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Preparing for Potential Tax Increases Under the Biden Administration

The Biden Administration’s American Families Plan and other tax proposals may complicate the tax landscape for high-income earners. Many of the proposals target taxpayers earning more than $400,000 per year.

The American Families Plan proposals include:

  • Increasing the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6% for households making over $400,000;
  • Taxing long-term capital gains at 39.6% for households making over $1 million;
  • Reducing the step-up in basis for gains in excess of $1 million at death and taxing the gains if the property is not donated to charity;
  • Eliminating carried interest and taxing that income at ordinary income rates;
  • Permanently extending excess business loss limitation rules; and
  • Applying the 3.8% net investment income tax consistently for those making over $400,000.

To add significance to these proposals, President Biden also proposes earmarking $80 billion for IRS audit efforts that will target high-income individuals who have engaged in tax avoidance or other tactics to reduce their taxable income. The additional funding will be accompanied by increased IRS enforcement powers.

In addition, President Biden previously put forth the following proposals during his election campaign:

  • Phasing out the 20% qualified business income tax deduction;
  • Limiting the benefit of itemized deductions to 28% of their value and restoring the “Pease limitation” cap on itemized deductions;
  • Reducing the lifetime estate tax exemption from $11.7 million to $3.5 million (back to 2009 levels) and increasing the estate and gift tax rate from 40% to 45%; and
  • Imposing the 12.4% social security payroll tax on earned income above $400,000.

These proposals, although not specifically mentioned in the American Families Plan, continue to be part of the President’s tax agenda.

What Can Taxpayers Do Now?

Given the real possibility of targeted tax increases on the wealthy, as well as the uncertainty of when any increases might take effect, individuals, business owners and family offices should review their current situations to identify opportunities in which their overall federal and state tax liabilities could be minimized.

  • Taxpayers should evaluate the extent to which they can time the recognition of income and deductions within a desired tax year. Planning should not only be driven by current and future tax rates but also by the taxpayer’s individual facts and circumstances, including income and cash goals.
  • Due to the uncertainty of whether tax legislation will ultimately be passed, and to what extent, tax planning efforts should include multiple “what-if” scenarios to prepare for a range of possible legislative outcomes and effective dates.
  • As the future tax landscape takes shape, taxpayers should consider strategies to minimize tax on their capital gains, such as:
    • Accelerating capital gains to take advantage of lower rates;
    • Managing levels of other taxable income to avoid higher rates on capital gains;
    • Timing when tax is due by using or electing out of the installment method; and
    • Using deferral strategies such as like-kind exchanges and investments in qualified opportunity zones.

Individuals and families should revisit their estate plans considering President Biden’s tax proposals. Individuals — especially those with large estates — should evaluate the benefits of multi-generational wealth transfers, the use of trusts and other estate planning opportunities, and be prepared to implement strategies in advance of proposals becoming law.

Tax Alerts
June 12, 2021
Tax Briefing(s)

On April 28, 2021, the White House released details on President Biden’s new $1.8 trillion American Families Plan. The proposal follows the already passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act and the recently proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure-focused American Jobs Plan. The details were released in advance of President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress.


The IRS announced that it had started issuing refunds to eligible taxpayers who paid taxes on 2020 unemployment compensation that was excluded from taxable income by the recently enacted American Rescue Plan (ARP) (P.L. 117-2).


A safe harbor is available for certain Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan recipients who relied on prior IRS guidance and did not deduct eligible business expenses. These taxpayers may elect to deduct the expenses for their first tax year following their 2020 tax year, rather than filing an amended return or administrative adjustment request for 2020.


Individuals may use two special procedures to file returns for 2020 that allow them to receive advance payments of the 2021 child credit and the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit.


The IRS has provided guidance for employers, plan administrators, and health insurers regarding the new credit available to them for providing continuation health coverage to certain individuals under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) emergency.


The IRS has reminded employers that under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) ( P.L. 117-2), small and midsize employers and certain government employers are entitled to claim refundable tax credits that reimburse them for the cost of providing paid sick and family leave to their employees due to COVID-19. This includes leave taken by employees to receive or recover from COVID-19 vaccinations.


The IRS has reminded taxpayers who owe 2020 taxes that there are different ways to pay their taxes online, including payment options for many people who cannot pay in full.


The IRS reminds taxpayers that May includes National Hurricane Preparedness Week and National Wildfire Awareness Month. It urges taxpayers to create or review emergency preparedness plans for surviving natural disasters.


Dependent care assistance benefits carryovers and extended claims period amounts that would have been excluded from income if used during the preceding tax year will remain excludable in tax years ending in 2021 and 2022. In addition, these benefits will not be taken into account in determining the dependent care benefits exclusion limit for the tax years ending in 2021 and 2022.


The Treasury Department has released a statement discussing investment in the IRS and improving tax compliance.