President Barack Obama signed the massive $787 billion stimulus bill into law in an effort to boost the economy out of a deep recession.
Obama signed the bill at a ceremony Tuesday at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, surrounded by workers in the renewable energy industry, along with Vice President Joe Biden. Obama plans to unveil a $50 billion effort to stem home foreclosures in a separate event on Wednesday in Phoenix.
Despite the huge spending measures, Obama sought to downplay the immediate impact of the new administration’s efforts.
“I don’t want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems,” he said. “Nor does it constitute all of what we have to do to turn our economy around. But today does mark the beginning of the end, the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans scrambling in the wake of layoffs.”
The centerpiece of the tax cuts in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is Obama’s signature “Making Work Pay” refundable tax credit, which would provide up to $400 for most individual workers and $800 for couples. The legislation also includes a one-time payment of $250 to retirees, disabled individuals and Social Security recipients. The bill would also temporarily increase the earned income tax credit for working families with three or more children to 45 percent of the family’s first $12,570 of earned income.
The bill would also increase the eligibility for the refundable child tax credit in 2009 and 2010. For 2008, the child tax credit is refundable to the extent of 15 percent of the taxpayer’s earned income in excess of $8,500. The bill would reduce this floor for 2009 and 2010 to $3,000.
The bill would also provide an “American Opportunity” education tax credit for 2009 and 2010. The tax credit offers up to $2,500 of the cost of tuition and related expenses during the taxable year.
Accounting provider RSM McGladrey has published a special edition of its tax digest with a summary of the various tax provisions in the bill. Mike Metz, executive vice president of tax services at RSM, said he was underwhelmed by some of the business and individual tax provisions in the bill. One of his major objections was the scaling back of the net operating loss carryback provisions.
“Overall we were hoping there would be more in the act for midmarket companies,” he said. “The net operating loss carryback was taken out for midmarket and larger companies, and we were disappointed to see that. Now it just applies to small businesses with gross receipts of $15 million or less that are able to carry that back for five years. We would have liked to see that apply to all businesses. It would have helped companies to retrieve taxes they had previously paid and use that to help their businesses.”
However, he did like a bonus depreciation provision that extends the ability of companies to recover the cost of capital expenditures through 2009. They will be able to write off more than 50 percent of the value of the assets they purchase.
On the individual side, Metz said he was happy to see the alternative minimum tax patched for another year. Some economists and legislators have argued that the AMT patch won’t have a stimulative effect, but Metz believes it will encourage people who otherwise would have been hit by the AMT to increase their spending. Most of the other tax credits in the bill won’t have as much impact on RSM’s client base. Metz doesn’t expect to see additional tax breaks until the administration can assess whether the stimulus is working.
“This won’t change things immediately,” he said. “It will take some time to work through the economy.”
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