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We’ve skirted the Fiscal Cliff for now. However, I’m confident congress will drag us back there again soon. Thanks to their efforts, our nation now has a permanent personal income tax guidelines. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 has been enacted. How does the ATRA affect us? Let me count the ways, albeit briefly:
Fortunately, 98% of us will have no change to our federal income tax rate. The temporary ‘Bush’ tax cuts were made permanent for all but the highest tax bracket. The wealthiest individuals earning over $400,000 will indeed experience an increase from 35% to 39.6 %. Aside from personal income taxes, there are several additional tax shifts.
The payroll tax holiday is over. Every employee will pay 2% more, reverting to the original rates in place before the Job Creation Act of 2010. People making between $50,000 and $75,000 will pay about $800 more than last year to support the nation’s elderly. Families earning between $200,000 and $500,000 will be taxed an additional $2,700*.
The Alternate Minimum Tax threshold has been raised. For a married couple, the AMT will kick in once their income reaches $78,750 as opposed to $45,000. This is a significant benefit. More families will be able to keep cash in pocket instead of sending it to Uncle Sam. The ATRA also permanently allows folks to use some of their nonrefundable income tax credits to offset their AMT, further limiting their tax liability.
A brand new tax has been established. Individuals with an adjusted gross income exceeding $200,000 will be taxed up to 3.8% of their net investment income to help pay for the 2010 Affordable Care Act. A 0.9% surtax will also be added to wages over $200,000 to fund the ACA. For small business owners, there is a bit of a break. The deductions for material depreciation and research & development have been extended.
Regarding capital gains: people who rely on investment income, mainly retirees, can breathe a sigh of relief. Unless your unearned income is over $400,000 a year, your Capital Gains Tax rate will remain in place at 15%. Capital gains income over this threshold will now be taxed at a higher rate of 20%.
Also of concern to retirees are estate and gift taxes. The 5 million dollar estate tax exclusion has been made permanent. The portability of this estate tax exclusion has also been set in stone. However, the top estate tax rate has jumped from 35% to 40%. One more reason to celebrate: Qualified Charitable Distributions have been extended for one more year. This means that annual IRA distributions can be directed to charitable organizations tax free.
Overall, there are several retirement planning provisions included in this expansive new law. It is a great relief that congress has finally established these permanent tax provisions. Financial planners, both formal and informal, now have concrete guidance when planning for the future. I hope this brief summery is helpful. If you would like to know how the ATRA affects your finances specifically, may I suggest that you consider speaking with a Certified Financial PlannerTM practitioner.
*all data in this article found on www.taxpolicycenter.org, except for this paragraph. Refer to fffcpas.com/news/2013/01/07/major-provisions-of-the-american-taxpayer-relief-act-of-2012
Securities and Advisory Services offered through National Planning Corp. (NPC), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered investment advisor. EH Financial Group, Inc. and NPC are separate and unrelated companies.
By Emmy Hernandez JD, CFP®, Attorney at Law