And, as Mary Johnson, the league’s Social Security and Medicare policy analyst, highlighted in a call with ThinkAdvisor, there is also widespread concern about what the relatively modest 2024 COLA could mean for the taxes seniors pay on their federal government benefits.
As many as 26% of survey participants who have received Social Security for more than three years reported paying taxes on a portion of their benefits for the first time during the 2023 tax season — i.e., for tax year 2022.
“Because Social Security recipients received an even higher COLA of 8.7% in 2023, we expect more beneficiaries to become liable for federal income taxes on their Social Security benefits for the first time in the upcoming 2024 tax season,” Johnson warned.
“Up to 85% of Social Security benefits can be taxable when income exceeds certain thresholds,” Johnson explains. “Unlike other parts of the federal income tax code, though, the income thresholds that subject Social Security benefits to taxation have never been adjusted for inflation.”
The White House and Congress recently agreed to claw back more than $20 billion earmarked for the Internal Revenue Service. This deal was, ostensibly, part of a grand bargain to reduce budget deficits.
Unfortunately, it’s likely tohave the opposite effect. Every dollar available for auditing taxpayers generates many times that amount for government coffers — and the rate of return is especially astonishing for audits of the wealthiest Americans, according to new research shared exclusively with The Post.
A team of researchers at Harvard University, the University of Sydney and the Treasury Department examined internal IRS data for approximately 710,000 in-person audits from 2010 to 2014. Here’s what they found:
Wealthy people generally have more complex tax returns, so auditing them costs more. Internal government records show that the IRS employees auditing the rich earn higher wages and spend much more time per audit; overhead costs add up, too.
Now here’s the revenue collected per audit, from additional taxes, penalties and interest. The differential for low- vs. high-income taxpayers is even bigger.
This means that while the upfront costs of auditing the wealthy are usually higher — perhaps suggesting these taxpayers aren’t worth going after — the average return on investment is much better.
Opinion by Catherine Rampell and graphics by Youyou Zhou
I drank the bespoke pathogenic cocktail as part of what’s known as a “human challenge study” run by the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. In a human challenge study, adult volunteers are exposed to a pathogen. The study I was involved in was intended to test an experimental vaccine. The process may sound somewhat medieval, but these studies are critical scientific tools that prioritize participant safety. From 1980 to 2021, over 15,000 volunteers have been exposed to one of dozens of diseases in such studies, and not one has died.
Dysentery can be fatal. While Shigella is treatable with antibiotics, resistance is evolving at a worrying pace, and tens of thousands of children still succumb to it every year in the developing world. Those it does not kill are often left with stunted growth.
For my assistance in the development of a potentially lifesaving vaccine, I was paid $7,350. My motivations were altruistic to a degree: I wanted to pay my privilege forward. As I told Business Insider, however, I am not a complete saint and would not have done it for free.
As far as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is concerned, the compensation for my bout of dysentery has zero charitable component; it’s just regular old income, indistinguishable from, say, freelance writing or mowing lawns. If, God forbid, I am ever audited, I hope the IRS agent believes me when I say that’s just my diarrhea money.
I maintain, though, that I should not be taxed on that $7,350 at all: Treating clinical trial compensation as taxable income is just bad policy.
Millions of taxpayers were asked to delay filing their 2022 tax returns after questions arose over whether or not specific rebates should be included as taxable income, and now the Internal Revenue Service has given their answer.
The IRS said in a press release that “in the interest of sound tax administration,” residents in most states, including Illinois, will not be required to report rebates on their federal tax returns, and that filing of those returns can continue.
There were limited exceptions, including Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend, but for the most part all states that were included in the original notice will not require their taxpayers to report the rebates as income.
Illinois was included in a large group of states whose residents were advised to potentially delay filing their taxes after questions arose about the reporting of rebates given to taxpayers and property owners.
Those rebates, passed as part of the state’s fiscal year 2023 budget, were given to individuals who made less than $200,000, or couples who made less than $400,000. Those rebates returned $50 to each taxpayer.
Property tax rebates of up to $300 were also made available as part of the program.
Under the new IRS guidance, those payments are considered to be “general welfare” payouts, and therefore are not subject to federal income taxation.
On a yearly basis the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) adjusts more than 60 tax provisions for inflation to prevent what is called “bracket creep.” Bracket creep occurs when people are pushed into higher income tax brackets or have reduced value from credits and deductions due to inflation, instead of any increase in real income.
The IRS used to use the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a measure of inflation prior to 2018. However, with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), the IRS now uses the Chained Consumer Price Index (C-CPI) to adjust income thresholds, deduction amounts, and credit values accordingly.
The new inflation adjustments are for tax year 2023, for which taxpayers will file tax returns in early 2024. Note that the Tax Foundation is a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit and cannot answer specific questions about your tax situation or assist in the tax filing process.
With record inflation now squeezing American household budgets, you can thank our Senior Fellow Emeritus Steve Entin for shielding U.S. workers from being pushed into higher tax brackets. If ever there was a paycheck protection program, defending people from bracket creep may be the most important one ever designed.
It all started some 40 years ago. After Ronald Reagan was elected President, Steve Entin, who had previously served as a staff economist on the Joint Economic Committee and studied under notable professors like Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago, was invited to work at the Department of the Treasury as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy.
As many at the Tax Foundation can attest, Steve’s stories about his time in the Reagan administration are legendary, but one stands out. Steve did something that every household in America should be grateful for—he convinced President Reagan to call for indexing the tax code to inflation.
At the time, American taxpayers were subject to bracket creep, which occurs when inflation pushes taxpayers into higher income tax brackets or reduces the value of credits, deductions, and exemptions. The bracket thresholds failed to keep pace with inflation, resulting in an increase in income taxes without an increase in real income.
Indeed, President Reagan used the chart that Steve drew for him during a televised address asking Americans to call their members of Congress and demand they index the tax code. People did. And it worked.
A lawmaker who helps shape federal tax legislation has indicated that he wants to keep wealthy families from using private placement life insurance to replace any federal tax loopholes that Congress closes.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, today announced that he has written to Prudential Financial, Zurich Insurance Group and the American Council of Life Insurers to get more information about the PPLI market, and the possibility that many PPLI policies may serve only to reduce the income taxes of families that rank in the wealthiest 1% of American families, not to provide genuine insurance.
“Is investment in PPLI products marketed to new or existing clients as a means to minimize or eliminate ordinary income, capital gains or estate taxes?” Wyden asks in the letters to Prudential and Zurich. “If so, please explain the legal basis for why these products help minimize or eliminate taxes.”
Business owners are likely saving more than $10 billion annually in federal taxes through state laws that circumvent the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of state data.
The state laws blunt the cap’s effect on owners of closely held businesses such as law firms, hedge funds, manufacturers and car dealerships, while workers earning wages generally can’t take advantage. The strategy, now available in 27 states, converts business owners’ personal income taxes into deductible business taxes that escape what is known as the SALT cap on state and local tax deductions.
Much of the money flows to high-income people in California, New York and New Jersey, while those in Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Connecticut are likely saving hundreds of millions of dollars as well. It isn’t just a phenomenon in high-tax Democratic states. The proliferating workarounds mark a rare case where a state-tax policy trend has been swift, national and bipartisan, and Utah, Georgia, Arizona, South Carolina and Kansas now have similar laws.
For states, approving the workarounds has been easy, because their residents benefit and state tax collections are barely altered. For business owners, the chance to lower federal tax bills is attractive, and industry groups are lobbying in the states that haven’t yet enacted workarounds.
Corporations too are projected to pay more, with payments predicted to grow by 6 percent, amid a projected 10 percent increase in profits.
Some companies’ tax bills are being pushed up by supply chain problems, CBO said. Normally, firms with big inventories are allowed to consider the last item they bought to be the one they just sold.
But when they dig deeply into or completely exhaust their inventories, they must recognize items bought long ago that may have cost them significantly less to purchase. Because the original price was lower, their profit looks bigger, and they owe more in taxes.
Also, provisions created as part of the 2017 tax overhaul targeting companies that stockpile profits in overseas tax havens are bringing in more revenue than forecasters anticipated.
“CBO continued to refine its treatment of income and deductions from foreign corporations and branches, including how it estimates taxes collected on global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI),” the agency said.
An unprecedented gush of income-tax revenue is flowing into the federal government, driven in part by investors and business owners, and the size and speed of the increase has surprised even the nation’s fiscal-policy experts.
Individual income tax collections are poised to reach $2.6 trillion, or 10.6% of the economy in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That is up from 9.1% in 2021 and would mark a record in the 109-year history of the tax, topping the war-tax receipts of 1944 and the dot-com boom of 2000.
The surge has been particularly notable in taxes outside paycheck withholding, a signal that capital gains and business income are driving the trend. The Penn Wharton Budget Model estimates collections of non-withheld taxes reached an inflation-adjusted $522 billion in April 2022, compared with just over $300 billion in 2018 and 2019, before the pandemic.
From 1988 to 1993, the average federal income tax bill for American families increased by over $1,000 in 2019 dollars. Families in the top 1%, the middle class and elderly families had increases in their federal income tax bills. But for middle-class families with children, tax bills over that time decreased.
The payroll tax changes caused the average payroll tax liability for employers and employees combined to increase by nearly $400. Payroll tax policy hasn’t changed significantly since the 1993 law.