trump tax plan

Tax Policy Should be Part of Our Basic Civic Education

Taxes are our only mandatory civic duty. So why is tax education left out of civics?

You probably recall a school lesson in your past about our “bicameral legislature” or the “separation of powers” between our three branches of government. But did you ever get a lesson in graduated income tax rates, the personal exemption, or how freelancers pay into Social Security?

When the president tries to extract a pledge of loyalty from someone in the Justice Department, an alarm goes off about those “separation of powers,” and as a citizen, you understand a basic tenet of our democracy is being tested. But what about when states propose funding budget shortfalls by increasing the sales tax (which is one of our most regressive taxes), or politicians quietly double the threshold on the estate tax (one of our most powerful tools for fighting the widening wealth gap)? Do these actions trigger the same sense of alarm? …read more…

Translating the New Tax Bill for Small Businesses

“Am I going to benefit from the new business deduction?”

“Do I need to incorporate to take advantage of it?”

These are questions I’m hearing a lot since the passage of the massive new tax bill. Much of the worry centers around some misconceptions. So, I’d like to outline what’s in the new provision, who it affects, and why you likely don’t need to change a thing to benefit.

The most important outcome of the new tax law (officially the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA) was to give a large, permanent tax cut to corporations. The corporate tax rate went from 35% to 21%. Those numbers are a little deceptive, because most US corporations don’t pay nearly that rate once you factor in tax credits and loopholes. A 2016 U.S. Government Accountability Office study found that between 67% and 72% of all active US Corporations between 2006 and 2012 had no tax liability after credits. In fact, the effective corporate tax rate (a much more meaningful number) is closer to 15%. But despite the fact that most corporations don’t pay anything close to the corporate tax rate, the point of the TCJA was largely to cut that rate.

But most businesses in the US are small businesses, not large corporations. In fact, 30.2 million businesses (or 99.9% of US businesses) are small businesses, according to a government-sponsored  2018 US Small Business Administration report. About half the private workforce in the US is employed by small businesses, and more than a quarter of the small businesses are minority-owned. However, the big corporate tax cut rate did not help these businesses at all. So rightfully, Congress introduced a provision into the TCJA to create a little more parity, called the deduction for Qualified Business Income (QBI) (also known as Section 199A). This provision, unlike the corporate tax cuts, is strictly for businesses known as “pass-through entities.” (More on that in a moment.)

But first, here’s what it does: …read more…

How The New Tax Bill Affects Freelancers


It’s 2018, and you are likely starting to think about your taxes. You may also be wondering what’s in the newly passed tax legislation (officially the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” or TCJA) and how it’s going to affect you. Here is some help, specifically targeted for freelancers and creative economy workers.

To be clear, the 2017 taxes you file in the next few months will be based on the rules you already know. In other words, the old tax laws apply to the 2017 taxes you will file this year. The TCJA applies to 2018 and beyond, so this is for your planning for the coming year.

When you file your 2018 taxes (next year), most people will get an initial tax cut (that will expire in 2026), but the wealthy get most of the benefit. People in high-tax and high cost of living areas and those with kids may see their taxes rise. New York City artists with children, this means you. There are a lot of nuts and bolts reasons for this, which is what the bulk of this article is designed to address, but it’s worth spelling out the rationale for these changes. Your taxes may go up because Republicans are targeting blue states in an attempt to force us to cut our spending. They are giving a large, permanent tax cut to corporations, and the majority of individual tax breaks to the top 1%. This cues up a big deficit that they will later point to when they try to cut social spending. By delaying talk of spending cuts, they hope we will all forget who created this deficit and why.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the biggest piece of tax legislation passed since 1986...Read more

The Estate Tax: An Economic Justice No-Brainer

Estate Tax

Economic inequality is one of our biggest problems as a society, and it’s ruining our health. But it’s hard to write headlines about something that gets incrementally worse every day, instead of making a dramatic, newsworthy entrance. Bernie Sander’s campaign struck a chord by focusing on income inequality, and Trump garnered popularity by addressing workers on the losing end of the economy (though, I would argue, not with actual solutions).

I wish I could write a column about the perfect solution to income inequality. But a problem with many causes, needs multiple solutions. A lot of opportunity exists within the tax code to address these problems. The current administration either views income inequality as a benefit to society that should be boosted through the tax code, or simply does not care about anyone outside the 1%. We know this, because virtually everything in Trump’s tax proposal is regressive and would worsen income inequality.

There’s no shortage of topics to tackle with regards to the proposal (if that’s what you can even call the incomplete bullet list the White House sent out) but I’d like to focus on what I think should be an economic justice rallying cry: The Estate Tax. Read more...

How Donald Trump's Tax Plan Will Affect Arts Workers: There's Bad Stuff Coming

It’s been a terrible week. Tuesday’s election of Donald Trump has already damaged  the emotional wellbeing of our country and its citizens. He will do much worse in the long term.

Most immediately, many of us are feeling wrecked. I include myself in that group. I had  envisioned taking my daughters to the inauguration of the first woman President, and assured them that a bully and an abuser would not be chosen by the American people. Not only will we not see the inauguration of the first woman President, but a bully and an abuser has been chosen by the American people. This is not the history I’d hoped my children would live through.

In the long term, it’s less clear what this means for us as a nation. There’s no way to predict the future, but if we want to see any kind of positive outcome we have to start organizing now. There are a lot of ways to participate. We can join protests, reach out to our neighbors. My weapon of choice, though, is to begin with the process of self-education. We can’t fight against powers we don’t understand. As a tax expert, I intend to help.

With the upcoming push for regressive tax legislation, it’s important to understand what’s being proposed and how it will affect us both as individuals and in the professional field in which we’ve invested our lives. Some of these changes may have a profound impact on both the high and low ends of the art market and non-profit sectors, so we need to be prepared.

Tax reform – specifically, supply-side theory-based tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations – is the one thing that Trump and Congress currently agree on. Our House Speaker Paul Ryan is a self-proclaimed “tax wonk,” (and he has already announced his plan to privatize Medicare). Trump’s plan has shifted over the course of the election, and his campaign speeches contradict his proposed policies. He has suggested that he would let Ryan take over the detail. There’s some bad stuff coming.

The details will shift as the President-elect and Congress hammer out their differences, but for now, let me provide an outline, and my assessment: