Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

Taxpayers recovering from the current economic downturn will get at least some relief in 2013 by way of the mandatory upward inflation-adjustments called for under the tax code, according to CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business. CCH has released estimated income ranges for each 2013 tax bracket as well as a growing number of other inflation-sensitive tax figures, such as the personal exemption and the standard deduction.

Projections this year, however, are clouded by the uncertainty of expiring provisions in the tax code. If Congress allows the so-called Bush-era tax cuts to expire at the end of 2012, many taxpayers could lose more ground than they will otherwise gain. These tax cuts, first enacted within Economic Growth Tax Recovery and Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) with a ten-year life, were last extended by the 2010 Tax Relief Act, but only for two years through 2012.

When there is inflation, indexing of brackets lowers tax bills by including more of taxpayers’ incomes in lower brackets – in the existing 15-percent rather than the existing 25-percent bracket, for example. The formula used in indexing showed an average amount of inflation this year of about 2.5 percent – the highest in several years. Most 2013 figures therefore have moved higher.

Tax Rates

The current 10, 15, 25, 33 and 35-percent rates are now officially scheduled to sunset to the pre-EGTRRA rate structure of 15, 28, 31, 36 and 39.6-percent. While no one in Washington is calling for a full sunset of all the current tax rates, congressional gridlock might produce a cliffhanger on what will happen until after the November elections, and perhaps not even before January when the new, 113th Congress convenes. In the meantime, there are three possible alternative scenarios being debated by lawmakers:

  • Extend the current tax bracket structure in its entirety;
  • As proposed by President Obama, keep the current rate structure except revive the 36 and 39.6-percent rates, starting at a higher-income bracket level of $200,000 for single filers, $250,000 for joint filers, $225,000 for head-of-households and $125,000 for married taxpayers filing separately, also indexed for inflation since initially proposed in 2009 but keyed to adjusted gross income (AGI) rather than taxable income (indexed 2013 projections for those AGI levels, based on the Administration’s FY 2013 Budget, are $213,200 / $266,500 / $239,850 / and $133,250, respectively); or
  • As proposed by certain Senate Democrats, raise the top tax rate only for individuals making more than $1 million.

Tax Brackets

Here is a sample of how inflation will raise rate brackets in 2013, assuming a full extension of tax rates:

  • Joint returns. For married taxpayers filing jointly and surviving spouses, the maximum taxable income subject to the 10-percent bracket will rise from $17,400 in 2012, to $17,850 in 2013; the top of the 15-percent tax bracket will increase from $70,700 to $72,500. The bracket amounts for the remaining tax rates will show similarly proportionate increases: $146,400 as the maximum for the 25-percent bracket (up $3,700 from 2012); $223,050 for the 28-percent bracket (up $5,600 from 2012); and $398,350 for the 33-percent bracket (up $10,000 from 2012). Amounts above the $398,350 level will be taxed at the 35-percent rate.
  • Single filers. For single taxpayers, the maximum taxable income for the 10-percent bracket will increase to $8,925 for 2012 (up from $8,700 in 2012). The remainder of the rate brackets show inflation increases of: $900 for the top of the 15-percent bracket (to $36,250); $2,200 for the 25-percent bracket (to $87,850); $4,600 for the 28-percent bracket (to $183,250); and $10,000 for the top of the 33-percent bracket (to $398,350).

Standard Deductions

The 2013 standard deduction will increase for all taxpayers. The standard deduction amounts for 2013 is projected to be $6,100 for single taxpayers; $8,950 for heads of households; $12,200 for married taxpayers filing jointly and surviving spouses; and $6,100 for married taxpayers filing separately. The standard deduction for dependents rises $50 to $1,000 (or earned income plus $350). The additional standard deduction for those have reached 65 or are blind will rise to $1,200 for married taxpayers; $1,500 for unmarried individuals.

Personal Exemptions

The amount of personal and dependency exemptions for 2013 will increase to $3,900 from the 2012 level of $3,800.

Gift Tax Exclusion

The gift tax annual exclusion, which rose from a base of $10,000 to $11,000 in 2002; $12,000 in 2006, and $13,000 in 2009, once again will rise in 2013 to $14,000. Pursuant to the IRC, the exemption can rise only when the inflation adjustment produces an increase of $1,000 or more.

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