Editors' pick: Originally published Dec. 5.
Middle-class Americans won't be the biggest beneficiaries of Donald Trump's tax plan if it gets passed in its current form, in spite of his insistence otherwise.
The president-elect has proposed a major overhaul of the United States tax code, including simplifying brackets and slashing tax rates for individuals and corporations alike. His camp coined it the "Middle Class Tax Relief and Simplification Act" at an October campaign speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, promising the largest tax reductions under a Trump presidency would be for the middle class.
Steve Mnuchin, the former Goldman Sachs executive Trump has tapped for Treasury Secretary, doubled down on the promise in an interview with CNBC last week. "This is a middle-income tax cut," he said.
But analysts say that's not the case.
"Steve Mnuchin's comments don't necessarily reflect the latest iteration of Trump's tax plan," said Kyle Pomerleau, director of federal projects at Washington, D.C.-based research group the Tax Foundation.
The top 1% of earners would see the largest cuts under Trump's plan, according to separate analyses by the Tax Foundation and the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution that examines tax policy.
Many middle-income Americans would see their taxes decline, but not as much as the richest. And in some cases, members of the middle class would actually see their taxes go up.
Trump's tax plan eliminates personal exemptions and head-of-household filing status, which would lead to an increase in taxes for large middle-class families and single-parent households.
"Say you're a single mother with two children earning $50,000 a year, they could potentially face a tax increase under Trump's tax plan," said Pomerleau.
Wilbur Ross, who advised Trump's presidential campaign and who the president-elect plans to nominate as his Commerce Secretary, discussed Trump's tax plan at the Tax Policy Center at an event in October, issuing an eyebrow-raising defense by invoking the childcare provisions. He argued that a married couple earning $50,000 a year with two children and a nanny would see a decrease in their taxes. What he failed to realize is that it is highly unlikely a family with such an income could afford a nanny.
A single parent with $75,000 in earnings, two school-age children and no childcare costs would see a roughly $2,440 tax increase, according to a Tax Policy Center analysis provided to NPR. A single parent with $50,000 in earnings, three school-age children and no childcare would see a $1,188 increase, and a married couple with $50,000 in earnings, two school-age children and no childcare would see their taxes go up by $150.
To offset some of that, Trump's plan increases the standard deduction for joint filers to $30,000 from $12,600 and for singles to $15,000.
"Families that currently use head-of-household filing status today would benefit from that; however, if you have a significant number of personal exemptions, you end up losing a little bit because you're not getting the additional personal exemptions," said Pomerleau.
Trump's childcare tax provisions could provide some relief as well. Influenced by the president-elect's daughter, Ivanka, it allows working parents to deduct childcare expenses for up to four children and elderly dependents and offers credits of up to $1,200 for childcare expenses to lower-income families.
This would allow, for example, a single mother with two children and childcare costs to take some additional deductions and save some money on taxes.
To be sure, most middle-class families would receive a tax cut under the Trump plan. The Tax Foundation estimates the 40% to 60% income group would see its after-tax income increase by 1.3% on a static basis, and the 60% to 80% income group would see its income up by 1.9%.
"On average, middle-class families do receive tax cuts. It's just important to point out that there is a sub-group of families that could face a tax increase under the Trump plan," said Pomerleau.
A Trump spokeswoman did not return request for comment on the matter.
The tax plan put forth by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Congressional Republicans under their "A Better Way" initiative avoids some of the issues that arise from Trump's proposals for the middle class. It maintains head-of-household filing status and converts the personal exemption into a personal $500 credit.
"Instead of a deduction against taxable income, the Ryan plan is actually just cutting taxes for these families by $500. This tends to be more progressive than current law, because credits are more valuable to low-income families than deductions are," said Pomerleau.
The Trump and Ryan tax plans concur on a number of arenas, including collapsing individual tax brackets to three from seven and eliminating the federal estate tax, which only affects the wealthiest taxpayers.
The federal estate tax applies only to the ultra-wealthy -- according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, about the wealthiest 0.02% of Americans, as in, people like Trump and many of his advisers. In 2016, the exemption was set at $5.45 million, meaning only those leaving more than that amount to heirs would face a tax. For the 2015 tax year, the federal estate tax accounted for an estimated $17 billion in annual revenue.
On middle-class taxes there are some important differences between the Trump and the Ryan plans, and it is not yet clear whose proposal will make its way through Congress.
In an appearance on "60 Minutes" aired on CBS on Sunday, Ryan deflected when asked by interviewer Scott Pelley what tax cuts will look like for the middle class.
"We haven't yet written this bill. But if you want to get a sense of what we're looking at it's virtually identical with the one that Donald Trump rolled out in the campaign," he said.
He also hedged when asked whether the rich will benefit most from tax reform.
"Here's the point of our tax plan. Grow jobs. Get the economy growing. Raise wages. Simplify the tax system so it's easy to comply with," he said.