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A little-noticed Trump rule would give $2.5 billion tax cut to big bank fat cats

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- Commentary

As Wall Street banks continue to enjoy record profits thanks to President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax scam, Trump’s Treasury Department—headed by former Goldman Sachs executive Steve Mnuchin—quietly moved to hand big banks yet another major gift on Wednesday by hiding a $2.5 billion tax cut in the fine print of an “esoteric” new rule proposal (pdf).

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At first glance, the Trump administration’s rule appeared to be little more than a mundane set of regulations aimed at providing owners of so-called pass-through businesses everything they “need to comply with the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” as Reuters put it.

But Capital & Main journalist David Sirota decided to take the radical step of actually reading the proposal in its entirety, and he found that the White House’s rule also seeks to exclude banking from the “financial services” category—a move that would allow thousands of large banks to take advantage of the controversial tax cut for pass-through income included in Trump’s tax bill.

As they were hashing out the details of their tax bill behind closed doors, Sirota notes, Republican lawmakers included a provision that prohibited businesses in the “financial services” sector from qualifying for the tax cut in an effort to counter “assertions that the bill could enrich big banks.”

But, at the direction of bank lobbyists, the Trump administration’s new rule asserts that “‘financial services’ don’t include banking,” thus allowing “hundreds of banks operating as S corporations—as well as their owners—[to] claim the tax cut,” Sirota writes.

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In addition to taking the side of bank lobbyists with its new rule, the Trump administration also explicitly “echoed their views” in the fine print of its proposal, Sirota points out.

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“Banking industry lobbyists pushed for the interpretation—acknowledging that the bill generally blocked pass-through tax cuts for businesses in financial services, but arguing that ‘financial services are, however, clearly something other than banking,'” Sirota writes. “The Trump Treasury Department not only sided with the lobbyists, but in the fine print of its new rule, which is now subject to a public comment period before it goes into force, echoed their views.”

https://twitter.com/davidsirota/status/1027562174984540160

According Daniel Hemel, a tax law professor at the University of Chicago, the Trump administration’s rule change would reward “roughly 2,000 banks around the country that qualify as S corporations.”

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“It’s a safe bet that most of the S corporation shareholders benefited by today’s decision will fall into the upper reaches of the top one percent—not many middle-class folks own a bank,” Hemel told Capital & Main. “If you assume a return on assets of around one percent and S corporation bank assets in the range of $400 billion, then the move reduces the total tax liability of S corporation bank shareholders by $300 million per year for 2018 through 2025. We’re talking about something like $2.5 billion total.”

In response to the Trump White House’s latest attempt to reward the wealthy—which comes as wages for most workers are declining—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote, “It’s never been more clear who the Trump administration is really working for.”

 

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Republicans are sending out a ‘cry for help’ as Trump’s public impeachment hearings loom

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House Republicans’ request for witnesses in the impeachment inquiry reads more like a “cry for help” than an actual contribution to the investigation into President Donald Trump’s conduct, argued MSNBC’s Steve Benen.

He’s not wrong. The list includes:

The whistleblower“All individuals relied upon by the anonymous whistleblower in drafting his or her secondhand complaint”Hunter BidenDevon Archer, a business associate of Hunter BidenNellie Ohr of Fusion GPS, which directed the work behind the Steele DossierAlexandra Chalupa, a Democratic National Committee employee who reportedly conducted research on Paul Manafort’s work in Ukraine

Not one of these people will have information that could exonerate Trump from the mountain of evidence indicating he oversaw a vast bribery scheme aimed at pressuring the Ukrainian government into smearing and opening up investigations into his political rivals. At best, they could serve to distract from that central narrative, which documents and comments from the White House and Trump himself confirm. Creating a distraction is, of course, exactly what Republicans intend to do since they have no substantive defense of the president’s actions.

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There are only 5 ways to become a billionaire — and none of them involve being successful in free market capitalism

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Billionaires are wailing that Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’s wealth tax proposals are attacks on free market capitalism.

Warren “vilifies successful people,” says Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase.

Rubbish. There are basically only five ways to accumulate a billion dollars, and none of them has to do with being successful in free market capitalism.

The first way is to exploit a monopoly.

Jamie Dimon is worth $1.6 billion. That’s not because he succeeded in the free market. In 2008 the government bailed out JPMorgan and four other giant Wall Street banks because it considered them “too big to fail.”

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David Cay Johnston explains how Trump’s trade tariffs are really a tax on his base

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Candidate Donald Trump railed against America’s chronic trade deficits, vowing to eliminate them if he became president.

So, how’s Trump doing? Awful. Trade deficits are growing on his watch.

The overall trade deficit in September was 21% larger than during his first full month in office.

In 2016, under President Barak Obama, America imported $502.9 billion more in goods and services than it sold in exports.

In 2018, under Trump, that ballooned to $627.7 billion, an increase of $124.7 billion, and the deficit is on pace to run even deeper in 2019. For the nine months ending in September, the overall trade deficit was $481.3 billion, up $24.8 billion for the same period of 2018.

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