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.
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.
“I have lots of time to prepare before tax season is here” – is that what you’re thinking? True, you don’t need to worry about your tax prep just yet. However, now is the perfect time to begin planning so you can take advantage of all the opportunities to minimize the taxes you will owe. That starts with making sure you’ve taken ALL the deductions that can help reduce your taxable income.
• Have you maxed out your retirement plan contributions?
• Have you set aside money for 529 college savings plans or health savings accounts?
• Have you considered which charitable donations you want to make before year’s end?
These are only a few of the several ways you can lower the income you report this upcoming tax season.