High earners in New York and California could face combined federal and state tax rates of 62% under Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s tax plan, according to experts.
While Americans earning less than $400,000 would, on average, receive tax cuts under Biden’s plan, the highest earners would face double-digit increases in their official tax rates, according to nonpartisan analyses. In California, New Jersey and New York City, taxpayers earning more than $400,000 a year could face combined state and local statutory income tax rates of more than 60%.
In California, top earners could face a state and federal tax rate of as much as 62.6% under the Biden plan, according to calculations from Jared Walczak of the Tax Foundation. In New Jersey, the combined rates could be just more than 60%, while in New York state they could reach 58.2%. In New York City, home to most of the state’s high earners, the combined city, state and federal income tax rate would be just over 62%.
Of course, few if any taxpayers pay the full statutory rates, which don’t include deductions, credits, offsets, loopholes and lower tax rates on other sources of income. Even though the top U.S. statutory tax rate is currently 37%, the effective rate (what taxpayers actually pay with help from their accountants) for top earners is 26.8%, according to the Tax Foundation. The Biden campaign said what matters to taxpayers and the economy are the effective rates, not the statutory rates.
Under Biden’s plan, the effective tax rate for the top 1% would increase from 26.8% to 39.8%, according to the Tax Policy Center. That means top earners in California and New York City would pay effective state and federal tax rates of around 53% — compared with the roughly 40% they pay in effective rates today.
What’s more, if the Democrats win the Senate and can pass legislation removing the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, the combined state and local tax rates for top earners could be even lower.
Yet the official, combined tax rates of more than 60% for top earners would be the highest in more than 30 years, and well above the rates under the Obama administration. The main drivers of the increase in Biden’s plan are the hike in the top marginal tax rate, to 39.6% from 37%, and the added payroll tax of 12.4% for those making more than $400,000 a year, which is split between the employee and employer. Including other provisions in his plan, the top federal tax rate would be 49.338% under Biden, according to Walczak.
Added to California’s top rate of 13.3%, the combined top marginal income tax rate for top-earning Californians would be 62.64%. In New Jersey, which has a top rate of 10.75% on those making more than $1 million, the top combined rate would be 60.1%. In New York state, the combined rate would be 58.2%, but in New York City, the combined rate would be 62%.
Walczak said if you include the contributions to the tax hikes by employers, which are often passed along to employees, the combined rates would rise even further — to over 65% in California, 62.9% in New Jersey and 64.7% in New York City. They could also jump higher if California and New York raise taxes on high earners, which some legislators have proposed to reduce multibillion-dollar budget gaps.
“These rates would be the highest in about 3½ decades,” said Walzcak, “and imposed on a broader tax base than was in place previously.”