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No, tax rates will not inevitably increase if fiscally responsible governments are elected, and available resources are spent on public goods. A tall order.
It seems like rates change these days every time a new president takes office. So I try to take a long-term view. Sure, rates might go up in the next few years, but they could also come down again in five or ten years. Investors’ only and best protection, I think, is to have assets in each of the three major tax categories — taxable, tax-deferred and Roth. That at least provides flexibility down the road to make withdrawals that are beneficial under the tax regime prevailing at the time.
The highest marginal personal income tax rates declined steeply from about 1960 to about 1990. Since then they have been relatively flat. People have been saying higher rates are inevitable for a decade or more, but for 60 years the effective tax rate has declined – any increases were marginal and impermanent. Seems to me that it’s difficult to conclude that a rate increase is “inevitable”. “Possible” is the word I would use.
I think preparation depends hugely on your personal situation. For most people, there’s little to be concerned about, income will never be high enough for the marginal rates to exceed 12% or thereabouts, and the acceleration of income (i.e. by moving from Traditional to Roth) is most likely harmful to future wealth. For folks with $2-5M, some actions like back-door IRAs or Roth contributions may be helpful.
Socking as much away as in the company Roth 401 (k) as possible. Or Roth IRA if that is what is available. Buying dividend-paying stocks of companies that can raise prices with inflation – consumer staples, utilities, pharma, etc.
Buying stocks of global companies with a wide moat. Owning real estate and Real Estate Investment Trust stocks.
Nothing in finance is inevitable, but if I had to bet, I would say tax rates will rise from here. How to prepare? By practicing tax diversification, that is, holding tax-deferred, tax-free, and taxable accounts.