On December 31, 2010 the Bush tax cuts will automatically sunset.
Dividend tax rate will go from 15% to as much as 37%. For starters. Estate tax will increase dramatically. Etc.
IN ADDITION, the marriage penalty will return and the brackets will return to the bad old days.
See Arthur Laffer's article in the Wall Street Journal of June 6, 2010.
Tax Hikes and the 2011 Economic Collapse
Today's corporate profits reflect an income shift into 2010. These profits will tumble next year, preceded most likely by the stock market.
By ARTHUR LAFFER
People can change the volume, the location and the composition of their income, and they can do so in response to changes in government policies.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that the nine states without an income tax are growing far faster and attracting more people than are the nine states with the highest income tax rates. People and businesses change the location of income based on incentives.
Likewise, who is gobsmacked when they are told that the two wealthiest Americans—Bill Gates and Warren Buffett—hold the bulk of their wealth in the nontaxed form of unrealized capital gains? The composition of wealth also responds to incentives. And it's also simple enough for most people to understand that if the government taxes people who work and pays people not to work, fewer people will work. Incentives matter.
People can also change the timing of when they earn and receive their income in response to government policies. According to a 2004 U.S. Treasury report, "high income taxpayers accelerated the receipt of wages and year-end bonuses from 1993 to 1992—over $15 billion—in order to avoid the effects of the anticipated increase in the top rate from 31% to 39.6%. At the end of 1993, taxpayers shifted wages and bonuses yet again to avoid the increase in Medicare taxes that went into effect beginning 1994."
On or about Jan. 1, 2011, federal, state and local tax rates are scheduled to rise quite sharply. President George W. Bush's tax cuts expire on that date, meaning that the highest federal personal income tax rate will go 39.6% from 35%, the highest federal dividend tax rate pops up to 39.6% from 15%, the capital gains tax rate to 20% from 15%, and the estate tax rate to 55% from zero. Lots and lots of other changes will also occur as a result of the sunset provision in the Bush tax cuts.
Tax rates have been and will be raised on income earned from off-shore investments. Payroll taxes are already scheduled to rise in 2013 and the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) will be digging deeper and deeper into middle-income taxpayers. And there's always the celebrated tax increase on Cadillac health care plans. State and local tax rates are also going up in 2011 as they did in 2010. Tax rate increases next year are everywhere.
Now, if people know tax rates will be higher next year than they are this year, what will those people do this year? They will shift production and income out of next year into this year to the extent possible. As a result, income this year has already been inflated above where it otherwise should be and next year, 2011, income will be lower than it otherwise should be.
When we pass the tax boundary of Jan. 1, 2011, my best guess is that the train goes off the tracks and we get our worst nightmare of a severe "double dip" recession.
In 1981, Ronald Reagan—with bipartisan support—[phased in tax cuts] ... [and] at the tax boundary of Jan. 1, 1983 the economy took off like a rocket, with average real growth reaching 7.5% in 1983 and 5.5% in 1984. It has always amazed me how tax cuts don't work until they take effect. Mr. Obama's experience with deferred tax rate increases will be the reverse. The economy will collapse in 2011.
The result will be a crash in tax receipts once the surge is past. If you thought deficits and unemployment have been bad lately, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Mr. Laffer is the chairman of Laffer Associates and co-author of "Return to Prosperity: How America Can Regain Its Economic Superpower Status" (Threshold, 2010).