As the end of the year approaches, tax season looms on the horizon. We asked local financial experts for their advice about what you can do now for lesser worries later.
Maurice Quiroga Executive VP/managing director, PNC Wealth Management
◆ MAXIMIZE DEDUCTIONS. For instance, you can pre-pay mortgage or any type of loan interest before Dec. 31 so you get that deduction on your 2011 tax return.
◆ TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE IRS’ ENERGY EFFICIENT TAX CREDIT. Homeowners can make certain improvements to their house, like windows, doors and HVAC equipment, and receive a tax credit up to 10 percent of the cost, to a $500 lifetime maximum. The credit expires at the end of the year.
◆ KEEP PROPER RECORDS OF ANY POSSIBLE DEDUCTIONS. The IRS is beginning to look more closely at how tax filers itemize their returns. For instance, if you’ve made charitable donations, be sure to get receipts or letters from the organizations to verify everything.
◆ THE GRANDPARENT TIP. If grandparents want to get assets out of their estate, they can pre-pay their grandchild’s tuition for the following calendar year. Just because the bill says, Due May 1, 2012, doesn’t mean they can’t pay it in November or December 2011. It’s simply a way to lower a person’s estate since we don’t know anyone’s life expectancy.
Stephen Green President, Optimum Wealth Management
◆ MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT YOUR YEAR-TODATE REALIZED AND UNREALIZED CAPITAL GAINS AND LOSSES ARE FROM ANY TAXABLE ACCOUNTS. Your CPA or tax preparer should know if you have any capital loss to carry forward from years past. Tax loss harvesting can then offset some tax liability from gains.
◆ MAKE A GOOD THING OUT OF A BAD SITUATION. If you are unemployed or under-employed, you may fall under the income exclusion amount and can convert traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs. The conversion must be done by Dec. 31, or it will carry to 2012, and you don’t know what your income may be in the next year.
◆ CHECK WITH EMPLOYERS TO SEE IF YOUR COMPANY OFFERS A ROTH 401(K) PLAN. If so, the income limits do not apply. Even high income earners under the age of 40 should consider making at least part of their contributions to a Roth 401(k).
David Stubblefield Assistant VP/financial planner, Commerce Trust Company
◆ IF YOU ARE USING A NEW TAX PROFESSIONAL, CONTACT THEM NOW BEFORE THEY ENTER THEIR BUSY SEASON. Also, make sure you are aware of your specific financial situation and start gathering any data you may need for your tax returns: important receipts, year-end statements, pay stubs, etc.
◆ MAKE ANY 529 COLLEGE SAVINGS PLAN CONTRIBUTIONS BEFORE THE DEC. 31 DEADLINE. For instance, if you are a married Missouri taxpayer paying jointly, you can deduct up to $16,000 a year from your state taxes for those contributions.
◆ KEEP IN MIND THE ANNUAL $13,000 GIFT TAX EXCLUSION. If a family member is gifting to relatives, they have to make that gift before the end of the year to use 2011’s exclusion.
◆ DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR FLEXIBLE SPENDING ACCOUNT. If you deferred money pre-tax into an account for doctor visits and prescriptions, use it or lose it by Dec. 31.