The dreaded “fiscal cliff” created more than enough headaches leading into the New Year. But now that a deal has been reached, will there be any hangover for pocketbooks?
The tax hikes will hit high-income households – and working households will see 2 percent less in their paychecks as a payroll tax break comes to an end in 2013. That can add up.
Here’s a look at what else is ahead:
• For 2013, the 2 percentage-point break on payroll taxes has an immediate hit to everyday spending, taking about $100 billion out of the U.S. economy in 2013. If you’re making $1,000 a week, this tax hike means that you’d have $20 less a week in your pocket in 2013.
• Social Security taxes will apply to up to $113,700 of wages in 2013. The limit had been $110,100 of wages in 2012.
For some higher-paid taxpayers, the changes in the rate and taxable wages mean an extra $2,425.20 in payroll taxes in 2013.
The Social Security payroll tax is going to be restored back to the full 6.2 percent for employees.
• Some middle-class tax breaks remain in 2013.
A few specific tax breaks are going to be extended for five years now, as part of the fiscal cliff package – the higher-education related American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, according to Mark Luscombe, principal analyst for CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business.
Luscombe noted that the bill also would permanently extend alternative minimum tax relief with inflation adjustments to the exemption amount.
• A 39.6 percent tax rate will be added to tax brackets and apply to wealthy families.
Taxable incomes above $450,000 for married couples filing joint returns will face the 39.6% rate in 2013 – up from 35%.
The higher rate would apply to earnings above $400,000 for singles.
President Obama had wanted to raise the top tax rate on individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families making more than $250,000 from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.
Luscombe noted that the compromise means that fewer households will be hit by the new 39.6 percent rate.
Luscombe said one positive is that tax brackets are to remain in place and not face sunset provisions in upcoming years, as well, which provides more certainty in tax planning.
• Some tax changes will hit other families, too.
A phaseout for personal exemptions will make a comeback in 2013, as well as a limit on itemized deductions for higher-income households.
Limits on itemized deductions, for example, will start when an individual has an adjusted gross income of $250,000, and a married couple filing a joint return has an adjusted gross income above $300,000. The limit comes into play when adjusted gross incomes exceed those thresholds.
Alan Gallatin, tax practice leader for Grant Thornton in Southfield, Mich., noted that if a married couple had $310,000 in adjusted gross income, a 3 percent haircut would apply to $10,000 – or could reduce itemized deductions by $300 in this example.
The amount of itemized deductions is not reduced by more than 80 percent. Certain items, such as medical expenses, investment interest, and casualty, theft or wagering losses are excluded.
The fiscal cliff deal reached last week is likely to cause about a 2 percent drag on the nation’s gross domestic product – hitting mostly in the first and second quarters, said Robert Dye, chief economist for Dallas-based Comerica Bank.
But it could have been worse with a 4 percent drag or more, based on earlier forecasts, if tax hikes had been more extensive.
“I expect the U.S. economy to feel somewhat sluggish through the first half of this year,” he said.
Dye now estimates that real GDP growth for the first quarter will be about 1 percent and can range from flat to 1 percent in the second quarter.
“I believe that the compromise budget bill passed by the House does not automatically throw the U.S. economy back into recession, but the odds of recession in 2013 are elevated, well above normal,” Dye said.