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Obama to propose ‘Buffett tax’ on millionaires

By Reuters
Saturday, September 17, 2011 20:11 EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama, in a populist gesture designed to appeal to voters, will propose a “Buffett Tax” on people making more than $1 million a year as part of his deficit recommendations to Congress on Monday.

Such a proposal, among suggestions to a congressional Super Committee expected to seek up to $3 trillion in deficit savings over 10 years, would appeal to his Democratic base ahead of the 2012 election but likely not raise much in revenues.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a tweet on Saturday the tax would act as “a kind of AMT” (Alternative Minimum Tax) aimed at ensuring millionaires pay at least as much tax as middle-class families.

The “Buffett Tax” refers to billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who wrote earlier this year that rich people like him often pay less in tax than those who work for them due to loopholes in the taxcode, and can afford to pay more.

Obama will lay out his recommendations in White House Rose Garden remarks at 10.30 am on Monday and is expected to urge steps to raise tax revenue as well as cuts in spending.

But Congress is at liberty to ignore his suggestions and

Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, have said that they will not agree to tax hikes.

The super committee of six Democrat and six Republican lawmakers must find at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings before the end of the year to avoid painful automatic cuts, and is mandated to seek savings of up to $1.5 trillion.

These savings are on top of $917 billion in deficit reduction agreed in an August deal to raise the debt limit and Obama wants it to go further.

He has separately urged it to consider $450 billion in tax increases on top of this goal to pay for a jobs bill that he unveiled earlier this month.

The Buffett Tax could help energize Obama’s base by highlighting a feature of the tax code that allows the super rich to pay lower rates of tax less wealthy Americans

because the bulk of their income is capital gains, dividends and the ‘carried interest’ earnings of hedge fund managers.

This is taxed at 15 percent, compared to rates of 10 to 35 percent on straightforward income.

(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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