Tax Alert: Plan now for changes coming in 2013

What’s the summertime forecast? From a tax perspective, the outlook calls for planning now to prepare for changes gathering on the horizon – specifically, provisions currently expected to take effect in January 2013. Here are four new rules to think about during your mid-year tax review.

1. A decrease in tax-free contributions to your flexible spending account. Starting in January 2013, the maximum you can contribute to your FSA will be $2,500. In addition, the “use it or lose it” feature of FSAs means you won’t be able to carry any 2012 excess remaining in your account into 2013 (unless your plan provides a 2½ month grace period for using prior-year funds).

Planning move: Schedule elective medical procedures during the last half of 2012.

2. An increase in the threshold for claiming the itemized medical expenses deduction. Do you itemize? For 2012, you can claim a deduction on your federal income tax return for qualified medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).

Beginning in 2013, if you’re under age 65, your medical expenses will have to exceed 10% of your AGI to be deductible. This is the same percentage applied to qualified medical expenses when calculating the alternative minimum tax.

Planning move: Review your itemized deductions for 2012 to determine whether accelerating or delaying deductions makes the most sense for you. What to keep in mind: phase-outs and other limitations to itemized deductions that were in effect in prior years, as these may return in 2013.

3. An increase in Medicare tax on certain wages. The amount of Medicare tax you pay on wages and self-employment income is scheduled to go up next year. When you’re single and your wages are greater than $200,000, your employer will withhold an additional 0.9% of Medicare tax from your paycheck. Are you self-employed? The tax applies when net self-employment income exceeds the threshold. The income threshold is $250,000 for married couples.

Planning move: If you’re self-employed, review the way your business is organized. While you always want to pay yourself a reasonable amount of compensation, some entity types can allow for flexibility in the timing of wages or salary.

4. A new Medicare tax on unearned income. You probably associate Medicare tax with earned income – that is, the 1.45% tax your employer deducts from your pay. But a provision in the 2010 health care laws extends the Medicare tax to certain unearned income, beginning in 2013.

The new surtax is a flat rate of 3.8%, and will apply to interest, dividends, capital gains, annuities, royalties, and rents. It kicks in when your AGI exceeds $250,000 (for married filing jointly). When you file as single, the AGI threshold is $200,000.

Planning move: Consider adding tax-exempt bonds to your portfolio. The interest is not subject to the new tax. Roth conversions and selling assets with capital gains may also be a wise move in 2012.

Many other tax law changes are expected in 2013. Timely planning is essential for preserving tax- saving opportunities. Please give us a call to discuss strategies to put in place now to maximize your benefits.