WASHINGTON — Rising tax receipts are shrinking the federal deficit, and that will shape the budget debate when Congress returns from vacation next month. The big question for lawmakers: Should they renew, end or modify the tens of billions of dollars in “sequester” cuts in government spending that took effect earlier this year?

Tax revenue through June was up 14 percent from a year earlier, and that trend is expected to continue. New figures for July are due out next week, and for August on Sept. 12. That’s just three days after lawmakers return to face threats by some conservatives of a government shutdown on Oct. 1 or an economy-threatening default on the national debt weeks later.

Some economists worry that currently rising revenue numbers will reduce the pressure to address the nation’s long-term debt problems.

“I don’t think political leaders feel that they have a gun to their head the way they did a couple years ago,” said William Gale, a former economic adviser to President George H.W. Bush and now co-director of the Tax Policy Center. “There’s a desire on some sides to declare ‘mission accomplished’ and ignore the long-term deficits and move on to other issues.”

Several factors are contributing to the increase in revenue. Congress increased income tax rates on high-income families in January. The Congressional Budget Office says some of those taxpayers probably cashed in investments ahead of the tax hike, boosting capital gains taxes. Congress also let a temporary payroll tax cut expire at the end of 2012, increasing Social Security taxes.

CBO also said a rise in personal income is adding to tax revenue, even though economic growth has been sluggish.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.