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Fiscal Cliff Agreement Reached

December 31, 2012, 8:11 PM by Anna Peters

WASHINGTON, DC -

Highlights of a tentative agreement Monday between the White House and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., aimed at averting wide tax increases and budget cuts scheduled to take effect in the new year. The measure would raise taxes by about $600 billion over 10 years compared with tax policies that expire at midnight Monday. It would also delay for two months across-the-board spending cuts otherwise set to begin slashing the budgets of the Pentagon and numerous domestic agencies.

Highlights include:

-Income tax rates: Extends decade-old tax cuts on incomes up to $400,000 for individuals, $450,000 for couples. Earnings above those amounts would be taxed at a rate of 39.6 percent, up from the current 35 percent. Extends Clinton-era caps on itemized deductions and the phase-out of the personal exemption for individuals making more than $250,000 and couples earning more than $300,000.

-Estate tax: Estates would be taxed at a top rate of 40 percent, with the first $5 million in value exempted for individual estates and $10 million for family estates. In 2012, such estates were subject to a top rate of 35 percent.

-Capital gains, dividends: Taxes on capital gains and dividend income exceeding $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for families would increase from 15 percent to 20 percent.

-Alternative minimum tax: Permanently addresses the alternative minimum tax and indexes it for inflation to prevent nearly 30 million middle- and upper-middle income taxpayers from being hit with higher tax bills averaging almost $3,000. The tax was originally designed to ensure that the wealthy did not avoid owing taxes by using loopholes.

-Other tax changes: Extends for five years Obama-sought expansions of the child tax credit, earned income tax credit, and an up to $2,500 tax credit for college tuition. Also extends for one year accelerated "bonus" depreciation of business investments in new property and equipment, a tax credit for research and development costs and a tax credit for renewable energy such as wind-generated electricity.

-Unemployment benefits: Extends jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed for one year.

-Cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors: Blocks a 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors for one year. The cut is the product of an obsolete 1997 budget formula.

-Social Security payroll tax cut: Allows a 2 percentage point cut in the payroll tax first enacted two years ago to lapse, which restores the payroll tax to 6.2 percent.

-Across-the-board cuts: Delays for two months $109 billion worth of across-the-board spending cuts set to start striking the Pentagon and domestic agencies this week. Cost of $24 billion is divided between spending cuts and new revenues from rules changes on converting traditional individual retirement accounts into Roth IRAs.

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