In early December, the IRS and Treasury issued a series of Proposed Regulations for the two new Medicare taxes scheduled to begin on January 1, 2013 - the 3.8% Medicare tax on unearned income (generally, a 3.8% surtax on net investment income), and the 0.9% Medicare tax on earned income (i.e., wages and self-employment income), applied to "high income" individuals above certain thresholds. Although the new rules are still proposed and may ultimately be amended or changed, the Treasury and IRS nonetheless indicated that they can be relied upon by taxpayers. However, given the limited time to cultivate these regulations - including addressing potential loopholes - the rules did indicate that taxpayers should not try to read between the lines to find loopholes in the proposed regulations, and that the IRS will closely review transactions that manipulate net investment income to eliminate Medicare tax exposure.
While there were no huge surprises in the guidance, it does provide important clarification on a wide range of issues that planners and their clients must contend with heading into 2013, including how the Medicare tax rules interact with other parts of the tax code, and serves as a reminder to complete any last minute capital gains harvesting that high-income clients may wish to engage in before 2013 begins (including a special opportunity for Charitable Remainder Trusts!)!