So I decided to go to the sources: the candidates' tax plans themselves. Here they are in brief with links:
The Pres-o-dent's Plan
(1) The Buffett Rule
Billionaire Warren Buffett and many wealthy Americans pay a lower tax rate than middle-class families do. That’s just not fair. Warren Buffett knows it and President Obama wants to fix it. The Buffett Rule would require everyone to pay their fair share—a key step to reduce the deficit and invest in what we need to grow and strengthen the economy. Mitt Romney opposes the Buffett Rule because he wants to protect tax loopholes and give millionaires like himself trillions of dollars in tax breaks paid for by either increasing the deficit or by cutting programs critical to the middle class and economic growth.
The Buffett Rule would close loopholes and require millionaires to pay their fair share—at least as much as many middle-class families.
The calculator is based on a hypothetical comparison between you and an average member of America’s top 400 wealthiest taxpayers. These taxpayers are most often investors who make money with money, and get special treatment in the tax code—allowing them to pay a much smaller portion of their income than middle-class families who earn a living from wages. Sen. Whitehouse’s proposed Buffett Rule legislation would phase in for taxpayers earning between $1-2 million. Taxpayers earning over $2 million would pay 30% of their income in taxes, less modified charitable contributions.
The calculator assumes all income below $100,000 is wage income. IRS data is used to approximate income composition for higher income levels. The calculator estimates your deduction as 18% of AGI or the standard deduction, whichever is higher. The calculator assumes that, if applicable, you take the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. Families with children are assumed to have two children.
The calculator rounds your estimated taxes to the nearest $5,000 increment. All calculated numbers are estimates.
Note #1 (in red): They get a special tax rate under the code and can offset capital gain income with capital loss income.
Note #2 (in bold): There is a tax rate calculator. I put my salary in the calculator and it was impossible to calculate my estimated tax rate since people with my income typically have other income sources. I suspect it says that because my tax rate would be more than Buffett's and would not be helped by Obama's plan. See the bold above.
Note #3 (nothing): There does not appear to be a link to Senator Whitehouse's bill. So what loopholes are going to be fixed? Seems like Democrats grousing about the Republicans' tax plan should stop.
(2) Investing in the Middle Class
President Obama knows we can’t simply cut our way to prosperity. His budget includes investments in education, manufacturing, and infrastructure, while bringing discretionary spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy in more than 50 years .
Not a tax plan, so let's move on.
(3) Reducing the Deficit by More than $4 Trillion Over the Next Decade
President Obama has put forward a specific, balanced plan of spending cuts and revenue increases that reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade, including $1 trillion in spending cuts he signed into law last summer as part of a deal with congressional Republicans.
The revenue increases are probably taxes, so let's look at them.
The link describes the following:
$1.910 trillion of revenue from "closing corporate loopholes and tax increases on high income earners." No specifics here.
So, in sum, what we garner from the president's website is that he will raise taxes on high income earners and close corporate loopholes. There are no specifics including what constitutes a "high income earner" and what corporate loopholes the president will close.
We are in the midst of yet another great American discussion about taxation. Perhaps no policy area has become more sensitive or controversial. At stake are two vital concerns for the American future: How will we generate sufficient revenue to balance our budget without discouraging economic activity, and will the burden of taxation fall equitably on all Americans?
Tax policy shapes almost everything individuals and enterprises do as they participate in the economy. With bad design, tax policy can discourage economic activity. With good design, it can encourage it. Yet our current tax system is an accretion of decades of patchwork decisions that came into being with no systematic thought for their implications for job creation or economic growth. Every year, individual taxpayers are forced to confront a Rube Goldberg contraption of bewildering complexity that leads to a range of undesirable outcomes, including the fact that millions of Americans have to pay hundreds of dollars to have their tax returns prepared by a professional who understands the rules. Corporations, for their part, are subject to rules and regulations that all too often encourage tax gamesmanship while discouraging reinvestment in the American economy.
(1) Individual Taxes
(a) Make permanent, across-the-board 20 percent cut in marginal rates
(b) Maintain current tax rates on interest, dividends, and capital gains
(c) Eliminate taxes for taxpayers with AGI below $200,000 on interest, dividends, and capital gains
(d) Eliminate the Death Tax
(e) Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
(2) Corporate Taxes
(a) Cut the corporate rate to 25 percent.
(b) Strengthen and make permanent the R&D tax credit
(c) Switch to a territorial tax system
(d) Repeal the corporate AMT
Okay. Not too much detail here, but better than on Obama's website. With the possible exception of (a) (without know more details) and definitely wtih (e), none of these items are for high income earners. I'm not sure what the Death Tax refers to either. The AMT is a little ridiculous (since lots of people who weren't originally meant to pay it now have to pay it). So, anyway, no tax cuts for rich in here. It is troubling that the "increasing the revenue base" part of the plan is not listed anywhere. As you may recall from the debates, both Romney and Ryan indicated that there is a drop in rates, but there will also be an increase in the base (which means the income subject to the lower tax rate will be higher than now). That's not anywhere in here, even on a basic level.
There isn't much to analyze. Neither website provides much detail. Romney's plan seems to have more actual points to it than Obama's plan, which seems to just have one point, maybe two. Romney's plan lowers taxes for everyone. Obama's plan lowers taxes for no one and raises taxes on the rich, which is an undefined term (and troubling in its undefinition).
My other point is that this is all rhetoric, which emphasis on the word "all." After both debates, I've heard a lot about how the Republicans don't have a plan, but I haven't heard anything about how the Democrats don't have a plan. It appears that both parties have plans that are similar in their lack of detail. So perhaps the criticism of the Republican plan is misplaced. I would like to have seen someone ask the president or vice president details about their tax plans, like what was asked of the Republican candidates.
Final point is that there should be some website somewhere put up by the parties themselves that provides for more details on all of these plans. I'm sure there are a group of people in each campaign that are in charge of tax plans. They should provide those plans in detail for us to review. It would make the decision-making process a whole lot easier. And maybe that's what they don't publish those plans - why go into detail and have it criticized when we can just listen to rhetoric?