President Joe Biden’s proposed capital gains tax hike would make the rate the highest one among industrialized countries—no matter what state you live in.
According to an analysis from The Tax Foundation, the increase to federal tax rate on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends would average 48 percent under Biden’s proposed American Family Plan, making it highest around the world.
Comparably, on average, European countries covered tax capital gains at 19.5 percent.
Even states that don’t have state income taxes, would be seeing top capital gains rates higher than places like Denmark and South Korea, which have the highest rates in Europe and Asia at 42 percent. For example, the lowest rate under the proposal would be in Alaska, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming at 43.4 percent.
“When comparing top capital gains tax rates, then all U.S. states would have a higher rate than Denmark,” Elke Asen, policy analyst at The Tax Foundation.
According to Media Bias Fact Check, The Tax Foundation covers tax policy that advances a Libertarian agenda.
Notably, top capital gains tax rates only apply to high-income earners.
“If you’re not a high-income earner, then in a lot of countries your capital gains tax rate is much lower (in some countries there is even a threshold under which capital gains are tax-exempt),” Asen said.
Currently, the federal rate is 23.8 percent to 36.9 percent for higher earners. When including the 3.8 percent net investment income tax, which helps fund Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act, the top federal rate on capital gains is 43.4 percent.
The proposed hike is also expected to only apply to Americans with an income higher than $1 million. The current capital gains rate applies to those earning more than $200,000.
“If you’re not making $1 million a year you don’t have to worry about this extra tax,” Paul Auslander, a certified financial planner and the director of financial planning at Proviso Management Group.
White House economic adviser Brian Deese said that the proposal would only impact three-tenths of 1 percent of taxpayers, or about 500,000 households during a Monday press conference.
“The reforms that the president will lay out are focused on this top sliver of people and treating capital gains as the same as wages for that top three-tenths of a percent,” Deese said.
“I actually looked up the rates for all [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries—which includes some Asian countries, some countries in South America and Australia as well—and even looking at all the countries, the Biden proposal would still be above everyone else,” Asen said. “It would be the highest rate among OECD countries, so among industrialized countries.”
The rate would be even higher for residents in certain states and cities, which combining the local, state and federal capital gains tax rate, could have people paying rates more than 50 percent. In New York City, an investor would pay an all-in rate of nearly 58.2 percent. In Portland, they would face a total capital gains rate of 57.3 percent.
“Even a state like Texas or Florida, where there’s no state income tax, you could still be looking at a significant change in the rate,” Andrew King, vice president of tax policy and research at Goldman Sachs Ayco Personal Financial Management, told Newsweek. “Going from 20 percent to 39.6 is a doubling of the tax liability for those taxpayers that are impacted. It’s certainly a major change just on the federal side.”
Despite higher tax rates, the federal government would see a decrease in tax revenue if Biden’s plan is proposed. The Tax Foundation General Equilibrium Model found that raising the tax rate to 39.6 percent would reduce federal revenue by roughly $124 billion over 10 years.
Asen explained that the revenue loss comes from investors not selling their stocks. She said if an investor had a stock that they made good gains from for a while, they would simply keep it rather than sell it if they know that they would have to pay the 50 percent tax in order to give it up.
“If your capital gains tax rate is very, very high, then a lot of people simply don’t realize their capital gains anymore,” she said.
“One of the reasons why in most countries you don’t have a capital gains rate that goes above 28, 29, 30 percent is because at some point it becomes dominant and then you’re not raising a lot of tax revenue anymore either,” Asen added.
However, according to UBS, Biden’s proposal would only apply to 25 percent of U.S. stock investors.
Stocks and funds in retirement accounts, like individual retirement accounts or workplace retirement plans such as 401(k) plans, as well as endowments and foreign investments, would be shielded form the new policy.
King said he’s been advising clients even before the election about the possibility of an increase to tax liability. He said while investors shouldn’t be rushing to liquidate their portfolios, now would be a good time to reconsider their positions about transfers or sales of assets they’d want to make and factor in how long those processes would take.
But these rates could be lower than expected, especially since the plan would need to be approved by a closely divided Congress.
“We don’t know if and when these things are going to get enacted or what exactly they could look like,” King said. “So this proposal could come out this week, it may get enacted exactly as proposed, it may not get enacted at all, it could be some modified versions.”