Obamacare Taxes Are Coming -- Here Are 6 Ways To Limit What You Owe

By Miranda Marquit
February 22, 2013

We all want to keep as much of our own money as possible, right?

Of course. And that's especially true when it comes to investments.

Starting this year, many investors likely will see tax hikes because of the new taxes imposed as a result of health care reform.

Because the only certainties in life are death and taxes, you likely will pay higher taxes no matter what you do. But you can soften the blow if you plan your tax strategy now.

But first, a little background on what you face, starting this year.

In 2010, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare. As many expected, this law included higher taxes on individuals who have what lawmakers consider high net worth.

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Any couple making $250,000 a year or a single tax filer making more than $200,000 sees an extra 0.9% tax on income starting in tax year 2013. On top of that, if you fall into those income categories, you face a 3.8% Medicare tax on your unearned (read: investment) income.

If you want to reduce your tax liability and keep more of your money, do these six things throughout the year.

1. Reduce Your MAGI

The income thresholds layed out by Obamacare are based on Modified Adjusted Gross Income, so it's important you manage this income. This works best if you are reasonably close to the threshold. If you plan it right, and with a tax planner's help, you can avoid the Medicare surtax altogether.

However, some won't be able to finagle their finances that far. So the following strategies focus more on how you can invest your assets to avoid the label "unearned" income.

2. Municipal Bonds

The federal government doesn't tax you on munis, so the Obamacare tax doesn't apply to this income. It's an investment loophole you can use if you don't mind moving some of your money into tax-exempt bonds.

3. Tax-Deferred Investments

If you aren't too attached to your investment income right now, you can take a long-term view and put more assets into tax-deferred accounts. If you qualify for a retirement account or HSA -- and have room for more contributions -- you can move your income-producing assets into these accounts. Later, you can withdraw the money during retirement when you have a lower income and may not reach the threshold.

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Other investors like tax-deferred annuities, but that's an individual choice you can make with a financial planner's help.

4. Put Some Of Your Investments In Your Child's Name

Give some of your income assets to your children. The results might be subject to kiddie tax rules, but it will avoid the previously mentioned 3.8% tax. The main drawback is that once your child comes of age, he or she will control the investment.

5. Switch Your Rental Income From Passive To Professional

When you invest in rental property, it's common to decide to stay out of it as much as possible and just enjoy the income. Unfortunately, there are many cases in which rental income is considered "passive" -- and subject to the 3.8% Medicare surtax that comes with Obamacare.

To get around that, take a more active role in managing your rental assets so you can be considered a "real estate professional." With this designation, your rental income avoids the surtax.

6. Boost Your Business Participation

Business owners might reduce their participation in their business, retain interest in the company and enjoy the income it provides. If you have interest in a business, but don't "materially participate," your income is unearned and it will be taxed under Obamacare. Avoid this fate and become a material participant again. Meet the minimum for participation in a year, and the income suddenly becomes earned.

The Investing Answer: Taxes like the 3.8% Medicare surtax need to be planned for all year. Approach your situation in a way that legally reduces your tax liability under the new Obamacare rules.

You'll need to employ long-term tax planning to reduce your liability in subsequent years, so stay on top of your tax situation.