Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Are tax boundary problems causing market to rally?

When taxes go up, or subsidies expire, consumers adjust income or spending in response.
Just remember what happened to auto sales when the cash for clunkers program ended. Or how about new housing sales when the $8,000 tax credit ended? 

This so called "tax boundary" problem is caused by the ability of upper income taxpayers to delay or accelerate income to reduce tax liability:
People can also change the timing of when they earn and receive their income in response to government policies. According to a 2004 U.S. Treasury report, "high income taxpayers accelerated the receipt of wages and year-end bonuses from 1993 to 1992—over $15 billion—in order to avoid the effects of the anticipated increase in the top rate from 31% to 39.6%. 

So the current increase in economic activity could be caused by investors who are trying to soften the blow of the expiring Bush tax cuts, and the increase in Medicare taxes.
On or about Jan. 1, 2011, federal, state and local tax rates are scheduled to rise quite sharply. President George W. Bush's tax cuts expire on that date, meaning that the highest federal personal income tax rate will go 39.6% from 35%, the highest federal dividend tax rate pops up to 39.6% from 15%, the capital gains tax rate to 20% from 15%, and the estate tax rate to 55% from zero. 

The prospect of 2011 tax increases are also being blamed for the current increase in merger activity
Private equity firms are active in selling their portfolio companies or taking them public before an expected increase in taxes next year.

So what does this mean for 2011?
...the prospect of rising prices, higher interest rates and more regulations next year will further entice demand and supply to be shifted from 2011 into 2010. In my view, this shift of income and demand is a major reason that the economy in 2010 has appeared as strong as it has. When we pass the tax boundary of Jan. 1, 2011, my best guess is that the train goes off the tracks and we get our worst nightmare of a severe "double dip" recession.

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