Many have argued that our elected officials in Washington have not accomplished much this year, but they did manage to avoid the “fiscal cliff” by passing the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA).  However, some aspects of “the cliff” have simply been delayed.   ATRA will raise taxes about $600 billion over 10 years, but will delay the across-the-board cuts for two months that the Department of Defense and many domestic agencies would have been forced to make.  Round two for these spending cut negotiations will take place in a couple of months.   

It can be difficult to understand how ATRA impacts different Taxpayers, and therefore, included below is a summary of the highlights of the legislation.  First, the highest tax bracket increases from 35 percent to 39.6 percent and is for Taxpayers with $400,000 or more in taxable income ($450,000 for married filing jointly).  These individuals will also see their tax rate increase on capital gains and qualified dividends from 15 percent to 20 percent.   ATRA extends Clinton era caps on itemized deductions and the phase out for the personal exemption for Taxpayers with income more than $250,000 ($300,000 for married filing jointly).

Teachers will still be able to deduct up to $250 in classroom supplies and expenses.  Also extended are the higher education tuition and fees deduction, the mortgage insurance premium deduction and charitable contributions from an IRA.  These deductions were set to expire on 12/31/11 and are now extended through 12/31/13.

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