Thursday, January 25 2018
As the holidays approach, you may decide to be extra generous this year by donating property to charity. As long as you observe the strict tax rules in this area, you may still be able to take advantage of tax benefits for 2017. The following questions will help you determine the value of your tax break.
Has your donation increased in value? Normally, your deduction for charitable gifts of property is limited to the property's initial cost. However, if the property would have produced a long-term capital gain had you sold it instead of donating (aka you've owned it longer than one year) you may deduct its full fair market value (FMV).
For example, say you bought a painting for $10,000 five years ago that's now worth $15,000. If you donate it to charity, you can deduct the FMV of $15,000. The $5,000 of appreciation remains untaxed… forever.
Has your donation decreased in value? If property has declined in value since you acquired it, your deduction is limited to its FMV regardless of how long you have held it.
Have you gotten a charitable appraisal? Whether or not property has increased or decreased in value, obtain an independent appraisal of its FMV. The IRS specifically requires independent appraisals for property donations exceeding $5,000. (The appraisal costs themselves may be deductible.)
Does your donation have a charitable function? If you donate property that isn't used to further the charity's tax-exempt function, your deduction is generally limited to the property's basis. This could occur, for example, if you donate a family heirloom to a museum, but the artwork is never displayed.
What is your adjusted gross income (AGI) limit? Among other limits, your deduction for charitable gifts of appreciated property in 2017 can't exceed 30 percent of your AGI. Usually, you'll be able to squeeze under the 30 percent threshold. Any excess is carried forward for up to five years.
Other factors may come into play, such as special rules for donations of vehicles. Bottom line: follow the tax rules on year-end contributions and you'll be happy you did. Give us a call if you have questions about your charitable donations.
Tuesday, January 02 2018
You can save more for retirement next year using tax-advantaged accounts, thanks to a boost in the maximum 401(k) contribution rate by the IRS. The maximum rate increases by $500 to $18,500, which is the first increase in three years. Those aged 50 or older can still contribute an additional $6,000 on top of that amount.
This is good news, because a 401(k) is one of most potent tools in your retirement arsenal. It offers many benefits over other forms of saving, including:
Tax-deferred growth. Pretax income of $18,500 invested over 30 years with 6 percent annual cumulative interest will grow to $111,901.92. That's compared with $67,588.76 of the same amount of income invested after being taxed at the highest rate. While you'll owe tax on 401(k) withdrawals after retirement, you may be able to manage your 401(k) withdrawals to fall into a lower income bracket.
Roth option. You may opt to make your contributions to a 401(k) as a Roth investment, meaning you invest post-tax income, but you can withdraw from your Roth tax-free during retirement. A mix of traditional and Roth accounts will give you flexibility to manage your income tax rate during retirement.
Company match. Many companies offer to match the first few percentage points of their employees contributions to a 401(k). Even if you can't max out your contribution, you should try to invest up to your company's match limit. Otherwise, you're just leaving money on the table.
While 401(k)s have great utility, they come with a few downsides. Any withdrawals made before age 59 1/2 are assessed a 10 percent penalty fee, in addition to being taxed as regular income during the year they are withdrawn. Any investments in 401(k)s are also limited to a few choices set by your employer's retirement plan, so a limited number of conventional investment options in mutual funds is one of the trade-offs of using a 401(k).
Social Security also gets a boost in 2018
The federal retirement safety net system, Social Security, also gets a boost during 2018. The average estimated monthly benefit paid to retirees in 2018 will be $1,404 in 2018, up from $1,377 in 2017. The maximum amount of wages subject to Social Security taxes rises to $128,700 in 2018, up $1,500.