A Taxing Issue for Investors
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The 2012 elections hold major consequences; one of them is tax policy. While there is much that we could present regarding the potential changes, we will constrain our comments to how tax changes may directly affect investors in the stock and bond markets.
Already written into law for 2013 are big changes including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the payroll tax cut and the new Medicare tax on investment income, not to mention the impact of the increasingly costly annual fix to the alternative minimum tax. However, this default option may instead be replaced by something else.
The outcome is likely to be somewhere in the middle of the wide range between these two proposals. Given the scale of the changes, it may be surprising to note that we do not expect major direct impacts of tax changes on the stock or bond market. The far bigger impact is an indirect one determined by the magnitude and direction of overall fiscal policy taken (or not taken) in 2013 to put the United States back on a path to financial stability.
Bond Market Tax Rate ImpactsHistorically, changes in income tax rates that apply to interest income appear to have had little, if any, direct impact on government bond yields. Yields rose with inflation in the 1970s and fell as inflation fears receded over the vast majority of the last 30 years regardless of tax code changes or their impact on the deficit.
Over the past 30 years, municipal bond yields traditionally traded at a discount to taxable bond yields. However, in recent years credit fears driven by macroeconomic events have resulted in a breakdown of the historic spread between taxable and non-taxable municipal bonds. Municipal bonds now trade at yields in line or above those of their taxable Treasury counterparts. The potential for higher income tax rates applied to interest income is likely to make municipal bonds even more attractive to investors as credit fears fade.