They say nothing is certain except death and taxes. Well, right now taxes are anything but certain. Wait a week or two and maybe we’ll have answers.
In spite of the fact that the tax bill changes won’t kick in until 2018, there still are smart tax moves you can make now. Because tax rules are not uniformly applied, I’ll focus here on tax strategies for middle class families. If you’re outside this big demographic, it’s still worth a read but realize you’ll need to validate your moves.
The tax bill is promoted as a tax cut and simplification. That is generally true. You’re likely to see a bigger refund because of lower tax rates and a much larger standard deduction. It’s also likely to simplify the tax prep part since about 90% of folks will no longer receive a benefit for itemizing deductions (write-offs like donations, taxes, medical expenses, mortgage interest, etc.). So, if you haven’t before used tax software like TurboTax to do your taxes, consider it.
You normally wouldn’t see the benefits of a tax cut until you file for your refund in early 2019. But no one wants to give the IRS interest-free use of those refund dollars until then–and you don’t have to. Instead, consider diverting those tax refund dollars into your regular paycheck by changing your tax withholding with your employer. To make this easy, use the free TurboTax W-4 Withholding Calculator. When you increase your withholding “allowances,” you’ll see more money in your paycheck and a smaller tax refund in 2019. That’s a trade-off that makes financial sense.
Since many deductions will likely be eliminated next year, a good money-saving move is to accelerate payment of those disappearing deductions into 2017. This increases your tax write-offs this year that you wouldn’t otherwise get in 2018. For example, prepay before the end of this year income and real estate tax bills, donations, mortgage payments, and large medical bills that normally are paid in January. You’ll get the benefits of the deduction plus they’ll offset your 2017 income that is likely taxed at a higher rate than in 2018.
On the flip side, if you have the ability to defer income into 2018, do that since the income will be taxed at lower rates in 2018. This includes deferring income like commissions, pending stock sales, and unbilled invoices.
Here are some other items you should watch when/if the tax bill passes.
• Got a divorce pending? Divorce (alimony) could cost you lots more money under the new rules.
• Planning a job relocation/move? Pending rules could eliminate the deduction for this.
• Paying student loan interest? This is also on the cutting block.
• Tuition and fees for education expenses is up in the air.
Regardless of what happens in D.C., there are tax moves that make sense in almost any environment. Here are two of the easiest ways to cut your tax bill now while building a nest egg for your future:
Contribute to Retirement Plans – Whether it’s an IRA or 401(k) type of retirement plan, socking money into these plans may lower your tax bill today and grow your retirement account tax free.
Contribute to an Educational Savings Plans (529 plans) – If you’ve planning to put your kids through college, it’s a wise move to start saving today. One great way is to put money into a 529 plan where the earnings accumulate tax free. Plus, many states allow you a state deduction for the contributions.
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As Intuit’s VP, Customer Advocate, Bob Meighan works closely with customers and the development teams to ensure the TurboTax products and services meet their unique needs. He is also a frequent contributor to the major national media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Fox News and Bloomberg. Prior to his time at Intuit, Bob worked with Price Waterhouse in the tax technology field. Bob holds a BS, Accounting degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.