Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is elected next Tuesday, there are some tax-planning moves that will make sense for your clients no matter who gets into the Oval Office.
“What’s important to remember is that just because a candidate has a tax plan doesn’t necessarily mean that plan is going to become the law,” said Gary M. DuBoff, a principal in tax and accounting at the New York office of the accounting firm MBAF. “It’s their proposal for taxes. It’s not necessarily the law at the present. It’s hard to plan for something that’s unpredictable. We don’t know who’s going to win, and we don’t know if either of their policies will be passed as law. What we tend to do is maybe hedge our bets in terms of expectations. What we do know is what the law is today, and what the law is supposed to be on January 1, 2017.”
DuBoff recommends using some tried and true tax-planning strategies with clients. “Accelerating deductions and deferring income is always a good idea,” he said. “Obviously the Clinton proposal involves a higher tax rate on wealthiest taxpayers. If you’re already in the highest tax bracket, there’s really not that much you can do in terms of accelerating income into this year to avoid it. If you’re making more than a million, you should just focus on what you know.”
Clinton’s plan would require filers with adjusted gross incomes of over $1 million to pay an effective tax rate of at least 30 percent. Those with AGIs of over $5 million would also pay a 4 percent “fair share” surcharge. In addition, her plan would also change the short-term and long-term capital gains rates. Clinton’s plan would also lower the lifetime exemption for the estate tax, which is currently $5.45 million and is going up to $5.49 million next year. Her plan would impose a 50 percent rate on estates over $10 million per person, 55 percent on estates over $50 million, and 65 percent on estates over $500 million. In contrast, Trump’s plan would eliminate the estate tax and reduce taxes on high net worth individuals from nearly 40 percent to 25 percent. Both candidates are in favor of eliminating the carried interest tax break for hedge fund managers and private equity firm partners.
“In my opinion you plan for what you know, and what we know is what the current tax rates are,” said DuBoff. “Typically, a lot of my clients are high net worth individuals and are subject to the alternative minimum tax, so there’s some planning we do as it relates to the AMT. If you’re not subject to the AMT, you typically will prepay your state taxes before the end of the year if you’re in a high-tax state like New York. So you would pay those in advance of the end of the year to get the deduction early. Because they’re high-income taxpayers, they are subject to various phaseouts on their deductions so we look at their miscellaneous itemized deductions and see whether or not they’re over the 2 percent minimum threshold. We also focus on charitable planning, typically at the end of the year. Most of our clients are charitably inclined, so we look at strategies in order to give to charity, or favorite organizations, on a tax-efficient basis. Oftentimes they have pledges, so we help them decide how to make those gifts, whether in cash or securities, or otherwise. Sometimes they have private foundations, so their choices are not to make it individually, but make it out of their donor-advised funds or out of their private foundation.”
Whatever happens next Tuesday, clients will need some handholding and counseling to deal with whatever tax changes are coming with the next administration and Congress.