D.C. CFO Jeffrey DeWitt on Tuesday released a comprehensive analysis on the local effect of federal tax reforms enacted in December.
For a large majority of taxpayers, the tax-relief news is good.
DeWitt’s “Summary of the Effects of Major Provisions of the ‘Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’ on District Residents and Businesses” characterizes the legislation as “the most significant revision to the federal tax system since 1986.”
The report estimates “83 percent of District taxpayers will experience a decrease or experience no change in their combined net federal and District income taxes.”
Fully 64 percent of D.C. taxpayers will see a net drop in local and federal income taxes owed. The median combined tax decrease will be $1,159, totaling $670.6 million in the aggregate.
An estimated 19 percent will see no change to their combined federal and local income tax liability. Only 17 percent of D.C. taxpayers will see their total taxes increase, by a median amount of $929, collectively totaling $139.9 million.
The net tax-reduction benefit for all D.C. taxpayers resulting from the federal tax changes for combined federal and District income taxes will total $530.7 million. This will place more than half-a-billion dollars in the wallets of city taxpayers and the local economy.
Separating the tax liability changes affecting District taxpayers for federal taxes from D.C. tax liabilities results in slightly differing configurations.
Nearly three-in-four D.C. taxpayers, at 71 percent, will see a reduction in their federal taxes owed, by a median amount of $1,206, while 15 percent will experience no change. Only 14 percent of local taxpayers will experience a federal tax increase, at a median amount of $815. Those with a federal tax increase will collectively pay $109.1 million more, with this increased federal levy offset by $726.4 million in federal tax cuts, or a net reduction of $617.3 million for D.C. taxpayers.
Examining the effect of federal tax reform on D.C. income tax collections, 57 percent of District taxpayers will experience a tax decrease or no change in taxes owed, while 43 percent will see a local tax increase. The median D.C. tax reduction will be $88, while the median increase will be $336 and will mostly affect taxpayers with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000, as well as incomes up to $500,000.
Notably, despite the high-profile brouhaha regarding the new federal limitation on the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT), and the panic-rush by some to pre-pay their top-end property taxes, only three percent of primarily higher-wealth residents will experience a tax increase as a result.
The D.C. income tax impact will increase the next-year city income tax haul by $56.4 million. Already-high business taxes will also rise by $2 million. The federal doubling of the estate tax exemption threshold, unless negated by local legislation, will reduce District revenue by $6.5 million. This nets a total $51.9 million additional tax revenues in FY2019.
These additional monies, however, void an essential component of recent local tax reforms.
Most states, as does the District, adopt federal definitions of income for tax simplicity. This results in income taxable at the federal level also being locally taxable and with federal exemptions also applicable. Under recent D.C. tax reforms, the personal exemption had gradually increased to match the federal amount.
However, with the new federal law eliminating the personal exemption – now replaced by a doubled standard deduction – some middle-to-upper income taxpayers will experience a slight local tax increase if the higher standard deduction does not offset their prior combined standard deduction and personal exemption.
Preserving the widely acclaimed and locally welcomed benefits of progressive D.C. tax reforms just completed will require lowering local rates.
Whether D.C. elected officials will have adequate fortitude to enact a very modest equalizing adjustment reducing local tax rates by a microscopic amount far less than one-percent while simultaneously demonstrating sufficient spine to stare down demands by “spend-more” groups for ever-increasing city expenditures is the question.