On April 28, 2021, the White House released details on President Biden’s new $1.8 trillion American Families Plan. The proposal follows the already passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act and the recently proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure-focused American Jobs Plan. The details were released in advance of President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress.
The plan includes many provisions that would make good on the President’s campaign promises. The proposal would provide universal preschool to three and four year-olds, two free years of community college, and free tuition for certain universities specializing in serving underrepresented students. The plan would also invest in teacher and child care education, provide free or lower cost child care to lower income families, expand paid leave programs, and improve the quality of student lunch programs. It would also establish automatic adjustments to unemployment insurance, depending upon economic conditions.
Personal Tax Breaks Extended
The proposal would also extend tax benefits already signed into law under the American Rescue Plan Act. This includes:
- extending enhanced premium tax credits and making premium reductions permanent;
- extending the enhanced child tax credit through 2025 (currently a fully refundable $3,000 per child ($3,600 for a child under age six) for 2021 only);
- permanently extending the enhancements of the child and dependent care tax credit, which increase the amount of the credit as well as the incomes at which the credit is phased out;
- permanently extending the increased earned income tax credit for taxpayers without children.
Tax Changes, TCJA Rollback
On the campaign trail, President Biden promised to increase taxes on both corporations and higher-income individuals. While the provisions of the American Jobs Plan are largely funded through a proposed increase in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, the provisions of his American Families Plan are funded by the promised increases to individual taxes.
The proposal would increase the top tax rate on individuals to 39.6 percent from the current rate of 37 percent. This would return the tax rate on the highest bracket of income to where it was before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act took effect in 2018.
The proposal would also increase the tax rate on capital gains and dividends for households making over $1 million, to match the 39.6 percent rate on income. For 2021, capital gains and certain qualified dividends are taxed at 20 percent for joint filers with taxable income of $496,000 or more.
The plan proposes to eliminate the tax-free step-up in basis on inherited property where the gain would be in excess of $1 million (up to $2.5 million in the case of a couple using existing real estate exemptions. The plan also eliminates the carried interest loophole that allows hedge fund partners to pay tax on income at capital gains rates. The plan would also limit a provision allowing for tax deferral on property exchanges, permanently extend the limitation on excess business losses, and ensure that higher income taxpayers cannot avoid the 3.8 percent Medicare tax.
The plan also provides increased funding for the IRS to improve enforcement, specifically to ensure that higher income taxpayers are unable to avoid proper payment of taxes. While the White House estimates that this will produce an additional $700 billion in revenue over 10 years, many believe this to be a vast overestimate.
Notably absent from the plan is an increase to the cap on the deduction of state and local taxes. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act set a $10,000 limit for the deduction, but many lawmakers, particularly those representing higher tax states like New York and California, have been pressing to increase the limit or completely eliminate it
It is uncertain when Congress may take up the process of proposing legislation carrying out the American Families Plan. President Biden has indicated his willingness to negotiate on any proposals he makes. However, the chilly reception to his American Jobs Plan does not indicate a smooth process to get a vote on a legislative package for the infrastructure proposal, let alone passage with razor-thin majorities in both chambers of Congress. With many lawmakers indicated that they want to work on infrastructure before moving on to other proposals, the process from proposal to law could stretch out for months.