Thursday, November 5, 2009

Some tax planning strategies as we near the end of 2009

As we near the end of 2009, TaxSmarty would like to review some common but often overlooked tax planning strategies and tips to help you manage and/or reduce your 2009 (and possibly 2010) federal tax burden.

1) As a general rule, try to accelerate deductions into 2009 and defer income into 2010 since individual tax rates are not expected to change for 2010 at this point. (However, if you expect to be in a higher income tax bracket for 2010 because you received a promotion recently with a significant pay raise, you plan to sell investments or property and incur large gains, etc., you would want to do the opposite).

Here are a few ways to accelerate deductions:

* If you're just at or above the standard deduction as of now, you could pay property taxes you owe on your main (or second) home that are due in January 2010 in December 2009 or you could pay any state or local income tax estimates due in January 2010 in December 2009

* You could pre-pay your January 2010 mortgage payment in late December 2009 in order to be able to deduct an additional month's interest

* Accelerate any planned charitable contributions for 2010 into December 2009

A few tips to defer income:

* If you are lucky enough to have a bonus of some sort coming to you from your employer for 2009, as them to delay payment to you until January 2010

* If you own your own small business and report your income on the cash basis, you could delay your end-of-year billings to your clients until January 2010

2) First-time home buyers won't have to worry about closing their purchase by Nov. 30 to take advantage of the $8,000 new purchasers credit since Congress is expected to extend this tax break for several months well into 2010

3) If you are still in the market for a new vehicle, you may want to make that purchase prior to January 1, 2010 to take advantage of the special sales tax deduction on the sales tax you pay for new vehicle purchases up to $49,500 since this break is not expected to be extended by Congress into 2010. As a bonus, if you don't itemize your deductions, you can add the sales tax paid on your new vehicle purchase to your standard deduction. If you do itemize and you deduct state and local income taxes, your sales tax on your new vehicle purchase is added to that amount!

4) If you are planning on converting your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, you may want to wait until 2010 to take advantage of a special, one-time break that allows you to spread the tax due on your regular IRA conversion over two tax years (50% of the tax split between 2011 and 2012); however, if you're likely to be in the top tax bracket, you may want to pay the tax upfront since the current top tax rate is scheduled to go up to 39.6% from 35% in 2011.

5) If you've experienced a rebound with some of your taxable investment accounts during 2009 and you had carried over losses from 2008 that you couldn't use, you could sell those investments at a gain and utilize your losses on your 2009 tax return to offset some or all of your investment income.

6) If you are looking at owing additional tax this year based on under-withholding, you still have time to increase your withholding through your employer in Nov. and Dec. to ensure that you pay at least 90% of your current year expected tax liability (or 100% of your 2008 tax liability if your adjusted gross income is less than $150,000)

These are just a few steps you can take to help your tax situation as we near year end. Please check back with the TaxSmarty Blog over the next six weeks for additional year-end tax planning tips and for updates on proposed tax legislation at the federal level.

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