By Matt Sommer

from JanusHenderson.com

2 January 2018


The 503-page Tax Cut and Reform Bill will have sweeping implications to both individual and business taxpayers beginning in 2018. So, what do financial advisors need to know and how can they be ready to provide guidance to their clients? The following seven items identify those issues most pertinent for advisors to share with high-net-worth investors.

Most aspects of the reforms will sunset. To comply with very complicated congressional budgetary rules, the vast majority of these changes will sunset on December 31, 2025. That means come 2026, any changes will revert back to the rules that are in place today, unless additional action is taken by Congress. The exceptions to the sunset provisions impact businesses, specifically the 20% deduction for pass-through entities and the 21% corporate rate (more on that later). The sunset is especially problematic for estate planning, and flexibility will need to be incorporated into impacted clients’ legal documents including wills and trusts.

Seven marginal brackets remains in place. Despite all the discussion of simplification and desire to reduce the number of brackets, the legislation leaves seven tax brackets in place. The good news is that five of the seven brackets are lowered. Beginning in 2018, the seven brackets for individuals are 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. Interestingly, the current five bracket structure for trusts and estates will change to four brackets next year, with rates of 10%, 24%, 35% and 37%. The trust and estate brackets will now be used to calculate the tax on a minor’s unearned income instead of the customary kiddie-tax rules that used a parent’s marginal bracket. The 3.8% net investment income tax remains in place, despite the elimination of a penalty for failing to maintain minimum essential health care coverage. The favorable rules for long-term capital gains and qualified dividends also remain unchanged.

Some deductions survive, many are eliminated. As expected, the personal exemption is eliminated as are a host of itemized deductions. A few deductions did survive including charitable deductions, mortgage interest (but only on a maximum loan amount of $750,000 for property purchased on or after December 15, 2017) and unreimbursed medical expenses to the extent they are in excess of 7.5% of adjusted gross income (previously the hurdle was 10% of AGI). Additionally, taxpayers will be able to deduct up to $10,000 of state, local and/or property taxes. Of the deductions eliminated, advisors should pay close attention to alimony. For marriages that end after 2018, alimony will no longer be deductible by the payor or be taxable to the payee. This change impacts how divorce settlements are negotiated and will certainly require budgeting and other assistance from advisors who specialize in this area. Finally, for those taxpayers who will still itemize their deductions, rather than take the new $24,000 (married) standard deduction, the rule that phased-out deductions at higher income levels has been eliminated.

AMT and estate tax narrowed, the Child Tax Credit expanded. While not completely repealed, both the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and estate tax should impact far fewer families. For a married couple, the AMT exemption will be increased from $84,500 to $109,400 and the phase-out from $160,900 to $1,000,000. These two changes should significantly decrease the number of households who are subject to the AMT, and of those who are, lower their AMT liability. Also, the applicable exclusion amount doubles from $5,490,000 to $10,980,000 per person. This change effectively means that couples can shield up to $21,960,000 from estate tax. Unfortunately, the sunset will reduce this number by half come 2026. High-net-worth families may want to make use of a disclaimer trust and other techniques that build flexibility into their estate plan. A typical disclaimer trust strategy leaves all property to a U.S. citizen spouse outright, but provides for a credit shelter trust to be on “stand-by” upon the death of the first spouse. The bottom line is that the survivor can choose to ignore or use the credit shelter trust when the time comes, depending upon the current set of circumstances including the estate tax rules at the time. Finally, the child tax credit increases from $1,000 to $2,000 and the phaseout increases from $110,000 to $400,000 of AGI for a married filer ($75,000 to $200,000 for a single filer). Some higher income clients may therefore now be eligible to take advantage of the credit beginning next year.

529 College Savings Plan and ABLE changes. The legislation will allow tax-free distributions up to $10,000 per year, per child from a 529 College Savings Plan to be used for elementary and secondary education. Further, 529 plans may be rolled into an ABLE for the same beneficiary or member of the beneficiary’s family but the rollover will count towards the $14,000 annual contribution limit. Last, a beneficiary of an ABLE may make contributions in excess of the $14,000 ceiling by the lesser of half the federal poverty line or compensation earned during the taxable year.

Retirement cleanup. A few provisions that impact retirement plans were added that primarily serve as fixes or policy improvements. First, taxpayers will no longer be allowed to recharacterize Roth IRA conversions (recharacterizing contributions are still permitted). The original intent of a recharacterization was to allow taxpayers to unwind a Roth conversion if they later learn their AGI exceeded the $100,000 threshold. Since this eligibility requirement has been repealed, taxpayers were using recharacterizations to create an arbitrage opportunity. In essence, they would keep their conversion if the account value increased but unwind their conversion if their account value decreased. This strategy irked policy makers and has long been up for consideration. Secondly, for participants who separate from service with an outstanding loan from their employer-sponsored retirement plan, the deadline to repay the loan has been increased from 60 days to their tax-filing deadline including extensions. Repaying a loan will avoid a taxable event and potential 10% penalty.

Businesses win. As expected, the corporate tax rate has been decreased, but to 21% rather than the previously discussed 20% or even 15%, starting in 2018. Pass-through business income from sole proprietors, partnerships and S corporations will still pay taxes at ordinary income rates but be eligible for a 20% deduction. Limitations and exclusions apply, however, once income exceeds $315,000 for married taxpayers and $157,500 for single taxpayers. Lastly, for property acquired and placed in service between September 28, 2017, and December 31, 2022, businesses can deduct 100% of the investment in the year of purchase rather than follow the customary depreciation tables. Further, eligible property may be new or used. Advisors equipped with lending solutions should make these services available to their business owner clients.

These tax law changes offer advisors an opportunity to bring additional value to their most important relationships, in addition to consulting with other client providers including CPAs and attorneys. Forward-thinking advisors will use these changes to not only help clients maximize their opportunities but differentiate their practice in a very crowded marketplace.


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This article by Matt Sommer was originally published at JanusHenderson.com



By Gold Core

2 January 2018


It was just two years ago that Mark Carney was writing his fourth letter to the British Chancellor, explaining why the country was in a deflationary slump. Even then households were feeling the pinch, despite what officials reported.

Since then Brits have become increasingly vindicated as inflation figures have begun to show what they have all known for some time – prices and the cost of living is on the rise.

Now Mark Carney is forced to write a different type of letter to the Chancellor, one where he will have to explain why inflation is above target at 3.1%. The jump to over 3% in the year to November is the fastest paced increase seen in nearly six years.

Carney’s dilemma

The Governor of the Bank of England now finds himself in a bit of a quandary.

Usually a central bank would increase interest rates in order to combat inflation. Currently the UK’s stands at the punishingly low 0.5% so one would think that there is plenty of room for manoeuvre.

However, debt levels in the UK are massive – at every strata of society – and increase rate rises will lead to a recession or indeed a depression. There is also the not inconsequential matter of Brexit.

Brexit is now seemingly more important than the spending and saving power of Britain’s households and must be considered when looking at a rate hike. When rates were raised last month (the first time in a decade) it was done with the Bank of England’s acknowledgement that Brexit was likely to hurt the country’s growth prospects. So the MPC erred on the side of caution.

With the Brexit cloud growing ever darker and uncertain, the Committee are aware of the need to keep consumer spending, the engine of the UK economy, pumping along. However, if inflation is not ‘handled’ then too much inflation could threaten the central bank’s grip on the economy. Too much inflation could result in total engine failure.

This is Carney’s dilemma.

No dilemma for households?

For savers, pensioners, businesses and households the situation should really be a no brainer. Household bills for food and non-alcoholic drinks are now up by a punishing 4.1% in the last year.

And that discounts the stealth inflation that is taking place in the UK and internationally in the form of shrinkflation. Shrinkflation in the UK is very real with real inflation much higher than reported and realised as consumer items, especially food, shrink in size while prices remain the same or go higher.

Savers, pensioners and households are likely tearing their hair out as economists rush to point to airfares and computer games as the main causes of increasing inflation figures. This is of little consequence to a household pushed to its limits when it comes to feeding and clothing a family.

A flight to Malaga or the next Grand Theft auto is likely the last things on parents’ minds.

The squeeze is so tight that many households have been forced into credit card spending and other forms of borrowing. This has been ‘manageable’ so far as deals offered by credit companies often mean no payments for a set period, free transfers and interest rates make little difference to borrowing costs.

The primary way to combat inflation is to hike interest rates. This will be good if it brings down household debt in the long term but painful as it will push up the cost of debt in the short and likely medium term.

UK household debt stands at £1,630.1 billion (£1.63 Trillion)

Currently UK household debt stands at £1,630.1 billion, an increase of 19% in the last five years.

Sadly the latest measure does not include the rise in fuel prices. This is something else households and businesses are feeling the pinch in and must feel frustrated that it is so rarely acknowledged by those deciding the fate of finances.

The RAC have today warned that thanks to the shutdown of a major North Sea pipeline could push fuel prices up by a further 3p. This will be felt acutely in an economy that saw fuel and raw material bills for manufacturers up 7.3% in November, up from 4.8% in October, while factory gate prices rose by 3%, up from 2.8% in October.

Those who actually live, spend and want to live in the black have a terrible dilemma on their hands. Inflation is killing them, debt is helping them to get by but the solution to both is going to be crippling.

No savings and situation set to worsen 

Sadly there is currently little incentive to save. Wages are not keeping pace with inflation and the latter just eats away at cash in the bank. UK savings are at their lowest in fifty years.

Latest readings show weekly wage inflation is just at 2.2%. For those recalling inflation levels of the 70s and 80s and are currently scoffing at an inflation reading of 3.1% it would be worth reminding you that back then wage inflation was actually outpacing the CPI.

30-40 years ago the logic that wages would respond to higher prices and outpace them was really happening. Today, this is a fallacy.

The situation is made worse by what is in store for the UK economy. Following the release of the inflation figures many economists were quick to reassure that we were now seeing the peak of inflation.

This is highly doubtful. The Bank of England and ONS are pointing towards the weak post-Brexit pound as argument for inflation levels. In truth, the fall in sterling was just the much needed catalyst inflation needed in order to appear in official readings.

Households, businesses and savers and been feeling inflation long before Brexit was even in our common lexicon.

We have inflation today, as we have for at least the past five years. But along with it we also have shrinkflation and now what appears to be signs of stagflation.

Stagflation occurs when there is persistently high inflation combined with stagnant demand and low employment levels. This is appearing in the UK housing market where prices are down for the second-month in a row and the volume of transactions is falling. Unemployment remains low in the UK but this looks set to change.

Only set to get worse so buy gold

From Brexit to stagflation to debt levels it is tricky to see how Governor Mark Carney can turn this situation around. Whilst he might, just might, be able to pull it out the bag for the sake of appearances the ‘solution’ is unlikely to be one which is beneficial to savers.

The monetary policy  we have fallen victim to is wealth ignorant. It does not create or protect wealth. It eats away at it month by month. It shows little regard to how you spend your money and where you hold your cash. This why investors and savers must diversify their portfolios and own real assets which cannot be devalued by monetary and government policies.

Investments such as gold and silver by their very nature are immune to the effects of inflation, stagflation and the dangerous ideas and experiments of central banks.

This year gold is up by nearly 8% and acting as . Wouldn’t it be nice next time the UK inflation figures are released to consider how your portfolio has done in real terms thanks to precious metals?


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This article was originally published at Gold Core.

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