Two Tax-Smart Ideas for your Tax Refund

Are you looking forward to your tax refund? By now you know how much you’ll be getting and approximately when the cash will land in your bank account. The only question is, what’s the best way to put the money to work for you?

Here are two tax-smart ideas:

Fund your IRA. Depending on your income, making a contribution to a Traditional IRA could result in a deduction on next year’s tax return – and possibly a credit of as much as $2,000. For 2016, you can contribute a maximum of $5,500 to your IRA. Add another $1,000 for a total of $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older.

Invest in knowledge. Establish a qualified tuition plan, commonly called a Section 529 plan, or a Coverdell Education Savings Account. While contributions are not tax-deductible, the account earnings grow tax-free, and distributions used for educational expenses are also generally tax-free.

Do you need work-related training? Education required by your employer or courses that improve or maintain skills necessary for your present job, can qualify for a deduction.

Give Tardy & Co., PC a call for tax preparation services in Albuquerque and if you would like to talk about how these options applies to your tax situation.

Higher Self-Employment Taxes Coming In 2017

Did you know the national average wage index went up? You might have missed the news, but it’s likely you will notice one impact: higher self-employment taxes.

How are the two related? The index is used to calculate the social security wage base, which is the amount of income subject to the 12.4% social security portion of the self-employment tax. When the index goes up, the wage base does too, and more of your income is taxed.

The wage base does not affect the 2.9% Medicare portion of the self-employment tax. Medicare tax is assessed on all net income from self-employment, including amounts above the base. The 0.9% Additional Medicare Tax is not affected either. That tax applies to your compensation in excess of $250,000 when you’re married filing jointly ($200,000 when you’re single).

For 2016, the wage base was $118,500. For 2017, the wage base will be $127,200. That means an additional $8,700 of the net profit from your business is subject to social security tax in 2017. The effect is an increase in the amount you pay, even though the total self-employment tax rate of 15.3% remains unchanged.

Please contact us for more information.

Teach Your Kids That Credit Cards Are Useful But Not Free

While credit cards can be very useful financial tools, the borrowed money is not “free.” Here are two opportunities to share that lesson with your kids.

When choosing a card. Show your kids the entire credit card lifecycle. Explain that when evaluating credit cards, a comparison of benefits is crucial. For example, although choosing a credit card that offers a large signing bonus may be tempting, an annual fee associated with the card can mean the benefit is not worth the cost.

When making payments. Have your kids review the monthly statement with you. Let them see the time lapse between the date a purchase is charged to when the bill is due, and mention how quickly the balance can add up over time if good spending habits are not followed. Explain the consequences of paying only the minimum required amount each month versus the entire amount due.

You don’t have to have all the answers when teaching your kids good credit card skills. Learning together gives you an opportunity to strengthen your understanding of card features and terms, as well as your child’s understanding. Let us know if you have questions. We’re happy to help.

Prepare In Advance For Required IRA Distributions

Once you reach age 70½, the required minimum distribution (RMD) rules say you have to withdraw at least a minimum amount from your retirement plans each year. Since the withdrawals are considered ordinary income, planning in advance can help you prepare for the impact on your federal income tax return. Here are two suggestions.

  • Make a list of your accounts. The rules require an RMD calculation for each plan. With traditional IRAs, including SEP and SIMPLE plans, you can take the total distribution from one or more accounts, in any amount you choose. You can also take more than the minimum. However, withdrawals from different types of retirement plans can’t be combined. Say for instance, you have one 401(k) and one IRA. You have to figure the RMD for each and take separate distributions. Failing to take distributions, or taking less than is required, could result in a penalty of 50% of the shortfall.
  • Plan your required beginning date. The general rule says you’re required to withdraw your RMD by December 31, starting in the year you turn 70½. The rules provide one exception: You have the option of postponing your first withdrawal until April 1 of the following year.

Delaying income can be a sound tax move. But because you’ll still have to take your second distribution by December 31, you’ll receive two distributions in the same year, which can increase your taxes.

Contact us before year-end to discuss your retirement plan distributions. We can help you create a sound plan.

Ready To Start Year-End Planning? Focus On The Big Picture

Some tax-cutting strategies make good financial sense. Others are simply bad ideas, often because tax considerations are allowed to override basic economics.

Here’s one example of the tax tail wagging the economic dog. Let’s say that you operate an unincorporated consulting business. You want an additional tax write-off, so you decide to buy $10,000 of office furniture that you don’t really need. If you’re in the 28% tax bracket and you deduct the entire cost, this purchase will trim your tax bill by $2,800 (28% of $10,000). But even after the tax break, you’ll still be out of pocket $7,200 ($10,000 minus $2,800) – and stuck with furniture that you don’t really need.

Other situations in which the focus on tax considerations ignores the bigger financial picture include:

  • Increasing the size of a home mortgage, solely to get a larger tax deduction for mortgage interest.
  • Hesitating to pay off a mortgage, just to keep the interest deduction.
  • Turning down extra income, due to worries about being “pushed into a higher tax bracket.”
  • Holding an appreciated asset indefinitely, solely to avoid paying the capital gains tax.

Tax-cutting strategies are part of a bigger financial picture. If you’re contemplating year-end tax-related moves, we can help make sure that everything stays in focus.

“Everyone” Is Not Your Customer

Indiscriminately trying to sell to “everyone” can dilute your message, muddy your image, and waste your company’s resources. To market effectively, you have to know your customers. Remember: Satisfied customers come back, and they generally refer others. Here’s how to get started.

Think about your typical customers: ages, interests, gender, aspirations, and financial and social status. In order of importance, list what customers are looking for when they come to your business. Do they seek selection, quality, price, service, or some combination? Is efficiency, expertise, or willingness to accommodate special requests particularly important to your customers? Do they demand convenience, or are they looking for atmosphere, ambience, or status?

When creating ads or other marketing tools, emphasize what your clients value, and communicate in their manner and style. For instance, low prices may not appeal to those who are more concerned with status, and ads to sell power tools rarely feature people in suits.

Getting to know your customers is mutually beneficial. You provide products and services that customers find valuable while at the same time creating revenue opportunities for your company. And isn’t that win-win dynamic the reason you started your business in the first place?

Who’s On Your Team?

Tough financial decisions can affect both current and future tax bills, and lining up a team of professional advisors who are ready and willing to help makes a difference. For the most benefit, make sure your advisors know each other and work well together. As you begin your year-end planning, here are three areas where coordinating tax, legal, and financial advice can pay off.

Investments. Capital gains and losses from sales of your securities affect your taxes, of course, but the kind of investments you make can also have an impact. For instance, buying municipal bonds to generate tax-free interest may result in the unintended outcome of creating income subject to the alternative minimum tax.

Insurance. The type of health insurance plan you select can have tax implications. An example: A Health Savings Account (HSA), used in conjunction with a high-deductible health plan, can save premium and tax dollars. You fund an HSA with pre-tax cash and take tax-free withdrawals to pay medical expenses.

Estate planning. Wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations provide the framework for carrying out your wishes after your death. Communication between your tax and legal advisors helps ensure that these documents offer the greatest protection for your heirs while minimizing estate tax consequences.

Please call us to schedule a comprehensive review of your goals. We’re delighted to be part of your professional team.