The 2016 Republican presidential candidates laid out their tax plans during Tuesday night's Fox Business presidential debate, where retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson reiterated the fairness of his tithing-inspired tax plan and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, detailed his own fair tax proposal.
Moderator Neil Cavuto questioned Carson on his advocation for a flat tax system, which Carson has previously claimed to be based on the biblical practice of a congregant giving one-tenth of his or her income to a church.
Carson explained at the GOP debate in late October that his system would realistically have all Americans pay up to 15 percent, instead of 10 percent, in a flat income tax. Cavuto then pointed out billionaire Donald Trump's tax plan which calls for wealthier individuals to pay a higher tax rate "because it's a fair thing to do."
"So whose plan would God endorse then, Doctor?" Cavuto asked.
Carson stated that as his tax plan comes from the Old Testament, it is based off the concept of "proportionality."
"Everybody should pay the same proportion of what they make. You make $10 billion, you pay a billion. You make $10, you pay one. You get same rights and privileges," Carson asserted. "I don't see how anything gets a whole lot fairer than that. But you also have to get rid of all the deductions and all the loopholes because that is the thing that tilts it in one direction or another. And you have to set the rate at an appropriate level."
Carson defended his stance on the cutting of tax deductions, by saying that Americans were once capable of living without tax deductions for mortgages and charitable giving. He added that since Americans will be able to keep more of their money with his tax plan, they will be able to be more charitable.
"And they say there will be no more charitable giving. We had churches before that and charitable organizations before that," Carson contended. "The fact of the matter is, I believe if you put more money in people's pockets that they will actually be more generous rather than less generous. And it's … the money that they earned."
Although Carson is calling for all Americans to pay the same amount in taxes, Carson assured that he would offer a rebate to those in poverty.
"And, the other thing is, I do care about the poor people. And in the system that we're putting together, there will be a rebate for people at the poverty level," Carson explained. "But I also want to emphasize the fact that as we get the economy moving ... there will be a lot more opportunities for poor people not to be poor people because this is America."
Cruz, who has long promised that one of his top priorities as president would be abolishing the IRS, explained that his tax plan would consist of installing a 10 percent fair tax. He explained that a family of four that earns less than 36,000 would be expected to pay "no taxes whatsoever."
Cruz added that his plan would eliminate the payroll tax, death tax and the corporate income tax. Additionally, his plan calls for a flat 16 percent business tax.
"The current system isn't fair. Washington is fundamentally corrupt. There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible — and – and not a one of them is as good," Cruz quipped. "Above that, every American pays 10 percent across the board — a flat, fair tax. Which means that no longer do you have hedge-fund billionaires paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries."
Cruz was asked how his plan would not increase the national deficit, which currently sits at $19 trillion.
"Well, the numbers the Tax Foundation had put out is that the static cost of the plan is $3.6 trillion over 10 years, but the dynamic cost of the plan, which is the cost that factors in growth, is about $768 billion," Cruz explained. "It is less than a trillion. It costs less than virtually every other plan people have put up here, and yet it produces more growth and it's one of the very few plans that abolishes the IRS."
Cruz added that to help cut federal spending, he would cut five federal agencies. He named the IRS, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but failed to name the fifth after citing Commerce twice. He would also cut 25 specific federal programs.
"You want to look at specificity? It's easy for everyone to say, 'cut spending,'" Cruz argued. "It's much harder and riskier to put out, chapter and verse, specifically the programs you would cut to stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids."