Baby Boomers and Tax Breaks

May 2016

I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal recently and realized that every certain age group has been given a name. The Pew Research Center considers anyone born prior to 1928 “the Greatest Generation”. If you were born between 1928 through 1945 you were called the “Silent Generation”; “Generation Xers” were born between 1965 and 1980, and “Millennials” were from the period of 1981 through 1998. Although not official, it looks like the current generation will be called “Generation Z”.

The group I want to focus on is the infamous “Baby Boomer” generation. According to the Census Bureau, Baby Boomers were born from 1946 to 1964. The youngest person in this generation has already turned 50, actually turning 52 this year.

Besides getting your AARP discount membership card in the mail, turning 50 also provides you with some additional tax breaks on certain deductions and allows you to defer additional earnings towards your workplace retirement plan. For example, you can defer an additional $6,000, for a total of $24,000 annually in 2016, for plans like a 401(k) or 403(b). If you contribute to a SIMPLE IRA, you can add on an additional $3,000 for a total of $15,500 in 2016.

If you can contribute to an IRA or Roth IRA, turning 50 allows you to contribute an additional $1,000 for a total contribution of $6,500.

While turning 55 probably won’t result in that surprise birthday party you likely had when you turned the big 5-0, but it will provide you with a couple of additional tax breaks. One is that you can take a penalty free withdrawal from your workplace plan, which is a good thing for an emergency. Another advantage of turning 55 is that if you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) established, (which you can acquire if you have a High Deductible Health Insurance plan), you can contribute an additional $1,000 for a total of $4,350 if you are single, or $6,850 for family coverage.

Many people are familiar with one of the tax breaks we receive when we reach 59 ½: we can begin to withdraw from our IRAs or Roth IRAs penalty-free for any reason. Remember, however, that even though there will be no penalties, you will still have to pay taxes on any withdrawals from a traditional IRA.

When you reach 65, you will gain several additional tax advantages. First, if you claim the standard deduction, this will increase by $1,550 if you are single or $1,250 for each spouse if you file a joint return. If you do itemize and claim medical expenses the threshold drops from 10% to 7.5%. Don’t forget that if you enrolled in Medicare, these premiums are a deductible medical expense (parts B, C, D). Also, if you have a long-term care policy the deductible limits are also higher (they start to increase at 51, but if you are 65 the deduction limit is $3,900). So, if you are close to being able to itemize and take your medical deductions, this may allow you to do so. On a side note, this lower 7.5% threshold is set to expire at the end of 2016, so this may be the last year you can take advantage of this.

I also want to mention that if you are retired, but are close to itemizing your deductions, don’t forget that in lieu of claiming your state withholding, you can claim a sales tax deduction. In addition to using the IRS’ calculated amount, you can also add the sales tax paid for large ticket items such as a car, boat, home, etc.

Finally, when you reach 70 ½, you have to start taking your minimum required distribution (MRD) from any tax-deferred accounts you have, such as a traditional IRA, 401(k), 403(b), etc. If you are still employed, however, you do not have to take your MRD from your workplace retirement plans, as long as you are not a 5% or greater owner in the business. Once you retire, you will be required to take your MRD from these accounts. To avoid federal taxes on this taxable event, you can make a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) from your IRA directly to a qualified charity of your choice. By making a QCD (up to $100,000), you will not have to report these amounts as income, thus lowering your adjusted gross income (AGI) on your tax return. This can be an advantage for other items based on AGI, like the taxing of your social security benefits or the calculation of some of your itemized deductions.

While getting older has its challenges, we might as well take advantage of the perks offered to us, like additional tax breaks!

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