The 2013 Tax Law Schizophrenic Definition of Income – Part 2 of 2

The 2013 Tax Law Schizophrenic Definition of Income – Part 2 of 2

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Per last week’s blog, as a result of President Obama’s signing on January 2nd of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 following changes legislated by the 2010 Health Care Reform Act effective beginning in 2013, there are now five different definitions of income affecting seven different tax areas. Exhibit 1, which was also included in last week’s post, summarizes 2013 individual federal income-based tax law changes, comparing each one with the law in effect in 2012.

Please see last week’s post for a discussion of the first three definitions of income. This week’s post examines the last two.

Adjusted Gross Income Exceeding $250,000 or $300,000

Once your adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds $250,000 if single or $300,000 if married filing jointly, your income tax liability will increase as a result of two affected tax areas: (1) Itemized deductions limitation and (2) Personal exemption phaseout. Although neither of these provisions was effective in 2012, both have been part of prior years’ tax law.

Itemized Deductions Limitation

The limitation on itemized deductions, known as Pease after the congressman who helped create it, was originally part of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, was phased out beginning in 2006, and was repealed in 2010.

Back in 2013, the itemized deductions limitation reduces most otherwise allowable itemized deductions by 3% of the amount by which AGI exceeds the specified threshold of $250,000 or $300,000, depending upon whether you’re filing as a single or married filing joint taxpayer. Itemized deductions can’t be reduced by more than 80%. In addition, the reduction doesn’t apply to deductions for medical expenses, investment interest, casualty and theft losses, and gambling losses.

Personal Exemption Phaseout

The personal exemption phaseout is another reincarnation of prior tax legislation. Since 1990, the personal exemption has been phased out at higher income levels. The 2001 tax act phased out the phaseout beginning in 2006 with repeal in 2010.

Back in 2013, 2% of the personal exemption amount, projected to be $3,900, is eliminated for each $2,500 of AGI in excess of $250,000 for single filers and $300,000 for those using married filing joint tax filing status.

Taxable Income Exceeding $400,000 or $450,000

Welcome to 2013 tax law income definition #5 affecting two more income tax areas. If your taxable income exceeds $400,000 if single or $450,000 if married filing jointly, your income tax liability will be further increased by two different tax provisions: (1) Income tax bracket and (2) Long-term capital gains and qualified dividends.

Income Tax Bracket

The top tax bracket of 35%, which was in effect from 2003 through 2012, jumps by 4.6% to 39.6% beginning in 2013 for those individuals whose taxable income exceeds the single and married filing joint thresholds of $400,000 or $450,000, respectively. The last time that the 39.6% rate was part of the tax law and was also the top tax rate was in 2000.

Long-Term Capital Gains and Qualified Dividends

Beginning in 1982, tax rate reductions reduced the tax rate on long-term capital gains, i.e., capital gain income from assets held longer than one year, from 28% to a maximum of 20%. The rate was further reduced from 20% to 15% beginning in 2003 and also began applying to qualified dividends.

The 20% maximum rate on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends has returned in 2013 for those individuals whose taxable income exceeds the $400,000 or $450,000 threshold depending upon filing status.


With the exception of the Medicare Earned Income Tax and Medicare Investment Income Tax discussed in last week’s post, the other five affected tax areas resulting in higher federal income taxes in 2013 are reincarnations of prior tax law. Everyone with employment or self-employment income of any amount with limited exception will pay more tax in 2013 than they did in 2012, all else being equal. In addition, income tax liability will increase for anyone with certain types of income exceeding specified thresholds starting at $200,000 or $250,000 depending upon filing status. The cumulative effect of the various changes and associated increase in federal income tax liability will be significant for many people.

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