A lot of people have made a lot of money in the stock market in the last year. And they would like to keep as much of their profits as possible. Although looking for ways to protect their gains, they do not want to tie up their money in long-term tax shelters.
For many upper-income investors - those at or near the 50 percent bracket - there are several ways to shelter money made in the market. One of them is a three- or four-month shelter using certificates of deposit or bankers acceptances, suggests Marilyn Cohen, a broker with Cantor, Fitzgerald & Co., in Beverly Hills, Calif. By purchasing a bankers acceptance or CD issued by a major bank, an investor can ''buy some time'' and defer income into next January.
''This is good for people who have held their stock for less than a year and have huge capital gains, but want to defer those gains,'' Ms. Cohen says. People who have held their stock for over a year are less likely to benefit from this idea because of the lower tax rate on long-term capital gains.
Here's how it works: For $15,000, or 1.5 percent of its face value, an investor can buy a $1 million bankers acceptance or CD through a brokerage firm. These instruments are now yielding about 9.35 percent. The rest of the $1 million is borrowed at a floating rate used for repurchase agreements, now about 9.25 percent.
By making interest payments on the loan this year, you create a large deduction that can offset the short-term gain from the stock sale. The final profit does not come until early next year, when the CD or bankers acceptance is sold.
Although interest rates have been trending down recently, the deal does become less attractive, however, if there is a large jump in interest rates (say , 2 to 2.5 percentage points), because the interest payments on the loan are larger. So ask your broker to work out the exact details as they apply to your situation and the rates in effect at the time. Also, state tax laws may have an effect on this, so look at them carefully. Where there's a will . . .
There are times when your spouse may want to issue a disclaimer.
This doesn't mean he or she will pretend not to know you. It just means the person may find it better not to take everything you leave in your will, according to a newsletter published by Alexandra Armstrong, a financial planner in Washington.
Since the the Economic Recovery Tax Act was passed in 1981, married persons can leave their spouses as much of their property as they like, without the heir's having to pay any federal estate tax. For couples with modest estates, this may be fine, and the surviving spouse will be happy to have the full estate to live on.
But in other cases, particularly when there is a large estate, the survivor may not want to take all of his or her inheritance. The problem with leaving an entire estate to a spouse comes when the second person passes on. At that time, any property left in the estate will go to their heirs without the marital shelter. Then, whatever part of the estate is larger than the automatic exclusion limits will be subject to a hefty estate tax.
To get around this, you can leave the bulk of your estate to your spouse, but add a provision in your will that he or she can disclaim - refuse to accept - part of the inheritance. The will then states that any disclaimed assets be distributed to designated beneficiaries, like children. Or the disclaimed money can go into a trust to provide the spouse with income for life. Whatever is left can be distributed to other heirs.
In addition to saving your children or subsequent beneficiaries a heavy estate tax bite, this strategy lets the surviving spouse transfer any amount of property to beneficiaries you have chosen. This transfer will not incur a gift tax, Mrs. Armstrong notes, if certain conditions are met:
* The disclaimer must be a written, irrevocable refusal of any interest in the bequest.
* It must be made within nine months of the first spouse's death.
* The surviving spouse must not have already accepted the property or enjoyed its benefits.
* While you can direct the disclaimed property's distribution, the surviving spouse cannot.
Disclaimers are complicated, the newsletter adds, so get the help of a competent estate planner or lawyer who has done this before. No tax credit on historic residence
This past summer my family spent a large amount of money to have the exterior walls of our home repaired, entirely sanded, and painted. The house was built in 1820 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Could 25 percent of the expense be written off as a tax credit this spring? - M. B. No. The investment tax credit for historic buildings, included in the 1981 tax act, only applies to ''recovery property,'' that is, commercial property that is subject to the allowance for depreciation, says Barry Wallach, head of the Chicago real estate tax practice at Arthur Andersen & Co., the accounting firm. Unfortunatley for homeowners such as you, he says, a private residence is not considered an investment for tax depreciation purposes.