Senate majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said that Congress isn't likely to act before the year's end on legislation to stave off the alternative minimum tax from hitting an estimated 17 million new taxpayers.

Though both the House and the Senate have passed versions of a bill funding the AMT reprieve of more than $30 billion, the chambers have each structured very different versions of legislation.

The House, voting along party lines, passed the contentious final piece of its $95 billion in tax cuts in mid-December, including a two-year, $20 billion extension of President Bush's 2001 tax cut for stock dividends and capital gains. The $60 billion in tax cuts passed by the Senate don't extend the cut on stock dividends, but do include controversial measures in a one-time tax on major oil companies and a provision making it easier to impose high penalties on individuals who use abusive tax shelters.The patch for the AMT could still be passed next year and made retroactive to cover taxes for 2006. The tax could impact some families with incomes below $100,000, but most of the newly affected families with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000 would be reflected in taxes due in 2007.

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