In many tax guides, they will illustrate a few ways to reduce your taxes before April 15.
Some of the tips revolve around coupling losses and gains to reduce tax, making sure you document all expenses to reduce income for your business, or making sure you put down all of your deductible charitable contributions on your taxes.
However, there is one overlooked area that has big consequences.
This strategy is called "saving for retirement." However, you actually need the cash to add to your retirement account to claim the tax benefit.
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Example, if you are in the 35 percent tax bracket and make a $5,500 deductible contribution you may save as much as $1,925 in taxes based on 2018 tax rates.
What if you don’t have the cash?
Here is my recommendation: Ask your spouse, parents or grandparents to lend it to you or just give it to you.
I guess you could even borrow from your credit card. Either way, you get money back or reduce your tax burden by making the retirement contribution to you or your spouse’s account, provided you are qualified.
As for tax-free gifts in 2018 and 2019, the annual exclusion is $15,000. In 2018 and 2019, the total for you and your spouse is $30,000 to make a tax free gift to a third party. Thus, you can generally gift (tax free) to a child or family member the needed money to put in his or her retirement account and then claim the maximum deduction on your taxes if you are not phased out by being a high earner. Also, gifts to spouses aren’t taxable anyway.
So you may be able to elect to make the contribution to last year’s retirement on your annual tax filing by April 15, and get some money back. Also, if you have the cash in a savings account, you can move it into your retirement account to get the refund, or you may use the proceeds from a capital sale of a stock or fund to contribute to your retirement. If it is a stock without a capital gain, there is no tax anyway.
Further, you can contribute to an IRA all the way until tax-filing day, typically April 15. Most other tax-saving strategies must be in place by December 31 of the previous year.
Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain income conditions but the deduction is phased out for high earners. The easiest way to see if you are eligible is to ask your tax adviser what the change in your taxes will be by making retirement contributions or extra retirement contributions.
There is another set of earners who may get a credit.
If your adjusted gross income (AGI) is below any of these thresholds in 2019, you may be eligible for the saver’s credit:
- $64,000 as a married joint filer,
- $48,000 as a head of household filer,
- and $32,000 as any other filing status
The saver’s credit is worth up to $1,000 ($2,000 if married filing jointly). The value of your saver’s credit is calculated based on you or your families contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA, 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) plan, or a Simple IRA Plan or a SARSEP.
In 2018, contributions to tax-advantage savings accounts or ABLE accounts for people with disabilities and their families — are also eligible.
Please ask your tax preparer to determine if you are eligible for the credit and how much money you would need to contribute to your IRA to maximize your credit. Again, if you don’t have the money to contribute, think about borrowing, asking for a gift or somehow quickly rounding up some cash.
Generally speaking, you can go to your favorite financial adviser before April 15 and open a qualifying retirement account with relative ease.
In summary, the best thing about a family member helping a young saver by giving them money to contribute to their retirement deposit is twofold. First, the saver may get money back in the form of a tax refund. Second, the money goes into a retirement account which almost acts like a trust fund as the cash grows tax free until they retire and the law incentivizes taxpayers to leave the money in the account until retirement.
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It is a win for all involved.
Always consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisers before engaging in any investment, decision or transaction.
George Mentz JD MBA CWM Chartered Wealth Manager ® is a licensed attorney and CEO of GAFM ® global education, which is an ISO 29990 Certified professional development company operating in over 50 nations. Mentz is an award winning author and advisory board member to several companies around the world in education, charities, and crypto currency.
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