How Much Money Can the New Stimulus Act Save One Family in 2009

Economic Stimulus

After President Obama signed the new stimulus act into law Feb. 17, a long-time friend, Brian, called me.

He wanted to know, “What’s the maximum I can get out of those new tax breaks on my 2009 tax return?”

I thought it was an intriguing question.  Being a CPA, I can figure out tax law and add up the numbers. Here are the results. He can save $13,790 in taxes on his 2009 return!

Now remember, this isn’t for everybody. Here’s Brian’s “ideal” situation. He’s married, has one child in college, and his adjusted gross income (taxable income prior to subtracting exemptions and standard or itemized deductions) is less than $150,000.  And here are the details broken down by credit and deduction.

1) Making Work Pay: This is a new $400 credit ($800 if married and filing jointly) that the taxpayer receives by reduced payroll withholding.  Since Brian will be filing joint for 2009, he’ll be getting $800 tax savings during the year through an increase in each paycheck for 2009.  So that’s $800 savings.

2) First-time Homebuyer’s credit:  Brian and his wife haven’t owned a home in more than 3 years.  Why? When they moved from the Midwest to San Diego, they couldn’t afford a house. Now with the drop in prices, they could buy that new home in 2009. Yeah! Since it’s in San Diego, the price will definitely be more than $80,000. Ka Ching… $8,000 credit. For more details see Taking First-Time Homebuyer Credit.

3) New car sales-tax deduction:  Since car sales are way down and so are car prices, Brian could decide it’s time to buy a new car.  Since he’s always wanted a luxury car, he’d use the excuse that he can get the maximum deduction for sales tax on a car priced up to $49,500.   That‘s a lot of money for a car but he does get a tax savings of $990.  (Price $49,500 times 7.775% (San Diego sales tax) = $3,836 deduction. Since his marginal tax rate is 25%, his tax saving is $990 (3,836 times 25%).   Let’s not talk about what his wife would say about that not so big tax savings for a very big car.

4) Energy saving tax breaks: If Brian’s wife has been complaining about how chilly their family room and master bedrooms are (yes, it does get a tad chilly in San Diego!), now is the time to buy new energy-saving sliding-glass doors for those rooms. If the price of each door is $2,500, which would meet the maximum credit of $1,500 ($5,000 times 30%).

5) Bigger tax break on college costs: Their child is in her 4th year of college and her tuition is $10,000 and wouldn’t have qualified for the Hope credit under old law. Since the old HOPE credit has been extended and expanded (and now called American Opportunity credit), they’ll get the maximum credit of $2,500.

Here’s the summary:

Making Work Pay Credit            $    800

Homebuyer Credit                     $ 8,000

New car deduction- tax savings  $    990

Energy credit (new doors)           $ 1,500

College tuition credit                  $ 2,500

TOTAL                                     $13,790

For details on the new tax act, check out  2009 Stimulus Package: What’s In It For You, and When.