Wealthy Advised to Sell for Gains Before Unfriendly 2013By Margaret Collins and Richard Rubin
Oct. 22, 2012
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Run... Run away and never look back! Sell.
That's the message from some financial advisers, who are telling wealthy clients that the remainder of 2012 amounts to a last-chance sale on federal tax rates. Taxes are set to rise in January in the U.S., pushing the top rate on dividends to 43.4 percent from 15 percent and the top rate on capital gains to 23.8 percent from 15 percent.
Even if Congress averts the so-called fiscal cliff of tax increases on investments, income and estates, pressure to reduce budget deficits will mean higher taxes eventually, said Ron Florance of Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) The answer is to take advantage of historically low rates and move taxable income and investment gains into this year, said Florance, managing director of investment strategy at the company's private bank.
"It's the opposite of what people normally do," said Florance, whose clients usually have at least $1 million in investable assets. "You're paying taxes today in anticipation of higher rates in the future."
Advisers at companies including Wells Fargo, Bank of America Corp., Bank of New York Mellon Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Northern Trust Corp. (NTRS) and U.S. Bancorp (USB) are discussing with their wealthy clients such strategies as selling appreciated securities, relocating assets to tax-deferred retirement accounts, converting IRAs, exercising stock options and making large gifts to heirs this year.
Tax cuts first enacted during George W. Bush's presidency and extended in 2010 are set to expire Dec. 31. Unless Congress acts, the tax increases along with automatic federal spending cuts will combine to form the so-called fiscal cliff. Taxes on the top 1 percent of U.S. households would increase by an average $120,537, according to a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
Federal taxes on ordinary income will rise to as much as 39.6 percent from 35 percent. Long-term capital gains rates will increase to a maximum 20 percent from 15 percent, plus an additional 3.8 percent for high-income earners as a result of the 2010 health-care law.
The opportunity for individuals to transfer up to $5.12 million --- or $10.24 million for couples -- free of estate taxes and gift taxes also is set to expire at the end of the year and drop to $1 million. Legislation enacted in 2010 raised the lifetime estate-and-gift-tax exclusion for 2011 and 2012.
With about 10 weeks left in the year, taxpayers waiting for a decision from Congress before making investment moves may run out of time. Lawmakers won't address tax and spending issues until they return to Capitol Hill after the Nov. 6 election.