WASHINGTON - The U.S. is headed for a deep recession in the first half of 2013 if Congress fails to avert nearly $500 billion in tax hikes and federal budget cuts from the "fiscal cliff," the Congressional Budget Office warned Wednesday.

The "fiscal cliff" or "taxmaggedon" refers to the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year and the more than $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts slated to go into effect in January.

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