Don’t leave money on the table!
An easy starting point is to review employer sponsored plans, such as a 401(k). If you are not on track to contribute the maximum $18,000 (or $24,000 if you’re age 50 or over), there may still be time to bump up your salary deferral. Consider how much you can save and push yourself to make an increase. This is also a good time to review if you are taking advantage of any matching contribution that may be offered. Don’t leave money on the table!
Give the Gift
Gift Exclusion & Education
The gift tax exclusion for 2016 is $14,000 per gift recipient, while married couples may give a total of $28,000 to any number of people tax-free within a calendar year. There is an exclusion for medical bills and school tuition since you can pay these expenses directly for others without being taxed. Be careful though, the education exclusion does not extend to books, fees, and living expenses.
You can also deduct up to $5,000 in 529 contributions for a single return, and $10,000 for a joint return, from New York state income tax if they are deposited before December 31st.
Mind Your RMDs
Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)
For folks over age 70.5, you are required to take a minimum distribution from retirement accounts, such as an IRA or 401k, before December 31st. The penalty for any amount not taken is steep – 50% tax on the amount not withdrawn on top of the income taxes that are still due. This also includes clients (regardless of age) who may be the beneficiaries of Inherited IRAs. It is important to partner with an Advisor for guidance, as not all investment custodians remind clients about these RMDs. If you are not sure if your RMD has been completed for this year, now is the time to check.
You have the option to donate any amount of your RMD proceeds to a charity for 2016 and excluding the donated amount from your taxable income for the year. This option is available only for those who are over age 70.5, so it excludes younger beneficiaries of Inherited IRAs. It is not available for donor-advised funds and you would not be able to claim the donated amount as a charitable tax deduction. No double dipping!
Score a Win-Win
If you make year-end donations to charity, consider making the donations with shares of appreciated securities. Not only will you get the full credit for the market value of the donated investment, but you will also avoid paying capital gains taxes. It’s a great time to consider this tax-planning strategy given that the stock market is trading at all times highs.
It's Open Season
Flex Spending Accounts (FSA)
If you have an FSA through your employer, you may need to spend those dollars by year-end or you lose them. It may also be open enrollment time for your benefits. Be sure to check with your Human Resources team to make sure you understand your specific benefit options.
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