Clinton's Tax Law Increases Tax Bill of Nation's Affluent

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON _ As the Monday filing deadline looms, miserable taxpayers can find company among the affluent. Well-to-do Americans' taxes surged 16 percent in 1993, the first year of revisions pressed into law by President Clinton.

People who earned $100,000 or more owed the government an additional $31 billion compared with 1992, according to an Associated Press computer-assisted analysis of Internal Revenue Service data. Everyone else together owed about $3 billion more.

The tax-law revisions were aimed specifically at reducing the deficit by tapping people with big incomes. When President Clinton proposed raising taxes on high incomes, experts expected the affluent to create shelters and loopholes to blunt the impact.

It didn't happen.

The law took effect in August 1993, but the new rules were applied retroactively to January. That took some tax planners by surprise.

"We did not see a new surge of tax shelters," said Robert McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice, a Washington advocacy group. "It's hard to do, and it takes time."

Clinton had argued that upper-income Americans had paid less than their share of taxes in the years when Republican presidents Reagan and Bush sat in the White House.

He said the law asked "the well-off to pay their fair share, requiring that at least 80 percent of the new tax burden fall on those making more than $200,000 a year, and very little on any other Americans, not to punish the successful, but simply to ask something of the very people whose incomes went up most and whose taxes went down during the 1980s."

The bill added two new tax brackets _ 36 percent for income beginning at $115,000 and 39.6 percent beginning at $250,000 _ but generally left other tax rates alone.

While tax liability declined for people in many brackets, for those making more than $100,000 it amounted to 25.5 percent of their income before deductions, up from 23 percent the previous year. The law allowed them to spread actual payment of their taxes over several years.

The tax increases, while aimed at the wealthy, made no distinction between taxpayers living in high-cost and low-cost areas. Also, the bill didn't differentiate between single-income and dual-income households.

Tax returns reporting $100,000 or more in income accounted for just 4 percent of the 114.6 million returns filed for 1993. But they amounted to 24 percent of the $3.7 trillion in individual income reported. …