At Wealth Enhancement Group, financial education has always been a priority and a commitment to our clients and the community. This article summarizes the details of the recent legislation. If you have questions about how these changes impact you personally, we are offering a complimentary 2011 tax planning review for those who are interested.
On December 17, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law The Reid-McConnell Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010. The Act is the result of a compromise struck between President Obama and Republican leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives to temporarily extend unemployment benefits, reduce Social Security taxes, extend the “Bush Tax Cuts,” and make a host of other tax changes.
The Act now extends most of the provisions of two separate tax relief laws, which were set to expire, until the end of 2012. It offers citizens a variety of benefits, primarily in the areas of estate tax and individual income tax.
Individual Income Tax Rates
As part of the Bush Tax Cuts extension, the Act extended the expiration date on income tax rates by an additional two years. The current income tax rates (top federal income tax bracket is 35% and the lowest income tax bracket is 10%) will remain the same for the next two years.
By keeping the rates unchanged, 2010 Roth conversions are more valuable. Individuals can opt for the two-year deferral and no additional costs are incurred.
Long-term capital gains and dividend tax rates stay at 15% if your taxable income is in the 25% tax bracket or higher, or 0% if your taxable income is in the 15% tax bracket or lower.
Under the new tax revisions, the estate tax rates are simply shortened by the Act at the top marginal rate of 35%. The brackets between 18% and 34% remain exactly the same, and the 35% bracket is imposed as the maximum rate.
The exemption amount has been raised to $5 million per person or $10 million per couple. Exemptions are portable between couples. This amount is indexed for inflation in multiples of $10,000 beginning in 2012. Starting January 1, 2013, the applicable exemption amount will revert back to $1 million as it was scheduled to do under previous legislation. The $5 million exemption amount is also applicable to gift taxes and the generation-skipping transfer tax.
As a result, more Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs will pass estate tax-free, and inherited Roth IRAs will be not only income tax-free but also estate tax-free.
Required minimum distributions (RMD) that have not been met in 2010 can still be taken and allocated as a donation to a specific charity until the end of January 2011. If one does not want to donate the IRA distribution to charity, then the 2010 RMD must be taken by year-end as usual. If it is not timely taken, the 50% penalty on the amount not taken will apply.
The Bottom Line
There are plenty of provisions to the Tax Relief Act, including the extension of charitable IRA distributions and land conservation easements, and these changes provide many tax planning opportunities for individuals.
It is important to remember that the Act is essentially a two-year patch to prevent economic damage from tax provisions that are expiring at an inconvenient time. This will all have to be revisited in two years, when the political party balance in Washington may be very different than it is today.
The national tax provisions can be complicated. At Wealth Enhancement Group, our knowledgeable team of specialists can help you better understand the changes and use them for your long-term financial success.