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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch speaks to reporters after participating in a debate with Dan Liljenquist at KSL in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday, June 15, 2012.

SALT LAKE CITY — Senate candidate Scott Howell is questioning the so-called "taxmageddon" Sen. Orrin Hatch claims would cause Utahns' taxes to go up next year.

Hatch's "rhetoric does not match reality," the Democratic challenger said in the latest verbal battle between the two candidates.

“The statements made by Orrin Hatch are demonstrably false,” said Howell. “The plan passed by the Senate would keep the tax rate at current levels for 98 percent of America’s working families. A family making $50,000 per year is well below the $250,000 threshold."

In the Republican Party's weekly radio address Saturday, Hatch said nearly every American could be on the hook to pay more taxes in 2013.

"In just over five months, middle-class families, job creators and seniors will get hit with a massive tax hike unless the president and Congress act," he said.

Hatch said a family of four earning $50,000 a year would pay $2,200 more in taxes, while married couples over age 65 making $40,000 annually would see their tax bill double.

Howell says that isn't true.

“I don’t know where he is getting his numbers,” he said. “The working-class tax rate has been locked in for 10 years. It makes you wonder what he’s thinking.”

According to the Hatch campaign, the senator used figures calculated by the Joint Committee on Taxation on sample tax returns for typical taxpayers.

Howell also criticized Hatch’s proposal to allow tax breaks for 13 million working families and 26 million children to expire at the end of the year. “In Utah, that’s nearly 121,000 families and over 288,000 children,” he said.

The plan also would take hundreds of thousands of dollars out the pockets of working-class Utah families, said Howell, former Utah Senate minority leader.

"It is unconscionable. We are still in a recession," he said. "Working-class families need these tax cuts that the senator opposes."   

The Senate last week approved a Democratic plan to extend the Bush-era tax rates on family income up to $250,000 and rejected a GOP plan to extend the rates across the board. The House is expected to vote on both plans this week.

Republicans have labeled the Democratic plan a “small business tax hike” that will hit job creators.

"The uncertainty caused by this tax crisis or taxmageddon  is contributing to America's lackluster economic recovery,” Hatch said. “That's not a Republican talking point. That's based on what job creators across the country are saying.”

Hatch said that President Barack Obama had agreed to extend all the tax rates in 2010 when the economy was in a similarly precarious condition.