2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates’ Tax Plans

March 25, 2020
Democtractic Presidential Candidate Tax Policy

The Super Tuesday primary results quickly provided clarity to the Democratic nomination contest by further winnowing the field of candidates down to only Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. One area where the Democratic candidates agree is that taxes should be increased on wealthy individuals and corporations. However, there are material differences between the proposals put forth by the Biden and Sanders’ campaigns.

Now that the Democratic presidential nomination is down to two candidates, it is easier to compare proposed tax policies. If elected and these policies are enacted, they have significant tax implications for Canada including:

  • Canadian corporate tax income rates would become more attractive. Currently, combined U.S. federal and state tax rates are about equal to Canadian federal and provincial tax rates in the major Canadian provinces. Biden is proposing to increase U.S. federal tax rates from 21% to 28% and Sanders proposes an increase from 21% to 35%. These differences are significant and would make Canada a less expensive place to do business.
  • The repeal of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 by Biden and Sanders would have a major impact on the competitiveness of U.S. businesses outside the U.S. and would return them to being taxed in the U.S. on their worldwide income rather than primarily on income earned in the U.S. under the 2017 tax act.
  • Both candidates want to impose a tax on financial transactions which may reduce the attractiveness of U.S. capital markets.
  • Biden and Sanders both want to raise personal tax rates. Biden wants to return to a 39.6% U.S. federal tax rate bracket on taxable income over $510,000 and Sanders wants a 52% top tax rate. The latter’s 52% U.S. federal tax rate would increase the combined US federal and state tax rate to over 65% in California. Canada has often used rises in U.S. tax rates to take similar steps here.

To make these changes a Democratic president will depend on his party controlling both houses of the U.S. Congress which might limit the likelihood of these tax plans ever being implemented. Major tax reform would be challenging. Prior to the 2017 reform under the Trump administration, the prior major tax reforms were in 1986 (Reagan) and 1956 (Eisenhower).