Considerations to Help You Develop a Tax-Savvy Retirement Plan
There’s something unprecedented set to happen in the next 15 years: More people are going to retire than ever before in the history of our country. What’s more, the U.S. Census Bureau says that, by 2030, we will reach the milestone of having more people aged 65 and older than those aged 18 or younger. What does this demographic shift mean for your retirement? Well, you’ll likely need to prepare to overcome a few retirement tax traps. In this article, we break it down.
Why You Need to Be Wary of Retirement Tax Traps
The current national debt in the U.S. stands at around $31 trillion. When you take into account that many more workers will be retiring – and that a smaller and younger workforce means less government tax revenue – it seems likely that we need to prepare for an increase in taxes at some point in the near future. And with more than $30 trillion sitting in retirement accounts that must be withdrawn – just like yours – it’s crucial to keep in mind that the government has many ways to tax you and that they can change the rules of the game at any time. If you’re unprepared, the costs could be significant. With that in mind, let’s review three retirement tax traps you should be aware of – and the steps you can take to minimize their impact.
Three Retirement Tax Traps to Know
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, most retirees will be impacted by one or more of the following:
1. The Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)
Once you reach the age of 72, the IRS requires you to take withdrawals from your retirement accounts, also known as the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD). It doesn’t matter if you don’t need the income to live on – the RMD applies to all eligible accounts. Failing to take an annual RMD can lead to a significant tax penalty of 50% of the amount you should have withdrawn, in addition to your regular income tax rate.
Several tax-deferred retirement accounts are subject to the RMD requirement, including traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, and 403(b)s. Each RMD withdrawal is taxable at your ordinary tax rate, and they can also trigger greater taxes on your Social Security and Medicare benefits. It’s essential to understand the RMD requirements and plan accordingly to avoid unnecessary taxes and penalties.
2. Social Security and ‘Provisional Income’
While Social Security is generally considered a tax-free government benefit for retirees, there’s a catch. Once you reach certain income levels, your benefits become taxable, and the IRS considers all taxable income for this purpose. This includes interest, dividends, capital gains, wages, and any tax-deferred income, as well as tax-free interest. Half of your Social Security benefit amount is also taken into account, and the total is known as your “provisional income” threshold.
To avoid having your Social Security benefits become taxable, it’s crucial to minimize or eliminate your provisional income. Doing so will help you keep more of your money and enhance your future financial security. By understanding how provisional income works, you can take steps to manage your retirement income effectively and avoid unnecessary taxes.
3. Medicare Surprises
The Medicare program has an additional cost called the income-related monthly adjustment (IRMAA), which is a premium surcharge based on your income. This extra cost is added to your Medicare premiums and can affect not only wealthy retirees but also those who have saved a considerable amount for their retirement. It’s important to note that the surcharge can be significant, with some couples facing an annual increase of more than $10,000. Understanding the impact of IRMAA on your retirement plan is critical to ensuring your financial security.
So, How Do You Avoid These Retirement Tax Traps?
It’s not all bad news when it comes to retirement and your taxes. If you know ahead of time that you want to avoid these retirement tax traps, there are strategies you can use and steps you can take to protect your hard-earned dollars:
Utilize a Roth IRA
Consider opening a Roth IRA to protect your retirement savings from higher taxation. With after-tax contributions, Roth IRAs grow tax-free and allow tax-free withdrawals, and there are no RMDs. You can contribute annually or convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. A conversion lets you move untaxed funds from a traditional IRA to a tax-free Roth account. You pay taxes on the conversion amount, and the converted funds must stay in the Roth for five years. You can convert your entire IRA or portions each year to avoid a higher tax bracket. A Roth conversion can help you avoid taxes from RMDs, provisional income, and the Medicare IRMAA. Consult a financial adviser or CPA to understand all tax implications.
Devise a Social Security Strategy
Optimizing your Social Security benefits is a key strategy for maximizing your retirement income, but it’s not the only thing to consider. In terms of taxes, timing is also important in order to avoid provisional income. For example, if you plan to do a Roth IRA conversion, it may be beneficial to delay taking Social Security until after you have completed the conversion. By working with a financial advisor, you can develop a comprehensive plan that takes into account all of your retirement goals and any tax implications.
Consider a QCD
A Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) provides a tax-efficient way to support a qualified charity while avoiding the tax burden of your RMD. By transferring funds directly from your tax-deferred account to a qualified charity, you can eliminate the taxable income associated with the RMD while still making a charitable contribution. This approach is particularly beneficial if you want to support a specific non-profit organization or cause while also reducing your taxable income.
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