Taxes: Sweet & Sour

When most Americans cast eyes on their first paycheck of the new year, shudders flashed down their backbones straight to their wallets. To help offset higher benefits and the new medicare program, the social security withholding nick in take-home pay went up from 3.625% to 4.2% on Jan. 1. As a result, a man earning $100 a week saw his paycheck shrink 58¢. The $10,000-a-year man's first weekly take-home was down by $1.19.

That 4.2% slice comes out of every paycheck until the wage earner has paid the legal maximum of $277.20 ($103.20...