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Tax Cuts That Come With the New Year

Individual Americans will realize the most benefits from new rules and tax changes that take effect starting at midnight.

For instance, in the first paycheck of the year, workers will realize the benefits of a 2 percent cut in the Social Security payroll tax cut.

Tax preparers are already handicapping the change. A family of four, with an income of $100,000 could realize a reduction of several thousand dollars on their federal tax bill, according to H&R Block : The couple would pay some $10,000 in taxes, instead of more than $18,000.

Again, thanks again to the federal government, there are health-care changes that help consumers, while putting the onus on insurers to deliver better care. Large health-insurance companies must spend 85 percent of the premiums they receive on health care, while smaller insurers must spend 80 percent on it.

“They actually have to pay rebates to consumers,” said Lynn Quincy, a senior policy analyst at Consumers Union. “There have been estimates by the Department of Health and Human Services that about 9 million consumers might qualify for a rebate. And if they do, they’d see those in 2012.”

Also in the realm of health care, seniors with Medicare prescription drug coverage will get a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs.

In Wisconsin, starting Saturday, there’s a $1,500 cap on payday loans.

But it’s in Illinois where things can get freaky.

If you see families of monkeys crossing the Illinois state line at midnight Friday, don't blame it on the booze. As the result of a new law that take affect as the new year rolls in, Illinois residents are prevented from owning monkeys and primates as pets.

So those monkeys you see may really be there—and so will the tax breaks.