What Is the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022?
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, H.R. 5376, is designed to reduce the deficit and lower inflation while investing in domestic energy production and lowering healthcare drug costs. The bill became law with President Biden’s signature on Aug. 16, 2022. In essence, the law is a scaled-down version of the Build Back Better Act proposed by the Biden administration in 2021.
The law is expected to raise $737 billion, require total investments of $437 billion, and result in a deficit reduction of more than $300 billion. It allows Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices and extends the expanded Affordable Care Act (ACA) program for three years, through 2025.
Additionally, the law establishes policies designed to promote and support domestic energy and transmission projects. The goal is to lower costs for consumers and help the United States meet long-term emissions goals.
- The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is a reduced version of the Biden administration’s proposed Build Back Better Act.
- At the end of the decade, according to Democrats, the United States will realize a deficit reduction of more than $300 billion while lowering inflation, investing in energy production, and reducing healthcare costs.
- Of the $737 billion in revenue raised, the law calls for $222 billion from a 15% corporate minimum tax.
- The law stands to be the single largest investment in climate and energy in the U.S. to date.
- Whether the law will reduce inflation is the point of most contention, with proponents saying it will at least have a modest effect in coming years and opponents saying it will have no effect at all.
Understanding the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022
According to the White House, the Inflation Reduction Act will make “the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history.” Spending is designed to lower energy costs, increase cleaner energy production, and reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.
The law accomplishes a long-standing Democratic goal to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, although there are limits to both the number of drugs affected and the time frame involved. Another plus is a $2,000 annual cap on out-of-pocket drug costs. ACA healthcare premiums will be lowered for millions of Americans for three years under the law.
A significant funding source for programs in the law will be a 15% corporate minimum tax on companies making more than a billion dollars per year. Meantime, the law imposes no new taxes on families who make $400,000 or less annually or on certain small businesses.
What’s in the Inflation Reduction Act?
Revenue and spending in the law breaks down as follows, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), and Senate estimates:
|$222 billion||15% corporate minimum tax*|
|$265 billion||Prescription drug pricing reform**|
|$124 billion||Enhanced Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax enforcement**|
|$74 billion||1% stock buyback fee*|
|$52 billion||Loss limitation extension*|
|$737 billion||Total revenue raised|
|$369 billion||Energy security and climate change investment***|
|$64 billion||Affordable Care Act (ACA) extension**|
|$4 billion||Western drought resiliency***|
|$437 billion||Total investments|
|$300+ BILLION||TOTAL DEFICIT REDUCTION|
*Joint Committee on Taxation **Congressional Budget Office ***Senate estimate awaiting CBO estimate
Each component of the 755-page bill falls under one of two areas listed in the table: revenue or investments. Since the law raises more revenue than the amount spent, the difference between the two is available for deficit reduction.
Following are highlights of some of the most notable features of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022:
15% Corporate Minimum Tax
The law introduces a new 15% minimum tax on corporations to help pay for climate and healthcare measures. The tax applies to companies that generate $1 billion in annual earnings. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates that the tax will raise $222 billion in revenue over the next decade.
Exemptions from the tax demanded by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (then-D-Ariz.) to secure her “yes” vote include:
- Exemption for companies that use accelerated depreciation to help pay for new investments.
- Exclusion of small businesses that are subsidiaries of private equity firms.
Prescription Drug Pricing Reform
The law allows Medicare to negotiate prices for some drugs for the first time. This is a policy that Democrats have attempted to enact, over objections from the pharmaceutical industry, for many years. The provisions are expected to save $265 billion over 10 years, according to analysis by the CBO.
Specifically, the law lets Medicare negotiate lower prices for 10 high-cost drugs beginning in 2026. This jumps to 20 drugs by 2029. Companies that refuse to negotiate will be subject to a sales tax of up to 95% on that drug. The law includes a ceiling on the negotiated price of the specified drug. Moderate Democrats, then including Sinema, inserted a requirement that price negotiations only apply to older drugs (nine years for most/13 years for biologic drugs).
Sales tax penalty levied on companies that refuse to negotiate drug prices with Medicare.
The law caps out-of-pocket drug costs at $2,000 a year for Medicare beneficiaries, starting in 2025.
It also caps insulin costs for people on Medicare at $35 a month. The original proposal called for a cap on both Medicare and private insurance patients, but Republicans voted against extending protection to those on private plans.
Other drug cost caps, which mostly apply to Medicare beneficiaries, are in the law as well. Those who get insurance under private plans are largely excluded from these caps because Senate rules limit how expansive such provisions can be.
A further protection mandates that drug companies that raise prices on Medicare faster than the rate of inflation must pay rebates to the government for the price difference.
Enhanced IRS Tax Enforcement
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 allocates $80 billion to increase enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Supporters of the measure hope that additional employees and better technology will allow the IRS to catch more tax cheats, especially among the ultra-wealthy. The CBO believes this could boost IRS revenue by at least $124 billion over the next decade.
To recoup tax revenue lost to private equity, the act imposes a limit on losses that businesses can deduct from their taxes. These measures are designed to prevent wealthy individuals from reducing or even wiping out their income tax liability and are set to raise up to 52 billion in additional revenue.
Energy Security and Climate Change Investment
The largest investment made by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is for energy security and climate change. It totals $369 billion and consists of the following:
Business Incentives and Tax Credits
- Incentives to businesses to deploy lower-carbon and carbon-free energy sources
- Tax credits for energy production and investments in wind, solar, and geothermal energies
- Tax credits for investment in battery storage and biogas
- Tax credits for investments in nuclear energy, hydrogen energy coming from clean sources, biofuels, and technology that captures carbon from fossil fuel power plants
- Bonuses for companies based on worker pay and the manufacture of steel, iron, and other components in the U.S.
New tax credit rules make electric vehicle (EV) tax credit hard to get:
- EVs must be made in North America
- Eliminates credits for pricey EVs; i.e., Hummer EV, Lucid Air, and Tesla Model S and Model X
- Lowers tax credit on new EVs with battery minerals sourced from countries other than the U.S.
Business and Consumer Incentives
- Incentives to companies and consumers for making cleaner energy choices
- Tax credits for residential clean-energy costs, including rooftop solar, heat pumps, and small wind energy systems. The credit is 30% through 2032, after which it phases down.
- Electric vehicle tax credits of up to $7,500 on new EVs and $4,000 on used EVs
- Tax credit for energy efficiency in commercial buildings
- Grants and loans to help companies reduce emissions of gas methane from oil and gas
- Fees levied on producers with excess methane emissions
- $27 billion toward additional incentives for clean-energy technology
Some provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 actually increase fossil fuel production on public lands.
Use of Public Lands
- New requirements to hold lease sales that open up new oil and gas production
- Reinstatement of a recent offshore oil and gas lease sale that was struck down on environmental grounds
- Requirement that the Interior Department hold at least three more offshore oil and gas lease sales by next October
- Minimum royalties increase for companies that extract oil and gas on public lands and waters
- Added royalty for public land and water extraction of gas that is later burned off or released as waste instead of sold as fuel
- $3 billion for environmental justice block grants—community-led programs that address harms from climate change and pollutants, including $20 million for technical assistance at the community level, through fiscal 2026
- $3+ billion for air pollution monitoring in low-income communities, with $117 million going to communities in close proximity to industrial pollutants
- Excise tax increase from 9.7 to 16.4 cents per barrel on imported petroleum and crude oil products to fund the cleanup of industrial disaster site increases
- Permanent extension of the tax on coal production that funds the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which finances claims from workers with the condition
Affordable Care Act (ACA) Extension
The law extends financial assistance to help people enrolled in the ACA through 2025. Without this action, extra assistance would have stopped at the end of 2022. The provision also expands eligibility to allow more middle-class people to receive premium help. The extension of ACA help is estimated by the CBO to cost $64 billion.
Western Drought Resiliency
A last-minute addition to the Inflation Reduction Act includes $4 billion in new funding for the drought scorching the Western U.S. The law calls for the Bureau of Reclamation to address the 22-year drought impacting that part of the country.
Funds will be used to compensate farmers who voluntarily reduce their water deliveries under short-term or multiyear agreements, as well as projects that conserve water in Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Funding will also be available to mitigate the environmental effects of shrinking inland water sources such as the Salton Sea and the Great Salt Lake.
Additional Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Estimates
The CBO estimates that, because prescription drug savings would be larger than new spending, net spending would be reduced by nearly $15 billion through 2031. This includes savings of almost $40 billion in 2031.
Net taxes would go down by about $2 billion per year once the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is fully phased in, according to the CBO’s estimates. The CBO also takes into account what it calls the “spillover” effects of higher wages resulting from lower healthcare premiums under the ACA.
Overall, the CBO estimates $790 billion in offsets to fund roughly $485 billion of new spending and tax breaks. Because the law actually reduces deficits, proponents believe it will also reduce inflation and serve as a risk-reduction measure against recession.
Penn Wharton Budget Model
One study often cited by critics of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 was conducted by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. The Penn Wharton Budget Model (PWBM) estimates that the Inflation Reduction Act would reduce cumulative deficits by $248 billion over the next decade with no impact on gross domestic product (GDP) in 2031.
The anticipated impact on inflation, according to the PWBM, will be “statistically indistinguishable from zero.” The PWBM conducted an alternative scenario in which the Affordable Care Act subsidies are made permanent. Under this scenario (which is not currently part of the law), the 10-year deficit reduction estimate falls to $89 billion.
How much will the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 reduce the U.S. deficit?
Estimates range from the Penn Wharton Budget Model estimate of $248 billion to the Congressional Budget Office score of $305 billion. Most other estimates are $300 billion or more.
What are the tax consequences of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022?
According to the Tax Foundation, the law calls for no new taxes on families making $400,000 or less annually. The law extends expanded health insurance premium tax credits provided in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) through the end of 2025. The law also imposes a 15% minimum tax on corporate book income for corporations with profits exceeding $1 billion, effective for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2022.
How will the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 impact inflation?
The answer depends on whom you ask. Senate Democrats say lower prescription and energy costs will tamp down inflation, at least over time. The Congressional Budget Office sees little to no impact on inflation this year.
The Bottom Line
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is most controversial when it comes to the subject of the measure’s title: inflation. There is no real consensus on how much—or even if—the law will reduce inflation.
There is little debate that the law will reduce the deficit, albeit with some variation in the amount of the deficit reduction. The part of the law that deals with prescription drug costs is far less than Democrats hoped for, but all agree that it is at least a good start.
While raising taxes on corporations and the rich is generally popular, some conservatives have expressed concern that these measures will discourage investments and hiring on the part of affected companies.
At the end of the day, nobody got all that they wanted, showing at least that the art of compromise is not dead in Washington.
U.S. Senate Democratic Caucus. “Summary: The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.”
The White House. “Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 5376—Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.”
U.S. Senate Democratic Caucus. “H.R. 5376: Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.”
Congressional Budget Office. “Estimated Budgetary Effects of H.R. 5376, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.”
Penn Wharton Budget Model. “Inflation Reduction Act: Preliminary Estimates of Budgetary and Macroeconomic Effects.”