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How will possible fiscal cliff deal affect taxes?

Published On: Dec 31 2012 10:18:46 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 01 2013 09:19:14 AM CST

Negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff will affect taxes for everyone.

Senate leaders and the White House struck a last-minute deal to avert the fiscal cliff Monday night, but the House of Representatives went home earlier Monday, so nothing will get through Congress until they reconvene.

House members are due back at noon Tuesday.

At Candinas Chocolatier in Madison, Markus Candinas said it's not whether taxes go up or down, but the uncertainty that's killing confidence in the economy.

"We're part of this country. We're not an island; we're part of it," Candinas said. "I think it is one of those things you can tell people's confidence isn't quite there."

Monday's compromise between Senate leaders and the White House would permanently raise taxes on the highest earners, from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.

But for lower-income people and for middle-income people, there's good news. There's a one-year extension to unemployment benefits, benefits that thousands of Wisconsinites are already starting to see run out.

Then there are five-year extensions to two tax credits. One of them is the American Opportunity tax credit, which gives a break to families making less than $160,000 a year. The break comes in the form of $2,500 per college student annually.

The other is called the earned income tax credit, which gives cash to families that don't even make enough to pay income taxes, in the form of $475 to nearly $5,900 depending on how many children they have and how much money they make.

But all of this depends on whether lawmakers can reach a deal on other things -- and soon.

"I really want (lawmakers) to work together and not apart, and that's my frustration for the whole thing," said taxpayer Matthew Prest.

"You're just much more cautious about how you spend your money, and you don't spend as much," said taxpayer Sandy Frye.

"I don't think there's going to be any impact on the middle class except for a couple issues," said Marshall Mennenga, of Mennenga Tax and Financial Service.

Mennenga said the biggest effect is an end to the payroll tax holiday. He said extending it doesn't look likely, and without it, taxpayers would all see 2 percent less on their paychecks in the new year.

"That is going to happen. I don't think there's any doubt about that," Mennenga said.

Mennenga said the lack of confidence in the economy has one benefit in that instead of spending money, people may pay off debt or save a little. That doesn't help the economy, but he said it could get some people on better financial footing.

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