Individual Tax briefs

Answers to your questions about taking withdrawals from IRAs
As you may know, you can’t keep funds in your traditional IRA indefinitely. You have to start taking withdrawals from a traditional IRA (including a SIMPLE IRA or SEP IRA) when you reach age 72.

The rules for taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) are complicated, so here are some answers to frequently asked questions.

What if I want to take out money before retirement?

If you want to take money out of a traditional IRA before age 59½, distributions are taxable and you may be subject to a 10% penalty tax. However, there are several ways that the 10% penalty tax (but not the regular income tax) can be avoided, including to pay: qualified higher education expenses, up to $10,000 of expenses if you’re a first-time homebuyer and health insurance premiums while unemployed.

When do I take my first RMD?

For an IRA, you must take your first RMD by April 1 of the year following the year in which you turn 72, regardless of whether you’re still employed.

How do I calculate my RMD?

The RMD for any year is the account balance as of the end of the immediately preceding calendar year divided by a distribution period from the IRS’s “Uniform Lifetime Table.” A separate table is used if the sole beneficiary is the owner’s spouse who is 10 or more years younger than the owner.

How should I take my RMDs if I have multiple accounts?

If you have more than one IRA, you must calculate the RMD for each IRA separately each year. However, you may aggregate your RMD amounts for all of your IRAs and withdraw the total from one IRA or a portion from each of your IRAs. You don’t have to take a separate RMD from each IRA.

Can I withdraw more than the RMD?

Yes, you can always withdraw more than the RMD. But you can’t apply excess withdrawals toward future years’ RMDs.

In planning for RMDs, you should weigh your income needs against the ability to keep the tax shelter of the IRA going for as long as possible.

Can I take more than one withdrawal in a year to meet my RMD?

You may withdraw your annual RMD in any number of distributions throughout the year, as long as you withdraw the total annual minimum amount by December 31 (or April 1 if it is for your first RMD).

What happens if I don’t take an RMD?

If the distributions to you in any year are less than the RMD for that year, you’ll be subject to an additional tax equal to 50% of the amount that should have been paid out, but wasn’t.

Plan ahead wisely

Contact us to review your traditional IRAs and to analyze other aspects of your retirement planning. We can also discuss who you should name as beneficiaries and whether you could benefit from a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs are retirement savings vehicles that operate under a different set of rules than traditional IRAs. Contributions aren’t deductible but qualified distributions are generally tax-free.



Strategies for investors to cut taxes as year-end approaches

The overall stock market has been down during 2022 but there have been some bright spots. As year-end approaches, consider making some moves to make the best tax use of paper losses and actual losses from your stock market investments.

Tax rates on sales

Individuals are subject to tax at a rate as high as 37% on short-term capital gains and ordinary income. But long-term capital gains on most investment assets receive favorable treatment. They’re taxed at rates ranging from 0% to 20% depending on your taxable income (inclusive of the gains). High-income taxpayers may pay an additional 3.8% net investment income tax.

Sell at a loss to offset earlier gains 

Have you realized gains earlier in the year from sales of stock held for more than one year (long-term capital gains) or from sales of stock held for one year or less (short-term capital gains)? Take a close look at your portfolio and consider selling some of the losers — those shares that now show a paper loss. The best tax strategy is to sell enough losers to generate losses to offset your earlier gains plus an additional $3,000 loss. Selling to produce this loss amount is a tax-smart idea because a $3,000 capital loss (but no more) can offset the same amount of ordinary income each year.

For example, let’s say you have $10,000 of capital gain from the sale of stocks earlier in 2022. You also have several losing positions, including shares in a tech stock. The tech shares currently show a loss of $15,000. From a tax standpoint, you should consider selling enough of your tech stock shares to recognize a $13,000 loss. Your capital gains will be offset entirely, and you’ll have a $3,000 loss to offset against the same amount of ordinary income.

What if you believe that the shares showing a paper loss may turn around and eventually generate a profit? In order to sell and then repurchase the shares without forfeiting the loss deduction, you must avoid the wash-sale rules. This means that you must buy the new shares outside of the period that begins 30 days before and ends 30 days after the sale of the loss stock. However, if you expect the price of the shares showing a loss to rise quickly, your tax savings from taking the loss may not be worth the potential investment gain you may lose by waiting more than 30 days to repurchase the shares.

Use losses earlier in the year to offset gains 

If you have capital losses on sales earlier in 2022, consider whether you should take capital gains on some stocks that you still hold. For example, if you have appreciated stocks that you’d like to sell, but don’t want to sell if it causes you to have taxable gain this year, consider selling just enough shares to offset your earlier-in-the-year capital losses (except for $3,000 that can be used to offset ordinary income). Consider selling appreciated stocks now if you believe they’ve reached (or are close to) the peak price and you also feel you can invest the proceeds from the sale in other property that’ll give you a better return in the future.

These are just some of the year-end strategies that may save you taxes. Contact us to discuss these and other strategies that should be put in place before the end of December.



How savings bonds are taxed

Many people have savings bonds that were purchased many years ago. Perhaps they were given to your children as gifts or maybe you bought them yourself. You may wonder how the interest you earn is taxed. And if they reach final maturity, what action do you need to take to ensure there’s no loss of interest or unanticipated tax consequences?

Interest deferral 

Series EE Bonds dated May 2005 and after earn a fixed rate of interest. Bonds purchased between May 1997 and April 30, 2005, earn a variable market-based rate of return.

Paper Series EE Bonds, issued between 1980 and 2012, are sold at half their face value. For example, you pay $25 for a $50 bond. The bond isn’t worth its face value until it matures. New electronic EE Bonds earn a fixed rate of interest that’s set before you buy the bond. They earn that rate for their first 20 years and the U.S. Treasury may change the rate for the last 10 years of the bond’s 30-year life. Electronic EE bonds are sold at their face value. For example, you pay $100 for a $100 bond.

The minimum ownership term is one year, but a penalty is imposed if the bond is redeemed in the first five years.

Series EE bonds don’t pay interest currently. Instead, accrued interest is reflected in the redemption value of the bond. The U.S. Treasury issues tables showing redemption values. Series EE bond interest isn’t taxed as it accrues unless the owner elects to have it taxed annually. If the election is made, all previously accrued but untaxed interest is also reported in the election year. In most cases, the election isn’t made so that the benefit of tax deferral can be enjoyed. On the other hand, if the bond is owned by a taxpayer with little or no other current income, it may be beneficial to incur the income in low or no tax years to avoid future inclusion. This may be the case with bonds owned by children, although the “kiddie tax” may apply.

If the election isn’t made, all of the accrued interest is taxed when the bond is redeemed or otherwise disposed of (unless it was exchanged for a Series HH bond in an option available before September 1, 2004). The bond continues to accrue interest even after reaching its face value but at “final maturity” (after 30 years) interest stops accruing and must be reported (again, unless it was exchanged for an HH bond).

If you own EE bonds (paper or electronic), check the issue dates on your bonds. If they’re no longer earning interest, you probably want to redeem them and put the money into something more profitable.

Inflation-indexed bonds 

Series I savings bonds are designed to offer a rate of return over and above inflation. The earnings rate is a combination of a fixed rate, which will apply for the life of the bond, and the inflation rate. Rates are announced each May 1 and November 1.

Series I bonds are issued at par (face amount). An owner of Series I bonds may either:

  1. Defer reporting the increase in the redemption (interest) to the year of final maturity, redemption, or other disposition, whichever is earlier, or
  2. Elect to report the increase each year as it accrues.

If 2 is elected, the election applies to all Series I bonds then owned by the taxpayer, those acquired later, and to any other obligations purchased on a discount basis, (for example, Series EE bonds). You can’t change to method 1 unless you follow a specific IRS procedure.

State and local taxes

Although the interest on EE and I bonds is taxable for federal income tax purposes, it’s exempt from state and local taxes. And using the money for higher education may keep you from paying federal income tax on the interest. Contact us if you have any questions about savings bond taxation.



Year-end giving to charity or loved ones

The holiday season is here and many people plan to donate to their favorite charities or give money or assets to their loved ones before the end of the year. Here are the basic tax rules involved in these transactions.

Donating to charity 

In 2022, in order to receive a charitable donation write-off, you must itemize deductions on your tax return. What if you want to give gifts of investments to your favorite charities? There are a couple of points to keep in mind.

First, don’t give away investments in taxable brokerage accounts that are currently worth less than what you paid for them. Instead, sell the shares and claim the resulting capital loss on your tax return. Then, give the cash proceeds from the sale to charity. In addition, if you itemize, you can claim a full tax-saving charitable deduction.

The second point applies to securities that have appreciated in value. These should be donated directly to charity. The reason: If you itemize, donations of publicly traded shares that you’ve owned for over a year result in charitable deductions equal to the full current market value of the shares at the time the gift is made. In addition, if you donate appreciated stock, you escape any capital gains tax on those shares. Meanwhile, the tax-exempt charity can sell the donated shares without owing any federal income tax.

Charitable donations from your IRA 

IRA owners and beneficiaries who’ve reached age 70½ are permitted to make cash donations totaling up to $100,000 annually to IRS-approved public charities directly out of their IRAs. You don’t owe income tax on these qualified charitable distributions (QCDs), but you also don’t receive an itemized charitable contribution deduction.

The upside is that the tax-free treatment of QCDs equates to an immediate 100% federal income tax deduction without having to worry about restrictions that can potentially delay itemized charitable write-offs. Contact your tax advisor if you want to hear about the full benefits of QCDs. If you’re interested in taking advantage of this strategy for 2022, you’ll need to arrange with your IRA trustee or custodian for money to be paid out to one or more qualifying charities before year end.

Giving to loved ones

The principles for tax-smart gifts to charities also apply to gifts to family members and loved ones. That is, you should sell investments that are currently worth less than what you paid for them and claim the resulting tax-saving capital losses. Then, give the cash proceeds from the sale to your children, grandchildren or other loved ones.

Likewise, you should give appreciated stock directly to those to whom you want to give gifts. When they sell the shares, they’ll pay a lower tax rate than you would if they’re in a lower tax bracket.

In 2022, the amount you can give to one person without gift tax implications is $16,000 per recipient (increasing to $17,000 in 2023). The annual gift exclusion is available to each taxpayer. So if you’re married and make a joint gift with your spouse, the exclusion amount is doubled to $32,000 per recipient for 2022.

Tax-smart gifts

Whether you’re giving to charity or loved ones (or both) this holiday season, it’s important to understand the tax consequences of gifts. Contact us if you have questions about taxes and any gifts you want to make.



Adopting a child? Bring home a tax break too

Two tax benefits are available to offset the expenses of adopting a child. In 2022, adoptive parents may be able to claim a credit against their federal tax for up to $14,890 of “qualified adoption expenses” for each child. This will increase to $15,950 in 2023. That’s a dollar-for-dollar reduction of tax.

Also, adoptive parents may be able to exclude from gross income up to $14,890 in 2022 ($15,950 in 2023) of qualified expenses paid by an employer under an adoption assistance program. Both the credit and the exclusion are phased out if the parents’ income exceeds certain limits.

Parents can claim both a credit and an exclusion for expenses of adopting a child. But they can’t claim both a credit and an exclusion for the same expenses.

Qualified expenses 

To qualify for the credit or the exclusion, the expenses must be “qualified adoption expenses.” These are the reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, travel expenses (including meals and lodging), and other expenses directly related to the legal adoption of an “eligible child.”

Qualified expenses don’t include those connected with the adoption of a child of a spouse, a surrogate parenting arrangement, expenses that violate state or federal law or expenses paid using funds received from a government program. Expenses reimbursed by an employer don’t qualify for the credit, but benefits provided by an employer under an adoption assistance program may qualify for the exclusion.

Expenses related to an unsuccessful attempt to adopt a child may qualify. Expenses connected with a foreign adoption (the child isn’t a U.S. citizen or resident) qualify only if the child is actually adopted.

Taxpayers who adopt a child with special needs are deemed to have qualified adoption expenses in the tax year in which the adoption becomes final, in an amount sufficient to bring their total aggregate expenses for the adoption up to $14,890 for 2022 ($15,950 for 2023). They can take the adoption credit or exclude employer adoption assistance up to that amount, whether or not they had those amounts of actual expenses.

Eligible child 

An eligible child is under age 18 at the time a qualified expense is paid. A child who turns 18 during the year is eligible for the part of the year he or she is under age 18. A person who is physically or mentally incapable of caring for him- or herself is eligible, regardless of age.

A special needs child refers to one who the state has determined can’t or shouldn’t be returned to his or her parents and who can’t be reasonably placed with adoptive parents without assistance because of a specific factor or condition. Only a child who is a citizen or resident of the U.S. is included in this category.

Phase-out amounts 

The credit allowed for 2022 is phased out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) over $223,410 ($239,230 for 2023) and is eliminated when AGI reaches $263,410 ($279,230 for 2023).

Note: The adoption credit isn’t “refundable.” So, if the sum of your refundable credits (including any adoption credit) for the year exceeds your tax liability, the excess amount isn’t refunded to you. In other words, the credit can be claimed only up to your tax liability.

Get the full benefit

Contact us with any questions. We can help ensure you get the full benefit of the tax savings available to adoptive parents.



How inflation will affect your 2022 and 2023 tax bills

The effects of inflation are all around. You’re probably paying more for gas, food, health care and other expenses than you were last year. Are you wondering how high inflation will affect your federal income tax bill for 2023? The IRS recently announced next year’s inflation-adjusted tax amounts for several provisions.

Some highlights

Standard deduction. What does an increased standard deduction mean for you? A larger standard deduction will shelter more income from federal income tax next year. For 2023, the standard deduction will increase to $13,850 for single taxpayers, $27,700 for married couples filing jointly and $20,800 for heads of household. This is up from the 2022 amounts of $12,950 for single taxpayers, $25,900 for married couples filing jointly and $19,400 for heads of household.

The highest tax rate. For 2023, the highest tax rate of 37% will affect single taxpayers and heads of households with income exceeding $578,125 ($693,750 for married taxpayers filing jointly). This is up from 2022 when the 37% rate affects single taxpayers and heads of households with income exceeding $539,900 ($647,850 for married couples filing jointly).

Retirement plans. Many retirement plan limits will increase for 2023. That means you’ll have an opportunity to save more for retirement if you have one of these plans and you contribute the maximum amount allowed. For example, in 2023, individuals will be able to contribute up to $22,500 to their 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans and most 457 plans. This is up from $20,500 in 2022. The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in these plans will also rise in 2023 to $7,500. This is up from $6,500 in 2022.

For those with IRA accounts, the limit on annual contributions will rise for 2023 to $6,500 (from $6,000). The IRA catch-up contribution for those age 50 and up remains at $1,000 because it isn’t adjusted for inflation.

Flexible spending accounts (FSAs). These accounts allow owners to pay for qualified medical costs with pre-tax dollars. If you participate in an employer-sponsored health Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you can contribute more in 2023. The annual contribution amount will rise to $3,050 (up from $2,850 in 2022). FSA funds must be used by year end unless an employer elects to allow a two-and-one-half-month carryover grace period. For 2023, the amount that can be carried over to the following year will rise to $610 (up from $570 for 2022).

Taxable gifts. Each year, you can make annual gifts up to the federal gift tax exclusion amount. Annual gifts help reduce the taxable value of your estate without reducing your unified federal estate and gift tax exemption. For 2023, the first $17,000 of gifts to as many recipients as you would like (other than gifts of future interests) aren’t included in the total amount of taxable gifts. (This is up from $16,000 in 2022.)

Thinking ahead

While it will be quite a while before you have to file your 2023 tax return, it won’t be long until the IRS begins accepting tax returns for 2022. When it comes to taxes, it’s nice to know what’s ahead so you can take advantage of all the tax breaks to which you are entitled.



Plan now to make tax-smart year-end gifts to loved ones

Are you feeling generous at year end? Taxpayers can transfer substantial amounts free of gift taxes to their children or other recipients each year through the proper use of the annual exclusion.

The exclusion amount is adjusted for inflation annually, and for 2022, the amount is $16,000.

The exclusion covers gifts that an individual makes to each recipient each year. So a taxpayer with three children can transfer a total of $48,000 to the children this year free of federal gift taxes. If the only gifts during a year are made this way, there’s no need to file a federal gift tax return. If annual gifts exceed $16,000, the exclusion covers the first $16,000 and only the excess is taxable.

Note: This discussion isn’t relevant to gifts made to a spouse because they’re gift tax-free under separate marital deduction rules.

Gift splitting by married taxpayers 

If you’re married, gifts made during a year can be treated as split between the spouses, even if the cash or asset is actually given to an individual by only one of you. Therefore, by gift splitting, up to $32,000 a year can be transferred to each recipient by a married couple because two exclusions are available. So for example, a married couple with three married children can transfer a total of $192,000 each year to their children and the children’s spouses ($32,000 times six).

If gift splitting is involved, both spouses must consent to it. This is indicated on the gift tax return (or returns) the spouses file. (If more than $16,000 is being transferred by a spouse, a gift tax return must be filed, even if the $32,000 exclusion covers total gifts.)

The “present interest” requirement 

For a gift to qualify for the annual exclusion, it must be a “present interest” gift, meaning the recipient’s enjoyment of the gift can’t be postponed to the future. For example, let’s say you put cash into a trust and provide that your adult child is to receive income from it while your child is alive and your grandchild is to receive the principal at your child’s death. Your grandchild’s interest is a “future interest.” Special valuation tables determine the value of the separate interests you set up for each recipient. The gift of the income interest qualifies for the annual exclusion because enjoyment of it isn’t deferred, so the first $16,000 of its total value won’t be taxed. However, the “remainder” interest is a taxable gift in its entirety.

If the gift recipient is a minor and the terms of the trust provide that the income may be spent by or for the minor before he or she reaches age 21, and that any amount left is to go to the minor at age 21, then the annual exclusion is available. The present interest rule won’t apply.

“Unified” credit for taxable gifts 

Even gifts that aren’t covered by the exclusion, and are therefore taxable, may not result in a tax liability. That’s because a tax credit wipes out the federal gift tax liability on the first taxable gifts that you make in your lifetime, up to $12.06 million for 2022. However, to the extent you use this credit against a gift tax liability, it reduces or eliminates the credit available for use against the federal estate tax at your death.

Questions? Contact us. We can also prepare a gift tax return for you if more than $16,000 is given to a single person this year.