Are YOU a Target in the Green Book?

Last week we heard from many experts who believe it may be time to dump the 401(k).

Two weeks ago we discovered that many experts, like retirement guru and CPA, Ed Slott and former US Comptroller General David M. Walker, believe income taxes are going up – I even conducted my first-ever webinar on how you might be able to plan for an income tax-free retirement.

(You can access a recorded version here.  Be aware: There’s a lot of information, so it lasts about an hour).

This week, I want to tell you about the Green Book.   The Green Book is what the administration releases every year, detailing budget and tax proposals for the coming year.   The Obama Administration released their latest version in February, detailing their proposals for the fiscal year beginning this October.

Surprise:  Many of the Green Book retirement planning proposals are aimed at limiting taxpayer use of tax-advantaged qualified retirement plans and IRAs.

Maybe you’d like to view that recorded webinar, after all.

This proposal should cause some concern because many who have contributed to retirement plans throughout their working lifetime and hit the proposed “retirement savings cap” will lose the ability to make future contributions and lose matching contributions provided by an employer.

By the way, under the Green Book proposals, after-tax contributions to an IRA could not be converted to a Roth IRA.

As many experts recommended in the second video featured in last week’s post, the current system might be better replaced with an insured solution, taking market-risk off the table and potentially removing much of the legislative risk, as well.

What the Green Book proposals would do.

According to David Cordell, PhD, CFP®, CFA, CLU®, and Thomas Langdon, J.D., LL.M., CFA, writing for the Journal of Financial Planning, these are some of the key proposals:

  • Raise the capital gains rate from 20% to 28%
  • Treating gifts of appreciated property (this would include your investments) as realized gain, requiring the payment of capital gains tax
  • Reducing the estate and generation-skipping transfer tax exemptions from their current level of $5.43 million to $3.5 million with (ready?) no inflation indexing
  • Reducing the lifetime gift tax annual exclusion from $5.43 million to $1 million. Eliminating the IRC Sec. 1014 “step-to” basis provision and replacing it with a $100,000 per person exclusion at death – the “steps” can be down, as well as up.

How this might impact your planning:

The “insured solution” may be where much planning is headed.  The Green Book proposals might make life insurance policies designed for cash accumulation even more attractive than they already are, for both individuals and businesses.

The most significant changes in the Green Book include:

  • Eliminating “stretch” IRAs by requiring non-spouses to distribute inherited IRA funds within five years.
  • Depriving individuals with more than a specified amount in their retirement accounts from making contributions to retirement accounts – they’re currently projecting this figure to be about $3.4 million, which could be expected to produce an annual income of $119,000 before taxes with a comfortable margin of safety using a 3.5% withdrawal rate while allowing for inflation adjustments. The figure, however, could vary – the government will let you know.
  • Repealing the special exclusion for net unrealized appreciation for lump-sum distributions of employer securities from employer plans.
  • Requiring plans to expand eligibility requirements to include part-time employees who worked at least 500 hours per year in three consecutive years, and
  • Limiting Roth conversions to pre-tax dollars

[Source:  Journal of Financial Planning, May 2015]

If you missed my webinar, you might want to take a look now.  Grab a cup of coffee, a pad and pen – you’ll be taking notes – and see what you might be able to do to secure your future and remove, as much as possible, government intervention from the picture you have of your 30+ year retirement.

Jim