Trust and Estate Counsel

Tennessee Estate Planning Law

Insight and commentary on estate planning issues impacting affluent residents of Tennessee

2010 Healthcare Act Provides Additional Incentive for Roth IRA Conversions by High-Income Individuals

A prior article pointed out that higher tax rates in the future would increase the chance that converting your IRA to a Roth IRA would provide a benefit to you and your family. We now know that income tax rates for high-income individuals will increase beginning in 2013, due to the 2010 Healthcare Act.

High-income taxpayers, defined as single people earning more than $200,000 and married couples earning more than $250,000, will be hit with a a tax increase on wages and a new levy on investments. Under the provisions of the new law, which take effect in 2013, high-income taxpayers will be taxed at an additional 0.9% on wages exceeding $200,000 for single people or $250,000 for married couples.

Beginning in 2013, a new 3.8% tax will be imposed on net investment income of high-income taxpayers. Net investment income includes interest, dividends, royalties, rents, gross income from a trade or business involving passive activities, and net gain from disposition of property (other than property held in a trade or business). Net investment income is reduced by properly allocable deductions to such income. However, the new tax will not apply to income in tax-deferred retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401(k) plans. Also, the new tax will apply only to income in excess of the $200,000/$250,000 thresholds.

These new taxes enhance the benefits of a Roth IRA conversion in two respects. First, if you do not make the conversion, the required distribution from your regular IRA will increase the chance that you are a high-income individual. Even though the new investment tax will not apply to the amount distributed from a regular IRA, the income from the IRA may force more of your other income to bear a 3.8% tax. If you had converted to a Roth IRA, you would not be required to take a required minimum distribution. Even if you take a distribution, it would not be considered income.

If you make a Roth IRA conversion, it is advisable to pay the income taxes from separate assets. If you do not make a conversion, the income from those separate assets would be hit with this 3.8% investment tax. Stately differently, the after-tax income that you would have received from the money used to pay the conversion tax will be decreased due to the new 3.8% investment tax.

The increased taxes for high-income taxpayers may only be getting started. The new taxes in the Healthcare Act help to pay for the benefits provided by the Act. Many have predicted that the cost of the new Act will substantially exceed the government’s estimates. If this is true, someone will have to pay for the additional costs.

Regardless of whether the new taxes fully pay for the Healthcare Act, someone needs to pay for the burgeoning federal deficit. High-income taxpayers will be a likely target. Any additional taxes imposed in the future will further enhance the benefit of having made a Roth IRA conversion in 2010.