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The Individual Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT): 12 Facts and Projections

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Document date: June 30, 2008
Released online: July 03, 2008

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

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Abstract

Congress originally enacted a minimum tax in 1969 to guarantee that high-income individuals paid at least a minimal amount of tax. Under today's alternative minimum tax (AMT), middle- and upper-income taxpayers must add a number of "preference items" to their taxable income, subtract a special AMT exemption, and calculate their tax according to the AMT rules. If the tax under those rules turns out to be higher than their regular income tax, taxpayers pay the difference as AMT. Unless Congress acts, 26.8 million taxpayers will be affected by the AMT in 2008.


The Individual Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT): 12 Facts and Projections

1. The AMT is exploding. Unless Congress acts, 26.8 million taxpayers will be affected by the AMT in 2008. In 2007, only 4.1 million taxpayers owed the tax because of the temporary AMT "patch," which has now expired. By comparison, in 1970, just 20,000 taxpayers were affected by the AMT. If the 2001-2006 tax cuts expire as scheduled at the end of 2010, 43 million taxpayers (almost two-fifths) will be hit by the AMT in 2018. If the tax cuts are extended, the number jumps to 57 million taxpayers (more than half) (tables T08-0094 and T08-0095).

2. The AMT is encroaching on the middle class. Although the AMT is highly progressive, the distribution of AMT liability will shift toward tax units with lower incomes. In 2007, tax units with $500,000 or more in income paid 50 percent of the tax; by 2010, they will pay only 18 percent. About 78 percent of households with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000 and 46 percent of those with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 will pay the AMT by 2010 (compared with 3.6 percent and 0.6 percent in 2007) (tables T08-0096 and T08-0098).

3. The average AMT liability in 2007 was $6,577. Barring legislative action, the average is projected to decline this year to $3,264 as millions of middle-class families-that tend to owe a smaller amount of the tax-join the ranks of AMT taxpayers (table T08-0097).

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Topics/Tags: | Economy/Taxes


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