Time flies. The holidays are a brief memory, winter is more than half over and we’re looking forward to spring. With spring comes the deadline for filing your tax return. So, don’t let time slip away from you before you are able to gather all of your information to potentially get all the benefits of the lowest tax liability possible.
We are currently still under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Based on that tax law change, nearly 29 million more households will be better off taking the standard deduction instead of itemizing.* Collecting all of your medical, charitable, job expenses, property tax and mortgage information is very time-consuming. And now, if you are better off taking the standard deduction, that information might not even be used. You should still collect the data just to make sure and it is also a good exercise to understand where some of your expenses go.
You may find you are very close to the standard deduction limit, which is $24,400 for Married Filing Jointly (MFJ) for 2019. If that is the case, you might consider bunching your deductions every other year. So, for example, you could take the standard deduction for 2019, then in 2020, double up your charitable contributions. This could allow you to use up the $10,000 limit with property taxes and state taxes paid during the year. If you don’t have a paycheck where you are paying Colorado state tax during the year, and you are not paying Colorado estimated payments, there may be room to double up on your property taxes. This means that in December you can call the county and get an estimate of what your property taxes will be for the following year and pay all or some of them in 2020. Then, you may be able to itemize on your 2020 tax filing and take the standard deduction the following year. The standard deduction will increase by $200 for single filers and $400 for joint filers for 2020.
Tax time is a good time to consider updating your financial plan as well. You are already collecting the W-2, tax withholding, investment sales, dividends and small business revenue and expenses. You might as well finish updating your plan at the same time.
Another item to consider is increasing your 401(k) contributions for the new limits for 2020, which is now $19,500 with an additional $6,500 catch up for workers 50 years of age or older. For those funding IRAs, the limits increased to $6,000 with a $1,000 catch-up.
This is also a good time to take a look at your investments. Perhaps in December you avoided rebalancing your investment portfolio to avoid having more capital gains tax to pay. Well, now it may be time to take another look. We are still under a lower long-term capital gain tax rate and this could be a good time to rebalance, depending on your situation.
Long term capital gains (LTCG) — those assets held for more than 12 months — qualify for the special long-term capital gains rate. Joint filers can earn up to $80,000 taxable income this year and pay zero on LTCG. Joint filers over the $80,000 limit will still only pay 15% on LTCG up to $496,600 of taxable income. These are relatively low tax rates for the ability to trim profits and potentially reduce the overall risk in your portfolio.
Tax planning is a year-long event. The more prepared you are, the fewer surprises you may have.
* TaxFoundation.org. All tax numbers provided by Kaplan
Patricia Kummer has been a Certified Financial Planner and a fiduciary for over 30 years and is Managing Director for Mariner, LLC d/b/a Mariner Wealth Advisors, an SEC Registered Investment Adviser. Please visit www.marinerwealthadvisors.com for more information or refer to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website (www.adviserinfo.sec.gov). Securities offered through MSEC, LLC, Member FINRA & SIPC, 5700 W. 112th Suite 500, Overland Park, KS 66211.