Consumer Reports weighs in on the effects of the new tax law on the working poor and lower middle class…
The federal tax bill passed by Congress yesterday includes some extras for the middle class and lots of goodies for the wealthy. But individuals making less than $20,000 and households making less than $40,000 a year will actually get less tax relief in 2011 than they got in 2010 and 2009.
That’s because the Making Work Pay credit, a temporary tax credit that’s been in effect for the past two years, is going away as of January 1. That credit provides up to $400 per individual, $800 per household, for all eligible workers. And it adds more to the pockets of households making between $20,000 and $40,000 than the new, 2-percent drop in the Social Security payroll tax.
Why is the payroll-tax cut not as beneficial to those workers? Because at lower income levels, a 2-percent decline doesn’t add up to much.The Tax Policy Center, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization, estimates that 51 million households, including many making $40,000 or less, would do worse under the new law. (On theTax Policy Center’s table illustrating that point, see the fourth column from the right, in the row labeled “All,” for the total number of households benefiting more from Making Work Pay than from the Social Security payroll tax cut; the number is in thousands, so add three zeros to it.)
With the Making Work Pay tax credit, individuals between $6,452 and $75,000, have been eligible for up to $400 a year. Couples making between $12,903 and $150,000 have recieved up to $800. But, as Roberton Williams, a senior fellow with the Tax Policy Center, points out, the 2-percent drop in the payroll tax doesn’t yield $400 until a worker makes $20,000. So workers making less won’t get as much under the new system.
To confirm the TPC’s assertions, I checked with both Barbara Weltman, a tax attorney and author of J.K. Lasser’s 1001 Deductions and Tax Breaks, and John W. Roth, a senior tax analyst with CCH Wolters Kluwer, publisher of tax information and software. Both agreed with the TPC’s assertion. “The net will be a negative for the lower working class,” Roth said.