Monday, August 12, 2013

Mid-Year Reality Check: Covering Your Bases in Uncertain Times

Legacy Investment Advisors, LLC
Albert Sturdivant Financial Advisor Wealth Management
3000 Atrium Way Suite 520A Mount Laurel, NJ 08054
Voice:(856) 751-7909 Fax: (856) 751-1141
legacy@legacyria.com
www.legacyria.com

Imagine playing a complicated game, but the rules of the game are changing, and the new rules have yet to be announced. That's what income tax planning is like this year. In fact, if there was ever a year to spend some quality time with your financial professional, this is it. Here are a few items to discuss. How will higher rates next year affect you? Federal income tax rates are scheduled to jump in 2013, with the bottom (10%) rate disappearing, and the top rate increasing from 35% to 39.6%. Starting in 2013, high wage earners--those with wages exceeding $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly and $125,000 for married individuals filing separately)--will also have to pay an additional 0.9% in the hospital insurance (HI) portion of their payroll tax, commonly referred to as the Medicare portion.

Could the current federal income tax rates be extended again? Of course, but it's far from a certain bet, and the odds are that any action would not take place until after the presidential election. That means any financial plan you put in place has to account for this uncertainty. And the uncertainty extends beyond just tax rates, because a number of popular tax breaks are also scheduled to expire at the end of the year, while others have already expired. So, any potential moves have to be considered in the context of several "what if" scenarios. For example, if you have the opportunity to defer compensation to next year, you have to really think about whether that makes sense, or if you would be better off paying tax on the income at this year's rates. Potential investment moves.

In addition to increased tax rates on earnings, the rates that apply to long-term capital gain and qualifying dividends are scheduled to increase in 2013. The maximum rate on long-term capital gain will jump from 15% to 20%. And while qualifying dividends currently benefit from being taxed at the rates that apply to long-term capital gain, in 2013 they'll be taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Also beginning in 2013, a new 3.8% Medicare contribution tax will be imposed on the net investment income of individuals with modified adjusted gross income that exceeds $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly and $125,000 for married individuals filing separately). That means someone in the top tax bracket could potentially end up paying tax on some investment income at a total rate of 43.4%. Potentially higher rates in 2013 could be a motivating factor in your investment strategy. For example, you might want to consider selling investments that have appreciated in value to recognize long-term capital gain in 2012, before the maximum rate is scheduled to increase. Alternatively, you might consider timing the sale of an investment to postpone the recognition of a capital loss until 2013, when it could be more valuable. Roth conversions--is this the year?

If you've been on the fence about converting traditional IRA funds or pretax 401(k) contributions to a Roth account, you ought to give the matter one last hard look before the year ends. That's because when you convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, or pretax dollars in a 401(k) plan to a Roth account, the converted funds are subject to federal income tax (to the extent the funds represent investment earnings, tax-deductible IRA contributions, or pretax 401(k) contributions) in the year that you make the conversion.

If tax rates go up next year, so will the effective cost of doing a Roth conversion. Additionally, qualified distributions from Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s are free from federal income tax. That could make a big difference in retirement if you're paying tax at a higher rate at the time. Whether a Roth conversion is right for you depends on a number of factors. If it makes sense for you, though, it might pay to think about acting now, rather than later.

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Legacy Investment Advisors, LLC (“Legacy”) is a registered investment advisor located in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Legacy and its representatives are in compliance with current registration and/or notice filing requirements imposed upon registered investment advisors by those states in which Legacy maintains clients. Legacy may only transact business in those states in which it is registered, or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration requirements. Any direct communication by Legacy with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides.
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The value of an investment and the income from it may fall as well as rise and investors may not get back the full amount invested. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2013.

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