WASHINGTON | Thu Jan 5, 2012 8:08pm EST
(Reuters) - U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's tax plan would cut revenues and increase the government's budget deficit, while benefiting wealthy taxpayers more than others, said a report from a non-partisan think tank released on Thursday.
The Republican front-runner's campaign responded with a defense of his plan and criticized President Barack Obama's record on taxes, saying it has "stunted" economic growth.
The Romney plan, said tax analysts, offers a middle-of-the-road tax package - not as daring as the radical flat-tax proposals offered by some of his competitors, but conservative enough to please Republican voters.
"It is a more pragmatic plan than some of the other plans that we've seen," said Clint Stretch, managing principal at Deloitte Tax LLP. "It takes some fairly orthodox, but traditional Republican positions."
The new report from the Tax Policy Center scored Romney's plan on its cost and effect on taxpayers at different income levels. It estimated the plan would cut federal tax revenue by $600 billion, or 16 percent, in 2015.
This estimate assumes the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of this year, as presently planned. If the Bush tax cuts do not expire, Romney's plan would cut revenues by $180 billion in 2015, the center said.
"A Romney administration's revenue agenda would look a lot like President George W. Bush's, just more so," said Howard Gleckman, resident fellow at the center, which also has analyzed the tax plans of other Republican presidential contenders, including Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Herman Cain.
The report comes as conservatives have been criticizing Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, for not being bolder and clearer about how to fix a loophole-riddled tax system that falls far short of funding the government.
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