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Nov 27 2011

Depends on your definition of the word- ‘Deepens’

The Tax Mess Deepens

By LAURA SAUNDERS, The Wall Street Journal

NOVEMBER 26, 2011

The tax code is wondrous for investors. Not only is the top rate on long-term capital gains 15%, but investors also can time gains and losses to minimize tax. Also, up to $3,000 of long-term losses can be deducted against ordinary income from wages or other sources, which are taxed at up to a 35% rate. Unused losses carry over to future years.



The current top rate of 15% on long-term gains and dividends is a historic low, and a new 3.8% tax on net investment income is set to take effect in 2013 for many joint filers.

That tax will affect taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $250,000 or more (or $200,000 for single filers), and the levy applies to taxable interest, dividends, rents, some annuities, royalties and capital gains, including the sale of a house, after a $500,000 exclusion ($250,000 for single filers).



Sole proprietors and other businesses reporting on Schedule C of a personal return should check expanded write-offs that become less generous at the end of 2011.

One provision allows an immediate deduction for up to $500,000 of qualified costs, which can be for a car, truck, computer, desk, chairs or other equipment, as long as it is purchased and placed in service before the end of the year. Small retailers may deduct up to $250,000 in leasehold improvements under this provision.

Another provision, “bonus” depreciation, is also changing. A favorite use is to take a full write-off of SUVs over 6,000 pounds in the first year.



Despite rampant rumors, this area  (Estate and Gift Taxes) is expected to remain stable through the end of 2012. At that point, the estate tax is slated to snap back to its 2001 version, with a $1 million exemption per individual and a top rate of 55%.

That is far worse for taxpayers than current law, which has a gift- and estate-tax exemption of $5 million per individual and a top rate of 35%.



Separate from the $5 million gift-tax exemption, any taxpayer may give anyone up to $13,000 of cash or property a year, free of gift tax. So if Ed and Edna have three married children and six grandchildren, they could give away up to $312,000 per year free of tax. If the property isn’t cash, the giver’s cost basis carries over to the recipient.

In one twist, some taxpayers use this provision to forgive up to $13,000 of intrafamily loans a year. In another, a taxpayer may bunch up to five years of such annual gifts-$65,000 per donor-in one contribution to a “529 plan” that will be used for qualified education costs. The giver may withdraw principal free of penalty if needed.

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