New Tax Legislation May Save You Money

How much you will save as a result of the new tax law, signed last week by President Bush, depends on many factors. Proponents of the new law say that the provisions will benefit almost all taxpayers. They say that not only will individual taxes be reduced, but economic growth will generate higher tax receipts as income and investments grow.

At the signing ceremony, Bush called the new law, “a victory for the American taxpayers and a lift for the economy.”

Opponents of the new law say that only high-income taxpayers will see any relief. They claim that the economic growth provided by the bill is not proven and that many of the provisions will only add to the deficit.

But how will the bill affect your taxes?

The new tax law has extended the 15% tax rate for long-term capital gains and dividends for two more years. For low-income taxpayers, the rate is 0%. The extended rates are expected to expire at the end of 2010. Then the rates will revert to 20% for long-term gains and top income tax rate for dividends.

The estimated cost of this provision is $50.8 billion over the next 10 years.

Critics say that the reduced rate primarily benefit the wealthy, partly because middle-income taxpayers don’t have as many investments.

The Urban-Brookings Tax policy estimates that a taxpayer with an income between $50,000 and $75,000 would save an average of $58 on his tax bill in 2009, approximately 0.4% of what his total tax liability would have been before the extension. The average tax cut would be $255, which roughly equals 2% of their tax liability. Only 23% of middle-income taxpayers have taxable investments.

The taxpayer with an income in excess of $1 million or more would save an average of $32,111, or 3.3% of the unextended tax liability. The average tax cut received is $39,448, or about 4% of their tax liability. Eighty-one percent of upper income taxpayers have taxable investments.

Many middle income taxpayers will see benefits from the AMT. The new law increases the AMT income exemption levels that were in effect for 2005. The new exemption levels are $42,500 for single filers and $62,550 for joint filers for 2006.

Taxpayers will also be allowed to use all nonrefundable personal credits to offset AMT liability. Most of these credits are usually disallowed under AMT.

It is estimated that an additional 15 million taxpayers will be protected from AMT in 2006. Most of these taxpayers would come from households with incomes between $100,000 and $500,000. The average household savings ranges from $1,074 to $2,838.

The final reconciliation package was designed to remain below a $70 billion spending limit. To achieve this goal, lawmakers added a few revenue raisers to the bill.

The most controversial provision is one that allows all taxpayers, not just those with AGIs of less than $100,000, to convert their traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs starting in 2010. Proponents say it will raise revenue when IRA holders pay taxes in order to make the conversion. It is expected to raise $6.4 billion between now and 2015.