White House eyes tax increases on companies and ‘wealthy’ to fund infrastructure

White House officials are exploring tax increases on businesses, investors and Americans it deems “wealthy” to fund the president’s multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure and jobs package, according to two people briefed on internal conversations.

The centerpiece of the tax increases would probably be a higher corporate tax rate—reversing part of President Donald Trump’s steep corporate tax cut in 2017—as well as higher levies on investment income and a higher top marginal tax rate.

President Joe Biden’s tax increases may prove among the most controversial elements of the administration’s coming “Build Back Better” agenda, setting up a major confrontation with business groups and congressional Republicans.

The president has said that his tax increases will not affect people earning less than $400,000 per year. He and his advisers have called for funding the next major domestic priority with higher levies on wealthy Americans, citing the relative success enjoyed by the affluent during a pandemic that has pummeled the economic fortunes of the working class. Almost all of the president’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan was financed by adding to the federal debt.

“Folks at the top who’ve been able to benefit from this economy and haven’t been this hard hit, there’s a lot of room there to think about what kinds of revenue we can raise,” White House economist Heather Boushey told Bloomberg News this month.

The White House’s legislative effort is expected to be broken up into two main components—one focused primarily on infrastructure and clean energy investments, and a second focused on domestic priorities including child care and prekindergarten that the administration has labeled part of the “caring economy.”

The tax increases in the plan are similarly divided between those two parts. The infrastructure section of the legislation is expected to be funded primarily by taxes on businesses, according to the officials.

The key measures under discussion include raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent; increasing the global minimum tax paid from about 13 percent to 21 percent; ending federal subsidies for fossil fuel companies; and forcing multinational corporations to pay the U.S. tax rate rather than the lower rates paid by their foreign subsidiaries, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters not yet public.

The part of the legislation focused on other domestic priorities, by contrast, is expected to be funded by taxes on rich people and investors. Those measures, according to officials, include increasing the highest income tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent; dramatically increasing taxes on wealthy investors; and limiting deductions that rich taxpayers can claim annually, among other measures, the officials said.

Both sets of tax increases mirror what Biden proposed in 2020 as a presidential candidate. Administration officials also are considering paying for the package in part through a plan that would lower the cost of prescription drugs. That would allow the government to spend less money on public health programs such as Medicare. Similar measures have been estimated to save the government about $500 billion over 10 years, the officials said.

A White House spokesman declined to comment. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Monday called reports about the recovery package “premature” and said the proposal would not be introduced this week.

The set of tax plans being considered by the White House probably will spur opposition from congressional Republicans as well as members of the president’s own party. Republicans have said the Democratic president’s tax plans will hurt businesses at a fragile moment for the American economy.

“There’s no good case for anything like the kind of tax increases they’re advocating,” said Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., who helped craft the 2017 GOP tax legislation. “The idea we should agree to some huge economy-crushing tax increase so the government can go on yet another spending binge is a nonstarter for me.”

Rep. Kevin Brady (Tex.), the top Republican on the tax-focused House Ways and Means Committee, also blasted the prospect of “partisan tax hikes” and slammed the emerging infrastructure proposal as one that would “fleece American workers, families and Main Street businesses.”

The plan also is set to exclude measures pushed by some liberals, particularly the annual tax on wealth pushed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., among others. Biden’s proposal is also expected to leave out a Democratic push to reverse the GOP tax law’s cap on state and local tax deductions, a priority of Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the officials said. Many tax experts said that measure would primarily benefit high-income earners.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in an interview that he is working on “a number of proposals” on targeted tax changes, including one timed for shortly after a scheduled Thursday hearing on multinational companies that seek to shield their profits using tax havens and other complicated schemes abroad.

“I think that the next debate is just getting started. And what I can tell you is, if you look at recent history, Donald Trump’s standing was lowest when he was working so hard to take health care away from millions of people while he was showering billionaires and mega-corporations with billions and billions of dollars of tax write-offs,” Wyden said.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

3 thoughts on “White House eyes tax increases on companies and ‘wealthy’ to fund infrastructure

    1. Strongest economy in 100+ years was when we had the above tax rates and implications…

      Where do you get your information?