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Fiscal Politics

Making the Well-Off Pony Up

Governments around the world want to levy new taxes on their affluent citizens. President Barack Obama's 2011 budget calls for a return to a top U.S. tax rate of 39.6 percent for joint filers earning more than $250,000 a year. The current rate is 35 percent. Obama's budget also restores capital gains taxes to the 2001 level of 20 percent, from 15 percent now, for those in the top bracket. Here are other proposals.


The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition just announced plans to tax capital gains on shares and sales of second homes at rates "closer to those applied to income." That could mean a sharp jump from the current 18 percent capital-gains rate.


On May 26, Spain's Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said that the wealthiest should be taxed more than the current 43 percent to help close the budget deficit, the euro zone's third-largest.


Sweden's three-party opposition alliance, which leads in most polls running up to parliamentary elections on Sept. 19, pledged on May 3 to raise income taxes for top earners.


In March the government raised the rate on personal income tax to 45 percent for income above $182,000 annually. The previous maximum tax rate was 42 percent.


On Mar. 3, Greek Finance Minister George Papconstantinou added a tax bracket of 45 percent for Greeks declaring incomes of more than $121,000. Before then, the highest tax rate was 40 percent.


In January 2010, Mexico's government raised the income tax for high-earning individuals to as high as 30 percent. The tax is scheduled to drop back to 28 percent in 2014.


French Labor Minister Eric Woerth is negotiating with business leaders over new taxes for the wealthy.


Oregon voters approved an income tax hike to 10.8 percent, from 9 percent, on households earning more than $250,000. In Washington State, a proposed ballot would create an income tax, the state's first, of 5 percent for individuals earning more than $200,000.

Winter is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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