The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) imposes numerous tax hikes that transfer more than $500 billion over 10 years—and more in the future—from hardworking American families and businesses to Congress for spending on new entitlements and subsidies. In addition, higher tax rates on working and investing will discourage economic growth both now and in the future, further lowering the standard of living.
- Section 1401 imposes a 40 percent excise tax on “Cadillac” health insurance plans. This new tax will apply to health plans valued in excess of $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. Those thresholds will grow annually by inflation plus 1 percent. The tax takes effect in 2018 and is projected to raise $32 billion by 2019.
- Section 1411 increases the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) portion of the payroll tax. This provision will increase the employee’s portion from 1.45 percent to 2.35 percent for families making more than $250,000 a year (and for individuals making more than $200,000). Combined with the employer’s portion, the total rate will be 3.8 percent on every dollar of income over $250,000 when the tax hike takes effect in 2013.
- Section 1411 also imposes a new payroll tax on investment. This tax provision applies the new higher 3.8 percent Medicare tax to investment income—including capital gains, dividends, rents, and royalties—and is scheduled to become effective in 2013. Together, the Medicare tax hikes will raise $210 billion between 2013 and 2019.
Table 1 lists all of the tax increases in PPACA.
As a result, the tax hikes in PPACA will slow economic growth, reduce employment, and suppress wages. These economy-slowing policies could not come at a worse time. PPACA tax increases will impede an already staggering recovery.
They Will Slow Economic Growth and Destroy Jobs . Taxes transfer money from productive private hands to the less efficient public sector. A politicized allocation is less efficient than market-based allocation because political decisions do not consider the highest-value use of resources, while the private sector considers such issues and therefore does a better job of assigning resources where they will contribute the most to economic growth.
They Will Discourage Work and Savings. Congress must levy high tax rates to take more Americans’ money, and this has a number of negative implications. Higher tax rates decrease the incentives for individuals to work and save more, both of which are essential for economic growth. Additionally, high rates discourage individuals from working harder and saving larger portions of what they earn. Combined, these two effects impede economic growth and reduce the number of jobs that businesses would have created had tax rates been lower.
They Will Not Reduce Deficits. Higher taxes never close budget deficits because, in the short run, Congress will spend all of the extra revenue it receives from higher taxes. Congress always spends every dollar of tax revenue it raises and however much it can borrow from credit markets. In the long run, the extra revenue will dissipate as individuals adjust their behavior to minimize their tax liability. The only way to close deficits is to cut spending and align it with how much revenue the tax code typically raises.
A New Direction
All tax increases have negative economic effects because higher taxes take resources from the productive hands of the private sector and transfer them to the wasteful hands of politicians. Higher taxes also lessen the incentives for individuals and businesses to engage in activities and behaviors that expand the economy and create jobs.
The tax code is a severe drag on the economy and is badly in need of fundamental reform. Ideally, a revised tax code would adhere more closely to the well-known flat tax. This new tax system would tax all wage and salary income at one rate and provide for only minimal deductions, credits, and exemptions. Tax reform is not an excuse to raise taxes. The new tax code would raise the same amount of revenue as the current system but in a more efficient manner in order to enhance economic growth.
Curtis S. Dubay is a Senior Analyst in Tax Policy in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.