Investment Implications of the New Tax Law – December 28, 2017

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • In this Timely Topics, we take a look at a few of the implications of the final tax bill.
  • The new law is intended to boost economic activity and simplify the U.S. tax code.
  • Given clarity on the new tax law, we are raising estimates for U.S. GDP and S&P 500 operating earnings for 2018.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law by President Trump last Friday, December 22, meeting his pledge to deliver tax reform before Christmas. The complex 1,000-page bill features changes that are intended to spur economic activity through a reduction in both individual and corporate tax rates, and simplify the tax code by eliminating or trimming a variety of deductions and exemptions. In this special commentary, we look at the likely impact of the final bill on the economy, monetary policy, and the financial markets in the coming years.

As we wrote in our Outlook 2018: Return of the Business Cycle publication, the combination of improved business fundamentals and fiscal legislation should sustain momentum in the economy and equity markets in the coming year and potentially beyond. After years of depending on the largess of monetary policymakers, investors can now focus on fiscal levers that we believe will support consumption and spur new business investment over the next few years. The law has important implications for major corporations, small businesses, and individual taxpayers [Figure 1], and may shift the trajectory for economic growth, the federal budget, monetary policy, and perhaps most critically for investors—corporate profits.

ECONOMY & THE FEDERAL RESERVE

Though much of the political posturing over the past year was a result of the reduction in corporate tax rates, the legislation offers a larger than expected boost to individuals. While higher income earners should experience the largest benefit, the breadth of the individual tax rate reduction may lead to higher levels of consumer spending over the next few years. For example, in 2018, the net tax cut is set to exceed $100 billion, and as the effects of the alternative minimum tax (AMT) changes settle out in 2019, the consumer windfall could eclipse $200 billion, or approximately 1.0% of gross domestic product (GDP). Of course, the goal of lawmakers is that the increase in consumption will have a positive feedback loop, generating increases in output, employment, income, and ultimately, tax receipts. Alas, without an increase in productivity, the gains in personal spending are unlikely to be permanent, which is another reason leadership in Washington, D.C. included incentives for business investment as part of the tax package.

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