What Is a Fiscal Cliff Agreement

The Fiscal Cliff Agreement: What You Need to Know

The term “fiscal cliff” has been a buzzword in the media for several years. It refers to a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that were set to take place at the end of 2012. The idea behind this was to reduce the budget deficit and bring the national debt under control. However, the potential consequences of such a sudden change were so dire that officials scrambled to come up with an agreement that would prevent the country from going over the “cliff.”

What Is the Fiscal Cliff Agreement?

The Fiscal Cliff Agreement is a package of laws that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in January 2013. The agreement was designed to prevent the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that would have occurred if the country had gone over the fiscal cliff. Instead, the agreement introduced a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that were less extreme than those originally proposed.

What Did the Fiscal Cliff Agreement Do?

The Fiscal Cliff Agreement had several key components. Some of the most significant changes included:

1. Tax rates: The agreement extended the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans earning less than $400,000 per year. For those earning more than that, the tax rate increased from 35% to 39.6%.

2. Payroll taxes: The agreement allowed the payroll tax cut to expire, meaning that employees would pay 6.2% of their wages in Social Security taxes, rather than the previous rate of 4.2%.

3. Sequestration: The agreement postponed the automatic spending cuts that were set to take place under the Budget Control Act of 2011. However, it did not eliminate them entirely. Instead, the cuts were delayed for two months, to allow time for Congress to come up with a longer-term solution.

4. Other tax changes: The agreement included several other changes to the tax code, including an extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) patch, and the estate tax.

What Are the Pros and Cons of the Fiscal Cliff Agreement?

The Fiscal Cliff Agreement has been somewhat controversial, with some people praising it as a necessary compromise, while others criticize it for not going far enough. Some of the pros and cons of the agreement include:


1. It prevented the United States from going over the fiscal cliff, which would have had severe economic consequences.

2. It reduced the deficit by raising taxes and cutting spending, which was seen as a necessary step toward long-term fiscal stability.

3. It provided some certainty to taxpayers and businesses by establishing a clear tax framework for the next several years.


1. It did not do enough to address the long-term deficit, which continues to be a significant problem.

2. It did not address some of the more significant structural issues with the tax code, including corporate tax reform, which many experts believe is necessary for a more sustainable fiscal future.

3. It did not address the looming issue of entitlement reform, which is seen as a crucial part of any long-term solution to the country`s fiscal problems.


The Fiscal Cliff Agreement was a significant piece of legislation that helped to avert a potentially disastrous economic situation. While it was not perfect, it did provide some much-needed stability to the tax code and the broader economy. However, it is clear that more work needs to be done to address the country`s long-term fiscal challenges, including entitlement reform and corporate tax reform. Only through bipartisan cooperation and a willingness to tackle these tough issues can the United States build a more sustainable economic future.