The U.S. Supreme Court will soon issue its ruling on the health care legislation -- the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" -- passed in 2010. Over half the individual states have challenged the constitutionality of the law that requires individuals to obtain minimum health insurance coverage and penalizes those who don't comply. The law could be upheld or overturned or the court might strike down select provisions.
Although the health care mandate has received the most attention, three lesser-known tax changes in the law could have a major impact. If these provisions are allowed to stand, they will take effect in 2013.
1. Medicare surtaxes. Taxpayers will owe a new 3.8% Medicare surtax on the lesser of net investment income or the amount by which modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds an annual threshold of $250,000 for joint filers and $200,000 for single filers. For this purpose, "net investment income" includes interest, dividends, royalties and annuities, rent and other passive activity income, capital gains from the sale of property not used in your business, and trading of financial instruments and commodities. It does not include business income, income from tax-free municipals, or distributions from IRAs and qualified retirement plans.
In addition, a separate 0.9% Medicare surtax applies to earned income in excess of $250,000 for joint filers and $200,000 for single filers. A taxpayer might have to pay both surtaxes.
2. Medical deductions. Currently, a taxpayer may deduct unreimbursed medical expenses in excess of 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI). This threshold is scheduled to increase to 10% in 2013 for those under age 65.
3. Flexible spending accounts. Currently, there is no legal limit on annual contributions to a flexible spending account (FSA) for health care expenses. Under the health care law, annual contributions to a health-care FSA are capped at $2,500. This amount will be indexed for inflation after 2013.
Faced with these looming tax changes, you may take appropriate steps before 2013. For instance, you might realize long-term capital gains in 2012 to avoid the 3.8% Medicare surtax, especially since the maximum tax rate is only 15% this year (scheduled to increase to 20% in 2013). Similarly, you might consider accelerating nonemergency medical expenses into 2012 to benefit from the lower AGI threshold or to exhaust FSA funds.
We will keep you posted on any major new developments. Don't hesitate to contact us for tax planning guidance suited to your situation.