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  • Nick Burgess

Are Financial Advisor Fees Tax Deductible?

Let's say you've decided to outsource your finances. I hate you, but I'm going to attempt to give you the benefit of the doubt because maybe your time is better spent saving the rainforests or saving grandmas from crosswalks or some bullshit. Well, if you've outsourced one of the most important things in your life, then you're likely paying fees!

a man holding a piece of paper doing tax calculations on his phone

Now it's time to wonder "are financial advisor fees tax deductible?" If you're asking yourself this question, then you likely don't need a financial advisor, but also you've come to the right place. Buckle up, because we're about to embark on a roller coaster ride through the exhilarating world of tax law, exploring the labyrinth of the Internal Revenue Code, and shedding light on the mysteries of investment advice. Consider this a road map, not legal advice or tax advice, but a handy guide crafted for your educational purposes, providing useful information as you navigate your financial journey.


Are Financial Advisor Fees Tax Deductible?

Let's dive into tax deductions, the magical tool that reduces your taxable income. For illustrative purposes, imagine your gross income is $100,000, and you've racked up $20,000 in deductions. Like a magic trick, your taxable income drops to $80,000. This tax break has the potential to lighten your tax burden significantly.

On this road to tax relief, we're focusing on a particular expense: financial planning fees. These include investment management fees, custodial fees, and other costs tied to investment advice. Essentially, any charge fees incurred from getting advice to manage your financial goals better.


Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, the Internal Revenue Code allowed for certain miscellaneous itemized deductions on your tax return. These deductions were allowed if they exceeded 2% of your adjusted gross income. Among these were investment advisory fees. But the TCJA brought significant changes and bad news for many - this deduction was suspended for tax years 2018 through 2025. Thus, the answer to "Are financial advisor fees tax deductible?" is mostly "No" under the current law (shoutout to President 45 for that little kick in the pants).


Other Possible Tax Deductions

But it's not all doom and gloom, folks! Some investment-related expenses are still deductible. Investment interest expenses, for instance, such as those from margin loans used to purchase taxable investments, can often be deducted.

Moreover, for a non-retirement account, or taxable account, certain fees tied to the account's investment income could still be deductible. This could include mutual fund expenses deducted from investment returns or costs related to specific investment transactions, which often alter the cost basis of investments.


Now, let's discuss mutual funds. When considering mutual funds, we encounter expense ratios - the total fee charged by the fund, which includes advisory services. While these aren't directly deductible, they do reduce the fund's returns and, consequently, lower your taxable income.


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides a tax break avenue via health savings accounts (HSAs) and specific retirement plans. Contributions to these accounts are deductible, effectively rendering any associated advisory fees paid with pre-tax dollars. But remember, this doesn't apply if you're using after-tax dollars from these accounts to pay the fees.



Ironically, fees related to tax-exempt income are non-deductible. If you hold municipal bonds in your investment portfolio, any investment advice or management fees tied to these are considered production of income expenses and can't be deducted.


Possible Tax Deductions for Business Owners

Business owners, listen up! You can often deduct financial planning services as a business expense. But ensure these services relate directly to your business accounts.

While insurance products can be part of a comprehensive financial planning strategy, the fees associated with these products aren’t typically deductible, as they are deemed a personal expense by the IRS.


Retirement Account Deduction Rules

Now, let's explore retirement accounts. For example, a traditional IRA. Contributions to a traditional IRA might be made with pre-tax dollars, but fees related to the account's administration, like trust administration fees, aren't deductible. The same applies to Roth IRAs. Unfortunately, you can't take an IRA withdrawal to pay investment fees without the distribution being subject to income tax. It's a tricky road, isn't it?

We've also got educational purposes to consider. If your financial planning services include a portion of the fee for investment education or educational purposes, this isn't deductible either. Yet, this investment in knowledge can enhance your understanding of how best to grow and manage your investment portfolio.


Also, beware of intangible expenses! Miscellaneous deductions such as these, which were once partially deductible, are now off the table. These expenses might include those for investment advice related to property transactions or managing property held for investment.


Our tax situation can impact our financial situation. For example, fees related to managing taxable investments in a non-retirement account are now typically only deductible to the extent they exceed 2% of adjusted gross income. This includes custodial fees and other miscellaneous deductions.


If you're considering an IRA contribution, note that traditional IRA contributions can be fully or partially deductible, depending on your income and whether you or your spouse has a retirement plan at work.

While the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act brought bad news by suspending many itemized deductions, including those for investment management fees, there's some good news, too. The tax law also nearly doubled the standard deduction, reducing the tax bill for many individuals. Moreover, the lower tax rate may lessen your tax burden overall.

Also, consider the interplay between fees and capital gains. If your financial advisor’s fee is withdrawn from your investment account, it reduces your account balance and possibly your capital gains when you sell investments.


Conclusion

So, what's the bottom line, you ask? In the wake of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, understanding your financial advisor fees and their impact on your tax return is more important than ever. As tax law is subject to change, it's crucial to stay informed. Always consult reliable sources or a tax advisor for the most current information.


One final thought: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is set to expire in 2025. Who knows what the future holds? We might see a return of these miscellaneous deductions. Until then, let's navigate the turbulent tax waters together, one tax year at a time. Here's to making your financial goals a reality and reducing that tax bill!


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