Friday, December 19, 2014

Now is the time to meet with your tax adviser

How many times has it been said at “tax time” in the spring “if I just would have known last year, I could have saved some taxes.” Well right now is “last year” for the return you’ll be filing in the spring and a good time to do some year-end tax planning.
When doing tax planning it is important to know which planning maneuvers have a Dec. 31 deadline and which ones can be delayed until April 15.
Contributions for IRAs, Roth IRAs, Health Savings Accounts, Education IRAs and small business retirement plans such as SEP-IRAs and SIMPLE-IRAs can be made up until the filing date of April 15 (SEPs and SIMPLEs can actually be extended when a return extension is filed).
Contributions into 401(k)s, Flexible Savings Accounts and 529 College Savings Plans (to receive state tax benefits) must all be completed by Dec. 31.
In addition, any gifts to charity must be completed by Dec. 31, and here’s a little tax tip I’ve used with some success. After a nearly six-year bull market you may have some appreciated stocks in your portfolio. If you’ve made a pledge to an organization close to your heart explore fulfilling the pledge with a gift of appreciated stock. If you’ve owned the stock for over a year, capital gains tax can be avoided on the stock’s gains and the full amount of the gift is income tax deductible as well, providing a double tax saving. Most organizations can accommodate this process, just call and ask.
Another popular charitable tax break, which allowed taxpayers over the age of 70 1/2 to donate the required minimum distribution from their IRA or retirement plans directly to charity without including the amount in the taxpayer's taxable income expired in 2013. But is on the docket for the lame duck session. If you pay attention and can delay your distribution until later in the month this tip may yet be available in 2014.
Tax transactions regarding investment gains and losses also have a Dec. 31 deadline. While I don’t like making investment decisions based solely on taxes, taxes should of course be considered. If your income falls into the 15 percent tax bracket (single $36,900, joint $73,800) your long-term capital gains tax rate is zero percent for 2014. Conversely, taxpayers with income in the 39.6 percent bracket ($406,751 single, $457,601 joint) will pay 23.8 percent on dividends and capital gains (as opposed to the typical 15 percent rate), so matching potential losses to gains becomes extremely important at higher income levels.
I know tax rules can be complicated, so a great time to actually have a strategy session with your tax adviser is December (trust me, they’re kind of bored right now). So why not sit down with your adviser or do a little research now so April 15 can end up as much in your favor as possible.