More from the Joint Committee on Taxation – just-released report “Description of Revenue Provisions Contained in the President’s Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Proposal.” This massive 647-page report contains a proposal for a permanent Alternative Minimum Tax “patch,” as set forth below.
Present law imposes an alternative minimum tax (“AMT”) on individuals. The AMT is
the amount by which the tentative minimum tax exceeds the regular income tax. An individual’s tentative minimum tax is the sum of (1) 26 percent of the first $175,000 ($87,500 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return) of the excess of alternative minimum taxable income (“AMTI”) over the AMT exemption amount and (2) 28 percent of the remaining excess. The maximum tax rates on net capital gain and dividends used in computing the regular tax are used in computing the tentative minimum tax. AMTI is the individual’s taxable income adjusted to take account of specified preferences and adjustments.
The exemption amounts are: (1) $74,450 ($45,000 in taxable years beginning after 2011)
in the case of married individuals filing a joint return and surviving spouses; (2) $48,450
($33,750 in taxable years beginning after 2011) in the case of other unmarried individuals; (3) $37,225 ($22,500 in taxable years beginning after 2011) in the case of married individuals filing separate returns; and (4) $22,500 in the case of an estate or trust. The exemption amounts are phased out by an amount equal to 25 percent of the amount by which the individual’s AMTI exceeds (1) $150,000 in the case of married individuals filing a joint return and surviving spouses, (2) $112,500 in the case of other unmarried individuals, and (3) $75,000 in the case of married individuals filing separate returns or an estate or a trust. These amounts are not indexed for inflation.
Present law provides for certain nonrefundable personal tax credits. These credit include
the dependent care credit, the credit for the elderly and disabled, the adoption credit, the child credit, the credit for interest on certain home mortgages, the Hope Scholarship and Lifetime Learning credits, the credit for savers, the credit for certain nonbusiness energy property, the credit for residential energy efficient property, the credit for certain plug-in electric vehicles, the credit for alternative motor vehicles, the credit for new qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicles, and the D.C. first-time homebuyer credit.
For taxable years beginning before 2012, the nonrefundable personal credits are allowed
to the extent of the full amount of the individual’s regular tax and alternative minimum tax. For taxable years beginning after 2011, the nonrefundable personal credits (other than the adoption credit, the child credit, the Hope Scholarship credit (for taxable years beginning after 2012), the credit for savers, the credit for residential energy efficient property, the credit for certain plug-in electric vehicles, the credit for alternative motor vehicles, and the credit for new qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicles) are allowed only to the extent that the individual’s regular income tax liability exceeds the individual’s tentative minimum tax, determined without regard to the minimum tax foreign tax credit. The adoption credit, the child credit, the Hope Scholarship credit (for taxable years beginning before 2013), the credit for savers, the credit for residential energy efficient property, the credit certain plug-in electric vehicles, the credit for alternative motor vehicles, and the credit for new qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicles are allowed to the full extent of the individual’s regular tax and alternative minimum tax.1640
Description of Proposal
The proposal provides that the individual AMT exemption amounts, including the
thresholds for the phaseout of the exemption amounts, are indexed for inflation from the levels in effect for 2011. The proposal indexes the threshold amounts for the beginning of the 28-percent bracket. The proposal allows an individual to offset the entire regular tax liability and alternative minimum tax liability by the nonrefundable personal credits.
Effective date.–The proposal is effective for taxable years beginning after 2011.
Allowing the nonrefundable personal credits to offset the regular tax and alternative
minimum tax, and increasing the exemption amounts, will substantially reduce the number of taxpayers affected by the AMT. In addition to the reduction in tax liability as a result of this change, there will be significant simplification benefits. Substantially fewer taxpayers will need to complete the alternative minimum tax form (Form 6251), and the forms and worksheets relating to the various credits can be simplified.
By permanently establishing the AMT exemption levels and ability to take nonrefundable
credits against the AMT, the proposal provides greater certainty for taxpayers as to their tax obligation resulting from the AMT, in comparison to the practice over the past years of annually adjusting the exemption levels to prevent their reversion to the levels in effect prior to EGTRRA. Additionally, by indexing the AMT system for inflation, as is done in the regular tax system, the proposal prevents tax increases in real terms for the portion of one’s income growth that merely accounts for inflationary growth. By doing so, the proposal substantially slows the rate of growth in the number of taxpayers subject to the AMT over time.
A number of analysts argue that the proposal does not go far enough, advocating instead
the abolition of the AMT. Their argument rests on the observation that the AMT system has outlived its original purpose of requiring taxpayers engaged in substantial sheltering of income to pay at least some minimum tax. Instead, taxpayers today are mainly ensnared by the AMT as a result of their income level, payment of state and local taxes, and presence of dependents. Such analysts argue that requiring such taxpayers to calculate their liability two ways is needlessly complex and serves no discernible policy objective that the regular tax alone couldn’t provide.
1640 The rule applicable to the child credit after 2012 is subject to the EGTRRA sunset. The adoption credit
is refundable in 2011 and beginning in 2012 is nonrefundable and treated in the same manner as the child credit.