Personal Finance > Taxes
The Bush plan: What it means to you
Here's how the president's economic stimulus package may affect you.
January 8, 2003: 1:12 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - As expected, President Bush on Tuesday proposed an accelerated reduction of income tax rates and the elimination of taxes on dividends for individual investors. His proposals were the centerpiece of an economic stimulus plan that the White House estimates will cost $674 billion over 10 years.

According to estimates by the Tax Foundation, the average U.S. family of four making $66,619 might save $1,133 if four of Bush's proposals are implemented, not including the elimination of dividend taxes. (To see how much you might save depending on where you live, click here.)

The White House, meanwhile, estimates that the president's proposals will save taxpayers an average of $1,083 on their 2003 taxes, while a family of four with two wage earners making $39,000 would save $1,100.

How much of those savings taxpayers would keep, however, is another question. Many states have been facing fiscal problems and are planning spending cuts and tax increases. "There's no question that a significant fraction of savings...are going to be gobbled up by hungry state and local governments," said Bill Ahern, spokesman for the Tax Foundation.

Following is a list of the changes Bush proposed that would affect individual taxpayers and the federal tax savings you may see as if they're enacted. (To read about the Democrats' rival stimulus plan, click here.)

Accelerating income tax rate cuts

As it stands now under the Tax Relief Act of 2001, income tax rates are scheduled to come down in 2004 and again in 2006. But instead of waiting those extra years, Bush said he will ask Congress to make those cuts effective for this tax year, retroactive to Jan. 1. (See table.)

Back to the future
Below are the scheduled tax rate reductions set in the Tax Relief Act of 2001. President Bush on Tuesday proposed accelerating those reductions to 2006 levels.
* Even if Bush proposes accelerating the reductions for the top tax bracket, experts expect this proposal will be the toughest to pass into law.

But some experts, such as Andy Laperriere, managing director of the International Strategy and Investment Group, a broker-dealer specializing in economic research, believe Bush may compromise on the rate reduction for the top tax bracket (currently 38.6 percent) if it will help him get his plan passed through Congress more quickly by appeasing critics who argue his tax cuts favor the rich.

In addition, Bush proposed that Congress raise the amount of income that applies to the 10 percent income tax bracket to levels originally planned for 2008. That means this year up to $14,000 of income for joint returns would be taxed at the 10 percent rate (up from $12,000) and up to $7,000 of income for single filers would be assessed at the 10 percent rate (up from $6,000).

The $2,000 difference for married filers ($1,000 for single filers) is currently taxed at 15 percent. The change would let you pocket the 5 percent difference. So, for example, if you're married filing jointly you'd save $100 (that's 5 percent of the $2,000 difference between $12,000 and $14,000).

Eliminating taxes on dividend income
Bush dividend savings

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In his most controversial move, Bush called for the complete elimination of the tax on stock dividends for individual shareholders. The estimated cost of doing so would be more than $300 billion, or nearly half the cost of his total stimulus package.

The president made the proposal to end what he called the "double taxation" of dividends. Currently, dividends are taxed twice: Companies pay dividends out of earnings that have already been taxed, then shareholders pay tax on dividends received.

According to IRS data, just over 25 percent of U.S. tax filers claimed any dividend income on their 2000 returns, and 63 percent of the dividend income declared went to taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $100,000 or more.

Helping the unemployed

Bush will ask Congress to extend federal unemployment benefits for more than 750,000 Americans whose benefits expired Dec. 28.

In addition, Bush also wants to give states $3.6 billion to fund "personal re-employment accounts." An unemployed worker who has had difficulty finding work would receive up to $3,000 that may be used for job training, child care, transportation, relocation or other job-search expenses.

A person who gets a job within 13 weeks of qualifying for the account will be able to keep any unused portion of the $3,000 as a "re-employment bonus," Bush said.

The accounts would be available to about 1.2 million Americans, according to White House estimates. The people who would qualify for the accounts, according to CNN reports, would be new and existing recipients of unemployment benefits who are deemed likely to exhaust those benefits before finding work, or former unemployment insurance recipients who meet certain eligibility requirements.

Increasing child tax credits

Parents who earn $110,000 a year or less in adjusted gross income ($75,000 for singles) currently may deduct $600 per child per year as part of the Child Tax Credit. (A credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of the taxes you owe.)

That credit is scheduled to increase gradually to $1,000 by 2010. But Bush will ask Congress to boost that credit this year to $1,000.

That means parents with two children will save an additional $800 a year.

Ending the marriage penalty

Marriage penalty relief was built into the Tax Relief Act of 2001 on a graduated schedule, so that by 2009, married couples filing jointly would enjoy exactly double the size of the standard deduction single filers are entitled to. Also, the amount of income taxed at 15 percent for married couples would increase to twice the amount of income taxed at 15 percent for single filers.

Bush, however, called for the full reduction of the marriage penalty to be implemented this year and the White House estimates 46 million couples will benefit.

According to the Tax Foundation, the median family of four would save $532 if the penalty were eliminated. But that figure varies by state, since median incomes differ state to state. In Connecticut, a family of four earning the median income of $88,538 would save $1,541 if marriage relief took effect immediately. The same family in Wyoming, which earns a median income of $59,801, would save $533.

Making permanent the estate tax repeal

Although the president's stimulus package does not include any provisions for accelerating the planned but temporary phase-out of the estate tax, he did say he would continue to press Congress to permanently end the taxation of estates.

The estate tax is currently scheduled to phase out completely by 2010, but only for a year. And unless Congress passes new laws between now and then, the federal tax will be reinstated in 2011 and you will only be allowed to leave your heirs $1 million tax-free at that time.

The federal "death tax," as it is often called, only affects a small number of estates -- roughly 2 percent. Even if Congress does repeal it -- temporarily or permanently -- it only means large estates would not be taxed by the federal government. They may, however, still be taxed at the state level.  Top of page

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