78106_02_Web_Ch02A_p01-05 - WEB EXTENSION 2A The Federal...

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Unformatted text preview: WEB EXTENSION 2A The Federal Income Tax System for Individuals WWW H&R Block provides information for the current and next year at http://www .hrblock.com/taxes/tax_ calculators. A Web site explaining federal tax law is http://www.taxsites .com. From this home page one can visit other sites that provide summaries of recent tax legislation or current information on corporate and individual tax rates. The official government site is http://www .irs.gov. resource See Ch02 Tool Kit.xls for details. Our tax laws can be changed by Congress, and in recent years changes have occurred frequently. Indeed, a major change has occurred, on average, every 3 to 4 years since 1913, when our federal income tax system began. Further, certain parts of our tax system are tied to the inflation rate, so changes occur automatically each year, depending on the rate of inflation during the previous year. Therefore, although this section will give you a good background on the basic nature of our tax system, you should consult current rate schedules and other data published by the Internal Revenue Service (available in some U.S. post offices and on the Web) before you file your personal or business tax returns. Currently (January 2009), federal income tax rates for individuals go up to 35%; when Social Security, Medicare, and state and city income taxes are included, the marginal tax rate on an individual's income can easily exceed 50%. Business income is also taxed heavily. The income from partnerships and proprietorships is reported by the individual owners as personal income and, consequently, is taxed at federalplus-state rates going up to 50% or more. Corporate profits are subject to federal income tax rates of up to 39%, plus state income taxes. Furthermore, corporations pay taxes and then distribute after-tax income to their stockholders as dividends, which are also taxed (although at a lower rate than ordinary income, as explained below). So, corporate income is really subject to double taxation. Because of the magnitude of the tax bite, taxes play a critical role in many financial decisions. As this text is being written, Congress and the administration are debating the merits of different changes in the tax laws. Even in the unlikely event that no explicit changes are made in the tax laws, changes will still occur because certain aspects of the tax calculation are tied to the inflation rate. Thus, by the time you read this, tax rates and other factors will almost certainly be different from those we provide. Still, if you understand this section, you will understand the basics of our tax system, and you will know how to operate under the revised Tax Code. Taxes are so complicated that university law schools offer master's degrees in taxation to lawyers, many of whom are also CPAs. In a field complicated enough to warrant such detailed study, only the highlights can be covered in a book such as this. This is really enough, though, because business managers and investors should and do rely on tax specialists rather than trusting their own limited knowledge. Still, it is important to know the basic elements of the tax system as a starting point for discussions with tax experts. Individuals pay taxes on wages and salaries, on investment income (dividends, interest, and profits from the sale of securities), and on the profits of proprietorships and partnerships. Our tax rates are progressive--that is, the higher one's income, the larger the percentage paid in taxes. Table 2A-1 gives the tax rates for single individuals and married couples filing joint returns under the rate schedules that were in effect for the 2009 tax year. 1 2 Web Extension 2A: The Federal Income Tax System for Individuals T A B L E 2A - 1 I n d i v i d u al T a x R at e s f or th e 2 0 0 9 T a x Ye a r I N D I V I D UA L T A X T A B L E IF AN IN DIVIDU AL' S T A X A B LE I NC O ME IS BETWEEN: (1) $ 0 $ 8,350 $ 33,950 $ 82,250 $171,550 $372,950 (2) $ 8,350 $ 33,950 $ 82,250 $171,550 $372,950 and up HE/ S HE P A YS THIS AMOU NT ON TH E BASE O F T HE BRACKET (3) $ 0.00 $ 835.00 $ 4,675.00 $ 16,750.00 $ 41,754.00 $108,216.00 P L U S T HI S P E R C E NT A GE ON THE EXCESS OVER THE BASE (4) 10.0% 15.0% 25.0% 28.0% 33.0% 35.0% A V E R A GE T A X R A TE A T T O P OF BRACKET (5) 10.0% 13.8% 20.4% 24.3% 29.0% 35.0% MARRIED ( JOINT RETURN) TAX TABLE THEY PAY THIS AMOUNT ON THE BASE OF THE BRACKET (3) $ 0.00 $ 1,670.00 $ 9,350.00 $ 26,637.50 $ 46,741.50 $100,894.50 PLUS THIS PERCENTAGE ON THE EXCESS OVER THE BASE (4) 10.0% 15.0% 25.0% 28.0% 33.0% 35.0% IF A COUPLE'S TAXABLE INCOME IS BETWEEN: (1) $ 0 $ 16,700 $ 67,900 $137,050 $208,850 $372,950 (2) $ 16,700 $ 67,900 $137,050 $208,850 $372,950 and up AVERAGE TAX RATE AT TOP OF BRACKET (5) 10.0% 13.8% 19.4% 22.4% 27.1% 35.0% Notes: 1. These are the tax rates for the 2009 tax year as of January 2009. Congress may change these rates later in the year. Also, the income ranges at which each tax rate takes effect--as well as the ranges for the additional taxes discussed later--are indexed with inflation each year, so they will change from those shown in the table. See http://hrblock .com/taxes/tax_calculators/rate_tables/filing_status.html. 2. The average tax rate approaches 35% as taxable income rises without limit. At $1 million of taxable income, the average tax rates for single individuals and married couples filing joint returns are 33.1% and 32.5%, respectively, while at $10 million they are 34.8% for individuals and married couples. 3. In 2009, a personal exemption of $3,650 per person or dependent could be deducted from gross income to determine taxable income. Thus, a husband and wife with two children would have a 2009 exemption of 4 $3,650 = $14,600. The amount of the exemption is scheduled to increase with inflation. However, if gross income exceeds certain limits ($250,200 for joint returns and $166,800 for single individuals in 2009), the exemption is phased out, and this has the effect of raising the effective tax rate on incomes over the specified limit by about 0.5% per family member, or 2.0% for a family of four. See http://hrblock.com/taxes/tax_calculators/rate_tables/exemption_allowance .html for details. Taxpayers can claim itemized deductions for charitable contributions and certain other items, but these deductions are reduced if the gross income exceeds $166,800 (for both single individuals and joint returns; see http://hrblock .com/taxes/tax_calculators/rate_tables/itemized_deductions.html), and this raises the effective tax rate for highincome taxpayers by another 1% or so. The combined effect of the loss of exemptions and the reduction of itemized deductions is about 3%, so the marginal federal tax rate for high-income individuals goes up to about 38%. In addition, there is the Social Security tax, which amounts to 6.2% (12.4% for a self-employed person) on up to $106,800 of earned income, plus a 1.45% Medicare payroll tax (2.9% for self-employed individuals) on all earned income. See http://hrblock.com/taxes/tax_calculators/rate_tables/social_security_rates.html. Finally, older highincome taxpayers who receive Social Security payments must pay taxes on 85% of their Social Security receipts, up from 50% in 1994. All of this pushes the effective tax rate up even further. Web Extension 2A: The Federal Income Tax System for Individuals 3 1. Taxable income is defined as gross income less a set of exemptions and deductions that are spelled out in the instructions to the tax forms individuals must file. When filing a tax return in 2010 for the tax year 2009, each taxpayer receives an exemption of $3,650 for each dependent, including the taxpayer, which reduces taxable income. However, this exemption is indexed to rise with inflation, and the exemption is phased out (taken away) for high-income taxpayers. Also, certain expenses including mortgage interest paid, state and local income taxes, and charitable contributions can be deducted and thus be used to reduce taxable income; again, however, high-income taxpayers lose most of these deductions. 2. The marginal tax rate is defined as the tax rate on the last unit of income. Marginal rates begin at 10% and rise to 35%. Note, though, that when consideration is given to the phase-out of exemptions and deductions, to Social Security and Medicare taxes, and to state taxes, the marginal tax rate can exceed 50%. 3. One can calculate average tax rates from the data in Table 2A-1. For example, if Jill Smith, a single individual, had taxable income of $35,000, then her tax bill would be $4,675 + ($35,000 - $33,950)(0.25) = $4,937.50. Her average tax rate would be $4,937.50/$35,000 = 14.1% versus a marginal rate of 25%. If Jill received a raise of $1,000, bringing her income to $36,000, she would have to pay $250 of it as taxes, so her after-tax raise would be $750. In addition, her Social Security and Medicare taxes would increase by $76.50, which would cut her net raise to $673.50. 2.1 TAXES ON DIVIDEND AND INTEREST INCOME Interest income received by individuals is added to their other income and thus is taxed at rates going up to about 50%.1 Because corporations pay dividends out of earnings that have already been taxed, there is double taxation of corporate income: Income is first taxed at the corporate rate; then, when what is left is paid out as dividends, it is taxed again at the personal rate. Under the 2003 tax law changes, dividends are now taxed as though they were capital gains (which are explained below). As stated earlier, corporations may deduct interest payments but not dividends when computing their corporate tax liability, which means that dividends are taxed twice, once at the corporate level and again at the personal level. This differential treatment motivates corporations to use debt relatively heavily, and to pay small (or even no) dividends. The 2003 tax law did not eliminate the differential treatment of dividends and interest payments from the corporate perspective, but it did make the tax treatment of dividends more similar to that of capital gains from investors' perspectives. To see this, consider a company that doesn't pay a dividend but instead reinvests the cash it could have paid. The company's stock price should increase, leading to a capital gain, which would be taxed at the same rate as the dividend. Of course, the stock price appreciation isn't exactly taxed until the stock is sold, whereas the dividend is taxed in the year it is paid, so dividends will be more costly than capital gains for many investors. It should be noted that under U.S. tax laws, interest on most state and local government bonds, called municipals or munis, is not subject to federal income taxes. Thus, investors get to keep all of the interest received from most municipal bonds but only a fraction of the interest received from bonds issued by corporations or by 1 You do not pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on interest, dividends, and capital gains, only on earned income. However, state taxes are generally imposed on interest, dividends, and capital gains. 4 Web Extension 2A: The Federal Income Tax System for Individuals the U.S. government. This means that a lower-yielding muni can provide the same after-tax return as a higher-yielding corporate bond. For example, a taxpayer in the 35% marginal tax bracket who could buy a muni that yielded 5.5% would have to receive a before-tax yield of 8.46% on a corporate or U.S. Treasury bond to have the same after-tax income: Yield on muni Equivalent pre-tax yield on taxable bond 1 - Marginal tax rate 5:5% 8:46% 1 - 0:35 If we know the yield on the taxable bond, we can use the following equation to find the equivalent yield on a muni: Equivalent yield Pre-tax yield on Marginal 1- on muni taxable bond tax rate 8:46%1 - 0:35 8:46%0:65 5:5% The exemption from federal taxes stems from the separation of federal and state powers, and its primary effect is to help state and local governments borrow at lower rates than they otherwise could. Munis always yield less than corporate bonds with similar risk, maturity, and liquidity. Because of this, it would make no sense for someone in a zero or very low tax bracket to buy munis. Therefore, most munis are owned by high-bracket investors. 2.2 CAPITAL GAINS VERSUS ORDINARY INCOME Assets such as stocks, bonds, and real estate are defined as capital assets. If you buy a capital asset and later sell it for more than your purchase price, the profit is called a capital gain; if you suffer a loss, it is called a capital loss. An asset sold within one year of the time it was purchased produces a short-term gain or loss, and one held for more than a year produces a long-term gain or loss. Thus, if you buy 100 shares of Disney stock for $42 per share and sell them for $52 per share, you make a capital gain of 100($10) = $1,000. However, if you sell the stock for $32 per share, you will have a $1,000 capital loss. Depending on how long you hold the stock, you will have a shortterm or long-term gain or loss.2 If you sell the stock for exactly $42 per share, you have neither a gain nor a loss; you simply get your $4,200 back, and no tax is due. Short-term capital gains are added to such ordinary income as wages, dividends, and interest and are then taxed at the same rate as ordinary income. However, long-term capital gains are taxed differently. The top rate on long-term gains for most situations is 15%. Thus, if in 2009 you were in the 35% tax bracket, we congratulate you. Any short-term gains you earned would be taxed just like ordinary income, but your longterm gains would be taxed at 15%. Thus, capital gains on assets held for more than 12 months are better than ordinary income for many people because the tax bite is smaller.3 Capital gains tax rates have varied over time, but they have generally been lower than rates on ordinary income. The reason is simple: Congress wants the economy to 2 If you have a net capital loss (capital losses exceed capital gains) for the year, then you can currently deduct only up to $3,000 of this loss against your other income (e.g., salary, interest, and dividends). This $3,000 loss limitation is not applicable to losses on the sale of business assets, which by definition are not capital assets. The capital gains rate is only 5% if you are in the 10% bracket. The Tax Code governing capital gains is very complex, and we have illustrated only the most common provision. 3 Web Extension 2A: The Federal Income Tax System for Individuals 5 grow; for growth we need investment in productive assets; and low capital gains tax rates encourage investment. To see why, suppose you owned a company that earned $1 million after corporate taxes. Because it is your company, you could have it pay out the entire $1 million profit as dividends, or you could have it retain and reinvest all or part of the income to expand the business. If it paid dividends, they would be taxable to you at a rate of 35%. However, if the company reinvests its income, that reinvestment should cause the company's earnings and stock price to increase. Then, if you wait for one year and one day and then sell some of your stock at a now-higher price, you will have earned a capital gain, but it will be taxed at only 15%. Furthermore, you can postpone the capital gains tax indefinitely by simply not selling the stock. It should be clear that the lower tax rate on capital gains encourages investment. The owners of small businesses will want to reinvest income to get capital gains, as will stockholders in large corporations. Individuals with money to invest will understand the tax advantages associated with investing in newly formed companies versus buying bonds, so new ventures will have an easier time attracting equity capital. All in all, lower capital gains tax rates stimulate capital formation and investment.4 4 Fifty percent of any capital gains on the newly issued stock of certain small companies is excluded from taxation, provided the small-company stock is held for 5 years or longer. The remaining 50% of the gain is taxed at a rate of 20% for most taxpayers. Thus, if one bought newly issued stock from a qualifying small company and held it for at least 5 years, any capital gains would be taxed at a maximum rate of 10% for most taxpayers. This provision was designed to help small businesses attract equity capital. ...
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This note was uploaded on 05/03/2010 for the course FRR 3032 taught by Professor Mr.wroshr during the Spring '10 term at Crafton Hills College.

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