As I went out the other morning to get my paper, I noticed the chill in the air. It’s a reminder to me that summer is winding down and fall is just around the corner. It’s also a reminder that there are some rapidly approaching deadlines you need to be aware of.
For those of you who filed an extension for your 2015 tax return, your return is due October 17th. The extension that you previously received was automatic. Any additional extension of time you may need is not automatic; rather, it is at the discretion of the IRS. If you have filed an extension you don’t want to wait too long to complete your return. For too many people the norm is to rush and do your tax return right before the deadline. Unfortunately, the result is mistakes which can result in penalties, interest and even an audit. Therefore, while you still have sufficient amounts of time, if you have not filed your 2015 tax return, now is the time to start working on it.
Although you have until the end of the year, it’s also not a bad idea to start the process to determine whether you are going to convert traditional IRAs into Roth IRAs. That transaction must be completed by the end of the year. Once again, in too many situations people wait until the end of December and then they find it’s too late to complete the transaction. Therefore, now is the time to begin the process to determine whether a Roth IRA conversion makes sense.
My general rules when it comes to Roth conversions are: 1) The money that you are converting from your traditional IRA is not going to be needed for at least five to seven years; 2) By converting the money it won’t throw you into a higher tax bracket; and 3) You have the money, without touching the money converted, to pay any additional tax liability. If you meet all three of these requirements, converting all or a portion of your traditional IRA into a Roth IRA cannot only be a great tax move, but also makes sense financially.
It’s always important to remember that if for some reason you made a mistake and converted money that you shouldn’t have, you can always reverse the transaction. You have until your tax return due date, including any extensions to re-characterize the transaction.
It is also important to remember for those of you who are over 70½ and are subject to required minimum distributions, you cannot convert your minimum required distribution into a Roth IRA. However, you can convert anything above and beyond that.
For those of you who have flexible spending accounts through your employer you should make sure you spend down the account before the end of the year. A few years ago the IRS changed the rule to allow people to carry over $500 of their flexible spending account into the next year. However, companies were not required to make this change and many did not. Therefore, it is important to make sure you have a game plan to spend down your flex spending account so you don’t lose the money.
Lastly, for those of you who are charitable in nature, this is a good time to begin thinking about any charitable contributions you want to make before the end of the year. It is important to have a strategy when it comes to charitable contributions. Do you make your charitable contribution this year or do you wait until the beginning of next year? In addition, should you use cash for your charitable contribution or should you gift appreciated securities? One of the benefits of gifting appreciated securities is the fact that you avoid paying taxes on the gain. For example, if you own a stock that you payed $10 a share for and today it’s worth $25 a share, if you gift that stock, your charitable contribution is $25 a share and you don’t have to pay taxes on the $15 a share gain (25 – 10). Gifting appreciated securities can be a great strategy; however, once again, it takes time to implement. Therefore, while you still have plenty of time, why not begin the process?
It doesn’t seem like it but many deadlines are rapidly approaching and it is important that you don’t wait until the last second. Therefore, while you still have time you should start thinking about some of those deadlines. Remember, the key on all these deadlines is how they affect you and your individual situation. However, one thing to always keep in mind is that most of these deadlines are firm and if you miss them, there can be consequences.
Rick is a fee-only financial advisor. His website is www.bloomassetmanagement.com. If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email Rick at -.