Never in the history of presidential campaigns has there been such a contrast of candidates' positions and styles as there is in this year's race pitting Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump.
While the coverage of each candidate's numerous missteps has garnered the most attention, there is far less emphasis on the important issues that matter most to voters.
One big concern is taxes. While the ability to gain consensus in Washington on real tax-reform legislation seems like a fleeting notion, it is critical to gauge where each candidate stands on how he or she plans to grow the economy and create jobs.
In fact, the economy and jobs were the two most important election issues to voters, according to a recent Gallup Poll.
The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., has scored both candidates' tax proposals and determined how each plan would result in a net revenue increase or decrease using two separate calculations, static and dynamic scoring.
Static scoring assumes that tax changes don't affect behavior of people and business owners and therefore have no impact on economic growth.
Dynamic scoring, on the other hand, assumes that tax changes influence the amount of savings and investment in the economy.
Key aspects of the Trump tax proposal:
Would increase the lowest individual tax rate from 0 percent to 12 percent and add two additional tax rates of 25 percent and 33 percent; a decrease from the existing top rate of 39.6 percent.
Would eliminate the net investment income tax surcharge of 3.8 percent.
Would increase the standard deduction from $6,300 to $15,000 for singles and from $12,600 to $30,000 for married couples filing jointly.
Would lower the corporate tax rate to 15 percent from a top rate of 35 percent.
Would eliminate the alternative minimum tax.
Would eliminate federal estate and gift taxes but disallow step-up in basis for estates over $10 million.
According to the Tax Foundation, Trump's plan would reduce federal revenues by $4.4 trillion on a static basis over the next decade.
The plan also would reduce marginal tax rates on labor and investment, boost long-run gross domestic product, raise wages and increase the level of full-time jobs.
As a result of this positive effect on the economy, Trump's plan would reduce revenues by $2.6 trillion over the next decade on a dynamic scoring basis.
There is some uncertainty, however, as to whether “pass-through businesses,” such as S corporations and partnerships as well as sole proprietorships, also would be taxed at 15 percent since the Trump campaign has provided incomplete and conflicting details on how this tax cut would be structured.
It is projected that the decrease in revenues would balloon by another $1.4 trillion over the next decade if all business revenue, including those from pass-through entities, would be taxed at 15 percent.
Key aspects of the Clinton tax proposal:
Would enact the so-called “Buffett Rule,” which would establish a 30 percent minimum tax on taxpayers with a phase-in between adjusted gross income of $1 million and $2 million.
Would create a 4 percent surcharge on high-income taxpayers and would effectively add an additional top tax rate of 43.6 percent for taxable income over $5 million, as well as a 24 percent top rate for qualified dividends and long-term capital gains income.
Would reinstate the estate tax to its 2009 rates when the estate tax exemption was $3.5 million and the top estate tax rate was 45 percent. The existing top estate tax rate is 40 percent, while the estate tax exemption is at $5.34 million.
Would cap all itemized deductions at a tax value of 28 percent.
Would create a $1,200 tax credit for caregiver expenses.
According to the Tax Foundation, Clinton's tax plan would raise federal tax revenues by $498 billion over the next decade on a static basis because of the increase in tax rates on the highest-earning taxpayers.
But from a dynamic scoring standpoint, the plan would raise only $191 billion over that same period when accounting for decreased economic output because of the lack of economic stimulus.
Clinton's plan would reduce GDP by 1 percent over the long term because of the slightly increased marginal tax rate on capital and labor, as well as result in more than 300,000 fewer full-time jobs.
As with most proposals, both candidates' plans have good and bad points. Some would say that, though, that neither – on paper – seems to be optimal.
Many can only hope to be pleasantly surprised, whatever the outcome of the election.
Joseph A. Mastriani, Certified Public Accountant, is a shareholder with Buckno Lisicky & Co. in Allentown. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.