Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001

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Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001
Great Seal of the United States
Long title An act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to section 104 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2002.
Acronyms (colloquial) EGTRRA
Citations
Public Law Public Law 107-16
Legislative history

The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (Pub.L. 107–16, 115 Stat. 38, June 7, 2001), was a sweeping piece of tax legislation in the United States by President George W. Bush. It is commonly known by its abbreviation EGTRRA, often pronounced "egg-tra" or "egg-terra", and sometimes also known simply as the 2001 Act (especially where the context of a discussion is clearly about taxes), but is more commonly referred to as one of the two "Bush tax cuts".

The Act made significant changes in several areas of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, including income tax rates, estate and gift tax exclusions, and qualified and retirement plan rules. In general, the Act lowered tax rates and simplified retirement and qualified plan rules such as for Individual retirement accounts, 401(k) plans, 403(b), and pension plans. The changes were so large and numerous that many books and analysis papers were published regarding the changes and how to best take advantage of them. All the 2001 tax cuts were set to expire at the end of 2010 when Congress extended them.[1]

Many of the tax reductions in EGTRRA were designed to be phased in over a period of up to 9 years. Many of these slow phase-ins were accelerated by the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (JGTRRA), which removed the waiting periods for many of EGTRRA's changes.

A report published by researchers with the Heritage Foundation claimed that the cuts would result in the complete elimination of the U.S. national debt by fiscal year 2010.[2]

Sunset Provision[edit]

One of the most notable characteristics of EGTRRA is that its provisions were designed to sunset (or revert to the provisions that were in effect before it was passed) on January 1, 2011 (that is, for tax years, plan years, and limitation years that begin after December 31, 2010.[3] These provisions were extended for two years under the 2010 Tax Act. The sunset provision allowed EGTRRA to sidestep the Byrd Rule, a Senate rule that amends the Congressional Budget Act to allow Senators to block a piece of legislation if it purports a significant increase in the federal deficit beyond ten years. The sunset allowed the bill to stay within the letter of the PAYGO law while removing nearly $700 billion from amounts that would have triggered PAYGO sequestration.[4]

Tax rebate[edit]

In addition to the tax cuts implemented by the EGTRRA, it initiated a series of rebates for all taxpayers that filed a tax return for 2000. The rebate was up to a maximum of $300 for single filers with no dependents, $500 for single parents, and $600 for married couples. Anybody who paid less than their maximum rebate amount in net taxes received that amount, meaning some people who did not pay any taxes did not receive rebates. The rebates were automatic for anybody who filed their 2000 tax return on time, or filed for an extension and quickly sent a return. If an eligible person did not receive a rebate check by December 2001, then they could apply for the rebate in their 2001 tax return.[5]

Major tax areas affected[edit]

President George W. Bush signing the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 in the White House East Room on June 7, 2001

Income tax[edit]

EGTRRA generally reduced the rates of individual income taxes:

  • a new 10% bracket was created for single filers with taxable income up to $6,000, joint filers up to $12,000, and heads of households up to $10,000.
  • the 15% bracket's lower threshold was indexed to the new 10% bracket
  • the 28% bracket would be lowered to 25% by 2006.
  • the 31% bracket would be lowered to 28% by 2006
  • the 36% bracket would be lowered to 33% by 2006
  • the 39.6% bracket would be lowered to 35% by 2006

The EGTRRA in many cases lowered the taxes on married couples filing jointly by increasing the standard deduction for joint filers to between 174% and 200% of the deduction for single filers.

Additionally, EGTRRA increased the per-child tax credit and the amount eligible for credit spent on dependent child care, phased out limits on itemized deductions and personal exemptions for higher income taxpayers, and increased the exemption for the Alternative Minimum Tax, and created a new depreciation deduction for qualified property owners.

Capital gains tax[edit]

The capital gains tax on qualified gains of property or stock held for five years was reduced from 10% to 8% for those in the 15% income tax bracket.

Qualified and retirement plans[edit]

EGTRRA introduced sweeping changes to retirement plans, incorporating many of the so-called Portman-Cardin provisions proposed by those House members in 2000 and earlier in 2001. Overall it raised pre-tax contribution limits for defined contribution plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), increased defined benefit compensation limits, made non-qualified retirement plans more flexible and more similar to qualified plans such as 401(k)s, and created a "catch-up" provision for older workers.

EGTRRA allows, for the first time, for participants in non-qualified 401(a) money purchase, 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity, and governmental 457(b) deferred compensation plans (but not tax-exempt 457 plans) to "roll over" their money and consolidate accounts, whether to a different non-qualified plan, to a qualified plan such as a 401(k), or to an IRA. Prior rules only allowed plan moneys to leave the plan and maintain its tax deferred status only if the money went directly to an IRA or to an IRA and back into a "like kind" defined contribution retirement account. For example, 403(b) moneys leaving the old employer could only go to the new employer's defined contribution plan if it were also a 403(b). Now the old 401(k) plan money could be transferred directly in a trustee-to-trustee "rollover" to an IRA and then from the IRA to a new employer's 403(b) or the entire transfer could be directly from the old employer's 403(b) to the new employer's 401(k). That the new Tax Act allows employers to do so does not mean that any employer is forced to accept new money from the outside.

The so-called "catch-up" provision allows employees over the age of 50 to make additional contributions to their retirement plans over and above the normal limits. For workers who are already retired, the law raises the age for minimum required distributions (MRDs), directing the Treasury to revise its life expectancy tables and simplify MRD rules.

EGTRRA created two new retirement savings vehicles. The Deemed IRA or Sidecar IRA is a Roth IRA attached as a separate account to an employer-sponsored retirement plan; while the differing tax treatment is preserved for the employee, the funds may be commingled for investment purposes. It is an improvement upon the unpopular qualified voluntary employee contribution (QVEC) provision developed in the early 1980s. The so-called Roth 401(k)/403(b) is a new tax-qualified employer-sponsored retirement plan to become effective in 2006, and would offer tax treatment in a retirement plan similar to that offered to account holders of Roth IRAs.

For plan sponsors, the law requires involuntary cash-out distributions of 401(k) accounts into a default IRA. It accelerates the mandatory vesting schedule applied to matching contributions, but increases the portion of employer contributions permitted from profit sharing. Small employers are granted tax incentives to offer retirement plans to their employees, and sole proprietors, partners and S corporation shareholders gain the right to take loans from their company pension plans.

Educational savings incentives[edit]

House Republicans pushed Congress to provide incentives for those investing in education. One bill in the house was proposed to remove the time limit on student loan interest deductions. Their push was successful and was included in the final bill.

Estate and gift tax rules[edit]

The EGTRRA made sweeping changes to the estate tax, gift tax, and generation-skipping transfer tax.

  • The estate tax unified credit exclusion, which was $675,000 in 2001 but scheduled to increase by steps to $1,000,000 in 2006, was increased to $1,000,000 in 2002, $1,500,000 in 2004, $2,000,000 in 2006, and $3,500,000 in 2009, with repeal of the estate tax and generation-skipping tax scheduled for 2010.
  • The maximum estate tax, gift tax, and generation-skipping tax rate, which was 55% in 2001 (with an additional 5% for estates over $10,000,000 in order to eliminate the benefit of the lower estate tax brackets) was reduced to 50% in 2002, with an additional 1% reduction each year until 2007, when the top estate tax rate became 45%. P.L. 107-16 amended Code Section 2001 to change the rate to 49% in 2003, going down by 1% each year through 2009. (Because of the increasing exclusion and decreasing top tax rate, the estate tax effectively became a tax of 45% on estates over $2,000,000 in 2007.)
  • The state estate tax credit, which effectively gave the states a part of the estate tax otherwise payable to the federal government, was phased out between 2002 and 2005 and replaced by a deduction for state estate taxes in 2005.
  • The gift tax was not repealed, and the unified credit exclusion has remained at $1,000,000 for gift tax purposes despite the increases in the estate tax exclusion, but the maximum gift tax rate was reduced to 35% beginning in 2010.
  • Because of the repeal of the estate tax in 2010, complicated new "carry-over basis" provisions were enacted which would increase the income tax on capital gains realized by some estates and heirs. (Under pre-EGTRRA law, property that is subject to estate tax gets a new income tax basis equal to fair market value, eliminating any capital gain on lifetime appreciation.)

Because EGTRRA was subject to a "sunset" provision, the estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes were automatically reinstated in 2011.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Tax Policy Under President Bush". Cato Institute. 
  2. ^ Wilson, D.; William Beach (2001-04-27). "The Economic Impact of President Bush's Tax Relief Plan". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 2011-04-05. "Under President Bush's plan, an average family of four's inflation-adjusted disposable income would increase by $4,544 in fiscal year (FY) 2011, and the national debt would effectively be paid off by FY 2010." 
  3. ^ See section 901(a)(1) of the Act.
  4. ^ "The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2004-2013, Appendix A, The Expiration of Budget Enforcement Procedures: Issues and Options". 
  5. ^ "Some guidance on the tax rebate check". CNN.com. 2001-06-07. Retrieved 2008-01-18. 

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