11/7/2012 3:45 PM ET|
Fiscal cliff takes aim at your wallet
It's the crisis no one wants to face. But the fiscal cliff is looming -- and it will hit your finances hard if Congress doesn't act soon.
At least the fiscal cliff is aptly named. If we reach it, our economy could plunge off a precipice.
On Dec. 31, a raft of tax cuts will expire, and a bunch of automatic federal spending cuts will kick in. If you haven't heard much discussion about it, that may be because many people don't realize yet what's at stake.
"There hasn't been a lot of talk" among regular people about the fiscal cliff, said CPA and attorney Mark Luscombe, the principal federal tax analyst for tax research firm CCH. "People could start complaining when they see their first paycheck in January."
What's expiring includes some $500 billion in tax cuts. According to CCH, here's what that means:
● Higher tax brackets: The lowest 10% bracket would disappear, and the highest would rise from 35% to 39.6%.
● Higher payroll taxes: The "payroll tax holiday" of the past two years will expire, raising workers' Social Security contributions to 6.2% of their paychecks from the current 4.2%.
● Higher rates on capital gains (from a current 15% maximum to a 20% maximum) and dividends (from a current 15% to as high as 43.4%).
● Significantly lower child and dependent care tax credits.
● The return of the so-called marriage penalty.
● The end of temporary fixes that keep nearly 30 million families from having to pay the dreaded alternative minimum tax.
● Dramatically lower gift and estate tax exemptions (the limits will plunge from $5.12 million to $1 million) and higher tax rates on transfers in excess of those limits (from a maximum 35% to a maximum 55%).
The Tax Policy Center estimates that the end of virtually every tax cut enacted since 2001 would boost taxes an average $3,500 per household. Middle-income families would see an average annual tax increase of almost $2,000, the center said.
The $100 billion in automatic spending cuts -- which include $30 billion in cuts to the defense budget -- are a result of Congress' previous failure to come up with a workable compromise to cut the deficit.
Our wobbly-kneed economy doesn't need to have billions of dollars pulled out from under it right now. The Congressional Budget Office has warned the fiscal cliff will trigger a "significant" recession, throwing an additional 2 million people out of work.
OK, that's bad, but simply taking a U-turn could be worse. The CBO warns that if the tax cuts are all extended and the spending cuts averted, the deficit will explode. As a result, the national debt -- which is now a worrisome 70% of our gross national product -- would rise to 90% of GDP within 10 years.
The money we spend paying interest on that accumulated debt wouldn't be available for more productive uses, like investing in businesses that could provide jobs. The economy could slowly strangle. Other government services likely would have to be sacrificed to pay the tab. Those who buy our debt might decide we're not all that creditworthy and demand higher interest rates. In fact, Moody's ratings service has already threatened to cut the nation's credit rating if Congress doesn't come up with a plan to cut spending.
In short, keeping everything as it is now -- tax cuts in place but no spending cuts --"would improve the economic outlook in the short run but would boost deficits and debt significantly and would place the budget on a path that is ultimately unsustainable," the CBO wrote in its August report. (Italicized emphasis added.)
CBO uses the word "unsustainable" to describe this trajectory three more times in its report, just so we get the point.
Clearly, a lot is at stake, and some hard choices have to be made. The uncertainty is already a drag on the economy and interfering with people's ability to plan their finances. So it should be no surprise that Congress has dithered. No one knows whether lawmakers will be able to put together a deal to avert the fiscal cliff or to soften its effects.
Oh, yeah, and we're also scheduled to hit our debt ceiling again at the end of the year. Last time that happened, the political theatrics spun so far out of control that we almost defaulted on our debt.
Since the Nov. 6 election, there have been a few signs that a compromise may be possible as pressure mounted on Congress to act. The CBO repeated its warnings in a Nov. 8 report, but also indicated that letting taxes rise only on wealthier people—as President Obama has advocated—would not hurt the economy much. The CBO estimated tax hikes for households that make $250,000 or more would cost 200,000 jobs in the short run, rather than the 700,000 claimed by Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.
Boehner, for his part, has indicated he would be open to “new revenue sources” and a “fairer, cleaner, simpler tax code” but not necessarily tax hikes. Both sides have been trying to parse his remarks, with some concluding that certain tax deductions, like those for mortgage interest and state and local taxes, may be targets for reduction or elimination.
It’s also possible that the lame-duck Congress will punt, at least until next year, by passing measures that put off the fiscal cliff for now. Then newly-elected lawmakers could wrestle with a longer-term compromise on taxes and deficit reduction.
MORE ON MSN MONEY
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Mirage Guy said: Eventually parasites kill off the host... We need to kill off the parasites before that happens. What do we do with the democrats?
Boy, does Matt Taibi's latest column in Rolling Stone have the time on you! Here you are, pinned and wriggling:
"[Modern Republicans] have so much of their own collective identity wrapped up in the belief that they're surrounded by free-loading, job-averse parasites who not only want to smoke weed and have recreational abortions all day long, but want hardworking white Christians like them to pay the tab. Their whole belief system, which is really an endless effort at congratulating themselves for how hard they work compared to everyone else (by the way, the average "illegal," as Rush calls them, does more real work in 24 hours than people like Rush and me do in a year), is inherently insulting to everyone outside the tent – and you can't win votes when you're calling people lazy, stoned moochers."
What's the problem? All of the Bush-era tax rate cuts should have disappeared long ago. The Social Security contributions should not have been reduced. Defense is bloated at half its size. The teahadist contingent in the Congress needs to learn they have no blackmail program that will work.
First, New Year's Eve. WooHoo. Then down the cliff New Year's Day.
I suspect there will be a powerful concentration of the mind for the treasonous weasels that heretofore have been able to sing just two songs: "Job One Is You're Gone," and "If It Ain't Got A Gun It's A Program to Shun."
In 2011 US govt collect $2.3 trillion in revenue. They spent $3.6 trillion. This added $1.3 trillion to the deficit. Obama and Congress have done this each of the last 4 years, thus, he has added about $5 trillion to the deficit which now totals $16 trillion or about 107% of TOTAL GDP of $15 trillion.
Tumbleweed, shorting is dangerous. I prefer to buy overseas stocks, and specie. Far safer.
You course see the market being up as a sign the economy is recovering. I see the stock market up 64% (of course a little less now) as an adjustment for the 58% increase in M2 over the last 4 years. After you factor in inflation and taxes, you actually can buy less.
Still, without all the massive Printing, the market likely would not have moved at all. If you see that as a massive recovery, you are entitled to your opinion.
Next you will tell me employment is improved also. We can get a HUGE improvement in unemployment by going over the fiscal cliff. With the end of all th extended unemployment benefits and no longer counting them as unemployed Unemployment will drop to 7.4% only a few points higher than when Obama took office. Of course almost 4 million less people will be working that 01/20/2009.
We can call it the 4 annual recovery Xmas!
What does abortion and the death penalty have to do with compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff? You completely changed the subject. I assume you are a republican bringing up these two subjects. Due to the fact that most republicans are against all abortion, and are for the death penalty, I am curious, how do you stand on these two subjects?
Eventually parasites kill off the host... We need to kill off the parasites before that happens. What do we do with the democrats?
I give the host just a few years... certainly not 4... We will be in a depression that will make the 1930's look like a walk in the park.
We have already inflated 56% since Obama has been in office, eventually that newly printed money will show up in prices of everything, including stocks and gold. Did your pay check go up during Obama's first term? It needed to increase 56% just to stay even. Pepole are already expecting trouble, hence the huge (650%) increase in guns, and ammo sales... WHY become an armed camp, if you don't expect trouble and economic collapse? The bulk of America is pretty good at looking out for themselves.
Keep telling yourselves everything is fine... Buy foreign stocks, guns/ammo, gold/silver, and prepare. Obamanomics is coming full force.
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Quotes are real-time for NASDAQ, NYSE and AMEX. See delay times for other exchanges.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Thomson Reuters (click for restrictions). Real-time quotes provided by BATS Exchange. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Interactive Data Real-Time Services. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by SIX Financial Information.
RECENT ARTICLES ON PERSONAL FINANCE
A single mom who says she was forced to accept a fee-heavy 'payroll card' instead of a check or direct deposit is taking a McDonald's franchise to court.