Retiree’s Charitable Contributions Could Offer Income Tax Reduction

 

Retiree-contributions_LI-532x266 Retiree’s Charitable Contributions Could Offer Income Tax Reduction

As the filing season for 2018 tax returns reaches a peak, many people will learn that they’re no longer itemizing deductions. The TCJA placed limits on some deductions and increased the standard deduction significantly, so most taxpayers are taking the standard deduction, rather than itemizing.

One result is that charitable contributions offer no direct tax benefit for many donors. An indirect benefit may be available for people who are 70½ or older. They can take qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) from their IRAs and effectively reduce their income in a maneuver solidly supported by the tax code.

(Taxpayers under age 70½ will report taxable income if they send IRA dollars to charity, so this tactic won’t work. That said, people under the QCD age should inform their parents and other valued seniors about this give-and-take option.)

ABCs of QCDs

IRA owners can send QCDs to recognized charities, up to $100,000 per person per year. They receive no deduction for the contribution, but they also do not have to include the distribution in income. Moreover, a QCD counts toward required minimum distributions (RMDs), which IRA owners must take after age 70½.

Example 1: Ken and Linda Martin are both age 75 with IRAs. Ken has a $20,000 RMD in 2019; Linda’s RMD is $12,000. If they take only RMDs, the Martins will increase their taxable income by $32,000 this year.

Each year, the Martins donate $10,000 to their favorite charities. Even with a $10,000 charitable contribution, it will not pay for this couple to itemize deductions in this hypothetical example.

Therefore, Linda sends $10,000 to selected charities from her IRA via QCDs. Now Linda needs to take only another $2,000 from her IRA to satisfy her $12,000 RMD for the year; Ken will take his $20,000 RMD. In this scenario, the Martins report $22,000 in taxable IRA distributions this year, rather than $32,000. Effectively, they have deducted $10,000 from their income by using QCDs.

Realistic Expectations

Using QCDs may not be a straightforward exercise. IRA custodians differ in the way they handle the procedure.

Taxpayers may have to call their IRA custodian and speak to a designated person who is familiar with QCDs. Charitable recipients can be named, along with their mailing addresses. Securities might have to be sold, if the QCD is to be made in cash, and a form might have to be signed by the IRA owner for each charity, permitting the QCD.

Other financial firms might send out a distribution booklet to be returned, along with a signature guarantee for each QCD. Yet another possible method is to handle the QCD transaction online. The process can be time-consuming and possibly confusing, so it’s best not to wait until the waning days of December to get started.

Keep in mind that a distribution will only be a QCD if the entire distribution meets the requirements for a charitable contribution deduction, such as a charity’s eligibility under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code and substantiation requirements. QCDs can’t be sent to donor-advised funds.

IRAs Eligible for QCDs 

  • Qualified charitable distributions can come from most types of IRAs, including rollover IRAs and inherited IRAs, other than “ongoing” simplified employee pension (SEP) IRAs or savings incentive match for employees (SIMPLE) IRAs.
  • For this purpose, a SEP IRA or a SIMPLE IRA is treated as ongoing if it is maintained under an employer arrangement under which an employer contribution is made for the plan year ending with or within the IRA owner’s taxable year in which the charitable contributions would be made.
  • Following the IRS’ position, some IRA custodians will permit a QCD from a SEP or SIMPLE IRA for a given year if no contribution has been made to the plan that year.

Get Help

Before making any contributions, speak with us about its impact on your taxes.

Double IRA Season Is Here

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Photo: Christin Hume

The start of each year might be considered “Double IRA” season. Until mid-April (the 15th, in 2019), you still can make contributions to an IRA for 2018, if you have funds you’d like to save for retirement. Most workers and their spouses may each contribute up to $5,500, or $6,500 for those who were 50 or older at the end of 2018.

If you have additional dollars to invest, you also can put them into an IRA for 2019, now that the year has begun. The sooner you put money into a 2019 IRA and choose investments, the sooner tax-advantaged buildup might begin.

Note that such IRA contributions are permitted even if you also participate in an employer’s retirement plan. The same is true if you participate in a SEP-IRA or SIMPLE IRA through your company or self-employment.

Three for the Money

Many workers can choose from among three types of IRAs.

Deductible IRAs. Whereas most workers and their spouses can contribute to regular (traditional) IRAs, only some people can deduct their contributions. A full deduction is available if you do not participate in an employer’s retirement plan; if you do participate, the deduction allowed depends on your income.

Example 1: Paula Adams, a single taxpayer who participates in a 401(k), must have had modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $63,000 or less in 2018 for a full deduction on her 2018 tax return. If her MAGI is greater than $63,000 but less than $73,000, a partial deduction is allowed.

Different MAGI numbers apply to married taxpayers filing joint returns, qualifying widows or widowers, and married taxpayers filing separate returns.

Contributions to traditional IRAs are not allowed after you reach age 70½.

 Roth IRAs. Contributions to Roth IRAs are never tax deductible. However, once you have had a Roth IRA account for five years and reach age 59½, all withdrawals ― including withdrawn investment earnings ― are untaxed.

There are no age limits for contributions to a Roth IRA. However, income limits apply.

Example 2: Rick Baker, a single taxpayer, must have had MAGI of $120,000 or less in 2018 for a full contribution to a Roth IRA for 2018. Rick can make a partial contribution if his MAGI is greater than $120,000 but less than $135,000, and no contribution if his MAGI is $135,000 or more.

Different MAGI numbers for Roth IRA contributions apply to married taxpayers filing joint returns, qualifying widows or widowers, and married taxpayers filing separate returns.

Nondeductible traditional IRAs. Some workers and workers’ spouses will not be able to deduct contributions to traditional IRAs or contribute to Roth IRAs because of their income.

Example 3: Carol Davis, a single taxpayer who participates in a 401(k), had MAGI of $220,000 in 2018. That puts her over the upper MAGI limits for traditional IRA deductions ($73,000) and Roth IRA contributions ($135,000), mentioned previously. However, as long as Carol was under age 70½ by the end of 2018, she can make a full nondeductible contribution to a traditional IRA. Any earnings within this IRA will not be taxed until money is withdrawn.

Once money is in a traditional IRA, it can be converted to a Roth IRA, in which future distributions may be untaxed. Roth IRA conversions have no income or age limits.

Tax Trap

Roth IRA conversions generate tax bills if pretax dollars are moving into an after-tax account. That may not be the case if only after-tax dollars are being converted.

Example 4: Suppose that Carol Davis from example 3 is 55 years old. She contributes $6,500 to a nondeductible traditional IRA for 2018. Carol has no pretax money in any other traditional, SEP, or SIMPLE IRA. If she converts that $6,500 to a Roth IRA, Carol will owe no tax. She will have made what’s known as a back-door Roth IRA contribution and will get around the income limits.

Behind the Back Door

  • Suppose a taxpayer with $26,000 of pretax money in a traditional IRA makes a $6,500 nondeductible contribution to a new traditional IRA.
  • That brings the IRA total to $32,500, of which $6,500 (20 percent) is after-tax money.
  • Then, a Roth IRA conversion of any amount will be 20 percent tax-free and 80 percent taxable, regardless of which IRA is used for the Roth conversion.
  • Such back-door Roth conversions may be most appealing to high-income taxpayers with little or no pretax money in traditional, SEP, or SIMPLE IRAs.

Additional Resources

If you need help with your financial plan, we can assist. In addition, below are some of our other financial planning tips you might like.

Power of Attorney – Your Trusted Agent

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Most people realize the importance of a will to help direct the transfer of assets after death. During your lifetime, you also may want to have a power of attorney (POA) for convenience and asset protection.

The person who creates a POA is known as the principal. In the POA, an agent (known as the attorney-in-fact) is given the authority to act on the principal’s behalf. POAs come in different forms with different purposes.

General POA

A general or regular POA gives the agent the broad ability to act for the principal. This type might be useful when the principal will be unable to act on his or her own behalf for some reason. Someone in the military, for example, might name an agent to handle financial affairs during the principal’s overseas assignment.

Limited POA

As the name suggests, these special POAs are not open-ended. There could be a specified time period when you’re unable to act on your own behalf. Alternatively, a limited POA could be effective only for a designated purpose, such as signing a contract when you can’t be present.

Durable POA 

Regular or limited POAs may become void if the principal loses mental competence. Unfortunately, that can be the time when a POA is needed most: when assets could be squandered because of poor decisions.

Therefore, a durable POA can be extremely valuable because it remains in effect if the principal becomes incompetent. The agent can make financial decisions, such as asset management and residential transactions. If a durable POA is not in place, the relatives of an individual deemed to be incompetent might have to go to court to request that a conservator be named, which can be a time-consuming and expensive process with an uncertain outcome.

Springing POA

Some people are not comfortable creating a POA while they are still competent, yet an individual who loses mental capability cannot legally create a POA. One solution is to use a springing POA, which takes effect only in certain circumstances, such as a doctor certifying that the principal cannot make financial decisions. Note that some states may not allow springing POAs, and some attorneys are skeptical about using them because the process of getting a physician’s timely certification might be challenging.

Health Care POA

The POAs described previously empower an agent to make financial decisions. A health care POA is different because it names someone to make medical decisions if the patient cannot do so. The agent named on a financial POA could be someone trusted with money matters, whereas someone with other abilities and concerns could be appropriate for a health care POA.

Powerful Thoughts

As indicated, the agent you name on any POA should be someone you trust absolutely with your wealth or your health. Married couples are best protected if both spouses have their own POAs.

In addition, you might have to check with the financial firms holding your assets before having a POA drafted. Some companies prefer to use their own forms, so a POA drafted by your attorney might not be readily accepted. Moreover, financial institutions might be reluctant to accept a very old POA, so periodic updating can be helpful.

When creating a POA, you should make it clear that the power applies to retirement accounts such as IRAs. Your agent should have the ability to execute rollovers and designate beneficiaries, for example. An attorney who is experienced in estate planning can help you obtain a POA with the power to help you and your loved ones, if necessary.

Additional Resources

Throwing SALT Into The Property-Tax Wound

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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 sharply raised the standard deduction and placed limits on itemized deductions. In particular, no more than $10,000 can be deducted in state and local tax (SALT) payments on a single or joint tax return.

As a result, most people will take the standard deduction now and get no tax benefit from their property tax payments. Even those who itemize may get little or no tax benefit from their property tax payments if they also have ample outlays for state and possibly local income tax. The bottom line is that property tax payments will be fully or mainly out-of-pocket expenses for most homeowners — and for many home buyers — with reduced federal tax savings as an offset.

When the TCJA was passed, some observers predicted that this effective cost increase would significantly bring down home prices.

Example: John and Mary Smithe pay $20,000 a year in property tax. They had been in a 28% tax bracket, giving them a $5,600 (28% of $20,000) federal tax saving, resulting in a net cost of $14,400. If this couple sells their home, the buyer could owe the full $20,000 a year in property tax. This might reduce the home’s appeal to buyers, who would offer lower bids than would have been offered in the past.

Broadly, such price declines have not happened. The U.S. House Price Index Report from the Federal House Finance Agency shows a 6.5% growth in prices from the second quarter of 2017 to the second quarter of 2018. Nevertheless, residential housing markets are very local, and it is likely that the new tax rules are affecting numerous transactions, especially in areas where property taxes are steep.

For Sellers

If you are planning to sell a primary residence or second home, be aware that buyers probably will raise questions about the ongoing property tax they will incur. You should know the amount you’re paying now and the amounts you have paid in the past. If the growth rate has been modest, or if your home is taxed less than those in your neighborhood, tell your real estate agent. Then, your agent can use this fact as a selling point.

All homeowners, particularly those who plan a sale, should investigate the possibility of reducing their property tax bill. You should find out the procedure for obtaining a lower assessment in your community and see if you might qualify. Any reduction in annual tax obligation may be worth the effort, from increased cash flow today and a potentially higher selling price tomorrow.

For Buyers

If you are planning to buy a house, know your tax situation. Will you be taking the standard deduction? Will your itemized SALT deductions be capped? You’ll know whether you’ll get any tax savings from deducting property tax, so you will know what to expect in after-tax costs from a home purchase. If those costs, which are likely to rise in the future, might strain your budget, you can drop your bid price or look for another place with lower property taxes.

The IRS 15% Solution

Taxpayers in high tax states may hope that state “workarounds” will effectively preserve SALT tax benefits and their housing prices. One tactic has been to create state-run charities to which taxpayers can contribute in return for a credit against state income tax. These contributions would get federal tax deductions, which generally have much higher caps, instead of deductions for state and local tax payments, with lower caps.

In response, the IRS issued proposed regulations on this subject on August 23, 2018. Here, the IRS said that a taxpayer’s charitable deduction will be reduced if the anticipated state tax credit exceeds 15% of the contribution. The message from the IRS is that the new SALT deduction rules will be enforced.

Explaining the Proposed Regulations

  • For example, suppose Ann Clark contributes $20,000 to a state-sponsored health or education charity.
  • Ann expects to receive a $14,000 state income tax credit (70% of $20,000).
  • Ann’s state tax credit is greater than 15% of her contribution.
  • These IRS proposed regulations say that Ann’s charitable deduction will be reduced by $14,000, regardless of when she claims the tax credit.

Questions About Tax Deductions?

Give us a call. We specialize in personal and business taxes for companies, large and small.

Additional Resources

Funding Company’s Buy-Sell With Life Insurance Can Be Tricky

life-insurance-buy-sell_LI-532x266 Funding Company’s Buy-Sell With Life Insurance Can Be Tricky
Photo: Stock

Among the trigger events of a small company buy-sell agreement, death of a co-owner typically is included.

Example 1: Wendy Young and Victor Thomas both own 50% of YT Corp. They have a buy-sell, which calls for Wendy to buy Victor’s interest in YT if he dies. Similarly, Victor will buy Wendy’s interest in YT from her estate if she is the first to die.

Small company buy-sells such as the one for YT Corp. often fall into one of two categories:

  • Cross purchase. Wendy will buy Victor’s shares directly from his heirs, or vice versa.
  • Here, YT Corp. will buy the decedent’s interest. If Victor is first to die, YT will buy his shares, leaving Wendy as the sole owner.

Finding the Funds 

With either type of buy-sell, a “buy” must be made, and the decedent’s interest in the company might be extremely valuable. Therefore, life insurance often is used to provide the funds for the buyout.

Example 2: In a cross-purchase arrangement, Wendy will acquire a policy on Victor’s life, and Victor will own a policy on Wendy’s life. If Victor dies, the insurance payout will go to Wendy, generally free of income tax. Wendy can use this money to buy Victor’s interest in YT Corp. from his estate at the price set in the buy-sell.

If Victor is the survivor, the process will take place in reverse.

Pros and Cons

There are some advantages to a cross-purchase arrangement. If the shares have appreciated over the years, Wendy will get a basis step-up to current value when she buys Victor’s shares. That could reduce the tax on a future sale of all of Wendy’s shares.

On the other hand, the premiums on a large life insurance policy could be substantial. Wendy and Victor might not be willing and able to pay these costs personally. This issue could be further complicated if, say, Victor is much older than Wendy and in poor health. The premiums on a policy insuring Victor could be much higher than the premiums for a policy insuring Wendy; this disparity may have to be resolved by some financial arrangement between the owners.

In addition, not every small company has 2 co-owners. With 3 owners, each would have to own life insurance policies on 2 others, for a total of 6 policies. Four owners would need 12 policies, and so on.

Regarding Redemptions 

Some of these cross-purchase problems can be resolved by using a corporate redemption plan.

Example 3: In a redemption plan, YT Corp. needs to buy only two life insurance policies: one on Wendy and the other on Victor. If Victor dies, the death benefit goes to YT, which uses the money to redeem Victor’s shares. If Wendy dies first, YT will buy her shares.

This method addresses the problems of multiple owners, uneven premium payments, and personal outlays for premiums. On the negative side, a redemption plan places what might be valuable insurance policies in the company’s possession, subject to creditors’ claims. Adverse tax issues also may arise, including the loss of a basis step-up for the surviving co-owner or owners.

Other ways to use life insurance for buy-sells may be suggested by an experienced insurance agent. For instance, a trust might be created and funded by multiple co-owners, with an independent trustee acquiring life insurance policies on those owners’ lives. The taxation of a trusteed buy-sell might be more favorable than taxation of a redemption plan. Our office can explain the likely tax consequences of any strategy you’re considering for funding a buy-sell through life insurance.

If your company initiates a buy-sell to be funded with life insurance, make sure to keep the policies up to date. If the company’s value grows but the coverage doesn’t increase, the insurance payout could be only a fraction of the required purchase price.

 

 

Disclaimer: This post originally appeared in the CPA Client Bulletin Resource Guide, © 2018 Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. Reprinted by permission.