New Proposed Tax Laws

The House recently released a nearly 900-page proposed bill that would make major changes to current tax laws. The bill is intended in large part to help pay for both the Biden Administration’s budget and infrastructure stimulus bill.

It’s important to keep in mind that the provisions and changes outlined below are by no means settled. Changes can (and likely will) still be made as the Senate ratifies the bill; however, the remainder of this article should give readers a good idea of the most significant provisions.

Income Tax Rates are Rising

The increase in the top income tax rate is probably the most talked about proposed change in the bill, bringing it up from 37 percent to 39.6 percent. The top marginal rate would apply to single filers with taxable income over $400,000, heads of household over $425,000 and married filing jointly taxpayers making over $450,000. The impact starts with income earned on Jan. 1, 2022, and after.

Capital Gains

The highest capital gains rate would increase from 20 percent to 25 percent and apply to qualified dividends. The increase is effective on gains made from sales that happen on or after Sept. 13, 2021, but any gains from sales incurred before or that result from binding contracts executed before this date fall under the old rate. For example, gains received post-Sept. 13, 2021, under an installment sale entered on Aug. 31, 2021, would be subject to the old 20 percent rate.

Expansion of the Net Investment Income Tax

The bill also would redefine net investment income (NIIT) to include any income earned in the ordinary course of business. Currently, the 3.8 percent NIIT surcharge applies only to passive income. The NIIT is applied to single taxpayers with more than $400,000 in taxable income and joint filers with over $500,000, and would start Jan. 1, 2022.

New 3 Percent Surcharge on High Income Individuals

Starting after Dec. 31, 2021, a new 3 percent tax will be placed on Adjusted Gross Incomes (AGI) over $5 million ($2.5 million if married filing separately).

Small Business Tax Increases

Under the bill, the current 21 percent flat corporate (C-Corporation) tax rate would change to a three-tiered system. The structure would tax net income at 18 percent up to $400,000; 21 percent from $401,000 to $5 million; and 26 percent on net income over $5 million.

Other Miscellaneous Changes

As you can imagine in an 881-page bill, there are only so many changes that can be covered in this article, but here is a smattering of miscellaneous provisions.

  • Crypto currencies would become subject to the constructive and wash sale rules (like most marketable securities such as stocks) starting Jan. 1, 2022. This means that if you are holding a position at a loss, you have until the end of 2021 to harvest the loss and immediately buy back in.
  • IRAs will no longer be allowed to invest in an entity where the IRA owner has a 10 percent or greater ownership interest (down from the current 50 percent threshold) or if the IRA owner is an officer of the entity.
  • $80 million is earmarked for the IRS to step up enforcement and audit more taxpayers.
  • Smokers will feel the pain as the bill also doubles the excise taxes on cigarettes, small cigars and roll-your-own tobacco.

Conclusion

Remember that this is only the House version of the bill, and nothing is final. Also remember that Democrats control the House, and the Senate is split 50/50 with the Democratic VP as the tiebreaker. As a result, while there will be changes, the major provisions outlined above will likely be in the final law in some form or another.

Strategies for Paying Off Student Loans

Today, 70 percent of college students graduate with an average of $30,000 in student loan debt. The average payment is nearly $400 a month and will take about 20 years to pay off. On an individual level, paying off high debt can delay hopes of saving to buy a house, start a family, launch a business or invest for retirement.

On a broader level, the national burden of student debt could impact America’s economic future. When young adults are unable to afford home ownership, that reduces spending on all types of consumer products that accompany home buying. It also reduces property taxes used to support local resources and reduces the insurance pool of property owners used to help repair and rebuild homes after extreme weather crises.

Whether you’re a graduate or the relative of a graduate in this situation, it’s worth considering various strategies to help pay off this debt. After all, it may be better – for both your offspring and the country’s GDP – to financially help them out now rather than later via a larger inheritance.

High Interest and Consolidation Considerations

The strategic way to approach student debt is to focus on paying off high-interest loans first. This generally includes private loans and any others with variable interest rates that may increase over time. Be aware that with federal student loans, there are different types and the borrower is permitted to switch to a different payment plan that better suits his needs over time. Another option is to consolidate student loans. However, if sometime in the future federal student loans are forgiven, your student could miss out on that by transferring or consolidating to a privately held loan.

Employer Assistance Programs

In recognition of student loan debt as both a personnel and national concern, many employers are starting to offer repayment assistance programs – even to parents paying off parent student loans. It’s important to inquire whether or not an employer offers this benefit, as they are not always promoted – especially to current workers. However, these programs have become more appealing to companies since passage of the CARES Act, which extended pre-tax employer-provided educational assistance for up to $5,250 per employee, per year through 2025

Another program that some companies have introduced is the ability for employees to convert the cash value of unused paid-time-off (PTO) toward their student loan payments. In other words, if a worker is not able to use all of his accrued paid vacation days in a given year, he can request the employer contribute that income toward his student loan debt.

College Savings Plans

Each state sponsors a Section 529 college savings and investment plan, which feature tax-deferred growth and tax-free withdrawals when used to pay for qualified education expenses.

In 2019, as part of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, Congress included a provision that permits up to $10,000 (a lifetime cap, per each beneficiary) from 529 College Savings Plans to be used to repay student loans. For example, if a family has three college students, the parents may withdraw up to $30,000 to help pay off that debt from their 529 account(s). Note that a 529 account owner can change the 529 plan beneficiary at any time without tax consequences.

Be aware, however, if 529 college funds are used to make principal and interest payments on a qualified student loan, that student loan interest cannot be claimed as a deduction on their tax return.

7 Ways to Save for a Home Down Payment

So you want to save for a down payment for your dream house, but you aren’t sure how to get there. It might even feel overwhelming. But take heart, here are some tried and true methods that you can start today that will help you save sooner than you think.

Save a Fixed Amount Monthly

This is super easy, but first you need to figure out how much of a down payment you want to make. Remember, the higher your down payment, the lower your loan and monthly mortgage payment will be. With that said, put this amount on auto draft and deposit it into your savings account. Once you get used to this, you won’t miss it. Never use this savings for any other purpose except your down payment. Keep your eyes on the prize and stay the course.

Lower Your Expenses

If you don’t have a budget, make one. Review how much you’re spending on necessary items like rent, utilities and food. Also look at how much you’re spending on discretionary things, like going out to eat, subscriptions to magazines, driving instead of walking, etc. You might also evaluate how much those short-term indulgences mean to you. Only you can decide, but if you stick to a budget and start saving, the dream of a down payment can become a reality.

Skip Vacations For a Year

This one might be hard to swallow. However, if you save the money you’d otherwise spend on your vacation, you can make a significant contribution toward your down payment. If skipping a vacation is out of the question, try a staycation; or at least drive or take a bus or train to someplace near you that won’t cost an arm and a leg, like a natural park, an area lake or even, if you’re lucky enough to live near one, a beach. With every decision you make to delay gratification and focus on your long-term goal of home ownership, you’ll be more likely to stay on track.

Reduce Your High Interest Rate Debt

Credit card interest rates can really eat into the amount of money you are trying to save. If you can pay them off, do so – and start with the one that’s the highest. When you’ve paid it off, close the account and move on to the next one. You can also apply for a card with a temporary 0% interest rate (for maybe 15 months) and transfer your other balances to this one card. Good options include Bank of America’s Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card, Discover it Balance Transfer and Citi Double Cash Card.

Borrow From Your Retirement Plan

If you want to expedite getting into a house and are comfortable doing this, the look for penalty-free withdrawals from your retirement plan. Many company-sponsored 401(k) or profit-sharing plans allow you to borrow against your nest egg to purchase a home. Just ask your HR or payroll department.

Sell Some of Your Investments

While this option might not be instantly appealing, think of this as a way to move some of your current investments into another – your house. Once you’ve moved in and are paying your mortgage, you’ll be building equity. As your house increases in value, so does your investment.

Look Into Down Payment Assistance

Yes, this is a thing! There are organizations that might be able to help you, like the Federal Housing Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service and the Veterans Administration. Another source is your local housing authority.

These are a few options to help you move toward a down payment. But no matter what you choose, don’t wait. Get started today. This way, you’ll be packing up and moving in no time.

Sources

https://www.bbt.com/education-center/articles/top-10-ways-to-save-down-payment.html

https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-cards/balance-transfer?gclid=Cj0KCQjwtMCKBhDAARIsAG-2Eu8NmKerM3dO4cPjC0KvMCj_S3HPjJ_r4ge6MV50wWiQf51VLK4HOwUaAncZEALw_wcB

Why the IRS Should Love NFTs

Sales and trading of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) are soaring recently. With the emergence of major marketplace platforms such as Opensea, NFTs are no longer an obscure segment of the blockchain technology world. Even old guard auction houses such as Sotheby’s are getting in on the action. In early September, the auction house facilitated the sale of a set of “Bored Apes” NFTs that sold for more than $24.4 million.

While the emerging space of NFTs is full of excitement, risk and opportunity, there’s the boring tax side of the equation. Unlike most other forms of assets or income, creating, trading and investing in NFTs can trigger a tax event.  

Creators

NFTs are classified as “self-created intangibles” like other works of art. The IRS allows the artist to deduct the expenses of creating the NFT immediately – even if the artwork is not sold. As a result, the creator typically has zero “basis” in their work. This mean when they do sell their work, they’ll have no deductions, so a $100,000 sale means $100,000 of taxable income.

There is little formal guidance, but general principles indicate that NFTs are their creator’s inventory instead of a capital asset. This means that this income is treated as ordinary income and not capital gains – and it is subject to self-employment taxes as well.

Lastly, with certain NFTs, while the NFT itself is a unique blockchain token, the creator might retain copyright to whatever underlying artwork was used to make the NFT. Here, the creator may sell multiple NFTs based on the same original artwork as limited-edition, signed reprints. When the copyright is retained and copies are sold, the income is considered a royalty.

Traders and Investors

Trading NFTs is not as simple as trading stocks.

NFTs are purchased with cryptocurrency (most commonly Ethereum). Since the IRS treats cryptocurrency as property instead of currency, the purchase itself creates a taxable event. Swapping your Ethereum for an NFT means you’ll have to pay tax on any gain you have in your Ethereum position between its value at acquisition and the moment of using it to acquire the NFT.

Second, taxpayers will trigger a taxable event when they sell the NFT, thereby subject to capital gains taxes on the sale of the NFT at the 28 percent collectibles rate.

Conclusion

NFTs offer fantastic opportunities at tremendous risk. As a result, there will be winners and losers, but one thing is certain: the IRS should love NFTs for the taxes.