Included in President Barack Obama’s demand to raise tax rates on those Americans he hates so much is a raise in tax rates on dividends, unless the Republicans pay Obama’s price. Obama’s ransom, after all, is simple: raise the rates on the Evil Rich, or the rates will go up for everyone. Nice economy you got there….
Here’s what happens to dividends if Obama gets either one of his choices.
Presently, qualified dividends (which are most of the dividends about which you and I care) are taxed at a 15% rate for stockholders who are in a 25% or higher income tax bracket, and at a 5% rate for those investors in a lower bracket. If Obama gets his way on tax rates generally, those rates will rise to ordinary income rates: those in the 39.6% bracket, for instance, will pay 39.6% on their dividend income (not 15%), those in the 15% bracket (which will reappear if Obama holds out for his ransom and the Republicans refuse to fold) will pay 15% on their dividends (not 5%). Notice that: if Obama gets his way, the poor will get the highest tax bump.
Think the poor don’t invest? Where are the savings of the retired, and of the stereotypical widows and orphans? In safe, stable, income-producing vehicles—mutual funds that invest heavily in dividend-paying stocks funds (or interest-paying bond funds). These folks—on fixed incomes—are going to see a significant bump in their tax bill because a significant share of their income is dividend income.
Two top dividend mutual funds currently have a yield, courtesy of their dividend-paying stock holdings, of between 2% and 3%. That’s not a lot of margin on which a retiree—or a widow or an orphan—can afford to see a tripling of his tax bite.
Of course, these folks could switch entirely to funds that pay interest rather than dividends, but with the Fed artificially suppressing interest rates, where’s the value in that?
Republicans need to find some courage. The House needs to pass, this session, a budget (again) that includes lower rates across the board and spending cuts in the amount necessary to bring Federal spending to less than Federal revenues, with the difference mandated to paying down the debt. Let the Democrats, led by our President, defend their refusal to pass this bill in the Senate and sign it into law; let them explain why they prefer the catastrophe of the Obama tax increases and sequestration.
And Republicans need to get serious about taking their message to all Americans.