Tax Shelters Remain A Mystery To Many Affluent Investors

Don't assume that wealthy investors know all the tricks to avoiding taxes.

More than two-thirds (70%) of affluent investors admit they have little to no knowledge of tax shelters, according to the Spectrem Perspective report "Tax Planning and the Affluent Investor," released late last week.

Further, the majority of these investors express little to no understanding of many of the most common vehicles used to reduce taxes.

The report found, for example, that more than six out of 10 affluent investors have little to no knowledge of Section 529 educational savings plans (68%), annuities (62%), in-kind charitable contributions (64%) and KEOGHS (72%). Other blind spots include tax-exempt bonds (58%), tax-free annual gifts (55%), cash-value insurance (52%), and SEPs or IRAs (51%). The majority of affluent investors expressed strong understanding only of company-sponsored retirement accounts, 401(k) or 403(b) plans, (just 27% with little to no knowledge); and financial charitable contributions (42%).

"There's a widespread assumption that wealthy individuals are better at sheltering themselves from taxes than the general populous. However, it turns out that even affluent investors have a substantial lack of understanding when it comes to tax avoidance. These investors may be missing out on important opportunities to save tax dollars because they simply aren't up to speed on many of the most well-known approaches, including Section 529 plans, annuities and in-kind charitable giving," said Catherine S. McBreen, managing director of Spectrem Group.

Indeed, the percentage of affluent investors turning to accountants as their primary financial advisors stands at 28%, second only to full-service brokers (29%) and ahead of investment advisors (22%) and financial planners (16%). This may well reflect the importance of tax-planning advice as part of these investors' overall approach to managing their wealth.

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