Last Friday, President Biden unveiled detailed explanations on how the administration plans to pay for the new $6 trillion budget. The biggest surprise in the proposal is that the administration is seeking a retroactive effective date on a capital gains tax rate hike from 20% to 39.6% for households making more than $1 million. If you add in the net investment income tax for high-income earners, this raises the top long-term capital gains tax rate to 43.4%, up from the current 23.8%.
“This proposal would be effective for gains required to be recognized after the date of the announcement,” the Treasury Department said, referring to an address to Congress on April 28. The purpose of the backdating proposal is to avoid a sell-off ahead of the capital-gains rate hike, if it were to be approved.
A historical review of legislation suggests tax-rate decreases are easier to implement on a retroactive basis from a policy and political standpoint. With life’s only certainties being death and taxes, the tax implications of a transaction would ideally be known at the time of the event — and not retroactive.
As we wrote about last week, tax changes are far from certain, and a lot of ideas are being thrown around in Washington. We are approaching our financial planning with maximum flexibility. It is safer to plan for what we know, rather than what we don’t know, and that is our approach. We believe the proposals in their current state will not pass through Congress, but we also cannot begin to predict precisely what will pass.
Having said that, the following are capital gains tax strategies that we already use for your benefit:
1. Donating appreciated securities to charity or a donor advised fund. This is a tax-smart way for those who are charitably inclined to donate money. The market value of the security on the date of donation is a charitable tax deduction, and there are no capital gains taxes on the donated assets.
2. Tax loss harvesting. This strategy involves realizing tax losses on holdings and then using those losses to offset realized gains. Any remaining losses incurred in a year can be carried over to subsequent years and help offset future capital gains.
3. Converting traditional IRA assets to Roth IRA. This works well for those in lower income tax brackets. Investing in stocks with higher growth potential in a Roth IRA will negate any taxation of future capital gains. There are no taxes in the year of the gain, and the money can be withdrawn tax-free at retirement (if certain rules are followed). Also, assets in an inherited Roth IRA are tax-free to beneficiaries upon withdrawal if the five-year rule was met prior to death. This includes capital gains that were realized in the account along the way.
So, what can we learn from all this? Avoiding potentially higher capital gains rates may be a good idea, if it makes sense in the context of your overall financial plan. It is important to remember that the proposed tax changes are just that — proposals, not laws. Changes can and will occur, and there is no guarantee that the proposal or introduced bills will become law. In our opinion, as of today, a wait-and-see approach is the best path until we have further clarity. However, concern about changes in estate tax law is a good reason to consult with estate attorneys to discuss the current plan. We will be ready and proactive if tax law changes occur.
From an investment portfolio perspective, we continue to adhere to the tried-and-true disciplines of diversification, periodic rebalancing and looking forward, not making investment decisions based on where we have been.
Making market decisions based on what might happen may be detrimental to long-term performance. The key is to stay invested and stick with the financial plan. Markets go up and down over time, and downturns present opportunities to purchase stocks at a lower value.
It all starts with a solid financial plan for the long run that understands the level of risk that is acceptable for each client. Regarding investments, we believe in diversification and having different asset classes that allow you to stay invested. The best option is to stick with a broadly diversified portfolio that can help you to achieve your own specific financial goals — regardless of market volatility. Long-term fundamentals are what matter.
Sources: National Law Review, The Hill, New York Times
This material contains an assessment of the market and economic environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results. Forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties. Actual results, performance, or achievements may differ materially from those expressed or implied. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources.
Using diversification as part of your investment strategy neither assures nor guarantees better performance and cannot protect against loss of principal due to changing market conditions.
Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory Services, LLC. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation.
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