Americans faced a broad increase in taxes Tuesday for the first time in at least two decades, ending a prolonged period of declining taxation that has become a defining characteristic of the U.S. economy.
Despite the tentative agreement reached late Monday to avoid much of the fiscal cliff, many Americans will see a higher tax bill because of the expiration of the payroll tax cut, which was enacted in 2011 as a temporary measure to boost economic growth. The tax holiday was preceded by a similar temporary cut in 2009 and 2010.
The deal negotiated by Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and approved by the Senate early Tuesday addresses a separate tax — the income tax — and would prevent tax rates from increasing for all but the wealthiest Americans. But both sides have decided to leave the payroll tax out of the agreement.
Unlike income taxes, which rise along with a worker’s income, the payroll tax is a fixed percentage of an employee’s salary. Allowing the tax cut to expire increases taxes on salaries by 2 percent for every American worker. Up to $110,100 a year in salary is subject to the tax.