Q: Did Democrats increase federal income tax rates in 2014 under Obamacare?
A: No. Tax increases mentioned in a viral email went into effect a year earlier, as part of a budget deal supported by many Republicans as well as most Democrats.
Is this information correct? I have tried to check it out but get terribly confused.
It came as an email from a friend in Colorado.
We started getting dozens of queries about this one about three weeks before tax filing day. It's nonsense. Some of these figures aren't accurate, and none of these increases took effect on Jan. 1, 2014, or had anything to do with the Affordable Care Act. And the claim that "not one Republican voted to do these" is false.
Here's what really happened, and when:
The email's claim about "income payroll tax" is a head-scratcher, since no tax expert we know of uses such a term. Our best guess is that the anonymous author meant to refer to the combined effect of the federal income tax and the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, and did not understand how these taxes work. No combination of payroll and federal income taxes would produce a top marginal rate of 52.2 percent, so far as we can figure.
Back in 2008, when Obama was first running for president, conservative commentator Larry Kudlow claimed that Obama's tax proposals would amount to "a 52.2 percent combined income and payroll tax." But even that claim was wrong, because of the simple fact that the top marginal income-tax rate applied at that time only to income above $349,701 and Social Security taxes applied only to wage or salary income below $97,500. Any income taxed at the top income-tax rate would incur zero Social Security tax.
And the same is true today: Taxable Social Security wages now stop at $117,000, and the top marginal income-tax bracket doesn't kick in until $406,751 for singles and $457,601 for joint filers. All of these levels are adjusted for inflation each year.
Having said all that, we'll note that taxes have gone up for some as a result of Obamacare. The law imposes a 3.8 percent tax on net investment income that applies to people who earn more than $200,000 a year for singles, or $250,000 for joint filers. It also levies an additional Medicare tax of 0.9 percent on wages, salaries and self-employment income for people in those income groups. However, these changes also took effect in 2013, not 2014.
– Brooks Jackson
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