Written by Sally Perkins
Many retirees may assume that they don’t have to pay as much income taxes since they don’t work. Though a single or married retiree may be in a lower tax bracket, certain retirement vehicles are still taxable. In fact, you may have to pay taxes on social security if you are in higher tax bracket. But if you plan ahead and learn the tricks of how to manage your taxes, you can be prepared for that dream trip to Europe or the extra indulgence you’ve been hoping for. So when tax planning year to year, consider the following:
Manage Your Expenses
It has been said before, but managing your expenses is a key element to a successful financial retirement. If you can keep your adjusted gross income below $37,500 in 2017 your tax burden will only be 15%. So try your best to avoid a higher tax bracket when you are withdrawing from any of your savings accounts, IRAs, 401(k)s, etc. Follow a budget, a retirement income strategy, and how you are going to pay for potential healthcare costs.
If you are considering retiring, try to have your house paid off as you can then avoid using retirement money for this expense.
Life Insurance Legacy
If you want to leave a legacy or if your dependents may have debts to pay on your estate, consider a life insurance policy. The death benefits and payout are not taxable. However, if you borrow against the policy you may be subject to taxes.
Some retirement income is taxable. As mentioned earlier, social security is taxable if you are in a higher tax bracket. But, for example, if you are withdrawing money from a Roth IRA it isn’t taxable if you contributed the money over 5 years ago. The general advice given by many financial planners is to withdraw money from your retirement income in the following steps:
- Taxable accounts, like investments
- Tax deferred accounts, traditional 401 (k)
- Tax exempt accounts, Roth IRA
The idea behind this tiered strategy is 401(k)s and Roth IRAs can continue to grow without any tax penalties. In your investment accounts there is no tax shelter, so you might as well use investment money first. Then, if you are going to have a year where your expenses are going to increase, use the tax exempt money so you won’t have to pay income tax on the withdrawal.
This is an important concept and may be worth talking to a financial planner about.
Annuities have a tax benefit as well. Annuities are an insurance product where the individual purchases an investment and the price paid is converted into periodic payments to the retiree. There is a lot of flexibility on how often you get paid (monthly, quarterly, annually), when payments start to occur, how long you want the payments for, etc. Setting up a payment plan can take out some of the guess work.
If you have to cash out the annuity because of an emergency, you will have to pay income taxes on all earnings. But if you hold onto the annuity and paid for it with pretax money, then the payments will be taxable. If you use after tax income to buy the annuity, then you will only be taxed on the earnings.
Of course all taxpayers want deductions! Individuals over 65 used to be able to itemize for medical expenses that were over 10% of their adjusted gross income, but that changed in 2017 to 7.5%. Keep this in mind when it comes to tax time, but stay organized and track your medical payments as you never know when your medical expenses will be high. Medical expenses include health and long term care premiums, dental care, prescriptions drugs and other health care expenses.
Another deduction that some people miss is dividends from investment income which are taxed lower than regular income, and you can still invest as a retiree. If you still run a business, even part time, your business expenses are deductions. Downsizing houses can be attractive and if you sell your home and you’ve lived in your home at least two of the five years before you sell the property, the equity won’t be taxed.
And if you are considering selling and moving…
Tax Free States
Florida may be infamous for having many retirees, and for good reason, there is no state income tax. There is also no state income tax in Nevada and Texas. The weather is warm in all three! So though there may be an expense to moving, you could recoup that by saving on taxes. If you are considering moving to warmer climates, look into these states and research the cost of living.
Finally, with a little strategic planning, you won’t be giving all your hard earned retirement income to the IRS. Have a budget, try not to have a mortgage, plan how you are going to withdraw income, look at different income vehicles, and consider your tax deductions. It will be worth the time investment to carefully plan your income streams.