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Understanding the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT)

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NIIT is a 3.8% tax on net investment income. Learn more about its purpose, who is subject to it, and how to reduce your tax bill.

net investment tax

Created as part of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act to fund healthcare reform in 2010, the net investment income tax (NIIT) is a 3.8% tax on the lesser of two amounts: an individual's net investment income or the amount by which their modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds a certain threshold. For individuals, the threshold is $200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly.

NIIT applies to various forms of investment income, including interest, dividends, capital gains, rental and royalty income, and passive income from businesses. It does not apply to income from tax-advantaged retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, or to income from active participation in a business.

Those who are subject to the tax will pay 3.8% on the lesser of the two: their net investment income or the amount by which their MAGI exceeds the threshold. For example, if an individual has a MAGI of $280,000 and net investment income of $50,000, they would owe NIIT on $30,000 (the amount by which their MAGI exceeds the threshold), not on their full net investment income.

NIIT can have a significant impact on high-income taxpayers, particularly those who earn a significant portion of their income from investments. However, there are ways to reduce the impact of the tax or avoid it altogether.

One strategy is to minimize net investment income by focusing on tax-advantaged investments, such as municipal bonds or growth stocks held in a tax-deferred account. Another option is to consider tax-loss harvesting, which involves selling losing investments to offset gains and reduce net investment income.

Long-term capital gains tax and short-term capital gains tax are also important considerations for investors. Long-term capital gains tax applies to assets held for more than one year and is generally lower than short-term capital gains tax, which applies to assets held for one year or less. Understanding these tax triggers and how to calculate your tax bill can help you make informed investment decisions.

Dividend income is also subject to taxation, but the tax rate on dividends depends on a variety of factors, including the type of dividend, the investor's tax bracket, and whether the dividend is considered qualified or non-qualified. Qualified dividends are taxed at the same rates as long-term capital gains, while non-qualified dividends are taxed at the investor's ordinary income tax rate.

For high net-worth individuals and real estate clients, tax consulting and planning can be essential for minimizing the impact of NIIT and other taxes. Experienced tax professionals like William Timlen, CPA can provide personalized guidance based on each client's unique financial situation and investment goals.

President Biden's proposal to allocate revenue from NIIT to maintain solvency of Medicare could have significant implications for taxpayers. Medicare is a vastly popular and relied-upon program in the U.S., and any changes to its funding could have a ripple effect on the economy and individual taxpayers.

In summary, NIIT is a tax on net investment income that can have a significant impact on high-income taxpayers. Understanding how the tax works and how to minimize its impact through strategic investments and tax planning can help you reduce your overall tax bill and achieve your financial goals.


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