(WASHINGTON) -- Uncertainty about Americans' tax future reigns in Washington. Will Bush-era tax cuts be allowed by Congress to expire Jan. 1 or will they be extended? And if extended, how long and for whom? A meeting on Tuesday between the president and Republican leaders did little to clarify what taxpayers can expect in 2011.
At last count, Congress was entertaining five options: no extension of any tax cuts; permanent extension of all tax cuts; a two-year extension of all cuts; President Obama's proposal for permanent cuts applying only to the middle class; and a two-year extension only for the middle class.
Correction: six options, says Ingrid Schroeder, director of the Pew Financial Analysis Initiative -- a project aimed at strengthening the U.S. economy. Whereas Obama's proposal defines the middle class as anyone making up to $250,000 a year, a sixth proposal now circulating defines middle class as anybody making up to $1 million.
Among these several scenarios, what's the best and worst outcome a middle class taxpayer can expect?
"The best," says Clint Stretch, managing principal for tax policy at Deloitte Tax LLP in Washington, D.C., "is that between now and Christmas Eve, Congress decides to extend middle class cuts for some period of time -- maybe three months, maybe two years."
The worst outcome? "The possibility that Congress will do nothing, and that on Jan. 1 tax rates will go back to what they were in the Clinton administration," says Stretch. "A married couple with two kids, let's say, making $70,000 a year would see their taxes go up $2,600. That's $50 less in your paycheck every week."
The increased tax bite on someone single with the same income but without any kids would be $1,300.
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