The stalemate between Democrats and Republicans over federal spending has raised the stakes of this year's election by a minimum of $494 billion.
Without congressional action, taxes will increase by that much as the Bush tax cuts and other temporary tax breaks expire on Dec. 31. President Obama and a Democratic Congress failed to make those tax cuts permanent.
The Bush tax cuts gave every taxpayer a break, but they also included goodies for non-taxpayers. The child tax credit doubled to $1,000 per child for middle-class and low-income families.
If the Bush tax cuts expire, the child tax credit will be cut to $500 per child.
Also, the temporary reduction in the "payroll tax" - which finances Social Security - expires on Dec. 31.
According to the Heritage Foundation, if nothing is done:
* 53.8 million low-income workers will see an average tax increase of $1,207 on an average income of $24,757.
* 33.1 million retirees will see an average tax increase of $857 on an average income of $42,553.