Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

The limitation on itemized deductions (also known as the Pease limitation after the member of Congress who sponsored the original legislation) is reinstated by the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) for tax years beginning after December 31, 2012. The reinstated Pease limitation is intended to reduce or eliminate the itemized deductions of higher income taxpayers to raise revenue.

Background

The Pease limitation dates to 1990. At that time, Congress was looking to raise revenue without increasing the income tax rates and lawmakers created the Pease limitation. The Pease limitation effectively limits the benefit of itemized deductions claimed by higher income individuals. Itemized deductions that would otherwise be allowed are reduced by the lesser of three percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) that exceeds a threshold amount or 80 percent of the total amount of otherwise allowable itemized deductions.

In 2001, Congress passed the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA). The 2001 law gradually eliminated the Pease limitation for the years 2006 through 2010. In 2010, Congress extended repeal of the Pease limitation through 2012. Last year, repeal was again up for a vote in Congress. Many lawmakers wanted to extend repeal of the Pease limitation for one or two more years (or make repeal permanent) but ATRA instead reinstated the Pease limitation for 2013 and subsequent years.

Reinstated Pease limitation

ATRA provides that the amount of a taxpayer’s otherwise allowable itemized deductions is reduced or eliminated if the taxpayer’s AGI exceeds “applicable threshold amounts.” The applicable threshold amounts for application of the Pease limitation in 2013 are $300,000 in the case of married couples filing a joint return or surviving spouse; $275,000 in the case of head of household; $250,000 in the case of an unmarried individual who is not a surviving spouse or head of household; and $150,000 in the case of a married couple filing separately. After 2013, the applicable threshold amounts are adjusted for inflation.

Congress selected these applicable threshold amounts to limit application of the Pease limitation to higher income taxpayers. A taxpayer’s AGI must exceed the applicable threshold amount for the Pease limitation to apply.

Certain other rules apply. For purposes of the 80 percent limitation, itemized deductions do not include certain deductions: the deductions for qualified medical expenses, interest expenses, casualty or theft losses, and allowable wagering losses. Additionally, limitations on itemized deductions are applied first and then the otherwise allowable total amount of itemized deductions is reduced. These include the two percent floor for miscellaneous itemized deductions.

Let’s take a look at an example:

Inez, age 30, and Tyler, age 31, are married, have no children and file a joint federal income tax return for 2013. Their AGI for 2013 is $350,000. Inez and Tyler have the following amounts to report as itemized deductions on their 2013 return:

 

Contributions to charitable organizations:

$4,000.00

State and local real property taxes:

$11,000.00

Medical expenses (in excess of the 10 percent AGI floor for 2013):

$2,000.00

Because their AGI exceeds the applicable threshold of $300,000 for a married couple filing a joint return, the amount of their otherwise allowable itemized deductions ($17,000) must be reduced. The first possible reduction is three percent of the excess of their AGI over the applicable threshold amount (($350,000 − $300,000) x 0.03) which is $1,500. The second possible reduction is 80 percent of the amount of itemized deductions (excluding medical expenses) ($15,000 x 0.80) which is $12,000. The lesser of these two amounts is $1,500. Inez and Tyler must reduce their otherwise allowable deductions to $15,500 ($17,000 − $1,500).

If you have any questions about the reinstated Pease limitation, please contact our office at (908) 725-4414

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