Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What Would Happen if the Bush Tax Cuts Expire

From the Wall Street

What would it actually mean for you if they let the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year, and we went back to the old Bill Clinton tax rates adjusted for inflation?

This is a thought experiment, not a prediction or a recommendation.

The tax cuts, passed in 2001 and 2003, are front and center now and will be a hot issue going into the elections this fall. Unless something is done by the end of the year, they'll expire. With the economic recovery looking shaky, expiration is particularly controversial.

Most of the attention has understandably focused on highest earners, who are likely to be most affected by whatever happens. But as the debate has gathered pace I have been wondering what it might mean for everyone else. After all, according to the IRS just 4% of Americans earn more than $200,000 a year.

How high were taxes back in the 1990s? How would those rates seem now? The American Institute of CPAs supplied me with the numbers. I updated the tax brackets to account for inflation.

Sure, everyone's taxes are different, and the U.S. tax code is so horrendously Byzantine that the moment you say anything you run into a thicket of caveats. But let's run some numbers. And let's take a very broad brush approach to this. Let's assume you're a typical filer, you take the standard deduction, and let's just look at the biggest tax issues.

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