By Ken Berry
President Obama has proposed a number of significant tax changes in the American Jobs Act of 2011, including payroll tax cuts, tax credits to encourage hiring, extension of the 100 percent bonus depreciation tax break, and several revenue-raisers. Overall, the recommendations in Obama's deﬁcit reduction plan would raise an estimated $1.5 trillion over ten years. Next move: It's up to Congress to take action on the bill.
Of course, parts of this proposed legislation may become superfluous if the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction crafts its own set of tax reforms. This "super panel" is currently meeting behind closed doors.
Here's a quick review of the main tax proposals in the jobs bill presented by the White House.
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Payroll tax cuts: Under the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, the employee's share of the 6.2 percent Social Security tax was reduced to 4.2 percent for 2011 only. Self-employed individuals benefit from a comparable tax break. The bill continues the "payroll tax holiday" by reducing the employee's share of Social Security tax to 3.1 percent for 2012. In addition, the employer's share of the Social Security tax would fall to 3.1 percent through 2012 on the first $5 million of wages only.
The bill also provides employers with a 100 percent payroll tax credit for jobs growth, reflected by the first $50 million in payroll increases above the prior year.
Hiring credits: The bill features payroll tax credits for employers that hire "long-term unemployed individuals" (defined as individuals who have been unemployed for over six months) and military veterans.
Bonus depreciation: The 2010 act generally increased 50 percent bonus depreciation to 100 percent for qualified property placed in service after September 8, 2010, and before January 1, 2012 (generally reverting to 50 percent bonus depreciation for qualified property placed in service after December 31, 2011, and before January 1, 2013). The bill extends the 100 percent bonus depreciation deduction through 2012.
Revenue-raisers: The bill limits itemized deductions and certain other tax preferences for high-income taxpayers by reducing the value of otherwise allowable deductions and exclusions to 28 percent. This proposal, which would apply to taxpayers liable for both regular income tax and the alternative minimum tax (AMT), would be effective for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2013.
The president quickly followed up these proposals with a call for other revenue-raisers, including a highly publicized tax on households earning more than $1 million. The details of this "Buffett Rule" remain to be worked out.
Reminder: There's still a long way to go before concrete tax legislation – in any shape, size, or form – is enacted. We'll continue to monitor the progress of the jobs bill.