Americans are facing an unprecedented $494 billion tax hike on Jan. 1, 2013. It’s been dubbed “Taxmageddon” given the economic devastation it would cause.

Conventional wisdom suggests lawmakers in Washington will wait until the 11th hour to come up with a solution. Fortunately, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced last week he won’t wait for a lame-duck session of Congress. From his speech to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s 2012 Fiscal Summit:

Tax hikes destroy jobs – especially an increase on the magnitude set for January 1st. Small businesses need to plan. We shouldn’t wait until New Year’s Eve to give American job creators the confidence that they aren’t going to get hit with a tax hike on New Year’s Day. Any sudden tax hike would hurt our economy, so this fall – before the election – the House of Representatives will vote to stop the largest tax increase in American history.

The bulk of Taxmageddon comes from expiration of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, but also means the child tax credit will be cut in half, the Alternative Minimum Tax patches end, the Death Tax returns to its 2001 level, and a handful of new Obamacare tax hikes take effect.

Here’s the outlook under Heritage’s Federal Budget in Pictures:

If this isn’t enough to scare you, then the prospect of waiting until after the November election should be. Here are five good reasons from Heritage’s J.D. Foster why Congress should act now:

  1. Families and small businesses should not be threatened by their own government with a devastating tax hike.
  2. A massive tax hike would obviously devastate the economy in 2013 and beyond, but the uncertainty about how, when, and even whether Congress will prevent Taxmageddon is already adding to the large cloud of uncertainties hanging over the economy, threatening to slow job growth even further.
  3. Congress has no excuse for threatening families and the economy with this tax hike with the entire summer legislative schedule wide open for business.
  4. Many Members of Congress of both parties agree with President Obama on the need for fundamental tax reform. Allowing Taxmageddon to go into effect would raise tax rates while increasing the tax on saving and investment—the opposite of tax reform’s results. Even though positive reforms are extremely unlikely in 2012, Congress can prevent a severe case of sound policy backsliding and create more opportunities for exploring positive options for tax reform in the balance of the year by preventing Taxmageddon quickly.
  5. Elections are referendums on past decisions and on the future direction of the country. Voters should be able to judge performance of their Members on more than just vague assurances. Those favoring raising taxes should have the opportunity to vote their beliefs while challengers announce their fidelity to higher taxes, and likewise for those favoring low taxes and limited government. Citizens can vote their beliefs based on solid information.

Conservatives should applaud Boehner for seeking a solution sooner rather than later. But without action from the do-nothing Senate, there’s little hope of stopping this enormous and unprecedented tax increase before November.