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Roll Call

Liberals Dispute Romney Campaign on 2006 Tax Study

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

Liberals are countering the Romney campaign’s touting of a 2006 Joint Committee on Taxation study of a Romney-style tax reform plan, pointing out that the same study showed a shift in the tax burden from upper-income earners to lower-income earners.

The Romney campaign on Thursday highlighted a blog post by the Tax Foundation that pointed to the 2006 study of a “Romney-style” tax plan by the Joint Commission on Taxation as evidence that tax reform would boost economic growth and employment.

But the liberal blog Think Progress today noted that the first page of the study says that the tax reform plan would lead to “a redistribution of individual income tax liability from high-wage earners to low-wage earners.”

A Romney campaign aide, asked about the “redistribution” finding in the study, said that Romney’s own tax principles would not shift the tax burden downward, and that he would work with Congress to ensure distributional neutrality.

But it’s not clear how that can be done; the Tax Policy Center has said there is no way to achieve Romney’s plan to cut rates 20 percent across the board while eliminating the estate tax without increasing the deficit or raising taxes on people making less than $200,000 a year. Others who have studied the plan dispute that conclusion.

Romney has vowed not to raise taxes on people making less than $200,000 a year and said he would not increase the deficit.

The tax plan in the Joint Committee on Taxation report bears many similarities to Romney’s plan. It would cut tax rates by 23 percent across the board, with a top rate of 26.8 percent — slightly more aggressive than the 20 percent across-the-board cut and 28 percent top rate proposed by Romney. And it would maintain tax breaks for capital gains and dividends, as Romney has proposed. But the JCT plan would not eliminate the capital gains and dividend breaks entirely for people making less than $200,000, as Romney has also posited.

Still, the study does provide a window into the kinds of choices that would have to be made for Romney’s plan to pass muster with Congressional scorekeepers.

Indeed, the study found that in order to pay for the rate reductions, nearly every other tax break in the code would have to be repealed, including the child tax credit, the income exclusion for employer-provided health and life insurance benefits, and deductions for mortgage interest, charity and state and local taxes. That would result in millions of taxpayers paying higher effective tax rates.

But the study also said the overall reform would modestly increase employment and growth over a decade, albeit by less than the Romney campaign has been touting for its plan.

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