Now that the president has
signed into law the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), it appears we
have landed on a ledge near the top of the fiscal cliff. ATRA raises the tax
rate on the nation’s highest earners while also extending many tax cuts for
individuals and businesses. Specifically, ATRA provides the following:
top marginal tax rate has been raised from 35% to 39.6% on married couples
earning more than $450,000 ($400,000 for single filers); these thresholds
have been indexed for inflation.
tax rate on capital gains and qualified dividends has increased from 15%
to 20% on those taxpayers in the 39.6% tax bracket (further increased to
23.8% with the inclusion of the Medicare surtax as described below).
2001 and 2003 tax cuts have been permanently extended for taxpayers below
the 39.6% tax bracket (meaning all marginal rates below the top rate
remain as is).
payroll and self-employment tax (which reverts to 6.2% from 4.2% at the
beginning of 2013) was not addressed by ATRA and will increase as
phaseout of personal exemptions and itemized deductions for married
couples earning above $300,000 ($250,000 for single taxpayers) has been
permanently reinstated. The phaseout will not apply to taxpayers below
Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) was patched for 2012, and the exemption
amount has been permanently adjusted for inflation going forward.
American Opportunity Tax Credit for higher education and special relief
for families with three or more children has been extended for five years
- Many individual tax benefits have
been temporarily extended through 2013, including the tax-free
distribution from IRA accounts for charitable purposes.
Also of note, beginning in 2013,
the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act imposes a 3.8% surtax on passive
income and an additional .9% surtax on wages and self-employment income in
addition to current Social Security and Medicare taxes. The amount subject to
the 3.8% surtax is the lesser of net investment income or the excess of
modified adjusted gross income over $250,000 for taxpayers married filing
jointly ($200,000 for single filers). The .9% surtax will apply to earned
income above the same thresholds.
current estate tax exemption has been maintained at $5 million per person
and remains indexed for inflation (resulting in an exemption of $5.25
million in 2013).
gift tax and generation skipping tax exemptions remain coupled with the
estate tax exemption and are also indexed for inflation ($5.25 million in
top estate tax rate has increased from 35% to 40%.
portability of one spouse’s unused exemption to another spouse is now made
50% bonus depreciation has been extended through the end of 2013.
Section 179 asset expensing has been extended through 2013 and remains at
100 % exclusion for capital gains from qualified small business stock has
been extended through 2013.
business tax credits that expired at the end of 2011 have been extended
through 2013, including the research credit, the new markets credit, and
the work opportunity credit, among others.
We expect that further reforms to the tax code will take place
over the next six weeks, as negotiations continue over the postponed
sequestration cuts and the increase in the nation’s debt ceiling . It is
likely, however, that any further tax reform will be additional revisions or
extensions of current tax provisions, rather than wholesale tax reform. It
remains to be seen just how treacherous the next step off the ledge might be.
For more information or
questions about ATRA, the fiscal cliff, or any corporate business matter,
please contact Serge
O. Bechade, the author of this alert, or Corporate
Practice Group partner Robert
P. Maloney. You can reach Serge at 617 456 8016 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and Bob at 617 456 8008