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The Fiscal Cliff was Just the Beginning – Say Hello to the Debt Ceiling

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With our Washington DC politicians, it’s always something. They managed to scrape together a deal that prevented America from plunging over the “fiscal cliff,” whatever that was, just in time to stare a February debt ceiling debate right in the face. Haven’t we been here before? Yep, and it’s a good bet we’re going there again. For now, income property investors following Jason Hartman’s strategies for creating wealth in inflationary times, might be interested in how the “cliff deal” will affect your financial bottom line.

If you’re starting to get the sinking feeling your taxes will rise, you’re right. Here’s how much:

Although tax hikes affect nearly everyone, the very wealthy – those whose income derives more from investments and business ventures than paychecks – can expect a harder hit, thanks to several provisions in the deal. Some benefits remain in place, too, offering some relief to homeowners and income property investors.

The first place many Americans will see an increase in taxes is their paycheck. Under the terms of the deal, payroll taxes will increase by 2 percentage points. According to a recent Business Week article, payroll taxes will rise from 4.2.percent to 6.2 percent. But for those earning less than $400,000 annually, income tax rates and taxes on capital gains and dividends remain unchanged.

For most parts of the new plan, $400,000 marks the dividing line between incomes that will see a tax increase or a tax break. Those making more than this can expect to see a rise of 20 percent in taxes on capital gains and dividends – those with incomes below this magic number will still be taxed at the old top rate of 15 percent. And with the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts, those in that $400,000 and above group will see incomes taxed at a top bracket of 39.6 percent.

Inheritance taxes also hit the wealthy hardest. An inheritance of under $5 million is exempt. But anyone fortunate enough to inherit more than that can expect to encounter a tax rate of a whopping 40 percent — up from 35 percent in previous years. Lawmakers also tinkered with the Alternative Minimum Tax, or AMT, a measure put in place to establish a floor under taxes paid by the wealthy. Because previous versions of the AMT failed to index the tax threshold to inflation, the threshold might have fallen low enough to penalize middle class taxpayers. The new version of the AMT links the tax threshold to inflation, limiting it to those in higher tax brackets.

For property owners, though, there are a few bright spots remaining. The new deal kept the mortgage interest deduction in place; a key perk among the tax breaks offered to owners of residential and income property. And struggling homeowners dodged the bullet of new taxes on mortgage principal that’s forgiven in a short sale or loan modification. Eliminating this tax break would have placed an additional burden on homeowners already in crisis, and financial experts feared imposing such a burden might jeopardize the slowly recovering housing market and economy as a whole.

Nothing is certain, they say, but death and taxes. Just how much is certain from the fiscal deal’s tax changes remains to be seen. For most Americans, the bite got bigger – but if you’re a property owner following Jason Hartman’s recommendations or investing success, a few surviving breaks may ease the pain. (Top image: Flickr | Elsie esq.)

The Holistic Survival Team

 

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