President Barack Obama's 2013 election-year budget took investors by surprise with a call for significantly higher taxes on dividends, a major change from his earlier tax proposals and one that will raise the ire of dividend-paying companies.

Households earning more than $250,000 a year would see the tax they owe on dividends rise to a maximum of almost 40 percent next year, equal to the higher maximum income tax rate set to take effect in 2013. The current top income rate is 35 percent.

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