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(Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on tax-planning considerations and strategies for tax year 2012.)
You must pay the alternative minimum tax (AMT) if your tax liability as calculated under the AMT is higher than your liability as calculated under the regular method.
Because certain income items and deductions can trigger the AMT, it’s important to consider the AMT ramifications (for both this year and next) before you accelerate or defer income or deductions. Currently this is complicated not only by uncertainty about ordinary income tax rates but also by uncertainty about whether an AMT “patch” will be extended to 2012 and/or 2013.
The AMT system isn’t automatically adjusted for inflation. This means that, if Congress doesn’t pass legislation to increase the exemption and phase-out ranges (the patch), they’ll be smaller for 2012 than they were for 2011- potentially making many more people subject to the AMT. President Barack Obama has proposed a three-year patch, while Gov. Romney has proposed the repeal of the AMT.
Effectively planning to avoid or reduce your AMT liability is nearly impossible without knowing what regular tax rates will be in effect next year and whether the AMT patch will be extended. Work with your tax adviser to project whether you’re likely to be subject to the AMT under various scenarios, so you can implement the best strategies quickly once the tax picture becomes clearer.
If Congress does nothing, for 2013 capital gains rates will increase. President Barack Obama has proposed retaining the 2012 long-term capital gains rates for only the middle and lower brackets – again, taxable income below $200,000, $225,000, $250,000 or $125,000, depending on filing status. His Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has proposed retaining 2012’s 0 percent and 15 percent rates and expanding the income ranges that qualify for the 0 percent rate.