Quick, Simple Guide to Year-End Tax Essentials
NEW YORK ( MainStreet As 2013 comes to a close, all of us are facing down our tax bills. Here on MainStreet we rounded up some expert advice from Dan Sudit of BMO Wealth Management Gordon Bernhardt CPA of Bernhardt Wealth Management and representatives from The Tax Institute at H&R Block to provide you with a little guide to year-end taxes planning. Here are 8 tips from the experts that can help you hold on to your hard earned dollars.
Retirement Plans: Start by examining your 401(k) or your Roth IRA. End-of-year contributions can reduce taxable income for this year that can in turn result in lowering your tax bracket. It can also reduce your exposure to either higher capital gains tax rates or the Affordable Healthcare Act surtax. Secondly, for those employees that time their contributions properly, they can maximize employer matches. This is free money. Lastly, it is an investment vehicle that provides tax-deferred compounded growth for a time later in life when your taxable income may be lower. For both tax years, 2013 and 2014, 401(k) contribution limits are $17,500. For those 50 and over, you can contribute an additional $5,500 totaling $23,000. For those contributing to traditional or Roth IRAs, the limits are $5,500 and for those over 50, $6,500. For those who are wary of the fluctuations in the stock market, these plans can also be invested in cash in most cases. It is best to seek the advice of a veteran advisor.
Pay Bills Ahead: Another great way to increase deductions is to make payments for large ticket items such as mortgages and tuition. This also works well for businesses. If there are expenses you know you are going to have to pay, cutting these checks ahead of time saves money in April.
Non-qualified deferred compensation plan: These plans are especially useful to the self-employed, owners of companies or those who maximized their retirement benefits. These plans defer payments while an employee is working for a company, and are paid out when they separate from the company, become disabled, etc. Additionally, with each deferral, you can elect different distribution dates. Often, individuals will time their distributions with their retirement or other significant hallmarks. Like a 401(k), this allows for compounded tax deferred growth. A significant distinction that must not be ignored is that these plans are not qualified and generally, unfunded. This means that those who participate in these plans are general creditors of the company and take on that risk. If the company were to file for bankruptcy protection, the certainty of those dollars could be compromised.
Review W-4: Many times W-4 forms are not filled out accurately, or they are never updated for life changes such as marriage or the birth of a child. Not having these deductions documented can cost money. An employer uses a W4 to determine how much income tax is withheld from paychecks. The amount of tax withheld is based on the number of withholding allowances an employee claims. Employees should adjust their withholding allowances when major life changes occur. The number of withholding allowances is generally close to the number of exemptions claimed on tax returns.