Payroll tax deadline

Three things happen if Congress fails to break its current impasse by the end of December:

Your next paycheck
will be smaller

About 160 million Americans would see their payroll tax grow from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent of their wages on Jan. 1. That's nearly a $20 increase per week for a person making $50,000 a year.

step1

Long-term unemployment
benefits end

The federal program provides jobless benefits after state benefits run out. Some unemployed people would lose benefits immediately -- 10,000 before the second week of January, according to the Department of Labor -- and that number would grow to 1.8 million by mid-February.

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Medicare payments
to doctors may drop

Reimbursement rates paid to doctors who treat 48 million Medicare patients would drop by 27 percent. Doctors would likely be told to avoid filing Medicare claims for a week or two to see if Congress solves the issue in January. But that would be a very short-term workaround.

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SOURCE: Staff reports. GRAPHIC: Bonnie Berkowitz and Laura Stanton - The Washington Post. Published Dec. 21, 2011

Payroll tax cut bills compared

Highlights of legislation renewing payroll tax cuts, jobless benefits approved by the House and Senate.

Answers to key questions about taxes

There are a lot of numbers being thrown around in the debate over who pays what in taxes. These graphics explore those numbers.