Project description

When Congress passed the new tax bill, we wanted a way for readers to determine what it meant for them. The proposed changes were so complex, we sought to build a tax calculator that provided an intuitive user interface that was still detailed enough to account for the many nuances of tax law in the United States and covered most Americans’ tax situations.

What we came up with was a unique tax calculator that allowed readers to input different types of incomes, assume a variety of deductions and exemptions, and account for state and local taxes, to find out whether their taxes will go up or down under the proposed House GOP tax plan over a 10-year time frame.

What makes this project innovative?

The level of detail, from the number of deductions and exemptions taken into account to the 10-year projection, sets this tax calculator apart from others. One key is the inclusion of pass-through income as an option, a complicated tax item that no other calculators had. The changes to pass-through income affects many, many Americans -- small business owners, lawyers, dentists, etc.

By working on a simplified version of the calculator from the first time the House released the proposals, we were able to develop the project over the course of a few weeks and refine it, with a goal to publish it soon after the bill passed. We were able to publish this within days of the final bill.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

The calculator was a huge hit with WSJ readers and widely cited by economists, politicians, and financial advisors as the most robust and detailed estimate of the Republican tax plan’s impact available.

The House Ways and Means Committee -- the body that crafted the tax bill -- cited it as accurate.

Most readers found their taxes will go down under the plan, however at a cost of nearly $1.5 trillion in tax receipts for the federal government over 10 years.

Source and methodology

We worked with the Penn Wharton Budget Model to develop the parameters and calculations.

Technologies Used

We used a JavaScript engine to make the calculations and integrated that with the React app. This allowed readers to input their settings and automatically update the parameters, returning an estimate of where their taxes would be with and without the law.

Project members

Taylor Umlauf, Visual Editor
Dylan Moriarty, Graphics Editor/Developer
Elliot Bentley, Deputy Graphics Director
Jon Hilsenrath, Economics Bureau Chief
Richard Rubin, Reporter

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