Financial Spring Cleaning

This is one of our favorite times of the year. We are approaching spring, so the days are longer, air is warmer, and the final snow is melting away. This is also the time of year people begin spring cleaning and getting their house or other affairs in order. Since finances are on people’s minds since we are in tax season, we thought it would be a good time to do some spring cleaning for your finances as well. Below should be a helpful checklist to help with some spring cleaning:

Taxes

  • Prepare and file your taxes (*note the new deadline of May 17th)
  • Review withholding if you owe or receive large refund. Use this IRS tool.
  • Discuss tax strategies for this year with your tax advisor or financial planner
    • Charitable gifting strategies
    • Strategies for business owners
    • Strategies for those with executive benefits
    • Roth conversions

Personal

  • Develop and/or review your budget
    • Contact insurance providers to try and reduce rates
    • Contact internet, cable and cell phone providers to make sure you are getting the best rates
  • Review you credit reports from Experian, Equifax and Transunion. Click here to do it for free.
    • Dispute any wrong information
  • Review your credit score. This can be done with any credit card provider for free or use a site like CreditKarma.com.
  • Develop a plan to pay off your debt

Other Important Items

  • Review your financial plan if you have not done so in last couple of years and/or if any major life changes have occurred
  • Review your estate plan if not done in last five years due to recent changes in the law
  • Review your investment allocation
  • Rebalance your investments if not done in last twelve months

Disclosure: BFSG does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to BFSG’s web site or blog or incorporated herein and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Please see important disclosure information here.

Five Potential Tax Changes Under Biden

With a new president often comes new agendas and philosophical changes. This is especially true with the Democrats controlling the House and picking up important seats in the Senate. President Biden is expected to pitch his “Build Back Better” infrastructure plan on Thursday and how to fund the estimated $3 trillion price tag.

Democrats will be forced to choose between budget reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority in each chamber for passage or securing at least 10 GOP votes in the 50-50 Senate.

Below are four potential changes to taxes that we are watching closely:

1. Increase in Income Tax for the Affluent

For those in the highest tax bracket (currently 37%) there is chatter in DC to raise it back up to the previous level of 39.5% or higher. The tradeoff they are considering is removing the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction limit of $10,000 or more likely raising the SALT limit. This would be a great benefit for homeowners in high-tax states like California.

2. Increase in Corporate Tax

The corporate tax rate was lowered from 35% to 21% under the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act (TCJA) law in 2017. Many of the individual tax provisions of the TCJA sunset and revert to pre-existing law after 2025, however, the corporate tax rates provision was made permanent. Biden has previously voiced support for raising the corporate tax rate to 28%.

3. Changes to Estate Taxes

There is some concern that the new Congress may want to make significant changes to estate taxes.

Some of the proposed changes could include:

  • Reducing the lifetime exemption back to $5 million (adjusted for inflation). Currently, the limit is $11.7 million per person but sunsets in 2025 (see the discussion above about the TCJA). Lowering this exemption would also impact gifting and those subject to generations skipping taxes (GST).
  • Removing the ability of heirs to get a step up on a cost basis. For example, under current rules assume a $1 million after-tax investment has a cost basis of $300,000. Currently, the heir gets a new cost basis of $1 million and would not pay capital gains on the inheritance. There is talk of this being changed so the cost basis for the heir stays at $300,000 so they would have to pay capital gains taxes on the $700,000 in gains where under current law they do not have to.

4. Raise Social Security Tax Limits

Under current law, individuals pay 6.2% taxes for Social Security on the first $142,800 in earnings for 2021. Earnings over this amount are not subject to Social Security taxes.  There is speculation that this number could be raised to help meet the social security shortfall. There is also speculation about adding a new tier for payroll tax contributions for incomes over $400,000. There could be additional changes to the Medicare taxes as well. Read here about other possible changes to Social Security and Medicare.

5. Other Potential Changes        

There has been some discussion on making changes to popular planning strategies as well. There has been speculation but nothing concrete as of yet. Aside from federal changes, we may see more changes at the state level as many states are struggling with budgets in light of the pandemic and they will be searching for additional sources of revenue (read more taxes). This could lead to higher property or income taxes, or other potential changes like developing estate taxes or taxing Social Security. For example, California recently passed Prop 19 possibly triggering higher property taxes for inherited property.

Again, this is a tough item to predict but certainly something we are watching closely.

Disclosure: BFSG does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to BFSG’s web site or blog or incorporated herein and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Please see important disclosure information here.

There’s Still Time to Contribute to an IRA for 2020

Even though tax filing season is well underway, there’s still time to make a regular IRA contribution for 2020. You have until your tax return due date (not including extensions) to contribute up to $6,000 for 2020 ($7,000 if you were age 50 or older on or before December 31, 2020). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) delayed the April 15th tax-filing deadline to May 17th, giving taxpayers an additional month to contribute for 2020. This postponement applies to individual taxpayers, including individuals who pay self-employment tax. This relief does not apply to estimated tax payments that are due on April 15, 2021.

The extension will also provide taxpayers additional time to contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). You can contribute to a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA, or both, as long as your total contributions don’t exceed the annual limit (or, if less, 100% of your earned income). You may also be able to contribute to an IRA for your spouse for 2020, even if your spouse didn’t have any 2020 income.

Traditional IRA

You can contribute to a traditional IRA for 2020 if you had taxable compensation. However, if you or your spouse were covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan in 2020, then your ability to deduct your contributions may be limited or eliminated, depending on your filing status and modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). (See table below.) Even if you can’t make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA, you can always make a nondeductible (after-tax) contribution, regardless of your income level. However, if you’re eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA, in most cases you’ll be better off making nondeductible contributions to a Roth, rather than making them to a traditional IRA.

IF YOU ARE COVERED BY AN EMPLOYER SPONSORED PLAN:

2020 income phaseout ranges for determining deductibility of traditional IRA contributions:
1. Covered by an employer-sponsored plan and filing as:Your IRA deduction is reduced if your MAGI is:Your IRA deduction is eliminated if your MAGI is:
Single/Head of household$65,000 to $75,000$75,000 or more
Married filing jointly$104,000 to $124,000$124,000 or more
Married filing separately$0 to $10,000$10,000 or more

IF YOU ARE NOT COVERED BY AN EMPLOYER SPONSORED PLAN BUT A SPOUSE IS & FILE JOINTLY

2020 income phaseout ranges for determining deductibility of traditional IRA contributions:
2. Not covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, but filing a joint return with a spouse who is covered by a planYour IRA deduction is reduced if your MAGI is:Your IRA deduction is eliminated if your MAGI is:
All Filing Status (i.e., Single or Married)$196,000 to $206,000$206,000 or more

IF YOU ARE NOT COVERED BY EMPLOYER SPONSORED PLAN & FILE SINGLE THERE ARE NO INCOME LIMITS

Roth IRA

You can contribute to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is within certain limits. For 2020, if you file your federal tax return as single or head of household, you can make a full Roth contribution if your income is less than $124,000. Your maximum contribution is phased out if your income is between $124,000 and $139,000, and you can’t contribute at all if your income is $139,000 or more. Similarly, if you’re married and file a joint federal tax return, you can make a full Roth contribution if your income is less than $196,000. Your contribution is phased out if your income is between $196,000 and $206,000, and you can’t contribute at all if your income is $206,000 or more. If you’re married filing separately, your contribution phases out with any income over $0, and you can’t contribute at all if your income is $10,000 or more.

2020 income phaseout ranges for determining eligibility to contribute to a Roth IRA:
Your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA is reduced if your MAGI is:Your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA is eliminated if your MAGI is:
Single/Head of household$124,000 to $139,000$139,000 or more
Married filing jointly$196,000 to $206,000$206,000 or more
Married filing separately$0 to $10,000$10,000 or more

Even if you can’t make an annual contribution to a Roth IRA because of the income limits, there’s an easy workaround. You can make a nondeductible contribution to a traditional IRA and then immediately convert that traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need to aggregate all traditional IRAs and SEP/SIMPLE IRAs you own — other than IRAs you’ve inherited — when you calculate the taxable portion of your conversion. This is sometimes called a “back-door” Roth IRA – check out our prior blog post on Mega Back Door Roth Conversions.

If you make a contribution — no matter how small — to a Roth IRA for 2020 by your tax return due date and it is your first Roth IRA contribution, your five-year holding period for taking qualified tax-free distributions from all your Roth IRAs (other than inherited accounts) will start on January 1, 2020.

Learn more about Roth in Retirement Plans by watching this short video by clicking here.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2021. Edited by BFSG.

Disclosure: BFSG does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to BFSG’s web site or blog or incorporated herein and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Please see important disclosure information here.

Pandemic Relief Measures and Your 2020 Tax Return

The two emergency relief bills passed in 2020 and another in 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will make this an unusual tax season for many taxpayers. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed in March, a second relief package was attached to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, in December, and just recently the American Rescue Plan.

The federal government relied on the tax system to deliver financial lifelines to struggling households, boost consumer spending, and help speed the economic recovery.

The following provisions may affect many households when they file their tax returns for 2020.

Recovery Rebate Credit

Most U.S. households received two Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) from the federal government in 2020. They are not taxable because technically they are advances on a refundable credit against 2020 income taxes.

The CARES Act provided a Recovery Rebate Credit of $1,200 ($2,400 for married joint filers) plus $500 for each qualifying child under age 17. The second bill provided another $600 per eligible family member.

Any individual who has a Social Security number and is not a dependent generally qualifies for the payments, up to certain income limits. The amounts are reduced for those with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) exceeding $75,000 ($150,000 for joint filers and $112,500 for heads of household) and phase out completely at AGIs of $99,000 ($198,000 for joint filers and $112,500 for heads of household).

For the money to be delivered quickly, eligibility was based on 2019 income tax returns (or 2018 if a 2019 return had not been filed). Eligible taxpayers who did not receive two full payments, possibly due to errors or processing delays, may claim the money as a Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 tax return. Households that reported a lower AGI in 2020 (or added a dependent) might be eligible for additional funds. To calculate the credit, filers will need to know the amounts of any payments they already received. The credit amount will increase the refund or decrease the tax owed, dollar for dollar.

Taxpayers who received two full payments don’t need to fill out any additional information on their tax returns. Filing electronically usually results in a faster refund.

Coronavirus-related Distributions

Another measure in the CARES Act allowed IRA owners and employer-plan participants who were adversely affected by COVID-19 to withdraw up to $100,000 of their vested account balance in 2020 without having to pay the 10% tax penalty (25% for SIMPLE IRAs) that normally applies before age 59½.

Still, withdrawals from tax-deferred retirement accounts are typically taxed as ordinary income in the year of the distribution. To help manage the tax liability, qualified individuals can choose to spread the income from a coronavirus-related distribution (CRD) equally over three years or report it in full for the 2020 tax year, with up to three years to reinvest the money in an eligible employer plan or an IRA.

Taxpayers who elect to report income over three years and then re-contribute amounts greater than the amount reported in a given year may “carry forward” the excess contributions to next year’s tax return. Taxpayers who recontribute amounts after paying taxes on reported CRD income can file amended returns to recoup the payments.

Qualified individuals whose plans did not adopt CRD provisions may choose to categorize other types of distributions — including those normally considered required minimum distributions — as CRDs on their tax returns (up to the $100,000 limit).

Other Notable Changes

For those who itemize deductions, the limit on the charitable gift deduction increased to 100% of AGI for direct cash gifts to public charities. For nonitemizers, a new $300 charitable deduction for direct cash gifts to public charities was available.

The floor for deducting medical expenses has been permanently lowered to 7.5% of AGI (it was scheduled to increase to 10% in 2021).

Unemployment Aid is Taxable

Unemployment benefits, which sustained many families impacted by the pandemic, are considered taxable income, and many recipients may not have correctly withheld taxes from their 2020 payments. Avoiding a surprise tax bill typically requires opting into a 10% withholding rate and, in some cases, paying additional quarterly taxes during the year.

However, with the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan, the bill made the first $10,200 in benefits received to be tax free for households under $150,000. This applies to 2020 only. If you already filed, you may have to amend your return.

Looking Ahead to 2021

The special rules for charitable gift deductions enacted for 2020 as discussed above have been extended through 2021. For nonitemizers, a $300 charitable deduction for 2021 direct cash gifts to public charities is available. For joint filers, this deduction increases to $600 for 2021 cash gifts to charitable organizations.

Starting in 2021, there is no deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses. Instead, the modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) phaseout range for the Lifetime Learning credit was increased to be the same as the phaseout range for the American Opportunity credit ($80,000 to $90,000 for single filers; $160,000 to 180,000 for joint filers).

A temporary provision that allows taxpayers to exclude discharged debt for a qualified principal residence from gross income was extended through 2025, though the limit has been reduced from $2 million to $750,000. Also, through 2025, employers can pay up to $5,250 annually toward employees’ student loans as a tax-free employee benefit.

For 2021 only, the American Rescue Plan will increase the amount of the Child Tax Credit to $3,000 per child ($3,600 for children under 5) for children 17 and younger. For 2021 this credit is fully refundable even if you have no taxes due. To qualify your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) depending on how you file must be less than $75,000 for Single, $150,000 Married or $112,500 Head of Household. After that amount, the excess credit ($1,000 or $1,600 for children under 5) is reduced by $50 for every $1,000 above the MAGI limits.

We recommend you consult a tax professional who can further explain the relevant changes and recommend strategies to help reduce your tax liability for 2021.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2021. Edited by BFSG.

Disclosure: BFSG does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to BFSG’s web site or blog or incorporated herein and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Please see important disclosure information here.

Year-End Tax Planning

The window of opportunity for many tax-saving moves closes on December 31, so it is important to evaluate your tax situation now, while there’s still time to affect your bottom line for the 2020 tax year.

Timing is Everything

Consider any opportunities you have to defer income to 2021. 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 allow you to postpone paying tax on the income until next year. If there’s a chance that you’ll be in a lower income tax bracket next year, deferring income could mean paying less tax on the income as well.

Similarly, consider ways to accelerate deductions into 2020. If you itemize deductions, you might accelerate some deductible expenses like medical expenses, qualifying interest, or state and local taxes by making payments before year-end. Or you might consider making next year’s charitable contribution this year instead.

Sometimes, however, it may make sense to take the opposite approach — accelerating income into 2020 and postponing deductible expenses to 2021. That might be the case, for example, if you can project that you’ll be in a higher tax bracket in 2021; paying taxes this year instead of next might be outweighed by the fact that the income would be taxed at a higher rate next year.

Factor in the AMT

Make sure that you factor in the alternative minimum tax (AMT). If you’re subject to the AMT, traditional year-end maneuvers, like deferring income and accelerating deductions, can have a negative effect. That’s because the AMT — essentially a separate, parallel income tax with its own rates and rules — effectively disallows a number of itemized deductions. For example, if you’re subject to the AMT in 2020, prepaying 2021 state and local taxes won’t help your 2020 tax situation, but could hurt your 2021 bottom line.

Special Concerns for Higher-Income Individuals

The top marginal tax rate (37%) applies if your taxable income exceeds $518,400 in 2020 ($622,050 if married filing jointly, $311,025 if married filing separately). Your long-term capital gains and qualifying dividends could be taxed at a maximum 20% tax rate if your taxable income exceeds $441,450 in 2020 ($496,600 if married filing jointly, $248,300 if married filing separately, $469,050 if head of household).

Additionally, a 3.8% net investment income tax (unearned income Medicare contribution 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).

High-income individuals are subject to an additional 0.9% Medicare (hospital insurance) payroll tax on wages exceeding $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing jointly or $125,000 if married filing separately).

IRAs and Retirement Plans

Take full advantage of tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicles. Traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k) plans allow you to contribute funds on a deductible (if you qualify) or pre-tax basis, reducing your 2020 taxable income. Contributions to a Roth IRA (assuming you meet the income requirements) or a Roth 401(k) aren’t deductible or made with pre-tax dollars, so there’s no tax benefit for 2020, but qualified Roth distributions are completely free from federal income tax, which can make these retirement savings vehicles appealing.

For 2020, you can contribute up to $19,500 to a 401(k) plan ($26,000 if you’re age 50 or older) and up to $6,000 to a traditional IRA or Roth IRA ($7,000 if you’re age 50 or older). The window to make 2020 contributions to an employer plan typically closes at the end of the year, while you generally have until the April tax return filing deadline to make 2020 IRA contributions.

Roth Conversions

Year-end is a good time to evaluate whether it makes sense to convert a tax-deferred savings vehicle like a traditional IRA or a 401(k) account to a Roth account. When you convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, or a traditional 401(k) account to a Roth 401(k) account, the converted funds are generally subject to federal income tax in the year that you make the conversion (except to the extent that the funds represent nondeductible after-tax contributions).

If a Roth conversion does make sense, you’ll want to give some thought to the timing of the conversion. For example, if you believe that you’ll be in a better tax situation this year than next (e.g., you would pay tax on the converted funds at a lower rate this year), you might think about acting now rather than waiting. Whether a Roth conversion is appropriate for you depends on many factors, including your current and projected future income tax rates.  We recommend you talk with your financial advisor and/or tax professional.

Changes to Note

Recent legislation has modified many provisions, generally for 2018 to 2025.

  • Personal exemptions were eliminated.
  • Standard deductions have been substantially increased to $12,400 in 2020 ($24,800 if married filing jointly, $18,650 if head of household).
  • The overall limitation on itemized deductions based on the amount of adjusted gross income (AGI) was eliminated.
  • The AGI threshold for deducting unreimbursed medical expenses is 7.5% in 2020, it returns to 10% in 2021.
  • The deduction for state and local taxes has been limited to $10,000 ($5,000 if married filing separately).
  • Individuals can deduct mortgage interest on no more than $750,000 ($375,000 for married filing separately) of qualifying mortgage debt. For mortgage debt incurred before December 16, 2017, the prior $1,000,000 ($500,000 for married filing separately) limit will continue to apply.
  • A deduction is no longer allowed for interest on home equity indebtedness. Home equity used to substantially improve your home is not treated as home equity indebtedness and can still qualify for the interest deduction.
  • The top percentage limit for deducting charitable contributions was increased from 60% of AGI to 100% of AGI for certain direct cash gifts to public charities for 2020 only.
  • The deduction for personal casualty and theft losses was eliminated, except for casualty losses attributable to a federally declared disaster.
  • Previously deductible miscellaneous expenses subject to the 2% floor, including tax-preparation expenses and unreimbursed employee business expenses, are no longer deductible.

Extended Provisions

A number of provisions are extended periodically. The following provisions have been extended through 2020 and are not available for 2021 unless extended by Congress.

  • Above-the-line deduction for qualified higher-education expenses
  • Ability to deduct qualified mortgage insurance premiums as deductible interest on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040
  • Ability to exclude from income amounts resulting from the forgiveness of debt on a qualified principal residence
  • Nonbusiness energy property credit, which allowed individuals to offset some of the cost of energy-efficient qualified home improvements (subject to a $500 lifetime cap)

Talk to a Professional

When it comes to year-end tax planning, there’s always a lot to think about. A tax professional can help you evaluate your situation, keep you apprised of any legislative changes, and determine whether any year-end moves make sense for you.

In case you missed our Year-End Tax Planning webinar, check out the replay HERE. Many of these tax-saving moves are discussed in greater detail.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2020