As I’m sure you’re aware, on Oct. 3, 2008, the President signed into law the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-343). Although virtually all of the press coverage of this law has concentrated on its hotly debated $700 billion financial industry bailout plan, the legislation also contains scores of tax changes, mostly beneficial, for individuals and businesses alike.
Here’s a brief review of the tax provisions individuals need to know about right now.
AMT relief: In general terms, to find out if you owe alternative minimum tax (AMT), you start with regular taxable income, modify it with various adjustments and preferences (such as addbacks for property and income tax deductions and dependency exemptions), and then subtract an exemption amount (which phases out at higher levels of income). The result is multiplied by an AMT tax rate of 26% or 28% to arrive at the tentative minimum tax. You pay the AMT only if the tentative minimum tax exceeds your regular tax bill. Although it was originally enacted to make sure that wealthy individuals did not escape paying taxes, the AMT has wound up ensnaring many middle-income taxpayers. One reason is that many of the tax figures (such as the tax brackets, standard deductions, and personal exemptions) used to arrive at your regular tax bill are adjusted for inflation, but the tax figures used to arrive at the AMT are not.