Thursday, November 29, 2012

‘Fiscal Cliff’ Could Put Millions of Taxpayers Into ‘AMT Shock’

One of the key questions lurking in the "fiscal cliff" talks — though well below the public's radar — is what happens to the alternative minimum tax, or AMT. - CNBC

Implemented in 1969 to make sure upper-income Americans pay their share of taxes, the AMT has increasingly snared more middle-income Americans over the years because it was never indexed for inflation.

During the 2011 tax year for example, the AMT hit single taxpayers with incomes as low as $48,450 and joint filers making only $74,450.

But millions more Americans could be subject to the AMT in their 2012 returns if Congress fails to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff before year-end. That's because the AMT is currently scheduled to hit individuals making as little as $33,750 a year and joint filers making $45,000.

To keep middle-income people from being unfairly hit by the AMT, Congress has enacted temporary relief during each of the past several years — so-called patches — that raises the income levels. But so far there is no patch for 2012.

The alarm bells over the patch — or lack of one — have reached the point where the acting commissioner of the IRS sent a letter to Congress this month saying the tax collection agency would need to tell some 60 million taxpayers that they may not file their 2012 tax returns or receive a refund until the IRS makes changes to its system (a patch) and that "they might not be able to file returns until late March of 2013."

The Bush-era tax cuts — set to expire at the end of the year as a part of the fiscal cliff — where a boon to some but actually pushed more people into the AMT, after they figured out which tax bill was higher.

More than half of AMT revenue in 2010 came from households with incomes over $200,000, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. But as AMT rates are not indexed to inflation, more upper middle incomes are hit by the tax than the targeted high end incomes.

"If you're income is high enough you get moved out of the AMT. It really effects the $300,000 to $500,000 income levels, and states like California and New Jersey where people can't deduct children or state income taxes," LaBrecque added.... More at the link.