Fix Your Overfunded Accounts

Home office deductions

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.

IRAs

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.

401(k)s

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 The excess amount is taxable in the year of the overfunding, plus taxable again when withdrawn.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.

How Much Do You Need to Retire?

How much do you need to retire

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:

Bullet Point 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.
Bullet Point 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.
Bullet Point 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.

Six Tips for Working Beyond Retirement Age

Credit Score Ingredients

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.

Bullet Point 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.
Bullet Point 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.

Bullet Point 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.

Bullet Point 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.
Bullet Point 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.
Bullet Point 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.

 

Collectibles and the Tax Collector

Collectible Coins

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.

 

Collectibles defined

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

Bullet Point 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.
Bullet Point 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.
Bullet Point 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.

When Converting to a Roth Makes Sense

Roth Basics

Virtually anyone with a qualified retirement savings account can convert funds into a Roth IRA. A Roth is different from other retirement accounts in that contributions come from after-tax dollars, while earnings are tax-free. The question for taxpayers with funds in tax-deferred Traditional IRAs, SEP-IRAs, 401(k)s, and 403(b)s is whether converting them into a Roth is worth it.

Roth Basics…

 

 

Major benefits of a Roth IRA:

Thumbs Up Earnings are free from federal tax. This can be of tremendous benefit if you are in a high tax bracket during retirement.
Thumbs Up Unlike Traditional IRAs, you can keep contributing to a Roth after age 70½.
Thumbs Up Unlike Traditional IRAs, there are no minimum required distribution rules.

Downsides of a Roth IRA:

Thumbs Down Because initial contributions are made with after-tax funds, you must pay income tax on the amounts converted from other retirement funds.
Thumbs Down If the tax paid during the conversion is taken from your retirement funds, you could be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty.

Things to consider

Prior to making the decision to convert funds into a Roth IRA, consider the following:

Arrow You should have enough money outside of your retirement account to pay the tax on the conversion.
Arrow A Roth makes the most sense if you think you will face higher tax rates when you retire.
Arrow A Roth conversion will increase your reported annual income by the amount converted during the year. If you aren’t careful, this could disqualify you for important tax benefits, such as dependent child and college tuition tax credits.
Arrow A Roth needs time to build tax-free earnings. The more time you have before retirement, the more a Roth makes sense.

It is important to understand your options, so remember to ask for assistance prior to making a Roth conversion.

Breaking News: 2017 Retirement Contribution & Social Security Limits

If you have not already done so, now is the time to plan for contributions into your retirement accounts in 2017.

Retirement Contribution Limits

Retirement Program 2017 2016 Change Age 50 or over catch up
IRA: Traditional $5,500 $5,500 none add: $1,000
IRA: Roth $5,500 $5,500 none add: $1,000
IRA: SIMPLE $12,500 $12,500 none add: $3,000
401(k), 403(b), 457 plans $18,000 $18,000 none add: $6,000

Social Security

Item 2017 2016 Change Comment
Wages Subject to Social Security $127,200 $118,500 +$8,700 Annual Social Security employee tax: $7,886.40
Average Estimated Monthly Retirement Benefit $1,360 $1,355 +$5 Change in estimated amount

Don’t forget to account for any matching programs offered by your employer as you determine your various funding levels for next year.

Preview of Some Key 2017 Tax Figures

2017 compass

While official numbers for 2017 are not yet released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), many figures are based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) published by the Department of Labor. Using the release of recent CPI figures, a number of sources are projecting key figures for 2017.

 

Tax Brackets: While the actual income brackets for tax rates are not set for 2017, the rate of inflation impacting the income levels for each rate is anticipated to raise the income brackets by approximately 0.6 – 0.8%.

Personal Exemption: $4,050 in 2017 (unchanged from 2016)

Standard Deductions:

Deduction Tax Year 2017 Tax Year 2016
Single
$6,350
$6,300
Head of Household
$9,350
$9,300
Married Filing Jointly
$12,700
$12,600
Married Filing Separately
$6,350
$6,300
Dependents (kiddie tax)
$1,050
$1,050
65 or Blind: Married
Add $1,250
Add $1,250
Single
Add $1,550
Add $1,550

Other Key figures:

Estate & Gift Tax Exclusion
$5.49 million
$5.45 million
Annual Gift Tax Exclusion
$14,000
$14,000
Roth and Traditional IRA Contribution Limit
$5,500
$5,500

Caution: Remember, these are early figures using the recently announced Consumer Price Index. Official numbers are released by the IRS later in the year.

 

Charitable Donations from Your IRA

Charitable Donations from Your IRA

Can you take advantage?

One of the temporary tax provisions made permanent as part of the tax code in late 2015 is qualified charitable distributions from IRAs for those who have reached age 70½. Unfortunately in 2014 and 2015, the law was extended too late during the calendar year to reasonably use this tax law. In 2016 you have the ability to make a planned decision to use this tax benefit. Here is what you need to know.

The rule. For those age 70½ or older, you can have up to $100,000 of your IRA paid directly to qualified tax-exempt charities each year. These pre-tax funds are not subject to income tax by the federal government. This makes the contribution income tax free. No itemized deduction for your contributions is available on these direct transfers.

The benefits

Bullet Item Taxpayers do not have the contributions from their retirement accounts added to their Adjusted Gross Income. So as a planning tool, this donation strategy can keep Adjusted Gross Income low. This can help avoid things that come with higher income levels like different Medicare premiums.
Bullet Item The contribution counts towards a taxpayer’s annual Required Minimum Distribution. If a taxpayer does not need the income and does not want to be subject to required minimum distribution penalties, this can be a great alternative.
Bullet Item The contribution is a straight write off. Remember, these funds are sitting in your IRA in pre-tax status. When they are normally withdrawn, the funds are subject to income tax. This tax feature allows you the charitable deduction without the hassle of itemizing your deductions.

Some cautions

As with all tax laws, you must be aware of the rules. Foremost among them are;

Bullet Item The contribution must be made directly between your account and the charity.
Bullet Item This benefit is on the federal level. The tax treatment in your home state will vary.
Bullet Item Since the donation does not go through the taxpayer’s income, the donation is not subject to the percentage of income limits on charitable giving by type of organization.
Bullet Item Don’t wait. Since it usually takes time to initiate and complete this transfer, do not wait until the end of the year to make your direct contribution. The money must be at the charity prior to January 1st.

While this tax opportunity is not right for everyone, it is a new tool to use when creating your annual tax plan.

Time to Consider a Roth?

1040 form and IRS logoWith interest rates close to zero and a newly received refund check in hand, you may wish to consider a contribution to a Roth IRA.

The Roth IRA basics

Using after-tax funds, you can contribute up to $5,500 each year in a Roth IRA. If you are at least 50 years old, you can contribute an additional $1,000. As long as your Roth IRA has been open for 5 years or more and your withdrawal of earnings occurs after 59½ years old, any earnings you receive from this account are yours tax-free.

1 Tax-free earnings. Unlike other retirement accounts, Roth IRA earnings are not taxed by the Federal government when withdrawn.
2 Keep contributing. Most other retirement accounts have a contribution age limit of 70½. When you reach this age you not only need to stop contributing to the account, but you are required to make a minimum withdrawal from the account each year. These limits do not exist for Roth IRA accountholders.
3 You can withdraw your contributions. Remember with a Roth IRA, your contributions were already taxed. So there is no penalty for withdrawing these funds. Just remember there can be a penalty for withdrawing any earnings before you reach age 59½ or before having the account for five years.

There are limits

If you earn more than $132,000 (single) or $194,000 (married filing joint) you are not allowed to make a Roth Contribution in 2016. You can, however, convert funds from a traditional IRA without these income limitations.

There is Still Time for Retirement Funding

Financial papers

There is still time to make a contribution to a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA for the 2015 tax year. The annual contribution limit is $5,500 or $6,500 if you are age 50 or over. Prior to making the contribution, if you (or your spouse) are an active participant in an employer’s qualified retirement plan, you will want to make sure your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) does not exceed certain thresholds. There are also income limits to qualify to make Roth IRA contributions. The limits are outlined here.

2015 IRA Contribution limit: $5,500 or $6,500 (with age 50+ catch up provision)

2015 IRA Income (MAGI) Limits
Filing
Status
Traditional IRA
allowed contribution range
Roth IRA
allowed contribution range
Full
contribution
Phase-out
complete
Full
contribution
Phase-out
complete
SINGLE $61,000 $71,000 $116,000 $131,000
MARRIED
$98,000
both participating
$118,000
both participating
$183,000 $193,000
$183,000
spouse participating
$193,000
spouse participating
Note: Married Traditional IRA limits depend on whether either you, your spouse or both of you participate in a qualified employer-provided retirement plan. If married filing separate and either spouse participates in an employer’s qualified plan, the income phase-out to contribute is $0 – $10,000.

A final thought

If your income is too high to take advantage of these IRAs you can always make a non-deductible contribution to an IRA. While the contributions are not tax-deferred, the earnings are not taxed until they are withdrawn.