Keep track of your income to limit taxes on capital gains

Depending on your income, you might not have to pay any federal income taxes on qualified dividends or gains from selling stocks, mutual funds or other capital assets you’ve owned for more than a year. In 2020, married couples who file jointly can qualify for the 0% Capital Gains rate if their taxable income is $80,000 or less. For single filers, the 2020 threshold is $40,000

How can proactive tax planning help you land in a lower tax bracket during those early retirement years? One move would be to delay taking your Social Security benefits for a few years while you live off your capital gains. And if you need additional income during those years, you might choose to withdraw the funds from a Roth account or IUL, since that won’t increase your taxable income.

Move money from a traditional IRA to a Roth or Index Universal Life (IUL)

If you’ve been putting most of your savings into a tax-deferred investment account, converting all or a sizable chunk of those funds to a Roth or IUL could help defuse the ticking tax time bomb that’s waiting for you in retirement. This is especially true if you expect to have a long retirement or if you believe taxes are bound to be higher in the future. The tax bracket overhaul put in place by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is set to expire at the end of 2025, bumping up taxes to where they were in 2017. Most experts are predicting they could go even higher, given that the national debt is currently $25 Trillion and growing, and Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare will likely need funding help in the future.

Finding the optimal Roth or Index Universal Life (IUL) conversion strategy for your circumstances can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax savings over the course of your retirement. Once your money is in a Roth or IUL, it can continue to grow without growing your tax bill. (We will be able to fill you in on all the rules that apply to a Roth conversion and IUL policies.)

Plan for the hidden Medicare tax

Here’s another place where doing a Roth or IUL conversion now could help mitigate taxes in retirement. Many people don’t know this, but individuals and couples with higher incomes may be required to pay an income-related monthly adjustment amount (IRMAA) in addition to their Medicare Part B and Part D premiums. The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines whether you’re subject to these surcharges based on the income you reported on your tax return two years ago. (So, for example, in 2020, the SSA will look at your 2018 return.)

Currently, there are six income tiers that determine both surcharges. Individuals with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $87,000 or less and married couples with a joint MAGI of $174,000 or less are in the first tier; they are not subject to IRMAA surcharges in 2020. After that, the extra costs kick in — and they increase at each income tier. That means affluent retirees who keep their money in tax-deferred accounts for years, until they are required to take minimum distributions at age 72, could end up paying thousands more for Medicare coverage every year. Only careful planning can reduce that unexpected tax bill.

Take care of your surviving spouse

When one spouse dies, the survivor’s tax status changes to single filer. That means the widow or widower will face a lower income threshold for calculating income taxes, whether his or her Social Security benefits will be taxed and whether an IRMAA will affect future Medicare premiums. It is important to keep the surviving spouse’s filing status in mind when making your income plan. A Roth or IUL can provide tax-free income and in the case of an IUL provide a tax-free death benefit, also. It’s not atypical to see taxes increase 40%-60% just from losing a spouse, while income usually decreases due to losing a Social Security check.

It’s easy to become so focused on saving on taxes right now that you lose sight of the future consequences. We can provide a professional analysis of your overall financial plan and help put things in perspective to allow you to develop strategies that will make sense with respect to your needs and objectives now and in retirement.

How about your legacy

If leaving a legacy is a priority for you, you should know that the new SECURE Act now forces non-spouse beneficiaries (with some exceptions) to take a full payout from an inherited IRA within 10 years of the original account holder’s death. The income from these RMDs will go on top of those beneficiaries’ existing income, potentially pushing them into a higher tax bracket. And if they forget or fail to distribute the IRA within 10 years, there is a 50% penalty on top of the income taxes due

Again, moving the money to a Roth or IUL may be appropriate. Your beneficiaries will be required to take RMDs from an inherited Roth IRA — and pay a penalty if they don’t — but they won’t have to pay taxes on those withdrawals, and with an IUL there is no RMD and the funds are passed on generally tax-free

For more information contact us today.