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February 13, 2014

Understanding the 3.8% Medicare Tax on Net Investment Income: Part 1

The Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, included provisions that added a 3.8% Medicare surtax on qualifying net investment income to your tax bill beginning with your 2013 return. The final Regulations Section 1.1411 for this tax were issued in 2013. However, Form 8960, the one page form used to report the calculation of Net Investment Income (NII), was just finalized in January. 

Though we are in the beginning of tax season and final instructions for Form 8960 have not yet been released, it's important to take this tax into consideration, as it applies to taxpayers that exceed certain income thresholds. The lack of full guidance from the IRS on how to complete the required form may mean that tax professionals and their clients will be left to interpret key aspects of the calculation from what information is currently available. The legislation refers to this tax as a 3.8% "Medicare tax" on individuals, estates, and certain trusts, yet it is unrelated to Medicare. For individuals, the tax is equal to 3.8% multiplied by the lesser of Net Investment Income (NII) or Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) in excess of the following thresholds:

  • $250,000 for married couples filing jointly,
  • $125,000 for married couples filing separately,
  • $200,000 for single taxpayers and taxpayers filing as head of household

The Net Investment Income tax includes:

  • Interests, dividends, annuities, royalties and rents (unless such income is derived in the ordinary course of a trade or business), less allocable deductions
  • Income from a passive activity
  • Income from a trade or business of trading in financial instruments or commodities
  • Net gain (to the extent taken into account in computing taxable income) attributable to the disposition of property other than property held in an active trade or business

If you are an individual subject to the 3.8% Medicare tax, keep in mind that there are potential planning ideas such as examining passive and nonpassive activities, grouping elections for material participation and/or considering the election to become a "real estate professional." These opportunities could provide you some relief by minimizing your tax, which we'll expand upon in a future post.

If you have further questions about this newly implemented tax, feel free to contact Bryan Koch at bkoch@cbiz.com or 901.685.5575.  

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