Directions for Misguided Democrats
by: Larry Walker, Jr.
In my last blog post, 2011 Tax Increase: A Reality Check, I attempted to point out how the Bush tax cuts applied to all Americans at every level of income, and that with their expiration at the end of 2010, income taxes will rise across the board. Although valid enough to ignite renewed interest, I now want to expand on this in a more technical manner with examples.
The following table compares the pending change in tax rates (assuming no change for inflation).
As evident with a quick glance, those in lower income levels will see their taxes increase the most with taxes increasing by 50% (from 10% to 15%), but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Only by looking at effective tax rates, can we see the impact of the pending tax increase on hard working Americans, and small business decision makers. [Note: The effective tax rate is calculated by dividing the amount of taxes paid, by the amount of gross income.]
When it comes to taxes, there are many variables that will effect the calculation of ones effective tax rate, such as filing status, number of children, whether or not one itemizes deductions, and whether one has income from pass-throughs (i.e. Partnerships, and S-Corporations), or from capital gains. So in an effort to keep this somewhat simple, the examples that follow assume a married couple without children, without capital gains, who does not itemize deductions, and whose income is limited to $500,000.
[Note: The following tables place income on the cusp of each tax bracket, and thus were prepared on a ‘give or take a dollar or two’ basis. (You may click on each table to enlarge.)]
Example 1 - 10% Bracket: Joe and Jane are married and have combined wages of $35,450.00. In 2010 they will pay income taxes of $1,675 with an effective tax rate of 4.7%. Their 2010 after-tax income is $33,775. In 2011 they will pay income taxes of $2,512.50 with an effective tax rate of 7.1% which represents a tax increase of 50%. Their after tax income in 2011 will fall by $837.50.
Example 2 – 15% Bracket: Lance and Lori are married and have combined income of $86,700.00. In 2010 they will pay income taxes of $9,362.50 with an effective tax rate of 10.8%. Their 2010 after-tax income is $77,337.50. In 2011 they will pay income taxes of $10,200 with an effective tax rate of 11.8% which represents a tax increase of 8.9%. Their after tax income in 2011 will fall by $837.50.
Example 3 – 25% Bracket: Nick and Nancy are married and have combined income of $156,000.00. In 2010 they will pay income taxes of $26,687.50 with an effective tax rate of 17.1%. Their 2010 after-tax income is $129,312.50. In 2011 they will pay income taxes of $29,604.00 with an effective tax rate of 19.0% which represents a tax increase of 10.9%. Their after tax income in 2011 will fall by $2,916.50.
Example 4 – 28% Bracket: Paul and Penny are married and have combined income of $227,950.00. In 2010 they will pay income taxes of $46,833.50 with an effective tax rate of 20.5%. Their 2010 after-tax income is $181,116.50. In 2011 they will pay income taxes of $51,908.50 with an effective tax rate of 22.8% which represents a tax increase of 10.8%. Their after tax income in 2011 will fall by $5,075.00.
Example 5 - 33% Bracket: Ronald and Rhonda are married and have combined wages $392,350.00. In 2010 they will pay income taxes of $101,085.50 with an effective tax rate of 25.8%. Their 2010 after-tax income is $291,264.50. In 2011 they will pay income taxes of $111,092.50 with an effective tax rate of 28.3% which represents a tax increase of 9.9%. Their after tax income in 2011 will fall by $10,007.00.
Example 6 – 35% Bracket: Tom and Tammy are married and have combined income of $518,700.00. In 2010 they will pay income taxes of $145,308.00 with an effective tax rate of 28.0%. Their 2010 after-tax income is $373,392.00. In 2011 they will pay income taxes of $161,127.10 with an effective tax rate of 31.1% which represents a tax increase of 10.9%. Their after tax income in 2011 will fall by $15,819.10.
Does the government deserve 30-40% of your money? From the examples provided, those making over $392,350 will pay between 31.1% up to 39.6% of every additional dollar earned in taxes. This particularly impacts small business owners whose income is taxed at the personal level. It’s hardly worth the effort to expand operations and provide jobs when the government will get 30% to 40% of the paper profits.
All income is not created equal. The federal government should understand that just because a small business has taxable income of $400,000 doesn’t mean that its owner has $400,000 in the bank. Some of that money was used to pay non-deductible principal payments on loans, and some of it is necessary for working capital in order to continue operations. Although the interest paid on loans is deductible for tax purposes, principal repayments are not, so the government really shouldn’t assume that taxable income is the same thing as disposable income.
A tax increase is a tax increase. Those making under $36,000 per year will see the highest tax rate increase of 50%. Although those making between $36,000 and $87,000 will see the smallest increase at potentially 8.9%, a tax increase is a tax increase. For those in the remaining brackets, taxes will increase by approximately 10% to 11%. This is a far cry from Obama’s bold declaration that we would not see our taxes increase by ‘one dime’. Technically it will be more like a dime to fifty cents on the dollar. Yes, income taxes will increase for all who pay taxes, without quick action.
Taxes will rise by a lot more than a dime. When the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year, couples making over a nickel and under $500,000 per year, will see their effective income tax rates rise, from between 8.9% to 50.0%. Lower income wage earners face the largest increase. Couples with income above $392,350 will be effectively handing the government 30% - 40% of each additional dollar earned.
Unusual uncertainty is unusually uncertain. The longer Congress delays in giving the public clarity, the more prolonged this period of ‘unusual uncertainty’. Individuals and small businesses are already in process of making plans for the remainder of 2010 and forward, and without knowing for certain whether or not the Bush tax cuts will be extended, planning has come to a halt. Under the assumption that taxes will rise in 2011, plans for further spending in 2010 have been shelved, because those deductions will be of better use next year. Delaying a decision until year-end would not be wise.
What's your total tax bill? Now when you add to the above effective tax rates: State and Local taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, excise taxes; and possibly new health care and carbon taxes, the situation is not only unusually uncertain, but unbearable and unsustainable. Politicians should listen when taxpayers holler the acronym, T.E.A., which stands for taxed enough already. Congress should not only re-instate the Bush tax cuts, but should consider further cuts in both income taxes and its own out-of-control spending (which leads to higher and higher taxes). Failure to take the public seriously will result in the death of the American economy. Yes, Misguided One, when it comes to taxes and spending, we wish to go backwards, not further into the abyss.
A Potential Solution - One solution would be to extend the Bush tax cuts for another three years with one minor change. There should be an additional standard deduction granted to small business owners. Job creators who own Partnerships and S-Corporations should specifically be granted an additional deduction based on the level of business income reported on their personal tax returns. This incentive would encourage small business owners to expand, will create more jobs, and will improve the overall economy. Let's start putting the incentive where it matters and stop punishing those who drive the American economy.