As chief planning officer at Buckingham Wealth Partners, Jeffrey Levine’s expertise on the tax, estate and overall financial planning landscape is well-known across the industry.
Levine, a CPA and certified financial planner, sees his mission as a simple one: Never stop learning and helping to simplify the complexity of IRA rules, taxes and estate planning strategies for advisors, so they can use cutting-edge strategies developed to help clients keep more of their hard-earned money.
Via email, we asked a series of questions that touched on not only his professional knowledge but what he does off the clock as well.
1. What market indicator, industry statistic, regulatory change or advisor trend are you watching most closely right now and why?
Jeffrey Levine: It would be hard to come up with anything that’s been more top of mind lately than the proposed tax changes.
While it now appears that many of the larger potential changes that had concerned advisors and clients earlier this year (e.g., increases to the top ordinary income and top capital gains rates, decreasing the estate/gift tax exemption) will no longer occur, there’s still a lot on the table that has the potential to impact planning for years to come.
2. How has it been changing recently (2021) and how do you expect it to change (2022)?
Tax changes for 2022 and beyond have been a moving target all year. Earlier this year, President Biden submitted his formal budget request to Congress, which largely mirrored the proposals he had campaigned on en route to the presidency.
But when the first proposed draft legislation emerged from the House earlier this fall, its proposed changes were dramatically different than those which had been supported by President Biden.
And, since the release of that first draft legislation, the bill has undergone a number of substantial revisions, most of which have reduced the proposed changes’ potential impact on high-income and high-net-worth individuals.
Ultimately, I expect Congress to move the pared down (but still impactful to many clients) bill through before the end of the year. That said, 2022 could be another year where advisors and clients will want to keep a keen eye on Washington.
More specifically, earlier this year, the House Ways and Means Committee unanimously approved more significant changes to retirement account rules via what’s come to be popularly known as SECURE Act 2.0. In addition, there are a number of potential changes to the Social Security rules being discussed that could impact both workers and recipients of benefits.
Ultimately, it comes down to one simple idea: the only thing constant with our laws is change.
3. What would you suggest advisors do now or consider doing in the future about it?
Keeping track of changes in the law can be a daunting task for advisors, especially for solo advisors and small ensemble practices, where the same person often has to wear many hats.
But the reality is there’s no way you can possibly deliver the best possible advice to clients if you don’t know the rules of the game. It would be like trying to play poker without knowing that three-of-a-kind beats two pair. Sure, you can win a few hands thanks to good old fashioned luck, but if you play enough hands, you’re almost certainly going to be a loser.
4. Who or what critical source of information do you track, or follow online, to keep up with this or other trends?
When it comes to keeping tabs on potential tax legislation, I pretty much divide how I keep up with things into two separate areas.
First, there’s keeping track of where things stand at the current moment with respect to any changes. For that, I follow CSPAN, all the major news outlets, as well as a bunch of Washington insiders. Twitter is awesome for this as well, and when it comes to potential tax changes, three of my favorite follows are @LisaDNews, @RichardRubinDC and @elwasson.
On the other hand, there’s how I keep up with the actual potential changes and, for that, I go right to the source. Anyone who follows me on Twitter probably knows that anytime there’s a major change in the law or a really significant piece of proposed legislation, I’m reading the actual legislative (or regulatory, or other authoritative) text directly, and interpreting it and breaking it down myself.