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Will Higher Taxes Damage Your Portfolio?

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Discussing Stock Market Performance

By Lon Jefferies CFP® MBA

Net Worth Advisory Group

Lon Jeffrieslon@networthadvice.com


Do higher taxes equate to negative stock market returns? Does anyone economic variable accurately predict stock market performance?

A number of our Net Worth Advisory Group physician and lay clients have indicated they are concerned about the impact higher taxes could have on the stock market. News organizations and campaign rhetoric create the impression that there is a cause and effect relationship between taxes (or whatever the hot discussion topic is) and stock market performance. Since 1926, the stock market has obtained positive returns during a calendar year 72% of the time.

Economic Variables

Here are the facts about how various economic variables have impacted investment returns:

  • PERSONAL INCOME TAXES: From 1926-2011 there were 20 years where personal income taxes (for incomes over $150,000, adjusted for inflation) increased over the previous year. The stock market went up 13 of those years, or 65% of the time.
  • CORPORATE TAXES: From 1926-2011 there were 11 years where corporate taxes increased over the previous year. The stock market went up 6 of those years, or 55% of the time.
  • LONG-TERM CAPITAL GAINS: From 1926-2011 there were 11 years where the long-term capital gains tax rate increased over the previous year. The stock market went up 9 of those years, or 82% of the time.
  • INTEREST RATES: From 1956-2011 there were 27 years where interest rates (measured by the Treasury Bill) increased over the previous year. The stock market went up 24 of those years, or 89% of the time.
  • INFLATION: From 1926-2011 there were 43 years where the inflation rate increased over the previous year. The stock market went up 33 of those years, or 77% of the time.
  • NATIONAL DEBT: From 1940-2011 there were 38 years where the national debt as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) increased over the previous year. The stock market went up 30 of those years, or 79% of the time.
  • DEFICITS SPENDING: From 1926-2011 there were 38 years where deficit spending increased over the previous year. The stock market went up 30 of those years, or 79% of the time.
  • COMPANY PROFITABILITY: From 1961-2011 there were 25 years where the earnings of S&P 500 companies increased over the previous year. The stock market went up 21 of those years, or 84% of the time.
  • COMPANY DIVIDENDS: From 1961-2011 there were 21 years where S&P 500 companies increased their dividends over the previous year. The stock market went up 17 of those years, or 81% of the time.
  • UNEMPLOYMENT: From 1948-2011 there were 20 years where the unemployment rate increased over the previous year. The stock market went up 9 of those years, or 45% of the time.

Investing and Taxes


As the data indicates, there is no single economic variable, positive or negative that consistently predicts stock market performance. The market may produce positive or negative returns in 2013, but it’s not likely to be because the personal income tax for high income families increased.

The Unemployment Figures

It’s worth noting that the only economic factor that led to a declining market more frequently than not is rising unemployment. While the unemployment rate remains at 7.8%, high by historical standards, it has been steadily decreasing since October of 2009 when it reached 10%.

Additionally, the only other individual indicator that seems to have even a marginally significant negative impact on stock market returns is an increase in the corporate tax rate; if President Obama can get Congress to agree with him, he would like to decrease that rate from 35% to 28% next year. Consequently, history indicates that neither rising unemployment nor increased corporate tax rates will apply in 2013 and should not hamper stock market returns.


History has taught us over and over again that time in the market is much more important than timing the market. It has also taught us that one of the biggest mistakes investors make is to say “these conditions have never existed before and this time is different.”

Need a recent example? Remember the general consensus investors reached about Europe near the beginning of the year? It may surprise you that Europe (as measured by the Vanguard MSCI Europe ETF) has returned over 17% year to date, significantly outpacing the growth of the S&P 500.


I personally believe the best game plan for medical professionals is to develop a fundamentally sound diversified portfolio, only investing money you don’t anticipate spending for at least 10 years in stocks, and stay the course.


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4 Responses

  1. Be Smart in Scrounging for Yield

    Here are funds and ETFs to consider if you want to boost your investment income without taking on too much risk.


    But, income is not everything. Good post, Lon.



  2. Arthur Laffer PhD

    Lon – Arthur Laffer is the economist who “proved” the existence of the free lunch. His Laffer Curve showed, in theory, that cutting tax rates would actually increase tax revenue.

    And, he provided intellectual cover to those conservatives who wanted to cut taxes but didn’t want to be seen as contributing to a big deficit by giving them a guilt-free way to cut revenue.

    But, does it really work?

    Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA


  3. End-of-Year Tax Tips

    Physicians could reap significant cost savings in 2013 by following a number of strategies when they file their 2012 tax returns. These tips could be particularly beneficial in the event Congress fails to take action to block several impending tax hikes. A new law slated to go into effect next year stipulates that married physicians who file their tax return jointly will pay an extra 0.9 percent if their wages, self-employment income, or other compensation tops $250,000, on top of the regular 1.45 percent Medicare tax. The payroll tax limit for single filers is $200,000. It thus pays for physicians to put more money into their retirement fund.

    Making business-related equipment investments also can be advantageous. A physician can write off the full amount of any 2012 purchases up to $139,000, which can cut his or her 2012 tax bill significantly. The IRS’ definition of “equipment” applies to commercially sold computer software, which may encourage physicians to add an electronic medical records system or upgrade an existing one. Furthermore, these tax breaks are added to any applicable government-funded incentives.

    Source: Dennis Murray, Medscape [11/27/12


  4. Results of the Tax Cuts

    The president and the Congress may yet come to an agreement to avert across the board tax increase as the result of the expiration of Bush era tax cuts and “fiscal clif”, but under no circumstance will tax rates stay the same or go down in 2013.

    Thus, it may be advantageous to:

    1. accelerate recognition of income,
    2. defer recognition of expenses, and
    3. realize capital gains before year end.

    Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA


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