The time for procrastination is over. If you plan to make any financial moves before the end of the year, the time is now. You no longer have any time to delay and, in fact, for certain transactions it already may be too late. If you’re doing any end-of-the-year moves for tax reasons, it is important to keep in mind that you don’t want to let the tax tail wag the dog. You don’t want to do anything for tax reasons and tax reasons alone; the transaction should also make good economic sense. One of those transactions that can save you in taxes, and at the same time be a good economic move, is a Roth IRA conversion.
I’ve talked about this many times in the past but Roth IRAs are something that more and more people should be exploring. The benefit of a Roth IRA is the fact that the money grows tax free versus tax deferred in a traditional IRA. In addition, Roth IRAs are not subject to the minimum required distribution. Therefore, you can let the money grow tax free for as long as you choose.
There is always confusion about who is eligible for a Roth IRA conversion and the simple answer is, anyone is eligible. If you have a traditional IRA, you can convert it into a Roth IRA. The one exception deals with those of you who are over 70½ and are taking minimum required distributions. You cannot convert your minimum required distributions. However, you can convert anything above and beyond that. If you haven’t looked at your tax situation to see if a Roth IRA conversion makes sense, you should do so immediately.
For those of you who are working, you may have a flexible spending plan at work and in many of those plans, if you don’t use the money before the end of the year, you lose it. Therefore, if you have one of those plans you should make sure to use the money before the end of the year. Most plans are very flexible and you have a whole variety of items you can use your plan for. Whether it’s visiting the doctor or even buying prescription sunglasses, you want to make sure you use the money before it’s too late. As a side note, many plans do allow a grace period so you don’t necessarily lose the money if you don’t spend it by the end of the year. I recommend you talk to your plan administrator so you know exactly what type of plan you have.
For those of you who are generous in nature and who make charitable contributions, if you want to deduct your contribution on your 2016 tax return, the contributions have to be made before the end of the year. Remember, in making charitable contributions, even though writing a check is the easiest way, it may not be the best way. Particularly, for those of you who have appreciated securities; in other words stocks or mutual funds where you have a gain, there is a double tax benefit by contributing those shares. When you contribute appreciated securities to a charity, you avoid paying capital gains tax on those shares. In addition, your contribution is the fair market value of the securities. Most charities accept appreciated securities; however, the transaction must be completed before the end of the year; therefore, you have no time to delay.
A couple notes about donating appreciated securities: the first, you don’t have to worry that somehow the charity will have to pay tax or something of that nature. Charities will sell the stock or mutual fund and there will be no tax consequences. Additionally, you do not want to donate securities that you have a loss in. In those situations, it would be much better to sell the investment and then contribute the cash so you can write off your losses.
Many tax advisors recommend you accelerate your deductions into the current year. However, beware, that strategy doesn’t work for everyone. With all tax situations, you need to look at your individual circumstances and make sure it makes sense for you. If you’re not going to itemize your deductions this year, then accelerating your deductions doesn’t make sense. The bottom line, whenever it comes to taxes you need to look at your own individual situation.