What comes to mind when dreaming about and planning for your retirement? Probably the last thing on your mind is taxes! During the working and pre-retirement years, most people only think about taxes in February, and once their return is filed, they put this unpleasant topic completely out of mind. But it is important to keep taxes in mind year-round if you want to minimize your liability. It becomes even more important during retirement when you are drawing down your accounts instead of building them up. If you want to improve your Return on Life in retirement, here are 5 tax-saving strategies to consider.
1. Limit Your Exposure to the 3.8% Medicare Surcharge Tax
There is a 3.8% Medicare surcharge tax that applies to net investment income for singles with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of over $200,000 and couples with a MAGI over $250,000. The MAGI is adjusted gross income with some deductions added back in, such as tax-free foreign income, IRA contributions, and student loan interest. The surcharge tax is due on the smaller net investment income (which includes interest, dividends, annuities, gains, passive income, and royalties) or the excess of MAGI over the thresholds.
If your MAGI is near or above the thresholds, there are steps you can take to limit your exposure. First, you will want to review the tax efficiency of your investment holdings. It may be worthwhile to move less efficient investments into tax-deferred accounts and capitalize on tax-loss harvesting. Other moves you can make include investing in municipal bonds, which have tax-free interest, and taking capital losses to offset gains. Installment sales can spread out large gains and minimize your adjusted gross income, and real estate-like-kind exchanges can also defer gains and their taxability.
2. Utilize Roth IRA Conversions
Distributions from Roth IRAs are tax-free, so they are a great tool to have in retirement. However, many people cannot contribute directly to a Roth IRA because of income limitations. Instead, you have to convert traditional IRA funds to a Roth account by paying the related income taxes. You can take advantage of low-income years, such as when you have stopped working but are not yet collecting Social Security, to convert your funds to a Roth IRA so you will have tax-free income later. It is important to be mindful of tax brackets when you do conversions so you do not inadvertently push yourself into higher tax rates.
3. Take Advantage of the 0% Rate on Long-Term Capital Gains
If the Medicare surcharge tax is irrelevant to you because your income is lower, then you may be able to take advantage of the 0% long-term capital gains rate. Profits on the sales of assets owned over a year are tax-free if your income is below $41,675 for singles or $83,350 for married couples filing jointly. Once you exceed those thresholds, long-term capital gains are taxed at 15% until your income gets above $459,750 for singles or $517,200 for couples, at which point the tax rate is 20%.
Claiming more deductions or making deductible IRA contributions can help keep your income within the 0% capital gains tax range while also providing their usual tax benefits. However, you will want to be strategic about taking tax-free gains as they can raise your adjusted gross income and affect the taxability of your Social Security benefits. Also, taking those gains may incur state tax liabilities as well.
4. Be Strategic About Inherited IRAs
At the beginning of the year, the laws surrounding IRAs inherited by non-spouses changed. You no longer have to take out a specific amount of money from the account each year, but you do have to empty the account within 10 years. If you fail to be strategic about withdrawals, you could be forced to empty the entire account at once with 10 years’ worth of growth. The problem with that is that it would greatly increase your taxable income for the year, pushing you into higher tax brackets and subjecting you to added taxes, like the Medicare surcharge tax. If you inherit an IRA from someone other than your spouse, you need to be strategic about your withdrawals and time them to limit your tax liability.
5. Donate Effectively
If you are charitably inclined, one of the best ways to save on taxes is through donations. You can get a tax deduction on donations up to 60% of your adjusted gross income. If you have appreciated assets, you can get an even greater tax break. When you donate an appreciated asset that you have owned for over a year, such as stocks, to a charity, you do not have to pay capital gains taxes on the appreciation, but you still get to claim the full value for your deduction. This allows you to avoid the capital gains tax altogether. If your assets have declined in value, it is best to sell them yourself and donate the proceeds so you can claim the loss when filing your taxes.
Another strategy to consider is the use of a charitable lead annuity trust or a donor-advised fund, which allows you to take an up-front write-off that can help offset other income, such as from a Roth IRA conversion or withdrawal from an inherited IRA.
How We Can Help
Worrying about taxes in retirement is a common fear for pre-retirees, but the good news is there aresteps you can take to minimize your tax burden. Since many factors come into play to execute these strategies properly, it is best to consult a professional. An experienced financial advisor can help you navigate all the details so you can have confidence in your retirement plan.
If you do not already have a trusted advisor, I would love to have a conversation with you to show you how our team at Wellstone Wealth Management may be able to help. Schedule a complimentary introductory meeting by contacting us at 503-594-1210 or email@example.com.
Greg Allen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, Life-Centered Financial Planner, Managing Member, and second-generation owner of Wellstone Wealth Management, a life-centered financial planning firm that takes a unique Return on Life (ROL) approach to help their clients live the best life possible with the money they have. With over 20 years of experience, Greg holds fast to his mission of helping clients plan their finances around their lives, instead of the other way around, resulting in fulfillment, confidence, and a meaningful life. Greg also provides a caring, trusted long-term relationship and life-centered financial behavioral counseling. He specializes in working with people who have recently retired or are close to it (typically five years or less) and relates well to corporate executives and upper-management couples who often have complicated financial pictures and need help maximizing their wealth, reducing their taxes, and preparing for retirement so they can maintain their ideal lifestyle.
When he is not helping his clients find meaning and purpose, you can find Greg spending time with his friends and family, especially his wife, Sandy, children, and grandchildren. As a native Oregonian, Greg loves the outdoors, visiting the Oregon Coast, and retreating to their family cabin in the mountains. He enjoys staying involved with his church, reading, watching sports, and anything to do with exercise and wellness. To learn more about Greg, connect with him on LinkedIn.
Information provided herein is provided by Wellstone Wealth Management, LLC. This information is for general informational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Information was compiled from third-party sources believed to be reliable and accurate but cannot be guaranteed. Investment advisory services are offered through Oswego Wealth Advisors, Inc., an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Neither Wellstone Wealth Management, LLC nor Oswego Wealth Advisors, Inc renders any legal, accounting, or tax advice. All investments involve risk, are not guaranteed, and may lose value. We recommend that all investors consult with a qualified adviser to assess their personal situation before implementing any strategy.
Please remember to contact your advisor when your financial circumstances or objectives change. Your advisor may recommend adjustments to your financial planning and investment strategies to better suit your current situation.