Year-end Tax Planning for Individuals

It’s that time of year again to begin taking the steps necessary to reduce taxes on your personal returns.  Below we have put together some tips to ensure you make the most of this planning time.1040 income tax form

Bunch your deductions: For example, bunching deductions on your personal income tax return can make sense for 2014. Bunching means you concentrate itemized deductions into the year offering the most tax benefit and claim the standard deduction in alternate years. Even if the current limitation on itemized deductions applies to you, bunching can be effective when combined with other tax planning such as reducing adjusted gross income.

  • One category of itemized deductions that lends itself to bunching is charitable contributions. In general, as long as you have written acknowledgment from a qualified charity, you can deduct donations in the year you write the check or put the charge on your credit card.
  • Instead of cash, donating appreciated assets before December 31 may be more tax advantageous. When you contribute property you have owned for more than a year, you can usually deduct the full fair market value.
  • For instance, say the value of the shares you own in a mutual fund has gone up since you bought into the fund. If you sell those shares and donate the proceeds to charity, you’ll have capital gain. But when you donate the shares to the charity, you can claim a deduction for the value on the date of your donation, garnering a benefit without the related income tax bill.
  • Other itemized deductions you can control in order to maximize tax savings include real estate taxes and state income taxes.

Check exposure to the AMT: Just remember to check your exposure to the alternative minimum tax and the 3.8% net investment income tax when deciding in which year to pay these tax bills. Why? Certain itemized deductions – such as taxes – are disallowed under the AMT rules, but can help reduce exposure to the net investment income tax.

  • What if you’re not planning to itemize? Taking a look at your deductions is still a useful exercise. One reason: The standard deduction is also disallowed under AMT rules, and you may benefit by itemizing even when your total itemized deductions are under the threshold.
  • The standard deduction for 2014 is $12,400 when you’re married filing jointly and $6,200 when you’re single.

Monitor adjusted gross income: Another tax planning strategy is to reduce adjusted gross income (AGI). One way to do this on your personal tax return is to maximize above-the-line deductions. These are expenses you can claim even if you don’t itemize. Above-the-line tax savers include such items as retirement plan contributions, student loan interest deduction, and the health savings account deduction.

Consider shifting income: A planning strategy to help reduce taxes on your personal returns is shifting income among family members.

  • An income-shifting technique is to make gifts of income-producing property to family members in lower tax brackets. (Be aware of the “kiddie tax.”) Though you can’t take a tax deduction for gifts, future income is taxed to the recipient, and may mitigate your exposure to the 3.8% net investment income tax.
  • Gifts of up to $14,000 per person ($28,000 when you’re married) made before year-end incur no income, gift, estate, or generation-skipping taxes.