Tuesday, January 16, 2007

If you hate the AMT, vote in 2007

One of the issues I heard the most about, and one I know Rep. Scott Garrett and I believe is desperately needed for our District is Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) relief. Scott's website sums up the problem for many in the District fairly well:

The Alternative Minimum Tax, or AMT, is a parallel tax universe that was initially established to keep high-income taxpayers from avoiding a significant portion of their tax liability. But, the arcane structure has spread into the middle class and applied to more than 4 million families in 2005. These are solidly middle-class families, such as couples that make more than $58,000 a year and itemize their deductions.
The Record also covered the problem recently, with Rep. Bill Pascrell discussing his plans:

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, who was recently named to the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said one of the areas where he would concentrate is on the alternative minimum tax, which in many cases deprives North Jersey families of tax breaks enjoyed by people in other parts of the country who do not pay such high property and state income taxes.
My tax adviser used to refer to the AMT as the SST (Seven States' Tax), because those doing the heavy lifting of this burden largely live in seven states. The reason this has not been fixed is because the majority of the nation doesn't have to deal with this, and therefore there isn't a majority within Congress or the Senate who are willing to tackle the problem.

Effectively, AMT relief for the seven states would likely lead to slightly higher taxes in other parts of the nation. Not a popular proposition among legislators, no matter how unjust the situation is. This injustice also accounts for why our return on tax dollars continues to decline year after year as more middle income families are ensnared. We send more money to Washington in terms of AMT and receive about the same level of funding year after year.

While we wait for Congress to address this problem, we need to take certain matters into our own hands. This year the entire legislature is up for re-election, and lasting property tax relief is the only way to combat the AMT. Only 34% of voters showed up in 2003 (the last off year without a Governor's race). If people want real relief and real reform, people have to show up to vote and hold accountable those ultimately responsible to fix the problem.

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