Romney’s evasive language hides his tax cut for the rich

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been adamant that his tax plan won’t cut taxes for the rich. In the debate earlier this week, he said:

“The top 5 percent of taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the income tax the nation collects… I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals.”

So would his plan cut taxes for high-income households? Most likely. Note that he specifies the share of federal income taxes.  Why is this important? If his plan was revenue-neutral, there would be no distinction: the same share of the same total revenue equals the same amount of taxes paid.

But it’s clear that his plan can’t be revenue neutral: According to the Tax Policy Center, the 20 percent cut would give households with income of more than $200,000 a $251 billion tax cut, but they only get $165 billion in tax breaks (excluding the tax breaks for savings, which Romney has proposed to retain). A more recent TPC analysis shows that the $25,000 cap on itemized deductions he floated in the debate would only raise $1.3 trillion, offsetting only a quarter of the $5 trillion cost of his across-the-board rate cut.

So it seems that Romney’s plan would lose revenue, and if high-income households are paying the same share of a lesser amount of overall tax revenue, that means their tax bill will fall. This conclusion is reinforced by Romney’s own choice of words.  If his plan really did ensure that the top households didn’t get a tax cut, why would he often insist on describing his plan using the clunky “I will not reduce the share of taxes paid” explanation? It’s a roundabout explanation that suggests that even Romney knows that his plan will result in high-income households paying less in taxes.