief economist at the budget office — wrote that their calculation of low tax rates for the very wealthy flows from two types of preferential treatment for certain income in the tax code. The federal government taxes income from wages at a higher rate than income from investments, and most wealthy households report a significantly larger share of their income from capital gains and dividends than typical taxpayers do..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Mr. Leiserson and Mr. Yagan noted that “the wealthy can choose when their capital gains income appears on their income tax returns and even prevent it from ever appearing.”“If a wealthy investor never sells stock that has increased in value, those investment gains are wiped out for income tax purposes when those assets are passed on to their heirs under a provision known as stepped-up basis,” they wrote.Mr. Biden has proposed changing both those tax treatments. He would raise the capital gains rate to match the rate paid on wage income. And he would eliminate the stepped-up basis provision for wealthy heirs.But Democrats in Congress have already pushed back on both efforts. The House Ways and Means Committee approved a tax plan this month for the spending bill that left the stepped-up basis provision intact and raised the capital gains rate by much less than Mr. Biden proposed.Administration officials did not provide, in their analysis or accompanying blog post, any estimate of how much more the wealthy would pay in taxes if Mr. Biden’s full tax plan was implemented. More

  • in

    Biden's Presidential Agenda Rests on $3.5 Trillion Spending Bill

    A plan for the economy, education, immigration, climate and more binds disparate Democratic lawmakers, but the proposal risks sinking under its own weight.WASHINGTON — No president has ever packed as much of his agenda, domestic and foreign, into a single piece of legislation as President Biden has with the $3.5 trillion spending plan that Democrats are trying to wrangle through Congress over the next six weeks.The bill combines major initiatives on the economy, education, social welfare, climate change and foreign policy, funded in large part by an extensive rewrite of the tax code, which aims to bring in trillions from corporations and the rich. That stacking of priorities has raised the stakes for a president resting his ambitions on a bill that could fail over the smallest of intraparty disputes.If successful, Mr. Biden’s far-reaching attempt could result in a presidency-defining victory that delivers on a decades-long campaign by Democrats to expand the federal government to combat social problems and spread the gains of a growing economy to workers, striking a fatal blow to the government-limiting philosophy of President Ronald Reagan that has largely defined American politics since the 1980s.But as Democrats are increasingly seeing, the sheer weight of Mr. Biden’s progressive push could cause it to collapse, leaving the party empty-handed, with the president’s top priorities going unfulfilled. Some progressives fear a watered-down version of the bill could fail to deliver on the party’s promises and undermine its case for a more activist government. Some moderates worry that spending too much could cost Democrats, particularly those in more conservative districts, their seats in the 2022 midterm elections, erasing the party’s control of Congress.The legislation, which Democrats are trying to pass along party lines and without Republican support, contains the bulk of Mr. Biden’s vision to overhaul the rules of the economy in hopes of reducing inequality and building a more vibrant middle class. But its provisions go beyond economics.Democrats hope the package will create a pathway to citizenship for as many as eight million undocumented immigrants, make it easier for workers to form unions, and lower prescription drug costs for seniors. They want to guarantee prekindergarten and community college for every American, bolster the nation’s strategic competitiveness with China and stake an aggressive leadership role in global efforts to fight climate change and corporate tax evasion.The plan includes a large tax cut for the poor and middle class, efforts to reduce the cost of child care and expand access to home health care for older and disabled Americans and create the first federally guaranteed paid leave for American workers.Democrats hope the package will create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants brought to the United States as children.Carlo Allegri/ReutersIt is almost as if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had stuffed his entire New Deal into one piece of legislation, or if President Lyndon B. Johnson had done the same with his Great Society, instead of pushing through individual components over several years.“The president is on the cusp of achieving a major expansion in public education, one of the largest expansions of the social safety net, the largest investment in climate change mitigation” and overhauls in labor law and drug pricing, said Patrick Gaspard, a former Obama administration official who is now the president of the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}“Each one of these things is significant in its individual constituent parts,” he said, “but taken as a whole, it, I think, speaks to the remarkable opportunity that we have — these once-in-a-generation opportunities to set a course that creates growth for all, including and especially those who have been most vulnerable in this economy.”If the effort succeeds, Mr. Biden will have accomplished much of what he campaigned on in one fell swoop. Observers say he will carry a strengthened hand into global summits in October and November that are meant to galvanize the world around transitioning from planet-warming fossil fuels and ending the use of offshore havens that companies have long used to avoid taxation.White House officials say that the breadth of programs in the package form a unified vision for the United States’ domestic economy and its place in the world, and that the planks serve as a sort of coalition glue — a something-for-everyone approach that makes it difficult to jettison pieces of the plan in negotiations, even if they prove contentious.But the sheer scope of its contents has opened divisions among Democrats on multiple fronts, when Mr. Biden cannot afford to lose a single vote in the Senate and no more than three votes in the House.Centrists and progressives have clashed over the size of the spending in the legislation and the scale and details of the tax increases that Mr. Biden wants to use to help offset its cost. They are divided over prescription drug pricing, the generosity of tax credits for the poor, the aggressiveness of key measures to speed the transition to a lower-emission energy sector and much more.Even items that are not top priorities for Mr. Biden have opened rifts. On Friday, one of the party’s most outspoken progressives, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, took aim at a crucial priority of several top Democrats, including Senator Chuck Schumer, saying she would resist attempts to fully repeal a cap on deductions for state and local property taxes that would aid high earners in high-tax areas.If Mr. Biden’s party cannot find consensus on those issues and the bill dies, the president will have little immediate recourse to advance almost any of those priorities. Outside of a hard-fought victory on a bipartisan infrastructure package — which has passed the Senate but not yet cleared the House — Mr. Biden has found almost no reception from Republicans for his proposals. His economic, education and climate agendas, and perhaps even additional efforts to rebuild domestic supply chains and counter China, could be blocked by Republicans under current Senate rules for most legislation.Democrats hope to stake an aggressive American leadership role in global efforts to fight climate change.Kathleen Flynn/ReutersRepublicans say the breadth of the bill shows that Democrats are trying to drastically shift national policy without full debate on individual proposals.Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, complained repeatedly this week that Republicans and conservatives “believe that our government is wasting so much to kill so many American jobs.”Mr. Biden’s plan would “hook a whole new generation of the poor on government dependency,” he said.Biden administration officials say the bill’s contents are neither secret nor socialist. They say the plan tracks with the proposals Mr. Biden laid out in the 2020 campaign, in his first budget request and in an address to a joint session of Congress.“There is a through line to everything that we are advancing,” Brian Deese, who heads the White House National Economic Council, said in an interview, “from investments in education, to winning the clean energy economy of the future to restoring fairness in the tax code, that connects to how we make ourselves globally competitive in this next quarter of the 21st century.”.css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Ted Kaufman, a longtime aide to Mr. Biden who helped lead his presidential transition team, said the core of the bill went back much further: to a set of newsprint brochures that campaign volunteers delivered across Delaware in 1972, when Mr. Biden won an upset victory for a Senate seat.“He ran because he wanted to do all these things,” Mr. Kaufman said, both during his 1972 race and during his presidential campaign last year. But tackling so many things at once has exposed divisions among congressional Democrats, including this week, when Mr. Biden’s attempt to reduce prescription drug costs failed a House committee vote after three Democrats joined Republicans in disapproval.Party leaders are trying to balance the demands of liberals who already see a $3.5 trillion bill as insufficient for the nation’s problems and moderates, like Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who have balked at its overall cost and some of its tax and spending provisions.Many polls show the bill’s pieces largely fare well with voters, including independents and some Republicans. Margie Omero, a principal at the Democratic polling firm GBAO, which has polled on the bill for progressive groups, said the ambition of the package was a selling point that Democrats should press as a contrast with Republicans in midterm elections.“People feel like the country is going through a lot of crises, and that we need to take action,” she said.As they scuffle over the bill’s final cost and levels of taxation, Democrats have tried to find savings without discarding entire programs — by reducing spending on home health care, for example, instead of dropping it or another provision entirely.Progressive groups say that is a reason for lawmakers to not further reduce the size of the effort, worrying that scaled-back programs could undermine the case for broad government intervention to solve problems.The bill calls for expanding access to child care.Kathleen Flynn/Reuters“If the bill passes as is right now and we get a major sea change in the progressivity of the tax code, we build a serious infrastructure for, like, universal child care in this country, and we really, really sort of start to make progress toward a green economy, this is going to be a historic piece of legislation,” said Lindsay Owens, the executive director of the Groundwork Collaborative, which has pushed the administration to focus on shared prosperity that advances racial equity.If the bill is whittled down, she said, Mr. Biden risks “a situation in which we didn’t spend enough money on any piece to do it well.”“You don’t want half a child care system and a little bit of a greening of the economy in two sectors,” she added. “You really don’t want to do a lot of things poorly.”Administration officials insist that even if the bill fails entirely, other efforts by Mr. Biden — including executive actions and bipartisan measures now awaiting House approval after clearing the Senate — have reasserted the United States’ leadership on climate, competitiveness and confronting China. In some areas, though, Mr. Biden has little other recourse, like opening the pathway to citizenship for immigrants brought to the country as children.For now, the president continues to publicly set high expectations for a bill that aides say he sees as fundamental to demonstrating that democratic governments can deliver clear and tangible benefits for their people.“This is our moment to prove to the American people that their government works for them, not just for the big corporations and those at the very top,” Mr. Biden said on Thursday. He added, “This is an opportunity to be the nation we know we can be.” More

  • in

    House Democrats’ Plan to Tax the Rich Leaves Vast Fortunes Unscathed

    The House Ways and Means Committee’s proposal to pay for trillions in social spending leaves wealth gains and inheritances largely alone. It focuses instead on a more traditional target: income.WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Monday presented a plan to pay for their expansive social policy and climate change package by raising taxes by more than $2 trillion, largely on wealthy individuals and profitable corporations.But the proposal, while substantial in scope, stopped well short of changes needed to dent the vast fortunes of tycoons like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, or to thoroughly close the most egregious loopholes exploited by high-flying captains of finance. It aimed to go after the merely rich more than the fabulously rich.Facing the delicate politics of a narrowly divided Congress, senior House Democrats opted to be more mindful of moderate concerns in their party than of its progressive ambitions. They focused on traditional ways of raising revenue: by raising tax rates on income rather than targeting wealth itself.Representative Dan Kildee of Michigan, a Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, which crafted the plan, called it “the boldest common denominator.”“Being for something doesn’t make it law; 218 votes in the House, 50 votes in the Senate and the president’s signature make it law,” he said, adding, “What I don’t want is another noble defeat.”The proposal includes nearly $2.1 trillion in increased tax revenues, the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimated on Monday. Democrats say those increases will go a long way to funding President Biden’s ambitions to expand the federal government’s role in education, health care, climate change, paid leave and more.But the bill dispenses with measures floated by the White House and Senate Democrats to tax wealth or to close off avenues that the superrich have exploited to pass on a lifetime of gains to their heirs tax-free.“It would be a monumental mistake for Congress to pass a bill that really exempts billionaires,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee.Key Democrats cautioned on Monday that the House proposal was likely to change — perhaps considerably — as Mr. Biden’s economic agenda wends its way through the House and Senate, where Democrats hold slim majorities and must hold nearly every member of their ideologically diverse caucus together. But White House officials welcomed the Ways and Means plan and said it took important steps toward the president’s vision of a tax code that rewards ordinary workers at the expense of the very rich.The proposal includes substantial measures to raise taxes on the rich. Taxable income over $450,000 — or $400,000 for unmarried individuals — would be taxed at 39.6 percent, the top rate before President Donald J. Trump’s 2017 tax cut brought it to 37 percent. The top capital gains rate would rise to 25 percent from 20 percent, considerably less than a White House proposal that would have taxed investment gains as income for the richest, at 39.6 percent.Under the committee’s plan, a 3 percent surtax would be applied to incomes over $5 million.The proposal would also raise taxes in a variety of ways on businesses called pass-through entities — like many law firms and financial companies — that distribute profits to their owners, who then pay individual income taxes on them. Those changes, including the extension of an existing 3.8 percent surtax to include pass-through income, would raise taxes primarily on high earners, generating several hundred billion dollars in revenues, by Democratic estimates.The joint committee estimated on Monday that the changes would raise about $1 trillion from high-income individuals.Republicans balked at the proposal. Business lobbying groups rejected the package, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce slamming it as “an existential threat to America’s fragile economic recovery and future prosperity.”“President Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats are ramming through trillions of wasteful spending and crippling tax hikes that will drive prices up even higher, kill millions of American jobs and drive them overseas, and usher in a new era of government dependency with the greatest expansion of the welfare state in our lifetimes,” Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the committee’s ranking Republican, said of the plan.But what is not included is notable. The richest of the rich earn little from actual paychecks (Mr. Bezos’s salary as the founder of Amazon was $81,840 in 2020), so a surtax on income would have little impact. Their vast fortunes in stocks, bonds, real estate and other assets grow largely untaxed each year.“The proposal is extremely modest in the area of structural change,” said Eric Toder, a co-director of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington. “Mostly, it is about raising rates on existing tax bases.”In the Senate, Democrats are taking aim directly at accumulated wealth. The Finance Committee has proposed a one-time surtax on billionaires’ fortunes, followed by annual levies on the gains in value of billionaires’ assets, similar to the way property taxes are adjusted each year to reflect gains in housing values.Mr. Biden’s expansive tax proposals, during his campaign and as president, did not include a wealth tax. But he and top senators had called for a variety of measures to more heavily tax inherited wealth and the investments of very high earners.Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey, a Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, conceded on Monday that large swaths of wealth in the country were tied up in assets, not large salaries. But he said many Democrats were leery of going too far.“I am very suspect of a wealth tax,” he said. “I think it’s perceived as ‘soak the rich.’ I don’t think it is, but that’s how it’s perceived.”Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey, a Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, acknowledged that large swaths of wealth were tied up in assets, not large salaries. But he said many Democrats were leery of going too far.T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York TimesThe committee did take aim at a loophole in retirement savings exploited by the billionaire Peter Thiel, who, according to a ProPublica investigation, was able to take a Roth individual retirement account worth less than $2,000 in 1999 and grow it to $5 billion, which could be completely shielded from taxation.To prevent such exploitation, the Ways and Means Committee would stop contributions to retirement accounts once they reach $10 million.In other areas, the committee appears to be making only glancing blows at the wealthiest Americans. Former President Barack Obama, Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden have all vowed to close the so-called carried interest loophole, in which private equity managers pay low capital gains taxes on the fees they charge clients, asserting that the money is not income because it is drawn from their clients’ investment gains.Senate Democrats have proposed closing the loophole completely, saving Treasury $63 billion over 10 years. The House proposal would merely limit the practice, forcing Wall Street financiers to hold their clients’ investment gains for five years before claiming them as capital gains and cashing out. It would save $14 billion, a fraction of the Senate proposal.Another item missing from the House plan: a measure to tax inheritances more aggressively. Mr. Biden and many other Democrats want assets such as stocks and real estate to be taxed when they are inherited by wealthy heirs, based on the gain in value from the time the original owner purchased them. Under current law, such assets face capital gains taxation only when they are sold, according to their worth when they were inherited, allowing all the gain in value over the lifetimes of the superwealthy to go untaxed as long as they are passed on to heirs.But the new proposal faced a fierce lobbying campaign, led by rural Democrats like former Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Max Baucus of Montana. Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the Democratic chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, left it out.To some liberals, Mr. Neal’s pragmatism felt more like surrender.“America’s billionaires are popping Champagne tonight as the House Ways and Means Committee — led by Chair Richie Neal — fails the president, fails the country and fails history,” said Erica Payne, the president of Patriotic Millionaires, a group of wealthy liberals that embraces much higher taxes on the rich.Some Democrats expressed surprise on Monday at Mr. Neal’s political calculations. “A wealth tax? I don’t know anyone who says that’s not working for them politically,” said Representative Donald S. Beyer Jr., Democrat of Virginia and a member of the committee.But with Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, suggesting that the final package might have to be half the size of the House plan, Mr. Beyer said he understood why Democratic leaders did not want to make vulnerable lawmakers embrace the most aggressive options.“People will be saying, ‘You raised our taxes by $2.9 trillion,’” Mr. Beyer said. “Pelosi and leadership do not want to put a lot of threatened members on anything that’s just going to die in the Senate.”White House officials on Monday welcomed the House plan, while acknowledging that it was far from a final product.“We see it as a first step,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, the deputy White House press secretary.Zolan Kanno-Youngs More

  • in

    How House Democrats Plan to Raise $2.9 Trillion for a Safety Net

    Details of the legislation show higher taxes for companies and the wealthy, but key elements differ from the Senate and White House proposals.WASHINGTON — Top Democrats on Monday released legislation that would raise as much as $2.9 trillion to finance President Biden’s social safety net package through a series of tax changes, including increasing the amount that the wealthiest Americans and corporations pay in taxes.The legislation, released by the House Ways and Means Committee, amounts to an opening offer as Democrats in both the House and Senate try to cobble together pieces of Mr. Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic package, which would fund climate provisions, paid family leave and public education.The House bill proposes tax increases on wealthy corporations as well as individuals. But elements of the proposal are markedly different from what Mr. Biden initially proposed and what Senate Democrats have floated.Moderate and conservative Democrats have balked at the $3.5 trillion price tag and certain proposed revenue provisions, even as their liberal counterparts warn that they have already compromised on the package’s scope.Given that the Democrats plan to pass the bill along party lines, those differences will need to be worked out in the coming days. Party leaders have said they hope to reconcile the competing interests in the two chambers as much as possible before the legislation reaches the House floor.Here is what the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, proposed, and how it compares with other proposals from the White House and the Senate.The wealthiest would see their taxes go up.House Democrats proposed raising the top tax rate on wealthy individuals to 39.6 percent from the current 37 percent. The new rate would kick in for married couples who have taxable income over $450,000 and single people who make more than $400,000.The increase, which mirrors what Mr. Biden proposed in May, would take effect at the end of December and revert the top tax rate to what it was before Republicans passed their 2017 tax cuts. The House plan would also increase the top capital gains rate to 25 percent from 20 percent, a far smaller increase than the near doubling Mr. Biden has suggested.The wealthiest — those with an adjusted gross income of than $5 million — would also face a new surtax of 3 percent under the House plan. While Mr. Biden has not proposed such a levy, Senate Democrats have suggested an even broader wealth tax than the House, proposing a one-time surtax on billionaires’ fortunes, followed by annual levies on the gains in value of billionaires’ assets.The House plan is less aggressive than those of the White House and the Senate in other ways, including when it comes to taxing inheritances. Some top Senate Democrats want to tax inherited assets based on the gain in value from when those assets were initially acquired, rather than what they are worth at the time of death. Moderate Democrats have complained that would unfairly affect smaller family farms and businesses, and the House bill does not include such a plan.Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key moderate Democrat, on Sunday reiterated that he would support raising the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 21 percent now.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesCorporate taxes would rise.Mr. Biden has suggested raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, a significant increase from its current level of 21 percent but still lower than the 35 percent rate that was in effect before the 2017 tax cuts. House Democrats instead proposed a graduated rate structure, with an increase to 26.5 percent for companies with taxable income of more than $5 million.The tax rate would remain at 21 percent for companies with income of more than $400,000, and drop to 18 percent for the smallest businesses, those with income of less than $400,000. For vulnerable moderate Democrats facing political backlash for supporting tax increases, that decrease could be a crucial distinction for whom they want to target with those provisions..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}The fate of the proposal is unclear in the Senate. Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key moderate Democrat, on Sunday reiterated that he supported raising the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, and other Democrats have expressed concerns about hurting American businesses.“The number would be what’s going to be competitive in our tax code,” Mr. Manchin said, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Other moderate Democrats have concerns about the increase for businesses.Senate Democrats, led by Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the Finance Committee, have championed plans that would impose another set of taxes on big companies, including one on corporations that buy back their stocks to boost share prices.A weakened international tax overhaul.The Biden administration has led a global effort to crack down on profit shifting by companies that locate their headquarters in countries with low rates to reduce their tax bills. The measure unveiled by House Democrats on Monday waters down some of what the White House has been pushing for, including the rate that companies would pay on their overseas profits.The legislation calls for a tax rate of 16.6 percent on corporate foreign earnings. That would be an increase from the current rate of about 10.5 percent, which Republicans enacted as part of their 2017 tax legislation, but less than the 21 percent that the Biden administration proposed. The tax would be calculated on a country-by-country basis.The House proposal also offers more generous exclusions than what the White House envisioned. Companies could exclude 5 percent of their foreign tangible assets, such as property and equipment, from the minimum tax. While that is less than the current 10 percent, the Biden administration wanted to cut that benefit entirely.Still, the House proposal would put the United States more closely in line with the rest of the world, which has been coalescing around an agreement that would set a global minimum tax rate of at least 15 percent. Critics have argued that a rate of 21 percent in the United States would put American companies at a competitive disadvantage.The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a fiscal watchdog, called the Ways and Means Committee international tax proposal “less aggressive” than what the White House proposed and projected it would raise about $360 billion in revenue compared with the $1 trillion that the White House plan would raise..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Tobacco and nicotine could face new taxes.House Democrats included legislative language that would double the existing excise tax on cigarettes, small cigars and roll-your-own tobacco, as well as imposing taxes on any non-tobacco nicotine products, like e-cigarettes.That proposal could run afoul of Mr. Biden’s pledge to not raise taxes on families making less than $400,000. In negotiations over the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, Mr. Biden and his main deputies refused to consider raising the gas tax to help pay for the plan, largely because such a tax would affect anyone who buys gas, regardless of income level. That same problem would accompany an increased tax on tobacco and nicotine as well.A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, characterized the provision as a new idea from Capitol Hill and argued that because smoking is not a required cost, as gas or other household items are, it did not violate the pledge.Representative Tom Suozzi, Democrat of New York, issued a statement expressing confidence that a change to the cap on state and local tax, or SALT, deductions would ultimately be included in the package. He has stood behind a mantra of “No SALT, no deal.” Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesThe SALT cap has yet to be addressed.Democrats from high-tax cities and states have agitated for months to address a limit on how much taxpayers can deduct in state and local taxes, after the 2017 Republican tax changes imposed a cap of $10,000.None of the tax proposals so far have formally addressed a partial or full repeal of that limit, although it has support in both chambers and Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent in charge of the Budget Committee, has signaled openness to a partial repeal of the cap.And while it was left out of the legislation released on Monday, Mr. Neal and two Democratic advocates for the proposal, Representatives Bill Pascrell of New Jersey and Tom Suozzi of New York, issued a statement pledging that “we are committed to enacting a law that will include meaningful SALT relief that is so essential to our middle-class communities.”Mr. Suozzi, who has stood behind a mantra of “No SALT, no deal,” issued his own statement expressing confidence that a change to the limit would ultimately be included in the package. Some liberal Democrats, however, have pushed back against its inclusion because of its cost and because it could counter some of their tax increases on the wealthy.The I.R.S. would get more money but little new power.House Democrats are prepared to spend billions of dollars to beef up the enforcement capacity of the Internal Revenue Service. The legislation adopts the Biden administration’s plan to spend $80 billion to invest in the agency, allowing it to hire more agents and to overhaul its creaky technology.The plan would also bulk up the I.R.S. budget to engage in complex and expensive legal disputes with taxpayers who are not paying what they owe.One big omission from the proposal, however, is the Biden administration’s plan to adopt a new information reporting system that would let the I.R.S. have greater visibility into the finances of taxpayers. Critics have called this an invasion of privacy.But without that new system, the plan to narrow the so-called tax gap becomes much less bold. The Biden administration estimated that it could raise $700 billion in revenue by empowering the I.R.S., but by merely bolstering enforcement, the plan would raise about $200 billion over that time, the Congressional Budget Office said. More

  • in

    In Social Policy Bill, Businesses See a Lot to Like. They Oppose It.

    Resistance to tax increases outweighs the appeal of a $3.5 trillion measure containing child care credits and other items that corporations embrace.WASHINGTON — The far-reaching social policy bill under construction in Congress has much that corporate America has long sought from Washington.Federal funding for family leave would ease the burden of businesses that currently pay for it while helping those that cannot afford it compete for workers. Child care tax credits would get women back in the work force. Income supports for young families could ease upward pressure on wages.But the bill also contains plenty for corporate America to dislike — particularly the tax increases that would pay for it — and in the cold calculus of corporate lobbying, industries are working hard to bring the whole enterprise down.“It’s not fair to say we like all the spending but don’t want to pay for it. There is some investment that is more valuable than others,” said Neil Bradley, the executive vice president and chief policy officer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But, he added, “ultimately we’re making the case that taken as a whole, this is economically devastating for the country and in particular members’ districts and states.”Businesses have long seen a role for the government in creating and sustaining the kind of trained, healthy work force that can keep them competitive in a global economy.Access to affordable child care and early childhood education would help parents who stopped working during the coronavirus pandemic return to the labor force. Expanded higher education aid and worker retraining could create a more flexible labor pool, programs that business groups have supported for years. Federally financed family and medical leave would help small businesses that cannot afford it compete for talent with larger businesses providing the benefit.“What’s holding back growth? Labor force participation, which hasn’t recovered; nonaffordability of child care, which is going to take the biggest leap forward that we’ve ever had; paid leave for illness and family leave,” said Representative Donald S. Beyer Jr., a Virginia Democrat who owned and ran car dealerships before his political career. “On the business side, I think it will make for a better workplace, an easier one with less tension.”Yet the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Association of Manufacturers are implacably opposed. Many have made it clear: Taxes trump policy.“We’re hearing somewhere between $1.8 and $3.5 trillion on job creators in America. That would take us back to where we were before the 2017 tax reforms,” Jay Timmons, the chief executive of the manufacturers’ association, said on CNBC. “We will oppose the bill with any of those factors in there.”That 2017 tax law, signed by President Donald J. Trump, is at the heart of the opposition. The net tax cuts were supposed to cost the Treasury Department about $1.5 trillion over 10 years, but the total tax cutting, more than $5 trillion over a decade, was far larger than the tax increases now being contemplated — though it was partly offset by other tax increases, mainly on individuals.The major business groups are divided on precisely how to respond to the emerging social policy bill, but they are united in their defense of the Trump-era tax cuts. For instance, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, in a letter to congressional leaders on Thursday, embraced a proposal by President Biden to create a corporate minimum tax, declaring, “For too long, some of the largest corporations have paid minimal or no taxes.”But retailers pleaded with lawmakers to hit other companies first before even contemplating an increase in the corporate income tax rate, which the 2017 tax cut lowered to 21 percent from 35 percent. Mr. Biden has proposed raising it to 28 percent.The social policy bill under construction in Congress has much that corporate America has long sought from Washington.Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times“This is, in many ways, just a small response to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bill that passed under Trump, which led to some $2 trillion in lost revenue that could have gone to the public investments that we are all calling for and everyone agrees are needed,” said Didier Trinh, the director of policy at the Main Street Alliance, a liberal small-business group that is dwarfed by the groups opposing the measure. “The corporate tax rate at 28 percent would only be halfway to the pre-Trump tax rate.”Beyond the corporate tax rate, Democrats are considering taxing business repurchasing of stocks, raising taxes on overseas profits, limiting tax write-offs for foreign investment, tightening access to a special low tax rate for partnerships and other companies that do not pay corporate income taxes, and dozens of other measures.Jeffrey Hollender, a co-founder and former chief executive of Seventh Generation, which makes “green” household and personal care products, said Congress’s progress toward what would be the most significant expansion of the social safety net since the 1960s was testing the business community’s stated commitments to social change. He said he was not surprised that the calls for change were not standing up to the reality of paying for it.“People say they’re for this new stakeholder economy, that they’re committed to sustainability,” said Mr. Hollender, now the chief executive of the liberal American Sustainable Business Council. “But at the same time, there is a system of incentives designed to maximize profits, and when those profits are threatened, businesses don’t like it.”More mainline business groups recoiled at the accusation. Mr. Bradley, of the Chamber of Commerce, agreed that parts of the Democratic vision mirrored the business lobby’s longstanding wishes. Accessible child care is a high priority, he said, and addressing climate change with investments in clean energy is overdue.“The administration was right to raise I.R.S. enforcement to close the tax gap,” he added. “We want a pro-growth tax code, but we want people to comply with that tax code.”But he said the way Democrats were addressing those issues — by hastily lumping them into one voluminous $3.5 trillion measure to be passed through a fast-track process known as reconciliation — guaranteed opposition.For instance, business groups had been working with lawmakers from both parties to try to create a paid family and medical leave program that would be paid for with a payroll tax, shared among businesses, workers and the government. To satisfy Mr. Biden’s pledge not to raise any taxes on people with incomes below $400,000, the payroll tax has disappeared, replaced by a variety of tax increases on rich people and corporations that are no longer connected to the program they are to finance.“Paid family leave, outside a reconciliation context, would require intense negotiations and trade-offs, but it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility that we could find a proposal that we could support,” Mr. Bradley said. “Inside reconciliation, it’s only getting worse.”The Business Roundtable, which represents the chief executives of the nation’s largest corporations, expressed a similar desire. “There is strong bipartisan support for some of these policies, and we encourage Congress to take them up through that deliberative process, not via reconciliation,” the group said in a statement.To many Democrats, that sounds like an excuse, “a tactic to avoid having to pay,” Mr. Hollender said. For many of the programs under consideration, like paid family leave, recently championed by Ivanka Trump, former President Donald J. Trump’s older daughter, bipartisan negotiations have dragged on fruitlessly for decades. Now that legislative efforts are moving forward in earnest, supporters are dropping away.Heather Boushey, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, defended the broad-based approach of addressing social policy needs and paying for them with tax policies generally devised to address income inequality, not narrowly tailored as direct offsets to specific programs.“This is a pro-growth agenda, based on the notion that when the middle class does well everyone does well,” she said, “and one history will show is the right way to go.” More