year end tax planning considerations for individuals

Year-End Tax Planning Considerations for Individuals

Although the year is almost over, it’s not too late to improve one’s tax situation for 2018 and beyond. This blog reviews some actions that one can take before Dec. 31 to possibly improve their tax situation.

Capture Losses in Stocks and Bonds

Nail down losses on stock while substantially preserving one’s investment position. A taxpayer may have experienced paper losses on stock in a particular company or industry in which they want to keep an investment. The taxpayer may be able to realize his or her losses on the shares for tax purposes and still retain the same, or approximately the same, investment position. This can be accomplished by selling the shares and buying other shares in the same company or another company in the same industry to replace them, or by selling the original holding then buying back the same securities at least 31 days later.

Make Itemized Deductions Count

Apply a bunching strategy to deductible contributions and/or payments of medical expenses. Beginning in 2018, many taxpayers who claimed itemized deductions in prior years will no longer be able to do so. That’s because the standard deduction has been increased and many itemized deductions have been cut back or abolished. A bunching strategy can help taxpayers get around the new reality—namely accelerating or deferring discretionary medical expenses and/or charitable contributions into the year where they will do some tax good. For example, a taxpayer who expects to itemize deductions in 2018 but not 2019, and usually contributes a total of $1,500 to charities each year, should consider making a total of $3,000 of charitable contributions before the end of 2018 (and skipping charitable contributions in 2019).

Charitable IRA RMD’s Reduce Income

Use IRAs to make charitable gifts. Taxpayers who have reached age 70-½, own IRAs, and are thinking of making a charitable gift should consider arranging for the gift to be made by way of a qualified charitable contribution, or QCD—a direct transfer from the IRA trustee to the charitable organization. Such a transfer (not to exceed $100,000) will neither be included in gross income nor allowed as a deduction on the taxpayer’s return. But, since such a distribution is not includible in gross income, it will not increase AGI for purposes of the phaseout of any deduction, exclusion, or tax credit that is limited or lost completely when AGI reaches certain specified level.

A qualified charitable contribution before year-end is a particularly good idea for retired taxpayers who don’t need all of their as-yet undistributed RMD for living expenses. That’s because a charitable contribution distribution reduces the amount of the RMD that must be withdrawn, resulting in tax savings.

Don’t Lose Your Gift Exemptions

Make year-end gifts. A person can give any other person up to $15,000 for 2018 without incurring any gift tax. The annual exclusion amount increases to $30,000 per donee if the donor’s spouse consents to gift-splitting. Anyone who expects eventually to have estate tax liability and who can afford to make gifts to family members should consider doing so. Besides avoiding transfer tax, annual exclusion gifts take future appreciation in the value of the gift property out of the donor’s estate, and shift the income tax obligation on the property’s earnings to the donee who may be in a lower tax bracket (if not subject to the kiddie tax).