Financial News & Research
You've just put your 2014 tax return to bed, but there's no rest for the weary. It's already time to focus on tax planning for 2015. Appropriately enough, here are 15 midyear tax-saving ideas to consider:
1. Harvest losses from securities sales. If you cashed in stock market winners earlier in the year, now's a good time to start filling up the loss side of the ledger. Your capital losses will completely offset capital gains realized in 2015, plus up to $3,000 of highly taxed ordinary income.
2. Recognize low-taxed capital gains. Conversely, if you sell securities qualifying as long-term capital gains, the maximum tax rate is only 15% or 20% if you're in one of the top two ordinary income tax brackets. But keep in mind that some upper-income investors also may have to pay a surtax of 3.8% on capital gains.
3. Take the 0% tax rate to the max. If you expect 2015 to be a low-income year (for example, you may incur a substantial business loss), a portion of your long-term capital gains may qualify for a rock-bottom 0% tax rate that applies to investors in the regular 10% and 15% tax brackets. When possible, realize investment income up to the top threshold of the 15% rate. Also, consider this strategy for your children.
4. Sidestep the wash sale rule. If you acquire securities that are substantially identical, within 30 days of selling securities at a loss, you can't deduct the loss. But this harsh "wash sale" result can be avoided by waiting at least 31 days to buy back the same securities. Alternatively, you could buy the securities first and wait at least 31 days before selling your original shares.
5. Invest in dividend-paying stocks. Most stock dividends are taxed at the same preferential tax rates as long-term capital gains. To qualify for this tax break, you must hold the shares for at least 61 days.
6. Arrange an installment sale. Generally, you can defer tax on the sale of real estate or other property if you receive payments over two years or longer. In addition to stretching out tax payments over time, you might reduce the effective tax rate if you stay below the thresholds for higher capital gains rates and the 3.8% surtax.
7. Contribute to a 401(k). Reduce your 2015 tax liability by increasing contributions to a 401(k) plan where you work. For 2015, the maximum deferral is $18,000 ($24,000 if age 50 or over). Not only do you avoid tax on the contributions, the money in your account compounds tax-deferred until you withdraw it during retirement.
8. Convert to a Roth IRA. If you have funds in a traditional IRA, you can convert some or all of those funds to a Roth IRA. Roth distributions in the future will be tax-free if they meet a few conditions. But you don't have to convert all at one time. Instead, stagger taxable conversions over several years to lessen the tax bite.
9. Sell the old homestead. The tax law allows you to exclude tax on a gain of up to $250,000 for single filers and $500,000 for joint filers if you've owned and used a home as your principal residence at least two of the past five years. Your gain also is exempt from the 3.8% surtax.
10. Rent out a vacation home. You can write off certain rental activity costs, plus depreciation, but be careful: If your personal use of the rental home exceeds the greater of 14 days, or 10% of the days the home is rented out, your deductions are limited to the amount of your rental income.
11. Support your college grad. Generally, you can claim a $4,000 dependency exemption for a child graduating from college in 2015 if you provide more than 50% of the child's annual support. Figure out the amount of support needed to put you over that mark.
12. Dust off charitable donations. Don't toss out old furniture and clothing; give items in good condition to charity. Generally, you can deduct the fair market value of property donated to a qualified charitable organization, within certain limits.
13. Send your kids to camp. If your under-age-13 children attend a day camp while you (and your spouse, if married) work this summer, you may qualify for the dependent care credit. However, the cost of overnight camp isn't eligible.
14. Adjust your withholding. Check to see whether you're having enough income tax withheld from your paychecks. Make necessary adjustments so you don't have to pay an "estimated tax penalty" in 2015.
15. Give 'til it hurts. Finally, under the annual gift tax exclusion, you can give up to $14,000 to any family member in 2015 free of gift tax. This reduces the size of your taxable estate for the future.