Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Another voice: This little-discussed part of the GOP tax bill proves what it’s really about

Republicans insist that their tax reform is designed to help the middle class and curb the use of tax loopholes. But a little-discussed provision tells a different story. That provision is the repeal of the alternative minimum tax, which would serve the interests of wealthy taxpayers ó and tax avoiders.

For taxpayers who itemize, the AMT is a small annual hassle. About 5 million taxpayers end up paying more because of the tax; many others would no doubt welcome a break from the annoyance. But the AMT serves a purpose: It prevents wealthier taxpayers from using deductions and loopholes to shrink their tax liability to little or nothing. It asks tax filers to run their numbers twice ó once under the traditional code and once under a separate structure designed to ensure everyone pays a minimum rate. If the latter results in a higher number than the former, the taxpayer must pay extra.

The AMT hits very few households making below $200,000 a year. By contrast, the majority of households earning between $500,000 and $1 million annually pay the AMT. It does not hit the super-wealthy as hard, forcing only a fifth of households making above $1 million a year to pay more, in part because it excludes dividend and interest income, from which the super-wealthy disproportionately benefit. Even so, the public knows of at least one high-profile, high-income AMT payer: Donald Trump, whom the AMT obliged to pay $31 million in 2005, the one year for which the public has seen his summary tax information.

AMT critics argue that, in addition to adding complexity, the tax fails to rein in the most egregious tax sheltering. Yet even if it does not crack down on all tax avoidance, it ensures that a lot of relatively well-off people canít get away with paying little or nothing.

Critics also argue that if Republicans eliminate many of the tax codeís deductions and loopholes, and in particular the big deduction for state and local taxes, the AMT would become less needed. But the GOP plan keeps plenty of loopholes in place. And even if that were not the case, the AMT, or a modified version that better targeted the super-rich, would future-proof the tax code against the likelihood that lawmakers over time will restore deductions and loopholes, a safe bet over the coming years and decades. It is unlikely that, when lawmakers add a new deduction here or there, they will have the foresight or discipline to create a new AMT. Not until the resulting tax avoidance becomes egregious ó and maybe not even then.

In the name of code simplification, Congress would enable tax-gaming among people who can afford to pay their fair share. Meanwhile, the GOP plan would tax worthier interests, such as university endowments, to raise cash. Like much else in the GOP plan, this is neither fiscally responsible nor just.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the stateís safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last weekís massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Associationís solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasnít enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldnít take months or another tragedy for Florida ó which is hot and full of seniors ó to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. Thatís why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18