On the day that President Obama announced his "agnosticism" about raising taxes on middle-income families, it seems prudent to go through his latest budget with a fine-toothed comb.  After all, there are probably more than a few such tax hikes in there.  Note that this is on top of the middle-class tax hikes he supported in his first year.  It should also be noted that these tax hikes are limited to the ones directly imposed on working families.  All of the tax hikes (e.g., the bank tax) will eventually be passed along to everyone in the form of higher prices and lower wages indirectly.

I’ll proceed line by line through Summary Table S-8.  The sub-section is entitled "other revenue changes and loophole closers."

  • Make unemployment payroll surtax permanent.  Under current rules, there is a 0.2% surtax on top of the 6 percent unemployment tax rate.  This surtax is always about to expire, and Congress always moves the expiration date forward.  President Obama chooses to make this "temporary" surtax permanent.  It’s important to note that the federal unemployment tax (FUTA) only applies to the first $7000 of wages
  • Information reporting.  The budget increases information reporting on 1099-MISC forms for small business owners and landlords.  This would increase an already-burdensome tax compliance deadweight cost.  There is no exception noted for very small businesses
  • Independent contractor rules.  This change would make it harder for someone doing services with a business to be classified as an independent contractor (who cannot be unionized and merely receives a 1099-MISC), and would instead categorize millions of people as employees (who can be unionized and for whom quarterly filing and withholding must be done).  There is no carve-out either for sub-$250,000 contractors or very small business owners dealing with them
  • Economic substance doctrine.  This would give the IRS the power to determine whether a legal financial transaction was merely to reduce tax liability, or in fact had "economic substance,"  If the IRS determines that it is non-substantive, the deduction can be denied (even if legal).  This is a naked money grab, and there’s no carve out for smaller taxpayers at all.