December 31, 2013

The IRS has issued final and proposed regulations on the calculation of the new 3.8 percent tax on net investment income that took effect Jan. 1, 2013.

The new tax, also known as the “3.8 percent Medicare surtax,” or “net investment income tax,” can affect joint filers and surviving spouses with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) over $250,000, married couples filing separately with MAGI of more than $125,000 and others with MAGI above $200,000. Trusts and estates will also be subject to the new tax if they have income taxed in the highest marginal tax bracket – $11,950 for 2013.

Consider the following example: For 2013, a married couple has net investment income (NII) of $100,000 and MAGI of $270,000. They pay the surtax only on the $20,000 amount by which their MAGI exceeds their threshold amount of $250,000 because that is less than their NII of $100,000. Thus, the surtax is $760.

Because the $250,000 and $200,000 thresholds are not adjusted for inflation, it is likely that more people will become subject to the surtax in future years as their income rises because of inflation and other factors.

For purposes of the surtax, NII is investment income less properly allocable deductions. Investment income is:

  • Gross income from interest, dividends, annuities, royalties and rents, unless derived in the ordinary course of a trade or business;
  • Income derived from a passive activity; and
  • Net gain attributable to the disposition of property other than property held in a trade or business.

The surtax applies to a trade or business only if it is a passive activity or a trade or business of trading in financial instruments or commodities.

Investment income does not include amounts subject to self-employment tax, distributions from tax-favored retirement plans (for example, qualified employer plans and IRAs), or tax-exempt income (for example, interest earned on state or local obligations).

The surtax does not apply to trades or businesses conducted by a sole proprietor, partnership or S corporation. But income, gain or loss attributable to an investment of working capital is not treated as derived from a trade or business and thus is subject to the tax.

Gain or loss from a disposition of an interest in a partnership or S corporation may be taken into account by the partner or shareholder as NII. This gain or loss is considered a part of the owner’s NII only to the extent the gain or loss from the deemed sale of the entity’s assets would have been NII if the partner or shareholder had owned and sold those assets himself/herself. For smaller taxpayers, a simplified calculation of the gain subject to the surtax is available.

The fact that self-employment income is not subject to the surtax does not result in a benefit to the self-employed. Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the Medicare tax rate on earned income, including self-employment income, was also raised by 0.9 percent.

As a result, most people with MAGI above the $250,000/$200,000 thresholds will see an increase in their taxes for 2013.

IRS notice provides 2014 standard mileage rates

The IRS released Notice 2013-80 containing the standard mileage rates for 2014.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups and panel trucks) will be:

  • 56 cents per mile for business miles driven (down a half cent from 2013)
  • 23.5 cents per mile for medical or moving purposes (down a half cent)
  • 14 cents per mile for charitable mileage driven (unchanged from 2013)

This article was originally posted on December 31, 2013 and the information may no longer be current. For questions, please contact GRF CPAs & Advisors at