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The Twenty Top Tax Breaks In The New 2010 Tax Act

The 2010 Tax Relief Act includes dozens of tax breaks for individuals and businesses. Here are 20 of the top provisions.

1. No increase in income tax rates. Rates in the top two income brackets had been scheduled to rise from 35% to 39% and from 33% to 36%. The new law also preserves relief from the “marriage penalty” for joint filers.

2. Status quo for capital gains and dividends. The maximum tax rate for long-term capital gains was supposed to jump to 20% (10% for low-income individuals), and dividends would have been taxed as ordinary income. Now, the existing 15% rate for long-term gains anddividends remains for most taxpayers through 2012.

3. Lower payroll taxes.For 2011 only, the law authorizes a two percentage point drop—to 4.2%—in employees’ share of the Social Security tax, due on the first $106,800 of wages. You get the same break if you’re self-employed.

4. Alternative minimum tax (AMT) relief. The new law slightly increases the exempt amounts on 2010 and 2011 returns for avoiding exposure to the AMT and its bigger tax bite. The amounts had been scheduled to revert to low, pre-2001 levels.

5. No phaseouts for itemized deductions and personal exemptions. Before 2010, itemized deductions and personal exemptions were phased out for high-income taxpayers. But those limits were repealed for 2010, and the new tax act extends that relief through 2012.

6. A bigger break for owning qualified small business stock (QSBS).The maximum 50% exclusion for investments in QSBS had been temporarily increased to 75%. Now, under the new tax act, there’s a 100% exclusion for QSBS acquired before January 1, 2012.

7. An enhanced education credit.The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), which expanded the Hope credit for college expenses, was scheduled to expire after 2010. Now, the maximum $2,500 AOTC is extended through 2012, though it’s still phased out for high-income taxpayers.

8. A bigger deduction for college savings.The maximum $2,000 deduction for contributions to Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, slated to drop to $500 after 2010, is extended through 2012.

9. A partial reprieve for Section 179 deductions. The maximum Section 179 deduction, which rose from $250,000 to $500,000 for qualified business property placed in service in 2010 and 2011, was then scheduled to drop to $25,000. The new law allows a maximum $125,000 deduction for 2012.

10. A bonus for bonus depreciation.The tax act retroactively reinstates this business perk, which had expired after 2009. A 100% bonus depreciation deduction is generally available for qualified property placed in service in 2011, and there’s a 50% deduction for 2012.

11. Revived credit for going green.The credit for home energy-saving devices, scheduled to expire after 2010, is extended through 2011, but the credit is limited to 10% of the cost of improvements (it had been 30%) and a maximum of $500.

12. Offspring benefit.The child tax credit of $1,000 per child was going to lapse after 2010; now it will be in force through 2012.

13. Help with adoption costs.The new law extends the credit for adoption expenses—now a maximum of $12,170, down from $13,170 in 2010—through 2012.

14. Money for hiring.The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, available to businesses for employing workers from “target” groups, now won’t expire as planned on August 31, 2011, but will stay in force through 2012.

15. Reward for taking the bus.The maximum monthly $230 tax-free benefit for transit passes, scheduled to decrease to $120 after 2010, is extended through 2011.

16. A renewed deduction for corporate largesse.Enhanced deductions for companies’ contributions of food inventory, books and computer equipment, which expired after 2009, are retroactively extended through 2011.

17. Option to deduct sales tax.The chance to write off sales tax, rather than state and local income taxes, ended after 2009 but now is back for 2010 and 2011.

18. Deduction for IRA transfers to charity.The ability to direct an annual maximum of required IRA distributions to charitable organizations, which had expired after 2009, is retroactively extended through 2011.

19. Generous estate tax rules.Following the temporary repeal of the tax for 2010, it’s reinstated but with a $5 million exemption and a top tax rate of only 35% and the reunification of estate and gift taxes through 2012. And heirs will again benefit from a step-up in basis on inherited assets.

20. A break on generation-skipping tax (GST). The new law coordinates the GST with the estate tax rules through 2012, with the same maximum exemption of $5 million.


This article was written by a professional financial journalist for Legend Financial Advisors, Inc. and is not intended as legal or investment advice.

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