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Obama's Proposed Tax Changes

Income tax changes proposed by Obama could raise $61 billion

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Updated January 20, 2014
President Obama has put forward several tax proposals in his 2010 budget for Congress to consider. These proposals are explained in the Greenbook (PDF, 135 pages) released by the Treasury Department's Office of Tax Policy on May 11, 2009. These proposals have not yet made it into law. If all of the Administration's proposals are enacted, they would generate an additional $61.7 billion in tax revenue for the federal government.

What follows is a summary of proposed tax changes for individuals and small business owners. A more extensive summary is found in the Tax Briefing (PDF, 10 pages) from CCH.

Making Work Pay Tax Credit

Currently Americans workers are eligible for a refundable $400 tax credit for 2009 and 2010. The full credit is available for unmarried filers with income of $75,000 or less, and for married filers with income of $150,000 or less. Obama proposes to make this tax credit permanent.

Earned Income Tax Credit

The EIC was changed for 2009 and 2010 to provide a higher tax credit for families with three or more children, and the credit is made available over a wider range of income levels. In 2008 and earlier, the earned income credit maxed out at two children and had narrower income ranges for married filers compared to unmarried filers. President Obama proposes to make these changes permanent.

Child Tax Credit

For 2009 and 2010, the child tax credit may be partially refundable (meaning that taxpayers could, potentially, receive a tax refund higher than the amount they paid in) based on a threshold amount of 15% of earned income in excess of $3,000. This $3,000 threshold will revert back to a threshold of $12,700 (indexed for inflation) in 2011. Obama proposes to make the $3,000 threshold permanent, and the amount would not be indexed for inflation. The Greenbook comments that if the law is allowed to revert to the higher threshold amount, as many as "11 million low-income families would have a tax increase as a result."

Retirement Savings Credit

Currently, some taxpayers are eligible for a tax credit of up to $1,000 for saving money in a retirement plan such as a 401(k) or IRA. The tax credit is non-refundable (meaning once the person's tax liability is reduced to zero, any additional credits won't increase a person's refunds). Obama proposes to replace the $1,000 non-refundable credit with a refundable credit equal to 50% of retirement savings up to a maximum of $500. (The credit amounts would be indexed for inflation.) Additionally, the income range that qualifies for the credit would be expanded. Taxpayers could ask the IRS to deposit the portion of their refund that represents the Savings Credit directly into their retirement plan.

Individual Retirement Accounts

Currently, taxpayers must set up and fund an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) themselves. The Obama administration proposes that employers automatically enroll employees in an IRA and deduct 3% of an employee's pay to be deposited directly into the IRA, unless the employee decides to opt out of the IRA program or decides on a different funding amount. The administration would also provide guidance to employers for choosing default investment options for how the IRA funds are invested, and would provide employers with a tax credit of up tp $250 for complying with the automatic IRA provisions. Employers that provide 401(k) or other group retirement plans would not have to provide automatic IRA enrollment.

American Opportunity Tax Credit

Obama proposes to make the American Opportunity Tax Credit a permanent replacement for the Hope Credit. Currently, the American Opportunity credit is available for 2009 and 2010, and provides for a credit of up to $2,500, of which $1,000 could be refundable. The credit is available for tuition, books and course materials for the first four years of college education.

Sales Tax Deduction

Currently, taxpayers can chose to deduct either state and local income taxes or state and local sales taxes as an itemized deduction. The sales tax deduction is scheduled to expire in 2009. The Obama administration proposes to extend the optional sales tax deduction to 2010.

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