How Much the Payroll Tax Cut Is Worth to You

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The fate of the payroll tax cut is looking increasingly grim as House Republicans voted Tuesday to reject a stopgap measure that would have extended the tax cut through February, calling instead for further negotiations. If it fails to pass, many Americans could find themselves with significantly less disposable income in the new year.

Without the tax cut extension, a household earning $50,000 a year will effectively see their taxes increase by about $1,000 next year, netting them $40 less with each paycheck, according to data from the White House. Likewise, a family earning $80,000 a year would be forced to pay an extra $1,600 for the year in taxes, which works out to be more than $60 shaved off every paycheck.

Those numbers are based just on the difference between keeping the tax cut as is (which withholds that money from Social Security and Medicare) and letting it expire. Factoring in the original proposal from the Obama administration, though, the loss is even greater. As reported, President Barack Obama’s original plan was to lower the payroll tax rate even further, from 4.2% in 2011 to 3.1% in 2012, so a family earning $50,000 a year would save an extra $300 on top of the $1,000 they were already saving.

While extending or increasing the payroll tax cut would decrease government revenue, economists have argued that it would boost consumer spending, which in turn would help businesses create more jobs. Instead, consumers may end up finding themselves even more strapped for cash next year without that extra money.

For those households that earn $50,000 a year, losing an extra $40 on each paycheck may not seem like a lot, but consider it in terms of what that money buys. For starters, it’s more than enough to pay for the average person’s cellphone bill ($47 a month) with money left over to come close to filling up a tank of gas (gas costs $3.13 a gallon now, on average).