Wouldn’t it be nice to check out of the workforce early and not have to worry about having enough for retirement? While good financial planning can help you get there, leveraging the tax code as part of your retirement plan is also a good idea. Here are some tax tips that could help you reach your early retirement goal.
- Maximize tax advantaged retirement accounts. Retirement accounts like Traditional IRAs and 401(k)s allow qualified taxpayers to save pre-tax money, invest the funds, and not pay taxes until the funds are withdrawn during retirement years. The IRS still receives their tax on your income and earnings, but they delay receiving the funds until you withdraw them in the future. In other words, the IRS allows you to invest their potential tax receipts along with your money and will take their share of your investment earnings at a later date.
- Leverage the “catch-up” provisions within retirement accounts. Most retirement accounts allow older taxpayers to invest even more money in these retirement savings accounts. The key retirement fund limits for 2012 are noted here:
|401(k), 403(b), 457
- Consider Tax Free Retirement Choices. Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s are an interesting alternative to other qualified retirement plans. Within Roth accounts you invest money in your plan with “after-tax” dollars, but any earnings are tax-free as long as you follow the withdrawal rules. While this lowers your potential initial investment, you have created a source of funds that can earn money without being taxed in the future. If you expect tax rates to go up during your retirement years, perhaps a Roth IRA should be included in your retirement portfolio.
- Roth Rollovers. You may also roll money from most qualified retirement accounts into Roth retirement accounts. When you do this, you must pay the tax on the funds rolled over, but the rollover makes any future earnings within this account tax-free as long as you follow the distribution rules. In the past, you were unable to do this type of rollover if your income exceeded $100,000.
- Consider Health Savings Accounts and their “catch-up” provisions. Health Savings Accounts allow you to set aside money to pay for qualified health expenses in pre-tax dollars. To be eligible to set up this type of savings account, you must be in a qualified high deductible, medical insurance plan. The good news is that unused funds can be invested and carried forward to future years. These funds can then be used to augment your retirement plan.
- Consider state taxes. Part of your retirement plan should be understanding where you wish to live. It is important to note that states are not created equal on this front. Many states have no state income taxes, while others like Hawaii, are in excess of 10%. And you must project where your chosen state might be in the future. In Minnesota, for instance, recent proposals would make that state’s taxes among the top taxed states in the nation. Many states are also trying to take the position that you must pay them state taxes on all retirement plan withdrawals from money earned while you lived in their state, even though you moved ten years ago! This problem will not go away as long as governments continue spending programs in excess of tax collections.
- Consider additional deductions and benefits. There are also a number of other benefits that should be considered as you reach retirement age. These include:
- the additional standard deduction when you reach 65
- the credit for elderly/disabled
- the timing of when to commence social security benefits
- the impact of Medicare and Medicaid plans
- the potential taxability of retirement benefits including social security and pension plan income
Tax Prep Deerfield Beach
Like many of us, you’ve probably dreamed of turning a hobby or avocation into a regular business. You won’t have any unusual tax headaches if your new business is profitable. However, if the new enterprise consistently generates losses (deductions exceed income), IRS may step in and say it’s a hobby—an activity not engaged in for profit—rather than a business.
What are the practical consequences? Under the so-called hobby loss rules, you’ll be able to claim those deductions that are available whether or not the enterprise is engaged in for profit (such as state and local property taxes). However, your deductions for business-type expenses (such as rent or advertising) will be limited to the excess of your gross income from the hobby over those expenses that are deductible whether or not the enterprise is engaged in for profit. Deductible hobby expenses are claimed on Schedule A of Form 1040 as miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to a 2%-of-AGI “floor.” By contrast, if the new enterprise isn’t affected by the hobby loss rules, all otherwise allowable expenses would be deductible on Schedule C, even if they exceeded income from the enterprise.
There are two ways to avoid the hobby loss rules. The first way is to show a profit in at least three out of five consecutive years (two out of seven years for breeding, training, showing, or racing horses). The second way is to run the venture in such a way as to show that you intend to turn it into a profit-maker, rather than operate it as a mere hobby. The IRS regs themselves say that the hobby loss rules won’t apply if the facts and circumstances show that you have a profit-making objective.
How can you prove that you have a profit-making objective? In general, you can do so by running the new venture in a businesslike manner. More specifically, IRS and the courts will look to the following factors: how you run the activity; your expertise in the area (and your advisers’ expertise); the time and effort you expend in the enterprise; whether there’s an expectation that the assets used in the activity will rise in value; your success in carrying on other similar or dissimilar activities; your history of income or loss in the activity; the amount of occasional profits (if any) that are earned; your financial status; and whether the activity involves elements of personal pleasure or recreation.
The classic “hobby loss” situation involves a successful businessperson or professional who starts something like a dog-breeding business, or a farm. But IRS’s long arm also can reach out to more prosaic situations, such as businesspeople who start what appears to be a bona-fide sideline business.
Please call our offices to get more details on whether a venture of yours may be affected by the hobby loss rules, and what you should do right now to avoid a tax challenge.
What do you want to be when you retire?
You and your friends may have asked each other a similar question in high school. No matter what your age is now, looking ahead to the future is important — and the retirement plans you participate in have a big impact on that future.
Here are tips for getting the most benefit from retirement plans.
- Maximize your contributions.For 2012, the maximum amount you can contribute to your 401k plan when you’re under age 50 is $17,000. If the plan allows catch-up contributions, which are available when you’re age 50 or above, you can contribute an additional $5,500.For SIMPLE plans, the maximum amount you can contribute for 2012 is $11,500 before catch-up contributions. The maximum catch-up contribution for a SIMPLE plan is $2,500.How you benefit: Contributions are not subject to federal income tax, so amounts you put in your retirement plans reduce your taxes. In addition, income earned in the plan is not taxed until you begin taking withdrawals.
- Take advantage of employer matching contributions.The contribution limits mentioned above do not include amounts your employer can add to your account. “Matching” contributions are based on a percentage of your wages, and can raise the annual maximum contribution limit to as much as $50,000 for 2012.What’s the benefit? Matching means when you designate a certain amount from each paycheck as a plan contribution, your employer contributes, or matches, that amount up to a limit set by your plan documents. The result? Your retirement savings grow faster at no current cost to you.
- Another wise retirement plan move: Participating in all plans available to you, such as opening an Individual Retirement Account in addition to your 401(k) or SIMPLE.
Give us a call for more information about your retirement plans. We’re here to help you maximize the benefits you receive, both today and in the future, so you can achieve the life you envision in retirement.
May is over and June represents another filing deadline for persons who have foreign bank
accounts and investments
Some things to remember to prepare Form TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and
Financial Accounts, commonly referred to as FBAR, for calendar year 2011:
1. Make sure to use the most current version of the form (dated January 2012) to ensure the
filing is not rejected by FinCEN. The government does not process expired versions of this
2. Calendar 2011 FBARs must be received by Treasury on or before the June 30 due date in
order to be considered timely filed. Therefore, one should plan accordingly and file the
FBAR in sufficient time in advance of the due date. No extension of time is permitted. The
familiar mailbox rule that applies for income tax returns is not applicable with respect to
3. For those who are able, consider the use of the BSA E-Filing system to electronically
submit the calendar 2011 FBAR. Electronic filing of FBAR is only currently available by the
actual FBAR filer, and is not yet available for practitioners to file on behalf of their clients for
calendar 2011 FBARs. All should keep in mind that FinCEN is moving forward with plans
to require mandatory electronic filing for all FBARs in the future.