There seems to be more than enough in the new tax cut bill, which will soon become a law, to keep every income level happy. The Tax Hike Prevention Act of 2010 extends the tax cuts first implemented during President Bush’s tenure and adds more benefits for everyone.
For another two years, the marginal income tax rates (10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35%) will stay the same. These are the income tax rates for 2010, and this tax rate comparison shows what the rates would be if the cuts were to expire. The lower capital gains tax rates will also be extended for two years, including a rate of 0% for those in the 10% or 15% tax brackets.
The bill changes the income level affected by the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The AMT hasn’t been indexed to inflation, so over time, more and more households that consider themselves “middle class” have been falling into the sweet spot. The bill changes the amount of income exempt from the AMT in 2010 as well as 2011 so fewer taxpayers will be affected by the AMT.
For another two years, students and former students will benefit from the American Opportunity Tax Credit. This tax credit was a significant benefit increase from the previous educational tax credits, and it affects more taxpayers.
The estate tax was scheduled to be reinstated in 2011. Prior to 2010, only 0.3% of taxpayers who left anything of value to their heirs upon death also left a tax bill. The estate tax affects a tiny percentage of the population, but it is a hotly contested issue. When the estate tax returns in 2011, the first $5 million of wealth will be exempt (or $10 million for couples), so this tax will affect even fewer than the 0.3% previously. The top tax rate will be reduced from 55% to 35%.
Also, when an investment in an estate is later sold by an heir, they’ll only owe tax on the stepped-up basis. In other words, the gain will be calculated based on the value of the investment when it was inherited, not when it was originally purchased.
The payroll tax will be reduced by 32% for everyone who pays into Social Security. The rate will drop from 6.2% to 4.2% for one year, effectively replacing the Making Work Pay credit, but affecting more taxpayers.
The child tax credit will remain $1,000 rather than revert back to the $500 it was before the Bush era tax cuts.
Unemployment benefits will be extended by thirteen months.
Photo: Ryan Wick
Updated January 17, 2011 and originally published December 17, 2010.