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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

2011 Tax Increases

Q: Will "the largest tax hikes in the history of America" take effect next year? Will ordinary taxpayers see taxes "skyrocket"?

A: That’s not likely. A scary e-mail lists "Tax hikes in 2011" that probably won’t take effect, or won’t apply to families making under $250,000 a year. One "tax hike" is pure fiction.


Hello, I’m forwarding an e-mail apparently from the conservative bureau of misinformation. My friend who forwarded it isn’t very up on the news and politics and was scared to death that her tax will skyrocket next year… even though she makes way less than $250,000.

Thanks for all the great works you guys and gals do!

Subject:Tax Hikes in 2011

In just six months, the largest tax hikes in the history of America will take effect. They will hit families and small businesses in three great waves on January 1, 2011:

First Wave: Expiration of 2001 and 2003 Tax Relief

In 2001 and 2003, the Congress enacted several tax cuts for investors, small business owners, and families.

These will all expire on January 1, 2011:

Personal income tax rates will rise. The top income tax rate will rise from 35 to 39.6 percent (this is also the rate at which two-thirds of small business profits are taxed). The lowest rate will rise from 10 to 15 percent. All the rates in between will also rise. Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will again phase out, which has the same mathematical effect as higher marginal tax rates. The full list of marginal rate hikes is below:

– The 10% bracket rises to an expanded 15%
– The 25% bracket rises to 28%
– The 28% bracket rises to 31%
– The 33% bracket rises to 36%
– The 35% bracket rises to 39.6%

Higher taxes on marriage and family. The "marriage penalty" (narrower tax brackets for married couples) will return from the first dollar of income. The child tax credit will be cut in half from $1000 to $500 per child. The standard deduction will no longer be doubled for married couples relative to the single level. The dependent care and adoption tax credits will be cut.

The return of the Death Tax. This year, there is no death tax. For those dying on or after January 1 2011, there is a 55 percent top death tax rate on estates over $1 million. A person leaving behind two homes and a retirement account could easily pass along a death tax bill to their loved ones.

Higher tax rates on savers and investors. The capital gains tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 20 percent in 2011. The dividends tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 39.6 percent in 2011. These rates will rise another 3.8 percent in 2013.

Second Wave: Obamacare

There are over twenty new or higher taxes in Obamacare. Several will first go into effect on January 1, 2011. They include:

The "Medicine Cabinet Tax" Thanks to Obamacare, Americans will no longer be able to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines (except insulin).

The "Special Needs Kids Tax" This provision of Obamacare imposes a cap on flexible spending accounts (FSAs) of $2500 (Currently, there is no federal government limit). There is one group of FSA owners for whom this new cap will be particularly cruel and onerous: parents of special needs children. There are thousands of families with special needs children in the United States, and many of them use FSAs to pay for special needs education. Tuition rates at one leading school that teaches special needs children in Washington, D.C. (National Child Research Center) can easily exceed $14,000 per year. Under tax rules, FSA dollars can be used to pay for this type of special needs education.

The HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike. This provision of Obamacare increases the additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10 to 20 percent, disadvantaging them relative to IRAs and other tax-advantaged accounts, which remain at 10 percent.

Third Wave: The Alternative Minimum Tax and Employer Tax Hikes

When Americans prepare to file their tax returns in January of 2011, they’ll be in for a nasty surprise the AMT won’t be held harmless, and many tax relief provisions will have expired. The major items include:

The AMT will ensnare over 28 million families, up from 4 million last year. According to the left-leaning Tax Policy Center, Congress’ failure to index the AMT will lead to an explosion of AMT taxpaying families, rising from 4 million last year to 28.5 million. These families will have to calculate their tax burdens twice, and pay taxes at the higher level. The AMT was created in 1969 to ensnare a handful of taxpayers.

Small business expensing will be slashed and 50% expensing will disappear. Small businesses can normally expense (rather than slowly-deduct, or depreciate) equipment purchases up to $250,000. This will be cut all the way down to $25,000. Larger businesses can expense half of their purchases of equipment. In January of 2011, all of it will have to be depreciated.

Taxes will be raised on all types of businesses. There are literally scores of tax hikes on business that will take place. The biggest is the loss of the research and experimentation tax credit, but there are many, many others. Combining high marginal tax rates with the loss of this tax relief will cost jobs.

Tax Benefits for Education and Teaching Reduced. The deduction for tuition and fees will not be available. Tax credits for education will be limited. Teachers will no longer be able to deduct classroom expenses. Coverdell Education Savings Accounts will be cut. Employer-provided educational assistance is curtailed. The student loan interest deduction will be disallowed for hundreds of thousands of families.

Charitable Contributions from IRAs no longer allowed. Under current law, a retired person with an IRA can contribute up to $100,000 per year directly to a charity from their IRA. This contribution also counts toward an annual required minimum distribution. This ability will no longer be there.

PDF Version Read more: http://www.atr.org/six-months-untilbr-largest-tax-hikes-a5171#%23ixzz0sY8waPq1

Now your insurance is INCOME on your W2’s……

One of the surprises we’ll find come next year, is what follows – – a little "surprise" that 99% of us had no idea was included in the "new and improved" healthcare legislation . . . the dupes, er, dopes, who backed this administration will be astonished!

Starting in 2011, (next year folks), your W-2 tax form sent by your employer will be increased to show the value of whatever health insurance you are given by the company. It does not matter if that’s a private concern or governmental body of some sort. If you’re retired? So what; your gross will go up by the amount of insurance you get.

You will be required to pay taxes on a large sum of money that you have never seen. Take your tax form you just finished and see what $15,000 or $20,000 additional gross does to your tax debt. That’s what you’ll pay next year. For many, it also puts you into a new higher bracket so it’s even worse.

This is how the government is going to buy insurance for the15% that don’t have insurance and it’s only part of the tax increases.

Not believing this??? Here is a research of the summaries…..

On page 25 of 29: TITLE IX REVENUE PROVISIONS- SUBTITLE A: REVENUE OFFSET PROVISIONS-(sec. 9001, as modified by sec. 10901) Sec.9002 "requires employers to include in the W-2 form of each employee the aggregate cost of applicable employer sponsored group health coverage that is excludable from the employees gross income."

Joan Pryde is the senior tax editor for the Kiplinger letters. Go to Kiplingers and read about 13 tax changes that could affect you. Number 3 is what is above.

Why am I sending you this? The same reason I hope you forward this to every single person in your address book.

People have the right to know the truth because an election is coming in November.


We’ve been flooded with inquiries about various versions of this chain e-mail, which has been circulating since July. It grafts together a set of misleading claims issued by the conservative Americans for Tax Reform with a fictional claim about taxation on health insurance benefits.

The W-2 Fiction, Again

Let’s dispose of the bogus health insurance claim first. It’s not true that "you will be required to pay taxes" on the value of employer-paid health insurance benefits. This is a falsehood that circulated earlier as a separate chain e-mail. See our May 22 article, "Health Care Law and W-2 Forms," for full details.

It’s true that the new health care law requires employers to report the value of health insurance benefits on W-2 forms starting next year, but that’s for informational purposes only.

The remainder of the chain e-mail message contains misleading claims about what "will" happen next year that were copied and pasted — nearly word for word — from an Americans for Tax Reform document dated July 1. (The garish colors were added by the anonymous author of the e-mail message.) For the most part, these are "hikes" that the president and Democratic leaders in Congress have long said they won’t allow to take effect, except for individuals making more than $200,000 a year, or couples jointly making more than $250,000.

Bush Tax Cuts: Mostly Slated for Extension

Both the e-mail and the ATR document claim that all the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 and signed by President Bush "will all expire on January 1, 2011." Actually, that’s not what’s expected to happen at all. It’s true that the cuts are scheduled to expire, but they will expire only if Democrats who control the White House and Congress fail to do what they’ve promised.

Update, Sept. 28: We received a letter from ATR President Grover Norquist, who said:

Grover Norquist, Sept. 27: In our article, we repeatedly say that certain tax hikes “will” happen in January of 2011. The FactCheck.org article assumes that we mean this in a prescriptive or predictive sense. We do not. When we make the statement “this tax will rise in January of 2011” (or words to that effect), we mean it only in the sense that if Congress and the President continue to fail to act, current law does indeed call for this tax hike to occur.

As a courtesy to ATR we have posted Norquist’s letter so that readers may judge for themselves.

Particularly misleading are the claims that "[t]he child tax credit will be cut in half from $1000 to $500 per child" and that "marriage penalty" relief will expire. As veteran congressional reporter David Rogers, who writes for Politico, put it back in July: What Democrats are debating is not whether, but "when — and for how long" to extend the Bush tax cuts that apply to lower and middle-income taxpayers.

In fact, some key Democrats now favor extending all the Bush tax cuts for at least one more year — even for upper-income taxpayers. Those lawmakers include Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, as well as some Democratic House members. So unless Congress deadlocks (always a possibility), the most likely outcome now is that Congress will either extend most of the cuts — as President Obama promised again and again during the 2008 campaign and since — or extend all of them, at least for a while longer.

‘Death Tax’: Only on Multimillion-Dollar Estates

The message is also misleading in what it says about the temporary repeal of the federal estate tax — which Republicans like to call the "death tax." Under terms in the Bush tax cuts, the estate tax was phased down over several years and eliminated entirely for those who die in 2010, but it’s set to return in 2011 at levels that prevailed before 2001. So just as the message says, for those dying after Jan. 1 next year, estates of more that $1 million would be subject to taxation at rates as high as 55 percent on amounts over that threshold. But that will happen only if Congress fails to act, and there’s little sentiment in Congress, even among Democrats, for allowing that to happen.

In fact, last December the House passed a bill that would have permanently exempted estates of up to $3.5 million from taxation (effectively, $7 million for couples). The top rate would have been 45 percent. All 225 House members who voted for that were Democrats; Republicans opposed the measure because it would have frozen the estate tax at the 2009 level called for in Bush’s phase-down, and would have canceled Bush’s one-year repeal in 2010.

In the Senate, several Democrats want to bring back the estate tax with an even higher exemption and a lower rate. In April 2009, the Senate adopted an amendment to a budget bill that would have set as a target a $5 million exemption ($10 million for couples) and a top rate of 35 percent. The bipartisan amendment was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona. It passed with 51 votes in favor — 10 of them from Democrats, even though the Senate’s Democratic leadership (and President Obama) had set $3.5 million as a target. The Senate amendment wasn’t accepted by the House, which insisted on keeping the $3.5 million threshhold in the budget bill. With its Democrats divided, the Senate ultimately failed to act on the estate tax, allowing it to expire entirely for 2010.

So Congress has yet to agree on whether to bring back the estate tax only for estates worth more than $3.5 million, or only for those over $5 million. Few if any voice support for bringing it back for estates of more than $1 million. That could happen if the deadlock on this issue continues (again, always a possibility). But majorities in the House and Senate have voted to impose the so-called "death tax" only on multimillionaires.

A ‘Wave’ of ‘Obamacare’ Taxes?

The e-mail describes a "second wave" of tax increases that it says will take effect Jan. 1 under the new health care law. But this "wave" consists of three relatively minor tax changes that affect relatively few people.

  • What the e-mail describes as a "Medicine cabinet tax" simply aligns rules governing health savings accounts (HSAs), Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSAs) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) with the tax rules that apply to deducting medical expenses generally. Under current law, taxpayers in general are not allowed to deduct the cost of non-prescription drugs as a medical expense. The only exception is for insulin. But those with HSAs, FSAs and HRAs were allowed to use pre-tax dollars to buy aspirin, over-the-counter cold and allergy medications, and other drugs available without a doctor’s prescription. The new "tax" simply says HSAs, FSAs and HRAs can’t be used to buy these medications — except for insulin — after December 31. (See pages 69 and 70 of the Joint Committee on Taxation’s "technical explanation" of the revenue measures in the new health care law, which can be downloaded from the committee’s website. This will affect a small proportion of taxpayers. For example, the health insurance industry says 10 million persons were covered by HSAs as of January of this year, roughly 3.2 percent of the population. For that relatively small group, the change does amount to a tax increase. It will bring in a total of $5 billion over the next 10 years, the JCT estimated in its "Estimated Revenue Effects" of the new law.
  • The "HSA withdrawal tax hike" refers to a doubling of the current 10 percent penalty that must be paid on any HSA funds spent for something that’s not a qualified medical expenditure. (See pages 71 to 73 of the JCT technical explanation.) The JCT expects that to bring in $1.4 billion over 10 years.
  • The "special needs kids tax" refers to a cap of $2,500 that the new law places on spending from FSAs. (See pages 74 to 77 of JCT’s technical explanation.) The argument made in the e-mail is that "many" families with special needs children now use FSAs to pay tuition at private schools catering to special needs children, schools that ATR says "can easily exceed $14,000 per year" in Washington, D.C. Perhaps so. IRS rules do allow use of FSA funds to pay for such expenses with pre-tax dollars. But the e-mail message offers no evidence of how many families might be taking advantage of this tax break currently. The claim is copied from the website of Americans for Tax Reform, but as ATR itself says: "For most people, the $2500 cap won’t be noticed." As ATR concedes, FSAs "tend to be used for things like small deductibles, co-payments, eyeglasses, over-the-counter medicines, and laser eye surgery." The amount deferred in the typical FSA is probably much less than $2500 today, ATR says. The JCT expects the change will bring in $13 billion over 10 years, but says nothing about how much of that is likely to come from the pockets of parents of special needs children.

We don’t argue for or against any of these three tax increases. We simply point out that, even taken together, they amount to less than $2 billion per year and, therefore, don’t constitute anything close to a "wave" of historically large tax increases taking effect next year.

Alternative Minimum Tax

The message flatly claims that the Alternative Minimum Tax will suddenly "ensnare over 28 million families," forcing them all to pay higher taxes. But historically, Congress has repeatedly refused to allow that to happen.

The AMT was originally enacted in 1969 to cover a few very high-income individuals, but it was not indexed for inflation. So it has come to be a headache for several million taxpayers, and would hit even more if Congress had not enacted a series of "patches" each year since 2001.

The Tax Policy Center calculates that next year 28.5 million taxpayers would have to pay higher taxes on their 2010 returns if the usual patch is not extended. But Obama’s stimulus bill extended the patch through 2009, holding down the number of taxpayers affected to just 4 million. And there’s no reason to think that Congress will fail to extend the patch for 2010 taxes. In fact, President Obama’s budget assumes that a permanent fix will be enacted, holding the AMT to levels in place for 2009. That’s something President Bush never proposed.

Tax Extenders

The message goes on to claim that businesses will lose a host of tax benefits, including a research tax credit; that teachers will no longer be allowed to deduct classroom expenses (high-school and grade-school educators can now deduct up to $250 a year); and that persons with Individual Retirement Accounts will no longer be able to use them to make charitable donations. But these are tax provisions that have been routinely renewed in the past, and Congress has strongly signaled that it intends to renew them for 2011 as well.

The fact is that on Dec. 9 last year, the House voted 241 to 181 to approve the "Tax Extenders Act of 2009." That bill called for extending for one more year a long list of expiring tax breaks, including the business research tax credit (Section 111, page 6),  the $250 deduction for teachers buying classroom supplies (Section 104, page 6), and tax-free distributions from individual retirement plans for charitable donations (Section 135, page 14).

The Senate passed the bill on March 10, by a vote of 62 to 36, leaving the extenders intact. The fate of those extenders is still in limbo — but majorities in both houses are clearly on record favoring them.

–Brooks Jackson



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Vaughan, Martin and John D. McKinnon. "Democrats Dissent on Bush Cuts." The Wall Street Journal. 22 Jul 2010.

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"House Votes to Extend Tax on Estates of the Wealthy." The Associated Press. 3 Dec 2009.

 U.S. Senate 111th Congress – 1st Session. Vote #146. 15 Jan 2009.


Center for Policy and Research, America’s Health Insurance Plans. "January 2010 Census Shows 10 Million People Covered by HSA/High-Deductible Health Plans." May 2010.

 U.S. Congress, Joint Committee on Taxation. "Estimated Revenue Effects Of The Amendment In The Nature Of A Substitute To H.R. 4872, The "Reconciliation Act Of 2010," As Amended, In Combination With The Revenue Effects Of H.R. 3590, The "Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act (‘PPACA’)," As Passed By The Senate, And Scheduled For Consideration By The House Committee On Rules On March 20, 2010." 20 Mar 2010.

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111th Congress – 1st Session; H.R. 4213 "Tax Extenders Act of 2009" (As approved by the Senate). 10 Mar 2010.

 Sahadi, Jeanne. "100-plus tax breaks on the line." CNNMoney.com. 25 Aug 2010.