Friday, December 28, 2012

Alternative Minimum Tax or AMT

Not surprising at all, I have a question on what is AMT. Alternative Minimum Tax or AMT was created as a way to ensure that taxpayers pay at least a minimum amount of tax. Over the years the tax laws have changed so that there is a large segment that are not subject to this minimum tax but with the roll into 2013, the AMT is something that the majority of us will now need to be aware of and concerned with. A good tax preparer or accountant can help you with this. The AMT has a completely different set of calculations than the regular tax. For the regular tax, you add up your total income, subtract out various deductions and personal exemptions, then calculate the tax. Against the regular tax you can claim various credits to reduce your tax even further. The AMT, however, does not allow the standard deduction, personal exemptions, or certain itemized deductions. Additionally, some income which is not subject to the regular tax is included in the AMT calculations. Your tax under AMT rules may be higher than your tax under regular tax rules.

Some adjustments that many of us use in preparing our taxes that can make you subject to the AMT are:

itemized deductions for state and local taxes

medical expenses

other miscellaneous expenses

mortgage interest on home equity debt

accelerated depreciation

exercising (but not selling) incentive stock options

tax-exempt interest from private activity bonds

passive income or losses

net operating loss deduction

foreign tax credits

exercise of stock options and

investment expenses

This is not all inclusive but it is a list of the primary drivers.

The AMT will impact more of the populations as stated in the previous post (see below). If nothing changes and the tax breaks expire and the AMT is adjusted as expected, the exemptions will go from $48,450 to $33,750 for single and head of household filers, from $74,450 to $45,000 for married people filing jointly and for qualifying widows or widowers, and from $37,225 to $22,500 for married people filing separately.

As an example if you made $110,000 and then deducted out $50,000 in various approved deductions, you may find yourself with $60,000 in taxable income and in a 15% tax bracket and paying $9,000 in taxes. With the AMT (this is an oversimplification but gives you an idea of what the difference might be) you would get your exemption of $45,000 and let's say $10,000 in certain allowed deductions and you still end up with $55,000 taxable income for the AMT. Your AMT tax would be 26% which means that you would pay $14,300in taxes, an increase of $5,300 or 58% more tax paid.

You can get credit in future years for paying the AMT but as you can see, this can have a significant impact to the bottom line, especially when added to the expiring tax cuts.

Also remember, ALL OF THIS IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE as our illustrious leaders negotiate the nations debt crises with our tax dollars.

Source: Code Section 55(d)(1). Lower exemption levels mean that more taxpayers will be subject to the alternative minimum tax calculations.

Expiring Tax Cuts

Many of you probably are not aware that I have done taxes for over a decade and am an RTRP. In doing my continuing education and thinking about the fiscal cliff, it made my stomach turn to think about the tax increases coming our way.

It is important to note that their will be tax increases with the fiscal cliff problems but we already have a number of increases that are happening just because the Bush era tax cuts are expiring. Here is a list of some of the more significant tax increases not counting any that come out of the negotiations over the next week.

The AMT and Capital Gains changes will be a shock and impact many that don't realize it is coming. I have bolded the information that I think will impact traders at the highest level but all of this is important.

The Social Security payroll tax reduction in place for the last two years will increase 2% from 4.2% to 6.2%. This will mean an average of $40 less per paycheck for the average American.

The Child Tax Credit will decrease from $1,000 per child to only $500 per child. Ouch! A $1,000 impact for a two-child family.

The American Opportunity Tax Credit (for educational expenses) will decrease from $2,500 to $1,800 per student (and revert back to being the Hope Credit).

The tax rate on long-term capital gains will increase from 0 to 10% for lower income taxpayers and from 15% to 20% for those with higher incomes.

The tax rate on qualified dividends will increase from 15% to the taxpayer’s ordinary income rate (up to 39.6%).

Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will again be limited/phased out for higher income taxpayers.

The Alternative Minimum Tax ”patch” will disappear and the exemption amount will decrease to $48,450 for single taxpayers and $74,450 more married taxpayers.

Approximately 27 million more Americans will be subject to the AMT.

The Adoption Tax Credit will be reduced to $5,000 from $12,650. It will not be refundable but taxpayers will be able to carry forward unused amounts.

Coverdell Education Savings Account contributions will be limited to $500 per student (down from $2,000 per year, per student).

Income Tax Rates will increase from last year’s 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35% to 15%, 28%, 31%, 36%, and 39.6%. Yes, that is right some of the lower income tax rates will increase by 50%. How's that for not impacting middle and lower class America?

The maximum Long-Term Capital Gains tax rate will increase from 15% to 20%.

The “Marriage Penalty” returns… Married couples will no longer get an equitable percentage of the single taxpayer amounts for the standard deduction, the 15% tax bracket or the earned income tax credit.

The Child and Dependent Care Credit amounts will decrease due to lower percentages, lower eligible expenses and an lower AGI phase-out.

The top rate for the Estate Tax will increase to 55% (up from 35%) and the exclusion amount will be reduced to $1,000,000 (down from last year’s $5,120,000). So to save money and in the words of Mr Charles Dickens ``If they would rather die,'' said Scrooge, ``they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.

The Section 179 Deduction will be reduced to $25,000 with a qualifying property limit of $200,000 (down from $139,000 and $560,000 respectively). Bonus Depreciation will be eliminated.