Year-end Tax Planning 2023-2024 and recent changes

Tax planning overview and changes to review

First, some reminders:  income tax rates are likely to rise over the next several years and the TCJA rules expire after 2025, when we revert to pre-2018 tax laws.

Second, be practical:  start with reviewing what items you are able to change – for example, paying real estate taxes in one year may be better than another, but that is very hard to accomplish if you have escrow withholding on your mortgage payments.  On the other hand, you may be able to incur medical expenses all in one year, so you exceed the limit and are able to deduct a portion. 

Two-year goal: usually the goal is to reduce the total tax for the two years combined, some may benefit from increasing 2023 income to avoid higher future taxes.  One way to increase income that we have discussed before is a Roth conversion.

2023 changes:  There are a number of changes for this year, including rules for electric vehicles (EVs), energy efficient improvements, and other items, along with the impact of inflation on thresholds and exemptions for some items.

  • If you are considering energy efficient windows, doors, etc., the limits for the Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit for 30% of the cost increased for 2023.  As for solar panels, fuel cells, battery storage, there is the Residential Energy Clean Property Credit of 30% of the cost of materials and installation.  Check to see if your anticipated improvements qualify and then retain the information needed to file for the credit.
  • As we noted previously, the clean vehicle credit for new and used EV purchases has changed, with vehicle price and income limits.  So, again, check to see if you qualify and then be sure to retain the information needed to file for the credit.

Retirement plans:  The age for required minimum distributions (RMDs) is now 73, so taxpayers turning 73 in 2023 have until April 1, 2024 to take their first RMD.  Tax planning on this is crucial, as taking the RMD before 2024 may result in a lower total tax for 2023 plus 2024 as you have the 2024 RMD due in 2024.  That is, two RMDs in 2024 could push you into a higher tax bracket.  

Charities:  For charitable giving, see if you can donate appreciated assets directly and avoid the capital gains tax.  Also, if you are considering a qualified charitable distribution (QCD), up to $100,000 counts for your RMD and you can send up to $50,000 to a charitable remainder annuity trust, charitable remainder unitrust or a charitable gift annuity. Many private colleges with charitable gift annuity programs have focused donation drives on QCDs.

Estates:  As noted in a prior post, the annual exclusion for gifting is now $17,000.  If you have plans to transfer wealth, keep this in mind.   

Withholdings:  As you adjust income and deductions, your tax due for each you will change, so be sure to review the safe harbor rules on withholdings and adjust or pay estimates as needed. 

Some ways to shift income:

  • 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 in future years (but non-spouse beneficiaries still face the 10-year clean-out we discussed before as part of the SECURE Act). 
  • Back-Door Roth – Along with converting, the “back-door Roth” is still available, at least for 2023, 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. 
  • More income and deductions – Other ways to shift income include billing more in 2023 or delaying to 2024 for your S Corp., LLC or partnership, exercising stock options, and selling ESPP shares.  Businesses can buy vehicles and other capital assets for bonus depreciation write-offs in 2023.
  • Capital gains – You probably do not want to accelerate capital gains, as those should still be taxed at a lower rate in future years.  But you can utilize tax-loss harvesting to shelter gains already realized for 2023 by identifying any losses and realizing them in 2023.  If you want to buy back these securities, watch out for the wash-sale rules. 

On to other considerations – first, SALT deductions

The limit on state and local taxes, or SALT, has not increased, but, a number of states have created pass-through entity elections so that the S Corp., LLC or partnership pays the tax and deducts it 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. 

Review the SALT portion of 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 2023, so be sure you withheld taxes or pay estimates. 

IT PIN – If you are concerned about identity theft, consider obtaining an IT PIN as discussed in our post on IRS scams.  

Flex accounts – Check to see if you have any flex account balances that expire that can still be used.  And consider HSA contributions.

Qualified plans and IRAs – Make sure to max-out on your 401(k) and other plans and make an IRA contribution if you can. 

Before you finish, check withholdings and estimates paid

Especially if you increase income in 2023, review your total paid to the IRS and state via withholdings and estimates to be sure that you meet the safe harbor rules.  If not, you could owe interest for under-withholding.

IRS disaster relief 

If you are in an area designated as a federal disaster area, this may affect your filing deadlines and ability to take casualty losses. 

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 $13 million for 2023, but that may change in 2024.  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

  • If you do review your estate plan documents, also review beneficiary designations and asset ownership to make sure everything is current and flows correctly. 
  • For Massachusetts residents, the exemption increased from $1 million to $2 million as of January 1, 2023.  This may affect your portability planning on income and estate taxes in an estate – see Should your estate plan try to avoid income taxes rather than avoid estate taxes? for planning ideas.

Summary

As you review your 2023-2024 tax planning, consider the impact of future tax rate increases: will bringing future income into 2023 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!

Steven

Should your estate plan try to avoid income taxes rather than avoid estate taxes?

With the federal gift and estate tax exemption nearing $13 million, a married couple can have close to $26 million in their estates before any federal estate tax would be due.  That leaves only a small percentage of people in the US who actually need estate plans focused on avoiding estate taxes.  Those who are comfortably below the threshold can instead focus their plans on reducing income taxes.

Estates get a step up in basis at death, so that assets do not pay both estate and income taxes.  For example, the house owned by a couple often has a low basis, so taxes will be due on sale.  When they die, they get a step up in basis, eliminating that gain and the corresponding income tax that would be due at death. 

To illustrate, here’s an example:  a married couple own a house worth $2 million for which they paid $500,000, they have $2 million in retirement accounts and $5 million in broker accounts.  Their combined estate of $9 million is well below the federal exemption of nearly $13 million per person, so no federal estate taxes will be due.  They have $1.5 million of gain if they sell the house, of which $1 million would be taxed after applying the $500,000 exclusion on the sale of a principal residence. 

If they have the standard estate plan, they will have revocable trusts that use the state and federal estate tax credits at both the first and second deaths.  If proper elections are made, no estate taxes will be due at the first death and no federal estate taxes at the second death.  They will also get the step up in basis. 

But what if one spouse dies many years later?  The half with the step up at the earlier death could now be subject to taxes on gain when the heirs direct the estate or trusts to sell.  If the house is then worth $4 million, the half in the trust of the first to die has new gain of $1 million on which income taxes will be due. 

If instead of having half the house counted at the first death, what if it is treated as passing to the survivor?  Then there is a full step up at the second death, with no gain.  And they have not traded capital gains for estate taxes.  While assets are counted in the second estate, rather than using the exemption at the first death, the first estate can make proper use of the deceased spouse’s unused exemption or “DSUE.”  Since 2012, federal law allows any portion of the gift and estate tax credit not used in the first estate tax filing to be carried to the second spouse’s death or “ported,” if the proper election is made.  This “portability election” for the DSUE is made on the estate tax return. 

But what happens when the federal credit drops back down in 2026 to the old amount as scheduled, which, after adjusting for inflation, is expected to be around $7 million?  The estates for the couple in our example still avoid federal estate taxes, using the DSUE of up to $7 million from the first death and the $7 million credit at the second death.  

Planning for state estate taxes may be necessary (for Massachusetts residents, the trusts can be used to shelter $1 million, the maximum credit).  And you may want to use trusts to control who gets access to the estates and when.  Also, you may need to plan for the generation skipping transfer tax or “GST” tax, which requires use of trusts and proper elections at death. 

If your net worth is enough to need estate planning but you do not expect to owe federal estate taxes, then your plan can address avoiding capital gains and use the DSUE to ensure that estate taxes are still avoided.  

  • Note that Massachusetts increased the estate the exemption from $1 million to $2 million as of January 1, 2023.  This may affect your planning. 

Let me know if you would like to discuss this.

Steven

Mid-year planning for SECURE Act 2.0 and inflation impact

Mid-Year planning   

The goal of this post is to help you become informed about tax law changes for 2023, so you can respond during the year and save on what you owe next April.  As with any planning, acting while you can have an impact is crucial.  There may be more new tax laws on the way, so stay informed. 

Your planning may vary depending on whether you owed for 2022 or received a refund.  For more on adjusting withholding (and back-door Roth conversions), see our prior post on mid-year planning 2022.  Also, check out the IRS website Steps to Take Now to Get a Jump on Your Taxes.

Tax Law Changes – SECURE Act 2.0 and inflation adjustments

The SECURE Act 2.0 finally passed in December of 2022, following the 2019 SECURE Act as a continued effort to encourage taxpayers to save for retirement.  We explore some highlights below.

Contemporaneously, inflation has raised contribution limits for 401(k) plans, IRAs and other qualified plans and the income limits for contributing to Roth IRAs have gone up.  Inflation adjustments also raised the income limit for deducting student loan interest and the AMT exemption.  The $100,000 cap on the qualified charitable distribution (QCD) will now be indexed for inflation.  Let us know if you need any details. 

You can start RMDs at a later age now

Some SECURE Act 2.0 changes take effect in 2023 and others in 2024.  For 2023, the age to begin taking your required minimum distribution (RMD) begins at age 73.  Someone turning 73 in 2023 must take the first RMD by April 1, 2024.  Those who continue to work past 73 may be able to delay taking RMDs from their current employer’s 401(k) until they retire.   

Beginning in 2024, Roth 401(k) owners no longer have to take RMDs. 

Considering buying an EV?  The rules changed                       

As we wrote last December, the maximum credit for an electric vehicle or EV is still $7,500, but the rules have changed, focusing on critical mineral and battery content along with assembly in North America.  Furthermore, the manufacturer limit is gone but now there is a vehicle price limit of $55,000 for sedans and $80,000 for vans, SUVs, and pickup trucks, as well as an income limit of $300,000 for joint filers and half that for single filers.  A credit for used EVs was also enacted, with a smaller credit and lower income limits.   

Revamped home energy credits

If you plan to install an alternative energy system, which includes solar, fuel cell, battery-storage, and wind, to your main home, you may qualify for a credit of 30% of the cost for 2023 to 2032, dropping after that and finally expiring in 2035.  The credit is reduced by any rebate from the utility company. 

The 10% credit available for 2022 is now 30% for installing certain types of insulation, water heaters, boilers, central air, etc. and the limit has been increased to $1,200 through 2032.  Other home energy expenditures have lower credits. 

IRS enforcement

The IRS received a massive budget increase, some of which was undermined by the debt ceiling negotiations.  As much as half of that increase is ear-marked for enforcement, and that is supposed to focus on corporations, partnerships and higher income taxpayers, meaning over $400,000.  The IRS is hiring and staffing in order to put their plan into action. 

A new way to convert to a Roth IRA

The SECURE Act 2.0 allows up to $35,000 to be rolled over from a 529 plan to a Roth IRA beginning in 2024. 

We encourage you again to consider converting, see “To Roth or not to Roth?” or check out Pros and Cons here.  Also, we discussed the back-door Roth IRA in our year-end post on 2021 tax planning.  

Coordinate with investing and estate planning

The federal credit for gift and estate taxes jumped to $12,920,000 and the annual gift tax exclusion to $17,000. 

Make sure that any changes that you take for tax reasons do not run counter to your investment or estate planning.  For more on estate planning, see estate planning checkup post

Summary

As you review your 2023 tax planning, check your 2022 returns for ideas on what to adjust, consider the impact of future tax rate increases and act when the impact on other planning also makes sense. 

Let us know if you have any questions. 

Good luck

Steven

Year-end Tax Planning 2022-2023 and Inflation

Why year-end planning?

We are told to act before year end because it is our last chance to have an impact on our 2022 taxes.  Planning throughout the year could be even better, if you recognize when to act, but most of us are pulled in so many directions that it is hard to organize and act until there is an external pressure, such as the looming end to the calendar year.  So, when you are ready to take stock of your situation, you can make the planning effort even more productive by reviewing your investments, estate plan, and finances, not just your taxes – consider it a “financial checkup.” 

Overview

This year, there are changes that occurred due to inflation as well as legislation.  While we had expected tax increases, none materialized (there may still be tax law changes, but legislation such as the “SECURE Act 2.0,” child credit and tax extenders all remain in flux).  We review the changes that did occur before turning to actual year-end tax planning strategies. 

Impact of inflation

Is there ever a good side to inflation?  Perhaps the IRS adjustments to several tax-related thresholds that change for 2023 count, such as these:

The standard deduction MFJ             $27,700                       up from $25,900

The gift and estate tax credit              $12.92 million             from just over $12 million

The annual gift tax exclusion             $17,000                       up from $16,000

401(k) maximum contribution             $22,500                       plus $7,500 (for over 50)

IRA max.                                            $6,500                         plus $1,000

SEP-IRA max.                                    $66,000

The tax brackets at which rates increase have also gone up, so more is taxed at lower the brackets.

Inflation Reduction Act

The Inflation Reduction Act passed this summer and included changes to tax laws regarding energy saving credits.  The Act also contained other provisions, such as the 15% AMT for C corporations and 1% stock buyback tax.  It’s unfortunate that the abbreviation for the act is IRA, as we already have that in our tax lexicon. 

Beginning in 2023, this new law changes conditions for obtaining the $7,500 credit for new electric vehicles (EVs) and adds a $4,000 credit for used EVs (EVs that are 2 or more years old).  The Act also expanded the reporting requirements for the credits on your tax returns.  Finally, EV buyers can monetize the credit at purchase to reduce the sale price, rather than wait for their tax filing.  Remember there is also a credit for installing a home charger.

To obtain a credit for new EVs, the battery’s minerals must be extracted or processed in the US or a free-trade partner.  The battery must also be manufactured or assembled in North America.  Final assembly of the EV must be in North America.  There are price ceilings on EVs and income limits on claiming taxpayers. 

The Act extend and expanded home energy credits but also expanded the reporting requirements.

Tax planning

Start with this goal: to lessen the total tax due in 2022 and 2023 combined.  Usually that means delaying income to 2023 and accelerating deductions to 2022.  For 2022-2023, the jump in the standard deduction could mean losing itemized deductions in 2023, so pay special attention to what you can shift to 2022.  As we pointed out our post for 2021 year-end planning, if you are concerned about future tax rate increases, you can use a Roth Conversions to bring future income into 2022.

Now to the planning:  Can you act at all? 

Each year, we advise that you be practical, focusing on where you can actually make moves.  For many, the high standard deduction (which is even more for over age 65 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).  And, if you are not itemizing, you have fewer ways in which to affect change in the taxes due in either year.  If you can itemize, you have more tools for planning. 

Tools – income

You can reduce taxable income by maximizing your retirement contributions with your employer via 401(k) or 403(b) plans and IRA contributions if you are below the thresholds.  If you are self-employed, you can contribute to your own qualified plan such as a SEP-IRA. 

You may also be able to contribute to a health savings or flex account.  Be sure to see to use any flex account balances before they expire. 

Review your investments to see if you can take losses to reduce capital gains and up to $3,000 of ordinary income.  ax loss harvesting reduces net taxable capital gains, but be sure not to run afoul of the wash-sale rule.

Tools – deductions

Review your unreimbursed medical expenses, which you can deduct if the total is over 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. 

State and local taxes are capped at $10,000, so you may not be able to shift much between years.  And it is difficult to accelerate mortgage interest on first and second homes.  

Often, the place for the most change is in charitable deductions, where you can bunch two- or three-years’ worth into a single year so you can itemize.  You can use a donor advised fund (“DAF”) to bunch, by contributing all in one year, then having the DAF send annual amounts.  Also, you can transfer up to $100,000 from a traditional IRA directly to charity if you are over 70½.  Note that Congress has not extended the $300 above the line charitable deduction. 

Before you finish, check withholdings and estimates paid

Especially if you increase income in 2022, 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.

And remember your estate plan review

As noted above, the federal gift and estate tax credit  is close to $12 million for 2022 and increases to $12.92 million in 2023.  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.  For more on estate planning updates, see our estate planning checkup post

  • If you do review your estate plan documents, also review beneficiary designations and asset ownership to make sure everything is current and flows correctly. 

Summary

As you review your 2022-2023 tax planning, determine what you can shift and project the impact.  Then follow through on the details. 

Let us know if you have any questions. 

Good luck and best wishes for happy and healthy holidays!

We address the impact of inflation on tax thresholds for 2022 and 2023 that affect your year-end tax planning.  We also review the Inflation Reduction Act and EV credits.  As in the recent years, many taxpayers will not be itemizing because of higher standard deduction (rising to $27,700 for married couples in 2023), unless they bunch charitable deductions from two or more years into one year.

Tax planning while laws are still changing – turn it on its head?

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. 

Summary

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!