Roberta Flack’s 1973 hit tune “Killing Me Softly with His Song” comes to mind when writing about how the tax codes have dramatically changed effective January 1, 2013. Two of the major changes are charitable deductions under the Personal Exemption Phase-out (PEP) and the Pease deduction cap under 26 US Code § 68.
According to the Indiana University Foundation:
As of January 1, 2013, itemized deductions will be limited in several ways:
The Pease limitations will reduce the amount of certain itemized deductions high-income taxpayers can claim: either 3% of the taxpayer’s income over the modified adjusted gross income limit, or up to 80% of certain deductions (whichever amount is less).
The taxpayer threshold for claiming medical expenses as an itemized deduction will be increased from 7.5% of AGI to 10% (though individuals age 65 and older will continue to use the 7.5% threshold from 2013 to 2016).
As was the case in 2012, the option to deduct state and local sales taxes rather than income taxes will not be available.
Kelsey Snell from Politico wrote in December, 2012, “Tax rate increases aren’t the only way in which Democrats are aiming to collect more tax dollars from the rich — they’re also looking to resurrect a dormant pair of oddly named laws that targeted the wealthy for decades.”
Known as PEP and Pease, they’re a little bit like the original “Buffett rule.”
The Personal Exemption Phase-out, or PEP, and the “Pease” deduction cap — named for the late Rep. Don Pease (D-Ohio) — were introduced in the 1990s to try to help balance the budget by getting the rich to chip in more. PEP reduced the value of exemptions for high-income earners by as much as 2 percent for every $2,500 earned over a set amount. Pease limited itemized deductions for the wealthy.
According to Barbara E. Little, an associate with New Jersey based Schnader Attorneys at Law in their Tax and Wealth Management Department and the Trust and Estates, Nonprofit and Higher Education Practice Groups.:
On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed into law the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012” (ATRA). In this Alert, we explore the good news and the bad news that charitably minded individuals received with the passage of ATRA.
Let’s start by getting the bad news out of the way. ATRA revived the itemized deduction limitations, also known as the “Pease Amendment” (named after Congressman Donald Pease, the amendment’s proposer in the 1990s). Under Pease, total itemized deductions are reduced by 3 percent not to exceed 80 percent, of the amount the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income exceeds the threshold amount – $250,000 for single filers, $275,000 for heads of household and $300,000 for married filing jointly (indexed for inflation). Charitable deductions are included in the limitation equation.
Depending on the taxpayer’s income level and other deductions, this limitation could adversely affect charitable contributions. For example, consider a married couple with $60,000 of itemized deductions ($25,000 mortgage interest, $10,000 state taxes and $25,000 charitable deduction) and an adjusted gross income of $450,000. The couple’s adjusted gross income exceeds the threshold by $150,000. The couple must reduce their total itemized deductions by 3 percent of $150,000 or $4,500.
The other bad news is that two charitable deductions were not extended: 1) contributions of book inventories to public schools; and 2) corporate contributions of computer inventory.
One piece of good news is that under ATRA, once again, individuals 70½ years of age or older may make tax-free IRA distributions to charitable organizations. The maximum distribution amount is $100,000 per individual, per tax year.
Speaking with a Florida donor to local charitable organizations he bemoans the fact that under ATRA his personal exemptions are eaten up by other, primarily tax deductions, thus limiting his charitable giving. He is concerned that ATRA is written so that non-profit organizations, many of which are faith based, will be irreparably harmed. With the passage of ATRA the new charity will be government and its ability to redistribute tax revenues to those non-profits it see as fit for public donations.
The new normal is “government charity” at every level.
Listen to Roberta Flack singing Killing Me Softly: