Most would avoid higher taxes under Dem, GOP bills

WASHINGTON (AP) — The election-season battle in Congress over tax cuts set to expire in January has focused on Democratic demands to let taxes rise for the highest-earning Americans, and Republicans’ insistence that the wealthy be protected from higher levies.

But there is a consensus between the two parties that for 2013, most people should not see tax increases. In fact, only around 30 million households face potential tax increases under either the Democratic or GOP tax bills the Senate is debating.

The Democratic measure would continue income tax cuts next year for everybody but individuals making at least $200,000 annually and couples earning over $250,000.

Republicans would include them in their tax cuts. But the GOP would not extend some tax breaks Democrats favor for college students, children and low earners.

A comparison of Democratic and Republican bills to extend expiring tax cuts through 2013 being debated by the Senate:

• Income tax rates: Republicans would extend the current rates of 10, 15, 25, 28, 33 and 35 percent for another year. Democrats would do the same, but not for individuals earning more than $200,000 annually and couples making $250,000. Those households, who now pay top rates of 33 or 35 percent, would instead pay up to 36 or 39.6 percent. Democrats would limit itemized deductions and phase out the personal exemption that can be claimed by those highest-earning households; Republicans would not.

• Estate tax: Republicans would continue today’s top 35 percent rate on inherited estates, with an exemption for the first $5.12 million in the estate’s value. Democrats would let that expire, leaving in its place a top rate of 55 percent and an exemption for the first $1 million.

• Dividends: Dividends are currently taxed at a top rate of 15 percent. When the tax cuts expire next year, they would be taxed like regular income, at whatever rate a taxpayer faces. Republicans would continue the top rate at 15 percent next year, Democrats at 20 percent.

• Capital gains: The top rate for capital gains is 15 percent, which would rise to 20 percent if the tax cuts expire. Republicans would impose a top rate of 15 percent next year, Democrats 20 percent.

• Income support programs: Democrats would continue the American opportunity tax credit of up to $2,500 for college costs. They would also renew language making the earned income tax credit more generous for large working families and some married working couples, and other language boosting the tax refunds some families get under the child tax credit. Republicans would eliminate all of those extensions.

• Business tax write-offs: Under section 179 of the tax law, Democrats would let small businesses deduct 100 percent of their expenses for some equipment purchases next year up to $250,000. The deduction would phase out for companies earning at least $800,000. Republicans would raise the amount of purchases to a top of $500,000, with the deduction phasing out for companies making at least $2 million.

• Alternative minimum tax: Democrats would prevent millions of middle-class families from having to pay the alternative minimum tax for another year, shielding them from higher levies originally meant to prevent the rich from escaping taxes. Republicans would extend those protections for two years.

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