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The Bush Tax Cuts: How did they change the tax code?

The tax cuts enacted between 2001 and 2006 contain a host of large and small changes to the tax code that phase in at different rates and expire at different times. The tax cuts of 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 built on one another, with many of the bills passed after 2001 serving to extend provisions in earlier bills. Most provisions are now scheduled to expire at the end of 2010.

  • The 2001 tax cut was especially sweeping. Its two most prominent changes were a phased-in reduction in income tax rates and a reduction and eventual repeal (at the beginning of 2010) of the estate tax. It also provided a wide range of tax breaks for education, families with children, married couples, and contributions to certain kinds of savings accounts.
  • The 2002 tax cut addressed a different part of the tax code, significantly but temporarily reducing the tax burden on new business investments. Its main provision has already expired.
  • The 2003 bill cut taxes on dividends and capital gains and accelerated the schedule for phasing in most of the other tax cuts enacted in 2001.
  • The 2004 tax cut extended various provisions from the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that were scheduled to expire before 2010, so that they remain in force through 2010.
  • The 2005 tax cuts indexed the alternative minimum tax for inflation for one year ("patched" it, in tax parlance), eliminated the income restrictions on Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) in 2010, and extended the reduced rates on dividend and capital gains income.
  • The 2006 tax cuts made certain aspects of the 2001 tax act permanent, including the raised annual contribution limits to IRAs, tax-free withdrawals from qualified tuition savings accounts, and the savers’ credit, and permanently extended rules governing education-based tax credits.
 
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