Prior to the implementation of the so-called “second Bush tax cut” – the Jobs Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 – the long-term capital gains tax rate was 20%, which was reduced to 10% for those in the lowest tax bracket. With the 2003 tax legislation, the maximum long-term capital gains rate was reduced to 15%, with a tax rate of 5% for the bottom two tax brackets, and in 2008 the latter rate was reduced to 0%. Those 15% / 0% long-term capital gains rates remain in effect today, and are scheduled under the Tax Relief Act of 2010 to continue until the end of 2012. After that point, the current laws expire, and the long-term capital gains rate reverts to its prior 20% / 10% rates… with the addition of another 3.8% for high income clients under the new Medicare unearned income tax! Not only does the scheduled increase in long-term capital gains rates represent a rising potential tax burden for clients in the future, but it also creates a surprisingly counter-intuitive but beneficial tax planning strategy – instead of the traditional approach of harvesting capital losses, in 2012 it’s time to harvest long-term capital gains!Read More…
On October 3, 2008, then-President Bush signed into law the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. Although it was widely known as the “bailout” bill – it was the legislation that authorized the Treasury Secretary to use $700 billion under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) – the legislation also contained a number of measures to help bring in additional revenue to the Federal government.
Amongst those provisions was the establishment of a new requirement for financial intermediaries to track and report cost basis on securities transactions to the IRS on an updated Form 1099-B, to better ensure that taxpayers properly their gains and losses on investments and pay taxes as appropriate, and the new rules took effect for stocks that were purchased in 2011. Over the long run, the new rules will make it easier for clients to track the cost basis for most of their investments, simplifying reporting and preparing returns during tax season.
However, in the near term, the introduction of cost basis reporting brings new complexities and challenges to manage. To help support taxpayers through this process, the IRS has revamped Schedule D, and introduced the new Form 8949 – which may have to be done three times for many individuals! – for reporting capital gains and losses for the 2011 tax year.
While the tax code offers a deduction for investment management fees paid by an investor, it is a less than ideal tax deduction. Characterized as a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to the 2%-of-AGI floor, in practice it is not deductible unless the taxpayer both itemizes deductions in the first place, and has enough miscellaneous itemized deductions in total to exceed the required threshold. In addition, all such miscellaneous itemized deductions are disallowed for AMT purposes – especially problematic since the AMT is somewhat more likely to affect those with sufficient income and assets to be paying such fees in the first place.
To avoid this tax result, some clients and their accountants have been going an alternate route: capitalizing the investment management fee into the cost basis of the assets being managed, which at least provides some tax benefit, by increasing the cost basis and reducing future capital gains (or increasing the losses). Unfortunately, though, the IRS has already responded to the strategy: Just Don’t Do It.Read More…
When it comes to my personal taxes I am a chronic late filer. In my own defense, it is usually because some partnership or another could not get me my K-1’s by the deadline so I go ahead and file the extension. Or maybe it’s because the pain of actually seeing my tax bill is too great and I find a way to defer that decidedly unpleasurable experience to a later date. This year I had a large tax liability associated with capital gains in my managed accounts, and since 100% of my money is invested in the Pinnacle DMG portfolio I couldn’t help but think of other Pinnacle clients in the same boat. Since cutting a check to the IRS has the remarkable ability to focus my thinking about tax planning, I thought I would share a few of the thoughts that crossed my mind at the time.Read More…
Although we often think of the IRA as simply another account, the tax law generally regards it as a quasi-entity that is separate from the individual who owns it. Both the individual and the IRA have their own separate tax rules that apply; intermingling money is not allowed (due to contribution limits), and even paying each others’ costs can get a client into some hot water. Accordingly, clients must be very careful when they use their own "outside" dollars to pay any form of expenses that are associated with the IRA itself. Fortunately, in a recent private letter ruling, the IRS did (re-)affirm that an IRA’s wrap fee expenses are an acceptable cost to pay on behalf of an IRA with outside dollars, while not running afoul of the IRA rules and limitations.
Under the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (or the “Tax Relief Act” for short!) signed into law by President Obama on December 17th, taxpayers over age 70 1/2 may once again make up to $100,000 per year of so-called “qualified charitable distributions” out of their IRAs and directly to a charity, for the 2010 and 2011 tax years. Doing so allows the entire amount of the distribution to be excluded from income, effectively ensuring that those IRA dollars are never taxed, while also satisfying charitable goals.
Unfortunately, the problem is that this is actually a remarkably INefficient way to make significant charitable gifts, compared to other alternatives available under the tax law!
The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, passed earlier this year on September 27th, opened up the possibility of completing an in-plan Roth conversion rollover from a 401(k) or 403(b) to a Roth 401(k) or Roth 403(b). However, the rules are not quite as simple and flexible as typical Roth conversions, due to the fact that the account is still first and foremost a qualified employer retirement plan. Fortunately, the IRS has issued guidance to help individuals understand the details of the new rules – which is fortunate, because there are some significant differences that could otherwise catch clients (and their planners) unaware!
Earlier this week, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform released a draft version of its proposals on how to take control of our nation’s deficit challenges, including suggestions for comprehensive tax reform. The good news in the proposal is that it includes a repeal of the highly unpopular Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The “bad” news is that the proposal also includes a repeal of many popular tax credits and deductions as well. But the reality is that we can’t really have one, without the other.
Given the wild unpopularity of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and the implicit higher tax burden it carries, it’s no great surprise that most people wish to avoid the AMT. However, the reality is that while the actual higher tax burden of the AMT may not be desirable, the tax impact – at the margin- of having more income subject to the AMT can actually be good news!
It’s difficult to go far in the world of financial planning these days without hearing a discussion about the “inevitability” of higher taxes in the future, leading to a broad range of tax planning strategies to dodge the anticipated increase in the income tax brackets. But in practice, it seems that we might be confusing the idea that the government will need to collect more tax dollars in the aggregate from us – a higher tax burden – with the belief that today’s income tax brackets are at a low point that must rise. One does not, necessarily, lead to the other.Read More…