Tax Increases in the New Year

 

The Heritage Foundation recently summarized a list of the 13 tax increases that started January 1, 2013.  Seven resulted from the deal that Congress and President Obama struck at the end of 2012 to help avoid the fiscal cliff, and the other six are tax increases from Obamacare that also began this year.  Here is the list summarized by Charles Dubay:

13 Tax Increases That Started January 1, 2013:

Tax increases the fiscal cliff deal allowed:

1)      Payroll tax: increase in the Social Security portion of the payroll tax from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent for workers. This hits all Americans earning a paycheck—not just the “wealthy.” For example, The Wall Street Journal calculated that the “typical U.S. family earning $50,000 a year” will lose “an annual income boost of $1,000.”

2)      Top marginal tax rate: increase from 35 percent to 39.6 percent for taxable incomes over $450,000 ($400,000 for single filers).

3)      Phase out of personal exemptions for adjusted gross income (AGI) over $300,000 ($250,000 for single filers).

4)      Phase down of itemized deductions for AGI over $300,000 ($250,000 for single filers).

5)      Tax rates on investment: increase in the rate on dividends and capital gains from 15 percent to 20 percent for taxable incomes over $450,000 ($400,000 for single filers).

6)      Death tax: increase in the rate (on estates larger than $5 million) from 35 percent to 40 percent.

7)      Taxes on business investment: expiration of full expensing—the immediate deduction of capital purchases by businesses.

Obamacare tax increases that took effect:

8)      Another investment tax increase: 3.8 percent surtax on investment income for taxpayers with taxable income exceeding $250,000 ($200,000 for singles).

9)      Another payroll tax hike: 0.9 percent increase in the Hospital Insurance portion of the payroll tax for incomes over $250,000 ($200,000 for single filers).

10)   Medical device tax: 2.3 percent excise tax paid by medical device manufacturers and importers on all their sales.

11)   Reducing the income tax deduction for individuals’ medical expenses.

12)   Elimination of the corporate income tax deduction for expenses related to the Medicare Part D subsidy.

13)   Limitation of the corporate income tax deduction for compensation that health insurance companies pay to their executives.

Consumers Plow Ahead

In spite of negative news on the Fiscal Cliff issues, the economy is showing continued improvement.  Here is the latest economic commentary from Brian Wesbury and Bob Stein of First Trust that shares more detail…

The Pouting Pundits of Pessimism have been in a froth over the “fiscal cliff,” but US consumers seem to be ignoring them. Shoppers hit stores in droves over the past four days, both in person and, increasingly, on-line. It’s not an economic boom, but it sure isn’t a recession, either.

Sales for the full first weekend of holiday shopping – Thursday through Sunday – are up 13% versus a year ago according to the National Retail Federation. On average each customer spent 6.3% more than last year.

ComScore says online Black Friday sales were up 26% from a year ago and surpassed $1 billion for the first time ever. Online sales on Thanksgiving Day itself were up 32%. This strength was confirmed by Coremetrics, an online data-gatherer affiliated with IBM, which says Black Friday internet sales were up 20%.

The weakest report was from ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based firm that has monitoring devices at 40,000 retail outlets and malls around the country, measuring foot traffic, which reported a 1.8% decline for Black Friday. However, when they add back Thanksgiving Day, the total for both days was up 1%.

The calendar is interesting this year. Thanksgiving always falls on the fourth Thursday of November, and because November 1st was a Thursday in 2012, the shopping season will be the longest possible. In addition, the Internet is making shoppers savvier, while retailers have more data. As a result, we think the middle and latter stages of the shopping season will be stronger than the early stages.

While some wonder how sales can be up, it is clear that more jobs, higher earnings and smaller debt burdens are all positive forces.

In the past twelve months, the unemployment rate is down a full percentage point, payrolls are up 162,000 per month, and total private wages and salaries are up 4.6% from a year ago. Meanwhile, consumers have whittled down their debts, so that monthly financial obligations – mortgages, rent, car loans/leases, and other debt service – are now the lowest share of after-tax income since 1984.

In the near term, jobs and incomes may take a hit from Hurricane Sandy. But, any hit would be temporary. For example, the recent spike in unemployment claims suggests zero net change in payrolls for November. However, weekly unemployment claims have already started to recede, so a rebound in jobs will come in December or very early next year.

Autos sales were doing well until Sandy hit in late October. Next Monday we get November auto sales, which were probably held down by Sandy as well. However, all the storm did was postpone sales. That, plus the need to replace vehicles damaged in the storm, will cause a surge in car and truck sales in December and early 2013.

Meanwhile, housing keeps picking up steam, with housing starts up 42% from a year ago, new home sales up 27% and existing home sales up 11%. We expect these gains will continue in the year ahead as the pace of home building still has a long way to go to get back to normal (so inventories stop falling) and more workers qualify for mortgages. In turn, this means more growth for consumer spending.

The bottom line is that for the fourth year in a row, consumer spending is on an upward path. Unlike some economists, we don’t think this causes economic growth. Instead, we take it as a sign that the economy continues to leave the wreckage of 2008-09 further behind. It’s a Plow Horse economy, still, with consumers taking the reins.”

– First Trust Economic commentary by Chief Economist, Brian Wesbury, and Senior Economist, Ben Stein, 11/26/12.

End-of-Year Economic Issues

The individual investor has been hammered in the last month about the “end-of-year“ Fiscal Cliff issues coming due all at one time.  In turn, many people are asking what the markets and economy might do after the November presidential election if Congress and the White House fail to act on this.  Here are three dreaded Fiscal Cliff issues all coming due on December 31st:

  • Mandatory cuts on defense spending
  • The need to increase the Federal debt ceiling
  • The temporary Bush tax cuts expiring 12/31/12

Though all of us won’t know the outcome until it happens, we are optimistic that resolutions will be made to prevent the Dec. 31st Fiscal Cliff from happening.  We will continue to monitor this issue for our clients.  In the meantime, Brian Westbury’s recent “No Recession Yet” video helps explain some of the issues.