Friday, December 15, 2017
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 — 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 — 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 can’t get away with paying little or nothing.

Critics also argue that if Republicans eliminate many of the tax code’s 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 — 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.

Comments
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17