Congress adjourned recently without taking any action on the income tax rates applicable for 2011. As it stands now, everyone, not just the “rich” will see a larger chunk of their salary removed from their paychecks beginning January 1.
Here’s the problem. Traditionally, by mid November the IRS issues the tax withholding tables that employers must use for the following calendar year. That is not likely to happen this year. Congress is not scheduled to reconvene until November 15, and will recess shortly thereafter for Thanksgiving. In the Senate, at least, there are several non tax issues that will be considered, leaving little if any time to deal with taxes. Any delay past December 1 will make it virtually impossible for many employers to update their payroll systems to reflect the 2011 tax rates.
According to Dennis Danilewicz, director of payroll for New York University’s Langone Medical Center, and recent president of the American Payroll Association,
[i]t takes large employers three to four weeks to process and test these changes, and the government needs time before that to determine and publish [the withholding tables]…[and] large firms often run payrolls a week or two ahead of time…
So, as they say, time is of the essence.
Lawmakers’ recent track record on dealing with tax matters doesn’t inspire confidence that they will act with dispatch. Congress has yet to resolve the estate tax, which expired at the end of last year and is set to snap back to high rates come January. Nor has it tackled the alternative minimum tax for 2010, a levy that is set to hit 32 million taxpayers this year, compared with five million last year.
The IRS can’t simply assume what Congress will do, and issue withholding tables in accordance with that assumption. And, even if Congress leaves all of the current tax rates in place,
there are enough differences between 2010 and 2011 numbers, such as inflation adjustments, that payroll executives still need weeks to update and test their systems.
When January 1 rolls around and and the inevitable incorrect amounts are withheld from people’s paychecks, we will no doubt hear that the mess was created by the Republicans, the “party of no”. But, don’t believe it.
For the past 18 months the House, the Senate and the Oval Office have been controlled by the Democrats. They could have done, and in fact did do, virtually anything they wanted…see: Obamacare, the Stimulus Bill, the Financial Reform Bill. To have done nothing about taxes when that issue was a part of President Obama’s 2008 campaign promises is a complete dereliction of duty.
The real reason nothing was done was that many Democrats said no, and refused to raise taxes on anyone during “the worst economic times since the Great Depression”.
Under the circumstances, can you blame them?