The Issues: Taxes

GENERIC President Bush and John Kerry
CBS News continues a month-long series titled "What Does It Mean To You?" focused on where the presidential candidates stand on major issues and how a vote for one or the other candidate might affect average people's lives.

In this report, CBS News Correspondent Mika Brzezinski compares where George W. Bush and John Kerry stand on taxes, and what it means to you.

When Andrea and Dennis Cariello got married last year, they thought their taxes would go up, and were dreading writing out that check on April 15. But instead, they got back $4,000.

"It was just a tremendously wonderful surprise that we weren't being hit at the same rate I'd expected, and we weren't being hit with the marriage penalty," says Dennis Cariello, who is also president of the New York Young Republicans Club.

The Cariellos are putting the money right back into the economy, and that means fixing up their house.

They've got just one request. "I'd tell the President to keep doing what he's doing and hopefully drop taxes down even further," says Dennis Cariello.

In this election year, as always, taxes are on the voter's minds and on the candidate's lips.

President George Bush admits the big issue in this campaign and for every family in America is the federal tax burden.

Senator John Kerry says the fight is about the needs of the middle class and promises he's going to do better for them.

But which candidate will cut taxes? Neither, says tax expert Avery Neumark.

Here's what both candidates say they will do -- keep the child tax credit, the reduced marriage penalty, and the new lowest tax bracket. Mr. Bush says he plans to make his tax cuts permanent.

So does Kerry. But for families making more than $200,000, Kerry would eliminate the tax break all together. It's a move that allows him to make his claim that under his economic plan, 98 percent of Americans get a tax cut.

But according to Avery, "He's really saying he's going to keep the Bush tax cuts in place."

Kerry's plan doesn't mean new tax cuts. He would use the $224 billion raised by eliminating the tax cuts for the rich to pay for middle class tax credits for health care and college tuition.

As for the Cariellos, they're hoping for another refund next year. And they already know what they'll do with the money.

Dennis Cariello says they'll "roll it back into the house, build up savings, plan for retirement, and plan for children."

Both Bush and Kerry are expected to come out with more detailed tax plans before the election, and then voters will choose, with one eye on the candidates and one hand on their wallets.

Editor's Note: This story was updated July 13th, 2004, to reflect Cariello's association with the New York Young Republicans Club.

By Mika Brzezinski