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Higher 2013 U.S. taxes surprise some investors, tax preparers say

April 15, 2014

By Patrick Temple-West

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – For wealthy U.S. investors who have not been paying attention, their 2013 tax returns, which must be filed by Tuesday, may contain a rude surprise: higher taxes.

With the deadline for filing hours away, tax professionals across the country said some clients have been surprised to learn the Internal Revenue Service was taking a larger bite.

“People are caught off guard,” even though 2013’s tax increases have been on the books for more than a year, said Robert Siegmann, chief operating officer at Financial Management Group Inc, an advisory firm in Cincinnati.

A slew of new tax increases took effect for high-income individuals last year, as well as new limits on how much wealthy Americans can lower their incomes by using tax deductions.

For some people, one result of not paying attention was under-withholding of taxes from their paychecks, especially among those who racked up big gains from stock options on the back of 2013’s strong stock market.

Claudia Hill, an enrolled agent licensed tax preparer in Cupertino, California, said one of her clients, a married couple working for Google Inc, had to write a check for an additional $71,000 to the Internal Revenue Service.

She said clients employed by Apple Inc and Netflix were also shocked that they under-withheld and owed more ordinary income taxes. “They’re working so much they don’t think about taxes,” Hill said.

New taxes effective last year included an increase to 20 percent from 15 percent in capital gains and interest tax for individuals earning $400,000 or more and married couples filing jointly who make above $450,000.

The new Affordable Healthcare Act imposed a 3.8 percent tax on investment income for individuals earning $200,000 and households making $250,000. The ACA law also added new 0.9 percent tax on ordinary income for the same high earners.

In addition, the top tax bracket for ordinary wage income went up to 39.6 percent, from 35 percent, for individuals making $400,000 and couples earning $450,000.

Wealthy taxpayers hoping to lower their taxable gains last year were stung by the restored Pease limits on itemized deductions, including home mortgage interest and charitable giving for taxpayers making more than $250,000.

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