On Wednesday, December 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, H.R. 4351, that would extend the exemptions that keep the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) from affecting most Americans and would replace the revenue the AMT is projected to otherwise collect. One provision would help replace the AMT revenue by restricting offshore tax avoidance schemes by wealthy individuals. Another provision would delay the implementation of an unnecessary tax break for multinational businesses which hasn't even gone into effect yet.
Dropped from this bill is a provision that would end the tax subsidy for "carried interest," a type of compensation paid to wealthy fund managers. Carried interest is currently taxed at a special, low 15 percent rate, lower than the tax rate paid by many middle-class families. Last week, Republicans in the Senate blocked a similar House-passed bill that would have ended this tax subsidy because they were committed to defending this break for millionaire fund managers. So, in the spirit of compromise, the House passed H.R. 4351 on Wednesday without the carried interest provision.
Incredibly, Republican leaders in the Senate are insisting that they will block this new bill even though it lacks the "controversial" carried interest provision. They seem to believe that H.R. 4351 includes "tax increases" that will hurt the economy. By this logic, the economy literally depends on the ability of rich individuals to avoid taxes by using offshore shell companies. Also by this logic, the economy depends on a tax break for multinational companies that has not even gone into effect yet.
Meanwhile, 17 Democratic members of the House, mostly members of the Progressive Caucus, signed a letter sent to House Speak Nancy Pelosi demanding that the cost of AMT relief be fully offset. The letter argues, quoting Citizens for Tax Justice, that "AMT relief, by itself, would not be particularly progressive ... Most of the benefits would go to the richest fifth of taxpayers, and if it's deficit financed, the cost could be borne in the future by middle-income Americans in the form of cuts in public services or higher taxes. But AMT relief can be progressive if the costs are offset with revenue-raising provisions that target the very wealthiest Americans, those who have benefited the most from the Bush tax cuts." The leadership of the 48-member Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats in the House also has stated repeatedly that any AMT relief that is not paid for will be unacceptable.
For more information about the House bill and how it offsets the cost of AMT relief, see the new short paper from Citizens for Tax Justice describing the legislation.