Holbrook & Manter, CPAs presents: 2013 Tax Planning Series: Part I

As 2013 draws to a close, there is still time to reduce your 2013 tax bill and plan ahead for 2014. Holbrook & Manter, CPAs is pleased to present the first in our three part series of tax planning strategies for 2013-2014 tax planning.  This post highlights several potential tax-saving opportunities for you to consider.

Basic Numbers You Need to Know

Because many tax benefits are tied to or limited by adjusted gross income (AGI)—IRA deductions, for example—a key aspect of tax planning is to estimate both your 2013 and 2014 AGI. Also, when considering whether to accelerate or defer income or deductions, you should be aware of the impact this action may have on your AGI and your ability to maximize itemized deductions that are tied to AGI. Your 2012 tax return and your 2013 pay stubs and other income- and deduction-related materials are a good starting point for estimating your AGI.

Another important number is your “tax bracket,” i.e., the rate at which your last dollar of income is taxed. Due to legislation in early 2013, the tax rates for 2013 changed from 2012 and are 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.6%. Although tax brackets are indexed for inflation, if your income increases faster than the inflation adjustment, you may be pushed into a higher bracket. If so, your potential benefit from any tax-saving opportunity is increased (as is the cost of overlooking that opportunity).

Gift Giving                                                                                    

The most commonly used method for tax-free giving is the annual gift tax exclusion, which, for 2013, allows a person to give up to $14,000 to each donee without reducing the giver’s estate and lifetime gift tax exclusion amount. A person is not limited as to the number of donees to whom he or she may make such gifts. Further, because the annual exclusion is applied on a per-donee basis, a person can leverage the exclusion by making gifts to multiple donors (family and non-family). Thus, if an individual makes $14,000 gifts to 10 donees, he or she may exclude $140,000 from tax. In addition, because spouses may combine their exemptions in a single gift from either spouse, married givers may double the amount of the exclusion to $28,000 per donee. A person may not carry over his or her annual gift tax exclusion amount to the next calendar year. Qualifying tuition payments and medical payments do not count against this limit.

IRA, Retirement Savings Rules for 2013

Tax-saving opportunities continue for retirement planning due to the availability of Roth IRAs, changes that make regular IRAs more attractive, and other retirement savings incentives.

Traditional IRAs: Individuals who are not active participants in an employer pension plan may make deductible contributions to an IRA. The annual deductible contribution limit for an IRA for 2013 is $5,500. For 2013, a $1,000 “catch-up” contribution is allowed for taxpayers age 50 or older by the close of the taxable year, making the total limit $6,500 for these individuals. Individuals who are active participants in an employer pension plan also may make deductible contributions to an IRA, but their contributions are limited in amount depending on their AGI. For 2013, the AGI phase-out range for deductibility of IRA contributions is between $59,000 and $69,000 of modified AGI for single persons (including heads of households), and between $95,000 and $115,000 of modified AGI for married filing jointly. Above these ranges, no deduction is allowed.

In addition, an individual will not be considered an “active participant” in an employer plan simply because the individual’s spouse is an active participant for part of a plan year. Thus, you may be able to take the full deduction for an IRA contribution regardless of whether your spouse is covered by a plan at work, subject to a phase-out if your joint modified AGI is $178,000 to $188,000 ($0 – $10,000 if married filing separately) for 2013. Above this range, no deduction is allowed.

Spousal IRA: If an individual files a joint return and has less compensation than his or her spouse, the IRA contribution is limited to the lesser of $5,500 for 2014 plus age 50 catch-up contributions, or the total compensation of both spouses reduced by the other spouse’s IRA contributions (traditional and Roth).

Roth IRA: This type of IRA permits nondeductible contributions of up to $5,500 for 2013. Earnings grow tax-free, and distributions are tax-free provided no distributions are made until more than five years after the first contribution and the individual has reached age 59 ½. Distributions may be made earlier on account of the individual’s disability or death. The maximum contribution is phased out in 2013 for persons with an AGI above certain amounts: $178,000 to $188,000 for married filing jointly, and $112,000 to $127,000 for single taxpayers (including heads of households); and between $0 and $10,000 for married filing separately who lived with the spouse during the year.

Roth IRA Conversion: Funds in a traditional IRA (including SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs), §401(a) qualified retirement plan, §403(b) tax-sheltered annuity or §457 government plan may be rolled over into a Roth IRA. Such a rollover, however, is treated as a taxable event, and you will pay tax on the amount converted. No penalties will apply if all the requirements for such a transfer are satisfied.

In past years, a taxpayer’s AGI (whether married filing jointly or single) was limited to $100,000 to make such a conversion and the taxpayer must not be a married individual filing a separate return. The AGI limitation does not apply to conversions from a Roth designated account in a §401 or §403(b) plan. For 2013, the $100,000 income limit on Roth IRA conversions also does not apply, and taxpayers will be able to make Roth IRA conversions without regard to their AGI. If you convert to a Roth IRA in 2013, the tax on the converted amount will have to be paid in the year of conversion. Also, if you already made a conversion earlier this year, you have the option of undoing the conversion. This is a useful strategy if the investments have gone down in value so that if you were to do the conversion now, your taxes would be lower. This is a complicated calculation and we should meet to determine what your best options are.

In addition, for 2013, if your §401(k) plan, §403(b) plan, or governmental §457(b) plan has a qualified designated Roth contribution program, a distribution to an employee (or a surviving spouse) from such account under the plan that is not a designated Roth account is permitted to be rolled over into a designated Roth account under the plan for the individual.

401(k) Contribution: The §401(k) elective deferral limit is $17,500 for 2013. If your §401(k) plan has been amended to allow for catch-up contributions for 2013 and you will be 50 years old by December 31, 2013, you may contribute an additional $5,500 to your §401(k) account, for a total maximum contribution of $23,000 ($17,500 in regular contributions plus $5,500 in catch-up contributions).

In many cases, employers will require you to set your 2014 retirement contribution levels before January 2014. If you did not elect the maximum 401(k) contribution for 2013, you can increase your amount for the remainder of 2013 to lower your AGI in order to take advantage of some of the tax breaks described above. In addition, maximizing your contribution is generally a good tax-saving move.

SIMPLE Plan Contribution: The SIMPLE plan deferral limit is $12,000 for 2013. If your SIMPLE plan has been amended to allow for catch-up contributions for 2013 and you will be 50 years old by December 31, 2013, you may contribute an additional $2,500.

Catch-Up Contributions for Other Plans: If you will be 50 years old by December 31, 2013, you may contribute an additional $5,500 to your §403(b) plan, SEP or eligible §457 government plan.

Saver’s Credit: A nonrefundable tax credit is available based on the qualified retirement savings contributions to an employer plan made by an eligible individual. For 2013, only taxpayers filing joint returns with AGI of $59,000 or less, head of household returns with AGI of $44,250 or less, or single returns (or separate returns filed by married taxpayers) with AGI of $29,500 or less, are eligible for the credit. The amount of the credit is equal to the applicable percentage (10% to 50%, based on filing status and AGI) of qualified retirement savings contributions up to $2,000.

Required Minimum Distributions

For 2013, taxpayers must take their required minimum distribution from IRAs or defined contribution plans (§401(k) plans, §403(a) and (b) annuity plans, and §457(b) plans that are maintained by a governmental employer).

Have questions about any of the above strategies? Please contact us. We can help you create a plan that will meet your financial goals and maximize your tax savings.