The deadline for filing your 2018 tax return is right around the corner. Have you filed your return yet? If so, were you satisfied with the outcome? Or were you surprised by how much you paid in taxes last year? The recent tax law dramatically changed the tax code. For many Americans, the law means reduced taxes. If you don’t plan accordingly, however, it’s possible that you could owe money to the IRS after your filing. It’s also possible that you could pay more in taxes than necessary.
Now is a great time to review your strategy and identify action steps that could reduce your tax exposure. If you haven’t reviewed your financial plan recently, you may be missing out on a number of tax-efficient tools and products. Below are a few tips to consider as you review your taxes:
Review your deductions.
One of the biggest changes of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the elimination and reduction of a wide range of deductions. Most itemized deductions were eliminated, including those for alimony payments and interest on many types of home equity loans. Caps were also implemented for state, local and property tax deductions. The law also eliminated personal exemptions.1 To make up for these changes, the law more than doubled the standard deduction.1 For many people, that means it will be more advantageous to take the standard deduction than to itemize deductions. If you’ve planned your spending based on the ability to itemize and deduct certain expenses, you may want to reconsider your strategy. Those deductions may no longer be allowed under the new law.
Check your withholding amount.
The law also reduced tax rates across the board and changed the income brackets for each rate level. As a result, many employers adjusted their withholding amounts. Not all did, however. And some may have adjusted their withholdings incorrectly. In fact, according to a study from the Government Accountability Office, 30 million people, or just over 20 percent of taxpayers, are not withholding enough money from their paychecks to cover taxes.2 Are you part of that group? If you’re not sure, talk to your financial professional about whether you should increase your withholdings.
Maximize your tax-deferred savings.
Tax deferral is a great way to reduce current taxes and save for the future. In a tax-deferred account, you don’t pay taxes on growth in the current year as long as your money stays in the account. You may face taxes in the future when you take a distribution. Many qualified retirement accounts, such as 401(k) plans and IRAs, offer tax-deferred growth. In 2019 you can contribute up to $19,000 to your 401(k), plus an additional $6,000 if you are age 50 or older. You can put as much as $6,000 into an IRA, or up to $7,000 if you’re 50 or older.3 Want more tax deferral beyond your 401(k) and IRA? Consider a deferred annuity. Annuities offer tax-deferred growth. They also offer a variety of ways to increase your assets. Some pay a fixed interest rate and have no downside risk. Others let you participate in the financial markets according to your risk tolerance and goals. A financial professional can help you find the right annuity for your strategy.
Develop sources of tax-efficient retirement income.
Taxes don’t stop when you quit working. If you’re approaching retirement, now may be the time to plan ahead and minimize your future tax exposure. You can take steps today to create tax-efficient income for your retirement.
For example, distributions from a Roth IRA are tax-free assuming you’re over age 59½. You may want to start contributing to a Roth or even consider converting your traditional IRA into a Roth. You can also use a permanent life insurance policy as a source of tax-efficient income. You can withdraw your premiums from your life insurance cash value tax-free. Also, loans from life insurance policies are tax-free distributions. You may want to discuss with your financial professional how life insurance could reduce your future taxes in retirement.
Licensed Insurance Professional. We are an independent financial services firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of investment and insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Investing involves risk, including the loss of principal. No Investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in a period of declining values. Any references to protection benefits or lifetime income generally refer to fixed insurance products, never securities or investment products. Insurance and annuity products are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. The information is not intended to be investment, legal or tax advice. The agent can provide information, but not advice related to social security benefits. The agent may be able to identify potential retirement income gaps and may introduce insurance products, such as an annuity, as a potential solution. For more information, contact the Social Security Administration office, or visit www.ssa.gov.