General Tax Strategies for Individuals

Contribute to a Retirement Plan to Save Taxes

You or your spouse must have earned income in order to contribute to a retirement plan. Taxpayers with modified AGI below certain thresholds are permitted to contribute up to $6,000 to a Roth IRA for 2022. (Taxpayers aged 50 or older are allowed an additional $1,000 contribution.) These amounts begin to reduce for single filers and married couples filing jointly who reach modified AGI of $129,000 and $204,000, respectively.

Planning Point: If you would like to contribute to a Roth IRA, but your income exceeds the threshold, consider contributing to a traditional IRA for 2022 and then converting the IRA to a Roth IRA in 2023. Be aware, however, that current law prevents the taxpayer from “unwinding” this Roth conversion.

Self-employed individuals can have a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan, contributing up to 25% of their net earnings from self-employment. The maximum contribution limit is $61,000. The self-employed may set up a SEP plan as late as the due date of their tax return, including extensions. A 401(k) plan is another option for the self-employed. For 2022, a self-employed individual, as an employee, may defer up to $20,500 ($27,000 for age 50 or older) of annual compensation. Acting as the employer, the individual may contribute 25% of net profits, excluding the deferred $20,500, up to a maximum contribution of $61,000.

You may make only oneIRA rollover by beneficiary per year. This does not limit direct IRA rollovers from trustee to trustee, but only those distributions to the IRA beneficiary who, within 60 days, deposits it into an IRA account. Nor does this rule apply to conversions from traditional to Roth IRAs.

The first IRA distribution and rollover will be tax free, but any subsequent rollovers will be subject to regular tax. If the deposit exceeds the IRA contribution limits, it will be subject to a 6% annual excise tax until corrected.

Revisit Your Estate and Gift Planning Strategies

Taxpayers are permitted to make annual tax-free gifts of up to $16,000 per recipient ($32,000, if married) without filing a gift tax return. There are also rules allowing for education related gifts which may exceed these yearly maximums. By making these gifts annually, taxpayers can transfer significant wealth out of their estate without using any of their lifetime exclusions.

Gifts can be made for more than $16,000. A gift tax return must be filed to track the amount of estate/gift lifetime exclusion used, which is currently $12.06 million per person ($24.12 million for married couples) for 2022. Washington State’s 2022 exemption is $2,193,000. Since the Federal Estate rules have changed, and because Washington State has its own set of estate rules, we recommend that you review your current estate documents.

Trust Beneficiaries

If you are a beneficiary of a trust, you should talk to your trustees to see if distributions are able to be made according to your individual trust agreement. Trust rates are normally higher than individual rates and so distributions could serve to minimize overall taxes.

Review Your Withholding/Estimated Tax Payments

Review your federal income tax withholding between now and the end of the year to avoid the penalty for underpaying your 2022 taxes. Underpayment penalties can be avoided by individuals if they timely pay the lesser of 90% of their current tax or 100% of their prior year tax liability. If your AGI exceeded $150,000 in 2021, then the safe harbor for 2022 tax payments is 110% of your total 2021 tax, assuming your 2022 income is more than 2021.

Increasing your final estimated tax deposit due January 16, 2023, may reduce some of the penalty but is unlikely to eliminate it entirely. However, withholding payments, even if they are made on the last pay day of the tax year, are deemed as withheld ratably throughout the tax year. You can check your withholding using the IRS Withholding Tool and then updating your Form W-4 if needed. Both the tool and form can be found on the IRS website.

Charitable Donations and RMDs

If you are an individual that is at least 70½ years old and who would like to make a large charitable donation, you may take advantage of the qualified charitable donation from your IRA. Up to $100,000 of a distribution can be directed to the charity of your choice by instructing your IRA trustee to send money directly to this charity. Please note that this can be made at 70 ½ even if you are not subject to a required minimum distribution age of 72. This is a great planning opportunity if you are claiming the standard deduction.

Timing Your Capital Gain (& Loss) Recognition

Short-term capital gains are taxed at an individual’s ordinary income tax rate. If they hold a capital asset for more than one year, the capital gain is considered “long-term”. Depending on their tax bracket, a long-term capital gain is taxed at 0%, 15%, or 20% (see table below):

Capital Gains RateSingleJointHead of Household
0%$0 – 41,675$0 – 83,350$0 – 55,800
15% $41,676 $83,351 $55,801
20% $459,751 $517,201 $488,501

Remember: capital gains might be subject to an additional 3.8% net investment income tax if your AGI is over $200,000 (single)/$250,000 (joint).

Capital losses, including worthless securities, will offset capital gains. Therefore, triggering tax losses when beneficial from an investment perspective, can help to mitigate overall taxes. If there is a net overall capital loss, only a $3,000 loss can be claimed per year ($1,500 if married, filing separately) and the excess losses carry forward into the future.

Be careful not to violate the “wash sale” rule by buying an asset nearly identical to the one you sold at a loss within 31 days before or after the sale. Otherwise, the wash sale rule will prevent you from claiming the loss immediately.

If you sell your principal residence before year end, up to $250,000 of your gain is exempt from tax under current law ($500,000 for joint filers). The IRS requires you to have used the property as your main home for at least two of the last five years to qualify for this treatment.

Timing of Income & Deductions

Income Planning

To the extent that you can smooth income and not jump into a higher bracket, there is advantage to timing your income. Under the current tax rates and brackets, individuals will be in the 37% tax bracket when their income reaches $539,901 (single)/$647,851(joint).

If you are subject to various types of layered income taxes, planning your income becomes a valuable exercise. Specifically, planning is recommended for individuals when considering the net investment income tax, the additional Medicare tax, and alternative minimum taxes.

Please view our complete list of updated thresholds for 2022 and 2023 to see if your income is nearing these thresholds.

Deduction Planning

Remember that prepaying certain itemized deductions might not lower your overall tax due to AMT or the deduction limitations set by the tax, but this can be a helpful strategy for reducing taxes. Instead of prepaying, you may want to consider bunching itemized deductions into one year to take maximum advantage of the deductions in year one and plan on taking the standard deduction the following year. Please contact us to help you analyze the tax effects of prepaying tax-deductible items. The following expenses are commonly paid as part of year-end tax planning:

  • Charitable contributions:
    • Cash contributions to qualified charities can be deducted up to 60% of your adjusted gross income (AGI)
    • Noncash gifts made are limited to 50% of your AGI
    • Gifts of appreciated property held over one year can be deducted up to 30% of your AGI (20% for gifts to private operating foundations). Avoid paying capital gains tax by gifting the securities, rather than gifting the sales proceeds. Also, consider using a donor advised fund to utilize a bunching strategy for making charitable contributions.
  • Mortgage interest: Your ability to deduct prepaid interest is limited and the IRS is matching the information on the bank’s Form 1098-INT. Home loan interest is allowed for loans up to $1 million for pre-December 15, 2017 loans and after that date for loans up to $750,000.

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