The House yesterday passed its version of President Carter's tax cut bill to pep up the lagging economy, legislation to mail out $50-per-person rebate and special-benefit checks this spring and summer to more than 90 per cent of the population.
The bill would also lower the taxes of the two-thirds of all taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions, by raising the so-called standard deduction.
The legislation now goes to the Senate, where the Finance Committee began hearings yesterday morning, and where a number of changes are likely.
The tax bill, which the House approved 282 to 131 after narrowly rejecting a Republican alternative 219 to 194, contains four major provisions.
First, the bill calls for rebates on the 1976 taxes that will be due in full on the 15th of next month. The rebates would generally be $50 per person covered by each tax return; thus a family of four would get $200.
But the size of the rebate would be scaled down for taxpayers with incomes between $25,000 and $30,000, so that those with incomes of $27,500, for example, would get only $25 per person, and those with incomes over $30,000 would get nothing.
The second major problem would give $50-per-person payments to most of the non-taxpaying segments of the population that would not be reached through the rebate. These payments would go mainly to Social Security and adult and family welfare recipients with too little income to be taxed, as well as non-taxpayers receiving black lung, railroad retirement and certain veterans benefits.
The payments would also go to some of the working poor - wage earners with children and too little income to owe taxes.
The tax rebates would go out in May and June and cost the Treasury about $8.6 billion, the other payments mostly in late summer and early fall at a cost of $1.5 billion. All told, checks would reach about 200 million people.
The third section of the bill would raise the standard deduction to a flat $2,400 for single individuals, $3,000 for married couples filing joint returns. Standard deductions now range from a minimum level of $1,700 for single persons and $2,100 on joint returns to maximums of $2,400 and $2,300.
This change would result in a $4.8 billion cut in 1977 taxes spread among 45.5 million taxpayers - two-thirds of all taxpayers. This provisions, too, would mainly exclude the very rich; almost 90 per cent of this cut would go to taxpayers with incomes under $15,000. The highest cut would be about $175, and the average about $105. The cuts would start to be reflected in lower withholding rates shortly after the bill's enacement - presumably by late spring or early summer.
The fourth part of the bill is for business. It would give employers credits or reductions in taxes otherwise owed for some though not all, additional employees they hire this year and next. The credits would be 40 per cent of the first $4,200 in wages paid, or up to $1,680 each for a maximum of 24 employes. Thus the most that any employer could get would be $40,000, a restriction intended to tilt the provision toward small businesses.
The House Ways and Means Committee adopted this employment credit in place of the business provisions recommended by Carter.The President proposed letting businessmen choose between two other credits - an investment or new-machinery tax credit of 12 per cent instead of the present 10, or a credit equal to 4 per cent of Social Security taxes paid.
Ways and Means says its credit would act more effectively to reduce unemployment. But yesterday Carter repeated, in a meeting with the Democratic leaders of both houses of Congress, his opposition to the business section of the Ways and Means bill. House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D.-Mass.) told him there was no way to overturn it in the House, which approved it 341 to 74 last night, and suggested he look to the Senate.
In the Senate, meanwhile, Finance Committee Chairman Russell B. Long (D.La.) told reporters he has reservations about the House employment credit and indicated he would prefer increasing the investment credit somewhat as Carter has recommended. The Senate committee plans to vote on the bill next week.
The Republican alternative defeated in the House yesterday would have granted "permanent" cuts in tax rates to all taxpayers on the first $16,000, instead of the one-time-only 1976 rebate. The Republicans say such permanent cuts would stimulate the economy more and help hold down the future size of the government.
In addition to the tax action, the House Appropriations Committee yesterday approved a $22.6 billion appropriation bill, more than half of it for public works and public sector jobs. These, too, are intended to lower unemployment and the amounts are generally in line with those proposed by the President.