During December, you should evaluate whether you’ll save any taxes by postponing 2013 income or deductions into 2014 or by accelerating 2014 income or deductions into 2013.? While many factors should be evaluated prior to making your final decision, a few items to keep in mind are as follows:
- For 2013, a single person will itemize once allowable deductions exceed $6,100 and a married couple will itemize once allowable deductions exceed $12,200.
- A taxpayer is no longer subject to Social Security or self-employment taxes once wages and net self-employment earnings exceed and $113,700 in 2013 and $117,000 in 2014.
- Miscellaneous itemized deductions, such as unreimbursed employee business expenses, are only deductible to the extent they exceed 2% of adjusted gross income (AGI). Items paid with credit cards are deductible in the year charged.
- Medical and dental expenses are deductible to the extent they exceed 7.5% of AGI, and are deductible in the year paid.
If you need assistance in determining whether you should either postpone or accelerate your income or deductions, or whether you?ll be hit by the AMT, please give us a call.
It’s not too late to cut your 2013 tax bill.? Prior to Dec. 31st:
- ?Increase your 401(k) and 403(b) contributions if you haven’t been contributing at the maximum rate all year.? This year you can put away up to $17,500 ($23,000 if 50 or older) into your 401(k) or 403(b) plan.? If you?re self-employed, consider setting up a Solo 401(k) by 12/31.
- Take a look at your withholdings and instruct your employer to withhold additional taxes if you haven?t had enough taxes withheld during the year and might get hit with an underpayment penalty.
- Consider selling your non-retirement investments that have decreased in value since your capital losses can offset other capital gains realized during the year (including from your mutual funds), and then can be used to offset up to $3,000 of wages and other income.
- Send in your January 2014 mortgage payment early enough so it will be processed prior to 12/31/13.? By sending in your payment a few weeks early, you can deduct the interest portion of that payment a full year earlier.
- Clean out your closets and donate your clothing and household items to a charitable organization since “non-cash” contributions are deductible if you itemize.? Don?t forget to get a receipt. And make sure to make a list of the donated items, including each item?s condition since only donations of clothing and household items in “good condition or better” qualify for a deduction.
- For gifts of money, making your donation by credit card before December 31st allows you to deduct the donation on this year’s return, even if you don’t pay your credit card bill until 2014.? And you always have the option of donating appreciated investments to charities. You get to claim your donation based on the value of the assets donated, without paying any capital gains taxes on the appreciation.
- Pre-pay your projected state tax shortfall if you’ll be itemizing your deductions and won?t be subject to the alternative minimum tax.
- Pre-pay or pay off your medical bills if your total medical expenses exceed 7.5% of your income and you itemize.
By Michael Bohigian, EA
In part 1 of this series, we looked at the income side of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.? We’ll wrap up with Deductions and some tax-savings tips.
What?s Being Deducted From Your Deductions
Please, No Pease!
At first blush, you may be inclined to utter this lament when learning about the reduction of your itemized deductions due to the Pease Limitation. Fear not: This provision should leave many popular deductions intact for most taxpayers, including deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving.
Here?s how it works: For a married couple, the Pease Limitation phases out itemized deductions by 3% of the amount that their adjusted gross income is over $300,000 [for individuals, the threshold is $250,000]. A married couple with an AGI of 800,000, for example, loses the right to deduct the first $15,000 of their itemized deductions. Since most of you already deduct more than this amount in state income taxes paid when you itemize, you effectively will still be able to deduct your mortgage interest and charitable giving. Take note that no matter how high your income, your itemized deductions cannot be phased out by more than 80%.
Personal Exemptions Phased Out
Similar to the phase out of itemized deductions, personal exemptions will be phased out at the rate of 2% for each $2,500 above $300,000 in income for married couples and $250,000 in income for individuals, causing high-income taxpayers to lose out on the tax break for themselves, their spouse, and their children and other dependents.
AMT Permanently ?Patched?
You no longer have to worry from year to year whether the government will patch the dreaded AMT. The Act permanently indexes the AMT to inflation, saving millions of people earning somewhere between $150,000 and $750,000 from paying this tax, and reducing the AMT for most other individuals who will end up paying this tax.
Payroll Tax Cuts Expired
The Act restores the pre-2011 Social Security tax rate of 6.2% on all non-government employees, after two years at a reduced rate of 4.2%. Physicians earning more than $113,700 should expect to pay an additional $2,274 in social security taxes in 2013 than in each of the previous two years.
Section 179 Deduction Limit Maintained at Half A Million
For those of you who are practice owners, you will be able to write off up to $500,000 in equipment and machinery purchases under Section 179 in 2013, and this amount is retroactive for 2012 as well. Prior to the legislation, the available Section 179 would have been drastically reduced to a paltry $25,000 in 2013. Under Section 179 of the IRS Tax Code, a taxpayer can elect to write-off the cost of equipment purchased and placed into business use during the year instead of ?depreciating? those assets over their useful life of 5 or 7 years, allowing for a much larger upfront tax deduction.
With the top marginal tax rate as high as it?s been in several years, and the new Medicare tax on investment income kicking in on January 1st, what can you do to minimize your tax burden?
Invest in retirement
Always a good idea, socking away money in retirement accounts is even more valuable now when it means saving 39.6% in federal income taxes and allowing your investment to grow tax-deferred. You should also consider rebalancing your portfolio, putting less tax-efficient investments in your tax-advantaged accounts while keeping index funds, ETFs, non-dividend paying stocks, and tax-exempt bonds and bond funds in your taxable accounts.
Contribute to a 529 plan
With investment income taxes higher in 2013, take the opportunity to invest in a 529 plan to begin planning for your child?s college education. All earnings in a 529 plan are tax-free, provided that the funds are used to pay for college. And many states even allow you to deduct a 529 contribution on your state tax return. The annual maximum contribution into these tax-advantaged college savings plans is $14,000 per child per year for Gift Tax purposes (or $28,000 for spouses splitting gifts), however, you can frontload five year?s worth of contributions all in one year. Don?t forget to file a Gift Tax Return if you contribute more than $14k ($28k if married) into 529 accounts in one calendar year on behalf of a child.
Purchase needed equipment and machinery for your practice
With the fate of the Section 179 deduction up in the air past 2013, it might be in your best interest to buy big-ticket equipment and machinery during the year to take advantage of the immediate deduction.
Employ your spouse and children
If there?s extra work to be done at your practice, putting your children and spouse on your payroll can be a great way to shift income to a lower tax bracket (in your child?s case) and enable your spouse to put away the maximum ($17,500 for 2013) pre-tax into a 401k retirement fund. Moreover, your child can fund a Roth IRA with the money they earn, up to a maximum of $5,500 in 2013.
Establish a Health Savings Account
If you have a qualified high-deductible health insurance plan, take advantage of the opportunity to pair it with a Health Savings Account (HSA). Contributions to an HSA are tax-deductible, grow tax-deferred, and allow tax-free distributions to cover your family?s health care costs. Plus, any money remaining in the HSA is available penalty-free to supplement your retirement once you reach age 65. The maximum contribution into an HSA for 2013 is $6,450 for married couples and $3,250 for single individuals.
The Big Picture
By and large, the American Taxpayer Relief Act maintained the status quo for most lower and middle-income Americans by extending many provisions into 2013 and making permanent many others. Those of you at the upper end of the income spectrum, however, may not feel as lucky. If that?s the case, perhaps you can take solace in the fact the Act did shunt some of the drastic tax increases set to take place. If there?s little comfort in that, remember that things could be much worse: The top marginal rate, a little more than 30 years ago, was at 70% after all.
Michael Bohigian, EA, is a staff accountant at Schwartz & Schwartz PC with a MS in Accounting and an MBA from Boston College.
On June 28th, the Supreme Court upheld most of the provisions of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Here are some of the tax increases that might affect you starting in 2013:
Increased and Expanded Medicare Taxes
High-income taxpayers will be paying higher Medicare taxes. Under the current rules, individuals have Medicare taxes withheld from their salaries at a rate of 1.45% on each dollar earned at work. Since employers match the amount withheld, Medicare receives a total of 2.9% for each payroll dollar paid out. And unlike Social Security taxes which max out at $110,100 (in 2012), there is no cap for Medicare taxes. Self-employed individuals also pay Medicare taxes at a rate of 2.9% on all of their net earnings.
Starting in 2013, the employee portion of the Medicare tax jumps by a whopping 62% – from the current rate of 1.45% to 2.35% – on earned income in excess of $200k for single individuals and $250k for married couples filing a joint tax return. As of now, the employer match is slated to remain at 1.45%, which means the total Medicare tax will be 3.8% for high-income taxpayers.
For example, if you’re single, and earn $500k from your job, expect to pay $2,700 in additional Medicare taxes (($500k – $200k) * .9%) for 2013.
For more information, check out the IRS’s Questions and Answers for the Additional Medicare Tax, which explains: The statute requires an employer to withhold Additional Medicare Tax on wages or compensation it pays to an employee in excess of $200,000 in a calendar year. An employer has this withholding obligation even though an employee may not be liable for the Additional Medicare Tax because, for example, the employee?s wages or other compensation together with that of his or her spouse (when filing a joint return) does not exceed the $250,000 liability threshold. Any withheld Additional Medicare Tax will be credited against the total tax liability shown on the individual?s income tax return (Form 1040).
To increase taxes for high-income individuals even more, the Medicare tax will also apply to unearned income for the first time since this tax was enacted. People over the $200k or $250k threshold should expect to pay Medicare taxes at a rate of 3.8% on interest, dividends, capital gains, and net rental income beginning in 2013. You will pay this tax in addition to any federal and state income taxes due on this income. We’ll provide you a link to this form when it becomes available.
Reduced Tax Breaks for Medical Expenses
Many employers offer their staff the ability to pay for their family’s healthcare costs with pre-tax dollars through a Flexible Savings Accounts (FSA) included as part of their benefits package. Starting in 2013, the maximum amount of money that you can set aside in an FSA will be cut in half to $2,500 per year. Plus, medical expenses you can pay through the FSA will exclude certain items currently allowed, including OTC medications. Please note, if you are married, both you and your spouse can put away the full $2,500 through your respective employer’s FSA.
The Patient Protection Act also makes it even tougher for individuals to deduct their medical expenses. Starting in 2013, you can only deduct your family’s medical expenses to the extent the allowable expenses exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income. That’s an increase of one-third over today’s threshold of 7.5% of AGI.
This new rule may not impact your taxes, however, thanks to the dreaded Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Since the current threshold for deducting medical expenses under the AMT is already 10% of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), many people who are hit by this tax every year might not see any tax increase due to this change.
Steps to Consider to Minimize These Taxes:
As with most other tax rules, there are ways to minimize the tax bite that will be caused by soon to be implemented changes to the Tax Code:
- Take a look at a Health Savings Account for your family.?? Money contributed into an HSA is tax-deductible, and money withdrawn for your family’s medical expenses is tax-free. We wrote about HSAs in our?MDTAXES? May 2012?Newsletter.
- Consider?selling appreciated investments in 2012 if you would otherwise sell them in 2013. No one know whether the tax rate on long-term capital gains will be higher than 15% in 2013. Add to this the 3.8% Medicare tax you’ll pay once your income exceeds $200k if single or $250k if married, and you could save a decent amount of taxes by selling by December 31st.
- Consider accelerating income into 2012 to reduce your 2013 income. This strategy includes one-time income generators, such as Roth Conversions.