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Would Biden's capital-gains tax hike affect you? Probably not

No matter what happens with President Joe Biden's

No matter what happens with President Joe Biden's capital gains tax increase proposal, the average 401(k) investor should carry on as usual, financial experts say. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/skhoward

This article provides information and education for investors. NerdWallet does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend or advise investors to buy or sell particular stocks or securities.

President Joe Biden unveiled a plan to increase capital gains taxes, and the numbers back up what the administration has been saying for some time: Unless you make a lot of money, you probably won’t feel any direct impact from the proposed changes.

But if you earn more than $1 million per year, listen up.

Under the proposal, the highest income tax rate would return to 39.6% (where it stood from 2013 to 2017), up from the current 37%. Along with that increase, the Biden administration's plan would tax capital gains — profits from the sale of certain assets or investments — at the same rate as ordinary income for households earning more than $1 million, and that’s where the biggest change would happen.

Currently, the country’s highest earners typically pay a 20% capital-gains tax. If Biden’s proposal makes it through Congress, that rate would nearly double to 39.6%. And that doesn’t include the 3.8% net investment income tax that would apply to some or any state capital gains taxes, which would be added on top of the federal tax.

According to the Biden administration, very few Americans would feel the effects of a federal increase: A scant 0.3% of U.S. households earn more than $1 million a year.

Investors using a 401(k) — one of the most common investment vehicles in the country — are especially unaffected by the proposed changes for a specific (and extremely beneficial) reason, says Serina Shyu, a certified financial planner and an adviser with Delta Community Retirement & Investment Services.

But if this affects the broader market, should I sell now?

First, this increase is far from certain, so we’ll need to see how the proposal plays out.

"This is merely a proposal and Congress will absolutely adjust that proposed percentage as the two chambers compromise on what the final version will look like," Shyu said.

Also, basing any financial decision on a politician’s plan likely isn’t a sound strategy. For the majority of investors, blocking out the headlines and sticking with an investment game plan is an unbeaten strategy, says Michael Murphy, managing partner of venture capital firm Rosecliff Ventures and a Fox Business Network financial market correspondent.

"Investing and staying invested in the overall market, say an S & P 500 low-cost index fund, has always worked," Murphy says. "And regardless of where taxes go, that strategy’s still going to work."

Capital-gains tax management for the rest of us

Even if Biden’s proposal won’t affect you, that doesn’t mean you should forget about capital gains taxes altogether. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Think long term

There’s a big difference between long-term capital-gains tax and short-term, and this is one area of taxes that’s firmly in your control. Generally, if you can hold an asset for at least one year, you’ll qualify for the long-term capital-gains tax rate. That means if you make $40,400 to $445,850, you would pay 15% on capital gains. But if you sell before holding for one year, it would be taxed at your regular income tax rate, which, if you earn more than $40,525 per year, would be over 22%.

Use tax-advantaged investment accounts

If you’re enrolled in your employer’s 401(k) plan, kudos — you’re already doing this. Tax-advantaged accounts, such as 401(k)s, individual retirement accounts, health savings accounts and 529 college savings accounts let your investments grow tax-deferred or tax-free.

Chris Davis writes for NerdWallet. Email: cdavis@nerdwallet.com.

The article Would Biden’s capital-gains tax Hike Affect You? Probably Not originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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