Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tax Cuts Offer Most for Very Rich, Study Says - New York Times

Category: Tax Law and Planning

Bottom line from the recent New York Times article Tax Cuts Offer Most for Very Rich, Study Says: "Put another way: rich families were the undisputed winners from President Bush’s tax cuts, but people in the bottom half of the earnings scale were not paying much in taxes anyway."

This article is a summary of a recent nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office study about the impact of President Bush's tax cut programs since he has been in office. Some points of interest:

"Families earning more than $1 million a year saw their federal tax rates drop more sharply than any group in the country as a result of President Bush’s tax cuts, according to a new Congressional study."


"Economists and tax analysts have long known that the biggest dollar value of Mr. Bush’s tax cuts goes to people at the very top income levels. One reason is that two of his signature measures, tax cuts on investment income and a steady reduction of estate taxes, overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest households.

But the Congressional study offers additional insight because it incorporates information about what people paid in 2004, the first year in which taxpayers could take full advantage of the cuts on stock dividends and capital gains.

The study estimates that the effective federal income tax rate, which excludes payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, declined modestly for people in the middle- and lower-income categories.

Families in the middle fifth of annual earnings, who had average incomes of $56,200 in 2004, saw their average effective tax rate edge down to 2.9 percent in 2004 from 5 percent in 2000. That translated to an average tax cut of $1,180 per household, but the tax rate actually increased slightly from 2003.

Tax cuts were much deeper, and affected far more money, for families in the highest income categories. Households in the top 1 percent of earnings, which had an average income of $1.25 million, saw their effective individual tax rates drop to 19.6 percent in 2004 from 24.2 percent in 2000. The rate cut was twice as deep as for middle-income families, and it translated to an average tax cut of almost $58,000.

In its report, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the overall effective federal tax rate edged up to 20 percent in 2004, from 19.8 percent the year before.

But even with that increase, Americans faced lower tax rates than any time since 1979. If President Bush has his way, those rates could decline even more as the estate tax on inherited wealth is gradually phased out by the start of 2010.

Mr. Bush and his Republican allies in Congress want to permanently extend that tax cut and almost all of the others that Congress passed in his first term. The cost of doing that would be more than $1 trillion over the next decade, a cost that would hit the Treasury at the same time that the spending on old-age benefits for retiring baby boomers begins to soar."

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