Regardless of which side of the isle you fall politically, there is no denying the fact that taxes are going to go up. We don’t know when but it probably won’t be far in to the future. There is certainly room for a lot of political debate on this topic but I want to talk about your money and what you can do to prepare.
Why are they going up? They don’t have any room to go down. A lot of effort has been made to keep more money in the American consumer’s pocket over the past decade. Add to that wars, recessions, and a drop in wages resulting in less tax revenue and that is why our national debt continues to rise nearly out of control. If we are to learn from countries like Greece, Italy, and Portugal, high national debt loads will eventually come back to nearly bankrupt a county. Although it would be nice to see lower taxes, the numbers don’t add up to make that a reality. And compare our current tax brackets  with historical averages, we’re paying very low rates.
How will they go up? Rollbacks. The Bush era tax cuts which lowered the income tax bracket as well as dropped the rates on capital gains taxes will expire in 2013. There’s also the one year payroll tax cut and other tax advantages that are set to expire. Congress may extend some of them but many believe that we will see an end to those tax cuts. Also in 2013, higher income earners will pay an extra .9% to fund the new Obama healthcare law.
In light of what has happened in the Eurozone, there is growing sentiment to come up with a “go big or go home” solution and that will almost surely result in higher taxes.
What should you do? The obvious thing to do is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The worst would be no job but depending on your circumstance the more realistic worst case for you may be your same income level with a higher tax rate. This is the time to get serious about paying down debt and cutting expenses. For some people that’s extremely difficult right now but look for the small expenses that you could cut. (Starbucks?)
Here are a few other ideas:
You can use one of the many financial calculators to see how much money you would save if you refinanced but along with higher taxes will come higher interest rates so the days of 4% mortgages are probably not long for this world.
Get a Roth
If you have a traditional IRA, consider converting it to a Roth IRA. With a traditional IRA you pay taxes on your gains when you reach retirement age and start withdrawing the money. With a Roth IRA, you pay the taxes now and withdraw tax fee at retirement. If you convert now, you’ll pay less taxes on the gains you have already made and if you’re young, you’re probably in a lower tax bracket than you will be when you retire. Of course you should talk to a financial adviser to see if that’s a good move for you.
If you have stock options through your company, consider cashing some of them out while the taxes on those gains are still low. Not all options are taxed in the same way but it’s worth exploring. Also remember that company stock options are part of your overall investing portfolio. If you have more money tied up in company stock options than you do your other investments, there’s probably something wrong with your asset allocation. Tax benefits aside, it may be appropriate to cash out a portion anyway. (By cash out I mean put the proceeds in an IRA or other saving vehicle)
Pardon my bias but being an American is a privilege and although most of us believe that our politicians could do a better job managing the nation’s money, I never want to lose sight of the fact that I have opportunities that others don’t simply because I’m an American. I’ll be annoyed if more of my money has to go to the government but I’ll quickly get over it. I don’t know about you but I don’t want my children living in a bankrupt America and I’m willing to pay a little more to make sure that happens.