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The Presidential Candidates' New Tax Proposals - October 27, 2008

Roberton Williams

Published: October 27, 2008
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The text below is an excerpt from the complete document. Read the full report in PDF format.

Abstract

In response to the deterioration of the economy and the decline in asset values, Senators McCain and Obama have offered new proposals related to unemployment compensation, retirement savings, taxation of capital gains, and job creation. Although the proposals would provide some benefit, they have significant shortcomings.


Introduction

In response to the deterioration of the economy and the decline in asset values, both presidential candidates offered new proposals related to unemployment compensation, retirement savings, taxation of capital gains, and job creation. Although the proposals would provide some benefit, they have significant shortcomings.

Senator McCain proposes to exempt unemployment compensation from federal income tax in 2008 and 2009 for most taxpayers, suspend required distribution rules for IRAs, lower the tax on some withdrawals from retirement savings accounts, increase the limits on the deductibility of capital losses, and lower the tax rate on long-term capital gains. Senator Obama would eliminate all taxation of unemployment compensation, allow limited penalty-free withdrawals from retirement savings account, and provide firms a refundable credit of $3,000 for each additional employee they hire. All of those proposals would be temporary and expire by 2010 or 2011.

Most of the proposals are very poorly targeted and would do very little to address the fundamental problems caused by the economic downturn. The proposal to eliminate tax on some or all unemployment benefits, for example, which is supported in different forms by both candidates, would most help unemployed workers who have substantial other income. A better option would be to extend unemployment benefits for workers who suffer long spells of unemployment. Most of the other proposals would do little good and could have unintended and counterproductive side effects.

(End of excerpt. The entire report is available in PDF format.)