WASHINGTON (AP) — It may not sound like it from the rhetoric, but both the House and Senate already have passed separate bills to delay big tax increases awaiting nearly every taxpayer next year if Congress and the White House can't agree on a plan to avert the "fiscal cliff."
The Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bill in July that would extend many of the expiring George W. Bush-era tax cuts for middle-income families, while letting taxes go up for individuals who make more than $200,000 and married couples making more than $250,000.
The Republican-led House passed a bill in August that would extend the tax cuts for just about everyone.
Republican leaders in Congress say they are willing to accept higher taxes on the wealthy, but only by reducing or eliminating credits, deductions and exemptions. They adamantly oppose higher tax rates, which Democratic leaders are demanding.
Leaders from each party said their bill should be the starting point for finding a solution in the next few weeks. Both bills would extend tax cuts through next year. The Senate bill would save taxpayers about $250 billion, according to congressional estimates. The House bill would save taxpayers about $400 billion.
A look at the specifics of each bill:
Senate: Extends the Bush tax cuts for middle-and low-income families, while letting the top two income tax rates increase from 33 percent to 36 percent and from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. The 33 percent rate would be applied to income above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly. The top tax rate is applied to incomes above about $390,000.
House: Extends all the Bush tax rates through 2013, for wealthy, middle-income and low-income families.
Senate: Raises the top tax rate on capital gains and qualified dividends from 15 percent to 20 percent.
House: Keeps the top tax rate on capital gains and qualified dividends at 15 percent.
Neither bill addressed the payroll tax cut, which reduced the Social Security payroll tax paid by workers from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent in 2011 and 2012. If the tax cut expires, a typical worker making $50,000 in wages would get a $1,000 tax increase next year.