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A New Reality: Higher Taxes for All

In December I wrote that our family would have to limit charitable giving if our federal taxes increased. My husband got a look at our budget forecast for this year, and our taxes have increased a projected $200 per month. That’s virtually all of our disposable income (e.g., non-budgeted funds—and we budget for things that don’t happen every month but are big like car repairs). When he signed the budget deal, President Obama promised “under this law, more than 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses will not see their income taxes go up.” He didn’t mention the expiration of a break on payroll taxes, which hit every worker’s check (except for the people whose incomes are so low they get tax revenue rather than pay it). In fact, according to the Washington Post, the hike wiped out everyone’s wage gains over the last year and will cause families to spend less. That is definitely true for us. Our family is nowhere near the top 2 percent in annual U.S. income. We’re far closer to the national median of $50,000/year. Our federal income taxes definitely went up. A lot—about $2,000. We’re already talking about how we will have to forget traveling to let the kids see their grandparents this year, and how we won’t start on finishing the basement like we had planned. We’re also talking about dropping some outside sources of income, because with higher taxes it may not be worth the stress of extra effort. This is what happens to normal folks when you increase taxes. Money isn’t everything, but not only do significant shifts like this make it hard for us to plan, but it’s also a bit depressing, and it definitely lowers our quality of life. Lower it much further and it will impact our essential needs, like vaccines for our two babies and savings for retirement (which we haven’t started). Multiply our family’s budget worries and trims by the millions of earners and businesses in this country, and you’ve got some serious problems—they go much further than my husband stomping around, muttering about the feds and trimming our budgets as he does our taxes.