The tax hike nobody's talking about

By Blake Ellis, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Get ready for a smaller paycheck.

At least that's what could happen if Congress doesn't approve President Obama's proposal to extend the Making Work Pay tax credit soon.

The credit, introduced last year as part of the government's stimulus package, boosts paychecks by up to $400 for single filers and up to $800 for joint filers, by reducing the amount of tax withheld from each paycheck.

And that extra $15 bump you're used to getting each bi-weekly pay period is slated to expire at the end of the year unless Congress votes to extend the credit, much like the Bush tax cuts.

But unlike those cuts, which were largely viewed as a benefit for wealthier Americans, the Making Work Pay credit is designed exclusively as a middle-class benefit, and will affect a wider base of taxpayers.

"You hear a lot about the Bush tax cuts, but surprisingly, the [Making Work Pay credit] isn't getting as much attention as you would think," said Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Under the Making Work Pay credit, taxpayers who make $75,000 or less are eligible to receive the full credit, while higher earners can receive partial credit.

Last year, since the tax break didn't go into effect until April, the $400 credit was distributed over the remaining months of the year, so most filers who received the full credit got an extra $15 a week -- as opposed to every two weeks in 2010.

Because the Making Work Pay credit helps out more than 75% of American households, taking this tax break away will save the government much-needed money, but it is likely to cost a lot politically.

"So many people get this credit, it's not going to be easy to take it away," said Elaine Maag, a research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. "If it isn't [extended], people are definitely going to notice and be upset."

In his $3.8 trillion budget for 2011, Obama proposed a year-long extension to the Making Work Pay credit and pushed to make the tax cuts passed during the Bush administration permanent, except those aiding households that earn more than $250,000 a year.

If the extension isn't passed, the 110 million families that received higher paychecks in 2009 and 2010 will be back to where they started and will owe more taxes than they did during those two years.

And because of the steep cost of keeping the Making Work Pay tax break around -- about $60 billion to extend it one year -- Marr said he wouldn't be surprised if Congress doesn't end up passing the extension.

"The argument to extend the credit is that the economy is weak and the people who get this credit are the people who tend to spend a large share of their income, so if you [don't extend] this, you will decrease their spending, which is a drag on the near-term economy," said Marr. "But on the flip side, it's expensive." To top of page

 
Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.08%4.24%
15 yr fixed3.19%3.23%
5/1 ARM3.36%3.46%
30 yr refi4.06%4.15%
15 yr refi3.17%3.17%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,067.56 -30.89 -0.18%
Nasdaq 4,598.19 17.92 0.39%
S&P 500 2,002.28 -1.09 -0.05%
Treasuries 2.42 0.08 3.24%
Data as of 5:44pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.27 0.18 1.12%
Apple Inc 103.30 0.80 0.78%
Staples Inc 12.63 0.95 8.13%
Facebook Inc 76.68 1.86 2.49%
Intel Corp 34.57 -0.35 -1.00%
Data as of 4:02pm ET

Sections

Nike flexes its huge dollar advantage by signing Durant to a $300 million endorsement deal that trumps $285 million offer from Under Armour More

If approved by Los Angeles city council, the plan could raise wages for 567,000 workers by 2017. More

The latest celebrity photo hack shows your digital life doesn't end at your phone. If your stuff lives on "the cloud," you don't control the data. More

If approved by Los Angeles city council, the plan could raise wages for 567,000 workers by 2017. More

A scam where fraudsters impersonate IRS agents has now stolen $5 million from taxpayers, and this woman - who lost her entire life savings -- is just one of its victims. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.