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How the Affordable Care Act affects your 2013 tax returns

Originally posted September 16, 2013 by Roger Prince on https://www.mainebiz.biz

As Affordable Care Act deadlines approach, most of the discussion heard on the street concerns the individual health insurance mandate and the expected opening of the state and federal insurance marketplaces this fall. Lost in the shuffle are the tax increases related to the ACA. Most of these changes impact high earners, but thresholds differ depending upon the tax provision in question. For anyone in the affected income categories — and there are many in Maine — the increases are significant.

Which taxpayers will be affected?

The accompanying chart outlines some of the important tax increases imposed as a result of the ACA and more recent legislation. The increases generally affect single filers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) above $200,000 and married couples filing jointly above $250,000. Some of the tax increases don’t kick in until single AGI hits $400,000 and married filing jointly AGI hits $450,000.

How to mitigate the impact

As with any increase in marginal tax rates, a focus on income deferral and upfront tax planning can help soften the blow by reducing the amount of income that qualifies for the new tax rates. There are a number of strategies for income deferral, some of them employer-initiated and some handled by the individual. For example, employers might decide to redesign their 401(k) or 403(b) plans to provide for greater employer non-elective contributions (such as profit-sharing allocations) for certain types or groups of employees. A company might also decide to offer deferred compensation as part of an incentive program using so-called “synthetic” equity tools such as Phantom Stock or Stock Appreciation Rights. In these forms of compensation, the benefit is tied in various ways to the value of hypothetical shares of stock set to be paid out on a specified later date.

Individuals can defer or eliminate taxes in a higher-tax environment with various retirement savings strategies as well as tax-effective investment strategies. Individuals should get advice from both investment advisers and tax professionals to make sure their investment strategies coincide with a prudent tax strategy. The key is to be sure that the current income and investment structure maximizes the after-tax return.

Changes in the medical expense deduction

Regardless of income level, the unreimbursed medical expense deduction will now be available only for those medical expenses in excess of 10% of AGI, compared to 7.5% before. There is a temporary exemption from this requirement for individuals ages 65 and older and their spouses from 2013 through 2016. Individuals and their spouses who are 65 years or older are still allowed to deduct unreimbursed medical care expenses that exceed 7.5% of their AGI.

Other ACA steps

Employers have other compliance steps and opportunities under the ACA for this tax year. Among them:

  • Employers that have employees who earn more than $200,000 will have to look at the potential for additional Medicare withholding.
  • Employers that issued 250 or more W-2 forms in 2012 must report the cost of employer-sponsored health coverage for 2013 on the 2013 W-2 forms.
  • Small employers (those with 25 or fewer full-time equivalent employees) that offer group health insurance might be eligible for the small business health care tax credit. The credit can be as much as 35% of employer premiums (25% for not-for-profits.) The maximum credit will increase to 50% in 2014 (35% for not-for-profits.) The credit is only available if the employer is paying at least 50% of the total premiums.

As always, everyone’s particular tax situation is different. It is safe to say that tax planning for 2013 and thereafter will be more important than ever given the potential loss of tax adjustments and higher marginal tax rates imposed by the ACA and more recent legislation.