The Rademacher Report - Quarter 4 2018Submitted by Rademacher Financial Inc. on November 21st, 2018
Ten Year-End Tax Tips for 2018
Here are 10 things to consider as you weigh potential tax moves between now and the end of the year.
1. Set aside time to plan
Effective planning requires that you have a good understanding of your current tax situation, as well as a reasonable estimate of how your circumstances might change next year. There’s a real opportunity for tax savings if you’ll be paying taxes at a lower rate in one year than in the other. However, the window for most tax-saving moves closes on December 31, so don’t procrastinate.
2. Defer income to next year
Consider opportunities to defer income to 2019, particularly if you think you may be in a lower tax bracket then. For example, you may be able to defer a year-end bonus or delay the collection of business debts, rents, and payments for services. Doing so may enable you to postpone payment of tax on the income until next year.
3. Accelerate deductions
You might also look for opportunities to accelerate deductions into the current tax year. If you itemize deductions, making payments for deductible expenses such as medical expenses, qualifying interest, and state taxes before the end of the year, instead of paying them in early 2019, could make a difference on your 2018 return.
4. Factor in the AMT
If you’re subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT), traditional year-end maneuvers such as deferring income and accelerating deductions can have a negative effect. Essentially a separate federal income tax system with its own rates and rules, the AMT effectively disallows a number of itemized deductions. For example, if you’re subject to the AMT in 2018, prepaying 2019 state and local taxes probably won’t help your 2018 tax situation, but could hurt your 2019 bottom line. Taking the time to determine whether you may be subject to the AMT before you make any year-end moves could help save you from making a costly mistake.
5. Bump up withholding to cover a tax shortfall
If it looks as though you’re going to owe federal income tax for the year, especially if you think you may be subject to an estimated tax penalty, consider asking your employer (via Form W-4) to increase your withholding for the remainder of the year to cover the shortfall. The biggest advantage in doing so is that withholding is considered as having been paid evenly through the year instead of when the dollars are actually taken from your paycheck. This strategy can also be used to make up for low or missing quarterly estimated tax payments. With all the recent tax changes, it may be especially important to review your withholding in 2018.
6. Maximize retirement savings
Deductible contributions to a traditional IRA and pre-tax contributions to an employer sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k) can reduce your 2018 taxable income. If you haven’t already contributed up to the maximum amount allowed, consider doing so by year-end.
7. Take any required distributions
Once you reach age 70½, you generally must start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans (an exception may apply if you’re still working for the employer sponsoring the plan). Take any distributions by the date required — the end of the year for most individuals. The penalty for failing to do so is substantial: 50% of any amount that you failed to distribute as required.
8. Weigh year-end investment moves
You shouldn't let tax considerations drive your investment decisions. However, it’s worth considering the tax implications of any year-end investment moves that you make. For example, if you have realized net capital gains from selling securities at a profit, you might avoid being taxed on some or all of those gains by selling losing positions. Any losses over and above the amount of your gains can be used to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income ($1,500 if your fling status is married filing separately) or carried forward to reduce your taxes in future years.
9. Beware the net investment income tax
Don’t forget to account for the 3.8% net investment income tax. This additional tax may apply to some or all of your net investment income if your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing jointly, $125,000 if married filing separately, $200,000 if head of household).
10. Get help if you need it
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to tax planning. That’s why it often makes sense to talk to a tax professional who is able to evaluate your situation and help you determine if any year-end moves make sense for you.
How can I protect my personal and financial information from credit fraud and identity theft?
In today's digital world, massive computer hacks and data breaches are common occurrences. And chances are, your personal or financial information is now susceptible to being used for credit fraud or identity theft. If you discover that you are the victim of either of these crimes, you should consider placing a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit report to protect yourself.
A credit freeze prevents new credit and accounts from being opened in your name. Once you obtain a credit freeze, creditors won't be allowed to access your credit report and therefore cannot offer new credit. This helps prevent identity thieves from applying for credit or opening fraudulent accounts in your name.
To place a credit freeze on your credit report, you must contact each credit reporting agency separately or by phone or by filling out an online form. Keep in mind that a credit freeze is permanent and stays on your credit report until you unfreeze it. This is important, because if you want to apply for credit with a new financial institution in the future, open a new bank account, or even apply for a job or rent an apartment, you will need to "unlock" or "thaw" the credit freeze with each agency.
A less drastic option is to place a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert requires creditors to take extra steps to verify your identity before extending any existing credit or issuing new credit in your name. To request a fraud alert, you only have to contact one of the three major reporting agencies, and the information will be passed along to the other two.
Recently, as part of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act of 2018, Congress made several changes to credit rules that benefit consumers. Under the new law, consumers are now allowed to "freeze" and "unfreeze" their credit reports free of charge at all three of the major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. In addition, the law extends initial fraud alert protection to one full year. Previously, fraud alerts expired after 90 days unless they were renewed.
Note: As with most financial decisions, there are expenses associated with the purchase of life insurance. Policies commonly have mortality and expense charges. In addition, if a policy is surrendered prematurely, there may be surrender charges and income tax implications.
Note: While trusts offer numerous advantages they incur up-front costs and often have ongoing administrative fees. The use of trusts involves a complex web of tax rules and regulations. You should consider the counsel of an experienced estate planning professional and your legal and tax advisors before implementing such strategies.
Have You Made Any of These Financial Mistakes?
As people move through different stages of life, there are new financial opportunities — and potential pitfalls — around every corner. Have you made any of these mistakes?
Your 50s and 60s
1. Raiding your home equity or retirement funds. It goes without saying that doing so will prolong your debt and/ or reduce your nest egg.
2. Not quantifying your expected retirement income. As you near retirement, you should know how much money you (and your spouse, if applicable) can expect from three sources:
- Your retirement accounts such as 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and IRAs
- Pension income from your employer, if any
- Social Security (at age 62, at your full retirement age, and at age 70)
3. Co-signing loans for adult children. Co-signing means you’re 100% on the hook if your child can’t pay, a less- than-ideal situation as you’re getting ready to retire.
4. Living an unhealthy lifestyle. Take steps now to improve your diet and fitness level. Not only will you feel better today, but you may reduce your health-care costs in the future.
1. Trying to keep up with the Joneses. Appearances can be deceptive. The nice lifestyle your friends, neighbors, or colleagues enjoy might look nice on the outside, but behind the scenes there may be a lot of debt supporting that lifestyle. Don’t spend money you don’t have trying to keep up with others.
2. Funding college over retirement. In your 40s, saving for your children’s college costs at the expense of your own retirement may be a mistake. If you have limited funds, consider setting aside a portion for college while earmarking the majority for retirement. Then sit down with your teenager and have a frank discussion about college options that won’t break the bank — for either of you.
3. Not having a will or an advance medical directive. No one likes to think about death or catastrophic injury, but these documents can help your loved ones immensely if something unexpected should happen to you.
1. Being house poor. Whether you’re buying your first home or trading up, think twice about buying a house you can’t afford, even if the bank says you can. Build in some wiggle room for a possible dip in household income that could result from leaving the workforce to raise a family or a job change or layoff.
2. Not saving for retirement. Maybe your 20s passed you by in a bit of a blur and retirement wasn't even on your radar. But now that you’re in your 30s, it’s essential to start saving for retirement. Start now, and you still have 30 years or more to save. Wait much longer, and it can be very hard to catch up.
3. Not protecting yourself with life and disability insurance. Life is unpredictable. Consider what would happen if one day you were unable to work and earn a paycheck. Life and disability insurance can help protect you and your family. Though the cost and availability of life insurance will depend on several factors including your health, generally the younger you are when you buy life insurance, the lower your premiums will be.
1. Living beyond your means. It’s tempting to splurge on gadgets, entertainment, and travel, but if you can’t pay for most of your wants up front, then you need to rein in your lifestyle, especially if you have student loans to repay.
2. Not paying yourself first. Save a portion of every paycheck first and then spend what’s left over, not the other way around. And why not start saving for retirement, too? Earmark a portion of your annual pay now for retirement and your 67-year-old self will thank you.
3. Being financially illiterate. Learn as much as you can about saving, budgeting, and investing now and you could benefit from it for the rest of your life.
How can I safely shop online this holiday season?
Shopping online is especially popular during the holiday season, when many people prefer to avoid the crowds and purchase gifts with a few clicks of a mouse. However, with this convenience comes the danger of having your personal and financial information stolen by computer hackers.
Before you click, you might consider the following tips for a safer online shopping experience.
Pay by credit instead of debit. Credit card payments can be withheld if there is a dispute, but debit cards are typically debited quickly. In addition, credit cards generally have better protection than debit cards against fraudulent charges.
Maintain strong passwords. When you order through an online account, you should create a strong password. A strong password should be at least eight characters long, using a combination of lower-case letters, upper-case letters, numbers, and symbols or a random phrase. Avoid dictionary words and personal information such as your name and address. Also create a separate and unique password for each account or website you use, and try to change passwords frequently. To keep track of all your password information, consider using password management software, which generates strong, unique passwords that you control through a single master password.
Beware of scam websites. Typing one word into a search engine to reach a particular retailer’s website may be easy, but it sometimes won’t bring you to the site you are actually looking for. Scam websites may contain URLs that look like misspelled brand or store names to trick online shoppers. To help you determine whether an online retailer is reputable, research sites before you shop and read reviews from previous customers. Look for https:// in the URL and not just http://, since the “s” indicates a secure connection.
Watch out for fake phishing and delivery emails. Beware of emails that contain links or ask for personal information. Legitimate shopping websites will never email you and randomly ask for your personal information. In addition, be aware of fake emails disguised as package delivery emails. Make sure that all delivery emails are from reputable delivery companies you recognize.
Content prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions Inc.,, has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. This information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. This information is not intended as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security referred to herein. Investments mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. The material is general in nature. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. does not provide advice on tax, legal or mortgage issues. These matters should be discussed with the appropriate professional.