The SECURE Act of 2019 eliminated the “stretch IRA,” where children could continue to defer taxes on IRA balances inherited from parents, even passing them on to grandchildren. This had allowed for decades of tax-free asset growth. Congress decided to curtail the deferral past spouses by requiring that IRAs passed to non-spouses be fully distributed at the end of 10 years, with a few exceptions.
Confusion has arisen regarding whether all amounts must be withdrawn annually or “cleaned out” in year 10. The IRS added to the confusion by offering different interpretations after the law was enacted. To address this confusion, the IRS responded by not penalizing IRA beneficiaries who failed to take distributions while the rules are finalized.
The IRS proposed rules require that annual distributions continue if the original IRA owner had begun taking required minimum distributions (“RMDs”), while allowing beneficiaries of IRA owners who had not begun taking RMDs to choose to take some distributions or wait until the 10th year.
An heir will need to plan to minimize the tax hit. For example, they may be able to keep their total income in a lower tax bracket. The simplest approach may be to just take 1/10th each year, so they do not end up in a higher bracket. This may not be best if the beneficiary’s income has significant changes for bonuses, major stock sales, taking their own RMDs or starting social security. We reviewed possible strategies with Harold Hallstein IV of the Sankala Group who said that, surprisingly, someone in a low tax bracket who expects to be in a higher bracket in the future may benefit from taking the account balance right away, thereby availing themselves of long-term capital gains rates on future investment growth.
One note of caution: beneficiaries need to be sure to set up the inherited IRA account and not take a check, as that will be fully taxable.
Many of the expected tax law changes have not materialized, but legislation remains in flux. This means we plan year-end moves while we continue to monitor new legislation. It is safe to bet that income tax rates will rise over the next several years. This may mean putting year-end tax planning on its head, where you increase taxable income for 2021. The goal is to lessen income ultimately taxed in future years. However, you may not want to delay taking deductions until 2022 (so planning not completely on its head?) For the standard approach, see our 2020 year-end post.
Roth Conversion – One way to increase income now, avoiding future income, is to convert part of an IRA to a Roth IRA, converting from taxable to non-taxable distributions in the future. Decide on the amount to convert by projecting the impact of the conversion on your marginal tax rate. Converting to a Roth also saves you from required minimum distributions, RMDs, in future years (but non-spouse beneficiaries still face the 10-year limit from the SECURE Act on IRA distributions).
Back-Door Roth – Along with converting, the “back-door Roth” is still available, at least for 2021, so you can put more retirement funds aside with no tax on future distributions. That is, for those who cannot contribute to a Roth due to income limits, they can contribute to a non-deductible IRA and then convert that IRA to a Roth IRA. If you have other IRAs, that may affect the amount that is taxed, so review this carefully first to see if it still makes sense.
More income – Other ways to increase income for 2021 include billing more for your S Corp., LLC or partnership in 2021, exercising stock options, and selling ESPP shares.
Capital gains – You probably do not want to accelerate capital gains, as those should still be tax at a lower rate in future years.
On to other considerations: first, SALT deductions
The limit on state and local taxes, or SALT, may increase from $10,000 to $80,000. Also, a number of states have created pass-through entity elections so that the S Corp., LLC or partnership pays the tax and deducts against the income of the shareholder/member/partner. This way, their net federal taxable income is reduced, and they get a credit for the payment on their personal tax returns.
The SALT changes may affect your itemized deduction strategy if you are bunching.
Check the details
Declare Crypto – If you had any crypto currency transactions during the year, selling, buying or receiving, be sure to declare on your federal 1040 filing.
Unemployment tax – Remember, unemployment benefits are fully taxable for 2021, so be sure you withheld taxes or paid estimates.
Charities – If you cannot itemize, you still get up to $300 as an above the line charitable deduction, and up to $600 for a married couple.
Child credits – There are changes in the credits for children and dependent care. Let us know if you have questions on the benefits and strategies for maximizing.
Kiddie tax – The so-called kiddie tax has been restored to pre-TCJA terms, so you may want to review filings for the last two years.
Address change – You will want to file form 8822B to indicate the change of address if your corporation, LLC or partnership moves. On that form, you can also change the responsible party so that the IRS knows whom to contact – this is quite important if you sell your business!
IT PIN – If you are concerned about identity theft, consider obtaining an IT PIN as discussed in our post on IRS scams.
Flex and retirement accounts – Check to see if you have any flex account balances that expire; contribute the maximum to your qualified plans; and setup a new qualified plan if you have a new business.
Before you finish, check withholdings and estimates paid
Especially if you increase income in 2021, review your total paid to the IRS and state via withholdings and estimates make sure that you meet the safe harbor rules. If not, you could owe interest for under-withholding.
IRS disaster relief
Have you received a penalty notice from the IRS? The Pandemic was declared a federal disaster. This means it may provide an exemption to the penalties if you can show that you suffered from the Pandemic.
And remember your estate plan review
While you review your taxes, review your estate plan as well. The federal gift and estate tax credit is close to $12 million for 2021, but that may change in 2022. So, if you have excess wealth, you may want to gift while you can, especially if you want to use certain trusts, like a GRAT or QPRT, that may no longer be permitted in future years. For more on estate planning updates, see our estate planning checkup post.
Update: the annual exclusion for gifts rises from $15,000 per person, per year to $16,000 next year.
If you do review your estate plan documents, also review beneficiary designations and asset ownership to make sure everything is current and flows correctly.
As you review your 2021-2022 tax planning, consider the impact of future tax rate increases: will bringing future income into 2021 avoid taxes on future income? Then follow through on the details.
Let us know if you have any questions.
Good luck and best wishes for happy and healthy holidays!
Here is a good news release from the IRS site worth reviewing
Important reminders before filing 2020 tax returns
WASHINGTON — Following an unpredictable year with many changes and challenges, the Internal Revenue Service today shared important reminders for taxpayers who are about to file their 2020 federal tax returns.
Choose direct deposit The safest, most accurate and fastest way to get a refund is to electronically file and choose direct deposit. Direct deposit means any tax refund is electronically deposited for free into a taxpayer’s financial account.
Eight out of 10 taxpayers get their refunds by using direct deposit. It is simple, safe and secure. This is the same electronic transfer system used to deposit nearly 98% of all Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits into millions of accounts.
Earned Income Tax Credit The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) can give qualifying workers with low-to-moderate income a substantial financial boost. EITC not only reduces the amount of tax someone owes but may give them a refund even if they don’t owe any taxes or aren’t required to file a return.
People must meet certain requirements and file a federal tax return in order to receive this credit. The EITC assistant on IRS.gov can help people determine if they qualify.
The IRS reminds taxpayers that they may elect to use their 2019 earned income to figure the EITC if their 2019 earned income is more than their 2020 earned income. For details, see Publication 596, Earned Income Credit. Taxpayers also have the option of using their 2019 income to figure the Additional Child Tax Credit for 2020.
Taxable unemployment compensation Millions of Americans received unemployment compensation in 2020, many of them for the first time. This compensation is taxable and must be included as gross income on their tax return.
Taxpayers can elect to have federal taxes withheld from their unemployment benefits or make estimated tax payments, but many do not take these options. In that case, taxes on those benefits will be paid when the 2020 tax return is filed. Taxes can be paid throughout the year. For safe and secure ways to pay taxes electronically go to IRS.gov/payments.
Taxpayers can find more details on taxable unemployment compensation in Tax Topic 418, Unemployment Compensation, or in Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, on IRS.gov.
Interest is taxable income Many individual taxpayers who received a refund on their 2019 tax returns also received interest from the IRS. The interest payments were largely the result of the postponed filing deadline of July 15 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2019 refund interest payments are taxable, and taxpayers must report the interest on their 2020 federal income tax return.
The IRS will send a Form 1099-INT to anyone who receives interest totaling at least $10. The average refund interest amount is $18, but the amount for each taxpayer varies based on the tax refund that the taxpayer received. Form 1099-INT will be issued no later than Feb. 1, 2021.
Home office deduction The home office deduction is available to qualifying self-employed taxpayers, independent contractors and those working in the gig economy.
However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspended the business-use-of-home deduction from 2018 through 2025 for employees. Employees who receive a paycheck or a W-2 exclusively from an employer are not eligible for the deduction, even if they are currently working from home. IRS Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home, provides more on the home office deduction.
Workers moving into the gig economy Many people found different employment in 2020, including jobs in the gig economy. Taxpayers must report income earned in the gig economy on their tax return. However, gig-economy workers generally do not have taxes withheld from their pay as salaried workers normally do. The IRS encourages people earning income in the gig economy to consider making quarterly estimated tax payments to stay current with their federal tax obligations.
Charitable donation deduction for people who don’t itemize Individuals who take the standard deduction generally cannot claim a deduction for their charitable contributions. However, the CARES Act permits these individuals to claim a limited deduction on their 2020 federal income tax returns for cash contributions made to certain qualifying charitable organizations and still claim the standard deduction. Nearly nine in 10 taxpayers now take the standard deduction and could potentially qualify.
Under this change, individuals can claim a deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made to qualifying charities during 2020. This deduction does not apply to donated property. The maximum deduction is $150 for married individuals filing separate returns. More information is available in Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, on IRS.gov.
Disasters such as wildfires, flooding or hurricanes Special tax law provisions may help taxpayers and businesses recover financially from the impact of a disaster, especially when the federal government declares their location to be a major disaster area. Some 2020 tax deadlines in certain counties have been extended into 2021 due to recent wildfires, hurricanes or flooding.
Last year, we provided a three-part series explaining the impact of the new tax law. In our first part, we discussed the impact of the new law on personal taxes and in our second part, we discussed planning for small businesses. In this part, we update the third part posted last year, which is our guide for year-end moves to reduce total taxes between 2019 and 2020.
Can you act at
Each year we advise that you be practical, focusing on where
you can actually take action.
For many, the new $24,000 standard deduction for married
couples, $12,000 for single taxpayers, means you will not itemize (i.e., your
total for itemized deductions is less than the standard amount so you take the
higher, standard deduction). The
standard deduction goes up when you reach 65.
If you are not itemizing, you have fewer ways in which to
affect change in the taxes due in either year (but you can also stop collecting
receipts for those deductions!).
One technique for getting around the limit is to bunch
deductions from two or more years into one year. The one deduction that you can easily move is
for charitable donations. Your state,
local and real estate taxes are limited to a $10,000 maximum and you cannot
accelerate, or delay, significant amounts of mortgage interest.
If you do not want any one charity to receive the full
amount in a single year, you can still use this bunching strategy. Donate to a donor advised fund, from which
you may be able to designate donations to particular charities in future years.
IRA donations: If you are 70½ or older, you have the option of distributing up to $100,000 from your IRA or other qualified plan to an IRS-approved charity and having none of the distribution taxed.
Capital Gains: Review your portfolio. You may be able to “harvest losses” to offset capital gains realized on stock sales or mutual fund capital gains distributions. If you have substantial unrealized gains, consider donating to a charity. See below.
The tax planning
If you are able to itemize, determine what income and deductions you can move from 2019 to 2020 or vice versa. You want to minimize total taxes for both years. Make sure your planning includes the 3.8% Medicare tax on high income and review Roth conversions (Roth distributions are not taxed, so converting a traditional or roll-over IRA to a Roth could be beneficial, as long as the tax cost now is not too great). And business owners will want to review our post on planning under 199A for QBID.
Next, review the impact of moving income and expense to see what happens if you shift any of these amounts from one year to the other year.
But, watch for the Alternative Minimum Tax (“AMT”):
The exemption for the AMT and the threshold
above which that exemption gets phased out are now higher than before 2018, so fewer
taxpayers will owe the AMT.
Finally, if you have not maxed-out your 401(k) plan, IRA, Health Savings Account or flex plan account, consider doing so before the end of the year.
Your mutual funds may have large capital gains distributions. Christine Benz says, “Brace yourself: 2019 is apt to be another not-so-happy capital gains distribution season, with many growth-oriented mutual funds dishing out sizable payouts.”
your unrealized losses to see if you can “harvest” those losses to offset or “shelter”
realized gains, reducing your total taxable income. If you have more losses than gains, you can
take up to $3,000 of capital losses against other income.
If you sell an asset that you would prefer to retain, in order to shelter gains in 2019, make sure you do not run afoul of the wash-sale rule (any loss on an asset that you repurchase in 30 days will be disallowed, so you have to either wait 30 days or purchase a similar asset that fits your asset allocation while not counting against the wash sale rule).
If you have significant unrealized gains, consider using
appreciated stock for charitable donations – that way you avoid the tax on the
gain while still getting the full fair market value for your charitable
Some reminders on itemized
As you may recall, mortgage interest on new home purchases is deductible only for loans of up to $750,000 used to purchase or improve your primary or secondary residence. Interest on home equity loans will not be deductible, except when the home equity indebtedness is used to purchase or improve the residence.
Also, all miscellaneous deductions were eliminated. This includes investment and tax preparation
fees, safe deposit box charges and unreimbursed employee business expenses. And moving expenses are no longer allowed
(except for military personnel in certain cases).
Check taxes paid
Make sure your total paid in withholdings and estimates
meets the safe harbor rules. If not, you
could owe interest for under-withholding.
Estate plan review
While you review your taxes, consider reviewing your estate plan and your beneficiary designations. The federal exemption is just over $11 million in 2019, so fewer people will owe any federal estate tax. However, many states still impose estate taxes on smaller estates. If you have “excess wealth” and want to reduce your taxable estate by gifting assets to children or others, you can give $15,000 per person, per year. If your spouse joins you, that is $30,000 per person. This includes funding a 529 plan for education costs – expanded to provide for more than just college.
Note, however, that holding appreciated assets for the step up in basis at death may be better for your heirs than gifting.
Check on 2018
Check to see if you over-paid a penalty for
under-withholding. If you filed early,
the penalty calculation may have over-stated the total you owe, so you will
want to review your 2018 filing.
Carefully review any income and deductions that you can
still shift to see if moving will lessen the total taxes you pay for 2019 and 2020.
This tax update may give you reasons to amend your tax returns regarding the tax extenders, SALT workarounds, domicile audits and empowerment zones. Let me know if you need help.
Many tax returns were prepared assuming that Congress would pass a law for the “tax extenders” as it has in past years. However, the bill extending deductions and credits for 2018 and 2019 has not passed. Other matters have the attention of Congress.
The tax extenders include 26 tax breaks that expired at the end of 2017 and 2018. Some are for businesses, such as motor speedway depreciation, biodiesel credits, and disaster relief. Others are for individuals, such as retaining the 7.5% threshold instead of 10% for medical expenses, the private mortgage insurance (PMI) deduction, exclusion of up to $2 million from income from mortgage debt forgiveness on your home, and an above-the-line deduction college tuition and qualified expenses.
If you filed your 2018 returns relying on passage, and the extender bill does not pass, you could face an inquiry form the IRS. If you filed without relying on the extenders, and the bill does pass, you may be able to amend your 2018 filing to obtain a refund.
SALT and work around attempts by states
As you know from the first post in our series on the Tax Cut and Job Act (“TCJA”), the new tax law places a $10,000 cap on state and local taxes, or “SALT.” This includes state and city income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and excise taxes.
Some states, including New York and New Jersey, felt that TCJA targeted them and responded with workarounds. One such measure provides that certain payments of state income taxes would be treated as charitable contributions, so that the full amount would be allowed as part of your Schedule A deductions.
The IRS reacted by indicating that only the IRS determines what are allowable Schedule A deductions and this workaround was not one of them. As Christy Rakoczy Bieber wrote recently on creditkarma.com:
If you’re counting on a SALT cap workaround from your state to keep your federal taxes low, you may face an unpleasant surprise at tax time since the IRS has made clear it won’t allow you to take deductions for charitable donations if you received tax credits.
Trying to avoid the state taxes
Some people with homes in more than one state have taken another approach to SALT limits by claiming to be residents of the state imposing less income taxes. For example, if you have homes in Massachusetts and in Florida, you would clearly pick Florida because there is no state income tax.
If you do pick a no or low-income tax state, be careful. The state that is missing out on tax revenue may conduct a domicile audit. Having the documentation to prove your residency is key. While residency is based on your “state of mind,” an audit would focus on a list of facts, including where you spend more time, the state in which you have a driver’s license and vote, where you receive your mail, and where you worship. Be sure to take the necessary steps and retain proof.
Empowerment Zone rollovers and Qualified Small Business Stock Sales (QSBS)
There are provisions for favorable treatment of certain capital gains transactions. Here are two:
If you purchased stock in a qualified small business, you may be able to exclude gain on the sale. The exclusion is even higher for certain empowerment zones, and;
You can roll over gain from certain sales into investments in an empowerment zone, delaying or even reducing the tax on the gain. There are opportunity funds into which you can invest for this deferral. If you think you need to amend, or if you have any questions on this post or any other matter, let me know. I am here to help.
If you think you need to amend, or if you have any questions on this post or any other matter, let me know. I am here to help.