In 2001 and 2003, President George W. Bush proposed and Congress passed a series of tax cuts to reinvigorate the economy and reduce the government’s burden on workers’ paychecks. Because of opposition to these measures from some in Congress, the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were implemented as temporary measures, all of which will expire by January 1, 2011.
In 2004, Congress passed short-term extensions of several cuts, and in 2005, Congress allowed one cut to expire. The uncertainty of the future of the tax cuts has an effect on present-day spending by businesses and individuals, who know that they may have to pay higher taxes in the future.
Members of Congress may think that they can return next year to make the tax rates on capital gains and dividends permanent, but they should know that corporate executives are deciding now what large-ticket, capital purchases to make over the next several years. A key factor in those decisions, which fuel this economy’s growth and create jobs, is the tax rate on capital. If Congress continues to delay making permanent the low tax rate on capital, these executives will assume a higher cost of investment and reduce their corporations’ investments, to the detriment of the economy.
Today’s strong economy provides some evidence that the Bush tax cuts worked as intended. If Congress is serious about addressing economic growth and unemployment, it should make the President’s tax cuts permanent and reinstate those provisions that have expired:
- Bonus Depreciation: This provision, which changes depreciation schedules for businesses in a way that encourages investment, expired on January 1, 2005.
- Alternative Minimum Tax: Exemptions will decrease by $6,500 per filer on January 1, 2006.
- Small Business Expensing: On January 1, 2008, the maximum amount that a business may deduct will fall from $100,000 to $25,000, which will not be indexed to inflation. Also on that date, the cap for the value of qualifying property will shrink from $400,000 to $200,000, making it more difficult for small businesses to take advantage of this deduction.
- Capital Gains: Rates will rise to 10 or 20 percent, depending upon income, on January 1, 2009.
- Child Credit: This credit will shrink from $1,000 to $500 per child on January 1, 2011.
- The 10% Bracket: This bracket will be eliminated on January 1, 2011, raising the income tax burden of many workers by 5 percentage points.
- The 15% Bracket for Joint Filers: On January 1, 2011, the upper limit of this bracket will shrink from 200 to 167 percent of the upper limit for single filers, creating a marriage penalty.
- Standard Deduction for Joint Filers: On January 1, 2011, this will shrink from 200 to 167 percent of the standard deduction for single filers, creating a marriage penalty.
- The Estate Tax: The top rate for this tax will increase to 60 percent on January 1, 2011, and the value of an estate exempt from taxation will shrink to $1 million, which is less than it is today.
- The Income Tax: Rates will increase between 3 and 4.5 percentage points in each bracket on January 1, 2011.
- Dividends: Rates will rise to match standard income tax rates on January 1, 2009.
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