National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) Appleton, WI – National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) Appleton, WI – What is more exasperating than having to pay taxes? Understanding the constantly changing legislation affecting them! Yet, not fully understanding rights and how provisions work together costs taxpayers significantly every year. A mid-year tax review with an expert will help you. Here is why. Following are some common areas fraught with complex rules that cause taxpayers to miss valuable opportunities to leverage their options and lower their tax bills. Financial advisors and tax preparers are experts in these areas so you don’t need to be. Call your tax advisor for your mid-year review soon to discuss your financial plans and learn how you can save on your next tax return.
1) Overpayment or underpayment of taxes. Did you receive a big refund last year? If so, you overpaid and the government kept your money as a tax-free loan while you could have invested it and earned interest. Did you owe? Worse, were you stuck paying Alternative Minimum Tax? A mid-year review will help determine where you are and allow you to adjust your withholding now to avoid penalties later.
2) Saving for retirement – IRAs, 401(k)s, profit-sharing, pensions, employer-sponsored plans, etc. Many changes have taken place in the last few years regarding retirement savings plans. The plan you originally began with may have been advantageous when you started it, but it might not be anymore. So much has changed with these plans that it’s important to review them to see if they are still performing as you intended, and to find out if there are new products available that you are not taking advantage of.
Many taxpayers do not have an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and are missing an opportunity to defray their taxes and save for their own future. One of the primary reasons for not having an IRA is not starting one. Begin now, even if it is only a few dollars a paycheck. The government has increased the amounts IRA holders can save, and those over age 50 can place additional catch-up amounts into their IRAs.
3) Medical savings accounts and health savings accounts. Try comparing your high premium medical insurance plan against a high-deductible plan combined with a health savings account (HSA). You may be surprised at not only which one is less expensive, but reap tax savings besides. And are you using any available flexible spending accounts through your employer? They are another way to reduce taxable income.
4) Estimated tax payments. Adjusting these payments now will avoid underpayment penalties at year-end.
5) Take advantage of deduction bunching. Some itemized deductions must meet certain thresholds before you can claim them. By being aware of these and managing your expenditures to fall primarily in one year, rather than spread over two years, you may realize significant tax savings. This applies to several expenditures, especially to medical expenses, property tax payments, and charitable donations.
6) Getting married? Or divorced? These life-changing events have very significant tax implications. A divorce or change in child custody arrangements can mean tax implications in several areas. Attempting to reach a divorce settlement or filing taxes without expert financial advice will most likely not be to your advantage.
7) Beneficiary designations, Powers of Attorney, wills, estate planning. Are these working advantageously for you? Do you even have them in place? This is the time to get your plans in order and be sure that tax changes have not changed how you intended these contracts to work.
8) Buying or selling stocks, bonds, real estate, or other investments. Many tax rules apply to all of these transactions. For example, a real estate like-kind exchange may work to your advantage. If you’re selling a residence, perhaps the exclusion for selling a principal residence applies to you. There are capital gains and losses, wash sale rules, long-term gains and losses, and a whole array of other rules when it comes to stocks and bonds. And don’t forget, investment expenses count as miscellaneous itemized deductions when used for the production of income. Handling these transactions wisely, rebalancing, and making changes are the name of the game with investments. Your financial adviser is worth his or her weight in gold here.
9) Financial planning is important when you have children and teens. Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) and Section 529 plans are two ways to begin tax-deferred savings for a child’s education. Children grow up quickly, so begin these accounts early, and know how much you can add to them. Discipline yourself to save, and you help both yourself and your child.
Self-employed parents can hire their children or grandchildren and lower the overall family tax bill. The business also may benefit from hiring children under age 18, as their wages are exempt from social security and unemployment taxes paid from a parent’s sole proprietorship. Teens with earned income can make IRA contributions as well. However, if children plan to attend college, it is important to structure savings carefully to best work with college financial aid programs. When children are in college, remember to claim the education credits or the tuition and fees deduction.
10) Self-employed taxpayers and those with small businesses have many ways to plan for tax savings. This is another area where tax preparers prove their value. Several changes in recent years allow flexibility with carrybacks, carryforwards, employee benefit plans, expense deductions, etc. Certain small businesses that start retirement plans for their employees may even qualify for a tax credit to help recover the costs of starting up. The number-one rule-of-thumb here is to carefully document, backup, and substantiate all expenses in order to claim them on tax returns. If you have not done that, you will miss deductions. Timing of purchases and assets can make big differences on your tax return, and some of these things need to take place before year-end to qualify. Work closely with your tax preparer and plan carefully, using his or her advice.
The result of the calculated tax burden on your annual income tax return is not due to a few transactions, but is instead the result of how you’ve planned, invested, and leveraged your financial dealings throughout the year. Make this the year when you start taking a more deliberate and informed approach. Call now for that mid-year review.
For more information on this and other tax issues, consult a reputable tax preparer. Selecting the right tax professional will save you time, headaches, and oftentimes money. To find a professional tax preparer, look to NATP. NATP maintains a listing of professionals in your area at www.taxprofessionals.com.
Members of the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) strive to assist taxpayers with information and knowledge. NATP is a nonprofit professional association founded in 1979 and is committed to excellence in the tax profession. NATP’s national headquarters, located in Appleton, WI, employs over 40 professionals and 25 instructors. NATP exists to serve professionals who work in all areas of tax practice and has more than 18,000 members nationwide. Members include individual tax preparers, enrolled agents, public accountants, accountants, attorneys, and financial planners. Learn more at www.natptax.com.