Fiscal Cliff Averted
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Fiscal Cliff Solution Summary
After much back and forth negotiations--fraught with the possibility of a deadlock and failure--the terms of a fiscal cliff resolution have finally been successfully negotiated.
The major tax provisions are as follows:
- The income tax rate increases to 39.6% (up from 35%) for individuals making more than $400,000 a year ($450,000 for joint filers; $425,000 for heads of household).
- The two-percentage-point reduction in payroll taxes for Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) tax, commonly known as the Social Security tax, will be allowed to expire.
- The higher exemption amounts for alternative minimum tax (AMT)--the so-called "patch"--are made permanent, resulting in an estimated 30 million taxpayers escaping being subject to the AMT.
- Dividends and capital gains are taxed at 20% (up from 15%) for individuals making at least $400,000 ($450,000 for joint returns).
- The Personal Exemption Phaseout (PEP), which had previously been suspended, is reinstated with a starting threshold of $300,000 for joint filers and a surviving spouse, $275,000 for heads of household, $250,000 for single filers, and $150,000 (one-half of the otherwise applicable amount for joint filers) for married taxpayers filing separately. Under the phaseout, the total amount of exemptions that can be claimed by a taxpayer subject to the limitation is reduced by 2% for each $2,500 (or portion thereof) by which the taxpayer's adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds the applicable threshold.
- The "Pease" limitation on deductions, which had previously been suspended, is reinstated with a threshold of 300,000 for joint filers and a surviving spouse, $275,000 for heads of household, $250,000 for single filers, and $150,000 (one-half of the otherwise applicable amount for joint filers) for married taxpayers filing separately. Thus, for taxpayers subject to the "Pease" limitation, the total amount of their itemized deductions is reduced by 3% of the amount by which the taxpayer's AGI exceeds the threshold amount, with the reduction not to exceed 80% of the otherwise allowable itemized deductions.
- For estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax purposes, for individuals dying and gifts made after 2012, there is a $5 million exemption (adjusted for inflation), and the top estate, gift and GST rate is permanently increased from 35% to 40%.
- Tax credits for businesses, including the Code Sec. 41 research credit and the Code Sec. 199 domestic production activities deduction, are generally extended through the end of 2013.
- A number of individual tax provisions have been retroactively extended through 2013. In addition, there is a five-year extension of credits that were enhanced as part of the stimulus, including the college tuition credit, the Code Sec. 32 earned income tax credit, and the Code Sec. 24 child tax credit.
- Various energy credits are also extended.
Other non-tax provisions in the bill include a "doc fix," which stops a 27% reduction in payments to Medicare doctors scheduled to go into effect, using spending cuts as offsets to accomplish this. Unemployment benefits, which were set to expire at the end of 2012, are extended for the long-term unemployed through the end of 2013.