Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kabuki day

Finally, the stars have aligned and President Obama will meet with Congressional leaders today.  The main topic is how to head off an automatic $4 trillion tax increase.  Are they serious about it, or is it just political theater?  From Tax Notes:
The meeting will simply be the beginning of negotiations, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said during a briefing with reporters.
"I do not expect that we'll come out after an hour, an hour-and-a-half, and have full agreement on this," Gibbs said. "I hope there is agreement on the notion of how important it is to get this done by the end of the year." 
So, not serious. 

In addition to the expiration of the "Bush tax cuts for the rich," of which 80% went to the middle class, the minor tax cuts included in the stimulus bill also expire. If I understand Democrat Dick Durbin's position, we can't afford to extend the tax cut for the top 2%, but Democrats will yield on that if Republicans agree to enlarge the "cost" even more with an extension of unemployment benefits and the Make Work Pay credit.

Republicans are saying that this moment in the business cycle is a poor one for any tax increases on anyone. Logically, they should therefore accept at least the Democratic proposal to continue the stimulus bill tax cuts.

I believe that the clock ran out on this game in October, but no one wants to admit it yet.  Payroll services have to be putting new withholding in place for January based upon the law as it is, not as it might be.  Ditto for those writing the tax preparation software.

Another sign of unseriousness: no one is paying attention to the AMT for 2010, which still isn't patched.  I suppose that could be attended to in January retroactively to a prior calendar year, but I am unaware of any other provision that has been handled in this way.

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