So, Congress finally passed the bailout bill. You know about the Treasury’s newfound $700 billion, and you’ve heard about the snipped golden parachutes, but what does the 451-page week-old shotgun savior of a bill actually mean for you?
Today, Congress approved a one-year postponement of the Alternative Minimum Tax, which is good news for an estimated 25 million Americans (mostly middle-class) who would have qualified for it this year. The IRS said that due to the last-minute nature of the change, some refunds may be delayed: “Changes in the tax code require substantial work, especially in reprogramming I.R.S. computers.” The IRS says that “within 72 hours it would post on its Web site revisions to a dozen forms affected by the change.”
The House voted 216-193 on Friday to keep 21 million middle-class taxpayers from paying the alternative minimum tax (AMT) next year. Republicans opposed the measure because the bill is funded by raising the tax on carried interest, paid exclusively by investment bankers, from 15% to 35%.
Friday’s bill would extend AMT relief for one year, at a cost of about $51 billion. It includes another $30 billion in largely popular tax relief measures, including expanding the child tax credit, providing a property tax deduction to some 30 million families and extending a tax exemption for the combat pay of military personnel.
Consumer Reports cautions that buyers of popular hybrid vehicles may soon be ineligible to claim the Alternative Motor Vehicle tax credit. The credit sunsets when a manufacturer sells more than 60,000 qualifying vehicles, a figure Toyota has already reached.
The credit has already begun to phase out for Toyota and Lexus hybrids purchased after September 30, 2006, and others will follow suit as they reach the sales volume target. The 2006 Prius’ tax break, for instance, dropped in half to $1,575 if it was purchased after that date, and it will split again to $788 between April and the end of September, 2007. After that, the Prius rebate disappears altogether.
The IRS provides a list of models certified for credit. Available only to those not subject to the alternative minimum tax, the credit can be worth up to $3,150 for vehicles purchased after 2005. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER