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Top Ten Tax Hikes in the Obama Budget


Posted by Ryan Ellis on Wednesday, April 10th, 2013, 1:09 PM PERMALINK


There are literally dozens of new tax increases in the FY 2014 Obama budget.  In total, they increase taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade.  They would permanently bring the federal tax burden to 20 percent of economic output, a level only reached in one year since World War II (FY 2000, when the economy was roaring and tax revenues were pouring into Washington as a result).

Below are the top ten tax increases in President Obama's budget (all numbers are over a decade):

1. Chained CPI.  The budget would change the definition of inflation for all federal budget purposes, including federal tax provisions.  Because tax brackets and other tax items are indexed to inflation, slowing down their growth is an income tax increase.  This is a tax increase for all Americans who pay income tax, including middle class Americans.  In the past, Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that enacted "chained CPI" would be a $100 billion tax increase

2. Itemized deduction cap.  The Obama budget limits the maximum value of itemized deductions, like those for charitable donations and mortgage interest. This is an income tax increase.  No matter what tax bracket you are in, under this Obama provision you can't benefit any more than if you were in the 28 percent bracket.  There are three tax brackets higher than this: 33 percent, 35 percent, and 39.6 percent.  These families will not be able to fully deduct things like mortgage interest, charitable deductions, and state taxes paid.  Note that this is on top of the phaseout of itemized deductions ("Pease") that President Obama forced on taxpayers in the fiscal cliff.  Tax increase: $529 billion

3. Death tax hike.  The Obama budget would raise the death tax rate from 40 percent today to 45 percent.  It would also reduce the inflation-indexed death tax "standard deduction" from $10.3 million today for married couples (half that for singles) to $3.5 million with no inflation adjustment.  There are also other death tax increases of a more technical nature.  Tax increase: $79 billion

4. "Buffett rule."  The President's budget would impose a new "Buffett rule" on taxpayers whose adjusted gross income exceeds $1 million.  These taxpayers would have to face an average tax rate (that is, their tax bill divided by their income less charitable contributions) of 30 percent.  Tax increase: $53 billion

5. Tobacco tax hike.  The President's budget nearly doubles the tobacco tax, from $1.01 to $1.95 per pack, and then indexes it to inflation from there.  This is a clear tax hike on middle class Americans.  According to independent estimates, the average smoker in America makes about $40,000 per year.  Additionally, tobacco taxes are a declining tax revenue base, and as a result it's inappropriate to fund new government programs using it. This isn't the first time President Obama has raised federal tobacco taxes. In 2009, on his sixteenth day in office, he signed into law a 156 percent increase in the tobacco tax.  Such tax increases are a violation of Obama's central campaign promise not to sign "any form of tax increase" on Americans making less than $250,000 per year. Tax increase: $78 billion

6. IRA and 401(k) plan restrictions.  There are two new tax increases on IRA and 401(k) savers in the President's budget.  The first restricts the total account balance in ALL tax preferred IRAs and 401(k)s to a combined $3 million.  The second would require that non-spouse beneficiaries of IRAs and 401(k)s distribute all money within five years, rather than over their lifetime.  Additionally, the budget forces all employers with 10 or more employees to open payroll-deduction IRAs at work.  Tax increase: $14 billion

7. "Carried interest" capital gains tax hike.  Under current law, capital gains are taxed at rates lower than ordinary income to reflect the double taxation of investment capital, risk, and other factors.  The current top capital gains tax rate is about 24 percent.  Some capital gains are received by managing partners of investment partnerships.  These capital gains are known as "carried interest."  Despite the fact that these capital gains are no different than capital gains anywhere else (and are the same source of capital gains that the limited partners in such arrangements receive), the President's budget taxes these capital gains at ordinary income tax rates, which are nearly 45 percent on an all-in basis.  Tax increase: $16 billion

8. Energy tax hikes.  There are energy tax hikes littered throughout the budget.  Taken together, these tax increases will have one effect and one effect only: higher prices for consumers at the gas pump and in their utility bills.  Tax increase: $94 billion

9. Tax increases on international income.  The U.S. is one of the only developed nations that taxes the income of U.S. companies and individuals which are earned overseas (so-called "worldwide taxation").  In so doing, we potentially expose this money to taxation in two different countries on the same earnings.  The Obama budget increases the liklihood that this double taxation will occur by removing protections against it.  Ideally, the U.S. would only seek to tax income earned within the United States, a system known as "territoriality."  Tax increase: $158 billion

10. Financial system tax increases.  These, too, are littered throughout the budget.  They would impose taxes on banks, brokerage firms, life insurance companies, and virtually every other way that the middle class saves and invests.  These costs will be passed along in the form of higher fees, bigger commissions, and lower returns to shareholders.  Tax increase: $94 billion

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