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President Obama’s New Tax Increases

2 min readBy: William McBride

President Obama will propose a number of new taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. increases in his budget to be released next Wednesday, according to the Washington Post. These include:

  1. Raising the cigarette tax to fund a new federal universal pre-school program,
  2. Capping tax-free retirement accounts at $3 million,
  3. Limiting the value of itemized deductions to 28 percent of income for high-income individuals,
  4. Replacing the consumer price index (CPI) with chained-CPI, as a measure of inflationInflation is when the general price of goods and services increases across the economy, reducing the purchasing power of a currency and the value of certain assets. The same paycheck covers less goods, services, and bills. It is sometimes referred to as a “hidden tax,” as it leaves taxpayers less well-off due to higher costs and “bracket creep,” while increasing the government’s spending power. .

Here’s how the Post describes that last one:

The proposal to change the formula to calculate Social Security payments, also originally part of the offer to Boehner, would generate $130 billion in savings and $100 billion in revenue, a result of the impact of the formula change on other government programs.

Steve Entin helped design the original inflation indexingInflation indexing refers to automatic cost-of-living adjustments built into tax provisions to keep pace with inflation. Absent these adjustments, income taxes are subject to “bracket creep” and stealth increases on taxpayers, while excise taxes are vulnerable to erosion as taxes expressed in marginal dollars, rather than rates, slowly lose value. of tax brackets in 1981. Here’s what he says about changing the inflation index:

The rationale for this proposal is that, over the last dozen years, the chained CPI has risen about a half percent less each year than the regular CPI. Thus, the switch would, among other things, slow the adjustment of the income tax brackets for inflation and reduce the annual cost of living increases (COLAs) for Social Security retirees. Both would be bad policy.

The proposed switch would tamper with the indexing feature of the income tax, the last remaining unaltered piece of Economic Recovery Tax Act signed by Ronald Reagan in 1981. Reducing the adjustment of the income tax brackets for inflation would push people more quickly over time from one tax bracketA tax bracket is the range of incomes taxed at given rates, which typically differ depending on filing status. In a progressive individual or corporate income tax system, rates rise as income increases. There are seven federal individual income tax brackets; the federal corporate income tax system is flat. to the next higher one as incomes grow. Pushing more people from the 15 percent bracket to the 25 percent bracket, or from the 28 percent bracket to the 33 percent bracket, is as much a marginal tax rateThe marginal tax rate is the amount of additional tax paid for every additional dollar earned as income. The average tax rate is the total tax paid divided by total income earned. A 10 percent marginal tax rate means that 10 cents of every next dollar earned would be taken as tax. increase as any other type of tax rate hike. It would raise marginal tax rates faster over time than under current law and is simply an attempt to disguise a tax rate hike as something else.

COLAs that are slightly overstated by the much maligned CPI are not the source of Social Security's looming deficits, and fixing the CPI and COLAs will not save Social Security from impending insolvency.

Read the rest of Steve’s report here.

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