WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama isn’t talking about it and neither is Mitt Romney. But come January, 163 million workers can expect to feel the pinch of a big tax increase regardless of who wins the election.
A temporary reduction in Social Security payroll taxes is due to expire at the end of the year and hardly anyone in Washington is pushing to extend it. Neither Obama nor Romney has proposed an extension, and it probably wouldn’t get through Congress anyway, with lawmakers in both parties down on the idea.
Even Republicans who have sworn off tax increases have little appetite to prevent one that will cost a typical worker about $1,000 a year, and two-earner family with six-figure incomes as much as $4,500.
Why are so many politicians sour on continuing the payroll tax break?
Republicans question whether reducing the tax two years ago has done much to stimulate the sluggish economy. Politicians from both parties say they are concerned that it threatens the independent revenue stream that funds Social Security.
They are backed by powerful advocates for seniors, including AARP, who adamantly oppose any extension.
“The payroll tax holiday was intended to be temporary and there is strong bipartisan support to let that tax provision expire,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
The question of renewing the payroll tax cut has been overshadowed by the expiration of a much bigger package of tax cuts first enacted under President George W. Bush. The Bush-era tax cuts also expire at the end of the year, and Congress is expected to try to address them after the election, in a lame-duck session.
The payroll tax cut could become part of the mix in negotiations that could go in many directions. But lawmakers in both political parties say they doubt it.
“I think there’s a growing consensus that Congress and the president can’t continue to divert such a critical revenue stream from Social Security,” said Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, a senior Republican on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.