Cliff Notes

Cliff Notes
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BNY Mellon's Tax Reform and Legislative Update

As debates and negotiations around the pending ‘fiscal cliff’ continue, we at BNY Mellon Wealth Management are watching closely and assessing how potential changes might impact our clients’ strategies and portfolios. To share the latest news and our thoughts on its implications, we've created this ‘Cliff Notes’ bulletin. We hope this resource—which we’ll continue to update over the coming weeks—will be helpful to all during this uncertain time.

Latest Update:  January 7, 2013
After exhaustive negotiations over the last week of 2012, the Senate and the House approved, and the President signed, The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, addressing the tax portion of the so-called fiscal cliff crisis.

While the legislation is primarily a tax bill, it temporarily delays for two months the so-called sequester, a series of automatic spending cuts to the budgets of the Pentagon and various domestic agencies that would have gone into effect on January 1, 2013. The legislation also does not address the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling that the government reached New Year's Eve.

The legislation will raise approximately $600 billion in new revenue over 10 years when compared to the tax provisions that were due to expire on December 31, 20121.

From an investment perspective, by making tax rates permanent, lawmakers have created a more stable environment, allowing for easier business planning and investment planning. With the debate on

spending reductions and the debt ceiling postponed, however, investors should anticipate another showdown in Washington over the next two months.

Overall, these tax changes should have only a slightly negative impact on growth in the U.S. in 2013. In particular, the reduction in take-home pay as a result of the payroll tax may impact consumer spending and result in an initial softness in retail sales during the first half of the year. Nevertheless, we expect growth to rebound in the second half, forecasting a 2.2% annual growth rate for 2013 and about 3.0% in 2014. We expect interest rates to remain range bound—between 1.25% and 2.75% on the 10-year Treasury—and inflation to remain tame.

Given the unresolved fiscal issues, we expect more market volatility near term. However, just as equity markets did throughout 2012, we expect the market to grind higher once uncertainty is removed. We continue to favor equities over bonds and, in particular, we prefer large cap stocks. We also continue to favor dividend-paying companies that can grow dividends over time. While dividend and capital gains tax rates will increase for high income taxpayers, we believe these levels are low enough that investment behavior shifts should be minimal. Lastly, additional volatility likely will create potential buying opportunities for those investors who have longer-term horizons and are willing to act.

Explore the tabs below for more information and highlights of the Act:

Tax Rates
  • Permanently extends the federal income tax rates on incomes up to $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples. However, the legislation would raise the maximum tax rate for individuals with incomes of more than $400,000 and couples with incomes of more than $450,000 from 35% to 39.6%.

  • Extends the 15% tax rate on capital gains and dividends for individuals making up to $400,000 and married couples making up to $450,000. Taxpayers in the 10% and 15% tax bracket would continue to have a zero rate of tax on capital gains and dividends. However, the tax rate for individuals making over $400,000 or married couples making more than $450,000 increases from 15% to 20%.

  • Taxpayers should be aware that effective January 1, 2013 the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (often referred to as “Obamacare”), which was not affected by these fiscal cliff negotiations, imposes an additional 3.8% surtax on net investment income, including capital gains and dividends, on certain high income individuals. The surtax applies to the lesser of net investment income or modified adjusted gross income above $200,000 for individuals and heads of household, $250,000 for joint filers and surviving spouses, and $125,000 for married individuals filing separately.
Tax Rates
Estate, Gift and Generation-Skipping Tax
  • Preserves the current $5 million estate, gift, and generation skipping tax exemption ($10 million for married couples) adjusted for inflation, so the exemption for 2013 is approximately $5.25 million for individuals and $10.50 million for married couples.

  • Raises the estate tax rate from 35% to 40%.
Estate, Gift and Generation-Skipping Tax
Alternative Minimum Tax

Permanently adjusts the alternate minimum tax exemption for inflation.

Alternative Minimum Tax
Exemptions, Deductions and Credits
  • Caps itemized deductions and the phase-out of personal exemptions for individuals making $250,000 and married couples making $300,000.

  • Renews for five years the child care, earned income and tuition tax credits.

Exemptions, Deductions and Credits
IRA Charitable Rollovers
  • Extends the $100,000 IRA charitable “rollover” provision for 2012 and 2013

  • A special provision of the law allows qualified charitable distributions made during the month of January 2013 to be counted retroactively for the 2012 tax year. Under that provision, eligible taxpayers who make a qualified charitable distribution during the month of January 2013 can elect to have that distribution treated as if made on December 31, 2012.

  • In addition, an eligible taxpayer who has taken an otherwise qualifying distribution from an IRA after November 30, 2012 and before January 1, 2013, may transfer any portion of that distribution in cash to a qualifying charitable organization and elect to have that distribution treated as a 2012 qualified charitable distribution.  
IRA Charitable Rollovers
Unemployment

Extends unemployment benefits for one year.

 

Unemployment
Medicare

Prevents a 27% cut in Medicare payments to doctors for one year. This is the so-called “doc-fix.”

Medicare
Business Deductions

Renews for one year accelerated “bonus” depreciation for businesses investing in new property and equipment, the research and development tax credit and the tax credit for renewable energy.

Business Deductions
Social Security

Did not extend the 2% payroll tax cut first enacted two years ago. Thus, the payroll tax reverts to 6.2% for earned income up to $113,700.

Social Security
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Source: Congressional Budget Office

This material is provided for illustrative/educational purposes only. This material is not intended to constitute legal, tax, investment or financial advice. Effort has been made to ensure that the material presented herein is accurate at the time of publication. However, this material is not intended to be a full and exhaustive explanation of the law in any area or of all of the tax, investment or financial options available. The information discussed herein may not be applicable to or appropriate for every investor and should be used only after consultation with professionals who have reviewed your specific situation.

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