tax policy center

Tax Topics

2009 Tax Stimulus
2012 Election Tax Plans
2015 Budget
Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
American Jobs Act of 2011
Brief Description of the Model 2015
Camp Tax Reform Plan
Current-Law Distribution of Taxes
Deficit Reduction Proposals
Distribution of the 2001 - 2008 Tax Cuts
Dynamic Scoring
Earned Income Tax Credit
Economic Stimulus
Education Tax Incentives
Estate and Gift Taxes
Expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts
Explanation of Income Measures 2013
Federal Budget
Fiscal Cliff
Fiscal Crisis
Guide to TPC Tables
Health Insurance Tax Incentives
How to Interpret Distribution Tables 2013
Marriage Penalties
Model FAQ 2013
Model Related Resources and FAQs
Payroll Taxes
Presidential Transition - 2009
Recent Tax Stimulus Legislation
Retirement Saving
Tax Encyclopedia Index
Tax Expenditures
Tax Reform Proposals
TPC’s Methodology for “Off-Model” Revenue Estimates
Value-Added Tax (VAT)
Who Doesn't Pay Federal Taxes?
Working Families

E-mail Newsletter

Enter your e-mail address to receive periodic updates on TPC publications and events.

> newsletter archive

tax topics

Tax Stimulus Report Card: Conference Bill

The Tax Policy Center has graded the key tax provisions of the Conference stimulus bill (the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009", as amended). Our grades reflect how well these measures would boost the economy in the short run per dollar of budget cost (sometimes called "bang for the buck"). Details of our analysis are below the report card.        PDF Download complete report card in PDF format


Tax provision

Stimulus effect

Ten-year revenue cost1

Comments (click on a provision for details)

Individual Income Tax Provisions

"Making Work Pay" tax credit


Could start quickly. Payment in small increments may increase stimulus effect but two-year limit and high-income eligibility reduces impact.

Increase in earned income tax credit


Highly targeted. Gives cash assistance to low-income families most likely to spend quickly but slow to start.

Increase eligibility for the refundable portion of child credit


Highly targeted, though less so than the Ways and Means proposal-giving cash assistance to lowest-income families most likely to spend quickly, but slow to start.  Likely pressure to make permanent.

"American Opportunity" education tax credit


Slow to start. Refundable, so it goes to low-income students. Low-income households likely to spend quickly but only when funds become available.
Homeownership Tax Credit  B


Small short-run stimulus to weak housing market.  Large windfall gains to people who would buy anyway.  Eliminating repayment simplifies administration.
Temporary Suspension of Taxation of Unemployment Benefits  b minus  


Generally not effective until early 2010.  Goes to households whose income has fallen, increasing stimulus effect.  Would be much better if reformulated as an increase in benefits.
Automobile Sales Tax  Deduction  c minus  


Likely only small increase in demand for new vehicles.  Benefits go to a single industry.  Most value for high-income taxpayers who are more likely to buy vehicles, with or without tax subsidy.
Extend the alternative minimum tax patch through 2009 d minus


Neither timely nor targeted; makes no sense as economic stimulus.

Business Tax Provisions

Extension of enhanced small businesses expensing


Simplifies tax filing for small businesses and may encourage some businesses to accelerate decisions to invest in capital equipment. Impact is expected to be small and much of tax benefit is likely to go to businesses that would have invested anyway.

Extension of bonus depreciation


Previous experience suggests that investment effects would be modest at best. Severity of downturn decreases the stimulus potential. 

Five-year carryback of net operating losses


Increases effectiveness of temporary investment incentives such as bonus depreciation and expensing. By increasing cash flow to businesses, it could also stimulate new investment but the effect is likely to be modest.

Incentives to hire unemployed veterans and disconnected youth


Based on past experience with this wage subsidy, it is unlikely to generate jobs for the target groups.

Deferral of certain income from discharge of indebtedness

c minus


May help some companies deleverage, but much of the benefit would go to those businesses that least need assistance.

Recovery Zone Bonds

 c minus


Well targeted at states and municipalities most in need of economic stimulus but slow to start and unlikely to generate much new investment.  Could draw funds away from better opportunities.  Direct spending would be better.
Increase in New Markets Tax Credit  B  


Any effect would likely be small and not occur quickly.  Well-targeted to communities likely to be most burdened by economic downturn.  Reduces borrowing costs for developers active in low-income communities
Renewable Energy Tax Provisions

Reinvestment in renewable energy


Some new investment would be added, but some projects may take time to gear up.
Tax Proposals Not Evaluated


All Conference Tax Proposals  


Tax provisions account for 36 percent of the cost of the Conference stimulus bill.

1. We cite "10-year" revenue estimates but the values reported include both the 10-year budget window - 2010-2019 - and 2009, because significant revenue reductions occur in the latter year.

Revenue estimates for the Conference bill come from Joint Committee on Taxation, "Estimated Budget Effects of the Revenue Provisions Contained in the Conference Agreement for H.R. 1 the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009",  JCX-19-09, February 12, 2009. Text of the tax provisions in the Stimulus bill as enacted is available here in PDF format.

For grading purposes, we assume that each provision will expire as scheduled and consider only the effects on aggregate demand (consumption or investment) or employment in the short-term.

Each grade depends on both timeliness and targeting. To receive an A, a provision would have to begin quickly and go primarily to people who would most likely spend it or to businesses that would most likely use funds to retain workers or expand.

We do not consider the long-term effects on the economy.

An additional web page describes current law, the proposed change, and the short- and long-term effects on the budget, the economy, fairness, and tax complexity. There, we also discuss the likelihood that each proposal would actually expire as scheduled and, for some provisions, explain what changes would raise the grade to an A.

Our report card is preliminary and does not include all of the provisions in the bill – most notably we omit provisions providing about $48 billion of fiscal relief for state and local governments.

We may evaluate additional provisions and adjust our grades and analysis as we learn more about the proposals. In addition, TPC will update its Report Card as the stimulus bill moves through Congress.