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Advisors Weighing Their Clients' Options with Biden’s Tax Proposals

June 10, 2021

President Joe Biden’s tax proposal has not yet received approval from Congress, but some estate planners have been busy helping clients decide whether to lock in current rates and loopholes, according to news reports.

Biden’s $6 trillion budget, released at the end of May, includes raising the top capital gains tax on households earning more than $1 million, from 28.8% to 43.4%. In addition, Biden’s plan includes a proposal to tax appreciated assets at death as if they had been sold, deviating from the current law that only applies a capital gains tax to the gains and only when heirs sell the assets, according to the Wall Street Journal. Biden’s plan also includes a $1 million per-person exemption, the publication writes.

It’s still unclear what changes the proposal would undergo in Congress, given the slim majorities Democrats hold in both the House and the Senate and given the reservations some Democrats — including Sen. Bob Menendez, D., N.J., a member of the Senate Finance Committee — have already expressed about the capital-gains tax changes, according to the Journal. But financial professionals are already talking with clients who are certain they’ll face a higher tax bill.

“Our clients are resigned to the fact that taxes will go up,” said Helena Jonassen, a partner at Evercore’s wealth management unit, according to the publication.

Tara Popernik, director of research at AllianceBernstein Holding’s private wealth unit, says that some clients may want to take some gains while living, for example, when their income falls below $1 million and therefore wouldn’t trigger the higher 43.4% rate, according to the Journal.

Estate planners are turning to the recently released “green book” from the Treasury Department, the Journal writes. But while the book gives some insight into certain aspects of estate planning, such as the transfer of property into a partnership or trusts designed to shield assets from the estate tax, it gives little detail about estate-tax changes, according to the publication.

Tax lawyers, meanwhile, are considering acting now by getting clients to move assets to heirs and trusts this year and taking advantage of the current $11.7 million per person exemption, the Journal writes.

At the same time, if Congress decides to tax appreciated taxes at death, it’s likely to face “an instant and powerful lobby of people trying to get the law changed when power shifts,” according to the Journal.

Financial advisors told FA-IQ last month that Biden’s tax proposals, and the lack of clarity surrounding what a final bill might be, is causing anxiety among many clients. And a survey by insurance and financial services company Nationwide Financial conducted from March to May found that 74% of advisors and financial professionals said tax policy is their clients’ top concern.

Do you have a news tip you’d like to share with FA-IQ? Email us at editorial@financialadvisoriq.com.

By Alex Padalka
  • To read the Wall Street Journal article cited in this story, click here if you have a paid subscription.
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Tags:  Tax planning , Estate planning , AllianceBernstein , Evercore , Nationwide Financial

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