"Congress has been applying a one-year patch every year for several years now, usually late in the year," Luscombe says. "Like previous legislation, this provides a little bump designed to continue the status quo. If you were in the AMT before, you probably still will be. If you weren't, then you probably won't be in 2009."
Luscombe says the AMT provision isn't likely to have much effect on the overall economy, but it will lessen uncertainty and help people plan their tax moves earlier in the year.
7. More credit for your children Some parents will get extra credit for their kids via a more generous refundable portion of the child tax credit, also known as the "additional" child tax credit.
With the child tax credit, parents can claim $1,000 per child. But if their tax bill is less than $1,000, the credit can only be used to offset the amount owed. Some parents can recoup the excess credit even if they owe no taxes by claiming the additional child tax credit portion. The exact credit amount is based on 15 percent of income above the threshold amount.
Under the economic-stimulus package, the earnings threshold to qualify for the child tax credit falls to $3,000 in 2009 and 2010 from the 2008 level of $8,500.
"If these changes are figured into withholding, taxpayers will have a few extra dollars in every paycheck, which they presumably will spend," Luscombe says.
8. Breaks for lower-income workers The law also tweaks the earned income tax credit, or EITC, expanding this tax break for lower- and middle-income workers for the 2009 and 2010 tax years.
The income range in which the credit is phased out has been increased, meaning these workers will be able to keep more of the credit even if their incomes increase. Eligible families with three or more children also will see an increase in their payments, collecting as much as $629 more in 2009.