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Analyzing the tax platforms of the presidential nominees

Tax platforms of leading presidential candidatesThe next president may have a unique opportunity to reshape the U.S. tax code. Congressional lawmakers have been discussing tax reform for several years, hoping that 2017 would finally provide the opportunity to make progress under a new president.

The likelihood of major tax legislation next year depends not only on whether tax reform emerges as a significant campaign issue, but also on who is elected in November. This analysis focuses on the tax platforms of the nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties as of Sept. 23, 2016:

  • Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, former Democratic senator from New York and former first lady
  • Donald Trump, Republican businessman and television personality

The two candidates each offer more modest tax platforms than their primary challengers. Neither is pushing to replace the existing tax structure, and both are instead only offering reforms within it. Clinton’s plan includes significant tax increases aimed at the wealthy and certain economic activities, but they are far less aggressive than those proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Trump similarly did not originally follow challengers’ proposals to shift wholesale to a consumption tax system, though more recent changes bring his plan more in line with some of the cash flow elements of the House Republican tax reform blueprint.

It is important to remember that the current proposals of the candidates are not completely consistent with all of their past campaigns and records and that nearly all successful candidates show meaningful differences between their campaign platforms and their accomplishments once elected. No one should expect either tax platform to be enacted exactly as promised. Campaigns typically focus on broad goals and leave out many difficult details.

Still, the president is a major driver of tax policy, and the campaign platforms reveal stark differences in how each candidate will affect the future of tax policy. The following side-by-side comparison is based primarily on the statements and platforms of the candidates in their current campaigns, and largely disregards past campaigns or legislative records.