Yes, the rumors are true. Most of the new tax cuts do go to higher-income people. Among the scraps, there's a little something for moderate earners and almost nothing for the working poor.

Congress voted to cancel every one of these tax cuts in 2011, as a way of hiding their massive long-term cost. In real life, some will go while others stay. Here's the rundown for now:

- Tax rates.

If you're in the 28 percent bracket or higher, your tax withholding can drop as early as July 1. That's to cover your cut in income-tax rates this year. Each of the four upper tax brackets has been sliced by 1 percentage point.

Between now and 2006, the middle three brackets drop by 3 percentage points each. The top bracket gets the biggest cut down 4.6 percentage points.

Where does this leave the 15 percent tax bracket, which includes the majority of taxpayers?

Sorry, you and you alone get no marginal rate cut at all. Your bracket sticks at 15 percent. (That's for people whose taxable income after all deductions, exemptions and credits doesn't exceed $27,050 for singles or $45,200 for couples.)

I can't help but remember all the yapping in Congress about the need to cut marginal tax rates to encourage investment and work. Apparently, the better-heeled need "encouragement" the most.

- Money back.

Every taxpayer, rich and poor, will owe a little less tax on the first few thousand dollars that he or she earns. The savings, for the upper two-thirds of taxpayers: $300 a year for singles, $500 for heads of households, such as single parents, and $600 for couples. This year, you'll get checks in the mail, paid as an early refund on your 2001 tax. Next year, the tax cut comes through tax withholding.

Lower-income taxpayers are another matter. Smaller refund checks often much smaller will be mailed to singles whose taxable annual incomes fall below $6,000 and couples below $12,000.

No refund at all will be paid to the working poor, if their deductions, exemptions and credits exceed the income tax they owe. In White House terms, they aren't real "taxpayers." Citizens for Tax Justice, a tax study group, puts these two groups at 51 million people more than one-third of all tax filers.

There's also no refund for taxpayers who are dependents on someone else's tax return.


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