Ryan says tax overhaul will include a bracket aimed at the wealthy

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Friday that the Republican tax overhaul will include a fourth bracket for the wealthiest Americans to ensure that high earners don’t benefit more than the middle class.

The bracket would be “designed to make sure we don’t have a big drop in income tax rates for high-income people,” Ryan (R-Wis.), told “CBS This Morning.” Ryan didn’t say what the tax rate or income level would be for the fourth bracket in the Republican plan.

The outline of the tax plan released last month by the White House and top congressional Republican called for reducing the current seven individual tax brackets to three, with the top rate declining to 35% from 39.6%.

In 2017, the top bracket applied to income of more than $418,400 for individuals and $470,700 for couples filing jointly.

Reducing the top bracket to 35% would provide a big savings for the wealthiest Americans and is among the provisions that make the details of the plan so far skew toward relief for the rich. The plan also would eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, two provisions that largely benefit the wealthiest Americans.

An analysis of the outline by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which made assumptions about missing details based on previous Republican proposals, said the biggest benefit would go to the super-rich, while slightly raising the taxes paid by upper earners and reducing them for everyone else.

One of the assumptions was that the top tax bracket would be 35%.

The outline did not specify income levels for the new brackets but included an option for the lawmakers to add a fourth bracket to make sure the overhaul “does not shift the tax burden from high-income to lower- and middle-income taxpayers.”

Ryan said Friday that the bill being drafted by the House Ways and Means Committee would include the fourth bracket after pressure from President Trump.

“The president is the one who has been very insistent that we reintroduce what we call the fourth bracket, meaning we don’t lower taxes for high income individuals … so that all that revenue goes to the middle-class tax cut,” Ryan said.

In an interview with Fox Business Network that will air on Sunday, Trump said he would “rather not” have a fourth tax bracket.

But the president said he would agree to the bracket “if, for any reason, I feel the middle class is not properly being taken care of,” according to the Fox Business Network.

The details of the tax legislation could be released soon after the Senate passed a 2018 budget plan this week, Ryan said.

“This is going to be designed to lower tax rates for people in the middle, not people on the high end,” Ryan said of the tax overhaul, which is centered on a huge cut in the corporate tax rate.

Ryan said the existing 10% individual bracket, which covers the first $9,325 of income for individuals and $18,650 for couples, would be eliminated and those earnings would not be taxed because the plan increases the size of the standard deduction.

Earnings in the current 15% bracket, which covers income from $9,325 to $37,950 for individuals and from $18,650 to $75,900 for a couple filing jointly, would be taxed at 12% under the Republican plan, Ryan said.

The plan increases the amount of income that is shielded from federal income taxes by nearly doubling the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples filing jointly.

But the plan also would eliminate the existing $4,050 exemption that can be claimed by taxpayers for themselves, their spouses and their dependents. That change means that a family with two or more children actually could end up worse off than under the current tax code, depending on the final shape of the law.

jim.puzzanghera@latimes.com

Twitter: @JimPuzzanghera

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UPDATES:

1:20 p.m.: This article was updated to include comments from President Trump.

This article was originally published at 9:20 a.m.

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