2014 Year End Tax Planning for Retirees

If you are like me, you are either retired or close to it. One quick shock on the day you retire is that you no longer have that pay check you’ve been getting most of your adult life. If you’ve done a good job of planned your retirement in advanced you can be celebrating instead of worrying. While in retirement you can set new goals, one of might be to pay the smallest amount of federal income tax as possible. Is it possible to appear “poor on paper” yet live a comfortable lifestyle? Yes!

Here are some items for your consideration.

  1. Manage your 2014 tax bracket. For example, if you just started receiving Social Security this year, consider returning it and delaying payments till you are 70 ½. There is no penalty for doing this. Some of this will be taxable. This might give you a chance to live off savings (cash) while paying little if any tax.
  2. Contribute the maximum amount you can to an HSA account, this will provide a credit to your Taxable Income.
  3. If possible, maximize your deductible items such as medical expenses by getting those new eye glasses, dental cleaning and so forth this year instead of early next year. Consider prepaying your property taxes.
  4. One big issue can be stock market opportunities in your taxable account. With the recent volatility in the market consider selling stocks, ETF’s or fund’s with short-term losses. These losses can then offset gains. You can also carry forward a maximum of $3,000 into future years. Just make sure you watch out for a “Wash Sale” on stocks sold for a loss if you put this money back to work in the market. When you use a loss to offset a gain you also get the benefit of re-setting your “cost basis” for the stock. This will benefit you if you buy back and then sell this stock for a gain in the future.
  5. Also regarding your taxable brokerage account, try and maintain “qualified-dividend” stocks which get preferred tax treatment or no tax at all if you can find a way to stay in the 15% tax bracket. Keep in mind that if you are in the 10% or 15% tax bracket there is 0% tax on “qualified dividends” and Long Term Capital Gains.
  6. If you’ve done a good job being “poor on paper”, you can also convert some of your IRA into a Roth IRA. Just keep an eye of your plan so that you don’t jump into a higher tax bracket.
  7. If you hold Equity Mutual Funds watch for the December “Distribution Date”, consider selling before that date if a large capital gain is expected. Otherwise you will be surprised by paying tax on a distribution you don’t actually get (the fund price, in theory is lowered by the distribution amount).

In a future post I’ll provide a plan for postponing your Social Security and various options.