The goal of income tax planning is to help minimize your federal income tax liability. You can achieve this in different ways. Typically, though, you’d look at ways to help reduce your taxable income, perhaps by deferring your income or shifting income to family members. You should also consider deduction planning, investment tax planning, and year-end planning strategies to help lower your overall income tax burden.
By deferring (postponing) income to a later year, you may be able to help minimize your current income tax liability and invest the money that you’d otherwise use to pay income taxes. When you eventually report the income, you may be in a lower income tax bracket.
Certain retirement plans can help you postpone the payment of taxes on your earned income. With a 401(k) plan, for example, you contribute part of your salary to the plan, paying income tax only when you withdraw money from the plan (withdrawals before age 59½ may be subject to a 10% penalty). This allows you to postpone the taxation of part of your salary and take advantage of the tax-deferred growth in your investment earnings.
There are many other ways to postpone your taxable income. For instance, you can contribute to a traditional IRA, buy permanent life insurance (the cash value part grows tax-deferred), or invest in certain savings bonds. You may want to speak with a tax professional about your tax-planning options.
You can also help minimize your federal income taxes by shifting income to family members who are in a lower tax bracket. For example, if you own stock that produces a great deal of dividend income, consider gifting the stock to your children. After you’ve made the gift, the dividends will represent income to them rather than to you. This may lower your tax burden. Keep in mind that you can make a tax-free gift of up to $13,000 per year per recipient without incurring a federal gift tax.
Under these rules, for children (1) under age 18 at the end of the tax year, (2) between ages 18 and 19 at the end of the tax year whose earned income didn’t exceed one-half of their own support for the year (excluding scholarships), or (3) full-time students between ages 19 and 24 at the end of the tax year whose earned income didn’t exceed one-half of their own financial support (excluding scholarships), any unearned income over $2,100 is taxed at the parent’s marginal tax rate.
Also, be sure to check the laws of your state before giving securities to minors. Other ways of shifting income include hiring a family member for the family business and creating a family limited partnership. Investigate all of your options before making a decision.
Investment tax planning seeks to help minimize your overall income tax burden through tax-conscious investment choices. Several potential strategies may be considered. These include the possible use of tax-exempt securities and intentionally timing the sale of capital assets for maximum tax benefit.
Although income is generally taxable, certain investments generate income that is exempt from tax at the federal or state level. For example, if you meet specific requirements and income limits, the interest on certain Series EE bonds (these may also be called Patriot bonds) used for education may be exempt from federal, state, and local income taxes. Also, you can exclude the interest on certain municipal bonds from your federal income (tax-exempt status applies to income generated from the bond; a capital gain or loss realized on the sale of a municipal bond is treated like gain or loss from any other bond for federal tax purposes). And, if you earn interest on tax-exempt bonds issued in your home state, the interest will generally be exempt from state and local tax as well. Keep in mind that although the interest on municipal bonds is generally tax-exempt, certain municipal bond income may be subject to the federal alternative minimum tax. When comparing taxable and tax-exempt investment options, you’ll want to focus on those choices that help maximize your after-tax return.
In most cases, long-term capital gain tax rates are lower than ordinary income tax rates. That means that the amount of time you hold an asset before selling it can make a big tax difference. Since long-term capital gain rates generally apply when an asset has been held for more than a year, you may find that it makes good tax sense to hold off a little longer on selling an asset that you’ve held for only 11 months. Timing the sale of a capital asset (such as stock) can help in other ways as well. For example, if you expect to be in a lower income tax bracket next year, you might consider waiting until then to sell your stock. You might want to accelerate income into this year by selling assets, though, if you have capital losses this year that you can use to offset the resulting gain.
You should not decide which investment options are appropriate for you based on tax considerations alone. Nor should you decide when (or if) to sell an asset solely based on the tax consequence. A financial or tax professional can help you decide what choices are right for your specific situation.
Year-end tax planning, as you might expect, typically takes place in October, November, and December. At its most basic level, year-end tax planning generally looks at ways to time income and deductions to give you the best possible tax result. This may mean trying to postpone income to the following year (thus postponing the payment of tax on that income) and accelerate deductions into the current year. For example, assume it’s December and you know that you’re in a higher tax bracket this year than you will be in next year. If you’re able to postpone the receipt of income until the following year, you may be able to pay less overall tax on that income. Similarly, if you have major dental work scheduled for the beginning of next year, you might consider trying to reschedule for December to take advantage of the deduction this year. The right year-end tax planning moves for you will depend on your individual circumstances.
Our company does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, or investment advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, please note that individual situations can vary; therefore, the information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Diversification does not ensure against loss.
Financial Visions, Inc.
All written content on this site is for informational purposes only. Opinions expressed herein are solely those of Crystal Lake Tax & Financial. and our editorial staff. Material presented is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representations as to its accuracy or completeness. Investing involves risk. There is always the potential of losing money when you invest in securities. Asset allocation, diversification and rebalancing do not ensure a profit or help protect against loss in declining markets. All information and ideas should be discussed in detail with your individual advisor prior to implementation. The presence of this website, and the material contained within, shall in no way be construed or interpreted as a solicitation or recommendation for the purchase or sale of any security or investment strategy. In addition, the presence of this website should not be interpreted as a solicitation for Investment Advisory Services to any residents of states where otherwise legally permitted to conduct business. Fee-based financial planning and Investment Advisory Services are offered by Sound Income Strategies, LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisory firm. Crystal Lake Tax & Financial and Sound Income Strategies LLC are not associated entities. Crystal Lake Tax & Financial is a franchisee of The Retirement Income Store®. The Retirement Income Store and Sound Income Strategies LLC are associated entities. © 2021 Sound Income Strategies.