Middle Class Tax Hike on the Way

While the Bush tax cuts are often presented as “tax cuts for the rich,” many middle-class families benefit from the increased child tax credit that was part of the tax cuts. Wisconsin middle class families benefited more than their counterparts in other states from the increase in child tax credit.

The increase in the child tax credit is due to expire in 2011 along with the rest of the Bush tax cuts. If the Democrats in Congress and the Obama Administration follow through on their threat to let the Bush tax cuts expire, middle-class taxpayers in Wisconsin and elsewhere could receive a huge tax jolt.

Because of the Bush tax cuts, joint married filers earning less than $110,000 receive a per-child tax credit of $1000. The tax credit phases out after income reaches $110,000. The tax credit is also $1000 per child for single filers earning less than $75,000 and phases out above that point. Married filers filing separately, the phase-out begins at $55,000.

To qualify for the tax credit, the child must be under 17 and living in the household for at least half the year (with a few exceptions). The child must have some relation to the filer: son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister or a descendant of any of these individuals, which includes grandchild, niece or nephew. The child must be claimed as a dependent, and cannot have provided at least half of his/her own support. Finally, the child must be a citizen or resident alien.

I think my snow blower qualifies for the credit.

Prior to the Bush tax cuts, the per-child tax credit was only $500. Despite the rhetoric of how the Bush tax cuts only benefited the wealthy, the doubling of the child tax credit had a tremendous impact on the middle class.

Because it is a tax credit and not just a deduction, the credit goes directly to the tax filer’s bottom line. For example, if a family of five files their federal taxes and owes $5,000 before the child tax credit, the child tax credit would reduce their tax burden to $2000, a 60% reduction in their taxes owed. If the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire, the family would only be allowed to reduce their tax burden by $1,500 ($500 per child), effectively a 75% increase in federal taxes for that family.

Normally I’m a believer that children should be seen and not heard. The best time for them to be seen is when I’m filling out my taxes. I’m willing to adopt the entire Vienna Boys Choir then.

Wisconsinites benefit from this tax cut more than residents in other states. Of the tax filers claiming the credit, Wisconsin filers ranked eighth in benefiting from the credit. Wisconsin filers’ average credit ranked fourteenth of all filers. Of the Wisconsinites claiming the credit, the average tax benefit was $1,335 off what they owed.

That’s a lot of cheese curds.

Just as Wisconsinites disproportionately benefited from the Bush increase in the child tax credit, so, too, would Wisconsinites be negatively impacted disproportionately if the increased tax credit was allowed to expire.

Democrats unhappy with the Bush tax cuts neglect to mention that only 25% of the benefits went to those making $250,000 per year or more. When they talk about taxing the rich to pay for the deficit, they mean the middle class. Prior to the enactment of the Bush tax cuts, 33 million Americans were non-taxpayers of the federal income tax. After the Bush tax cuts, total non-taxpayers of the federal income tax jumped to a staggering 52 million. How many middle-class families will feel like “the rich” when the Bush tax cuts expire?

When listening to the tax-the-rich rhetoric coming this summer to pay for the huge Obama deficits, skeptical Wisconsinites may want to keep in mind just how much they benefited from the Bush tax cuts.

By James Wigderson
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute