Last Minute Tax Tips for Individuals
We continue to be thankful that you have used my firm for your past income tax services and are hopeful to continue our relationship. Many changes have occurred so I’ll get right to it. When you schedule your appointment this year you will hear a new voice. Our new administrative assistant is Lori Smurr. Lori was born and raised in Kendallville and lives in Avilla with her husband Steve. She’s a mother of three and enjoys reading, knitting, gardening and helping her husband in wood working projects. In conjunction with the website, I’ve hired my son Alex to work up a Facebook page along with a new Twitter account. It’s not ready to roll out yet, but should be by January. In the meantime, continue to go to www.scottfrickcpa.com for the latest in accounting and tax news and access to our portal.
Year-end tax planning could be especially productive this year because timely action could nail down a host of tax breaks that won’t be around next year unless Congress acts to extend them, which, at the present time, looks doubtful. These include, for individuals: the above-the-line deduction for qualified higher education expenses; and tax-free distributions by those age 70-— or older from IRAs for charitable purposes.
High-income-earners have other factors to
keep in mind when mapping out year-end plans. For the first time, they have to take into account the 3.8% tax surtax on unearned income and the additional 0.9% Medicare (hospital insurance, or HI) tax that applies to individuals receiving wages with respect to employment in excess of $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly and $125,000 for married couples filing separately).
The surtax is 3.8% of the lesser of: (1) net investment income (NII), or (2) the excess of modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) over an unindexed threshold amount ($250,000 for joint filers or surviving spouses, $125,000 for a married individual filing a separate return, and $200,000 in any other case). As year-end nears, a taxpayer’s approach to minimizing or eliminating the 3.8% surtax will depend on his estimated MAGI and NII for the year. Some taxpayers should consider ways to minimize (e.g., through deferral) additional NII for the balance of the year, others should try to see if they can reduce MAGI other than unearned income, and others should consider ways to minimize both NII and other types of MAGI.
Below are some ideas that can be implemented before year end. Not all actions will apply in your particular situation, but you will likely benefit from many of them. We can narrow down the specific actions that you can take once we meet with you to tailor a particular plan. In the meantime, please review the following list and contact us
at your earliest convenience so that we can advise you on which tax-saving moves to make:
Year-End Tax Planning Moves for Individuals
- 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 to make health savings account (HSA) contributions in December of this year, you can make a full year’s worth of deductible HSA contributions for 2013.
- 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, then buy back the same securities at least 31 days later. It may be advisable for us to meet to discuss year-end trades you should consider making.
- Postpone income until 2014 and accelerate deductions into 2013 to lower your 2013 tax bill. This strategy may enable you to claim larger deductions, credits, and other tax breaks for 2013 that are phased out over varying levels of adjusted gross income (AGI). These include child tax credits, higher education tax credits, the above-the-line deduction for higher-education expenses, and deductions for student loan interest.
- It may be advantageous to try to arrange with your employer to defer a bonus that may be coming your way until 2014.
- Consider using a credit card to prepay expenses that can generate deductions for this 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 2013 if doing so won’t create an alternative minimum tax (AMT) problem.
- 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.
- Unless Congress extends it, the up-to-$4,000 above-the-line deduction for qualified higher education expenses will not be available after 2013. Thus, consider prepaying eligible expenses if doing so will increase your deduction for qualified higher education expenses. Generally, the deduction is allowed for qualified education expenses paid in 2013 in connection with enrollment at an institution of higher education during 2013 or for an academic period beginning in 2013 or in the first 3 months of 2014.
- If you are age 70-1/2 or older, own IRAs and are thinking of making a charitable gift, consider arranging for the gift to be made directly by the IRA trustee. Such a transfer, if made before year-end, can achieve important tax savings.
- Make gifts sheltered by the annual gift tax exclusion before the end of the year and thereby save gift and estate taxes. You can give $14,000 in 2013 to each of an unlimited number of individuals but 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.
Scott R. Frick CPA, P.C.