Payroll tax changes aren't affecting many investors' behavior

April 9, 2013 -- Half of investors have not changed their savings or spending behavior despite a reduction in take-home pay due to payroll tax changes this year, according to the John Hancock Investor Sentiment Survey.  

Fifty-two percent of investors surveyed said they have not changed their behavior, while 32 percent said they are spending less and 19 percent said they are contributing less to savings, as a result of the tax increase that went into effect in January of 2013, whereby the amount of money withheld from paychecks for Social Security taxes returned to its pre-recession level.

Nearly half of investors (47 percent) expect to receive a Federal tax refund this year. A third (32 percent) expect they will owe Federal tax. The survey also found that 53 percent of investors plan to put any Federal tax refund into a savings account.  Just over a quarter (27 percent) plan to pay down debt, while one in five (18 percent) plan to spend their refund.

Of those who plan to spend their tax refund, over a third (36 percent) say they will spend it on a vacation, which represents a decrease from last year (51 percent in Q1 of 2012). A quarter (25 percent) plan to spend their refund on basic household needs, while one in five (20 percent) will spend it on home improvements.

Many say they are familiar with changes made to the estate tax law in late 2012 (49 percent). Forty percent are familiar with the changes made to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) also in late 2012. A majority of investors (74 percent) say that they are not likely to make changes to their personal financial plans as a result of changes to the estate tax law. And more than half (55 percent) say that their household finances will not be affected by changes made to the AMT rate.

John Hancock's Investor Sentiment Survey is a quarterly poll of affluent investors.  The survey measures investors' feelings about the current economic climate and their evaluations of what represents a good or bad investment given the current environment.  The poll also asks consumers about their confidence in reaching key financial goals and likelihood of purchasing financial products and services.