The deadline for filing your 2018 tax return is right around the corner. Have you filed your return yet? If so, were you satisfied with the outcome? Or were you surprised by how much you paid in taxes last year?
The recent tax law dramatically changed the tax code. For many Americans, the law means reduced taxes. If you don’t plan accordingly, however, it’s possible that you could owe money to the IRS after your filing. It’s also possible that you could pay more in taxes than necessary.
Now is a great time to review your strategy and identify action steps that could reduce your tax exposure. If you haven’t reviewed your financial plan recently, you may be missing out on a number of tax-efficient tools and products. Below are a few tips to consider as you review your taxes:
Review your deductions.
One of the biggest changes of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the elimination and reduction of a wide range of deductions. Most itemized deductions were eliminated, including those for alimony payments and interest on many types of home equity loans. Caps were also implemented for state, local and property tax deductions. The law also eliminated personal exemptions.1
To make up for these changes, the law more than doubled the standard deduction.1 For many people, that means it will be more advantageous to take the standard deduction than to itemize deductions. If you’ve planned your spending based on the ability to itemize and deduct certain expenses, you may want to reconsider your strategy. Those deductions may no longer be allowed under the new law.
Check your withholding amount.
The law also reduced tax rates across the board and changed the income brackets for each rate level. As a result, many employers adjusted their withholding amounts. Not all did, however. And some may have adjusted their withholdings incorrectly.
In fact, according to a study from the Government Accountability Office, 30 million people, or just over 20 percent of taxpayers, are not withholding enough money from their paychecks to cover taxes.2 Are you part of that group? If you’re not sure, talk to your financial professional about whether you should increase your withholdings.
Maximize your tax-deferred savings.
Tax deferral is a great way to reduce current taxes and save for the future. In a tax-deferred account, you don’t pay taxes on growth in the current year as long as your money stays in the account. You may face taxes in the future when you take a distribution.
Many qualified retirement accounts, such as 401(k) plans and IRAs, offer tax-deferred growth. In 2019 you can contribute up to $19,000 to your 401(k), plus an additional $6,000 if you are age 50 or older. You can put as much as $6,000 into an IRA, or up to $7,000 if you’re 50 or older.3
Want more tax deferral beyond your 401(k) and IRA? Consider a deferred annuity. Annuities offer tax-deferred growth. They also offer a variety of ways to increase your assets. Some pay a fixed interest rate and have no downside risk. Others let you participate in the financial markets according to your risk tolerance and goals. A financial professional can help you find the right annuity for your strategy.
Develop sources of tax-efficient retirement income.
Taxes don’t stop when you quit working. If you’re approaching retirement, now may be the time to plan ahead and minimize your future tax exposure. You can take steps today to create tax-efficient income for your retirement.
For example, distributions from a Roth IRA are tax-free assuming you’re over age 59½. You may want to start contributing to a Roth or even consider converting your traditional IRA into a Roth.
You can also use a permanent life insurance policy as a source of tax-efficient income. You can withdraw your premiums from your life insurance cash value tax-free. Also, loans from life insurance policies are tax-free distributions. You may want to discuss with your financial professional how life insurance could reduce your future taxes in retirement.
Ready to take control of your tax strategy in 2019? Let’s talk about it. Contact us today at Retirement Peace Project.. We can help you analyze your needs and implement a plan. Let’s connect soon and start the conversation.
18582 – 2019/2/27
A new year is here, and with it comes a flood of year-end tax documents like W-2s, 1099s and others. Before you know it, the April 15 tax filing deadline will be upon us, and it will be time to submit your return.
It’s always wise to meet with your financial professional at the beginning of the year. It gives you an opportunity to discuss the past year, your goals for the coming year and your tax strategy. However, a consultation with your financial professional could be especially helpful this year.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law in late 2017 by President Trump. While some of its changes went into effect last year, 2018 was the first full calendar year under the new law. The return you file in April will likely be the first that reflects much of the law’s changes. Below are a few of the biggest changes and how they could affect your return:
Increased Standard Deduction
The new tax law impacted a wide range of credits and deductions, from the deduction of medical expenses to credits for child care. Those who itemize deductions may have felt the brunt of these changes.
However, the tax law significantly increased the standard deduction. In 2017 the standard deduction was $6,350 for single filers and $12,700 for married couples. The new law increased those numbers to $12,000 and $24,000, respectively.1
Given the changes to itemized deductions and the increased standard deduction, you may want to consult with a financial or tax professional before you file your return. If you’ve traditionally itemized deductions in the past, that may no longer make sense.
New Tax Brackets
The new tax law also made significant changes to the tax brackets. There are still seven different brackets, just as there were before the passage of the law. And the lowest rate is still 10 percent. The top income tax rate is down to 37 percent, however, from 39.6 percent.2 There are similar cuts throughout the rest of the brackets as well.
The law also made changes to the income levels for each bracket. Generally, the bracket levels were increased throughout the tax code, which means you have to earn more before moving into a higher bracket. Under the old tax code, for example, a married couple earning $250,000 would be in the 33 percent bracket. Under the new law, that same couple would be in the 24 percent bracket. A single individual earning $80,000 would be in the 28 percent bracket under the old law but is now in the 22 percent bracket.2
Itemized Deduction Changes
As mentioned, the new tax law increased the standard deduction amounts. However, those increases came at the expense of many itemized deductions. The new law eliminated or reduced many common deductions, including those for state and local taxes, real estate taxes, mortgage and home equity loan interest, and even fees to accountants and other advisers.
However, there could be other opportunities to boost your itemized deductions above the standard deduction level. Charitable donations are still deductible, as are medical expenses assuming they exceed the 7.5 percent threshold. If you’re a business owner, you can deduct many of your expenses, including up to 20 percent of your income assuming you meet earnings thresholds.3
Ready to develop your tax strategy? Let’s connect soon and talk about taxes and your entire financial picture. Contact us today at Retirement Peace Project. We can help you analyze your needs and goals and implement a plan.
18326 – 2018/12/26