Retirement Planning and Your Taxes: Big List of Tips for Keeping More of Your Own Money
Not even retirement taxes are completely certain right now. The Federal tax payment deadline has been moved to July 15. And, it was just announced that taxpayers can also wait to file returns.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted, “all taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.” He also encouraged all taxpayers who may have tax refunds coming to “file now to get your money,”
This deadline extension is for federal returns. Double-check your state’s tax deadlines to see if there are any delays.
Either way, Here is a BIG list of tips for keeping more of your money.
Let’s State the Obvious — Taxes Are a Big Budget Item
The average American pays about $10,500 a year in total income taxes — federal, state and local. Of course, many households pay a lot more and some people pay nothing at all — depending on your income level.
Ten thousand dollars is a big chunk — about 14% — of the average budget. So, if you think about it, taxes can be a bigger lever in your budget than investment returns, cutting expenses or waiting to claim Social Security for a bigger benefit check.
As such, it is worth worrying about your tax bill in retirement. However, taxes ARE lower for people who are older. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average tax bill by age is:
- $16,339 for people ages 45-54
- $12,660 for those 55-64
- $5,871 for people 65-74
- Only $1,432 for people over 75
Taxes fall as you get older primarily because most retirees have less taxable income. And, there is a lot retirees can do to manipulate their income to optimize for taxes.
Taxes Should Be a Big Part of Your Retirement Plans
On the one hand, taxes generally fall in retirement. On the other hand, they can still be a significant budget factor.
Darrow Kirkpatrick of Can I Retire Yet has done some really interesting analysis and came to the conclusion that it can often be incredibly important to do a good job of predicting taxes as part of your detailed retirement plan.
He says, “If you make a major mistake [about taxes], you could throw off your retirement calculations by a significant factor. My “One Retirement Number” article showed that for a typical couple in retirement, the effective tax rate fluctuated dramatically — between zero and 23.8% — and there was NO simple single number you could choose to give the correct answer over an entire retirement!
Other estimates suggest that for each 1% error in effective tax rate, you introduce an 8% error in your final savings balance.
It is important that you be able to predict your taxes for the next 20 or 30 years. While not perfect, the NewRetirement retirement planning calculator attempts to at least calculate a credible estimate for what you will pay in taxes each year.
This sophisticated system:
- Automatically estimates your federal and state gross taxable income, deductions, and estimated taxes by year using the latest available tax tables and rates.
- Allows you to set different levels of income throughout retirement to approximate your tax bracket for each year. Additionally, it allows you to specify if annuity and/or pension income should be taxed (at both the federal and state levels).
- Automatically estimates how much of your Social Security income will be considered taxable based on the state you live in and your gross taxable income by year.
- Lets you specify how much of your savings are in different types of taxable and non taxable accounts and it automatically calculates the tax liability (or lack thereof) for each account, as well as tax deduction handling of contributions. And, if you live in a state that doesn’t tax retirement savings withdrawals, the NewRetirement Planner supports that, as well.
- Estimates required minimum distributions (RMDs) from retirement accounts starting at age 72 – a significant lever when it comes to tax liability in retirement.
- Allows you to choose if investment returns on after-tax savings should be treated as long-term capital gains or ordinary income.
- If you are considering a Roth conversion, the calculator will estimate the tax hit in the year of the conversion as well as the benefit down the road when you draw from the Roth account.
- If you are planning on relocating, the system factors that in and uses your new state tax rates for the years following your planned move.
For a full listing of the current tax rules in the system, which are regularly being updated, visit the Assumptions page after logging in.
Know Your Retirement Tax Rates
In retirement, you may have to estimate your tax bracket. Overestimating and underestimating can both cause problems, so it might be a good idea to seek help from a financial advisor or accountant when estimating. It’s important to know that even if you know your tax bracket, you might not know how much you will ultimately end up paying in taxes. Estimating your bracket should at least give you some idea.
First, add up your retirement income and determine at what age you will start receiving distributions from your various retirement savings vehicles. Remember that not all your retirement sources will be taxed the same way. For example, a portion of your retirement income might be taxed at a lower rate until you start receiving higher distributions, or some of your income might not be taxable at all.
It’s also crucial to know your tax bracket for estimating how much you’ll pay in capital gains tax on the sale of any investments subject to the tax.
To calculate your estimated tax payments, you can use the worksheet with Form 1040 ES. Estimated tax payments are due each year on April 15th, June 15th, September 15th, and January 15th of the following year.
The NewRetirement Planner automates tax estimates and forecasts. Create an account now and learn more about your retirement taxes.
At this point in your life, you will most likely have several different account types, which may include a brokerage account, a traditional tax-deferred account like an Independent Retirement Account (IRA) or a 401(k), and a Roth IRA in which you can withdraw tax-free, explains Pamela Kornblatt, president of Tax Strategist, LTD, based in New York City.
“Conventional wisdom holds that you should start by drawing on the taxable assets and then move next to the tax deferred vehicles, saving the Roth, which is tax-free, for last,” Kornblatt says. “However it may not necessarily be advantageous to strictly follow this order, and it is in fact ideal to keep assets in each type of account to be able to tap into them throughout your lifetime.”
It’s a good idea to make sure you maintain assets in each of the three types of accounts, Kornblatt explains. “This allows for added flexibility to both help lower your overall tax burden and also spread taxes out over time so you don’t have to pay them all out at once,” she says.
You can see how withdrawals from different accounts are being taxed in the Tax Insights charting in the NewRetirement Planner.
Retirement May Be a Good Time to Consult a Tax Expert
The process of trying to figure out where to take funds out of to minimize the impact of taxes is pretty complicated, especially when you throw in Social Security taxes and income from other sources, in some situations. You might need an expert on the topic, Kornblatt points out.
“Every person has a unique tax situation and an advisor can customize an approach to ensure you have enough money to live on in as tax efficient a way as possible,” she says.
You Will Probably Continue to File Taxes with a 1040 and…
Most people file their taxes by using Form 1040. For most retirees, this will stay the same after you retire. The main difference is that you attach Form SSA-1099 to report Social Security benefits. And, if you have a pension, you will use Form 1099-R.
You will also need to report work income, annuities and savings withdrawals.
Pay Quarterly to Stay on Top of Retirement Taxes
When you work, taxes are typically withdrawn from every paycheck. These withdrawals help ensure that you do not owe too much or too little in April.
You can request similar withholdings for your pension, Social Security, annuity and other retirement income sources using forms W-4, W-4P and W-4V.
However, if you are not doing automatic with holdings on taxable income, you will probably need to make quarterly tax payments.
Understand the Penalties for Collecting Social Security and Working at the Same Time
Social Security work penalties are not technically a tax, but often thought of as one.
Working as long as possible is a tried and true way to give you are more secure retirement. However, there are definite implications for collecting Social Security and working at the same time.
- If you have reached your “full retirement age,” then you keep all of your Social Security benefits — no matter how much you earn.
- If you are younger than your full retirement age and earn more than certain amounts, then your Social Security benefits will be reduced.
The NewRetirement Planner automatically calculates work penalties if you are planning on starting Social Security before full retirement age. You can learn more from the Social Security Administration, “How Work Affects Your Benefits.”
Working for Yourself? Try This
Many retirees start their own businesses. If this is you, did you know that you can deduct the premiums you pay for Medicare Part B and Part D plus the costs of supplemental Medicare or Medicare Advantage?
Have Income? Make it Nontaxable!
If you are not yet retired, you certainly have income from work. Already retired? You may have taxable income from withdrawals, passive investments and more.
No matter your retirement status, retirement tax planning often means keeping your taxable income under certain thresholds. To do this, you can take “deductions.” Deductions are a way to turn taxable income into nontaxable income.
Here are a few ways to make your retirement income nontaxable:
Add to Retirement Savings: So long as your income is below a certain threshold, any money you put into a 401k, 403b or IRA (a traditional IRA, not a Roth IRA) will not be taxed.
Add Even More to Retirement Savings If You Are Over 50: Catch up contributions are the IRS’s way of making it easier for savers age 50 and up to tuck away enough retirement savings.
You probably already know that there’s a limit to how much you’re allowed to save in tax-advantaged retirement account such as IRAs and 401(k)s. Well, once you reach age 50, you’re allowed to make additional “catch up” contributions over and above those annual contribution limits.
- Learn more about catch up contributions!
Put Money in a Health Savings Account (HSA): Funding healthcare is expensive. However, you can make your spending a little more efficient by utilizing an HSA. Money you put in an HSA is deductible up to $3,550 for individuals and $7,100 for families in 2020. Besides the savings being non taxable, distributions from the HSA are also tax free when they are used to pay medical expenses.
- Discover more about Why an HSA is a Great Retirement Savings Option…
The One Advantage of Debt: If you itemize your deductions, then the interest you pay on some debts — mortgages, student loans and more — is deductible.
The One Advantage of State Taxes: Like debt, state and local taxes can be deducted if you itemize.
Give a Little, Get a Little: Charitable contributions of up to 50% of your adjusted gross income are also deductible if you itemize and give to a qualified charity. Your donation can be in the form of money or property.
NOTE: For users of the free Retirement Planner, income taxes are modeled using a blended state and federal rate. For PlannerPlus subscribers, the income tax model is more accurate, detailed and transparent. You can:
- See annual estimates for federal, state and capital gains taxes
- Review annual taxable income and realized capital gains
- Specify itemized deductions and property taxes.
Create an account or log in today for a detailed and reliable view of your retirement finances — now and well into the future.
Even Social Security Can Be Taxed
Social Security benefits are taxed only if your income exceeds a certain threshold.
Federal Taxes: Income for federal taxes is defined as half your Social Security benefits, plus all other taxable income and some nontaxable income including municipal bond interest.
State Taxes: You also need to know your state’s rules on taxing Social Security benefits if you live in one of the 13 states that do (Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia).
Let NewRetirement show you your projected tax burden for this year and evermore.
Consider Bundling Medical and Charitable Deductions into Certain Years
Because the threshold for deductions on medical expenses and charitable donations is higher, you may want to consider bundling those expenses into certain years and only claiming them every two or three years.
Max Out Medical Expenses: By grouping as many medical expenses as possible in a single year, you can maximize the deduction you get for those expenses. In 2019 you can only deduct expenses which exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
If you’ve already had some significant healthcare expenses for the year, see if you can move medical expenses that you’d normally take next year to the end of this one. For example, if you have a dentist appointment in January, move it to mid-December instead.
Long Term Care Insurance: If you recently purchased long term care insurance, you may be able to deduct the premiums. The older you are, the more you can deduct. In 2020, the deductions range from $430 to $5,430.
Charitable Donations: Instead of making annual charitable gifts, give 2, 3, or even 5 years’ worth of donations in a single year, then take a few years off.
Focusing all of your donations in a single year increases the value of deductions beyond threshold for a single year, and then take the larger standard deduction in the “skip” years.
A Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) may be an option if you are bundling charitable expenses. Per Fidelity, “A DAF may allow for tax-deductible contributions of cash or appreciated assets in a given year, but then control the timing of the distributions to charity in future years.” This is probably a strategy you will want to discuss with a financial advisor.
Watch Out for Lump Sum Benefits
If you are planning on getting a lump sum payment from a pension or other source, you could be facing a big tax headache. The company paying your benefit is required — by law — to withhold 20% of the money for taxes. (You can likely recover the taxes, but it is complicated and the lump sum distribution can trigger all kind of annoyances and the very real possibility of penalties.)
You may be able to avoid the problem if you ask your employer to deposit your pension directly into a rollover IRA. The check can not be made out to you, it must be transferred directly into the IRA account.
Monitor Medicare Surtax for High Earners
A Medicare surtax will apply to the lesser of net investment income or the excess of modified adjusted gross income over $200,000 for single taxpayers and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly.”
So, it may be worth keeping your income levels below these thresholds. The NewRetirement Planner factors in these additional costs, when applicable.
Your Retirement Savings and Taxes
When you finally leave the workforce for good, you may start relying on your savings for your income. Depending on what kind of savings or investment accounts you have, your tax obligations may vary.
- If you’ve invested in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), your savings are tax deferred, but you will have to pay once you start taking distributions — when you withdraw the money.
- If you have money in a Roth IRA, then you paid taxes when you invested the money and all withdrawals are tax free.
Are You Older than 70 and Still Working? Do a Reverse Rollover…
According to Pew Research, Americans over 70 are working at higher rates than ever before. If this is you, then you might benefit from a reverse rollover.
A reverse rollover — transferring funds from an IRA into your company 401k or 403b program — is an interesting tax strategy if you:
- Have money in an IRA account that will be subject to Required Minimum Distributions
- Do not NEED or want to withdraw funds from your IRA accounts
- Have access to a 401k or 403b program where you are currently working
Learn more about other ways to reduce the impact of Required Minimum Distributions.
Strategize for a Roth IRA
It can be a bit of a game to figure out how to save the most money on taxes with regards to IRAs, 401ks and Roth IRAs.
There is which account to save in to begin with.
You can convert money from one type of account to another.
You can time withdrawals from different types of accounts to minimize taxes.
These examples, might help you figure out the best strategies for you. Although it may be best to work directly with a tax accountant to figure out what is best for you.
- If you’ve put savings into a Roth IRA, your money is tax-free. You can even convert savings from a regular IRA into a Roth IRA, but you may want to strategize on when to make this move. For example, The New York Times writes. “Taxes will be due on the amount converted, which is why this is best done when you’re in a lower tax bracket, perhaps before turning to Social Security.”
- Since withdrawals from traditional IRAs and 401ks are taxable, you might want to limit withdrawals from these accounts — when possible.
- Try to diversify your withdrawals. If you have different kinds of accounts, you might be able to withdraw some from both the taxable and non taxable sources. This strategy may help you keep your tax bill low.
Learn more about how a Roth IRA Can Be a Fruitful Strategy for Retirement Wealth.
Taxes After Retirement: Plan for Required Minimum Distributions
According to the IRS, a required minimum distribution is the minimum amount you must withdraw from your tax advantaged savings accounts each year.
You generally have to start taking withdrawals from your IRA, SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA or other retirement plan account when you reach age 72 (Unless you turned 70 1/2 in 2019 or earlier. In that case, withdrawals started at 70 1/2.). Roth IRAs do not require withdrawals until after the death of the owner.
You must also make minimum withdrawals from your 401k by age 72 (unless you turned 70 1/2 in 2019 or earlier) or when you retire.
If you do not make these withdrawals, the IRS will assess a rather large penalty of 50% of the amount that should have been withdrawn.
The IRS has more information on Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs).
The NewRetirement Planner automatically makes these withdrawals in your plan and will remind you when it is time for you to do it in real life.
Thinking of Relocating? Consider the Best States to Retire in for Taxes!
Most of the wisdom shared above is most relevant to federal taxes. However, state taxes can take a big bite out of your retirement nest egg as well.
If you are considering relocating for retirement, you might as well look at states that have the most favorable tax rates for retirees. These 10 locations are the best states to retire in for taxes.
The NewRetirement Planner estimates your states taxes based on where you live — now and in the future.
Don’t Forget Estate Taxes
Federal estate taxes are really only a concern of the very rich. Estate taxes don’t kick in until your estate is worth more than $11 million (twice that for married couples).
However, state estate taxes can be concerning, depending on where you live. Learn more about estate taxes.
Try Tax Loss Harvesting
If you sell investments that aren’t tucked away in a tax-advantaged retirement account, you’ll have to pay capital gains taxes on the profits you made from those investments. However, if you sold any investments at a loss during the same year, you can wipe out those gains for tax purposes and avoid paying the related taxes.
This approach is known as tax loss harvesting.
Tax loss harvesting allows you to get rid of your loser investments while profiting a little from the transaction. In fact, if you have more losses than gains, you can use the extra losses to erase up to $3,000 of other taxable income (including the distributions from your traditional IRAs).
Taxes Are Critical, But Your Overall Retirement Plan is More Important
Taxes can be a burden, but they are just one of hundreds of expenses we all contend with.
Having a well documented overall retirement plan is probably more important to your overall financial well being than the details of taxes. The NewRetirement Retirement Planner lets you plan for retirement from now till your forever. You can set different levels of income, different levels of expenses, explore using home equity to help fund retirement and so much more.
This Retirement Planner is easy to use and gives you control over hundreds of different levers so you can discover a retirement plan that suits your desired lifestyle and means.