The first of the newer taxes is the 3.8 percent net investment income tax, which couples earning more than $250,000 and individuals earning over $200,000 have to pay. They owe the tax on either their net investment income or their earned income over the threshold, whichever is less.
Then there is the 0.9 percent Medicare tax, which applies to couples earning over $250,000 and single filers earning more than $200,000.
These are taxes on the wealthy, no question. The Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, has studied who is paying the tax, and found that the top 1 percent provide 86 percent of the payments.(Tweet This)
"It's about as progressive a tax as you could find," said Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice, a tax advocacy group. That organization estimated that together, the taxes brought in roughly $27 billion in 2013, a drop in the bucket compared to the $1.6 trillion the IRS reported in gross individual tax withholding and payments in fiscal 2014. (Tweet This)
Neither tax is likely to reach deep into the middle class anytime soon. McIntyre estimated that if the taxes now mainly hit the top 2 percent of earners, they may over time reach the top 4 percent. In addition, the taxes are marginal, applying only above the income thresholds. But particularly in areas of the country where wages are higher, the shift will be felt over time.
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"It may be years before we see an inflation problem with this. But if you are on the cusp, say you made $249,999, you want to keep your eye on what can happen next year," said Jackie Perlman, principal tax research analyst at H&R Block's Tax Institute.