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Huge tax increase looms at year-end 'fiscal cliff'

Associated Press Modified: October 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm •  Published: October 1, 2012
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WASHINGTON (AP) — A typical middle-income family making $40,000 to $64,000 a year could see its taxes go up by $2,000 next year if lawmakers fail to renew a lengthy roster of tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year, according to a new report Monday

Taxpayers across the income spectrum would be hit with large tax hikes, the Tax Policy Center said in its study, with households in the top 1 percent income range seeing an average tax increase of more than $120,000, while a family making between $110,000 to $140,000 could see a tax hike in the $6,000 range.

Taxpayers across the income spectrum will get slammed with increases totaling more than $500 billion — a more than 20 percent increase — with nine out of 10 households being affected by the expiration of tax cuts enacted under both President Barack Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The expiring provisions include Bush-era cuts on wage and investment income and cuts for married couples and families with children, among others. Also expiring is a 2 percentage point temporary payroll tax cut championed by Obama.

The looming expiration of the large roster of tax cuts is one of the issues confronting voters in November, with the chief difference between Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney being the tax treatment of wealthier earners. Obama is calling for permitting rates on individual income exceeding $200,000 and family incoming over $250,000 to go back to Clinton-era rates of as much as 39.6 percent.

Both candidates call for rewriting the tax code next year, but any such effort promises to be difficult and could take considerable time.

Monday's study, by the independent Tax Policy Center, deals with the immediate increases set to slap taxpayers in January under the existing framework of the tax code.

Few are talking of renewing Obama's payroll tax cut, even though that would mean a healthy tax increase for many working people. Working families with modest incomes would be hit hard as the child tax credit would shrink from a maximum of $1,000 per child to $500.

As a result, a married couple earning $50,000 with three dependent children that currently receives an almost $1,500 income tax refund largely due to the child tax credit would see their fortunes reversed by more than $3,000 next year and pay more than $1,500 in income taxes while seeing their payroll taxes go up by $1,000 if the full menu of tax cuts expire.

"It's just a huge, huge number," said Eric Toder, one of the authors of the study.

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