A holiday gift for taxpayers?
After a 277-148 passage in the House and an 81-19 approval in the Senate, President Obama signed the 2010 Tax Relief Act into law on December 17, extending the Bush-era tax cuts.1 Here is the impact of the new legislation:
Current federal income tax rates are preserved for everyone. The federal income tax brackets will remain at 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35% for 2011 and 2012.
Unemployment insurance extends for 13 more months. This is retroactive, so the federal extension of long-term jobless benefits applies from December 2010 through December 2011.
A payroll tax holiday occurs in 2011.
The payroll taxes that employees pay will drop from 6.2% to 4.2% next year. (There will be no payroll tax cut for employers in 2011, only employees.) As envisioned, this will result in a savings of about $1,000 next year for a wage earner bringing home $50,000. This replaces the Making Work Pay credit.
Estate taxes will be milder than at any time in the past 80 years. For 2011, the federal estate tax drops to 35%. The estate tax exemption rises all the way to $5 million. President Obama had earlier characterized these parameters as too generous, but he and Congressional Democrats ultimately accepted them.
Tax breaks for middle-class and working-class families won’t sunset. As a result of the new law, the child credit, the child and dependent-care credit, the EITC, and a $2,500 tax credit for higher education expenses will all be around in 2011.
No marriage penalty. The new law wards off the comeback of the marriage penalty so that married couples may take a more generous standard deduction.
Taxes on capital gains and dividends top out at 15%. Passage of the 2010 Tax Relief Act means rates will top out at 15% through 2012.
Businesses may expense 100% of their investments in 2011. In fact, qualified investments made after September 8, 2010 and before January 1, 2012 are eligible for this bonus depreciation. In addition, 50% expensing will be available for qualified property placed in service during 2012, and so-called “long-lived” property and transportation property may be eligible for 100% expensing if it goes into service prior to 2013.
The tax break for IRA gifts to charity returns. The IRA charitable rollover, as it was informally called, was much beloved by non-profits and IRA owners, but it went away in 2010. In basic terms, it allowed someone 70½ or older donate up to $100,000 in IRA assets annually to one or more qualified charities.
This opportunity is back for 2011
The especially good news is that Congress included a special rule in the new tax bill allowing IRA gifts made in January 2011 to count for 2010.
An AMT patch, of course. Congress decided it might as well take care of that. It passed an AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) fix as part of the 2010 Tax Relief Act, thereby exempting about 20 million middle-income households from a potential $3,900 average leap in federal income taxes.
What’s the price tag of all this short-term tax relief?
It is sizable. The federal deficit is projected to increase by about $858 billion over the next two years as a consequence. For many this is good news in the short run. However the U.S. debt situation is still VERY troubling heading into the new year!