It’s the most wonderful time of the year—and for many of us, it is also one of the busiest. While adding one more thing to your to-do list—like year-end tax planning—may induce a feeling of overload, it really is one task you shouldn’t skip, because it can give you the gift of a lower tax bill next April.
Here are a few tips to help you end 2014 with the good feeling of knowing that you are in good shape for the coming tax season.
Act now to accelerate deductions and manage your income for the current year. Depending on what your income level is this year, you may want to defer some income (through investments or other tax-deferral vehicles) if you think it will help keep you from reaching a higher tax bracket or if your income will be near the thresholds for the additional Medicare tax ($250,000 if married and filing jointly; $200,000 if single; and $125,000 if married and filing separately). On the deduction side, you may be able to accelerate your state and local income tax payments, real estate taxes, interest payments, or business investments, so think about paying these obligations before next year is here so you can claim the deduction on your 2014 tax return.
Keep up with estimated tax payments. Having the dates for estimated tax payments on your calendar is important—including the fourth 2014 estimated tax payment due this January 15. By calculating this payment and the first one due for 2015 (April 15 next year) you will have a preliminary idea of what your tax liabilities will be, giving you an idea of how much you'll need to set aside to make these payments.
Check your withholding and estimated tax payments now while you have time to fix a problem. If you’re in danger of an underpayment penalty based on the calculations you made above, try to make up the shortfall now instead of waiting until your next tax payment. If you need assistance handling delinquent taxes or other tax issues, contact our firm for professional guidance.
Now is the time to apply for health care tax exemptions. If you do not have health insurance, the Affordable Care Act mandates that you must pay the "shared responsibility payment" with your federal taxes. Exemptions are available, however, the process to qualify for one (which must be approved by the Health Insurance Marketplace) can take several weeks. Now is the time to apply.
Maximize “above-the-line” deductions. Above-the-line deductions are valuable because you deduct them before you calculate your Annual Gross Income or AGI. They are allowed in full and make it less likely that your other tax benefits will be limited. Common above-the-line deductions include traditional IRA and health savings account (HSA) contributions, moving expenses, self-employed health insurance costs and alimony payments.
Make the most of retirement account tax savings. In addition to any 401(k) contributions you may make if you are employed, depending on your income, you may want to make contributions to other retirement accounts—or start one if you haven’t already. Traditional retirement accounts like an individual retirement account (IRA) still offer some of the best tax savings. Contributions reduce taxable income at the time that you make them, and you don’t pay taxes until you take the money out at retirement. The 2014 contribution limits for an IRA are $5,500 ($6,500 for those 50 years of age and older). If you have questions about your investment strategy and tax savings contact us for assistance.
With just a few weeks left in 2014, now is the ideal time to look at your current financial situation and plan for the future, in addition to starting to get your tax documentation in order. If you have any questions, please contact our firm—we are happy to help you.