Mid-Year Planning: Accounting for New Tax Rules
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), passed in early January, permanently extended a host of expiring tax provisions. It also largely set the rules for tax planning for 2013 and beyond. As you take stock of your tax situation this year, here are a few new wrinkles to keep in mind.
New top tax rate
The six tax brackets (10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35%) that applied for the last several years have been made permanent for most individuals. That's really good news, since it removes a great deal of uncertainty going forward (it's always easier to plan when you know what the tax rates will be the following year).
But higher-income individuals and families will have to contend with a new top federal income tax bracket starting this year, paying tax on a portion of their income at a rate of 39.6%. The new 39.6% rate applies to individuals with taxable income exceeding $400,000; married individuals filing joint federal income tax returns with taxable income exceeding $450,000; married individuals filing separate returns with taxable income exceeding $225,000; and individuals filing as head of household with taxable income exceeding $425,000.
Higher rates on investment income for some
Most individuals won't see any change in the rate at which they're paying tax on long-term capital gains and qualifying dividends. If you're in the 10% or 15% marginal income tax bracket, a special 0% rate will generally apply. If you are in the 25%, 28%, 33%, or 35% tax brackets, a 15% maximum rate will generally apply.
If you're in the new top 39.6% tax bracket, though, it's going to be a little different starting this year--that's because in 2013 a new maximum rate of 20% will generally apply to some or all of your long-term capital gains and qualifying dividends.
And keep in mind that a new Medicare contribution tax now applies to some or all of the net investment income of individuals with more than $200,000 in modified adjusted gross income ($250,000 for married couples filing a joint federal income tax return, and $125,000 for married individuals filing separate returns). The Medicare contribution tax is 3.8%, and is in addition to other taxes that apply.
- This year, if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is greater than $250,000 ($300,000 if you're married and file a joint return, $150,000 if married filing separately, and $275,000 if you file as head of household), your personal and dependency exemptions will be phased out in part or in full. Similarly, your itemized deductions may be limited.
- If you itemize deductions, note that the AGI threshold for deducting qualified medical expenses on Schedule A increased this year from 7.5% to 10% for most individuals. If you or your spouse will be 65 or older by the end of the year, though, the 7.5% threshold will continue to apply for 2013.
- The rules allowing qualified charitable distributions from IRAs were extended through 2013. This popular provision allows individuals age 70½ or older to make qualified charitable distributions of up to $100,000 from an IRA directly to a qualified charity; the charitable distributions are excluded from income and count toward satisfying any required minimum distributions for the year.
Make time to plan
It's never easy to set aside the time to analyze your current tax situation and project how you'll be affected by recent changes. But it's important to do so while you still have time to implement a plan and take action. This year, it's particularly important to consider all of your options if your income level brings you within range of one or more of the new provisions targeting higher-income individuals.