Tax Policy Center: Tax on Unrealized Gains “Ripe for Abuse” and “Won’t Work”

Not only do Americans overwhelmingly oppose the concept of taxing unrealized gains, the nation’s top progressive tax policy group says the idea pushed by Dem Senator Ron Wyden “won’t work.”

The Tax Policy Center says that the plan “raises many practical problems” and “won’t work” and is “ripe for abuse.”

On Nov. 21, 2019 Tax Policy Center senior fellow Howard Gleckman wrote:

“Last Friday, The Tax Policy Center sponsored a morning-long program on market-to-market taxation of capital gains. After three hours, I came away convinced that annually taxing unrealized investment profits during an investor’s lifetime is not practical… The concept is theoretically appealing but raises many practical problems. While in principle it could work for publicly traded securities and other investments with easily determined market values, many assets don’t fit that bill.”

That same day, Gleckman wrote on Twitter:

A mark-to-market #capitalgains #tax won’t work.

On Oct. 21, 2021 Gleckman wrote on Twitter:

Skeptical on the politics and administrability of mark-to-market.

On Sept. 27, 2021 Tax Policy Center senior fellow Steve Rosenthal wrote on Twitter:

“Mark-to-market securities of billionaires? Sounds attractive, but it’s hard. Are gains on their securities ordinary or capital? Does it matter whether the securities are sold before year-end or marked at year-end? Are losses ordinary or capital?”

On Oct. 22, 2021 Rosenthal wrote on Twitter:

A mark-to-market loss is a deemed, not actual, sale. No transaction costs. And the taxpayer makes up the valuation. Ripe for abuse.

The proposal to tax unrealized gains is deeply unpopular with the American public. According to a survey experiment conducted in May of 2021, Americans strongly oppose taxing unsold gains across all demographics.

In their paperThe Psychology of Taxing Capital Income: Evidence from a Survey Experiment on the Realization Rule, the researchers found:

“Respondents strongly prefer to wait to tax gains on publicly-traded stocks until sale versus taxing unsold gains each year: 75% to 25%. Though this opposition is strongest among those who are wealthier or own stocks, all demographic groups oppose taxing unsold gains by large margins. This opposition persists and is often strengthened when looking across a variety of other assets and policy framings.”

The study also found that 69% of Democrats oppose taxing unrealized gains.

Progressive tax groups and the American people strongly agree, taxing unrealized capital gains is unfair and impractical.