Reduce taxes on your investments with these year-end strategies

post-it-819682_640While tax consequences should never drive investment decisions, it’s critical that they be considered — especially by higher-income taxpayers, who may be facing the 39.6% short-term capital gains rate, the 20% long-term capital gains rate and the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT).

Holding on to an investment until you’ve owned it more than one year so the gains qualify for long-term treatment may help substantially cut tax on any gain. Here are some other tax-saving strategies:

  • Use unrealized losses to absorb gains.
  • Avoid wash sales.
  • See if a loved one qualifies for the 0% rate (or the 15% rate if your rate is 20%).

Many of the strategies that can help you save or defer income tax on your investments can also help you avoid or defer NIIT liability. And because the threshold for the NIIT is based on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), strategies that reduce your MAGI — such as making retirement plan contributions — can also help you avoid or reduce NIIT liability.

These are only a few of the year-end strategies that may help you reduce taxes on your investments. For more ideas, contact us.

 

Use this strategy to postpone taxes

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The tax law provides a valuable tax-saving opportunity to business owners and real estate investors who want to sell property and acquire similar property at about the same time. This tax break is known as a like-kind or tax-deferred exchange. By following certain rules, you can postpone some or all of the tax that would otherwise be due when you sell property at a gain.

A like-kind exchange simply involves swapping assets that are similar in nature. For example, you can trade an old business vehicle for a new one, or you can swap land for a strip mall. However, you can’t swap your vehicle for an apartment building because the properties are not similar. Certain types of assets don’t qualify for a tax-deferred exchange, including inventory, accounts receivable, stocks and bonds, and your personal residence.

Typically, an equal swap is rare; some amount of cash or debt must change hands between two parties to complete an exchange. Cash or other dissimilar property received in an exchange may be taxable.

It is not necessary for the exchange of properties to be simultaneous. However, in the case of such a delayed exchange, the replacement property must be specifically identified in writing within 45 days and must be received within 180 days (or by your tax return due date, if earlier), after sale of the exchange property.

With a real estate exchange, it is unusual to find two parties whose properties are suitable to each other. This isn’t a problem because the rules allow for three-party exchanges. Three-party exchanges require the use of an intermediary. The intermediary coordinates the paperwork and holds your sale proceeds until you find a replacement property. Then he forwards the money to your closing agent to complete the exchange.

When done properly, exchanges let you trade up in value without owing tax on a sale. There’s no limit on the number of times you can exchange property. If you would like to learn more about tax-deferred exchanges, contact us.

4 Tax-Smart Decisions for 2015

Were you less than satisfied with your financial situation at the end of 2014? If so, making tax-smart decisions in 2015 could provide a helpful course correction. Here are some suggestions to get you started on the right path.ball-275711__180

1. Get structured. That out-of-control feeling from last year might be due to a lack of organization. Set up a simple filing system to arrange your tax papers and records. Once you’re organized, review your monthly expenses and establish a budget you can live with. Online tools can help make that job much easier, or you can give us a call. We’ll be happy to help.

Next, take your planning a step further and create an emergency fund. Consider setting aside six months of living expenses in an account you can tap easily.

2. Be strategic. Examine your investment portfolio for potential tax savings, such as selling stocks that are worth less than you paid to offset your capital gains. You might also donate appreciated stock that you have held for more than one year to charity and avoid capital gains altogether. With the new tax on unearned income to watch out for, consider buying investments that pay tax-free income, such as municipal bonds.

3. Look again. Some everyday tax moves deserve a second look. Review your employer’s list of benefits to make sure you are making the most of them, including the lesser-known perks, if available, such as flexible spending accounts, commuting reimbursements, and employer-paid college expenses. If you have a qualified high-deductible health insurance plan, consider the benefits of a health savings account.

This is also a good time to analyze your tax withholdings and estimates for 2015. Changes to your job, marital status or dependents, a new home, or a serious health issue – all of these life events can affect your tax situation. Adjustments now can put extra money in your pocket when you need it most.

4. Go long. In addition to strategies that yield immediate benefits, think about your long-term finances. Take full advantage of your employer’s retirement matching program. Consider contributing the maximum allowed by law, especially if you are nearing retirement age. In 2015, you can contribute up to $18,000 to your 401(k) plan, plus a $6,000 catch-up contribution if you’re age 50 or over.

Are you ready to think really long term? Review your will and estate plan. Even though the current high-dollar exclusions may shield you from the estate tax, there are still good reasons for you to have a solid plan in place.

If looking back at 2014 leaves you thinking you should have managed things better, take steps now to get your tax and financial plan back on track.