After months of wrangling, Congress and President Bush are delivering a tax break to Americans in the form of some $350 billion worth of tax cuts, including relief for investors, married couples, and parents. Many of the provisions are only authorized for a few years and will then disappear. Below is a brief summary of the major provisions of the new tax law and how they affect taxpayers:
Acceleration of the Increase in the Child Tax Credit
· The child tax credit is increased to $1,000 for 2003 and 2004 (from $600). For 2003, the increased amount of the child tax credit (up to $400) will be paid in advance, beginning in July 2003, based on the information contained in a taxpayer's 2002 return. This will work like the mass mailing of "advance refund" checks in 2001.
Acceleration of Marriage Penalty Relief
· For 2003 and 2004 tax years, the standard deduction for married taxpayers filing jointly is twice the standard deduction for single individuals.
· For 2003 and 2004 tax years, the size of the 15% regular income tax rate bracket for married taxpayers filing jointly is twice the width of the 15% regular income tax rate bracket for single filers.
· Some of this relief will end in 2005, unless Congress revisits the issue. The 2003 and 2004 changes will amplify the "marriage bonus currently enjoyed by some couples with a single earner.
Acceleration of the Reduction in Individual Income Tax Rates
· The expansion of the 10% bracket scheduled for 2008 is accelerated to apply in 2003 and 2004. For 2003, the taxable income level for the 10% regular income tax rate bracket for single individuals is increased to $7,000 (from the previous $6,000). For married taxpayers filing jointly, the 10% regular income tax bracket is increased to $14,000 (from the previous $12,000). For 2004, these amounts are indexed for inflation.
· The reductions in income tax rates in excess of 15% scheduled for 2004 and 2006 are accelerated to 2003. For 2003 and thereafter, the regular income tax rates in excess of 15% are lowered to 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35% (from 27%, 30%, 35%, and 38.6%).
Reduction in Individual Capital Gains Tax Rates
· The 10% capital gains rate is reduced to 5% through 2007 (0% in 2008). The 20% rate is reduced to 15%. These lower rates apply to assets held more than one year.
Dividend Tax Relief
· For 2003 through 2008 tax years, dividends received by individual shareholders are taxed at the same rates that apply to capital gains -- 5% (0% in 2008) and 15%.