The end of the Bush tax cuts may just be a reality. Those rock bottom rates for long-term capital gains and qualified dividends are set to expire after 2010. Even if Congress extends the Bush cuts, they may limit the benefit for high-income earners. Here are a few things to consider:
Cash in your stock winners before 2011. If you wait until 2011, you generally will have to pay 5% more on long-term capital gains.
Harvest your stock losers after 2010. On the flip side, losses realized in 2011 may offset capital gains that will be taxed at higher rates.
Roll over or sell “small business” stock. If you own qualified small business stock, you can avoid tax on a sale by rolling over the proceeds into other QSBS stock within 60 days. Alternatively, you can exclude tax on 50% of the gain from the sale of QSBS in 2010 or 2011 , but the capital gain rate is 28%.
Take dividends in 2010. There is a urgent tax incentive to pile up dividends this year. If it makes sense, invest in stock a few months (now may be a good time) before dividends are scheduled to be paid. If you own a closely held corporation or a personal holding company, now may be the time to pay dividends.
Pass on the installment sale tax break. If it makes sense, you can elect out of installment sale treatment and have the entire gain taxed at 15% in 2010. Remember, this will accelerate your tax liability for both federal and state tax purposes.