The Bush Tax Cuts: What Are They — Part 2

Rob Rumley, ass’t vp & financial advisor at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Atlanta

The Bush Tax Cuts: What are They? (Part 1 of 2), defined several Bush tax cuts that are set to expire at year end. They include a federal tax rates increase, an increase in capital gains or qualified dividends, and a lowered maximum for estate and gift tax exclusions. So, how will the potential expiration of these tax cuts affect families with children? What about the proverbial married DINKs (double-income-no-kids)? How will the new taxes and increases related to healthcare play out? What should we do to plan for it? As you can imagine, not everyone is affected by all the changes, but we all should give some attention to the many moving parts.

Child Tax Credit
The child tax credit is a federal tax break designed to reduce taxes for people with children. Currently, the tax credit provides up to $1,000 in relief for every qualified child younger than 17. Unless there’s further legislation, the child tax credit will revert to its previous maximum of $500 per child starting in 2013.
Marriage Penalty
The Bush tax cuts gave a married couple filing jointly a standard deduction twice that of a single filer, where before it was only 40% more. This helped keep the marriage penalty from biting lower and middle-income couples. If the tax cuts expire, starting next year, the joint-filer tax brackets will contract, causing higher tax bills for many lower and middle-income income couples due to a harsher marriage penalty.
New Taxes and Increases to Consider
The Medicare payroll tax is going up for individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000. Currently, the Medicare payroll tax is 2.9% on all wages — split between employers and employees. Under the health care law, starting in 2013, high-income individuals will pay another 0.9 percentage point on earned income over $200,000 ($250,000 if married).
In addition, as part of the health care reform law, high-income households will also be subject to a new 3.8% Medicare tax on investment income starting in 2013. This includes capital gains, dividends, interest, annuities, royalties and rents. It would not apply to non-taxable income such as municipal bond interest and distributions from IRA and 401(k) accounts.
Being financially prepared for the potential Bush tax cuts, in my opinion, is important. I would recommend talking with your financial advisor soon about the details of your financial plan and discuss what changes may need to be made.
Rob Rumley [] may only transact business in states where he is registered or excluded or exempted from registration. Transacting business, follow-up and individualized responses involving either effecting or attempting to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation, will not be made to persons in states where they are not registered or excluded or exempt from registration.

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