Bitcoin, Taxes & Statehood

bitcoin currency state taxation tax
Bitcoin: Stateless Currency

In our earlier post about the taxation of bitcoin, we pointed out the fact that bitcoin taxation brings up a number of potentially problematic, complicating issues. For one, we mentioned that there could be issues with bitcoin’s basic classification as “investment property” given that it is a digital currency. There could be many, many other issues presented by the taxation of bitcoin, some superficial and some fundamental. One of the most important – and most interesting – fundamental issues with bitcoin taxation is related to its status as a stateless currency. As discussed before, bitcoin is essentially a self-perpetuating currency system based on complex verification processes which are managed by bitcoin users; and because bitcoin verification processes are so difficult and its structure is so finely developed, there is no need for bitcoin to be managed by a central authority. What we have is a truly independent medium of exchange which is capable of operating freely outside and over traditional boundaries of nation and state.

But the stateless aspect of bitcoin brings up a critical question: given that taxation is essentially forcible compliance with the financial demands of a state, how does bitcoin factor into the taxation paradigm? Let’s put the matter this way: how can property be taxed if it’s derived from a system which is designed to avoid taxation? Bitcoin and the U.S. dollar are based on two totally dissimilar value systems, and simply retroactively applying preexisting tax laws to bitcoin fails to address this basic discrepancy. If bitcoin continues to rise in market value – and many reputable financial experts predict that this will happen – it seems likely that this fundamental issue will receive more and more attention. At some point, those who seek to tax (or otherwise control) bitcoin may be forced to ask the question: why are so many people flocking to this digital currency in the first place?

Historically, populations have depended on currency as a medium of exchange because currency allows large quantities of value to be shifted much more easily. And states have imposed taxes on their populations because they’ve had the means to do so, and also because states have had a hand in establishing the legitimacy of a currency. We have faith in the U.S. dollar because it comes with the imprimatur of the U.S. government; it is “secured” by its affiliation with the state. And of course the U.S. dollar and other currencies around the globe benefit from various efforts to ensure that any digital transfer of currency be guarded by the most advanced cryptographic processes available. But bitcoin is a system unto itself because it is originally based upon and perpetuates itself through its own highly sophisticated cryptographic verification system. It does not have the “legitimacy” of statehood because it has no need for it. It exists outside, above and around statehood, rather than coexisting side by side.

What if many of the issues associated with bitcoin are unsolvable because they’re not really meant to be solved? What if the fundamental issue with bitcoin is the fact that it’s not intended to fit into any existing state system, no matter how much force is used to make it otherwise?

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The Debate to Preserve or Eliminate Section 1031

Real Estate Exchange Property 1031 Section Tax Deferred
Real Estate 1031 Exchange

As lawmakers of the federal government struggle to deal with our ever-increasing national debt, Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code has come under scrutiny and may face extinction. Now that Republicans control both sides of the Congress (and the White House), Section 1031 could be seriously threatened if GOP lawmakers feel that reducing or eliminating the advantages of 1031 would prove financially beneficial for the nation as a whole. Discussions have surfaced previously about eliminating Section 1031, but current discussions appear to be more serious given the dire financial situation in which the country is encased.

Not all legislators view Section 1031 as a target for elimination; some lawmakers concur with many real estate professionals that 1031 actually contributes mightily to the national economy in a variety of ways. Let’s look at both sides of the debate in greater detail.

Section 1031 as a Tax Loophole

Under Section 1031, taxpayers are able to defer capital gains tax when they exchange their business or investment property for another property of like-kind (which essentially means another business or investment property). In practice, this can mean the deferral of hundreds of thousands ? and even millions ? of dollars in capital gains tax which would otherwise be collected by the federal government.

Though no lawmaker questions the permissibility of like-kind exchanges as they have developed under current regulations, there is doubt as to whether Section 1031’s true purpose was to defer gain in this particular way. The roots of Section 1031 stretch all the way back to 1921; at that time, however, the exchanges typically consisted of neighboring farmers who wished to swap their property in order to clarify property lines. Numerous common law opinions which occurred decades later shaped the current Section 1031 industry. Though it’s clear that like-kind exchanges do confer at least some benefits to the wider economy, it would be hard for even the most fervent 1031 supporter to deny that current like-kind exchanges are conducted with the same underlying purpose as those which occurred many decades ago.

Section 1031 as an Engine of Economic Activity

On the other side, many (if not most) professionals in the real estate industry contend that Section 1031 benefits the national economy in myriad ways. For one, they claim that Section 1031 encourages economic activity beyond the exchange itself in the form of construction services, title insurance services, real estate agent services, and so forth. Curtailing or eliminating Section 1031 would simultaneously reduce this related economic activity as well.

Furthermore, at least one formal study has concluded that the vast majority of like-kind exchanges eventually result in a taxable sale. In addition to supporting claims about the general economic benefit of 1031, a study by Professors David C. Ling (of the University of Florida) and Milena Petrova (of Syracuse University) stated that as high as 88 percent of exchanges ultimately result in taxable sales.

In our financially troubled state, Section 1031 faces arguably its toughest challenges. We shall have to wait and see whether this decades-old provision will either be preserved or meet its demise.

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The (Relatively) Uncharted Territory of Bitcoin Taxation

Bitcoin Investment Property Tax Capital Currency Gain
Taxation of Bitcoin

Though still largely unfamiliar to the general public, the cryptocurrency known as “bitcoin” has received more and more attention in the last several years. This is due in part to its impressive rise in market value — as of today, bitcoin’s market value fluctuates in the low $4,300 range, but only a few years ago it was exchanged for just a fraction of that amount. Its increase in popularity also stems from its habit of drawing attention from governments across the globe: a number of countries have banned its usage, and other countries seem to be on the verge of banning it in the near future. One big issue surrounding bitcoin has to do with its taxation: given that bitcoin is a fully “digital” currency, and that it isn’t backed by any specific state or government, how do traditional tax laws apply? In this article we will briefly describe the mechanics of bitcoin and then provide a basic introduction to the issue of how it is taxed. In the future, we will examine the taxation of bitcoin in greater detail.

How Bitcoin Works

As stated, bitcoin is a “digital” currency, which means that it does not have any physical existence. There are no physical bitcoins which are physically traded or exchanged for goods or services. Possessing bitcoin means having the ability to transfer bitcoin from one “digital wallet” to another. Digital wallets can be obtained fairly easily and are designed to hold bitcoins just as a physical wallet holds physical currency.

The genius of bitcoin lies in its security as a medium of exchange. When people transact using bitcoin, their transactions are verified by parties who are outside of the transaction, and the verification process depends on complex cryptographic mathematical problem-solving. In other words, in order to verify that a transaction using bitcoin is valid, an outside party has to solve a complex problem. Once a transaction has been verified in this way, the transaction becomes logged in a public record which is viewable to anyone. In this way, bitcoin seeks to be a more transparent medium of exchange which is also more secure than traditional electronic transfer of physical currency.

Taxation of Bitcoin

As mentioned, the market of value of bitcoin has grown exponentially in recent years. Whether its value will rise or fall is uncertain, but what is clear is that many individuals have profited enormously due to bitcoin’s spectacular improvement. And whenever someone profits by any means, we have to expect that the taxman will soon be there to receive his cut. Thus far, the IRS has issued guidelines which have tried to classify bitcoin as “investment property” like other financial instruments such as stocks and bonds. Under this classification, someone who bought bitcoin back when its value was only a fraction of its current market value would simply pay at the familiar capital gains tax rates. And those who “mined” bitcoin — an issue to be covered in the future — would claim the bitcoin as if it were received as employment income instead.

We can commend the IRS for at least attempting to bring clarity to this novel situation; but as soon as we look deeper and consider some of the unique aspects of bitcoin, we can see that this straightforward application of preexisting tax laws becomes quite problematic. For instance, it’s all well and good to view bitcoin as investment property — after all, its value has skyrocketed lately — but remember, its primary function is as currency, and so bitcoin users regularly spend their bitcoin to acquire things just as they would spend ordinary physical currency. How will the cost basis of bitcoin be affected when bitcoin is spent as currency? Stock is regularly received as compensation, but it cannot be spent freely like currency. When we retroactively apply pre-established tax laws to bitcoin, we can see easily that the situation is very much like attempting to push a square peg into a round hole.

There are myriad other issues which add complexity to the taxation of bitcoin. In the future, we will dive into these issues in more detail. Stay tuned!

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Cuts to Benefit Programs Indispensable to Trump’s New Budget Plan

Trump Budget Tax Plan Cuts Spending Benefit
Trump’s Budget Plan

As we discussed in our feature article on Trump’s tax reform proposal, President Trump’s plan is to consolidate the existing tax bracket structure by reducing the number of brackets from seven down to three. This consolidation will positively impact very high earning Americans and negatively impact many middle earning Americans; those at the top will receive a cut, while many in the middle will be faced with a somewhat higher tax burden than they would have previously under the seven bracket structure.

As it turns out, the tax reform proposal is just one part of a larger plan to alter the entire existing financial landscape of our country. Trump’s aim is to tackle our massive national debt and restore our overall financial health; toward this end, he has developed a comprehensive budget plan which has proved highly controversial and is currently facing significant difficulties in the Congress. The question remains whether the budget plan can successfully pass through without being transformed into something unrecognizable in comparison to its original form.

Let’s look at some of the major provisions of the plan and then go over some of the controversy surrounding it.

Major Cuts to Benefit Program Spending

Certainly the most controversial aspect of Trump’s budget proposal is its management of funds dedicated to benefit programs. The new plan aims to slash approximately $200 billion of benefit program spending from the federal budget immediately; the plan also aims to slash funding for Medicare, Medicaid and the Obama health law. Overall, Trump’s plan will cut approximately $5.4 billion from the budget over the course of the coming decade. By 2027, the goal is to turn our current national annual deficit into a small surplus.

Cuts Provoke Philosophical Debate

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s budget plan has provoked strong opposition from Democrats. Progressive legislators haven’t been shy to claim that the budget plan’s large cuts are politically unworkable as well as socially undesirable given the effects they will have on broad segments of the population. Aside from political objections, the budget plan has also raised deeper philosophical issues among politicians both in Washington, D.C. and throughout the entire country. The plan brings up complex questions about the proper role of government in civic life: what responsibility does the federal government have to effectively “gift” resources to citizens? And, assuming the federal government does have such a responsibility, how much is each citizen entitled to receive?

We will have to watch and see whether Trump’s plan will be enacted without significant modifications. What is perhaps most fascinating, however, is the way that Trump’s budget is calling upon pundits and political leaders to reevaluate some of the most foundational questions of our political life. It’s probably safe to say that the Trump administration will leave a very lasting imprint on our civic life as it will compel us to look in the mirror and carefully examine the features which make us who we are.

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A Few Thoughts on Seattle’s New Tax on the Wealthy

Seattle City Income Tax Wealthy Residents
Seattle’s New Tax on Wealthy Residents

On Monday, July 10, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a new city income tax targeted toward Seattle’s highest-earning residents. The new tax will collect 2.25 percent on incomes above $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for married couples filing jointly. Expectedly, the measure has received a great amount of both positive and negative feedback.

As our regular readers will know, here at HTW it is almost unheard of for us to take a strong stance on any controversial issue. By design, our material is intended to provide readers with helpful information so that they can more capably navigate the complex worlds of tax and accounting. In other words, our aim is to confer tangible benefits, not push political agendas. Consistent with this aim, we’d like to look carefully at this new city tax and provide a balanced opinion of its usefulness and likelihood of success. Whether it be upheld or struck down, our one unswerving hope is that this new tax creates a more just environment for Seattle residents of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Intense Reactions

As mentioned, the tax has sparked intense responses on both sides of the debate. Supporters point to a number of facts which seem to bolster the tax’s desirability. Seattle imposes one of the heaviest tax burdens on low-income families in the nation; on the other end of the spectrum, high earners in Seattle enjoy one of the lightest local tax burdens. Supporters also insist that the additional funds generated by the tax are necessary to improve local conditions.

Opponents of the tax, on the other hand, have put forth several arguments against the tax. For one, they contend that this new city income tax could be a slippery slope, and if left unchecked it could lead to a statewide income tax which would affect Seattle residents of all income levels. Adversaries also argue that the city’s targeting of wealthy residents is unfairly discriminatory and is tantamount to punishing success.

It seems likely – practically certain – that the divide will persist well into the distant future. What’s also nearly certain is that opponents of the new city income tax will file a legal challenge against the measure.

Legal Objections

Opponents claim that the new tax may be undermined on several different grounds. For one, the state constitution of Washington provides that taxes must be uniform within a “class of property” to be upheld. This new income tax possibly violates this rule by selectively targeting wealthy residents. Furthermore, an active 1984 state law forbids cities from taxing net income; Washington also has a requirement that cities must receive approval from the state capital before they can impose new taxes.

At present, no one of these objections appears the most likely to be invoked. But there’s practically no room for doubt that at least one of these objections will be raised against the new tax in the near future.

Closing Thoughts

Certainly, not one of those who count themselves among Seattle’s wealthiest residents can argue against the desirability of improving local conditions and raising the living standards of Seattle’s entire population; the need to improve our city, as well as the need to address local poverty, is something all Seattle residents can agree upon. But whether this new city income tax be the proper method to address city financial issues is something which remains to be seen. On the one hand, there is no getting away from the fact that Seattle’s tax treatment of wealthy residents is comparatively very gentle; but how can proponents of the new tax be certain that changing this state of affairs won’t cause a mass of socioeconomic flight to other areas of the country? What if imposing the tax inadvertently leads to a financial situation for Seattle which is worse than it was before? Only time will provide the clarification we need.

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Gregory v. Helvering & the Old Roots of Modern Financial Duplicity

Stock Shares Financial Accounting Tax Income Dividend
Creative Finance

I know we promised that the last article would be the final installment of Huddleston Tax Weekly before the return of our XVI Amendment series. Surprisingly, we fibbed a bit. We’d like to sneak in just one more – and now we really promise, just one more – article prior to our return to that series. If this frustrates you, that’s understandable, but hopefully whatever frustration comes to the surface will immediately dissolve after you know what topic to which this article will be devoted: the important case of Gregory v. Helvering (1935). Though not the most well-known financial case, this Great Depression-era piece of litigation is fascinating for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most notable reason for its appeal is its relevance to more modern financial scandals.

In 2017, we have become accustomed to seeing all sorts of financial scandals. Some of these scandals, like the Enron scandal, can be very elaborate and involve complex accounting fraud, insider trading and other kinds of high-brainpower underhandedness. Every trend, no matter its size or significance, can be traced to a single source, and the case of Gregory v. Helvering stands as a legitimate candidate for the forerunner to much of the financial trickery present in recent decades. And this is not necessarily because the taxpayer in Gregory v. Helvering aimed to abuse the law in a nefarious way; the facts of the case, as they’ve come down to us, do not allow for such a conclusion. But in this case we do see an attempt to transact in such a manner that the form of the law is obeyed but its spirit is ignored. And this creative maneuvering is something that we see again and again in the modern era.

Let’s look at the details of this case to get a better sense of why it foreshadows many recent financial scandals.

Facts

The taxpayer owned a company – United Mortgage Corporation – and this company held 1000 shares of another company’s stock (Monitor Securities Corporation). The taxpayer wished to sell this stock but also wished to minimize (or ideally eliminate) the potential tax liability of such a sale. Toward this end, the taxpayer established a new company, Averill Corporation, and then transferred the 1000 shares of Monitor to Averill. The taxpayer then transferred the 1000 shares of Monitor to herself, and then quickly dissolved Averill. The Averill entity clearly had no other function aside from acting as a conduit through which to distribute the shares to the taxpayer. The taxpayer contended that the series of actions which occurred fell under section 112 of the Revenue Act of 1928 as a corporate “reorganization.” If what occurred were in fact reorganization under section 112, the gain realized by the taxpayer would not be taxable.

Law

The relevant subsections of 112 were (g) and (i). Subsection (g) stated that distributions of stock on reorganization to a shareholder in a corporation which was a party to the reorganization will not result in gain (to the receiving shareholder). Subsection (i) lays out a definition of reorganization.

Ruling

The court (Supreme Court of the U.S.) ruled that a legitimate reorganization had not occurred and that the deficiency assessed by the IRS was correct. Even though the taxpayer had apparently satisfied every element of section 112, the court reasoned that section 112 did not apply because the Averill Corporation was clearly a “dummy company” in the sense that it served no other purpose than to eliminate the tax liability which would have normally followed the stock distribution. Hence, though the taxpayer took steps to fall under section 112, what had actually occurred was a dividend, because there was no substance underlying the creation of the Averill Corporation.

What we have here, therefore, is a fascinating early example of creative business maneuvering. The taxpayer either received expert counsel on section 112, or was familiar with section 112 by way of independent research, and the taxpayer established the dummy company for the specific purpose of falling within the meaning of this statute. And even though the steps taken by the taxpayer would seemingly bring the transaction under section 112, the court was not willing to let this type of trickery slide under the judicial radar. In some ways, Gregory v. Helvering represents the embryonic form of more heinous modern trickery, such as the kind perpetrated by Enron’s CFO, Andrew Fastow.

Although what happened here is dwarfed by comparison to modern scenarios, it’s still interesting to see the roots of what goes on around us today.

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Readers who enjoyed this piece should consider viewing our presentation on business formation. This presentation was given by our principal and founder, John Huddleston

A Few Thoughts on the New Seattle Soda Tax

Soda Tax Seattle Drink Council City
Seattle Soda Tax

On Monday, June 5, 2017, the Seattle City Council passed a motion which will implement a tax on sugary soft drinks (soda). This new “soda tax” is designed to reduce statewide obesity rates, particularly among children, and to raise additional funds for public projects. Expectedly, the passage of the soda tax has been met with both surprise and opposition as it raises issues regarding personal freedom and the role of government in the marketplace. Let’s look at the basic provisions and purposes of the tax and then discuss some of the arguments both in favor and against it.

Basic Facts

The soda tax was passed by a margin of 7-1; Lisa Herbold was the sole councilmember to vote against the tax. The city will collect 1.75 cents for every ounce of “sugary” soda, such as regular Coca-Cola, Pepsi and so forth. The tax will not be collected on diet sodas and sodas made by smaller distributors.

The tax is set to take effect on January 1, 2018. This date could be pushed forward, however, in the event that a legal challenge or other type of motion takes place in the interim. Prior to the vote on the tax, councilmember Herbold proposed several amendments which she claimed would mitigate some of the potential negative consequences of the tax. All of Herbold’s amendments failed except for her proposal that some of the tax proceeds be used to fund local food banks.

Pros and Cons

The chief architect of the tax, councilmember Tim Burgess, argued that the tax will make a positive impact on state obesity levels. Though the tax may (indirectly) encourage healthier eating habits, many opponents could argue that this tax represents an undesirable incursion by the state on the free market. Regardless of the price, people have a choice to purchase sugary soft drinks, and the tax on soda could easily be interpreted as a financial penalty on personal freedom. The soda tax, therefore, brings up the recurring issue of what role the government should play in preventing certain behaviors in the interest of the wider public good.

When viewed in this fashion, the soda tax acquires a rather lengthy pedigree. Sin taxes, such as those imposed on tobacco and liquor, have been relatively common throughout American history. In the 1920s (and early 1930s), we used Prohibition to guard against the supposedly toxic influence of alcoholic beverages; today, historians almost all concur that Prohibition was a failed experiment, but the issue of what level of responsibility the state has for promoting public health remains hotly contested. Here at HTC, we think it prudent to avoid a definitive stance on the issue; after all, we are not dealing with a ban or severe financial burden, only a small incentive to avoid sugary drinks. HTC is certainly very curious about the impact of the tax and we look forward to seeing hard numbers on whether the tax lives up to its expectations.

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Trump’s New Tax Proposal Could Have Substantial Impact on Seattle Homeowners

Trump Real Estate Deduction Seattle Tax Property Mortgage Interest
Trump’s Plan & the Seattle Market

President Donald Trump has developed a proposal to rewrite the tax code in such a way that it may render the mortgage interest deduction meaningless for all but a small minority of wealthy homeowners. Opponents argue that this provision would take away an important incentive of homeownership; supporters contend that the change benefits the majority of Americans and would expand homeownership opportunities for middle income earners.

Let’s examine Trump’s proposal in greater detail and highlight how the changes could impact the Seattle real estate market.

Proposed Revisions

The proposal contains a number of changes; perhaps the most important one is the raising of the standard deduction from its current level of $12,700 (for married couples filing jointly) to $24,000. On its face, Trump’s proposal does not eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, but its goal of substantially raising the standard deduction would mean that millions would cease to itemize their write-offs and consequently fail to deduct the interest from their home loan.

Trump’s plan also modifies existing deductions for state and local taxes, including property taxes. Opponents contend that the property tax deduction is another important perk of homeownership which should not be removed.

The Trump administration states that the changes will actually stimulate home purchases for low to middle income Americans because the higher standard deduction will enable greater savings. The proposal is also likely to trigger a measurable decline in average home pricings across the country which will increase access to homeownership.

Possible Impact

Currently, the Seattle real estate market has a median home price of approximately $722,250. This figure undoubtedly places Seattle among the most expensive real estate market in the country. Assuming the Seattle buyer puts down twenty percent, this median price means that the typical Seattle homeowner will pay roughly $2,735 per month in mortgage costs over a 30-year loan. Given its status, there’s no question that the Seattle real estate market will be impacted by the Trump proposal very heavily. A large number of our homeowners will suddenly be in a situation in which itemizing will no longer make financial sense. Trulia – the well-known property data provider – determined that the number of households eligible for the mortgage interest deduction in Seattle would drop from 56 percent down to 26 percent.

Whether Trump’s changes increase or decrease homeownership across the country obviously remains to be seen; what is certain is that the real estate industry as a whole is lined up in opposition to Trump’s proposal. Supporters and opponents both appear to have facts and figures which bolster their respective positions. Perhaps only a fair trial will determine whether Mr. Trump’s plan will be beneficial to the nation.

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To learn more about the mortgage interest deduction and other tax benefits of homeownership, see this presentation by our CPA Jessica Chisholm

The Basics of Inslee’s New Tax Plan

State Tax Plan Governor Education Funding
Olympia, WA

In the first half of this last December, Governor Jay Inslee proposed a new tax plan designed to generate funding for basic education. The plan is responsive to a recent state court opinion which held that funding for K-12 education in Washington must come from the state rather than local districts. Prior to this opinion – the McCleary opinion – local districts contributed a substantial part of the cost for education through local property taxes; now, the state must foot the entire bill, and Mr. Inslee’s new plan addresses the deficit created by the removal of this familiar source of funds.

Mr. Inslee’s plan would draw tax revenue from several sources. Let’s review these sources and then take a look at the political reaction to his proposal.

Revenue Sources

The tax plan of Mr. Inslee would draw revenue from four sources. The plan would implement a capital gains tax of 7.9 percent on the sale of a number of assets, including stocks, bonds and others. The capital gains tax of Inslee’s plan would not apply to retirement accounts, homes, farms and forestry. The tax would apply to earnings above $25,000 for single filers and $50,000 for joint filers. Approximately $821 million would be raised from this tax for the fiscal year of 2019.

The plan would also impose a carbon emissions tax of $25 per metric ton. This tax would raise approximately $2 billion (per year).

Also included in Inslee’s plan would be an increase to the business-and-occupation (B&O) tax for attorneys, real estate agents and other professionals. The rate would be increased from its current level of 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent. This would generate roughly $2.3 billion.

Inslee’s proposal would also eliminate multiple tax exemptions, such as the exemption on bottled water and the exemption which benefits oil refineries.

Political Reaction

Unsurprisingly, given the severity of its probable impact, Inslee’s proposal has sparked substantial criticism from lawmakers on the other side of the political spectrum. Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, for instance, was quoted as saying (disapprovingly) that the proposal by Mr. Inslee would constitute the single largest state tax increase in Washington’s history. Another senator, Ann Rivers, also of the Republican Party, said she felt that Mr. Inslee’s plan appeared to be an overly aggressive solution to the issue of funding state education.

Democratic lawmakers have been more sympathetic, and it seems that Mr. Inslee will likely have full support from members of his party. Importantly, newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal has voiced his support for the proposal and even appeared alongside Inslee during the unveiling of the plan at Lincoln High School in Tacoma.

Whether Governor Inslee’s tax plan will be enacted in its current form remains to be seen. What is certain is that the state must develop a workable plan in double quick time. The court of Washington has already held the state in contempt because of the state’s failure to supply sufficient educational funding and has ordered the state to pay hefty fines. If it wishes to avoid further consequence, the state must develop a full funding plan by September 1, 2018.

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How Trump’s Tax Plan Will Affect Individuals

Trump Tax Plan Bracket System
Trump Tax Plan

The election of Donald Trump to our nation’s highest political office is undoubtedly one of the most surprising developments in U.S. history. This is a purely factual observation, completely removed from any sort of partisan bias. Many reliable polls taken just prior to the election showed Clinton with a firm advantage. And the fact that Mr. Trump is essentially a political outsider, having no prior political offices on his resume, seemed to cast serious doubt on the viability of his candidacy. Trump’s success has triggered a mass of heated reaction, both of a supportive and antagonistic nature. No matter how much the perception of his electoral success varies at the individual level, however, what is certain is that his victory will be regarded as one of the most unlikely in our nation’s history.

Trump’s staunchly pro-American standpoint captivated his followers and played a large role in building his base of voters. He repeatedly claimed that he would utilize the powers of the presidency to protect the American people – especially working and middle-class people – from internationalist economic policies and improve the American standard of living.

But how will these things be achieved? Trump has devised a tax plan which forms one part of his overall agenda for substantive change. But will his plan actually benefit the majority of American taxpayers? Let’s take a closer look at how the Trump tax plan will affect individual taxpayers.

New Tax Bracket System

Trump intends to reduce the total number of tax brackets from the current number of seven down to three. The three (ordinary) rates would be: twelve percent for individuals earning $37,500 or less; twenty-five percent for those earning between $37,500 and $112,500; and thirty-three percent for individuals earning above $112,500. Again, these thresholds apply to single filers, the income thresholds are doubled for married couples filing jointly.

This new bracket system may result in either a tax cut or a tax increase for middle income earners depending on which bracket they fell into the preceding year.

This system would give a substantial tax cut for high income earners as it would reduce the top rate of 39.6 percent down to thirty-three percent.

The full impact of the Trump tax bracket system is still impossible to determine because we currently are unaware of what sort of credits, limitations and qualifications the system will be coupled with. But at this point it appears that the new system will provide mixed results for middle income earners and generally positive results for very high income earners.

Increased Federal Deficit

Though Trump’s new tax bracket system may benefit quite a number of individual taxpayers, when combined with his corporate tax cuts this new system will add to the national deficit. If these cuts remain in place for the next ten years, projections show that federal revenue will decrease between $4.4 trillion and $5.9 trillion. Trump has stated that he plans to cut spending by approximately $1.2 trillion over the next decade; if these figures remain the same, they would result in an increase to the national deficit of around $5.3 trillion.

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