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April Ambrozy 01 16 18
Five tax tips for job changers
There are a lot of new things to get used to when you change jobs, from new responsibilities to adjusting to a new company culture. One thing you may not have considered are the tax issues created when you change jobs. Here are tips to reduce any potential tax problems related to making a job change this coming year.
|Don’t forget about in-between pay. It is easy to forget to account for pay received while you’re between jobs. This includes severance and accrued vacation or sick pay from your former employer. It may also include unemployment benefits. All are taxable but may not have had taxes withheld, causing a surprise at tax time.|
|Adjust your withholdings. A new job requires you to fill out a new Form W-4, which directs your employer how much to withhold from each paycheck. It may not be best to go with the default withholding schedule, which assumes you have been making the salary of your new job all year. You may need to make special adjustments to avoid having too much or too little taken from your paycheck. This is especially true if there is a significant salary change or you have a period of low-or-no income. Luckily, the IRS provides a withholding calculator on its website (IRS Withholding Calculator). Keep in mind you’ll have to fill out a new W-4 in the next year to rebalance your withholding for a full year of your new salary.|
|Roll over your 401(k). While you can leave your 401(k) in your old employer’s plan, you may wish to roll it over into your new employer’s 401(k) or into an IRA. The best way is to get your retirement funds rolled over directly between investment companies. If you take a direct check, you’ll have to deposit it into the new account within 60 days, or you may be assessed a 10 percent penalty and pay income tax on the withdrawal.|
|Deduct job-hunting expenses. Tally up your job-seeking expenses. If they and other miscellaneous deductible expenses total more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income for the year, you can deduct them on an itemized return. This includes things like costs for job-search tools, placement agencies and recruiters, and printing, mailing and travel costs. A couple caveats: you can only use these deductions if your expenses were to search for a job in the same industry as your previous job and you were not reimbursed for them by your new employer.|
|Deduct moving and home sale expenses. If you moved to take a new job that is at least 50 miles farther from your previous home than your old job was, you can also deduct your moving expenses. There’s another benefit for movers, too. Typically, you can only use the $250,000 capital gain exclusion for home sales if you lived in your primary residence for two of the last five years before you sold it. But there is an exception to the rule if you sold your home to take a new job.|
Finding a new job can be an exciting experience, and one that can create tax consequences if not handled correctly. Feel free to call for a discussion of your situation.
Now is a good time to review your year-end tax situation while there is still time to act. Here’s a handy checklist to help you do that. There are details on “must-dos” to get the most out of your charitable donations. As the year draws to a close, there are several tax-saving ideas you should consider. Use this checklist to make sure you don’t miss an opportunity before the year is out.
|Retirement distributions and contributions. Make final contributions to your qualified retirement plan, and take any required minimum distributions from your retirement accounts. The penalty for not taking minimum distributions can be high.|
|Investment management. Rebalance your investment portfolio, and take any final investment gains and losses. Capital losses can be used to net against your capital gains. You can also take up to $3,000 of capital losses in excess of capital gains each year and use it to lower your taxable ordinary income.|
|Last-minute charitable giving. Make a late-year charitable donation. Even better, make the donation with appreciated stock you’ve owned more than a year. You often can make a larger donation and get a larger deduction without paying capital gains taxes.|
|Noncash donation opportunity. Gather up noncash items for donation, document the items, and give those in good condition to your favorite charity. Make sure you get a receipt from the charity, and take a photo of the items donated.|
|Gifts to dependents and others. You may provide gifts to an individual of up to $14,000 per year in total. Remember that all gifts given (birthdays, holidays, etc.) count toward the annual total.|
|Organize records now. Start collecting and organizing your end-of-year tax records. Estimate your tax liability and make any required estimated tax payments.|
Is socking away large sums in a tax-deferred retirement account ever a bad idea? It is when you exceed the annual IRS limits. Whether intentional or not, the penalties can be painful. Here’s how overfunding occurs and what steps to take to fix the problem.
How overfunding happens
Overfunding retirement accounts happens more than you may realize. It can be the result of a job change that causes you to participate in two different employer retirement plans. Sometimes people forget they made IRA contributions early in the year and do it again later. Others forget that the IRA limit is the total of all accounts, not per account. The rules are complicated. Traditional IRAs can’t be contributed to after age 70½, while Roth IRA contributions are subject to income limits. Plus all contributions are predicated on having earned income.
The annual Roth and Traditional IRA contribution limit is $5,500 ($6,500 if age 50 or older). If you surpass this amount, you pay a 6 percent penalty on the overpayment every year until it’s corrected, plus a potential 10 percent penalty on the investment income attributed to the overfunded amount.
The fix: If the overfunding is discovered before the filing deadline (plus extensions), you can withdraw the excess and any income earned on the contribution to avoid the 6 percent penalty. You will potentially owe a 10 percent penalty in addition to ordinary income tax on the earnings of the excess contributions if you’re under age 59½. Often you can apply the contribution to the next year. If your issue is due to age (70½ or older for a Traditional IRA) or income limit (for a Roth IRA), consider recharacterizing your contribution from one IRA type to another.
The rules for correcting an overfunded 401(k) are a little more rigid. You have until April 15 to return the funds, period. The nature of the penalty is also different. The excess amount is taxable in the year of the overfunding, plus taxable again when withdrawn. So, you could pay the penalty multiple times on the same amount. And, in certain cases, overfunding a 401(k) could cause it to lose its qualified status.
The fix: If you suspect an overpayment situation, contact your employer as soon as possible. Adjust your contribution amount before the end of the year and try to get the problem resolved that way.
HSAs work best when they are used for their designed purpose: to pay for qualified medical expenses. Neither your original contributions to an HSA nor your investment earnings are taxed when used this way.
This makes HSA funds valuable, given that medical costs are one of our largest expenses as we age. The Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates the average 65-year-old couple needs $264,000 to pay for medical care over the course of their retirement. Being able to cover that amount with pre-tax dollars greatly extends the value of retirement savings.
In addition, unlike other retirement plans, there is no required distribution of funds after you reach age 70½.
First, you can only contribute to an HSA if you have a high-deductible health insurance plan. That means you will pay more out of pocket each year when you need to use health services, which could make it difficult to build a balance within your HSA.
Second, contributions are limited. Currently, annual contributions to HSAs are limited to $3,400 a year for individuals and $6,750 a year for families. These limits get bumped up by $1,000 for people aged 55 or older. You also may only contribute to an HSA until your retirement age.
Finally, HSAs typically have fewer investment options compared with other investment tools including 401(k)s and IRAs. The accounts often have high management and administrative fees. All this makes building HSA earnings tough to do.
The worst thing about HSAs: before you reach age 65, non-medical withdrawals from HSAs come with a whopping 20 percent penalty. Plus non-medical withdrawls are taxed as income. Even after age 65, both contributions and earnings are taxed when they are withdrawn for non-medical expenses.
In this way, HSAs compare unfavorably with 401(k)s and IRAs, which end their early withdrawal period earlier, at age 59½. They also have lower early withdrawal penalties of just 10 percent.
HSAs are a powerful tool to help manage the ever-rising costs of health care. Knowing the rules and the costs associated with using these funds outside of medical expenses can help you get the most out of an HSA and avoid costly missteps.
Most Americans simply don’t save enough for retirement. Nearly half of working-age households don’t have any retirement assets, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security. Of those working-age households close to retirement (age 55 and above) nearly two-thirds have less than one year’s worth of their annual salary in retirement savings.
The goal: a comfortable retirement
So how much do you actually need to retire comfortably? There are many variables to consider, including retirement age, available pensions, and investment returns. Mutual fund broker Fidelity estimates you need enough savings to replace roughly 85 percent of your annual pre-retirement income. Many experts estimate you will have to save between eight and 12 times your pre-retirement annual income to reach this goal.
But the amount you need depends on when you plan to retire. For example, Fidelity estimates a person planning on retiring at age 65 will need to save 12 times their pre-retirement income. By delaying retirement by just five years, to age 70, their savings estimate lowers to eight times your annual income.
This may be why an increasing number of Americans plan on delaying retirement or working during retirement. A majority of workers (51 percent) surveyed in 2016 by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies said they plan to continue working during retirement.
Some ideas to consider now
There are actions you can take now to put you in a better position during your golden years:
|Contribute as much as possible every year to your employer-provided retirement plans. With a 401(k) pre-tax retirement plan, up to $18,000 can be contributed each year, or $24,000 if you are age 50 or older.|
|Contribute as much as possible to a Traditional or Roth IRA every year, up to the $5,500 maximum, or $6,500 if you are age 50 or older.|
|If available, contribute as much as possible to a Health Savings Account, which can be used to offset medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. Individuals can contribute up to $3,400 a year, or $4,400 for ages 55 or older.|
Two-thirds of the Baby Boomer generation are now working or plan to work beyond age 65, according to a recent Transamerica Institute study. Some report they need to work because their savings declined during the financial crisis, while others say they choose to work because of the greater sense of purpose and engagement that working provides.
Whatever your reason for continuing to work into your golden years, here are some tips to make sure you get the greatest benefit from your efforts.
|Consider delaying Social Security. You can start receiving Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62, but if you continue to work it may make sense to delay taking it until as late as age 70. This is because your Social Security benefit may be reduced or be subject to income tax due to your other income. In addition, your Social Security monthly benefit increases when you delay starting the retirement benefit. These increases in monthly benefits stop when you reach age 70.|
|Don’t get bracket-bumped. Keep in mind that you may have multiple income streams during retirement that can bump you into a higher tax bracket and make other income taxable if you’re not careful. For instance, Social Security benefits are only tax-free if you have less than a certain amount of adjusted gross income ($25,000 for individuals and $32,000 for married filing jointly in 2017), otherwise as much as 85 percent of your benefits are taxable.
Required distributions from pensions and retirement accounts can also add to your taxable income. Be aware of how close you are to the next tax bracket and adjust your plans accordingly.
|Be smart about health care. When you reach age 65, you’ll have the option of making Medicare your primary health insurance. If you continue to work, you may be able to stay on your employer’s health care plan, switch to Medicare, or adopt a two-plan hybrid option that includes Medicare and a supplemental employer care plan.
Look over each option closely. You may find that you’re giving up important coverage if you switch to Medicare prematurely while you still have the option of sticking with your employer plan.
|Consider your expenses. If you’re reducing your working hours or taking a part-time job, you also have to consider the cost of your extra income stream. Calculate how much it costs to commute and park every day, as well as the expense of meals, clothing, dry cleaning and any other expenses. Now consider how much all those expenses amount to in pre-tax income. Be aware whether the benefits you get from working a little extra are worth the extra financial cost.|
|Time to downsize or relocate? Where and how you live can be an important factor determining the kind of work you can do while you’re retired. Downsizing to a smaller residence or moving to a new locale may be a good strategy to pursue a new kind of work and a different lifestyle.|
|Focus on your deeper purpose. Use your retirement as an opportunity to find work you enjoy and that adds value to your life. Choose a job that expresses your talents and interests, and that provides a place where your experiences are valued by others.|
It is all too easy to make a mistake that can cost you plenty if you do not actively manage your retirement assets. Here are some common retirement account mistakes that can easily be avoided.
|Borrowing money, then leaving your job. Those with employer-provided retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, can often borrow money from their accounts. Unfortunately if you leave your job, this money must be repaid immediately. If it’s not repaid, your loan will be considered a withdrawal of funds, creating a hefty tax bill and early withdrawal penalty.|
|Incorrect rollover of funds. If you plan on moving funds from one retirement account to another, do not have the withdrawal check issued to you. If the funds are not correctly redeposited, your transfer could be deemed a taxable event.
Better: Create a trustee-to-trustee transfer. By having the funds go directly from one retirement account to another, you eliminate the risk of the IRS assuming you made a withdrawal.
|Waiting until 70½ before taking money out. A key concept in retirement planning is to make your retirement accounts as tax efficient as possible. This often means taking money out of an account before you actually need it. When you reach age 70½ or older most retirement accounts require you to take a minimum distribution based on a formula.
Better: Review your tax situation each year. It may make sense to take a withdrawal out of a retirement account now in order to pay a lower tax compared with the tax on a required distribution when you are older.
|Not reviewing beneficiaries. The beneficiaries of most retirement accounts have priority over what is stated in your will. This can have unintended consequences.Better: Review your retirement account beneficiaries each year. Note alternative beneficiaries if allowed within the account.|
|Not reviewing your investment mix. Many make their retirement investment decisions when they set up their account and then leave it alone. But as you age, your investment mix should change. Your account can also become out of balance as funds perform at different rates.Better: Review your funds annually, rebalance your funds and replace poorly performing funds as needed. Your employer or trustee appointed advisors can help you make investment decisions that meet your needs.|
|Not maximizing your employer contributions. Most employer-provided retirement accounts include an employer-provided contribution. Often this is a matching contribution where your employer will match 50% to 100% of your contribution up to a percent of your pay. Not taking advantage of this free money is one of the worst mistakes you can make.|
|Not participating. And the worst retirement account mistake? Not participating. Unless your retirement plan is to win the lottery, you will need income during your retirement years. You are never too young or old to start saving for a retirement free from financial worry.|
It typically takes a great deal of personal interest and expertise in a given field — whether it’s rare art, coins or baseball cards — to judge a treasure from a trinket. For those of you who have been bitten by the collector’s bug, here are some tax considerations.
According to the IRS: “Collectibles include works of art, rugs, antiques, metals (such as gold, silver, and platinum bullion), gems, stamps, coins, alcoholic beverages, and certain other tangible properties.” 1 What makes something a collectible is that it carries additional value based on its rarity and its market demand. Essentially, the opinion of other collectors and experts, based on what they are willing to pay for your collection, determines its value.
For example, a typical one-ounce gold coin is worth about $1,200 based upon the value of the metal and would not be considered a collectible by the IRS. However, a rare antique double eagle gold coin produced in the 19th century could be worth $20,000 to a collector, even though it is made of exactly the same amount of gold as the non-rare coin.
Collectibles special tax rate
When collectibles are sold, they become taxable at a maximum tax rate of 28 percent. The tax applies to profit on the sale of your collectibles.
That tax rate is considerably higher than the average capital gains tax of 15 percent that most people pay for non-collectible investments such as stocks and bonds (the tax range for long-term capital gains is from 0 to 20 percent). The exception to this rule is that if you’ve held your collection less than a year before you sell it, your capital gain will be taxed as regular income.
It’s all about the basis
In order to calculate what you owe to the IRS if you sell your collectibles, start with your basis. Your basis typically equals the amount you paid for your collectibles, plus any auction or broker fees incurred during your purchase. If you spent money to refurbish, restore or maintain collectibles while you owned them, you can also add that to your basis.
Then, subtract your basis from the sale price of your collectibles; the amount left over is what is taxed. Here’s an example:
Ima Dahl decides to sell an 1898 German Bisque porcelain doll from her collection. She’s owned the doll for ten years and originally paid $700 for it. She also paid $150 two years ago to repair its cracked finish. She receives $1,800 by selling it at an online auction and spends $100 paying her auction fees and shipping to the new owner. Since she owned the doll for more than one year, her long-term capital gain is $850 and her potential maximum tax is $238. The calculation: $1,800 net sales price, minus the $700 basis, minus $150 for repairs, minus $100 selling expense multiplied by 28%.
Some collectible hints
|Know the market value. If you inherit a collectible you will need to know the value of the object on the date you obtain it. This will usually become your basis when you sell it.|
|Investment or personal use. If your collectible is an investment you can usually take a loss on the sale of the collectible. Unfortunately, if the IRS deems the collectible has an element of personal use, you may not deduct the loss. An example of personal use may be the hanging of a painting on your wall. Being careful how you sell your collectible can also make a difference in managing your potential tax liability.|
|Collectibles tax rate good or bad. The 28 percent capital gain tax on collectibles is the maximum tax rate. For example, if you are in the 15 percent income tax range, your collectible gain is taxed at that rate. If your income tax bracket is higher than 28 percent, the collectibles tax rate is capped at 28 percent, resulting in a potentially lower tax rate versus ordinary income taxes.|
As you can imagine, the taxes on buying and selling collectibles can be complex. If you are considering selling a potentially valuable item, ask for assistance.
Three of every four Americans got a refund check last year and the average amount was $2,777, according to IRS statistics. Because the amount of a refund is often uncertain, we may be tempted to spend it without too much planning. One way to counteract this natural tendency is to come up with a plan beforehand to spend your refund purposefully. Here are some ideas:
|Pay off debt. If you have debt other than your home mortgage, a great spending priority can be to reduce or eliminate it. The longer you hold debt, the more the cumulative interest burden weighs on your future plans. You have to work harder for longer just to counteract the effect of the debt on your financial health. Start by paying down debts with the highest interest rates and work your way down the list until you bring your debt burden down to a manageable level.|
|Save for retirement. Saving for retirement works like debt, but in reverse. The longer you set aside money for retirement, the more time you give the power of compound earnings to work for you. This money can even continue working for you long after you retire. Consider depositing some or all of your refund check into a Traditional or Roth IRA. You can contribute a total of $5,500 to an IRA every year, or $6,500 if you’re 50 years old or older.|
|Save for a home. Home ownership is a source of wealth and stability for many Americans. If you don’t own a home yet, consider building up a down payment fund using some of your refund. If you already own a home, consider using your refund to start paying your mortgage off early.|
|Invest in yourself. Sometimes the best investment isn’t financial, but personal. If there’s a course of study or conference that would improve your skills or knowledge, that could be a wise use of your money in the long run.|
|Give some of it away. Helping people, and being able to deduct gifts and charity from your next tax return, isn’t the only benefit of giving to a good cause. Research shows that it makes us feel good on a neurological level. In fact, donating money activates our brains’ pleasure centers more than receiving the equivalent amount.1|
If a refund is in your future, start planning now on how it can best help your financial situation.
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