Tag Archives: savings

Effective Tax Planning Starts Now!

With summertime activities in full swing, tax planning is probably not on the top of your to-do list. But putting it off creates a problem at the end of the year when there’s little time for changes to take effect. If you take the time to plan now, you’ll have six months for your actions to make a difference on your 2019 tax return. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Know your upcoming tax breaks. Pull out your 2018 tax return and take a look at your income, deductions and credits. Ask yourself whether all these breaks will be available again this year. For example:

  • Are you expecting more income that will bump you to a higher tax rate?
  • Will increased income cause a benefit to phase out?
  • Will any of your children outgrow a tax credit?

Any changes to your tax situation will make planning now much more important.

Make tax-wise investment decisions. Have some loser stocks you were hoping would rebound? If the prospects for revival aren’t great, and you’ve owned them for less than one year (short-term), selling them now before they change to long-term stocks can offset up to $3,000 in ordinary income this year. Conversely, appreciated stocks held longer than one year may be candidates for potential charitable contributions or possible choices to optimize your taxes with proper planning.

Adjust your retirement plan contributions. Are you still making contributions based on last year’s limits? Maximum savings amounts increase for retirement plans in 2019. You can contribute up to $13,000 to a SIMPLE IRA, up to $19,000 to a 401(k) and up to $6,000 to a traditional or Roth IRA. Remember to add catch-up contributions if you’ll be 50 by the end of December!

Plan for upcoming college expenses. With the school year around the corner, understanding the various tax breaks for college expenses before you start doling out your cash for post-secondary education will ensure the maximum tax savings. There are two tax credits available, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit. Plus there are tax benefits for student loan interest and Coverdell Savings accounts. Add 529 college savings plans, and you quickly realize an educational tax strategy is best established early in the year.

Add some business to your summer vacation. If you own a business, you might be able to deduct some of your travel expenses as a business expense. To qualify, the primary reason for your trip must be business-related. Keep detailed records of where and when you work, plus get receipts for all ordinary and necessary expenses!

Great tax planning is a year-round process, but it’s especially effective at midyear. Making time now not only helps reduce your taxes, it puts you in control of your entire financial situation.

5 Summer Tax Savings Opportunities

Ah, summer. The weather is warm, kids are out of school, and it’s time to think about tax saving opportunities! Here are five ways you can enjoy your normal summertime activities and save on taxes:

  1. Rent out your property tax-free. If you have a cabin, condo, or similar property, consider renting it out for two weeks. The rental income you receive on property rented for less than 15 days per year is not considered taxable income. In addition, you can still deduct your mortgage interest expense and property taxes in full as itemized deductions! Track the rental days closely — going over 14 days means all rent is taxable and rental income rules apply.
  2. Take a tax credit for summer childcare. For many working parents, the summer comes with the added challenge of finding care for their children. Thankfully, the Child and Dependent Care Credit can cover 20-35 percent of qualified childcare expenses for your children under the age of 13. Eligible types of care include day care, nanny fees and day camps (overnight camps and summer school do not qualify).
  3. Hire your kids. If you own a business, hire your kids. If you are a sole proprietor and your child is under age 18, you can pay them to work without withholding or paying Social Security and Medicare tax.
  4. Have a garage sale. In general, the money you make from a yard or garage sale is tax-free because you sell your goods for less than you originally paid for them. Once the sale is over, donate the remaining items to a qualified charity to get a potential charitable donation deduction. Just remember to keep a log of the items you donate and ask for a receipt.
  5. Start a Roth IRA for your children. Roth IRA contributions are limited to the amount of income your child earns, so earned income is key. This can include income from mowing lawns or selling lemonade. Start making contributions as soon as your child makes some money to take advantage of the tax-free earnings available in a Roth IRA.

Taking the time this summer to execute these tips can put extra money in your pocket right away and provide you tax-saving happiness in the future.

Year-End Tax Checklist

As the year draws to a close, there are several tax-saving ideas you should consider. Use this checklist to make sure you don’t miss an opportunity before the year is out.

Retirement distributions and contributions. Make final contributions to your qualified retirement plan, and take any required minimum distributions from your retirement accounts. The penalty for not taking minimum distributions can be high.

Investment management. Rebalance your investment portfolio, and take any final investment gains and losses. Capital losses can be used to net against your capital gains. You can also take up to $3,000 of capital losses in excess of capital gains each year and use it to lower your taxable ordinary income.

Last-minute charitable giving. Make a late-year charitable donation. Even better, make the donation with appreciated stock you’ve owned more than a year. You often can make a larger donation and get a larger deduction without paying capital gains taxes.

Noncash donation opportunity. Gather up non-cash items for donation, document the items, and give those in good condition to your favorite charity. Make sure you get a receipt from the charity, and take a photo of the items donated.

Gifts to dependents and others. You may provide gifts to an individual of up to $14,000 per year in total. Remember that all gifts given (birthdays, holidays, etc.) count toward the annual total.

Organize records now. Start collecting and organizing your end-of-year tax records. Estimate your tax liability and make any required estimated tax payments.

Six Tips for Working Beyond Retirement Age – Part 2

Two-thirds of the Baby Boomer generation are now working or plan to work beyond age 65, according to a recent Transamerica Institute study. Some report they need to work because their savings declined during the financial crisis, while others say they choose to work because of the greater sense of purpose and engagement that working provides. Whatever your reason for continuing to work into your golden years, below is Part 2 of a 2-part series with tips to make sure you get the greatest benefit from your efforts.

4. Consider your expenses. If you’re reducing your working hours or taking a part-time job, you also have to consider the cost of your extra income stream. Calculate how much it costs to commute and park every day, as well as the expense of meals, clothing, dry cleaning and any other expenses. Now consider how much all those expenses amount to in pre-tax income. Be aware whether the benefits you get from working a little extra are worth the extra financial cost.

5. Time to downsize or relocate? Where and how you live can be an important factor determining the kind of work you can do while you’re retired. Downsizing to a smaller residence or moving to a new locale may be a good strategy to pursue a new kind of work and a different lifestyle.

6. Focus on your deeper purpose. Use your retirement as an opportunity to find work you enjoy and that adds value to your life. Choose a job that expresses your talents and interests, and that provides a place where your experiences are valued by others.

4 Tax Tips for Small Business Owners – Part One

Since you can’t get away from taxes, the best thing to do is be prepared for them. If you own a small business, taxes become a bit more complicated, but there are several ways to make sure tax time is less stressful. Here are tips 1 and 2 for small business owners.

  1. Think Taxes Year Around

Thinking about your taxes all year does not seem to be a way to avoid stress, but in reality, tax planning is a year-round activity when you run a small business. If you keep up with documentation and recording requirements throughout the year, you are more likely to arrive at tax time with the right paperwork ready to go.

It is also easier to take advantage of tax savings and deductions over the course of time instead of trying to put together a package of write-offs at the last minute.

  • Keep accurate records all year
  • Save all business related receipts, both paper and electronic, and log them for easy access
  • Keep mileage logs and other expense records so they are accurate

You will find tax time much less stressful, and you will be set up to monitor changes from year to year.

  1. Keep Up with the Tax News

It may seem that the legislature does nothing, but laws do get passed every year. You need to keep an eye on happenings in the federal government that can impact your tax liability and business organization.

For example:

  • The Affordable Care Act is still rolling out. As of 2015 it applied to businesses with 51 to 99 employees and carried stiff penalties for failing to provide health insurance to employees. Penalties also applied if you did not report the type of coverage you provided.
  • Taxation of online sales is still winding its way through Congress. You need to monitor the situation, so you know if it becomes law and how it could affect you if you are an online seller if you gross more than $1 million annually.
  • The Section 179 Property Deduction was extended but not made permanent. It allows business to deduct the full amount of eligible property as expenses in the year the business began using it. “Property” includes any property used in manufacturing, transporting, and producing goods, any facility used for business or research, or any buildings used to hold livestock or horticultural products.

Tax laws change all the time; keep up with the business news for ongoing legislation or last minute tax breaks.

Tips for a Successful Early Retirement

When would you like to retire? Even if the answer is later versus sooner, most of us would like the freedom to decide. To do this, consider what it would take to create financial independence in retirement. Here are some ideas to help plan for an early retirement.

  • Start early – Establish your desire to retire early as soon as possible. Have a discussion with your spouse and loved ones to ensure you have the same retirement date goal. With this stated goal, meeting savings targets and establishing spending priorities get much easier.
  • Know what you want to do – Have you always wanted to visit national parks? Do you have a passion for art? If you have a dream that can be fulfilled in retirement, it makes any hardships to get there more tolerable. Once you set retirement goals, creating a plan to get there will have more meaning.
  • Pay yourself first – People who retire early have higher savings rates than most of us. Consider saving in excess of 10% of your earnings. To do this might mean holding off on a big vacation once in a while or delaying a major home improvement or purchase. While a hardship, knowing the long-term dividend makes it worthwhile. The larger your savings become, the more flexible you are in acquiring assets that generate more wealth for you.
  • No debt and credit cards paid in full – It’s hard to retire early if you are making large loan payments. Having a mindset to save money before you buy something versus taking out loans is the way to go for prospective early retirees. Why pay the credit card company interest when you could use that money during your non-working days?
  • Financial independence mindset – Save enough to not have to worry about Social Security or other government programs to take care of you. Said another way, never over-spend your own resources as you will need to depend on yourself and not others for your financial independence.
  • Use common sense when investing – Many investment alternatives may no longer make financial sense when compared to the income potential of the underlying asset or property. For example, if you own rental property, determine if the cash flows create a reasonable rate of return for the price you paid for the property. If you use common sense, more of your investments may help generate income in retirement.
  • Other resources – Go through a retirement planning process with a qualified expert. This exercise can help you understand what your projected financial needs will be during your retirement years. Project your potential savings. Look into other sources of projected income from pension plans and retirement savings accounts. Create an estimate of possible Social Security benefits. Understand what other resources will be available to you during retirement.

While this list is not meant to be all-inclusive, it should help start the conversation toward your early retirement dream. Remember to ask for help to understand your situation and to develop your own personal plan.

Five Smart Uses for Your Tax Refund

So you were fortunate enough to receive a tax refund this year. What are your plans for the money? Here are five ideas worth considering.

Pay down debt – Start with debts that carry the highest interest rates first, then move down the line. This is like savings on savings as you are freeing up future cash needed to pay the interest on this debt.

Ideas: Pay off credit card debt. Lower your student loan debt. Make a principal payment on a mortgage.

Add to savings – Save some of your refund for later use.

Ideas: Add to your emergency fund to have enough to cover at least six months of your every-day expenses. Add to a college savings account or a tax-advantaged retirement account.

Invest in yourself – Spend some money improving yourself or your well-being. Investing in yourself can have long-term benefits.

Ideas: Take a class to develop a hobby into a career. Consider a fitness membership. Take up meditation. Become accredited in your chosen profession.

Spend for permanence – Instead of spending your refund on day-to-day expenses, use some of it for capital purchases. Capital purchases are for items that last longer than one year.

Ideas: Replace a worn out couch. Purchase a replacement bicycle. Upgrade an outdated light fixture. Consider a minor home improvement.

Have some fun – Finally, consider using part of your refund for a well-deserved break. When balanced with using a portion of your refund to improve your financial condition, you can feel better about a little splurging in your life.

Ideas: Shop last minute flight deals for a weekend getaway. Take a road trip to a favorite destination.

Year-End Tax Planning Ideas – Part 2

As the end of the year approaches, it is a good time to think of planning moves that will help lower your tax bill for this year and possibly the next.  We have compiled a checklist of actions that may help you save tax dollars if you act before year-end. Not all actions will apply in your particular situation, but you (or a family member) will likely benefit from many of them.

Below is part two of a two-part series – this second is aimed at ideas for businesses.

Year-End Tax-Planning Moves for Businesses & Business Owners

Businesses should consider making expenditures that qualify for the business property expensing option. For tax years beginning in 2016, the expensing limit is $500,000 and the investment ceiling limit is $2,010,000. Expensing is generally available for most depreciable property (other than buildings), off-the-shelf computer software, and qualified real property—qualified leasehold improvement property, qualified restaurant property, and qualified retail improvement property. The generous dollar ceilings that apply this year mean that many small and medium sized businesses that make purchases before the end of 2016 will be able to currently deduct most if not all their outlays for machinery and equipment. What’s more, the expensing deduction is not prorated for the time that the asset is in service during the year. This opens up significant year-end planning opportunities.

Businesses also should consider making expenditures that qualify for 50% bonus first year depreciation if bought and placed in service this year. The bonus depreciation deduction is permitted without any proration based on the length of time that an asset is in service during the tax year. As a result, the full 50% first-year bonus write-off is available even if qualifying assets are in service for only a few days in 2016.

  • Businesses may be able to take advantage of the “de minimis safe harbor election” (also known as the book-tax conformity election) to expense the costs of lower-cost assets and materials and supplies, assuming the costs don’t have to be capitalized under the Code Sec. 263A uniform capitalization (UNICAP) rules. To qualify for the election, the cost of a unit of property can’t exceed $2,500.
  • A corporation should consider accelerating income from 2017 to 2016 if it will be in a higher bracket next year. Conversely, it should consider deferring income until 2017 if it will be in a higher bracket this year.
  • A corporation (other than a “large” corporation) that anticipates a small net operating loss (NOL) for 2016 (and substantial net income in 2017) may find it worthwhile to accelerate just enough of its 2017 income (or to defer just enough of its 2016 deductions) to create a small amount of net income for 2016. This will permit the corporation to base its 2017 estimated tax installments on the relatively small amount of income shown on its 2016 return, rather than having to pay estimated taxes based on 100% of its much larger 2017 taxable income.
  • To reduce 2016 taxable income, consider deferring a debt-cancellation event until 2017.
  • To reduce 2016 taxable income, consider disposing of a passive activity in 2016 if doing so will allow you to deduct suspended passive activity losses.
  • If you own an interest in a partnership or S corporation, consider whether you need to increase your basis in the entity so you can deduct a loss from it for this year.

Year-End Tax Planning Ideas – Part 1

As the end of the year approaches, it is a good time to think of planning moves that will help lower your tax bill for this year and possibly the next.  We have compiled a checklist of actions that may help you save tax dollars if you act before year-end. Not all actions will apply in your particular situation, but you (or a family member) will likely benefit from many of them.

Below is part one of a two-part series – this first is aimed at ideas for individuals.

Year-End Tax Planning Moves for Individuals

  • Realize losses on stock while substantially preserving your investment position. There are several ways this can be done. For example, you can sell the original holding, and then buy back the same securities at least 31 days later.
  • Postpone income until 2017 and accelerate deductions into 2016 to lower your 2016 tax bill. This strategy may enable you to claim larger deductions, credits, and other tax breaks for 2016 that are phased out over varying levels of adjusted gross income (AGI). These include child tax credits, higher education tax credits, and deductions for student loan interest. Postponing income also is desirable for those taxpayers who anticipate being in a lower tax bracket next year due to changed financial circumstances. Note, however, that in some cases, it may pay to actually accelerate income into 2016. For example, this may be the case where a person’s marginal tax rate is much lower this year than it will be next year or where lower income in 2017 will result in a higher 2017 tax credit for an individual who plans to purchase health insurance on a health exchange and is eligible for a premium assistance credit.
  • It may be advantageous to try to arrange with your employer to defer, until early 2017, a bonus that may be coming your way.
  • Consider using a credit card to pay deductible expenses before the end of the year. Doing so will increase your 2016 deductions even if you don’t pay your credit card bill until after the end of the year.
  • If you expect to owe state and local income taxes when you file your return next year, consider asking your employer to increase withholding of state and local taxes (or pay estimated tax payments of state and local taxes) before year-end to pull the deduction of those taxes into 2016 if you won’t be subject to alternative minimum tax (AMT) in 2016.
  • Estimate the effect of any year-end planning moves on the AMT for 2016, keeping in mind that many tax breaks allowed for purposes of calculating regular taxes are disallowed for AMT purposes. These include the deduction for state and local property taxes on your residence, state income taxes, miscellaneous itemized deductions, and personal exemption deductions. Other deductions, such as for medical expenses of a taxpayer who is at least age 65 or whose spouse is at least 65 as of the close of the tax year, are calculated in a more restrictive way for AMT purposes than for regular tax purposes. If you are subject to the AMT for 2016, or suspect you might be, these types of deductions should not be accelerated.
  • You may be able to save taxes this year and next by applying a bunching strategy to “miscellaneous” itemized deductions, medical expenses and other itemized deductions.
  • Increase the amount you set aside for next year in your employer’s health flexible spending account (FSA) if you set aside too little for this year.
  • If you become eligible in or before December of 2016 to make health savings account (HSA) contributions, you can make a full year’s worth of deductible HSA contributions for 2016.
  • Consider increasing charitable deductions by the end of the year.
  • If you are thinking of installing energy saving improvements to your home, such as certain high-efficiency insulation materials, do so before the close of 2016. You may qualify for a “nonbusiness energy property credit” that won’t be available after this year, unless Congress reinstates it.
  • Make gifts sheltered by the annual gift tax exclusion before the end of the year and thereby save gift and/or estate taxes. The exclusion applies to gifts of up to $14,000 made in 2016 and 2017 to each of an unlimited number of individuals. You can’t carry over unused exclusions from one year to the next. The transfers also may save family income taxes where income-earning property is given to family members in lower income tax brackets who are not subject to the kiddie tax.
  • Maximize retirement deferrals such as 401K, Simple Plan, catch-up contributions if you are over 50, DB plan, etc.