The 2013 Medicare Surtax: What You Need to Know

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 have ushered in new income tax provisions which become effective in 2013.  One of the new provisions is the 3.8% Medicare surtax on an individual’s Net Investment Income.  This tax is one of the funding provisions for the new health care legislation, known as Obamacare.  The surtax will impact high income taxpayers who have a modified adjusted gross income in excess of specific thresholds.

FIRST OF ALL, WHO IS A “HIGH INCOME” INDIVIDUAL?  WILL I BE SUBJECT TO THIS TAX?

Individuals will be subject to the tax if they have any amount of net investment income and their modified adjusted gross income (“MAGI”) for the year is greater than the following threshold amounts:

  •   Married filing jointly                                              $250,000
  •   Married filing separately                                        $125,000
  •   Single or head of household                                   $200,000

HOW IS THE TAX CALCULATED?

The 3.8% tax is calculated on the lesser of (1) your net investment income or (2) your MAGI in excess of the threshold amount.  Some common types of investment income are: interest (excluding tax exempt interest), dividends, capital gains, rental income (if you are not a real estate professional) and passive income from partnership activities.

DOES THE TAX APPLY TO THE GAIN ON THE SALE OF MY PERSONAL RESIDENCE?  WHAT ABOUT A VACATION HOME OR INVESTMENT REAL ESTATE?

Net investment income only includes the net taxable gain from the sale of a personal residence, which is the gain in excess of $500,000 for married individuals and $250,000 for single individuals.    The entire net capital gain from the sale of a vacation home, investment property or rental real estate is included in investment income.

DOES THIS TAX APPLY TO TRUSTS?

The tax will apply to estates and trusts with undistributed net investment income and an adjusted gross income in the amount of $11,650 for 2013.

WHAT CAN I DO TO MINIMIZE THE IMPACT OF THE SURTAX?

The timing of transactions becomes a very important tax planning tool in avoiding or minimizing the impact of the 3.8% surtax.  This is especially true for sales transactions of stock, real estate and other investments.  The current year tax impact of net investment income and other gains and losses should be reviewed in order to minimize the tax.

Other potential opportunities to minimize the surtax impact are:

  • Consider converting traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs.  This would reduce the MAGI in future years when distributions are taken from the accounts.
  • Investing in tax exempt bonds instead of taxable bonds.  The interest from the tax exempt bonds is excludable.
  • Harvesting capital losses to offset capital losses to reduce net investment income and MAGI.
  • Managing retirement plan distribution to maintain MAGI under the threshold amounts.

IS THE 3.8% SURTAX ON NET INVESTMENT INCOME THE ONLY MEDICARE SURTAX?  WHAT ABOUT EARNED INCOME?

No, there is also a .9% Medicare surtax on the wages and self-employment income of high income taxpayers.  This tax applies to earned income in excess of $200,000 for single filers, $250,000 for married taxpayers filing joint returns and $125,000 for married taxpayers filing separately.

For more information regarding tax planning, tax compliance and controversy, estate planning, or business law,  please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com or call us at 404-255-7400 or send us an email.

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose. The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only. Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.