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(May 21) - The $69 billion tax cut bill that President Bush signed this week tripled tax rates for teenagers with college savings funds, despite Mr. Bush's 1999 pledge to veto any tax increase.
Under the new law, teenagers age 14 to 17 with investment income will now be taxed at the same rate as their parents, not at their own rates. Long-term capital gains and dividends that had been taxed at 5 percent will now be taxed at 15 percent. Interest that had been taxed at 10 percent will now be taxed at as much as 35 percent.
The increases, which are retroactive to the first day of the year, are expected to generate nearly $2.2 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, which issues the official estimates.
Over all, the tax bill that Mr. Bush signed Wednesday reduces taxes by $69 billion.
Mr. Bush pledged in 1999 to veto any bill that raised taxes. In response to a question about the tax increase on teenagers in the new legislation, the White House issued a statement Friday that made no reference to the tax increase, but recounted the tax cuts the administration has sponsored and stated that President Bush had "reduced taxes on all people who pay income taxes."
Challenged on that point, the White House modified its statement 21 minutes later to say that Mr. Bush had "reduced taxes on virtually all people who pay income taxes."
The deputy White House press secretary, Kenneth A. Lisaius, declined to discuss the reasons Mr. Bush broke his pledge or anything else beyond the modified statement, which emphasized the $880 billion in tax reductions from tax laws Mr. Bush signed in 2001 and 2003.
Americans for Tax Reform, an influential lobbying group that seeks to reduce taxes, had led the drive to press politicians to pledge no new taxes. The pledge has been signed by 256 members of the House and the Senate, nearly all of them Republicans, and by thousands of candidates for state and local office.
The pledge commits signers to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal tax rates for individuals and businesses." Mr. Bush went beyond the pledge when he was seeking the Republican nomination for president.
"If elected president, I will oppose and veto any increase in individual or corporate marginal income tax rates or individual or corporate income tax hikes," he wrote in June 1999 to Grover Norquist, president of the Americans for Tax Reform.
Mr. Norquist, in an interview Thursday, said he was unaware that the bill raised taxes and tax rates on teenagers with college savings funds because "no one here noticed" the provisions. But Mr. Norquist called the bill raising taxes on teenagers with investment income "a technical violation of the pledge" and noted that his group opposes all retroactive tax increases. He pledged to immediately begin a campaign to have the tax increases rescinded.
(AOL News/The New York Times Company)