Don’t Let Clients Be Blinded by the 2013 Sunset: Tax Planning Now

More On Tax Planning

from The Advisor's Professional Library
  • IRAs: In General Individual Retirement Accounts are highly popular tools for contributing funds that grow on a tax deferred basis. Depending on the type of IRA, the accumulation can be tax free.
  • Health Insurance: Health and Medical Savings Accounts A Health Savings Account is a trust created exclusively for the purpose of paying qualified medical expenses of an account beneficiary. Although they are popular, they are not without their pitfalls and the regulations can be complicated. Learn more about how to avoid federal taxation on the accumulation and distributions of HSA.

Momentous tax changes may be lurking in 2013. It may not matter who is elected president this November, liberal, conservative, or middle-of-the-road. It’s really who controls Congress that’s important, and if they can, or will, work with the president. And, unless Congress acts, the Bush-era tax rate breaks—those enacted in 2001 and 2003 (EGTRRA and JGTRRA) and extended by Congress—will come to an end (or sunset) on Jan. 1 of 2013.

The most likely scenarios are that tax breaks may be terminated, deferred entirely or deferred for all taxpayers other than those with higher incomes. Or perhaps something else, depending on our lawmakers. Congress might just defer the sunsets, with a few changes and modifications, and extend expiring tax provisions.  

Besides tax rate breaks, there are many other tax areas that will be affected. Let’s look at a few.

Capital Gains and Dividend Taxes
Most long-term capital gains are taxed at a 15% rate (with some taxed at 0%), with qualified dividend income taxed at the same rates. Under the sunset, most long-term capital gains will be taxed at a maximum rate of 20% (18% for certain assets held more than five years). And dividends for individuals will be taxed at ordinary income rates.

Estate and Gift Taxes
For 2011 and 2012 the estate and gift tax rates are the same or “unified.” Come 2013, if Congress doesn’t act, the rules that would have been in effect back in 2001 will apply. Some of them: the applicable exclusion amount will be $1 million (now $5.12 million), and the maximum estate and gift tax will be 55% (now 35%).


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Obamacare Tax
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), after Dec. 31, 2012, a 3.8% tax applies to the lesser of: (1) net investment income, or (2) the excess of modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) over threshold amounts—$250,000 for joint filers or surviving spouses, $125,000 for a married individual filing a separate return, and $200,000 for all others. (MAGI is adjusted gross income (AGI), increased by certain foreign income amounts, and “net investment income” has its own special definition applicable to this tax].

It may be good advice to die now (if morbid), but if that’s not possible or desirable, taxpayers should consider planning to move income items into 2012, when rates may well be lower, and at least some certainty prevails.


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