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Tax Issues with Capital Gains and Dividends

Under the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, generating long-term capital gains or investing for dividend income could be two of your big opportunities to save on taxes. Be aware that the Act of 2003 created "sunset provisions," however, meaning that the tax rates on both capital gains and dividends may go up again unless congress acts to extend the rates. The lower rates are currently only legislated through 2008, although many observers believe these rates will eventually be made permanent.

Capital Gains

Rates: The maximum tax rate on net capital gains from assets held 12 months or more has been reduced to 15% (from 20%) for most taxpayers and reduced to 5% (from 10%) for taxpayers in the 10% and 15% tax rate brackets for property sold or otherwise disposed of after May 5, 2003 (and installment sale payments received after that date). The reduced rate applies for both the regular tax and the alternative minimum tax.

(Note: The higher rates that apply to unrecaptured section 1250 gain, collectibles gain, and section 1202 gain have not changed.)

Tax Treatment of Capital Losses: If you incur losses from the sale of a capital asset, you can deduct those losses to the extent they offset capital gains from the sale of other assets. If your losses exceed your gains, you can only deduct up to $3,000 ($1,500 if you are married and filing separately) of capital losses in a tax year against other income on Form 1040. You can carry losses forward and continue to deduct $3,000 ($1,500 if filing separately) annually against other income until your losses are used up.

Other Issues: A long-term gain generally applies to assets held for a minimum of one year or more. Short-term capital gains are considered as part of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and taxed at your ordinary income tax rate. Investors must avoid "wash sales" (selling and repurchasing the same or virtually the same asset), and you should also be aware of potential Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) implications of taking large capital gains.

Dividends

Changes Create Tax Savings Opportunities: In the past, dividend income was treated as just another source of ordinary income, and taxed at your normal tax rate. Now, the same 15% (or 5%) maximum tax rate that applies to net capital gain also applies to dividends paid by most domestic and foreign corporations after December 31, 2002.

For taxpayers in higher brackets, this represents a significant reduction. Certain dividends from regulated investment companies such as mutual funds, real estate investment trusts, and certain foreign corporations do not qualify for the reduced rates. There are also some holding requirements, consult your tax professional for more details.

As with capital gains, the Tax Relief Act of 2003 also created "sunset provisions" for dividend rates, so tax rates may go up again unless Congress acts to extend the rate reductions. The lower rates are currently only legislated through 2008.

Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, or investment advice.  Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, please note that individual situations can vary therefore, the information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Diversification does not ensure against loss. Source: Financial Visions, Inc.

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