Brace yourself. In a mere 271 days, you and your fellow Americans will be hit with a tax hike the likes of which this country has never seen. The Washington Post aptly called the unprecedented $494 billion tax hike “Taxmageddon,” and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke described it as a “massive fiscal cliff.” Whatever your preferred imagery, it’s a really big deal.
Despite all the warnings, President Barack Obama has kept his silence while Congress has made no apparent effort to prevent this impending calamity to families and the economy. The prevailing wisdom is that “something will get done” in a lame duck session of Congress after the election. But why wait? And why after the election?
Here’s why you should be worried. For starters, remember that this is the same President who in 2009 promised, “if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime.” That’s a vow he’s broken, and in 2013, things are going to get even worse if this year Obama doesn’t lead and Congress doesn’t act. Katy, bar the door, there’s big trouble in store.
The tax man won’t draw his billions from the American taxpayer with just one big needle — the massive tax increase will be the product of tax policies expiring in seven different categories, on top of five new Obamacare tax hikes taking effect. In a new paper, Taxmageddon: Massive Tax Increase Coming in 2013, Heritage’s Curtis Dubay details the tax hikes that will occur if President Obama and Congress do not act before the end of the year:
Almost 34 percent of the tax increase from Taxmageddon comes from the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. These cuts are best known for reducing marginal income tax rates, but they also reduced the marriage penalty, increased the Child Tax Credit and the adoption credit, and increased tax breaks for education costs and dependent care costs.
Another 25 percent of Taxmageddon comes from the expiration of the once-temporary payroll tax cut. The expiration of the patch on the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) — which would raise the income threshold over which families qualify for the AMT to prevent middle-income families from paying this tax that is only supposed to impact “the rich” — accounts for 24 percent of the total potential 2013 tax increase.
The balance of the tax hikes comes in part from new taxes under Obamacare, the expiration of tax cuts in the 2009 stimulus, the expiration of a group of policies known as “tax extenders,” changes in the current policy on the death tax (in 2013, it will rise from 35 percent today to 55 percent and the exemption will fall from $5 million to $3.5 million), and the expiration of businesses’ ability to fully expense new capital investments.
This $494 billion in higher taxes will certainly hit families and business hard in 2013, but their effects are already being felt. Dubay explains that Americans must plan for tomorrow, and the tremendous uncertainty about tax policy makes the future much more uncertain, thus discouraging the investments and other actions needed to spur the economy to create jobs faster today.
So while the President and Congress appear content to put off ’til the 11th hour what they can and should do today, those who will have to pay the higher tax burden are waiting to see what the future holds. Dubay says that this is “slowing job creation and stopping many of the millions of unemployed Americans from going back to work.”
Early on in his presidency, Barack Obama said he knew about the impact of taxes. Back in 2009, on a visit to Elkhart, Indiana, Obama emphatically stated his belief that raising taxes in a recession is a bad idea. Though America is not in recession today, it still struggles with very high unemployment, and so the President’s logic applies with equal force — raising taxes is a drag on job creation. Unfortunately, in a speech in Washington on Tuesday, President Obama unabashedly revealed that preventing tax hikes is not his priority. In fact, he wants to see even more taxes imposed on the American people and on job creators all in the name of “fairness” — may of which are in his budget. That’s a political doctrine, not an economic policy, and it’s a proven recipe for economic disaster.
If the President doesn’t work with Congress to take action soon to prevent a 2013 Taxmageddon, his brand of “fairness” will result in the biggest tax increase in the nation’s history. And that storm will wreak even more damage on America’s already fragile economy. Congress shouldn’t wait for Obama to take the lead in preventing a policy nightmare he might actually favor. Instead, it should act now to prevent these tax hikes from crushing America’s families and our economy.
Mike Brownfield oversees execution of The Heritage Foundation’s social networking strategy and online media outreach as the think tank’s senior digital communications associate.
This article was originally published at Heritage.org. Used with permission.