Investing is a complicated topic that many do not fully understand and they rely on their advisors to assist them through the process of investing and becoming retirement ready. Taxes are an area that cause significant confusion and the fact that they have a tendency to change over time adds to the confusion.
Taxes on investment accounts can come in several forms and we will discuss some of the most common types along with strategies to help you over time. We touched on this topic in a recent article, Tax Planning Is A Year Round Concern, and we will expand on it here.
Income from investments can come in several forms, such as dividends and interest. The best type of income, especially for high net worth clients, is tax free income. This income will not be taxed, assuming it is tax free on both the Federal and State level. There are investments that will pay tax free income that will only be federally tax free and it is important to be aware of this, especially if you live in a State that has a high income tax bracket. The majority of interest and dividends will be taxed as ordinary income, unless they are a qualified dividend. This will typically be your highest taxed form of income generated from your investments. In these cases, unless you are in need of this income to live on or are in low tax bracket, it would make the most sense to try and place these types of assets in a qualified account. This would allow you to own the asset and not pay taxes on the income.
Capital gains are another consideration when it comes to taxes on investments. These types of gains are broken down into short term, less than twelve months, and long term, longer that twelve months. Depending on your income, the taxes owed could vary widely. The higher the tax bracket you are in, the larger the difference. Short term capital gains are taxed as ordinary income and will be taxed at your normal tax bracket. However, if you hold the asset for twelve months and a day the capital gain becomes long term providing a maximum tax of twenty percent (depending on your income tax bracket) on the Federal return, plus the State tax owed. This could amount to a significant difference in tax and you will want to make sure you are holding assets, if you can, for the long term in order to maximize your tax position. In the instance that you are looking to purchase an investment with the intention of only holding it on a short term basis, we would recommend placing this asset in a Qualified account and avoid the capital gain altogether.
We know that clients do not like to take losses, but sometimes it makes sense for you to bite the bullet. We recommend that you, along with your advisor, review your portfolio each November to evaluate gains and losses for the year. Long term and short term gains and losses will net out each year and you can develop a picture of what your capital gains will be for the year. Based upon the review, it may make a lot of sense to sell an asset at a loss and negate some of your overall capital gain. At times, we have seen clients that understand they need to do this in order to mitigate their tax liability, but at the same time are still confident the asset will work out long term. In these cases, you can double up the position thirty plus days before the end of the year and on day thirty one, in order to avoid a wash sale, sell the initial lot for the loss. This will provide you with the opportunity to capture the loss and still own the position, while participating in the upside potential of the holding.
Planning like this is an important aspect of working with the right advisory team. This type of review should take place with you, your wealth advisor and your CPA annually to make sure things are being done in your best interest. It is key to have your CPA and wealth management firm on the same page with a good working relationship. This is why we always look to build relationships with our clients’ tax advisors. Please feel free to contact us, Mitlin Financial, at (844) 4-MITLIN x12 if you or someone you know has encountered tax issues with regards to their investments, has questions about how taxes like these will affect them or simply does not feel their CPA and advisor are on the same page. We look forward to helping you, and them, make the decision that is best for all.
This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice.