Smart money moves for 2014
There's not much to do now to reduce your AMT risk for 2013, but experts say taxpayers at risk have lots of moves available for the 2014 tax year."If you've been close or have paid the AMT in the past, you're likely to pay the AMT in the future," Lang said, adding, "If you want to get out of the AMT," he said, "you really want to push earnings into the future."
Taxpayers can also reduce current income with moves like maximizing tax-deductible contributions to IRAs and 401(k)s, he added. And they can offset capital gains by selling money-losing investments.
Luscombe said taxpayers should start by looking at the reasons they faced the AMT in 2013. If a home-equity loan hurt you, for example, think about paying it off. A taxpayer who lives in a state with high state and local taxes like New York might even, as an extreme move, consider changing the primary residence to a state like Florida, which has no income tax, he said.
McKelvey said much AMT strategy involves smart timing of matters, like when to take income or prepay taxes. A number of his clients who own construction companies, for instance, can time their billings to receive income in the current tax year or to wait until the next, allowing them to book income in the year they'll face the lowest tax rate, he explained.
Similarly, clients with stock options can sometimes minimize the overall tax by exercising the option in one year, triggering AMT, and then waiting until a subsequent year to sell the shares. That way, they get a credit on regular tax for the AMT paid earlier.
"That's a timing difference," he explained. "We do models on how that would treat them."
(Read more: Don't Make These Common (and Costly) Tax Mistakes)
Because the new higher tax rates for regular taxes will eliminate AMT for many who have paid it in the past, these taxpayers should reexamine past strategies, said Paul Gevertzman, partner, Anchin, Block & Anchin, a New York City accounting firm. He said that one of his clients, an engineer with a mid-six-figure income, has for years declined to claim a deduction for research and development because he was always subject to AMT, which does not allow this deduction. But with the higher income tax rates, this client will now pay the regular income tax, which does allow that deduction.
So if you're exposed to AMT for 2013, sorry, you may be stuck. To ease the pain of an ugly surprise, do your return as early as possible, and be sure to have some cash on hand to pay a tax bill if it comes to that.
Then follow the experts' advice: Start this year's AMT planning sooner rather than later.
—By Jeff Brown, Special to CNBC.com