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Obama Tax Cuts: Winners and Losers

The Obama tax cut framework hasn't yet been signed into law, but here's an early scorecard of winners and losers:

Winners

  • Republicans: They got everything they wanted--extension of all Bush-era tax cuts; payroll tax reduction; estate tax exemption level at $5 million. I wouldn't really count the extension of unemployment benefits as a give, because after last week's employment report, there was no way that even the staunchest of Republicans could vote against that in the end...
  • Top Wage Earners: Not only do they get an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts that benefited them far more than the middle or lower class, they also will see a reduction of payroll taxes that will amount to an extra $2,136 next year
  • Wealthy and Retired: The biggest concerns of this group have always been the tax on capital gains/dividends and the estate tax--chalk up wins in both categories. The top rate on capital gains and dividends will be capped at 15 percent and the estate tax is a bonanza--the exemption limit rises to $5 million per person (it was set to decrease to $1 million as of January 1) and the tax rate will drop to 35 percent from the 55 percent that would have occurred on New Year's Day
  • Middle Income Taxpayers: Tax rates stay the same and the two percent decrease in payroll tax will save a $50,000 wage earner approximately $1,000 a year. Throw in the college and child tax credits, plus changes to the AMT, and the middle does pretty well
  • Some Unemployed workers: The 13-month extension of unemployment benefits will not help the "99ers," but it will extend the qualification dates for existing tiers
  • Businesses: Companies can expense 100 percent of new investments, including plant and equipment expenditures
  • Stock Market: Investors like certainty, especially in the form of low capital gains and dividend income tax rates. Expect to see a drop-off in year-end tax selling now that rates are locked in at low levels for another two years
Losers
  • Deficit Hawks: At a two-year cost of nearly $900 billion, those who stay up at night worrying about the nation's debt problems will need to grab the Ambien.
  • Liberal Base of Democratic Party: Bitterness, betrayal and disbelief were the early descriptions. It's going to be a long two years for this group...
  • Bond Market: If the economy grows a little bit more as a result of the tax cuts, bonds will likely suffer. Then again, most would probably vote for a growing economy vs. low yields
  • All taxpayers (eventually): Remember that deficit commission? Down the road, we can all kiss these tax breaks goodbye
  • Estate Tax Attorneys: There just aren't that many estates that are valued over $5 million. It looks like the standard will, power of attorney and health care proxy are all the documents necessary for most American families