New tax legislation provides relief for dentists

Issue 2

February 2, 2011  | Web Exclusive New tax legislation law provides relief for dentists The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation

February 2, 2011  |

Web Exclusive

New tax legislation law provides relief for dentists

The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 provide a 13-month extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed and extend tax cuts that were scheduled to expire on January 1, 2011.

Conrtibuted by J. Haden Wehan, CPA/PFS, Capital Performance Advisors

Photo: Getty Images

On December 17, 2010, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 were signed into law. Dentists should be thrilled because, in addition to providing a 13-month extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed, the legislation includes a long-anticipated extension of the "Bush tax cuts" that were scheduled to expire on January 1, 2011. Other significant provisions include a new alternative minimum tax (AMT) "patch," a major modification of the estate tax, and a new 1-year 2% employee Social Security payroll tax reduction.

Income tax rates
The Act extends existing federal income tax rates for 2 additional years. As in 2010, the federal tax bracket rates for 2011 and 2012 will be 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35%. (Without this legislation, federal income tax rates would have increased beginning in 2011--the current 10% federal income tax bracket would have disappeared, and the five remaining tax brackets would have been 15%, 28%, 31%, 36%, and 39.6%).

Tax rates for long-term capital gain and qualifying dividends
Existing tax rates for long-term capital gains and qualifying dividends are also extended through 2012. As a result, long-term capital gain and qualifying dividends will continue to be taxed at a maximum rate of 15%. For individuals in the 10% or 15% marginal income tax bracket, a special 0% rate will generally continue to apply.

One-year reduction in employee payroll tax

For the 2011 year, the employee portion of the Social Security retirement component of FICA employment tax is reduced by 2%. Normally equal to 6.2% of covered wages up to the taxable wage base ($106,800 in 2011), for 2011 this rate will be reduced to 4.2%. Self-employed dentists, who normally pay 12.4% for the Social Security portion of their self-employment taxes, will also benefit from a 2% reduction, paying 10.4% for 2011 for a savings of $2,136.

"Bonus" depreciation
The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allowed an additional 50% depreciation deduction for qualifying property placed in service during 2008 and 2009. This additional depreciation deduction was allowed for purposes of the alternative minimum tax (AMT) calculation, as well as regular tax. The Small Business Jobs Act extended the 50% additional first-year depreciation deduction for one year to apply to qualified property acquired and placed in service during 2010.

This Act increases the bonus depreciation percentage to 100% for property acquired and placed in service after September 8, 2010 and before January 1, 2012. The Act extends bonus depreciation at the 50% level through 2012 (50% bonus depreciation will apply for property placed in service after December 31, 2011, and before January 1, 2013).

IRC Section 179 expense limits
Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code allows businesses to elect to deduct the cost of depreciable tangible personal property acquired for use in the business in the year of purchase, rather than through depreciation deductions. Since 2003, several pieces of legislation have temporarily expanded the limits that apply to Section 179.

Most recently, the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 increased the maximum amount that can be expensed to $250,000 for tax years beginning in 2008 and 2009. This amount was reduced by the amount by which the cost of qualifying property placed in service during the year exceeded $800,000. For tax years 2010 and 2011, the Small Business Jobs Act increased the maximum amount that may be expensed under Section 179 to $500,000 and increased the phase-out threshold amount to $2 million.

For 2012, the dollar limit amount and phase-out threshold level were scheduled to drop to $25,000 and $200,000, respectively. This Act sets the IRC Section 179 expense limit for 2012 at its 2007 level--$125,000, with a phase-out threshold of $500,000--indexed for inflation.  It also allows for qualified leasehold improvements to be expened under Section 179 up to $250,000.

Education provisions
• The Act extends the American Opportunity tax credit (known as the Hope tax credit before being significantly-- though temporarily--modified by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009). The American Opportunity Tax Credit's higher maximum credit amount, increased income limits, expanded applicability to the first four years of college, and potential refundability, available in 2009 and 2010, are extended through 2012.
• The current rules that apply to Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (e.g., $2,000 annual contribution limit, education expenses expanded to include elementary and secondary school expenses) are also extended through 2012. Without this change, the annual contribution limit would have dropped to $500 beginning January 1, 2011.
• For the student loan interest deduction, increased income limits and the suspension of the 60-month rule, which would have expired at the end of 2010, are extended for 2 years (the deduction was, prior to 2001, limited to interest paid in the first 60 months of repayment).
• The deduction for qualified higher education expenses, which expired at the end of 2009, is retroactively reinstated for 2010, and extended through 2011.
Other provisions--individuals
Provisions extended through 2012 include:
• Itemized deductions and personal and dependency exemptions will not be reduced for higher-income individuals
• "Marriage penalty" relief in the form of an expanded 15% tax bracket and an increased standard deduction amount for married individuals filing jointly
• Exclusion of up to $5,250 in employer-provided education assistance for undergraduate and graduate education
• Increased earned income tax credit (EITC) for families with 3 or more children, and increased EITC income limits for married couples filing jointly
• Increased child tax credit amount with expanded refundability (15% of earnings above $3,000)
• Expanded credit for child and dependent care expenses (increased limit on eligible expenses and maximum credit percentage)
• An increased adoption tax credit and employer-paid adoption assistance exclusion amount; the credit also remains refundable
• Reinstated tax credit for energy-efficient improvements to existing homes for 2011, but at 10% instead of 35%.

Provisions for 2010 and 2011 include:
•  The deduction for state and local sales tax in lieu of state and local income tax on Schedule A
• The $250 above-the-line deduction for elementary school and secondary schoolteacher classroom expenses
• Tax-free distributions to charitable organizations from IRAs by individuals age 70 1/2 or older (up to $100,000 per year); a special provision in the Act allows qualifying individuals to treat a distribution made from an IRA to a charity in January, 2011, as if it were made in 2010
• Section 179 deduction up to $250,000 for qualified leasehold improvements
• Deduction for self-employed health insurance moved to Schedule C from Form 1040 - thereby lowering self-employment tax and income tax
• Mortgage insurance premiums deductible as qualified residence interest, subject to an adjusted gross income (AGI) limitation

This will be one of the most interesting tax seasons your preparer will have seen for several years. There are changes to tax forms we will not see until mid February. Tax planning done prior to this new tax bill being signed may render different results from what many dentists are expecting on April 18th (not April 15th this year due to the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, DC on April 15th. That said, I am very confident that your tax preparer will be very pleased if you send them your tax information today.

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