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Americans to Trump: Your Tax Returns First, Then Reform

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Some two-thirds of Americans in a poll conducted 100 days into Donald Trump’s presidency by the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative said they wanted him to release his own tax returns before making major changes in the tax code.

This sentiment is little changed from January, days before the inauguration, when 74% of Americans in an ABC News/Washington Post poll said Trump should release his tax returns.

The president announced his tax plan on April 26.

The BEPI survey, released Thursday, found that 34% of respondents who had heard about the plan supported it, while 41% opposed it and 25% said they were unsure.

The BEPI said support for the plan appeared to increase with age and income.

Forty-one percent of respondents older than 50 approved of the plan versus 28% of younger ones. Forty-four percent of younger respondents opposed it, versus 39% of the older ones.

The income-related responses were starker. Sixty-four percent of Americans who earn more than $125,000 supported the plan, compared with 46% who earn $75,000 to $125,000 and just 16% who earn less than $25,000.

Survey Sampling International administered the online survey to 812 Americans 18 and older at the end of April. Respondents by political party were 41% Democrats, 26% Republicans, 25% Independents and 8% not registered.

Two-thirds of respondents said they thought taxes were too high, while 5% said they were too low, and 28% said they were just about right.

At the same time, some 40% disagreed with the notion that lowering taxes for higher earning individuals and corporations can stimulate the economy, leading to economic growth and greater wealth for everyone.

Eighty-four percent of economists recently polled by the University of Chicago disagreed that the Trump plan’s tax cuts would pay for themselves through increased economic growth.

“Americans are a little bit skeptical of trickle-down economics,” the BEPI’s director Monica Escaleras said in a statement. “They don’t believe cutting taxes to the wealthiest individuals and corporations will benefit households across all income levels.”

About half of Americans in the poll opposed a proposal to reduce the top marginal tax bracket from 39.3% to 33%, while 53% supported doubling the standard deduction that people can claim on their income tax returns.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents opposed repeal of the 3.8% tax on investment income, which yielded $18.3 billion in 2015 to help fund the Affordable Care Act, according to the BEPI, while 34% supported it, and 29% were not sure.

The president’s proposal to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15% received support from 37% of respondents, while 41% opposed the cut and 22% were not sure.

Allowing mortgage interest to be deducted from an individual’s taxable income got enthusiastic support, with 68% for it, 12% opposed and 20% not sure.

However, there was less enthusiasm for Trump’s proposal to abolish the estate tax, imposed on the value of all property inherited when a family member dies. Forty-seven percent of respondents were for it, 32% opposed and 21% not sure. (The federal estate tax has an exemption of $5.49 million per individual or just short of $11 million per couple; some states levy their own estate taxes.)

Asked whether they would be more or less likely to support Trump’s tax plan if they knew it would reduce federal tax revenue by $3 trillion to $7 trillion over a decade, 40% said they would be more likely, 26% would be less likely and 34% were not sure.

A recent poll by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation showed that most Americans would prefer changes to the tax code that increase revenue and do not raise the national deficit.

“There is a reason why it is difficult to get a tax proposal through Congress,” said Kevin Wagner, who teaches political science at Florida Atlantic University, said in the statement. “Historically, Americans have had very different views on the best approaches and what makes the tax system equitable.

“President Trump has a long way to go in order to convince Americans to follow the White House proposal.”

— Check out Bills Introduced to Close Carried Interest Loophole, Limit Derivatives as Tax Dodge on ThinkAdvisor.


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