IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Putting a price tag on Rick Scott’s proposed GOP tax hike

The Florida Republican wants Americans who don’t pay income taxes to “have skin in the game.” But how much money are we talking about?


It was three weeks ago today when Sen. Rick Scott made an unexpected move: The Florida Republican unveiled a 31-page blueprint, sketching out the kind of ideas he wants his party to pursue in the next Congress. It was a controversial plan for a great many reasons, not the least of which was Scott’s proposed tax increases on roughly half the country.

“All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount,” the GOP senator wrote. “Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.”

Democrats pounced on this for obvious reasons. As we’ve discussed, millions of American adults currently don’t pay federal income taxes because they don’t make enough money to qualify. Scott, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a member of the Senate Republican leadership, proposes changing that: He envisions a tax system in which those who don’t make enough money would have to pay more than they pay now.

A variety of questions soon followed, starting with an obvious one: What kind of money are we talking about here? At this point, the GOP senator hasn’t presented any meaningful details: Scott wants to raise taxes on millions of Americans, but we don’t yet know by how much.

That said, some number-crunchers have started filling in the gaps. The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center released this report on the heels of Scott unveiling his blueprint.

The Tax Policy Center estimates that achieving Scott’s goal could increase federal income taxes by more than $100 billion in 2022 alone. More than 80 percent of the tax increase would be paid by households making about $54,000 or less, and 97 percent would be paid by those making less than about $100,000.

For the purposes of the analysis, the Tax Policy Center envisioned a model in which the Republican tax hike created a minimum tax of $100 for unmarried filers and $200 for couples filing jointly. To be sure, that’s not what Scott has explicitly called for, but for the purposes of an analysis, it gives us some sense of what a “skin in the game” policy might look like.

About a week later, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy produced a related report that found, under the GOP senator’s vision, most of the tax increases “would be paid by the poorest 40 percent of Americans.”

And how much would they pay? Kevin Drum recently raised an excellent point, explaining that policies such as the earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit (CTC) create negative income tax bills — in some cases, up to thousands of dollars — for the working poor.

For Scott and his allies, even charging these Americans $1 a year — seemingly a tiny amount that nearly everyone could afford — would translate into considerable household losses.

This is quite a move for a Republican leader to make in an election year.