Q3 2021 Returns By Asset Class

This post contains the usual returns by asset class for this past quarter (by representative ETF), year-to-date, last twelve months, last five years, last 10 years, and since the covid low (3/23/2020).  While there is still no predictive power in this data, I’ll continue to post this quarterly for those of you that are interested. 

Last Quarter (7/1/21-9/30/21)
Year-To-Date (1/1/21-9/30/21)
Last 12 Months (10/1/20-9/30/21)
Since Covid Low (3/23/20-9/30/21)
Last 5 Years (10/1/16-9/30/21)
Last 10 Years (10/1/11-9/30/21)

A few notes:

  • A solid first two months of the quarter hit an ugly September, which left Q3 mixed to slightly down overall. Commodities led the way (+8%) for the second straight quarter as supply chain issues led to shortages in many areas of the economy. The Fed has softened its opinion on the transitory nature of inflation, and are indicating a chance for costs rising higher than their 2% per year target for some time. They’ve indicated that if the employment picture continues to improve, they’re likely to start tapering their bond purchases (quantitative easing) in the coming months, with rate hikes down the road in late 2022 / early 2023.
  • Rounding out the performance numbers by asset class: US Bonds, US Large Cap Stocks, US Real Estate, and High-Yield Bonds all returned between 0-1% in Q3. On the losing side were Foreign Developed Stocks (-1.5%), US Smalls Caps (-2.5%), Emerging Market Debt (-3.5%), and Emerging Market Stocks (-7%). The stability of bonds made more conservative portfolios outperform in Q3. But, as you can see in the 5-year chart and the “since covid low” chart, overall performance across the financial markets has been superb.
  • While commodities have continued to roar back over the past 18 months, the 5 and 10-year charts show just how far they’ve lagged behind other asset classes. Commodities generally track inflation over the long-term, and they really suffered after the financial crisis, the oil glut, and the early part of covid. Now, higher inflation has been pushing commodities higher. Whether that continues or not depends on whether supply constraints ease and on how quickly global demand returns following the peak of the Delta variant of covid (and whatever variant of concern comes next).

Proposed Credits & Deductions in the Upcoming Infrastructure & Broader Spending Plan

In the last post, I covered the potential “pay-fors” that would… well… pay for some of the spending, deductions, and credits enabled by the proposed infrastructure and broader spending legislation that Congress is working on passing via reconciliation this fall.  That proposed legislation is currently 645 pages, and subject to many changes as it makes its way through committees in both chambers.  There are many proposed changes to the tax code (enough to make the TCJA look simple) to go along with various spending appropriations.  The majority have to do with infrastructure incentives and credits for business.  But, there are a few notable ones for individuals/families.  Keeping in mind that this is just a proposal, here is a non-exhaustive list of the provisions that may provide some benefit to you:

  • Increases the credit for adding solar to a residence back to 30% of the cost.  Extended through 2031, then phases down to 26% in 2032, 22% in 2033, and then expires.  Includes residential battery storage technology as well.
  • Extends the non-business energy property credit (energy-efficient windows, doors, furnaces, , water heaters, etc.) to 2031 and expands the credit to 30% of the cost from the current 10%.  Additionally, it eliminates the (frustrating and hard to track) lifetime limit and replaces it with a $1200 annual limit.
  • Creates a new Plug-In Electric Vehicle Credit ranging from $4000 to $12,500 (limited to 50% of the cost), depending on battery capacity, assembly location, and what portion of the vehicle is made with domestic parts.  It won’t apply to vehicles weighing more than 14,000 lbs or vehicles with an MSRP exceeding certain thresholds. The credit phases out starting at income of $400K single / $800K Joint.
  • Creates a new Plug-In Electric Vehicle Credit for purchase of used qualifying vehicles.  Much lower income thresholds, lower credit amount, and the vehicle must be at least 2 years old.
  • Creates a new credit for certain electric bicycles, and reinstates the employer provided fringe benefit for bicycle commuting (with the max benefit raised to $52.50/mo from $20/mo)
  • Extends the enhanced Child Tax Credit ($3k per child age 6-17, $3600 per child age 5 or under), as created by the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) earlier in 2021, including monthly checks of half of the expected amount of the credit, through 2025 (previously expired in 2021).  However, instead of defaulting to including the monthly checks, the default will be to not have monthly checks sent and the taxpayer will have to opt in in some manner to be determined at a later date by the Treasury/IRS.  Income phaseouts continue to apply as defined in ARPA (phaseout for the original $2k is $200K Single / $400K Married, and for the enhanced $1600 it’s $75K Single / $150K Married.
  • Makes the Child Tax Credit permanently (until changed by future legislation) refundable.  This means the credit amount can exceed the taxpayer’s total tax liability for the year and the taxpayer will still get the full credit.  No longer reverts back to the pre-ARPA rules after 2025
  • Extends the $500 credit for “Other Dependents” through 2025.
  • Makes the Dependent Care Credit changes from APRA permanent.  That increased the maximum qualifying expenses to $8K for one child or $16K for two or more children.  The amount of the credit starts at 50% of qualifying expenses.  If income exceeds $125K, the credit percentage is reduced, until it drops to 20% at $400K.  It then completely phases out if income exceeds $500K.  Also makes permanent the income exclusion for employer provided Dependent Care Assistance (e.g. Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts) at the ARPA enhanced level of $10,500 per year (up from the $5k limit pre-ARPA).  Note that employers still need to adopt this change in order for employees to take advantage of it.
  • Creates a new credit for caregivers of 50% of qualified expenses up to a $4K maximum credit.  Begins to phase-out at $75K of income.  This is for people who care for those with long-term care needs in their own home.
  • Enhances the Earned Income Credit.
  • Creates a new credit for contributions to a Public University that provide infrastructure for research.  The credit, available through 2032, is 40% of the amount contributed to the qualifying project (lots of rules as to what qualifies).  Note: this is a credit, not a deduction, so you don’t have to itemize to take it.

Tax Increases & Retirement Funding Limits Incoming

The House Ways and Means Committee released a tax plan designed to pay for (part of?) the bi-partisan Infrastructure Bill and the larger spending bill that Democrats are trying to pass through a process known as “reconciliation”.  The House tax plan contains fewer tax hikes and fewer changes to the tax code overall than President Biden’s initial plan released earlier this year.  While the President’s plan always seemed unlikely to garner enough support, the House plan has the makings of a real starting point for negotiation.  The Senate is moving forward with its own legislation and eventually, both Chambers will need to pass a bill, then reconcile into one bill which is re-passed.  With the Democrats having slim margins in both the House and Senate (courtesy of the VP tie-breaker there), it will be difficult to get enough support from the progressive and more moderate side of the party at the same time.  They’ll either need to do that or bring some Republicans on board in order to get enough votes to pass the broad package.  In summary, there are bound to be a lot of changes to the details here, but we’re close enough to actual proposed legislation, that I thought it would be a good idea to lay out the key portions of the current proposal.  As a side note, there is a fair shot that some/all of the changes will wind up being last minute, end-of-year, potentially retroactive to this year changes.  The timing of enactment and the effective date of each change are going to determine whether or not any action can/should be taken to minimize the impact of tax hikes, or take advantage of temporary opportunities for deductions, credits, etc.  December is going to be a fun month tax-wise, as it has been for the past several years.  Stay tuned.

Currently Included in the House Plan:

  • An increase in the top marginal income tax rate from 37%, back to where it was pre-TCJA at 39.6%.  In addition, the 32% and 35% brackets would be compressed so that the top bracket begins at $400K Single / $450K Joint.
  • A 3% “surtax” on those earning more than $5M in a given year.  A surtax is just a fancy way of adding to the income tax rate, effectively creating a new top bracket of 42.6% for those earning > $5M.
  • An increase in the tax rate on long-term capital gains (LTCG) tax for upper-income taxpayers (in the top tax bracket for LTCG which starts at ~$450K single / 500K joint) from the current 20% to 25%.  Note: this provision would become effective as of 9/13 if I’m reading it correctly (i.e. sales prior to that date would be taxed at the existing rate, sales on or after would be taxed at the new rate).  If true, there’s no ability to sell in advance, though since the rate is only going up 5%, and that might change in a future administration, I can’t see why anyone would sell anything other than for a short-term need anyway.
  • A decrease in the corporate tax rate from the current 21% to 18% for low-income (up to $400K) corporations and an increase to 26.5% for high-income (over $5M) corporations.
  • Limits on the 199A “20% small business deduction” to a max of $400K Single / $500K Joint.  Those aren’t income limits to take the deduction…  they’re limits on the max amount of the deduction.  There had been an alternate proposal (Wyden plan) to eliminate the Specified Services Trade or Business provisions as well as the W-2 income and unadjusted basis of assets provisions, and instead just institute income limits.  That’s not included in the House plan.  (Of course it’s not…  it would have simplified something!)
  • Contributions to IRAs / Roth IRAs would be prohibited if their value (in aggregate in case there are multiple accounts) exceeds $10M in value and income for the year exceeds $400k single / $450k joint.
  • Add a new Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) to IRA, Roth IRA, and defined contribution (e.g. 401k) accounts (in aggregate) that exceed $10M in value if income for the year exceeds $400k single / $450k joint.  The RMD would be 50% of the amount that exceeds $10M.  Additionally, if the balance of those accounts exceeds $20M, a 100% distribution is required from the Roth portions until the total balance is less than $20M or the Roth accounts are exhausted.
  • Roth IRA conversions and 401k Roth Conversions would be prohibited for those with income over $400k single / $450k joint.  Additionally, after-tax contributions to 401k and the conversion of after-tax contributions to Traditional IRAs would be prohibited regardless of income (i.e. the end of the “backdoor Roth” and the “mega backdoor Roth”).
  • IRAs would not be able to hold 1) private investments that can only be offered to “accredited investors”, 2) securities in which the owner has a >= 50% interest (10% if not tradable on an established securities market), and 3) the securities of an entity in which the IRA owner is an officer.
  • Lifetime gift / estate tax exclusion is reset to its 2010 level of $5M per individual (adjusted for inflation) instead of that happening after 2025 as scheduled by TCJA.
  • Changes to bring most Grantor Trusts back into the estate of the grantor and to eliminate the valuation discount frequently used when gifting portions of family limited partnerships (FLPs) to the next generation.
  • More money for the IRS to boost its audit programs.  Everyone hates and audit, but this is sorely needed.  The IRS lacks the resources to keep up with tax cheats.

Notably Not Currently Included:

  • Increase in the State And Local Tax (SALT) maximum deduction.  This is the cap put in place as part of the TCJA that limits both single and joint filers to a maximum Federal deduction of $10k for taxes paid to states and localities.  Several high-tax state representatives in the House have said they will not vote for any tax and spend package that doesn’t relax the current SALT limit, and House leadership has implied that a change to the SALT deduction is still on the table and may be added to the bill at a later date.
  • Loss of Basis “Step-Up” at death.  This feature of the current tax code allows those who inherit property (real estate, securities, farms, businesses, etc.) to have the cost basis of the property reset to its value on the date of death of the owner.  This allows substantial gains to go untaxed if the property is held until death.  The President’s tax plan would curb basis step up, but such curbs were not included in the recent draft from the House.  The head of the Senate Finance Committee has indicated that this may wind up in the Senate bill, so it’s not dead yet either.
  • Elimination of tax-free loans from securities portfolios.  The current tax code allows owners of brokerage accounts to use the account as collateral to take out loans.  The proceeds from the loans can then be used to support expenses, rather than selling assets and potentially paying capital gains tax on those sales.  This practice helps to avoid selling assets such that basis can be stepped up at death (see bullet above) and capital gains tax is never collected.