Recap of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003
William E. Philbrick, CPA, MST, CVA
You are probably wondering how the new tax law will affect you. Read on to find out how the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 will:
Reduce taxes on dividends and capital gains
Accelerate reductions in tax rates
Accelerate other tax benefits
Provide temporary tax relief for businesses
Reduced taxes on dividends and capital gains.
An important component of the new tax law, particularly for investors, is a reduction in taxes on dividends and capital gains. These temporary lower rates can mean considerable tax savings for taxpayers, although they will cease to apply after 2008.
Under the new law, the 10% and 20% rates on adjusted net capital gain are reduced to 5% (zero, in 2008) and 15% respectively, for both regular tax and the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The change applies to sales and exchanges (and installment payments) received after May 5, 2003 and before January 1, 2009. The 5% rate applies to taxpayers whose regular tax bracket is below 25%, while the 15% rate applies to those in tax brackets of 25% or higher. The lower rates apply to sales of capital assets held for more than one year.
Note, however, that there is no cut in the 28% capital gains rate affecting collectibles and certain small business stock, and the 25% rate for gains from depreciation claimed on realty.
Dividends received in tax years beginning after 2002 and before 2009 by an individual shareholder from domestic corporations and certain qualified foreign corporations are taxed at rates of 5% (zero, in 2008) and 15% for both regular tax and AMT purposes. This results in substantial tax savings for dividend recipients; before passage of the new tax law, dividends were taxed as ordinary income at rates of up to 38.6%.
Acceleration of certain previously enacted tax benefits and reductions for individuals.
The new tax law also speeds up previously enacted tax benefits and reductions that were scheduled to be phased-in over the next several years. These accelerated provisions include:
Expansion of the 10% individual income tax rate bracket. The expansion in the width of the 10% rate bracket for single and joint filers that was scheduled to take place in 2008 instead takes place this year. As a result, the 10% tax bracket for 2003 ends at $14,000 (up from $12,000) of taxable income for joint filers and $7,000 (up from $6,000) for single filers and marrieds filing separately. For 2004, both figures will be indexed for inflation. The endpoint of the 10% bracket for heads of household remains unchanged at $12,000. From 2005 through 2007, the endpoint of the 10% bracket will revert to the $12,000/$6,000 levels, but will increase to $14,000/$7,000 for 2008 through 2010.
Reduction in individual income tax rates. The change that will affect the largest number of taxpayers is an immediate reduction of the marginal tax brackets paid by all but the lowest earners. The tax rates above 15% for 2003 and later years are 25%, 28%, 33% and 35%, a decrease from previous rates of 27%, 30%, 35% and 38.6%. Previously, these rate reductions were scheduled to take effect in 2006. After 2010, rates above 15% will revert to 28%, 31%, 36% and 39.6%.
Marriage-penalty relief. The new law reduces so-called marriage penalties (i.e., tax-law provisions that force two-income couples to pay more in taxes each year than single individuals). The basic standard deduction amount for joint returns will be $9,500 for 2003 – double the basic standard deduction for single returns. Under prior law, this was not scheduled to be fully phased-in until 2009. However, beginning in 2005, a joint-return filer’s basic standard deduction will revert to the prior levels (e.g., for 2005, to 174% of a single return filer’s basic standard deduction).
In addition, in 2003 and 2004 the endpoint of the 15% tax bracket for joint returns will be twice the endpoint of the 15% tax bracket for single returns. Under prior law, this was not scheduled to happen until 2008.
In other words, for 2003, the 15% tax bracket for joint filers applies to taxable income over $14,000 (up from $12,000), but not over $56,800 (up from $47,450). However, for tax years beginning after 2004, the endpoint will, like the basic standard deduction amount, revert to previous levels.
Increase in child tax credit. For 2003, 2004 and 2005, the child tax credit will increase to $1,000 per qualifying dependent child under 17, up from the $600 per qualifying child for 2003 and 2004, and $700 for 2005 as previously provided. After 2005, the child tax credit will fall back to $700 for 2006 through 2008. What’s more, for 2003, the increased amount of the child tax credit will be paid in advance over a period of three weeks, beginning in mid-July. As a result, a typical qualifying family will receive an advance payment check for up to $400 for each qualifying child under age 17 as of the end of 2003.
Note that the income limits related to the child tax credit are unchanged by the Act, which means that the amount of the credit allowable is reduced or eliminated for taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) over certain levels: $75,000 for singles and $110,000 for married couples. However, taxpayers who did not qualify in the past for the child tax credit because of AGI limitations may now qualify for a portion because of the increased credit, even though they will not get an advance payment.
Minimum tax relief to individuals. The tax law also includes some relief from the alternative minimum tax (AMT). For 2003 and 2004, the maximum AMT exemption for joint filers and surviving spouses increases to $58,000 (up from $49,000) and to $40,250 for unmarried taxpayers (up from $35,750), reverting to $45,000 and $33,750 respectively, in 2005.
Tax changes for businesses and corporations.
Two new temporary tax breaks are designed to encourage immediate investments. First, small companies can expense up to $100,000 in new equipment investments through 2005. Second, businesses can depreciate more of their assets sooner through 2004.
The 2003 Jobs and Growth Act vastly liberalizes the expensing election, which permits small businesses to expense (i.e., deduct immediately rather than depreciate over several years) a certain amount of the cost of tangible depreciable personal property purchased and placed in service during the tax year in an active trade or business. All of the following expensing changes are effective for tax years beginning after 2002 and before 2006:
The maximum annual expensing amount is $100,000, up from $25,000.
The maximum annual expensing amount is reduced (but not below zero) by the amount by which the cost of qualifying property placed in service during the tax year exceeds $400,000 (up from $200,000).
The maximum annual expensing amount will be indexed for inflation for tax years beginning after 2003.
Off-the-shelf computer software is now eligible for expensing.
Taxpayer revocation of expensing elections will no longer require IRS consent.
Certain SUVs and autos may qualify for 100% expensing if they meet weight and size requirements.
A second major change affecting businesses is an increase and extension of bonus first-year depreciation. In general, before the 2003 Jobs and Growth Act, a 30% additional first-year depreciation allowance applied to the non-expensed portion of qualified property if: (1) its original use commenced with the taxpayer after September 10, 2001; (2) the asset was acquired by the taxpayer after September 10, 2001 and before September 11, 2004; and (3) it was placed in service by the taxpayer before 2005 (before 2006 for certain property with longer production periods).
The Act makes the following changes:
For 30% bonus first-year depreciation purposes, property can be acquired before 2005.
50% bonus first-year depreciation applies to qualified property if (1) its original use commences with the taxpayer after May 5, 2003; (2) the asset is acquired by the taxpayer after May 5, 2003 and before 2005 (there can not be a written binding contract for acquisition in effect before May 6, 2003); and (3) it is placed in service by the taxpayer before 2005 (before 2006 for certain property with longer production periods).
Taxpayers can elect on a class-by-class basis to claim 30% instead of 50% bonus first-year depreciation for qualifying property, or elect not to claim bonus first-year depreciation at all. Two situations in which a taxpayer would likely consider making an election to claim a smaller first-year depreciation, or to elect out of it entirely, are when the taxpayer (1) has net operating losses that are about to expire, or (2) anticipates being in a higher tax bracket in future years.
Note that there still is no AMT depreciation adjustment for the entire recovery period of qualified property recovered under the bonus first-year depreciation rules.
We’ve described only the highlights of the most important changes in the new law. There are new transition rules and specific definitions, coupled with the various sunset dates, all of which make planning more complex. In addition, we do not expect states to adopt any of the provisions of the new law.
Please be aware that there are several pending tax bills which can and will have a material impact on planning and compliance. It is expected that action will be taken on one or more of these bills in the coming sessions.
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William E. Philbrick, CPA, MST, CVA is a Senior Vice President and Tax Director at Greenberg Rosenblatt Kull &Bitsoli, P.C. of Worcester, Mass. He can be reached atwphilbrick@GRK&B.com.