The budgets the House and Senate have approved would have Congress raise taxes at least $20 billion next year and $100 billion or more over the next three years, in effect taking back nearly a quarter of the enormous tax cut it voted last year.
In the Republican-controlled Senate Finance Committee, staff members have compiled a list of 15 possible tax increases totaling $12.8 billion in 1983 to which there is "minimal objection."
One is to make federal employes start paying the Medicare part of the Social Security tax. That comes to 1.3 percent of the first $32,400 of every covered worker's wages this year. The idea is that most federal employes eventually get Medicare and so should help pay its cost.
Others would repeal the current state sales tax and health insurance deductions and put new limits on deductions for medical care, casualty losses and interest, except mortgage interest.
In addition, a staff memorandum suggests there is "substantial support for some modification of the third year" of the individual tax cut voted last year.
"Members may view this as easier than casting some of the tough votes" for narrower tax increases opposed by specific interest groups, the memo points out. President Reagan has stoutly resisted changes in the third-year tax cut, due to take effect July 1 of next year.
The House budget resolution adopted Thursday contemplates $20 billion in tax increases in fiscal 1983 and $95 billion over the next three years. The Senate resolution that was passed earlier, and with which the House resolution must be reconciled in conference, calls for somewhat more.
Last year the Reagan administration won a major ideological and legislative victory in moving through Congress a tax cut of $749 billion over six years. This revenue reduction has been a driving force, pushing Congress to make additional domestic spending cuts to keep deficits below $150 billion.
Failure of the economy to perform as predicted in early 1981, however, has forced not only budget cuts to reduce the deficit, but also tax increases. Last summer's tax cut reduced anticipated revenues by $442 billion in 1983, 1984 and 1985 combined. The expected compromise budget from the House-Senate conference committee would require tax increases of $102 billion to $104 billion over that same period.
There is now a host of proposals to raise this revenue. Almost every member of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees has his own "laundry list."
Initially, there appeared to be strong sentiment to increase corporate taxes, which were cut deeply last year. Republicans, in particular, were concerned that the 1981 tax bill had created the impression that the GOP favored the wealthy and business interests, while cutting programs benefiting the poor and providing only small tax cuts to the working and middle classes.
But two of the leading methods proposed to increase corporate taxes are in serious trouble. The Finance Committee staff memo points out that there is "strong objection" to a new corporate minimum tax, a proposal supported by the administration that would raise $11.5 billion over three years, and to repealing the leasing provisions by which corporations buy and sell tax breaks, perhaps the most controversial provision in the 1981 tax bill.
According to some sources, opponents of the corporate minimum tax--the steel, mining, oil, banking, airlines and railroad industries--have suggested as an alternative a corporate surtax.
This would have two advantages: it would spread the burden to all companies, not just those benefiting from special tax preferences, and it would be temporary.