Mid-Year Tax Planning – Why is it So Important?

Why are we talking about tax planning in the middle of the year? Mid-year tax planning allows you to get everything in order before the end of the year to lower your tax obligation as much as possible.

Note: We are not giving specific advice. We’re talking in general terms and advise you to discuss your own tax planning with a professional who can recommend the best method to reduce your tax burden.

In our most recent podcast (listen to it here), we have two members of our team with us, Nick Hymanson, CFP® and Taylor Wolverton

In June of 2023, we’re doing a lot of work to get ready for our tax planning and strategy meetings we’ll be having later this year. A lot of prep work goes into these meetings because it’s one of the most intense that we’ll have all year.

Why Do We Do Tax Planning and Tax Strategy Before the Beginning of the Year?

First, we want to review your tax situation from last year so we can understand potential moves we can make before the end of this year.

For example, Roth conversions or qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) need to be made before the end of the year to be reported on your tax return. Changes to your contributions or account conversions must be completed before December 31st of the year to be claimed on your taxes.

Mid-year tax planning helps us get everything in order to have a discussion with our clients on which strategies we can employ to lower your tax burden.

How Financial Planning Ties into Tax Planning

Financial, tax, and retirement planning are all linked together, or they should be if they’re done professionally. We have clients who first retire and live on cash in the bank, and then they start taking money from an IRA or a required minimum distribution.

In our process, at the beginning of the year, we have a financial planning meeting to update where their income is coming in this year, and we review what happened in 2022 (or the year prior).

From an income perspective, we want to understand where your income came from last year. We want to understand any unique changes that may have transpired this year and your income last year.

During the year, you may have income coming in from multiple sources, and it’s crucial that you have a good tax withholding strategy in place.

Proper tax withholding will allow you to avoid any unexpected tax surprises the following year. Having conversations throughout the year allows us to position our clients to pay less taxes by making smart financial decisions.

For example, if you want to sell a highly appreciated stock, we may recommend holding off until the beginning of the coming year because there are tax advantages.

We perform a full software analysis of our clients’ past year taxes to look for:

  • Filing status
  • Social Security number accuracy
  • Sources of income (interest, dividends, etc)
  • Withholdings 

We look through all these figures with our clients to help you better understand the tax obligations of each form of income. If you want to adjust your withholdings or make income changes, we’ll walk you through this process.

For example, you may not want a refund at the end of the year and want to withhold just enough taxes to be tax-neutral. You won’t pay or receive anything at the end of the year from the IRS.

With a mid-year tax plan, we have a better understanding of the steps that must be taken to reach your goals in the coming year.

Things to Do Before December 31st

Retirees must do a few things before the end of the year by law. Here’s what you need to know:

Donor-advised Funds

Sometimes we learn from a tax return or through a conversation with our clients that they give $10,000 to charity per year. Can you itemize? Sure, but the standard deduction is so high that it often doesn’t make sense to do this.

What’s the Standard Deduction

For your reference, the standard deduction in 2023 is:

  • Single: $13,850
  • Married filing jointly: $27,700 (65+ goes up by $1,500 per spouse)

Itemization won’t make sense if you have less than the standard deduction amount in contributions.

If you do a donor-advised fund, you can stack charitable contributions and use the multi-year contributions as a deduction this year.

Let’s assume that you put $40,000 into a donor-advised fund. You can still make $10,000 contributions to your favorite charity, but you can then take a $40,000 deduction this year to negate your tax burden. Itemizing is the best course of action if you have more deductions than the current standard deduction amount.

We may recommend this strategy if you expect a very high tax burden and want to lower your tax obligation.

Opening a Donor-advised Fund

We use Charles Schwab for our funds, but you can use a custodian of your choosing. A donor-advised fund looks just like any other account held at Charles Schwab, except for a few differences. Checks are written directly to a Schwab charitable account and funds are held directly in this charitable account. You can assign contributions to charities of your choice.

Funds remain in the account and can be withdrawn and moved to the charities in the future. Once you put money into the fund, you cannot reclaim it in the future. You can decide annually on who you want to distribute contributions to.

However, it is very important that Charles Schwab has information on the charity that you want to disperse the money to and that everything is in order for the distribution to be made problem-free.

Qualified Charitable Distribution

Qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) are another tactic that you can use if you’re over the age of 70-and-a-half. Age requirements and the time of your distribution are crucial and one of the reasons that people often work with a financial planner.

We can make sure that you’re making the QCD properly and get all the tax benefits that go along with it.

Note. If you have a required minimum distribution (RMD), you can set up the QCD to be taken directly from this. A key benefit is that if the RMD never hits your bank account, you don’t have to pay taxes on it.

Making Out Your QCD Check

In terms of Charles Schwab, we want to make sure that the QCD check is made out directly to the charity and not the account owner. If the check is written to the tax owner, it is considered taxable income.

We need a few things when writing out the QCD check:

  • Name of charity
  • Charity’s tax ID
  • Charity address
  • QCD amount

One important thing to note is that there’s an option to send the check directly to the charity or to the account owner, who can then hand-deliver the check to the charity.

The most important thing is to have the check written to the charity itself with the tax ID.

What You Need to Gather for a Tax Planning Strategy Meeting

Whether you work with us or someone else on a tax planning strategy meeting, you’ll need a few documents to get started:

  • Last year’s tax returns
  • Income for the coming year
  • Changes to income in this year
  • Change to cost of living on Social Security

We really need to know your sources of income and if any changes to this income have occurred in the last year. Cost of living adjustments are a big one and will impact your taxes, but all of this is information necessary for a tax planning strategy meeting.

IRMAA is another thing that we want to consider, and we have a great guide on the topic, which you can read here: IRMAA Medicare Surcharges.

Medicare looks back two years to determine your surcharges, which is something we can plan for with enough time and a strategy in place. We want to manage your Medicare surcharges so that you don’t need to pay more than necessary for your Medicare.

Tax strategy can help you better prepare for your taxes and make strategic moves that will save you a lot of money in the future.

We have a team of people working with us to handle all these moving parts and walk our clients through the process.

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