What the experts say

Gay marriage and personal finance; Stealth taxes rising; Saving on movie rentals

Gay marriage and personal finance

Same-sex couples can now legally marry in six states and the District of Columbia, but doing so requires “even more legal and financial planning” than simply living together, said Kelly Greene in The Wall Street Journal. Because the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, gay couples can’t file a joint federal tax return; what’s worse, filing separately and splitting community income “could trigger an audit.” But “the biggest problems may not come until death do you part.” The federal “marital deduction” allows a surviving spouse to inherit assets without paying tax, but that isn’t an option for same-sex couples, even if those assets “were held in joint accounts.” Gay spouses should seek smart advice on estate planning, because “the happily-ever-after part doesn’t necessarily extend to their personal finances.”

Stealth taxes rising

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While politicians fight over whether to mandate tax increases, we’re already seeing some “stealth tax” rates inch up, said Janice Revell in Fortune. Starting in 2013, individuals will have to kick in an extra 0.9 percent of any income above $200,000 in Medicare tax, and they’ll face a more onerous 3.8 percent Medicare tax on investment income. In the meantime, provisions from 1984 and 1994, designed to make the wealthiest Social Security recipients pay some income tax on their benefits, “have morphed into tax traps for upper-middle-class earners.” Originally, only 10 percent of retirees passed the relevant threshold, but “about a third of retirees are now paying federal income tax on their Social Security benefits,” and in another 10 years, 45 percent will pay it—assuming we still have Social Security as we know it.

Saving on movie rentals

“Netflix’s new, higher prices” are a good reason for consumers to seek better deals on movie rentals, said Kelli B. Grant in Smart

Money.com. Many Netflix subscribers will pay an extra $72 a year “without any change in service.” But there are other options. Redbox and Blockbuster Express offer a limited selection at kiosks in supermarkets and drugstores for $1 a night, and coupons can lower that price. There is more choice at higher prices in video stores, but there, too, promotions and loyalty deals can cut costs. On the Web, Apple has a 99-cent “movie of the week” special, and you can find some movies for free on sites such as Hulu.com, Crackle.com, and Xfinity.com. But the best option, if you’re not looking for the latest releases, might be your local library.

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