Among the anticipated changes in taxes for individuals are the increase of the long-term capital gains rate from 15% to at least 20% and the elimination of the qualified dividend rate of 15%. How do you respond? That depends on several factors.
If the investments are tax-sheltered, as in an IRA or 401(k) plan, then the change has no impact: current growth is sheltered and withdrawals are always taxed as ordinary income. If the investments are in a taxable account, then the analysis involves your long-term plans and investment style. On the long-term capital gains, if you may be selling investments soon, doing so now and buying back (subject to the wash sale rules, if applicable), would increase your basis so that less would be taxed later at a higher rate. However, if you plan to hold investments long-term, there is little reason to react now. That is, the increased tax far in the future is less, on a net present value basis, than paying a lower tax today.
The long-term capital gains tax is still likely to be less than the maximum marginal rate, so converting what would be earned income into capital gains remains attractive (e.g., the basis for exercising and holding Incentive Stock Options)
As for the dividends tax, again this depends on your investment strategy. If you believe that the proper stocks or funds include those that distribute dividends, then the tax cost is part of your analysis in selecting those investments over funds or stocks that do not pay dividends.
As with any decision regarding the tax impact on investments, it is the investment strategy that should rule the outcome.
We will report more on possible tax changes and related strategies in upcoming newsletter posts.
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