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All Posts > Taxes

Taxes Investments

Many IRA and retirement plan limits are indexed for inflation each year. While some of the limits remain unchanged for 2021, other key numbers have increased.
 

IRA contribution limits

 
The maximum amount you can contribute to a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA in 2021 is $6,000 (or 100% of your earned income, if less), unchanged from 2020. The maximum catch-up contribution for those age 50 or older remains $1,000. You can contribute to both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA in 2021, but your total contributions cannot exceed these annual limits.
 

Income limits for deducting traditional IRA contributions

 
If you (or if you're married, both you and your spouse) are not covered by an employer retirement plan, your contributions to a traditional IRA are generally fully tax deductible. If you're married, filing jointly, and you're not covered by an employer plan but your spouse is, your deduction is limited if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is between $198,000 and $208,000 (up from $196,000 and $206,000 in 2020), and eliminated if your MAGI is $208,000 or more (up from $206,000 in 2020).
 
For those who are covered by an employer plan, deductibility depends on your income and filing status.
 
If your 2021 federal income tax filing status is: Your IRA deduction is limited if your MAGI is between: Your deduction is eliminated if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household $66,000 and $76,000  $76,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) $105,000 and $125,000 (combined) $125,000 or more (combined)
Married filing separately $0 and $10,000 $10,000 or more

If your filing status is single or head of household, you can fully deduct your IRA contribution up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you are age 50 or older) in 2021 if your MAGI is $66,000 or less (up from $65,000 in 2020). If you're married and filing a joint return, you can fully deduct up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you are age 50 or older) if your MAGI is $105,000 or less (up from $104,000 in 2020).
 

Income limits for contributing to a Roth IRA

 
The income limits for determining how much you can contribute to a Roth IRA have also increased.
 
If your 2021 federal income tax filing status is: Your Roth IRA contribution is limited if your MAGI is: You cannot contribute to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household More than $125,000 but less than $140,000 $140,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) More than $198,000 but less than $208,000 (combined) $208,000 or more (combined)
Married filing separately More than $0 but less than $10,000 $10,000 or more

If your filing status is single or head of household, you can contribute the full $6,000 ($7,000 if you are age 50 or older) to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is $125,000 or less (up from $124,000 in 2020). And if you're married and filing a joint return, you can make a full contribution if your MAGI is $198,000 or less (up from $196,000 in 2020). Again, contributions can't exceed 100% of your earned income.
 

Employer retirement plan limits

 
Most of the significant employer retirement plan limits for 2021 remain unchanged from 2020. The
maximum amount you can contribute (your "elective deferrals") to a 401(k) plan remains $19,500 in 2021. This limit also applies to 403(b) and 457(b) plans, as well as the Federal Thrift Plan. If you're age 50 or older, you can also make catch-up contributions of up to $6,500 to these plans in 2021. [Special catch-up limits apply to certain participants in 403(b) and 457(b) plans.]
 
The amount you can contribute to a SIMPLE IRA or SIMPLE 401(k) remains $13,500 in 2021, and the catch-up limit for those age 50 or older remains $3,000.
 
Plan Type: Annual Dollar Limit: Cath-Up Limit:
401(k), 403(b), governmental 457(b), Federal Thrift Plan $19,500 $6,500
SIMPLE plans $13,500 $3,000

Note: Contributions can't exceed 100% of your income.
 
If you participate in more than one retirement plan, your total elective deferrals can't exceed the annual limit ($19,500 in 2021 plus any applicable catch-up contributions). Deferrals to 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and SIMPLE plans are included in this aggregate limit, but deferrals to Section 457(b) plans are not. For example, if you participate in both a 403(b) plan and a 457(b) plan, you can defer the full dollar limit to each plan — a total of $39,000 in 2021 (plus any catch-up contributions).
 
The maximum amount that can be allocated to your account in a defined contribution plan [for example, a 401(k) plan or profit-sharing plan] in 2021 is $58,000 (up from $57,000 in 2020) plus age 50 or older catch-up contributions. This includes both your contributions and your employer's contributions. Special rules apply if your employer sponsors more than one retirement plan.
 
Finally, the maximum amount of compensation that can be taken into account in determining benefits for most plans in 2021 is $290,000 (up from $285,000 in 2020), and the dollar threshold for determining highly compensated employees (when 2021 is the look-back year) remains $130,000 (unchanged from 2020).
 
How will IRA and retirement plan limits affect your plans? Kirtland Financial Services can help you navigate these rules.

Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!

 
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional. LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

Taxes Investments

It's nice to own stocks, bonds, and other investments. Nice, that is, until it's time to fill out your federal income tax return. At that point, you may be left scratching your head. Just how do you report your investments and how are they taxed?
 

Is it ordinary income or a capital gain?

 
To determine how an investment vehicle is taxed in a given year, first ask yourself what went on with the investment that year. Did it generate interest income? If so, the income is probably considered ordinary. Did you sell the investment? If so, a capital gain or loss is probably involved. (Certain investments can generate both ordinary income and capital gain income, but we won't get into that here.)
 
If you receive dividend income, it may be taxed either at ordinary income tax rates or at the rates that apply to long-term capital gain income. Dividends paid to an individual shareholder from a domestic corporation or qualified foreign corporation are generally taxed at the same rates that apply to long-term capital gains. Long-term capital gains and qualified dividends are generally taxed at special capital gains tax rates of 0 percent, 15 percent, and 20 percent depending on your taxable income. (Some types of capital gains may be taxed as high as 25 percent or 28 percent.) The actual process of calculating tax on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends is extremely complicated and depends on the amount of your net capital gains and qualified dividends and your taxable income. But special rules and exclusions apply, and some dividends (such as those from money market mutual funds) continue to be treated as ordinary income.
 
The distinction between ordinary income and capital gain income is important because different tax rates may apply and different reporting procedures may be involved. Here are some of the things you need to know.
 

Categorizing your ordinary income

 
Investments often produce ordinary income. Examples of ordinary income include interest and rent. Many investments — including savings accounts, certificates of deposit, money market accounts, annuities, bonds, and some preferred stock — can generate ordinary income. Ordinary income is taxed at ordinary (as opposed to capital gains) tax rates.
 
But not all ordinary income is taxable — and even if it is taxable, it may not be taxed immediately. If you receive ordinary income, the income can be categorized as taxable, tax exempt, or tax deferred.
 
  • Taxable income: This is income that's not tax exempt or tax deferred. If you receive ordinary taxable income from your investments, you'll report it on your federal income tax return. In some cases, you may have to detail your investments and income on Schedule B.
  • Tax-exempt income: This is income that's free from federal and/or state income tax, depending on the type of investment vehicle and the state of issue. Municipal bonds and U.S. securities are typical examples of investments that can generate tax-exempt income.
  • Tax-deferred income: This is income whose taxation is postponed until some point in the future. For example, with a 401(k) retirement plan, earnings are reinvested and taxed only when you take money out of the plan. The income earned in the 401(k) plan is tax deferred.
 
A quick word about ordinary losses: It's possible for an investment to generate an ordinary loss, rather than ordinary income. In general, ordinary losses reduce ordinary income.
 

Understanding what basis means

 
Let's move on to what happens when you sell an investment vehicle. Before getting into capital gains and losses, though, you need to understand an important term — basis. Generally speaking, basis refers to the amount of your investment in an asset. To calculate the capital gain or loss when you sell or exchange an asset, you must know how to determine both your initial basis and adjusted basis in the asset.
 
First, initial basis. Usually, your initial basis equals your cost — what you paid for the asset. For example, if you purchased one share of stock for $10,000, your initial basis in the stock is $10,000. However, your initial basis can differ from the cost if you did not purchase an asset but rather received it as a gift or inheritance, or in a tax-free exchange.
 
Next, adjusted basis. Your initial basis in an asset can increase or decrease over time in certain circumstances. For example, if you buy a house for $100,000, your initial basis in the house will be $100,000. If you later improve your home by installing a $5,000 deck, your adjusted basis in the house may be $105,000. You should be aware of which items increase the basis of your asset, and which items decrease the basis of your asset. See IRS Publication 551 for details.
 

Calculating your capital gain or loss

 
If you sell stocks, bonds, or other capital assets, you'll end up with a capital gain or loss. Special capital gains tax rates may apply. These rates may be lower than ordinary income tax rates.
 
Basically, capital gain (or loss) equals the amount that you realize on the sale of your asset (i.e., the amount of cash and/or the value of any property you receive) less your adjusted basis in the asset. If you sell an asset for more than your adjusted basis in the asset, you'll have a capital gain. For example, assume you had an adjusted basis in stock of $10,000. If you sell the stock for $15,000, your capital gain will be $5,000. If you sell an asset for less than your adjusted basis in the asset, you'll have a capital loss. For example, assume you had an adjusted basis in stock of $10,000. If you sell the stock for $8,000, your capital loss will be $2,000.
 
Schedule D of your income tax return is where you'll calculate your short-term and long-term capital gains and losses, and figure the tax due, if any. You'll need to know not only your adjusted basis and the amount realized from each sale, but also your holding period, your taxable income, and the type of asset(s) involved. See IRS Publication 544 for details.
 
  • Holding period: Generally, the holding period refers to how long you owned an asset. A capital gain is classified as short term if the asset was held for a year or less, and long term if the asset was held for more than one year. The tax rates applied to long-term capital gain income are generally lower than those applied to short-term capital gain income. Short-term capital gains are taxed at the same rate as your ordinary income.
  • Taxable income: Long-term capital gains and qualified dividends are generally taxed at special capital gains tax rates of 0%, 15%, and 20% depending on your taxable income. (Some types of capital gains may be taxed as high as 25 percent or 28 percent.) The actual process of calculating tax on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends is extremely complicated and depends on the amount of your net capital gains and qualified dividends and your taxable income.
  • Type of asset: The type of asset that you sell will dictate the capital gain rate that applies, and possibly the steps that you should take to calculate the capital gain (or loss). For instance, the sale of an antique is taxed at the maximum tax rate of 28 percent even if you held the antique for more than 12 months.
 

Using capital losses to reduce your tax liability

 
You can use capital losses from one investment to reduce the capital gains from other investments. You can also use a capital loss against up to $3,000 of ordinary income this year ($1,500 for married persons filing separately). Losses not used this year can offset future capital gains. Schedule D of your federal income tax return can lead you through this process.
 

New Medicare contribution tax on unearned income may apply
 

High-income individuals may be subject to a 3.8 percent Medicare contribution tax on unearned income (the tax, which first took effect in 2013, is also imposed on estates and trusts, although slightly different rules apply). The tax is equal to 3.8 percent of the
lesser of:
 
  • Your net investment income (generally, net income from interest, dividends, annuities, royalties and rents, and capital gains, as well as income from a business that is considered a passive activity), or
  • The amount of your modified adjusted gross income that exceeds $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing a joint federal income tax return, $125,000 if married filing a separate return)
 
So, effectively, you're subject to the additional 3.8 percent tax only if your adjusted gross income exceeds the dollar thresholds listed above. It's worth noting that interest on tax-exempt bonds is not considered net investment income for purposes of the additional tax. Qualified retirement plan and IRA distributions are also not considered investment income.
 

Getting help when things get too complicated

 
The sales of some assets are more difficult to calculate and report than others, so you may need to consult an IRS publication or other tax references to properly calculate your capital gain or loss. Also, remember that you can always seek the assistance of an accountant or other tax professional.
 
The tax implications for investments can seem complicated. Kirtland Financial Services specializes in helping you incorporate these implications into your plans.

Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!

 
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional. LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

Taxes Investments Retirement

Investment planning can be important for several reasons. However, any discussion of investment planning is incomplete without a thorough understanding of the applicable income tax ramifications. Tax planning can help you reduce the tax cost of your investments. Once you’ve created an investment plan to work toward your various financial goals, you should take advantage of the tax rules to ensure that your maximize the after-tax return on your investments. In other words, your goal is to select tax-favorable investments that are consistent with your overall investment plan.
 
In order to engage in investment tax planning, you need to understand how investments are taxed (including the concepts of capital gain income and ordinary income) and how to compare different investment vehicles. You also need to know how your own tax situation (i.e., your tax bracket, holding period, and tax basis) affects the taxation of your capital assets.
 
Caution: Investment choices should not be based on tax considerations alone, but should be based on several factors including your time horizons and risk tolerance.
 
Caution: Starting in 2013, a new 3.8 percent unearned income Medicare contribution tax will be imposed on the investment income of high-income individuals (generally, married individuals filing jointly with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeding $250,000, married individuals filing separately with MAGI exceeding $125,000, and single individuals with MAGI exceeding $200,000).
 

How does investment tax planning work?

Similar investments may carry substantially different tax costs. It is important to identify the differences and evaluate the costs. Consider the following points:
 
Investment earnings are taxed in different ways
 
Myriad investment vehicles are available to you. For instance, you can invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, money market funds, real estate, commodities, or your own business. Investment earnings are taxed in many different ways. Consequently, some investments earn less after tax than others. By taking advantage of these differences, you may save money. In addition, your tax savings can preserve your investments and, as a result, enhance future investment growth.
 
Investment tax planning can maximize your wealth
 
Tax investment planning involves maximizing the after-tax return on your investments. This is beneficial because the wealth that remains after you pay your taxes is ultimately more important to you than the value of your investments. It's the after-tax payout that enables you to finance a home, a child's education, a vacation, or your retirement. Thus, one goal of investment tax planning is to maximize future wealth. To do so, you need to know a little bit about taxes. In particular, you need to know the following:
 
  • How your investments are taxed
  • The before- and after-tax rates of return on your investments
  • How to compare investments in light of after-tax return
 

How are your investments taxed?

In order to understand how investments are taxed, you first need to become familiar with the following basic concepts:
 
  • Capital gains and losses
  • Qualified dividends
  • Ordinary (investment) income
  • Investment expenses
  • Tax-exempt income
  • Tax-deferred income
 
Capital gains and losses
 
While you hold a capital asset (e.g., your home, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, collectibles), you will not pay taxes on any increase in value. However, when you sell or exchange the asset, you will realize a capital gain (if you sell it for a profit) or loss (if you sell for less than the asset's cost). If you sell an asset after only a year or less, you will have a short-term capital gain. Short-term capital gains are taxed at ordinary income tax rates (i.e., your marginal income tax rate). If you own an asset for more than a year before you sell it, you will have a long-term capital gain.
 
Long-term capital gains tax rates are generally more favorable than ordinary income tax rates. Currently, the highest ordinary income tax rate is 37 percent whereas the highest long-term capital gains tax rate (for most assets) is 20 percent. That's a difference of 17 percent. Thus, holding an asset for long-term growth is a tax-saving strategy.
 
Tip: Long-term capital gains are generally taxed at special capital gains tax rates of 0 percent, 15 percent, and 20 percent depending on your taxable income. (Some types of capital gains may be taxed as high as 25 percent or 28 percent.) The actual process of calculating tax on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends is extremely complicated and depends on the amount of your net capital gains and qualified dividends and your taxable income.
 
You may offset capital gains with capital losses (short-term losses against short-term gains and long-term losses against long-term gains). If you have more losses than gains in a given year, you may offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income ($1,500 if married filing separately). Any remaining losses can be carried forward into future tax years. Thus, timing losses to offset gains is a tax-saving investment strategy.
 
Tip: You may also elect to include net capital gains from property held for investment as ordinary (investment) income. If you do so, such income will be taxed at ordinary income tax rates, not capital gains tax rates. This may be advantageous if you don't have capital losses, but do have investment interest expenses. Investment interest expense may only be deducted to the extent of investment income (though it can also be carried forward to future years). This election must be specifically made--if you do not make the election, the IRS will classify the income as capital gain income.
 
Capital gain is computed by subtracting the sale price from the asset's basis. Basis is your cost and includes the price you paid for the assets plus the cost of capital improvements. The higher your basis, the smaller your capital gain and the smaller your tax liability. Thus, you should keep careful records of the basis of an asset. This is especially important if you buy shares of stock in the same company at different times and different prices. This will allow you to control the tax consequences by picking particular shares to sell or hold.
 
Tip: If you want to sell an asset now but defer the recognition of the gain until later tax years, you may be able to arrange an installment sale with the buyer (but not for stocks or bonds). That way, you report and pay tax on the income as you receive it.

Qualified dividends

Qualified dividends are dividends received during the tax year by an individual shareholder from a domestic corporation or a qualified foreign corporation. Such dividends are taxable at the same rates that apply to long-term capital gains. This tax treatment applies to both regular tax and the alternative minimum tax.
 
Eligible dividends include dividends received directly from a domestic corporation or a qualified foreign corporation as well as qualified dividends passed through to investors by stock mutual funds, other regulated investment companies, partnerships, or real estate investment trusts (REITs). Thus, it may be advantageous to invest in vehicles that pay qualified dividends, especially if you need current income.
 
Distributions from tax-deferred vehicles, such as IRAs, retirement plans, annuities, and Coverdell education savings plans, do not qualify even if the funds represent dividends from stock. Thus, holding investments that pay qualified dividends within a tax-deferred plan may no longer be desirable.
 
Tip: Though qualified dividends are taxed at long-term capital gains tax rates, they cannot be offset by capital losses. However, as with capital gains, you can elect to include these dividends in investment income. If you do so, such income will be taxed at ordinary income tax rates, not capital gains tax rates. This may be advantageous if you have investment interest expenses in excess of investment income. Investment interest expense may only be deducted to the extent of investment income (though it can also be carried forward to future years). This election must be specifically made--if you do not make the election, the IRS will classify the income as net capital gain.
 
Ordinary (investment) income
 

Ordinary investment income consists of any investment income that is not capital gain income, qualified dividends, or tax-exempt income, and is taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Investment income is generated by investment property such as bonds and bond mutual funds. Examples of ordinary investment income include interest and dividends that are actually interest (and therefore don't qualify for taxation at long-term capital gains tax rates).

Generally, ordinary income tax treatment is not as favorable as long-term capital gains tax treatment.

Investment expenses

If you borrow money to buy investment property, you probably pay investment interest. Investment interest may be used to offset investment income only. Excess investment interest may be carried forward to future years.
 
Passive income and losses
 
A passive activity is an investment in a business in which you are not an active participant. Rental real estate and limited partnerships are two common examples. Income generated by a passive activity and gain from the sale or exchange of a passive activity is included in passive income and taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Generally, losses from passive activities may offset income from passive activities only--they cannot be used to offset ordinary income or capital gain income. However, excess losses in a given year can be carried forward into future tax years.
 
Tax-exempt income
 
There are a number of tax-exempt investment vehicles. One of the more common vehicles is the municipal bond. Usually, interest paid on municipal bonds is not subject to federal or state tax (at least not in the state of issue). When deciding whether to invest in taxable bonds or tax-exempt bonds, it is important to compare the after-tax rate of return on municipals with that on taxable bonds with similar risk.
 
Caution: While the interest on municipal bonds is tax exempt, capital gains tax may be imposed when you sell the bonds.
 
Caution: The interest on U.S. Government bonds is not exempt from federal income tax. However, the interest on federal securities is tax exempt at the state level.
 
Tip: Roth IRAs, although technically vehicles for holding investments and not truly investments themselves, should be discussed under the heading of tax-exempt income. A Roth IRA is a vehicle in which you can invest a limited amount of money each year for
retirement and certain other limited purposes (assuming that you satisfy certain criteria including adjusted gross income (AGI) limits). The income and gains on the account are not taxed at all as long as you follow all applicable rules. Be aware, though, that if all applicable rules are not followed, withdrawals will not only be subject to tax, they may also be subject to a penalty. Tax-free growth is clearly one of the most powerful investment tools available for creating wealth. However, you must use after-tax dollars
to make the initial investment and subsequent contributions. No IRA deduction is allowed for contributions to Roth IRAs.
 
Tax-deferred income
 
Tax-deferred investments produce earnings that are not taxed until withdrawn. These earnings are reinvested and continue to fuel investment growth. This is one of the most powerful investment tools available. First, there is a time-value of money advantage.
The longer you can keep the money in your own pocket and out of the hands of the IRS, the greater the potential benefit will be to you. Second, since our income tax rates are progressive, you may find yourself in a lower tax bracket in the year the earnings are
finally taxed. If so, the actual amount of tax paid on those investment earnings will be less. On the other hand, if you find yourself in a higher tax bracket in the year the earnings are finally taxed, the amount of tax paid on the earnings will be higher (assuming all else is equal).
 
Caution: Many retirement vehicles are designed to provide tax-deferred growth. The downside of this benefit is that all distributions from the retirement plan are taxed at ordinary income rates rather than at capital gains rates. This can result in potentially higher taxation in light of the progressively higher ordinary income tax rates.
 

What are before- and after-tax rates of return?

To compare investments, you must understand before- and after-tax rates of return. Ultimately, you want to compare the after-tax rate of returns on similar investments. The rate of return is the ratio of the annual amount an investment earns compared to the cost of the investment. Thus, if an investment cost you $10 and earned $1, the rate of return is 10 percent.
 
Before-tax rate of return
 
The before-tax rate of return is the annual market-rate of return. For example, a $10 bond that pays $1 per year in interest and is sold for $10 earns a 10 percent before-tax rate of return.
 
After-tax rate of return
 
The after-tax rate of return is the ratio of the after-tax income and gain to the amount invested. With the exception of tax-free investments, this rate is always lower than the before-tax or market rate of return. What do you need to know to compute the after-tax rate of return? Generally, you need to know the following:
 
  • What is the tax treatment of your investments (ordinary income, capital gains, tax exempt, tax deferred)?
  • What is your tax situation (your marginal tax rate, your holding periods, whether you’re invested in tax-deferred retirement accounts)?
 

How do you comparison shop for investments?

Comparison shopping for investments allows you to compare the after-tax return on two similar investments. In order to effectively make this assessment, you must consider two other issues:
 
  • Tax classification of the investment
  • Your tax situation
 
Tax treatment of the investment
 
You need to know whether the investment vehicle generates capital gains, ordinary income, tax-free, or tax-deferred income. There are two components to the after-tax rate of return: the portion attributable to earnings (such as interest) and the amount derived from a subsequent sale. You also need to know whether any capital gains will be treated as long-term or short-term capital gains.
 
Special rules can apply to certain kinds of investments such as wash sales, qualifying small business stock, short sales, installment sales, like-kind exchanges, and others. In addition, you may wish to know about market discount rules, anti-conversion rules, and tax shelters.
 
Your tax treatment
 
Your investment tax situation depends on several factors. In particular, you'll need to know the adjusted tax basis of your capital assets, the sale price of the assets, the holding period, the amount of the capital gain or loss, the amount of your ordinary
investment income or losses, and your marginal tax bracket.
 
Kirtland Financial Services specializes in helping you understand tax implications of investment decisions. Make your first appointment for free!

Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!
 
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional. LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

Taxes Estate Planning

When developing your estate plan, you can do well by doing good. Leaving money to charity rewards you in many ways. It gives you a sense of personal satisfaction, and it can save you money in estate taxes.
 

A few words about transfer taxes

The federal government taxes transfers of wealth you make to others, both during your life and at your death. In 2020, generally, the federal gift and estate tax is imposed on transfers in excess of $11,580,000 and at a top rate of 40 percent. There is also a separate generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax that is imposed on transfers made to grandchildren and lower generations. For 2020, there is a $11,580,000 exemption and the top rate is 40 percent.

Note: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law in December 2017, doubled the gift and estate tax basic exclusion amount and the GST tax exemption to $11,180,000 in 2018. After 2025, they are scheduled to revert to their pre-2018 levels and cut by about one-half.

You may also be subject to state transfer taxes.

Careful planning is needed to minimize transfer taxes, and charitable giving can play an important role in your estate plan. By leaving money to charity the full amount of your charitable gift may be deducted from the value of your gift or taxable estate.
 

Make an outright bequest in your will

The easiest and most direct way to make a charitable gift is by an outright bequest of cash in your will. Making an outright bequest requires only a short paragraph in your will that names the charitable beneficiary and states the amount of your gift. The outright bequest is especially appropriate when the amount of your gift is relatively small, or when you want the funds to go to the charity without strings attached.
 

Make a charity the beneficiary of an IRA or retirement plan

If you have funds in an IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan, you can name your favorite charity as a beneficiary. Naming a charity as beneficiary can provide double tax savings. First, the charitable gift will be deductible for estate tax purposes. Second, the charity will not have to pay any income tax on the funds it receives. This double benefit can save combined taxes that otherwise could eat up a substantial portion of your retirement account.
 

Use a charitable trust

Another way for you to make charitable gifts is to create a charitable trust. There are many types of charitable trusts, the most common of which include the charitable lead trust and the charitable remainder trust.

A charitable lead trust pays income to your chosen charity for a certain period of years after your death. Once that period is up, the trust principal passes to your family members or other heirs. The trust is known as a charitable lead trust because the charity gets the first, or lead, interest.

A charitable remainder trust is the mirror image of the charitable lead trust. Trust income is payable to your family members or other heirs for a period of years after your death or for the lifetime of one or more beneficiaries. Then, the principal goes to your favorite charity. The trust is known as a charitable remainder trust because the charity gets the remainder interest. Depending on which type of trust you use, the dollar value of the lead (income) interest or the remainder interest produces the estate tax charitable deduction.

Note: There are costs and expenses associated with the creation of these legal instruments.
 

Why use a charitable lead trust?

The charitable lead trust is an excellent estate planning vehicle if you are optimistic about the future performance of the investments in the trust. If created properly, a charitable lead trust allows you to keep an asset in the family while being an effective tax-minimization device.

For example, you create a $1 million charitable lead trust. The trust provides for fixed annual payments of $80,000 (or 8 percent of the initial $1 million value of the trust) to ABC Charity for 25 years. At the end of the 25-year period, the entire trust principal goes outright to your beneficiaries. To figure the amount of the charitable deduction, you have to value the 25-year income interest going to ABC Charity. To do this, you use IRS tables. Based on these tables, the value of the income interest can be high — for example, $900,000. This means that your estate gets a $900,000 charitable deduction when you die, and only $100,000 of the $1 million gift is subject to estate tax.
 

Why use a charitable remainder trust?

A charitable remainder trust takes advantage of the fact that lifetime charitable giving generally results in tax savings when compared to testamentary charitable giving. A donation to a charitable remainder trust has the same estate tax effect as a bequest because, at your death, the donated asset has been removed from your estate. Be aware, however, that a portion of the donation is brought back into your estate through the charitable income tax deduction.

Also, a charitable remainder trust can be beneficial because it provides your family members with a stream of current income — a desirable feature if your family members won't have enough income from other sources.

For example, you create a $1 million charitable remainder trust. The trust provides that a fixed annual payment be paid to your beneficiaries for a period not to exceed 20 years. At the end of that period, the entire trust principal goes outright to ABC Charity. To figure the amount of the charitable deduction, you have to value the remainder interest going to ABC Charity, using IRS tables. This is a complicated numbers game. Trial computations are needed to see what combination of the annual payment amount and the duration of annual payments will produce the desired charitable deduction and income stream to the family.

Charitable giving is important to many and how it’s handled can have an effect on your financial goals. Take a look at your charitable contributions as part of a comprehensive look at your financial plan. Kirtland Financial Services specializes in comprehensive financial planning—the whole picture!

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Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional. LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

Taxes

 

What are appropriate checklists for year-end tax planning?

Tax planners often develop checklists to guide taxpayers toward year-end strategies that might help reduce taxes. Typically, suggestions are grouped into several different categories, such as "Filing Status" or "Employee Matters," for ease of reading.

When year-end approaches, it might be wise to review each suggestion under the categories that may apply to you.

Filing status and dependents

  • If you're married (or will be married by the end of the year), you should compare the tax liability for yourself and your spouse based on all filing statuses that you might select. Compare the results when you file jointly and when you file married separately. Determine which results in lower overall taxation.
  • If you and several other people financially support someone but none of you individually qualifies to claim the individual as a dependent, you should consider making an agreement with all of the other parties to ensure that at least one of you can claim the individual as a dependent. Certain tax benefits may be available if you can claim an individual as a dependent.

Family tax planning

  • Determine whether you can shift income to family members who are in lower tax brackets in order to minimize overall taxes.
    • Tip: The kiddie tax rules apply to: (1) those under age 18, (2) those age 18 whose earned income doesn't exceed one-half of their support, and (3) those age 19 to 23 who are full-time students and whose earned income doesn't exceed one-half of their support.
  • Consider making gifts of up to $15,000 per person federal gift tax free under the annual gift tax exclusion. Use assets that are likely to appreciate significantly for optimum income tax savings.
  • Take advantage of tax credits for higher education costs if you're eligible to do so. These may include the American Opportunity (Hope) credit and the Lifetime Learning credit. Note that these credits are based on the tax year rather than the academic year. Therefore, you should try to bunch expenses to maximize the education credits.
    • Tip: If you have qualified student loans (and meet all necessary requirements), you may be entitled to take a deduction for the interest you paid during the year. The maximum amount you can deduct is $2,500.

Employee matters

  • Self-employed individuals (who generally use the cash method of accounting) can defer income by delaying the billing of clients until next year. You may also be able to defer a bonus until the following year.
  • Use installment sale agreements to spread out any potential capital gains among future taxable periods.

Business income and expenses

  • Accelerate expenses (such as repair work and the purchase of supplies and equipment) in the current year to lower your tax bill.
  • Increase your employer's withholding of state and federal taxes to help you avoid exposure to estimated tax underpayment penalties.
  • Pay last-quarter taxes before December 31 rather than waiting until January 15.
  • If you have significant business losses this year, it may be possible for you to apply them to the prior year's returns to receive a net operating loss carryback refund. If you had significant income in prior years, you should maximize the current year's losses by deferring income if possible.
  • In certain circumstances, it may be possible for the full cost of last-minute purchases of equipment to be deducted currently by taking advantage of Section 179 deductions.
  • Generally, you are able to make a contribution to your retirement plan at any time up to the due date (plus extensions) for filing a given year's tax return.

Financial investments

  • Pay attention to the changes in the capital gains tax rates for individuals and try to sell only assets held for more than 12 months.
  • Consider selling stock if you have capital losses this year that you need to offset with capital gain income.
  • If you plan to sell some of your investments this year, consider selling the investments that produce the smallest gain.
  • Personal residence and other real estate
  • Make your early January mortgage payment (i.e., payment due no later than January 15 of next year) in December so that you can deduct the accrued interest for the current year that is paid in the current year.
  • If you want to sell your principal residence, make sure you qualify to exclude all or part of the capital gain from the sale from federal income tax. If you meet the requirements, you can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples filing jointly). Generally, you can exclude the gain only if you used the home as your principal residence for at least two out of the five years preceding the sale. In addition, you can generally use this exemption only once every two years. However, even if you don't meet these tests, you may still be able to qualify for a reduced exclusion if you meet the relevant conditions.
  • Consider structuring the sale of investment property as an installment sale in order to defer gains to later years.
  • Maximize the tax benefits you derive from your second home by modifying your personal use of the property in accordance with applicable tax guidelines.

Retirement contributions

  • Make the maximum deductible contribution to your IRA. Try to avoid premature IRA payouts to avoid the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty (unless you meet an exception). Contribute the full amount to a spousal IRA, if possible. If you meet all of the requirements, you may be able to deduct annual contributions of $6,000 to your traditional IRA and $6,000 to your spouse's IRA. You may be able to contribute and deduct more if you're at least age 50.
  • Set up a retirement plan for yourself, if you are a self-employed taxpayer.Set up an IRA for each of your children who have earned income.
  • Minimize the income tax on Social Security benefits by lowering your income below the applicable threshold.

Charitable donations
  • Make a charitable donation (cash or even old clothes) before the end of the year. Remember to keep all of your receipts from the recipient charity.
  • Use appreciated stock rather than cash when contributing to charities. This may help you avoid income tax on the built-in gain in the stock, while at the same time maximizing your charitable deduction.
  • Use a credit card to make contributions in order to ensure that they can be deducted in the current year.

Adoption and medical expenses

  • Take advantage of the adoption tax credit for any qualified adoption expenses you paid. In 2020, you may be able to claim up to $14,300 (up from $14,080 in 2019) per eligible child (including children with special needs) as a tax credit. The credit begins to phase out once your modified AGI exceeds $214,520 (up from $211,160 in 2019), and it's completely eliminated when your modified AGI reaches $254,520 (up from $251,160 in 2019).
  • Maximize the use of itemized medical expenses by bunching such expenses in the same year, to the extent possible, in order to meet the threshold percentage of your AGI.

No two tax situations are the same. For a look at your individual tax liability and how it fits into your financial plans, Kirtland Financial Services is standing by.

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Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional. LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

Taxes COVID-19

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the due date for filing federal income tax returns and making tax payments has been postponed by the IRS from Wednesday, April 15, 2020, to Wednesday, July 15, 2020. No interest, penalties, or additions to tax will be incurred by taxpayers during this 90-day relief period for any return or payment postponed under this relief provision. 

The relief applies automatically to all taxpayers, and they do not need to file any additional forms to qualify for the relief. The relief applies to federal income tax payments (for taxable year 2019) and estimated tax payments (for taxable year 2020) due on April 15, 2020, including payments of tax on self-employment income. There is no limit on the amount of tax that can be deferred. 
  
Note: Under this relief provision, no extension is provided for the payment or deposit of any other type of federal tax, or for the filing of any federal information return. 
  
Need more time? 
If you're not able to file your federal income tax return by the July due date, you can file for an extension by the July due date using IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Filing this extension gives you an additional three months (until October 15, 2020) to file your federal income tax return. You can also file for an automatic three-month extension electronically (details on how to do so can be found in the Form 4868 instructions). There may be penalties for failing to file or for filing late. 

Filing for an extension using Form 4868 does not provide any additional time to pay your tax. When you file for an extension, you have to estimate the amount of tax you will owe and pay this amount by the July filing due date. If you don't pay the amount you've estimated, you may owe interest and penalties. In fact, if the IRS believes that your estimate was not reasonable, it may void your extension. 

Tax refunds 
The IRS encourages taxpayers seeking a tax refund to file their tax return as soon as possible. Apparently, most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days of the IRS receiving a tax return. 

You matter to us! We’re here to help you make sense of these recent changes.

Book your appointment with a Wealth Management Advisor today by calling 505-254-4364 or online at KirtlandFCU.org/Schedule

 

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