What are the potential U.S. tax consequences of a Joe Biden presidency? - Tax Blog

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On December 22, 2017, President, Donald J. Trump, signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that brought sweeping changes to the domestic and international U.S. tax system. The TCJA contains a “sunset” for many of its provisions and some will cease to exist at the end of 2025 unless additional legislation is passed. President-elect Biden may now consider repealing certain tax laws before the sunset provisions lapse. During the election campaign, President-elect Biden’s proposed tax changes indicated that tax revenue would increase by $2.65 trillion over the next decade with 6.5% less after-tax income for the top 1% of taxpayers. A focus was placed on raising taxes on labour, investment and business income for those earning over $400,000 and an increased payroll tax for the wealthy. If the democrats win the Senate and can pass legislation easily, what are the potential tax changes for individuals, employers and businesses?

Individual Tax:

Post TCJA, the top individual tax bracket was lowered to 37%. President-elect Biden’s proposed tax plan, reverts back to pre-TCJA levels of 39.6% for taxable incomes above $400,000.

Long-term capital gains (LTCG) and qualified dividends will be taxed at the highest U.S. tax rate of 39.6% if an individual’s income exceeds $1 million, annually.

Deloitte's view: Immediate tax planning is required in the wake of the proposed 19.6% tax increase on the sale of LTCG assets. Possible strategies to help mitigate the increase in tax: sell appreciated stock, invest into non-dividend paying stock, use municipal bonds in a well-balanced portfolio, and accelerate sales of tangible property.

Post TCJA, itemized deductions were changed significantly, with state and local taxes being capped at $10,000 to the dismay of taxpayers in high state tax jurisdictions. President-elect Biden intends to revert back to pre-TCJA itemized deductions but proposes a cap to itemize deductions at 28% for taxpayers earning more than $400,000. Furthermore, the “Pease limitation” would be implemented that reduces total itemized deductions by 3% of Adjusted Gross Income for every dollar of taxable income exceeding $400,000.

Deloitte's view: The proposal could increase tax equalization costs for employers if assignees have substantial assignment income that causes them to have limited itemized deduction benefits. Furthermore, under current law, qualified charitable contributions are uncapped. The proposed change will affect future charitable deductions if limitations are introduced. Individuals should consider 2020/2021 accelerated charitable contributions.

Sole proprietors, partnerships and S corporations, may have become accustomed to the post TCJA section 199A deduction. Simply put, it allows owners to deduct up to 20 percent of the domestic qualified business income (QBI) earned by the business on the owner’s tax return, subject to other significant limitations. President-elect Biden proposes to phase out the QBI deduction for taxpayers whose income exceeds $400,000.

Payroll Tax:

An additional U.S. Social Security Tax of 6.2% will be imposed upon individuals earning above $400,000, annually. The combined 12.4% tax would be split 50:50 between the employer and employee. To put this into context, the current social security wage cap for the 2020 tax year is $137,700. Therefore, under the new proposals, no social security tax would apply to individuals between the income levels of $137,700 and $400,000. The additional tax on earnings above $400,000 is estimated to raise tax revenue of $819.9 billion.

Deloitte's view: The proposed change will lead to increased assignment and tax equalization costs for employers and may create complications around the application of FICA on nonqualified deferred compensation plans. Furthermore, companies will need to plan accordingly for the additional payroll reporting requirements and provide employee education on the proposed change.

Estate Tax:

The favourable “step-up in basis” will be eliminated for heirs who receive property from a decedent and the current federal estate and gift tax exemption of $11.58 million will be reduced by 50% to $5.79 million.

Deloitte's view: U.S. estate tax planning will need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to help individuals combat the proposed exemption reduction and the loss of the “step-up in basis” for inherited capital assets. Individuals can consider accelerated gifting in 2020/2021 to reduce their lifetime gift tax exemption. Furthermore, trust structures, such as a Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs) could be created to help mitigate the proposed reduction.

Businesses:

Post TCJA, the corporate tax rate was reduced from 35% to 21%. President-elect Biden would like to increase the corporate rate to 28% and also implement a new form of Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), subjecting corporations with over $100 million in net profit to pay at least 15% in corporate tax.

Deloitte's view: In our experience, it is beneficial for individuals and employers to be proactive and not reactive when potential tax changes are on the horizon. Deloitte`s team of accomplished U.S. tax professionals can provide a holistic approach to an individual’s specific set of circumstances to help navigate the changing tax landscape.

If you would like to discuss more on this topic, please reach out to our key contacts below.

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Key contacts

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Geoffrey Leys - Director, Global Employer Services

Geoffrey is a Director in our Global Employer Services (GES) Practice and leads the Individual US Tax Services group in Switzerland. He has advised international organisations and their employees on the employment tax, personal tax and HR implications of global relocations and workforce mobility for almost 20 years, with particular focus on the complexities of taxation of US citizens working abroad and a strong understanding of the interactions with Swiss individual taxation. Geoff holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Finance and Economics from the University of East Anglia and holds qualifications in both UK and US taxation.

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Alexander Saluveer - Senior Manager, Global Employer Services

In a career spanning more than 20 years, Alex has worked in the field of international expatriate tax, reward consulting and global mobility in London, New York, Paris, Sao Paulo and Geneva. He has widespread experience in US individual taxation, having worked with US executives and high net worth individuals throughout his career. Alex has led global as well as country specific engagement teams within a varied client base providing advice in respect of individual tax matters as well as employer responsibilities. He has worked extensively in assisting organisations manage international incentive and deferred compensation plans. Alex holds a MA Degree from the University of Cambridge and is UK and US tax qualified.

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Andrew Morgan - Senior Manager, Global Employer Services

Andrew has over 15 years experience in working with US expatriates and high net worth individuals in Switzerland and the UK. He co-ordinates the US tax compliance for the local population of a global multi national organization headquartered in Switzerland. Andrew has significant experience in liaising with payroll, HR and Global Mobility contacts to ensure that the delivery of service considers all areas relevant to the international taxation faced.

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Mathew Butler

Mathew Butler - Manager, Global Employer Services

Mathew is a Manager within the Global Employer Services (GES) practice and has over 6.5 years experience working with US expatriates and high net worth individuals in Switzerland. Mathew is located in our Zurich office. He holds a Master of Science (M.S.) in Accounting from Marshall University, USA and is a US Certified Public Accountant.

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