The Senate Votes on the Bush Tax Cuts: Reviewing the Numbers


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UPDATED July 26, 2012:
On Wednesday the Senate approved the Democrats' tax bill, modeled on President Obama's plan to extend most of the expiring tax cuts, and rejected the Republican alternative. (See CTJ's statement on the votes.)

The Republican proposal (S.3413) would extend all the Bush-era tax cuts but would allow more recent expansions of tax breaks for low-income families to expire. The Senate Democrats’ bill (S.3412) would implement most of President Obama’s proposal to extend the Bush tax cuts, except for certain provisions benefiting the rich, and to extend the more recent expansions of tax breaks for low-income families.

The Senate Democrats’ proposal would extend most of the Bush income tax cuts, but would allow the expiration of most of those income tax cuts going solely to the richest two percent of taxpayers — married couples making over $250,000 and singles making over $200,000. The Senate Democrats’ proposal would also extend some 2009 provisions that expanded certain parts of the Bush income tax cuts (related to the EITC and Child Tax Credit) that benefit low-income working families, while the Senate Republican proposal would allow these to expire.

A report published by CTJ last month compares how taxpayers in different income groups would be affected by the Congressional Republican approach to the tax cuts and by President Obama’s approach, which the Senate Democrats are generally following. (You can find state-specific versions of this report here.)

Senate Democrats’ Proposal Differs from Obama’s in only One Way that Matters

The Senate Democrats’ bill (S.3412) differs from President Obama’s proposal (which we examined in the reports discussed above) in a few ways, but most of these differences will not matter by the time Congress is finished determining how much we should pay in taxes for 2013.

For example, there are two important pieces of President Obama’s approach that Senate Democrats have left out of their proposal (extending relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax through 2013 and extending some, but not all, of the Bush estate tax cut into 2013), but it’s generally assumed that Congressional Democrats will try to enact these proposals later this year or, if necessary, early next year.

There is one real difference between the President’s approach and the Senate Democrats’ proposal in that the latter would extend part of the income tax cuts for stock dividends for those with incomes above $250,000/$200,000. This CTJ fact sheet explains the difference and demonstrates that it benefits the very rich (those making over $1 million) in a significant way.

Dispelling Myths and Calculating Your Taxes under Different Proposals

CTJ has also provided reports to address some of the most common misconceptions about these tax cuts.

For example, it is often asserted that taxpayers with any amount of income in excess of $250,000 or $200,000 will lose all of their tax cuts under the Democrats’ approach. This CTJ report demonstrates that married couples with incomes between $250,000 and $300,000 would lose just two percent of their income tax cuts under President Obama’s proposal and would lose just 1 percent of their income tax cuts under the Senate Democrats’ proposal.

To take another example, Republicans like to say that their proposal would result in lower taxes and that Democratic proposals would result in higher taxes. This CTJ report finds that 13 million working families would actually get more tax breaks under the Democrats’ proposal because it would extend the 2009 expansions of the EITC and Child Tax Credit, which the Senate Republican proposal would allow to expire.

Finally, for those who want to know how they would personally be affected by the competing approaches to the income tax cuts, CTJ has created an online calculator that will tell you what you’d likely pay in 2013 in federal income taxes under the President’s proposal and under the Congressional Republican proposal.

Tax Provisions Not Included in CTJ Figures

All of this work from CTJ has focused on proposals that extend all or part of the Bush tax cuts, and proposals that expand parts of the Bush tax cuts (like the 2009 provisions related to the EITC and Child Tax Credit). We have not included, in any of our figures, additional provisions in the Democratic and Republican proposals to provide tax breaks for small businesses, or the Senate Democrats’ proposal to extend the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which was first enacted in 2009 and helps families pay for post secondary education.

Photo of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid via Talk Radio News Services Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

Thank you for visiting Tax Justice Blog. CTJ and ITEP staff will soon retire this domain. But ITEP staff are still blogging! You can find the same level of insight and analysis and select Tax Justice Blog archives at our new blog, http://www.justtaxesblog.org/

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