In what may be my first and last blog post ever, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. One of the many changes to come about from the federal tax reform legislation passed in 2017, is that investment adviser fees are no longer an itemized deduction from personal taxes. Therefore the more you pay for these services the less they are subsidized by the government starting in 2018, thus it comes out of your pocket leaving you even less in savings for the future.
The amount can be quite significant, especially since it’s savings you will forgo every single year. For example, if you pay 1% in wrap fees on a $1 million dollar account, the advisor receives $10,000 a year – a good back of the envelope estimate. Previously these were deductible
Now, there are some caveats. First of all given the near doubling of the standard deduction, from $6,350/$12,000 (individual/married) in 2017 to $12,700/$24,000 in 2018, many people will discontinue itemizing so this change is not relevant. Nevertheless if you live in the northeast and own a home and have accumulated a reasonable amount of wealth and make charitable contributions (and are reading this blog), there’s a good chance you’ll still be itemizing.
The second and smaller caveat is that there is a 2% AGI floor on itemized deductions, which both previously and going forward made choosing the standard deduction the better option for some. By way of explanation, let’s say a married couple’s AGI was $200,000 in a given year and their itemized deductions consisted of:
Mortgage Interest $10,000
State & Local Taxes 10,000
Investment Adviser 10,000
Accountant Fees 2,000
Less 2% AGI of $200K -4,000
Net Itemized Deductions 28,000
As you can see, the AGI floor is netted from one’s aggregated deductions and the couple is still better off itemizing to save on taxes. Or was, before this deduction was taken away.
Similarly, there is a phaseout of itemized deductions that starts at —/— and is fully gone by —/—. But if you’re retired and your sole income is coming from your investments, it’s easy to have an AGI below those latter numbers even if one has a $10 million nest egg.
Finally, while mutual fund fees and brokerage commission are still implicitly deductible, investment adviser and wrap fees are not. So those fees will essentially be coming out of that nest egg, retired or not. Every year. One more reason that now is the time to consider changing your high priced adviser or broker.