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The Problem With Temporary Tax Cuts

It isn’t just the Bush tax rates that expire soon:

Congress and the administration have been arguing for months over extension of the Bush tax cuts: Should we extend them for everyone or only for the poorest 98.3 percent of Americans (which would also maintain some tax cuts for the rich)? Disagreement revolves around roughly $68 billion: the cost of covering the last 1.7 percent vs. the government pulling that much money out of the private sector and squelching economic recovery. But nobody’s talking about the nearly $80 billion hit that expiration of the 2009 stimulus bill will inflict.

The stimulus bill (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009) provided $287 billion in tax cuts for 2009 and 2010 but most provisions expire at the end of this year. (Congress extended some of the business tax cuts during the summer.) The big kahuna is the Making Work Pay credit—nearly $60 billion a year going to most workers—but partial exemption of unemployment compensation, expansion of EITC and education credits, and greater refundability of the child credit deliver nearly $20 billion more. Taxes will jump for more than 95 percent of Americans when those cuts evaporate come January.

Sounds like an ideal time for comprehensive tax reform.