Ten Year End Tax Planning Tips for 2016

Here are 10 things to consider as you weigh potential tax moves between now and the end of the year.

1. Set aside time to plan
BF-AA310_401k_D_20101210153343Effective planning requires that you have a good understanding of your current tax situation, as well as a reasonable estimate of how your circumstances might change next year. There’s a real opportunity for tax savings if you’ll be paying taxes at a lower rate in one year than in the other. However, the window for most tax-saving moves closes on December 31, so don’t procrastinate.

2. Defer income to next year
Consider opportunities to defer income to 2017, particularly if you think you may be in a lower tax bracket then. For example, you may be able to defer a year-end bonus or delay the collection of business debts, rents, and payments for services. Doing so may enable you to postpone payment of tax on the income until next year.

3. Accelerate deductions
You might also look for opportunities to accelerate deductions into the current tax year. If you itemize deductions, making payments for deductible expenses such as medical expenses, qualifying interest, and state taxes before the end of the year, instead of paying them in early 2017, could make a difference on your 2016 return.

irs-logo-tax-1040-form4. Factor in the AMT
If you’re subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT), traditional year-end maneuvers such as deferring income and accelerating deductions can have a negative effect. Essentially a separate federal income tax system with its own rates and rules, the AMT effectively disallows a number of itemized deductions. For example, if you’re subject to the AMT in 2016, prepaying 2017 state and local taxes probably won’t help your 2016 tax situation, but could hurt your 2017 bottom line. Taking the time to determine whether you may be subject to the AMT before you make any year-end moves could help save you from making a costly mistake.

5. Bump up withholding to cover a tax shortfall

If it looks as though you’re going to owe federal income tax for the year, especially if you think you may be subject to an estimated tax penalty, consider asking your employer (via Form W-4) to increase your withholding for the remainder of the year to cover the shortfall. The biggest advantage in doing so is that withholding is considered as having been paid evenly through the year instead of when the dollars are actually taken from your paycheck. This strategy can also be used to make up for low or missing quarterly estimated tax payments.

6. Maximize retirement savings
Deductible contributions to a traditional IRA and pretax contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k) can reduce your 2016 taxable income. If you haven’t already contributed up to the maximum amount allowed, consider doing so by year-end.

tax7. Take any required distributions
Once you reach age 70½, you generally must start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans (an exception may apply if you’re still working and participating in an employer-sponsored plan). Take any distributions by the date required–the end of the year for most individuals. The penalty for failing to do so is substantial: 50% of any amount that you failed to distribute as required.

8. Weigh year-end investment moves
You shouldn’t let tax considerations drive your investment decisions. However, it’s worth considering the tax implications of any year-end investment moves that you make. For example, if you have realized net capital gains from selling securities at a profit, you might avoid being taxed on some or all of those gains by selling losing positions. Any losses over and above the amount of your gains can be used to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income ($1,500 if your filing status is married filing separately) or carried forward to reduce your taxes in future years.

9. Beware the net investment income tax
Don’t forget to account for the 3.8% net investment income tax. This additional tax may apply to some or all of your net investment income if your modified AGI exceeds $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing jointly, $125,000 if married filing separately, $200,000 if head of household).

10. Get help if you need it
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to tax planning. That’s why it often makes sense to talk to a tax professional who is able to evaluate your situation and help you determine if any year-end moves make sense for you.

Should You Consider a 2016 Charitable Contribution from Your IRA?

Yes, if you qualify. The law authorizing qualified charitable distributions, or QCDs, has recently been made permanent by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015.

1417067088h5adaYou simply instruct your IRA trustee to make a distribution directly from your IRA (other than a SEP or SIMPLE) to a qualified charity. You must be 70½ or older, and the distribution must be one that would otherwise be taxable to you.

You can exclude up to $100,000 of QCDs from your gross income in 2016. And if you file a joint return, your spouse (if 70½ or older) can exclude an additional $100,000 of QCDs. But you can’t also deduct these QCDs as a charitable contribution on your federal income tax return–that would be double dipping.

QCDs count toward satisfying any required minimum distributions (RMDs) that you would otherwise have to take from your IRA in 2016, just as if you had received an actual distribution from the plan. However, distributions (including RMDs) that you actually receive from your IRA and subsequently transfer to a charity cannot qualify as QCDs.

For example, assume that your RMD for 2016 is $25,000. In June 2016, you make a $15,000 QCD to Qualified Charity A. You exclude the $15,000 QCD from your 2016 gross income. Your $15,000 QCD satisfies $15,000 of your $25,000 RMD. You’ll need to withdraw another $10,000 (or make an additional QCD) by December 31, 2016, to avoid a penalty.

You could instead take a distribution from your IRA and then donate the proceeds to a charity yourself, but this would be a bit more cumbersome and possibly more expensive. You’d include the distribution in gross income and then take a corresponding income tax deduction for the charitable contribution.

But the additional tax from the distribution may be more than the charitable deduction due to IRS limits. QCDs avoid all this by providing an exclusion from income for the amount paid directly from your IRA to the charity–you don’t report the IRA distribution in your gross income, and you don’t take a deduction for the QCD.

The exclusion from gross income for QCDs also provides a tax-effective way for taxpayers who don’t itemize deductions to make charitable contributions.

2015 Year-End Tax Planning Basics

As the end of the 2015 tax year approaches, set aside some time to evaluate your situation and consider potential opportunities. Effective year-end planning depends on a good understanding of both your current circumstances and how those circumstances might change next year.

TaxesSMBasic strategies
Consider whether there’s an opportunity to defer income to 2016. For example, you might be able to defer a year-end bonus or delay the collection of business debts, rents, and payments for services. When you defer income to 2016, you postpone payment of the tax on that income.

And if there’s a chance that you might be paying taxes at a lower rate next year (for example, if you know that you’ll have less taxable income next year), deferring income might mean paying less tax on the deferred income.

You should also look for potential ways to accelerate 2016 deductions into the 2015 tax year. If you typically itemize deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040, you might be able to accelerate some deductible expenses–such as medical expenses, qualifying interest, or state and local taxes–by making payments before the end of the current year, instead of paying them in early 2016.

Or you might consider making next year’s charitable contribution this year instead. If you think you’ll be itemizing deductions in one year but claiming the standard deduction in the other, trying to defer (or accelerate) Schedule A deductions into the year for which you’ll be itemizing deductions might let you take advantage of deductions that would otherwise be lost.

Depending on your circumstances, you might also consider taking the opposite approach. For example, if you think that you’ll be paying taxes at a higher rate next year (maybe as the result of a recent compensation increase or the planned sale of assets), you might want to look for ways to accelerate income into 2015 and possibly defer deductions until 2016 (when they could potentially be more valuable).

BF-AA310_401k_D_20101210153343Complicating Factors
First, you need to factor in the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The AMT is essentially a separate, parallel federal income tax system with its own rates and rules. If you’re subject to the AMT, traditional year-end strategies may be ineffective or actually have negative consequences.

That’s because the AMT effectively disallows a number of itemized deductions. So if you’re subject to the AMT in 2015, prepaying 2016 state and local taxes probably won’t help your 2015 tax situation, and, in fact, could hurt your 2016 bottom line.

It’s also important to recognize that personal and dependency exemptions may be phased out and itemized deductions may be limited once your adjusted gross income (AGI) reaches a certain level. This is especially important to factor in if your AGI is approaching the threshold limit and you’re evaluating whether to accelerate or defer income or itemized deductions.

For 2015, the AGI threshold is $258,250 if you file as single, $309,900 if married filing jointly, $154,950 if married filing separately, and $284,050 if head of household.

NRT-SEPPQ113_02IRA and retirement plan contributions
Deductible contributions to a traditional IRA and pretax contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k) could reduce your 2015 taxable income. (Note: A number of factors determine whether you’re eligible to deduct contributions to a traditional IRA.)

Contributions to a Roth IRA (assuming you meet the income requirements) or a Roth 401(k) plan are made with after-tax dollars–so there’s no immediate tax savings–but qualified distributions are completely free of federal income tax.

For 2015, you’re generally able to contribute up to $18,000 to a 401(k) plan ($24,000 if you’re age 50 or older) and up to $5,500 to a traditional or Roth IRA ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older). The window to make 2015 contributions to an employer plan generally closes at the end of the year, while you typically have until the due date of your federal income tax return to make 2015 IRA contributions.

Important notes
The Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, significantly simplifying the federal and state income tax filing requirements for same-sex married couples living in states that did not previously recognize their marriage.

A host of popular tax provisions (commonly referred to as “tax extenders”) expired at the end of 2014. Although it is possible that some or all of these provisions will be retroactively extended, currently they are not available for the 2015 tax year.

Among the provisions: deducting state and local sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes; the above-the-line deduction for qualified higher-education expenses; qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) from IRAs; and increased business expense and “bonus” depreciation rules.

Use this Primer to Evaluate a 2015 IRA Contribution

The combined amount you can contribute to your traditional and Roth IRAs remains at $5,500 for 2015, or $6,500 if you’ll be 50 or older by the end of the year. You can contribute to an IRA in addition to an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k).

NRT-SEPPQ113_02But if you (or your spouse) participate in an employer-sponsored plan, the amount of traditional IRA contributions you can deduct may be reduced or eliminated (phased out), depending on your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). Your ability to make annual Roth contributions may also be phased out, depending on your MAGI.

These income limits (phaseout ranges) have increased for 2015:

Income phaseout range for deductibility of traditional IRA contributions in 2015

1. Covered by an employer-sponsored plan and filing as:
Single/Head of household $61,000 – $71,000
Married filing jointly $98,000 – $118,000
Married filing separately $0 – $10,000

2. Not covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, but filing joint return with a spouse who is covered by a plan: $183,000 – $193,000

Income phaseout range for ability to contribute to a Roth IRA in 2015

Single/Head of household $116,000 – $131,000
Married filing jointly $183,000 – $193,000
Married filing separately $0 – $10,000

Consider These End-of-Year Tax Planning Strategies for 2013

As the end of the 2013 tax year approaches, set aside some time to evaluate your situation. Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider potential year-end tax moves.

NTX-2013_Year_End_1113_021. The tax landscape has changed for higher-income individuals
This year a new 39.6% federal income tax rate applies if your taxable income exceeds $400,000 ($450,000 if you’re married and file a joint return, $225,000 if you’re married and file separately). If your income crosses that threshold, you’ll also be subject to a new 20% maximum tax rate on long-term capital gains and qualifying dividends (last year, the maximum rate that applied was 15%).

That’s not all–you could see a difference even if your income doesn’t reach that level. That’s because if your adjusted gross income is more than $250,000 ($300,000 if you’re married and file a joint return, $150,000 if you’re married and file separately), your personal and dependency exemptions may be phased out this year, and your itemized deductions may be limited.

2. New Medicare taxes apply
Two new Medicare taxes apply this year. If your wages exceed $200,000 this year ($250,000 if you’re married and file a joint return, $125,000 if you’re married and file separately), the hospital insurance (HI) portion of the payroll tax–commonly referred to as the Medicare portion–is increased by 0.9%. Also, a 3.8% Medicare contribution tax generally applies to some or all of your net investment income if your modified adjusted gross income exceeds those dollar thresholds.

retirement-plan-coloring-charts3. Don’t forget the basics–retirement plan contributions
Make sure that you’re taking full advantage of tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicles. Traditional IRAs (assuming that you qualify to make deductible contributions) and employer-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k) plans allow you to contribute funds pretax, reducing your 2013 income. Contributions that you make to a Roth IRA (assuming you meet the income requirements) or a Roth 401(k) plan are made with after-tax dollars, but qualified Roth distributions are completely free from federal income tax.

For 2013, you can contribute up to $17,500 to a 401(k) plan ($23,000 if you’re age 50 or older), and up to $5,500 to a traditional or Roth IRA ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older). The window to make 2013 contributions to an employer plan typically closes at the end of the year, while you generally have until the due date of your federal income tax return to make 2013 IRA contributions.

4. Expiring provisions
A number of key provisions are scheduled to expire at the end of 2013, including:

-Increased Internal Revenue Code Section 179 expense limits and “bonus” depreciation provisions end.
The increased (100%) exclusion of capital gain from the sale or exchange of qualified small business stock (provided certain requirements, including a five-year holding period, are met) will not apply to qualified small business stock issued and acquired after 2013.

-This will be the last year that you’ll be able to make qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) of up to $100,000 from an IRA directly to a qualified charity if you’re 70½ or older; such distributions may be excluded from income and count toward satisfying any required minimum distributions (RMDs) you would otherwise have to receive from your IRA in 2013.

-The above-the-line deductions for qualified higher education expenses, and for up to $250 of out-of-pocket classroom expenses paid by education professionals, will not be available starting with the 2014 tax year.

-This will also be the last year you’ll be able to elect to deduct state and local sales tax in lieu of state and local income tax if you itemize deductions.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. The tax information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning advice. I suggest that you consult with a qualified tax advisor.

Mid-Year Planning: Accounting for New Tax Rules

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), passed in early January, permanently extended a host of expiring tax provisions. It also largely set the rules for tax planning for 2013 and beyond. As you take stock of your tax situation this year, here are a few new wrinkles to keep in mind.

New top tax rate
The six tax brackets (10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35%) that applied for the last several years have been made permanent for most individuals. That’s really good news, since it removes a great deal of uncertainty going forward (it’s always easier to plan when you know what the tax rates will be the following year).

But higher-income individuals and families will have to contend with a new top federal income tax bracket starting this year, paying tax on a portion of their income at a rate of 39.6%. The new 39.6% rate applies to individuals with taxable income exceeding $400,000; married individuals filing joint federal income tax returns with taxable income exceeding $450,000; married individuals filing separate returns with taxable income exceeding $225,000; and individuals filing as head of household with taxable income exceeding $425,000.

Higher rates on investment income for some
Most individuals won’t see any change in the rate at which they’re paying tax on long-term capital gains and qualifying dividends. If you’re in the 10% or 15% marginal income tax bracket, a special 0% rate will generally apply. If you are in the 25%, 28%, 33%, or 35% tax brackets, a 15% maximum rate will generally apply.

If you’re in the new top 39.6% tax bracket, though, it’s going to be a little different starting this year–that’s because in 2013 a new maximum rate of 20% will generally apply to some or all of your long-term capital gains and qualifying dividends.

And keep in mind that a new Medicare contribution tax now applies to some or all of the net investment income of individuals with more than $200,000 in modified adjusted gross income ($250,000 for married couples filing a joint federal income tax return, and $125,000 for married individuals filing separate returns). The Medicare contribution tax is 3.8%, and is in addition to other taxes that apply.

Other considerations
This year, if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is greater than $250,000 ($300,000 if you’re married and file a joint return, $150,000 if married filing separately, and $275,000 if you file as head of household), your personal and dependency exemptions will be phased out in part or in full. Similarly, your itemized deductions may be limited.

If you itemize deductions, note that the AGI threshold for deducting qualified medical expenses on Schedule A increased this year from 7.5% to 10% for most individuals. If you or your spouse will be 65 or older by the end of the year, though, the 7.5% threshold will continue to apply for 2013.

The rules allowing qualified charitable distributions from IRAs were extended through 2013. This popular provision allows individuals age 70½ or older to make qualified charitable distributions of up to $100,000 from an IRA directly to a qualified charity; the charitable distributions are excluded from income and count toward satisfying any required minimum distributions for the year.

Make time to plan
It’s never easy to set aside the time to analyze your current tax situation and project how you’ll be affected by recent changes. But it’s important to do so while you still have time to implement a plan and take action. This year, it’s particularly important to consider all of your options if your income level brings you within range of one or more of the new provisions targeting higher-income individuals.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. The tax information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax advisor.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2013