People get ready.
More individuals will be snared by the alternative minimum tax (AMT), and various deductions. Other tax breaks will be unavailable. As a result of expiring Bush-era tax cuts, individuals will face higher tax rates next year on their income, including capital gains and dividends, and estate tax rates will also be higher. AMT became problematic this year because exemptions have dropped and fewer personal credits can be used to offset them.
Additionally, a number of tax provisions expired at the end of 2011 or will expire at the end of 2012. For example, rules that expired at the end of 2011 include:
- Research credit for businesses.
- Election to take an itemized deduction for state and local general sales taxes instead of the itemized deduction permitted for state and local income taxes.
- Above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition expenses.
- Rules that expire at the end of 2012 include:
- Generous bonus depreciation allowances and expensing allowances for business.
- Expanded tax credits for higher education costs.
Remember, these adverse tax consequences are by no means a certainty as Congress and President Obama could extend the Bush-era tax cuts for some or all taxpayers and retroactively “patch” the AMT for 2012. This would increase exemptions and availability of credits, revive some favorable expired tax rules and extend those that are slated to expire at the end of this year.
But – this is not the time for inaction. The prospect of higher taxes next year makes it even more important to engage in year-end planning now.
We’ve put together a list of considerations for individuals and businesses that will guide you through these challenges. While not all actions will apply to your particular situation, many of these moves may benefit you. For further explanation or clarification, please call us at 561-798-9988.
Year-End Tax Planning Moves for Individuals
• Increase your FSA. Set aside more for next year in your employer’s health flexible spending account (FSA). Next year, the maximum contribution to a health FSA is $2,500. Remember – you will no longer be able to set aside amounts to get tax-free reimbursements for over-the-counter drugs, such as aspirin and antacids.
• Make HSA contributions. If you became eligible to make health savings account (HSA) contributions late this year (even in December), you can make a full year’s worth of deductible HSA contributions even if you were not eligible to make HSA contributions for the entire year.
• Realize losses on stock while preserving your investments. There are several ways this can be done. For example, you can sell the original holding then buy back the same securities at least 31 days later. It would be advisable for us to meet to discuss year-end trades you should consider making.
• Sell assets before year-end. If you are thinking of selling assets that are likely to yield large gains, such as inherited, valuable stock, or a vacation home in a desirable resort area, make the sale before year-end while still paying attention to the market.
• Sell and repurchase stock. You may own appreciated-in-value stock and want to lock in a 15% tax rate on the gain, but you think the stock still has plenty of room to grow. In this situation, consider selling the stock and then repurchasing it. You’ll pay a maximum tax of 15% on long-term gain from the stock you sell. You also will wind up with a higher basis (cost, for tax purposes) in the repurchased stock.
• Make contributions to Roth IRAs. Roth IRA payouts are tax-free and immune from the threat of higher tax rates, as long as they are made after a five-year period, and on or attaining age 59-½, after death or disability, or for a first-time home purchase.
• Convert traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs. This will help you avoid a possible hike in tax rates next year. Also, although a 2013 conversion won’t be hit by the 3.8% tax on unearned income, it could trigger that tax on your non-IRA gains, interest, and dividends. Conversions, however, should be approached with caution because they will increase your adjusted gross income [AGI] for 2012.
• Take required minimum distributions from retirement plans. This is applicable if you have reached age 70-½. Failure to take a required withdrawal can result in a penalty equal to 50% of the amount of the RMD not withdrawn. If you turn age 70-½ this year, you can delay the first required distribution to 2013, but if you do, you will have to take a double distribution in 2013—the amount required for 2012 plus the amount required for 2013. Think twice before doing this.
• Deduct your medical expenses. This year, unreimbursed medical expenses are deductible to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your AGI, but in 2013, for individuals under age 65, these expenses will be deductible only to the extent they exceed 10% of AGI.
• Shelter gifts. Make gifts sheltered by the annual gift tax exclusion before the end of the year to save gift and estate taxes. You can give $13,000 in 2012 to each of an unlimited number of individuals but you can’t carry over unused exclusions from one year to the next.
Year-End Tax Planning Moves for Business Owners
• Consider stock redemption. If your business is incorporated, consider taking money out of the business through a stock redemption. The buy-back of the stock may yield long-term capital gain or a dividend, depending on a variety of factors. But either way, you’ll be taxed at a maximum rate of only 15% if you act this year. Wait until next year and your long-term gains or dividends may be taxed at a higher rate if reform plans are instituted or the Bush-era tax cuts expire. Contact us for help on executing an effective pre-2013 corporate distribution. • Hire a veteran. If you are thinking of adding to payroll, consider hiring a qualifying veteran before year-end to qualify for a work opportunity tax credit (WOTC). Under current law, the WOTC for qualifying veterans won’t be available for post-2012 hires. The WOTC for hiring veterans ranges from $2,400 to $9,600, depending on a variety of factors (such as the veteran’s period of unemployment and whether he or she has a service-connected disability).
• Put new business equipment and machinery in service. This will allow you to qualify for the 50% bonus first-year depreciation allowance. Unless Congress acts, this bonus depreciation allowance generally won’t be available for property placed in service after 2012. (Certain specialized assets may, however, be placed in service in 2013.)
• Make expenses qualifying for the business property expensing option. The maximum amount you can expense for a tax year beginning in 2012 is $139,000 of the cost of qualifying property placed in service for that tax year. The $139,000 amount is reduced by which the cost of qualifying property placed in service during 2012 exceeds $560,000 (the investment ceiling). For tax years beginning in 2013, unless Congress makes a change, the expensing limit will be $25,000 and the investment ceiling will be $200,000.
• Buy a SUV. If you are in the market for a business car, and your taste runs to large, consider buying heavy SUVs (those built on a truck chassis and rated at more than 6,000 pounds gross (loaded) vehicle weight). Due to a combination of favorable depreciation and expensing rules, you may be able to write off most of the cost this year. Next year, the write off rules may not be as generous.
These considerations are just the beginning to creating a plan that will work for you. Whether you are planning for your family or business, contact us to discuss these options further.