Monthly Archives: March 2013

Overview of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012

Fiscal cliff explanation from Westchester tax preparation firm

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 brought us a great deal of financial changes.

Westchester tax preparers at Herman & Company CPA’s have all the answers to your personal finance questions!

After a great deal of wrangling, Congress passed and the President signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 in early 2013. The Act provides relief for most taxpayers, but will increase the tax bill for high-income folks. The Act includes, among other items, permanent extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for most taxpayers; revised tax rates on ordinary and capital gain income for high-income individuals; modification of the estate tax; permanent fix of the AMT for individual taxpayers; limits on deductions and exemptions of high-income individuals; and numerous retroactively reinstated and extended tax breaks for individuals and businesses. In this article we will discuss several of the Act’s provisions impacting individual taxpayers.

Tax rates on ordinary income. For tax years beginning after 2012, the 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35% tax brackets from the Bush tax cuts will remain in place and are made permanent. This means that, for most Americans, the tax rates on ordinary income will stay the same. However, there will be a new 39.6% rate, which will begin at the following inflation-adjusted thresholds: $400,000 (single), $425,000 (head of household), $450,000 (joint filers and qualifying widows and widowers), and $225,000 (married filing separately).

Estate tax. The new law prevents steep increases in estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer (GST) taxes that were slated to occur for individuals dying and gifts made after 2012 by permanently keeping the exemption level at $5,000,000 (as indexed for inflation; $5,250,000 in 2013). However, the new law also permanently increases the top estate, gift, and GST rate from 35% to 40%. It also continues the portability feature that allows the estate of the first spouse to die to transfer his or her unused exclusion to the surviving spouse.

Capital gains and qualified dividends rates. The new law retains the 0% tax rate on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends, modifies the 15% rate, and establishes a new 20% rate. Beginning in 2013, the rate will be 0% if ordinary income falls below the 25% tax bracket; 15% if income falls at or above the 25% tax bracket but below the new 39.6% rate; and 20% if income falls in the 39.6% tax bracket. It should be noted that some taxpayers in the 15% and 20% tax brackets could also be required to pay the new 3.8% surtax on investment-type income and gains for tax years beginning after 2012, which applies on investment income of taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income above $250,000 (joint filers), $125,000 (separate), and $200,000 (others).

Personal exemption phase-out. Beginning in 2013, personal exemptions will be phased out (i.e., reduced) for adjusted gross income over $250,000 (single), $275,000 (head of household), and $300,000 (joint filers). Taxpayers claim exemptions for themselves, their spouses and their dependents. For 2013, each exemption is worth $3,900.

Itemized deduction limitation. Beginning in 2013, itemized deductions will be limited for taxpayers with an adjusted gross income over $250,000 (single), $275,000 (head of household), and $300,000 (joint filers).

AMT relief. The new law provides permanent, inflation-adjusted alternative minimum tax (AMT) relief. Prior to the Act, the individual AMT exemption amounts for 2012 were to have been $33,750 for unmarried taxpayers, $45,000 for joint filers, and $22,500 for married persons filing separately. Retroactively effective for tax years beginning after 2011, the new law permanently increases these exemption amounts to $50,600 for unmarried taxpayers, $78,750 for joint filers, and $39,375 for married persons filing separately. In addition, for tax years beginning after 2012, it indexes these exemption amounts for inflation.

Tax credits for low- to middle-wage earners. The new law extends for five years the following items that were originally enacted as part of the 2009 stimulus package and were slated to expire at the end of 2012: (1) the American Opportunity tax credit, which provides up to $2,500 in tax credits for undergraduate college education; (2) eased rules for qualifying for the refundable child credit; and (3) various earned income tax credit (EITC) changes.

Tax break extenders. Many of the “traditional” tax extenders are extended for two years, retroactively to 2012 and through the end of 2013. Among many others, the extended provisions include the election to take an itemized deduction for state and local general sales taxes in lieu of the itemized deduction for state and local income taxes, $250 above-the-line deduction for certain expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers, special rule for contributions made for conservation purposes, above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses, and limited tax-free distributions from individual retirement plans for charitable purposes (see page 4).

Payroll tax cut. The 2% payroll tax cut available in 2011 and 2012 was allowed to expire.

White Plains CPA Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all of your financial needs. We proudly serve all the towns of Westchester County including Scarsdale NY, Purchase NY, Mamaroneck NY, Chappaqua NY and beyond.


What The Tax Deal Means For You

This article by Susie Poppick originally appeared in Money Magazine and quoted Paul Herman as a Subject Matter Expert on tax preparation. The original article can be found online here.

white-plains-cpa-firm-westchester-accounting-firm-paperwork-for-tax-filingAfter much nail biting, the fiscal cliff deal has finally brought certainty to the federal tax landscape, and for most the news is good.

Even the tax increases that slipped through — a jump in the top rate from 35% to 39.6% and a hike in the capital gains tax from 15% to 20% — kick in only on incomes over $400,000 for singles, $450,000 for married couples filing jointly, not the $200,000 and $250,000 cutoffs President Obama had called for.

“The tax bill is a net positive for average Americans,” says White Plains, NY CPA Paul Herman.

Related: fiscal cliff deal raises taxes on 77% of Americans

Look past the headlines, though, and you’ll find a mixed bag: new rules that could help you in the years ahead, depending upon who you are, but higher taxes for a bigger group than you might expect.

Here are the most important changes you need to know about, and your best moves now.


A lower threshold for tax pain. Just because you’re bringing in less than $400,000 a year, you’re not out of the woods.

By limiting two important ways to cut your taxable income, read more …

What Is One Thing That Would Make Your Tax Planning and Filing Easier?

We know your time is crunched, and the more we can free it up, the better off you are. Since tax planning and tax filing is in high swing, we asked a few residents in and around Westchester to comment on what an accountant could do to up their game, and better serve the public. Here is a selection of wisdom culled from the crowds.

perspective on tax planning westchester cpa white plains accounting firm from bruce segallLast year, the way the calendar and holidays fell out, the deadline wasn’t till April 18th.  That extra 3 days was really helpful.

In all seriousness,  anything the IRS could do to reduce the paperwork and preparation on my end would be appreciated!  I don’t earn all that much, but my circumstances are complicated by running my own business and dealing with the aftermath of my parents’ recent deaths. Even though I use an accountant, I spend a lot of non-rewarding time getting all the documentation in order.

With thanks to Bruce Segall of Marketing Sense.

perspective on tax planning westchester cpa white plains accounting firm from delaune michelWhen I do taxes for Spoken Interludes, I use Quick Books which my accountant recommended. As much as I disliked having to learn a new program – couldn’t Quicken be good for business, too? – in January, all I have to do is print out the reports for my accountant, and he does the rest. I could never figure out the taxes for a nonprofit!

With thanks to Delauné Michel of Spoken Interludes.


perspective on tax planning westchester cpa white plains accounting firm from jill selbst abrahamWe have sometimes had questions about different tax rates in different counties [as we sell to folks residing in a geographically dispersed area]. So it has been somewhat unclear when it is time to pay our taxes. We usually are searching to get answers, and when your accountant is really good in providing service, and when they are easy to reach, that is key. It can sometimes take a good deal of time to get a live person on the line [from the tax prep software firms], so we appreciate that since our business is small, we can rely on our accountant for answers.

With thanks to Jill Selbst-Abraham of The Chintz Giraffe.

perspective on tax planning westchester cpa white plains accounting firm from todd wallachFor us [as a full-service insurance agency], its painless because we have a very good accountant and we use Quickbooks, which is an industry standard. She has the ability to dial in and do everything they need to do.

With thanks to Todd Wallach of the Brian Wallach Agency.



perspective on tax planning westchester cpa white plains accounting firm from renee marks cohenDo away with income tax; use a value-added tax (but not on food).

With thanks to Renee Marks Cohen, Freelance Medical Writer and Editor.



Any U.S. tax advice contained in the body of this website is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.