The last time Congress and President Bush raised taxes for deficit reduction, they put the bite on banks, large corporations and defense contractors.
The whole package - enacted last November - cost taxpayers about $8 billion a year. But because of its scatter-gun approach, nobody complained too loudly.As a result of Bush's announcement Tuesday that tax increases will have to be part of any significant deficit-reduction plan this year, congressional leaders and the president's advisers will be looking for the same kind of low-pain plan.
But that kind of tax increase may be hard to find, simply because there are fewer "loopholes" that can be closed and corporate tax breaks that can be taken away. After all, President Reagan signed similar tax increases in 1987 and 1988.
Many Democrats in Congress argue that the first target of any tax increase should be the rich. "We ought to look at those groups who have profited from the tax structure of the 1980s," Sen. James Sasser, D-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, says.
(BU) Income taxes? One proposal that has drawn wide attention would tax part of the earnings of the richest 600,000 Americans at a maximum rate of 33 percent. All their taxable income now is taxed at 28 percent, even though some earnings of those with less income may be taxed at 33 percent.
(BU) Higher gasoline taxes? Bush specifically rejected that idea in the 1988 campaign and there is strong opposition from rural lawmakers. But it has considerable support in Congress because it would not only raise $1 billion a year for each one-cent increase but also assist in conserving energy.
(BU) Cigarettes and alcohol? A higher cigarette tax is a good bet, in part because of health costs associated with smoking. But the tax on hard liquor already is considerably higher than on beer and wine, and there is some reluctance in an election year to risk offending "Joe Sixpack" and the wine-and-cheese crowd.
The Congressional Budget Office annually draws up a list of tax increase options but makes no recommendations. Here are some of this year's candidates and what they would cost taxpayers in 1991:
INDEXING: Delay for one year the annual mandated tax cuts designed to keep cost-of-living pay raises from pushing workers into higher brackets. $5.4 billion.
STATE, LOCAL TAXES: Allow deduction only of property and income taxes that exceed 1 percent of adjusted gross income. $700 million.
MEDICARE: Extend the 1.45 percent Medicare premium (collected as part of the Social Security tax) to wages above $51,300, the present maximum. This would affect the wealthiest 6 percent of employees. $3.5 billion. Bush has a separate proposal that is unpopular in Congress: require all state and local government workers to pay for Medicare; those hired before April 1, 1986, are exempt. $1.2 billion.
FRINGE BENEFITS: Impose a 3 percent tax on the value of employer-paid fringe benefits, except pensions. $2.6 billion.
CREDIT UNIONS: Tax them just as banks are taxed. $400 million.
ENVIRONMENTAL: Impose new taxes on a wide variety of pollutants. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., proposed $3.2 billion from this source.
BUSINESS MEALS: Allow a deduction for only 50 percent, rather than the current 80 percent, of the cost of business meals and entertainment. $2 billion.
STOCKS: Impose a 50-cent tax on the sale of each $100 worth of stocks and other securities. $7.8 billion.
MORTGAGES: Limit the interest deduction for home mortgages to $12,000 on a single return and $20,000 on a joint return. $600 million.
AVIATION: Raise the 8 percent tax on domestic airline tickets to 10 percent, with similar increases for air cargo and fuel, as Bush has proposed. $500 million.
ENERGY: Tax all energy at 5 percent of value. $14.2 billion. Or, tax all imported oil at $5 a barrel. $8.5 billion.
ENERGY INDUSTRY: Repeal deduction of certain intangible drilling costs, such as labor, claimed by oil and gas explorers. $500 million.