Why is an IRS Form 5498 Arriving in May?

Tax calendar

Why is an IRS Form 5498 arriving in May? You just gathered all your forms two months ago and now a new one arrives after the deadline. What gives? Do you have to call your accountant again?

Hold the calls. You may remember reporting to your accountant (or TurboTax) that you made some contributions to an HSA or IRA. Perhaps you made them last year, or perhaps you made them before the April 2024 deadline and had them count for 2023. Or, you took money out of these accounts, or are getting ready to start your required minimum distributions (RMDs).

These are reasons why you are receiving the form.

What’s Form 5498 for?

One purpose of the Form 5498 is for the financial institution that holds your account (called a “custodian”) to verify to the IRS that you did indeed make the contribution that you claim you did on your tax return.

Since everyone usually has until the tax filing deadline to make contributions, the IRS gives custodians until May 31 to send Form 5498 to account holders.

Another is to verify distributions. If you are over the age for required minimum distributions (RMDs), Form 5498 also tells the IRS what your RMD will be for the current year. The RMD is determined by the account balance on the final day of the previous year (December 31, 2023 for 2024).

What you need to do with the form is check that what’s reported on the form matches up with what actually happened and also with what you actually reported on your return.

Check Form 5498 For Errors

Seriously, make sure it’s correct. Mistakes are common.

In 2018, my husband and I both received erroneous 5498’s for our Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Mine showed $0 contributions for 2017 and his showed 2 years’ worth. What the….? So we called the bank, got the records straight, and had them send corrected 5498s to the IRS.

Why go to the trouble? If your 5498 contribution or distribution differs from what you reported on your 1040, at some point it could get noticed. One fantastic sunny day after skipping down to your mailbox, you may find inside a skinny white envelope with “Internal Revenue Service” in the return address. Fantastic day ruined.

More than likely, all the letter will say is, “Hey, we noticed your 5498 doesn’t match your 1040. Whassup?” But still. It will be in IRS-Speak and look and sound and feel serious, with a deadline for giving them an answer. Save yourself the trouble of having to answer (or pay your accountant to answer for you) and do a quick check now.

It only takes a few minutes.

  • Does your contribution amount for 2023 look correct?
  • Did you take any 2023 HSA or IRA distributions, and if so, do those look correct?
  • (If not, make sure the distributions say $0.)
  • Does the reported year-end account balance look accurate?
  • Is your SSN correct?
  • How about your name, including your middle initial?

If anything looks amiss, contact your custodian to get a corrected 5498 issued ASAP.

One More Tax Task

By this time of year, it’s normal to feel sick of tax stuff. The last thing you may want to do is deal with another form, especially an erroneous one. If you don’t want the bother, at least forward it to your financial or tax professional to check it out and help. We deal with tax stuff all year long. Even in May.

If it feels like you could be paying less in taxes, start by subscribing to our award-winning monthly e-letter, “The View From the Porch” for monthly tax tips sprinkled with fun and reader-only event offerings. Or schedule a 30-minute call to talk more about your concerns.

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Roth: To Convert Or Not To Convert

checkbook

Roth: to convert or not to convert. Converting to a Roth IRA might be worth consideration if you have been saving for retirement in a traditional IRA (TIRA)

As you may know, when it’s time to take the money out of your TIRA, you will owe tax on the amount you withdraw (called a “distribution”). So when you think of the balance in your TIRAs, give that number a haircut of 10% – 40% (using current tax rates) that will be sent to Uncle Sam.

Further, when you reach age 73 or 75 (depending on your birth year) whether you need money or not, you will be required to take an IRS-calculated required minimum distribution (RMD). The RMD income can push you into the next tax bracket or, more commonly, into a higher bracket for Medicare premium surcharges. Surcharges mean you could pay up to several hundred dollars more per month for Medicare.

Finally, if you are married and leave TIRAs to your spouse, he or she must eventually take RMDs. When they start filing as single the year after you die, there is a greater likelihood the RMD will push them into the higher income tax or Medicare surcharge brackets.

Review of Roth Advantages

Roth’s have several advantages over traditional retirement accounts (TRAs).

1) When you think of the balance in a Roth IRA, there is no tax haircut. Money in a Roth grows tax-free forever. That’s a bigger balance to spend on world cruises, grandchildren, or a Winnebago.

2) Your heirs will have to withdraw the Roth money if you don’t, but they won’t owe tax then, either.

3) Roths have no RMDs. So that might save you from Medicare surcharges and other additional taxes such as the Net Investment Income tax (NIIT).

4) If you are married and die before your spouse, your spouse will not have to take RMDs from them.

5) If you have a trust, it may be much more beneficial to leave a Roth to the trust than a TIRA. Ask your CPA or tax attorney about this one.

What’s the Catch with Roths?

What’s the catch? The amount of TIRA that you convert to a Roth gets taxed in the year you make the conversion. If you convert $100,000 this year, that’s $100,000 added to your income.

So if you are still working, and you convert some or all of your retirement money to a Roth, you will be paying tax on the converted amount at today’s tax rates, hoping/betting that the growth in the Roth will make the extra tax bite today worthwhile later.

For the hope/bet to have the best chance to work, a few things help:

– You expect to be in a the same or higher tax bracket after you quit working. Otherwise you could wait and pay less tax on the conversion at a lower tax bracket later.

– You don’t expect to need the money in the Roth for many years. To reap the biggest benefit, the Roth needs time to grow.

– You are ok taking more risk with money in the Roth. Since more risk means greater return over the long haul, more risk in the Roth helps to juice the tax-free growth for which you are aiming. Having Roth money sit in CDs or money markets isn’t going to reap the big benefits.

– You can pay the Roth conversion tax bill out of non-retirement money. Otherwise you might have to take an even larger distribution, which then creates higher income and even higher tax.

Have a Strategy

Because of the tax hit from a Roth conversion, one popular strategy is to wait to convert until you quit working, or otherwise experience a big drop in income, and take advantage of the lower-income year(s). The amount to convert is then carefully calculated each year to keep you out of higher tax brackets for both income taxes and Medicare.

This strategy works especially well if you are younger than 70, delay taking Social Security, and live off of already-taxed savings or investments. You may have a couple to several years where small incremental amounts are used to fill up a relatively low bracket. Over that time it’s possible to build up a nice-sized conversion amount in a Roth.

When NOT to Convert

Converting to a Roth may not be the best strategy if any of the following are true for you:

·        You have kids in or going to college over the next 2 to 6 years. The increased income from the conversion (beginning from 2 years prior to enrollment) will possibly increase the amount on the FAFSA (Federal student aid application) you would be expected to contribute toward tuition.

·        You plan on donating most or all of your RMDs to charity. You can do this tax-free anyway by making a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) from IRAs (but not employer retirement plans) beginning at age 70 1/2. You can also count your QCD towards your RMD after age 72. No sense paying tax on the conversion when you’re going to do QCDs.

·        You expect to have high medical and/or long-term care expenses. These will offset the tax on your TRA distributions too. Like QCDs, there’s no sense paying tax on the conversion if you will have high deductions to offset future distributions.

Getting Help

Getting help to convert to a Roth is usually a good idea. The easiest system is to have a Roth at the same firm where you have a TRA. Usually you can make the conversion by doing a simple transfer between the two accounts. Find out how the firm will report the distribution and conversion on your tax records. When you have more than one firm involved, get detailed information from each firm about how to make the transfer show up on their tax records properly.

The next step is to pay the tax on the conversion. Firms may ask about withholding for taxes – this can get tricky to calculate, but in general, as mentioned above, you would want “0” withheld and then submit an estimated amount from your non-retirement funds as soon as possible.

Due to the large tax consequences typically involved with Roth conversions, it’s best to consult with a CPA, tax attorney, and/or CFP™ for more detailed advice. In some cases, the future savings and flexibility a Roth affords may be well worth some extra effort and expense today.

We love to talk taxes. Schedule a 30-minute call and let me know what questions you have: https://bit.ly/3GWZNrc

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5 Myths about 401(K) Rollovers: What’s the Rush?

5 myths about 401(K) rollovers: Should 401Ks (or 403bs, 457s, or TSPs) always be rolled over? Often, soon-to-be retirees are led to believe their impending retirement forces a deadline or urgency to “do something” about their retirement plan account. 

Several understandable myths surround the mystery of what actually happens to your money when leaving your employer. Below are five of them.

Myth 1: When you separate from your employer, you must take your retirement plan account (401K/403B/457/TSP) with you.

Actually very few employer plans require employees to leave the plan upon retirement. You have a choice to leave the account right where it is. 

This includes if you are widowed and your spouse was the employee. More than likely, you can stay with the retirement plan if you want to.

The rules for your employer can be verified by checking with your human resources department, or obtaining a copy of your plan’s complete document, usually available at your account’s website.

Myth 2: When you separate from your employer, it’s always best to take your retirement plan account with you.

Some people might not have the greatest level of fondness for their employer and want to sever ties with anything having to do with the company. While understandable, it’s important to separate facts from feelings about your money. 

Due to tighter ERISA and Department of Labor regulations, it’s very unwise for employers to have their employees’ retirement plan limited to only high-fee, high-risk, or self-serving fund options. Chances are that what’s available there is worth taking a more in-depth look.

On the question of where you are best served with your retirement funds, here is where you will get a wide range of answers. You can ask friends, family, the internet, co-workers, and even ChatGPT and go in circles.

Whether rolling over your retirement plan account is in your best interest depends on a few different factors. Keep reading to myths 3, 4, and 5 to find out more.

Myth 3: Retirement plan accounts have no impact on the ability to do a Roth conversion.

False. This particularly applies to people who have IRAs outside of their employer retirement plan. If you are considering converting part of an IRA you already own outside of a retirement plan to a Roth, the amount you can convert is subject to an arcane concept called the “pro-rata rule.” 

In general, under this rule, the amount you can convert is subject to a ratio that includes all IRAs, but does not include monies in employer retirement plans.

Therefore, if you roll over your retirement plan before doing a Roth conversion, you will likely limit the amount of outside IRAs you can convert. For many people retiring in their 60s and delaying Social Security, Roth conversion opportunities abound. It might very well make sense to wait to roll over at least until age 70 so that you can leave the Roth conversion option more open.

Conversely, if all of your retirement money is in the employer retirement plan and you are considering Roth conversions, then a total or partial rollover might make sense in order to then accomplish a “Back-Door Roth.”

If Roth conversions are something you are considering, it’s imperative to talk to a tax professional first before doing any rollovers, and before doing any Roth conversions.

Myth 4: Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) can be made directly from a retirement plan account.

False. Qualified charitable distributions are distributions made directly from an IRA to a charity by anyone over age 70 1/2. They can only be made from IRAs, not employer retirement plans.

The reason to make a QCD is to reduce the taxability of IRA distributions. QCDs work very well for people over 70 1/2 who already have the intention and ability to give to charity, but are not able to itemize their charitable deductions.

If this is you, then you may indeed want to roll over your employer retirement plan account to an IRA so that you can accomplish QCDs from the rollover IRA. But if you’re a few years away from age 70 1/2, there’s no hurry.

Myth 5: Any investment options that you have in your retirement plan, you can also get in a rollover IRA or annuity.

False again. Some employer retirement plans offer institutional shares (often seen as “I” “R” “Y” or “Q” shares) of mutual funds, which have lower fees inside them. The minimum investment for many institutional shares is $1,000,000. Thus, the only way to access them for most retirement plan participants is to be in the plan, where your purchasing power is aggregated with other employees and retirees. Once you roll out of the plan, you may not have institutional shares available. Instead you might be limited to higher fee options common with the retail shares of funds.

Another type of fund only offered in employer retirement plans are stable value funds. Although not FDIC-insured, they are principal-guaranteed by an insurance company and generally pay a more competitive rate of interest. In some market environments a stable value fund makes a good substitute option for a short-term bond fund because it has the guaranteed principal and generally pays more than a money market fund (though not always). Nevertheless, by leaving the plan behind, this important option might be left behind, as well.

In short, rolling over your 401K is rarely a time-sensitive decision. Most people have enough going on already at a time of life transition. Take your time to talk to professionals who have no conflict of interest in advising you which way to go. For a decision this big, there’s no need to rush.

If you can relate to anything in this post and would like to talk more, we would love to listen. Schedule a call with Holly here: Contact.

Continue Reading5 Myths about 401(K) Rollovers: What’s the Rush?

What Does Qualify for Florida’s Back to School Sales Tax Holiday?

What does qualify for Florida’s Back to School Sales Tax Holiday this year? The sales-tax-free dates run from Monday, July 24 to Sunday, August 6.

The list of items you can save on is long; more than simple pencils and paper. Before you think you know what qualifies, though, check twice.

Here is the general description of items that qualify:
– “clothing, footwear, and accessories selling for $100 or less”;
– “certain school supplies selling for $50 or less”;
– “and the first $1500 of personal computers and computer-related accessories.”

Read The Fine Print

Before shopping, you may want to know what actually counts, and what doesn’t, under the three general categories.

You can find all the details in Tax Information Publication #23A01-06, issued 6/15/23: https://floridarevenue.com/taxes/tips/Documents/TIP_23A01-06.pdf

Following are a few examples.

What counts as “clothing”? Lingerie – yes. Athletic pads – no.

“School supplies”? Backpacks – yes. Briefcases – no.

“Computers”? Tablet – yes. Smartphone – no.

How about payment terms? Layaway – yes. Rain checks and gift cards – no.

All of the above probably make some sense. Yet, other qualifiers/non-starters might make shoppers scratch their heads:

Kindle- Yes. Books- No.
Hunting vests – Yep. Life jackets – Nope.
Snow ski suits – Yeah. Scuba suits – Nah.
Youth bicycle helmet – Uh-huh. Youth motorcycle helmet – Uh-uh.
Rain poncho – Check. Umbrella – Not.
Garden gloves – You got it. Athletic gloves – Not a chance.
Receiving blankets – Yep. Crib blankets – Nope.
Notebook paper – For sure. Computer paper – Not.
Scotch tape – Si si. Masking tape – No no.
Computer batteries – Yes. All other batteries – No.
Blank CD – Ok. Recorded CD – Not ok.
All-in-one printer – Yep. Copy machine – Nope. Fax machine – Nope.
Docking station – Yes. Surge protector – No.
Monitor – You’re in. Television – Sorry.
Bowling shoes, purchased – Strike. Bowling shoes, rented – Gutter ball.
Lab coat – Of course. Hard hat – Are you kidding?
Book bag – Yep. Computer bag – Nope.
Cleats – Score. Skates – Robbed.
Hat – Oui. Wig – No.
Karate gi – Ha! Shin guards – Ouch!

And really,
Bowties – Yes. Masks – No.

How Did They Derive This List?

A sales tax holiday is a nice way to give families a break and provide economic stimulus. One wonders, though, how these qualifying decisions were made. “Let’s make it necessities only.” Clearly that wasn’t it. “Only things Florida schools can use.” Snow suits rule that one out. Got any ideas? Leave them in the comments below.

Nevertheless, make your list, save up until July 24 and go to town to save 6% – 7%. Or maybe don’t go to town. Maybe work your list from your favorite special shopping chair or couch and wait for the boxes to show up. And leave something nice for the delivery driver, like, I don’t know, a lab coat. Or a sales-tax-free snow suit.

Continue ReadingWhat Does Qualify for Florida’s Back to School Sales Tax Holiday?

2023 Summer Freedom From Sales Tax Items

kayaking

2023 Summer freedom from sales tax items:

This annual sales tax holiday began during the pandemic in 2020 as a week-long holiday surrounding July 4. Live concert tickets, camping supplies, paddle boards, kayaks, binoculars, grills, and bicycles are some of the larger ticket items included in the holiday.

Of note also – annual or season passes for museums, theater series, ballet, and state parks.

Pool supplies and parts were added in 2022. And in 2023 – children’s athletic equipment under $100 and toys under $75.

The sales tax holiday for 2023 was extended from the week of July 4 to the entire summer. Sales tax exemptions run from May 29 – September 4, 2023.

The complete list for events, tickets and supplies is here:

https://floridarevenue.com/taxes/tips/Documents/TIP_23A01-03.pdf

Enjoy saving 6% – 7% this summer!

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Florida’s Sales Tax Holidays

Florida’s sales tax holidays. Florida sales tax runs anywhere from 6% to 8%, depending upon the county where you are making the purchase. Several years ago the Florida legislature started sales tax “holidays,” beginning with the back-to-school season.

Flush with a budget surplus again this year, the legislature passed several more holidays which begin in May. Some of them last a week, while others last up to 2 years. For a major purchase you might be considering, it pays to know the timetables.

Disaster Preparedness: June 1 – 14 and August 24 – September 6

There has been an annual sales tax holiday for disaster preparedness for a few years now. If you are in or near Florida, and getting low on batteries, bungee cords, coolers, tarps, portable generator(s?), or several other items listed in the link below, you can save the sales tax by waiting until the week of the holiday to stock up.

The second sales tax holiday in late August occurs right before the busiest part of hurricane season.

Of note, the holiday includes all kinds of pet provisions – pet food, pet kennels, pet beds, leashes, and even pet waste disposal bags.

Also new last yaer, consumable household goods like paper goods, soap, hand sanitizer, and trash bags.

Here is the link to the list of exempted disaster preparedness items: https://floridarevenue.com/taxes/tips/Documents/TIP_24A01-04.pdf

Big Deal – Home Hardening Disaster Preparedness: July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2024

This one is a bigger deal and can save major bucks. Impact-resistant windows, doors, and garage doors will be fully exempt from sales tax through the end of June.

So if you are planning a major home improvement, talk to your contractor about placing the order. On a $5,000 order, in a 7% sales tax county, that’s a $350 savings.

Unlike most of the other holidays, this exemption also applies to commercial orders.

More detail on home hardening exemptions here: https://floridarevenue.com/taxes/tips/Documents/TIP_22A01-07.pdf

Fun Events, Outdoor Supplies and Annual Passes: The whole month of July

This sales tax holiday began during the pandemic. Event tickets, camping supplies, paddle boards, kayaks, binoculars, grills, and bicycles are some of the larger ticket items included in the holiday.

Of note also – annual or season passes for museums, theater series, ballet, and state parks.

The complete list for events and supplies during “Freedom Month” is here: https://floridarevenue.com/FreedomMonth/Documents/2024/FM%20poster%2011×17.pdf

Back-to-School: July 29 – August 11

The list of back-to-school items has a few surprises in it. Items you would assume are included are not, and others you assume are not, are. (Example: snowsuits included, swimsuits not). More information on the strange list of exemptions here: What Does Qualify for Florida’s Back to School Sales Tax Holiday?

Also, see the back-to-school flyer (complete list not available yet as of publication): https://floridarevenue.com/backtoschool/Documents/2024/BTS_poster11x17.pdf

Labor Day/Tool Time Tax Savings: September 1- September 7

Larger-ticket items on the “Tool Time” holiday include power tools under $300, power tool batteries, toolboxes, and work boots. It also includes shop lights, plumbing tools, and duffle bags.

More detail on “Tool Time” exemptions from 2022 here: https://floridarevenue.com/taxes/tips/Documents/TIP_22A01-09.pdf

A Lack of Preparation Story

During Hurricane Irma in 2017, the middle of the spaghetti models 5 days out showed the storm was likely going up Florida’s east coast. This is the opposite coast from where we live. My husband and I got double-busy with clients who wanted to squeeze in appointments before it hit. We got caught up in the work and ignored our own preparations. I didn’t fill up my car, and we didn’t check our stock of Coleman stove propane canisters. By the time the forecast shifted, there was no gas to be found – for the car, for the stove – of any kind, anywhere.

Irma left us without power for 7 days. Cooking on a tiny charcoal grill in the backyard got old quickly. After 3 days, when the charcoal started getting low, the temperature inside climbed to 83 with humidity of 100, and the frozen fish was rotting, we called it quits and found a hotel with electricity that had managed to reopen.

For a Florida native, experienced with hurricanes, whose job title includes the word “planner,” it felt like I should have done better.

Lesson Learned

For Ian in 2023, I paid more attention to all the strings on the spaghetti model, not just the ones in the middle. We stocked up, and I evacuated to a location outside of the projected storm surge zone. Although we ended up safe from storm surge, it was nice to feel better prepared this time around.

The sales tax waiver was a nice nudge for procrastinators like me. Disasters of all different sorts happen. Take advantage of the holidays to prepare yourself, and enjoy a little inflation relief.

Have you found a great deal using a sales tax holiday? Please share by leaving a comment.

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What’s that IRS Form 5498 arriving in May?

Tax calendar

What’s that IRS Form 5498 arriving in May? You might receive a Form 5498 if you have a Health Savings Account, a Roth IRA, or other IRA. 

Now, you might have just filed after compiling all your forms and statements, but now your financial institution sends another form? Hello, isn’t that a little late? Do you have to call your accountant or financial planner, again?

Hold the calls. You may remember reporting to your accountant (or TurboTax) that you made some contributions to an HSA or IRA. Perhaps you made them last year, or perhaps you made them before the April 18 deadline and had them count for 2022. Or, you took money out of these accounts or are getting ready to start your required minimum distributions (RMDs). These are reasons why you are receiving the form.

What’s Form 5498 for?

One purpose of the Form 5498 is for the financial institution that holds your account (called a “custodian”) to verify to the IRS that you did indeed make the contribution that you claim you did on your tax return.

Since everyone usually has until the tax filing deadline to make contributions, the IRS gives custodians until May 31 to send Form 5498 to account holders.

Another is to verify distributions. If you are over the age for required minimum distributions (RMDs), Form 5498 also tells the IRS what your RMD will be for the current year. The RMD is determined by the account balance on the final day of the previous year (December 31, 2022 for 2023).

So all you need to do with it is check that it matches up with what actually happened and what you actually reported on your return.

Check Form 5498 For Errors

Before you file the 5498 away, make sure it’s correct. Mistakes are common.

In 2018, my husband and I both received erroneous 5498’s for our Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Mine showed $0 contributions for 2017 and his showed 2 years’ worth. What the….? So we called the bank, got the records straight, and had them send corrected 5498s to the IRS.

Why go to the trouble? If your 5498 contribution or distribution differs from what you reported on your 1040, at some point it could get noticed. One fantastic sunny day in the future as you skip to your mailbox, you may find inside a skinny white envelope with “Internal Revenue Service” in the return address. Fantastic day ruined.

More than likely, all the letter will say, essentially, is, “Hey, we noticed your 5498 doesn’t match your 1040. What gives?” But still. It will be in IRS-Speak and look and sound and feel serious, with a deadline for giving them an answer. Save yourself the trouble of having to answer (or pay your accountant to answer for you) and do a quick check now.

It only takes a few minutes.

  • Does your contribution amount for 2022 look correct?
  • Did you take any 2022 HSA or IRA distributions, and if so, do those look correct?
  • (If not, make sure the distributions say $0.)
  • Does the reported year-end account balance look accurate?
  • Is your SSN correct?
  • How about your name, including your middle initial?

If anything looks amiss, contact your custodian to get a corrected 5498 issued ASAP.

One More Tax Task

By this time of year, it’s normal to feel sick of tax stuff. The last thing you may want to do is deal with another form, especially an erroneous one. If you don’t want the bother, at least forward it to your financial or tax professional to check it out and help. We deal with tax stuff all year long. Even in May.

If it feels like you could be paying less in taxes, start by subscribing to our award-winning monthly e-letter, “The View From the Porch” for monthly tax tips sprinkled with fun and reader-only event offerings.

Continue ReadingWhat’s that IRS Form 5498 arriving in May?

November Thinking About Taxes: Really?

autumn leaves

November thinking about taxes: In general, November is not the normal time to think about tax planning.

Tax planning is considered an annual drudgery beginning around January 15 and ending on April 15. Not something to ruin the holiday spirit.

Yet actually, there are tax-savings tasks to think about at year-end. Doing so can make the January – April slog much smoother.

Why is Planning to Save Taxes So Loathed?

But I get it – no one wants to think about taxes at the holidays, or at all. And why is that? Here are several reasons given by Roger Pine, Founder of Holistiplan, a tax analysis software for financial advisors:

1) It’s a bill for one of the biggest expenses all year (most times exceeded only by housing costs).

2) You are responsible for preparing your own bill, or hiring someone to do it for you.

3) The bill forms are a design disaster with unintelligible instructions that take years of schooling beyond a college degree to completely understand.

4) Even when the bill is done correctly, it’s difficult to see why you got charged what you did.

5) If you don’t prepare the bill, or do it wrong, there are serious legal consequences.

6) If you want a smaller bill next year, you have to know how to decipher the forms for clues. (That’s why it’s called the tax “code.”)

7) It stinks to hear afterward, “If you had only done X, you would have saved Y,” if it’s too late to do X.

As a result, how do taxes make most of us feel? Helpless and uninformed. Not the most empowering feelings from a financial standpoint.

Tax planning and preparation does not help us achieve that sense of financial wellness, or as they say in financial therapy circles, financial “self-efficacy.” 

Worth Taking the Time

In fact, November is a great time to consider a few year-end moves like:

  • Roth conversions,
  • taking capital losses or capital gains,
  • doubling up on property taxes and charitable contributions, or
  • making IRA and HSA contributions.

Sound like a lot? It could be, but it could also save hundreds or thousands on April 15. If you have a CPA and/or CFP®, all you have to do is gather a few documents and let them do the rest. Gather these:

1) Your September or October brokerage statements (the whole statement, not just screenshots);

2) Your latest paystubs, Social Security statements, or other items showing regular income; and

3) Any large one-time transactions that happened or will happen this year, like a real estate closing statement or estimate.

After reviewing these, be ready to answer more specific questions, such as any changes in your deductions. Don’t worry about exact figures – it’s ok to estimate right now.

Why is November So Important for Tax Planning?

One important goal is to make sure you don’t end up with a taxable income figure that’s just barely over some kind of threshold or bracket. This can cost a lot more than necessary.

An extreme but could-easily-happen example: A couple in their 60s with one spouse still working and one over 65 on Medicare reported $195,000 in 2021 modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). That was $1,000 over the threshold of $194,000 for the first (of 6) Medicare surcharge brackets. The additional $1,000 in income cost the couple an additional $936 in 2023 Medicare premium surcharges. That’s a marginal tax rate of 93.6%!

If it’s year-end and you determine that you’re close to the edge of a threshold, you have a few weeks to strategize. A few easy moves:

  • If you’re employed with a 401K, or you have a deductible IRA, make sure you have maxed out your contributions. If you turned 50 this year, remember you now get an extra catch-up contribution.
  • If you have a Health Savings Account, make sure you have maxed out your contributions. If you turned 55 this year, you now get an extra $1000 catchup contribution.
  • If you have a business, can you push income to January or accelerate expenses into December?
  • If you are over 70 1/2, you can make a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) from your IRA. (more info here: https://www.hollydonaldsonfinancialplanner.com/keep-charitable-deduction/)
  • Instead of giving cash to charities, you can give them an asset (like stock) with a large capital gain. Depending on whether you itemize, you might get a deduction instead of showing the gain.
  • If you believe you are in a lower tax bracket now than you will be in retirement, and additional income won’t bump you up against any of the other thresholds, consider a Roth or partial Roth conversion. (But do it soon. It can take several weeks to accomplish, depending upon which company holds your accounts.)

Based upon a November estimate of your income and deductions, your professional can begin to strategize in other ways, too. (Schedule a 30-minute call with us if you’d like to talk more about tax planning or other money topics: https://bit.ly/3GWZNrc)

Being proactive on taxes can be a vaccine against stress. Imagine feeling more in control in April once you see how much you helped shrink your tax bill at year-end.

If you haven’t wanted to think about taxes in November before, it might be worth your while to think again.

Continue ReadingNovember Thinking About Taxes: Really?

IRA RMD? Try ABC

IRA RMD? Try ABC

Studies show more RMD’s (Required Minimum Distributions) are taken in the fourth quarter than the first nine months of the year.

What are RMDs?

Required Minimum Distributions (RMD’s) are familiar to almost anyone with a retirement account – 401K, 403B, 457, or IRA. RMDs are a minimum annual withdrawal requirement from the account. For your own account, they begin at age 72. For an account inherited before 2020, annual RMDs began right away. Both of these types of RMDs are calculated using IRS-provided tables. The company where you keep your account will calculate the RMD in January each year for you.

For an account inherited in or after 2020, there is no annual distribution requirement. Instead, the new requirement is to distribute the entire account within 10 years.

When to Take RMDs?

There are varied reasons people wait to take their RMDs. They may not need the income and prefer to keep the money invested all year. They may not be comfortable with the logistics of requesting it from the company holding the account (called the “custodian.”) They may not want to decide what investments to use to accomplish the RMD. All of these reasons can be perfectly rational reasons to delay.

Turning a Task into a Gift

Yet all of these reasons also focus on the RMD as a financial task to be accomplished.

Unless the RMD is a significantly large amount, any financial strategy involving the “best” timing of it is purely a guess. Rather than viewing it as a financial task, it’s possible to turn it into a memorable or even fun opportunity.

Try these A-B-C ways to make a Required Minimum Distribution more intentional, or something special.

A is for Anniversary

Especially if you inherited the account, taking the RMD on the anniversary of your loved one’s loss can be a way to remember the gift they left you.

If it’s from your own retirement account, consider taking it on the anniversary of your last day at work.

B is for Birthday present

Whether it’s your own money or inherited, what about using the RMD during your birthday month to do or buy something special only for you?

With most custodians, this can be set up as an automatic distribution to your checking account. Imagine, you open your bank account on your birthday and, voila’, birthday money to spend as you like.

C is for Charitable donation

The 2017 tax law means far fewer people itemize deductions now. To maintain the tax-favored status of a donation, sending all or part of an IRA RMD directly to a qualified charity can be a wise move. This is called a QCD – Qualified Charitable Distribution.

There are several rules to keep in mind, though.

First, you have to be at least 70 1/2 years old.

Second, do not distribute to yourself first and then donate it. The donation must go directly from your account to the qualified charity.

Next, QCDs can only happen from IRAs, not employer retirement accounts like 401Ks, 403Bs, or 457s.

Before making the distribution, it’s a good practice to contact the charity to make sure they qualify. For example, donor advised funds and some private foundations will not be eligible for a QCD donation.

Conveniently, some custodians provide a checkbook for IRAs. If you are going to do QCDs, you might call this your “Charity Checkbook.” Be sure to write the check in plenty of time for it to clear before December 31.

Using your RMD this way can be both financially and emotionally valuable – you might get a deduction you otherwise would not. Plus, you get to see the impact of your gift on a cause you care about. Ask your CPA or tax planner whether it would work for you.

ABC Combinations

Some people combine two of the three ABC’s. They might give a direct charitable donation as a birthday present to themselves, or donate the RMD in memory of their loved one on their loss anniversary.

Whether you are taking them now or will in the future, be intentional about RMD’s. Rather than feeling like a last-minute task of the year, use the requirement to make some fun or meaningful memories.

Reach us here to talk more about year-end tax planning.

What year-end tax tips do you have?

Continue ReadingIRA RMD? Try ABC

Fourth Quarter Tax Tip: Check Your Fund Distributions

Fourth quarter tax tip: If you hold any mutual funds in non-retirement, taxable accounts, now is the time to begin checking on “projected capital gain distributions.”

What are projected capital gains distributions?

When mutual funds sell securities for capital gains, they don’t pay taxes on them. Their shareholders do. The funds pass the gains through to shareholders each year through reporting them on Form 1099. For many shareholders, the 1099 gains come as a surprise tax bite. The value of the fund may not have increased at all in the past year, but yet, they still have to pay tax on capital gains.

Why are these important?

Because of 2022’s roller coaster market ride, many funds are going to show larger-than-normal capital gains, regardless of what happens to their value between October and December. For the funds’ shareholders, that could mean lots of extra taxes. Even if you bought the fund mid-year, you may still get a capital gain distribution.

What To Do About Large Distributions

You can look up your fund’s projected distributions at the fund’s website, or, use this site to take you directly to your fund(s)’ relevant page: https://mutualfundobserver.com/discuss/discussion/60074/2022-year-end-capital-gains-distribution-estimates

More helpful information on the nature of capital gain distributions is provided by this article, too:

https://humbledollar.com/2019/11/the-unwanted-payday/

If you would like help in the fourth quarter – figuring out 2022 taxable income while there is still time to make adjustments before year-end, schedule a tax planning appointment with your CPA or schedule a 30-minute call to talk with us here: https://go.oncehub.com/HollyPThomas.

Continue ReadingFourth Quarter Tax Tip: Check Your Fund Distributions