'Cliff' deadlock: 'This is painful'
Amy Finnegan would have loved a day off on New Year's Eve.
If negotiations over the “fiscal cliff” hadn't lingered into Monday, Finnegan probably would have gotten one.
The last hours of 2012 instead found Finnegan, the payroll and insurance manager for Moon Area School District, at work processing the first 600 paychecks for 2013. She hoped federal officials would set the 2013 tax rates before her bank deadline this week.
“That's not going to happen,” Finnegan said Monday from her office, where she relied on 2012 tax tables and a possible increase in Social Security collections to set withholding rates. “Each week they delay is just more inconvenience for (workers). We're either underwithholding or overwithholding.”
From payroll to private accounting offices, uncertainty over 2013 income and other federal taxes left many Western Pennsylvanians debating their own fiscal plans and frustrated with elected leaders. By Monday afternoon, President Obama said an agreement appeared “within sight” to avoid automatic tax increases and spending cuts at midnight Tuesday.
Frank Passant, 51, of Oakmont watched the developments closely. He estimated “it probably cost me a couple thousand dollars just to plan for this damned thing.”
His worries went beyond income taxes to how Congress and Obama would act on capital-gains assessments and federal levies on investments. He decided against making big financial moves for the time being.
“We just don't know what they're going to do,” Passant said. “It's awful.”
One of Passant's financial advisers, Dennis Piper, said most of his clients would be minimally affected if the country reverts to Clinton-era federal tax rates.
“Bottom line: We've got a deficit we've got to take care of,” said Piper, owner of Dennis Piper and Associates in the Fox Chapel area. “Whose ox gets gored?”
In Greensburg, tax attorney Pat A. Iezzi Jr. said people were selling stocks to avoid potentially higher tax rates in 2013.
“Several companies accelerated their dividends, even moved them into 2012, so shareholders wouldn't have to pay higher taxes. You see that a lot,” said Iezzi, a Certified Public Accountant.
A few Western Pennsylvania companies — Dick's Sporting Goods Inc., Mine Safety Appliances Co., HFF Inc., Fed First Financial Corp. and American Eagle Outfitters Inc. — accelerated cash dividends.
On the other end, complications from the federal impasse may lead some taxpayers to miss the standard April 15 deadline for income-tax returns, Iezzi said.
Some observers couldn't recall end-of-year tax uncertainty of such broad magnitude before.
“I think this wait-and-see attitude exists across the whole country, whether you're managing a business or an individual,” said J. Eric Renner, an executive vice president at Indiana-based First Commonwealth Bank.
At ATI Financial Services in Wexford, some clients could get tax increases of $8,000 to $10,000 apiece for 2012, depending on how Congress handles the alternative minimum tax, partner Ralph Duckworth Jr. said. He said ambiguity over tax policy could complicate decisions on retirement or selling stocks and bonds.
“We've been trying to help as best we can to do tax planning. But it's exceptionally difficult,” said Duckworth, a CPA.
He said hang-ups in Congress could have a domino effect on tax refunds in 2013, delaying their delivery and putting another squeeze on the economy.
“I just hope this isn't a new way of conducting the legislative process in Washington,” Duckworth said. “This is painful.”
Adam Smeltz and Amanda Dolasinski are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Smeltz can be reached at 412-380-5676 or email@example.com. Dolasinski can be reached at 724-836-6220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pew Research Center poll shows most Americans take gun rights over control
- Trade Institute of Pittsburgh helps rebuild lives of ex-convicts
- Healthy Ride, Pittsburgh’s bike share program, won’t require helmets
- Deputies arrest couple, seize 45 bricks of heroin in Penn Hills
- Tree giveaway kicks off Earth Week in Pittsburgh
- 2 Georgia men charged in Pittsburgh jury duty scam
- Pittsburgh worked, supplied materials in Civil War
- Security agents discover handgun in man’s carry-on at Pittsburgh International Airport
- Community College of Allegheny County puts $22M into building renovations at North Side campus
- Pittsburgh pair plans rare trip to Iran for American classical musicians
- Heroin overdoses kill two in Pittsburgh area; others revived with Narcan