As retirement ushers in a new chapter of life, financial matters like taxes become a significant concern for many retirees. The complicated world of taxes can be hard to navigate. But with the proper knowledge and strategies, retirees can make tax season simple and stress-free
In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore various aspects of tax planning. We'll offer valuable tips to help retirees maximize deductions, claim credits, and file their taxes accurately and on time.
Understanding the Tax Landscape for Retirees
Before delving into the tips and strategies, you should note the general tax landscape that retirees face. Retirement-related tax circumstances can differ from one person to the next. This depends on different factors, like:
- What is the total retirement income they have earned?
- What are the available sources of income?
- How much health care expenses have they had to pay?
For example, some retirees may use their Social Security benefits and pension as their retirement income. Others may choose to depend on their retirement savings over time, e.g., retirement accounts. Moreover, retirees with traditional retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, must take required minimum distributions (RMDs) starting at age 72 (70 1/2 for those born before July 1, 1949). Failing to withdraw the amount needed can result in steep penalties.
Naturally, they will owe different tax amounts to the IRS depending on their specific financial situation.
Types of Tax Deductions and Credits for Retirees
Many tax credits and deduction types are available to retirees, which could help lower their overall tax burden. The following are some of the most noteworthy tax deductions and tax credits retirees can expect:
- People over the age of 65 get a higher threshold for tax filing.
- Elderly and blind people with adjusted gross income less than $17500 and non-taxable income (from pension and Social Security benefits) under $5,000 are eligible for tax credit.
- Senior citizens get tax breaks for property taxes in some states.
- People over the age of 50 get an additional IRA deduction.
Besides these standard ones, there are some unique tax breaks available for retirees:
- IRA contributions from spouses for married tax filers- Retirees with an actively working spouse can contribute $ 6,000 or lower to their Roth IRA or traditional IRA account.
- Extra Standard Deduction- The IRS provides a more significant standard deduction as a tax benefit to people when they turn 65. For example, individual tax-payers of 65 years of age or higher got a standard deduction of $14,700 in 2022 and $15,700 in 2023.
- Tax Deductions on Medicare premiums-People sometimes start providing consultancy services to clients during their retirement. This type of self-employment allows one to do tax deductions on their Medicare Part B and D premiums, Medicare Advantage plan costs, and supplement Medigap (Medicare) policy expenses.
Tips for Simplifying Tax Season for Retirees
The following are some of the main tips retirees must follow to file taxes in a simplified manner.
Prepare your financial documents.
If you approach your tax filing-related requirements and deductions with an organized mindset, you will likely have a simplified tax preparation. So, one of the first things you should focus on is organizing all forms and tax-related documents. These include financial documents like Form 1099s, Form W-2s, etc.
For easier management, you can categorize each group of documents into dedicated folders offline or online. Some high-grade e-file software has integrated storage systems with solid encryption protection. Saving your documents on federal tax returns, tracked expenses, etc., here will assure good data safety.
Take professional support
The tax filing process can become highly complicated for people with limited field knowledge. In such a situation, a qualified tax professional or CPA can help explain different details and rules regarding federal income tax.
"Maybe it's too obvious, but I would recommend talking to a CPA in the first year you collect retirement income," says Trevor Ewen, COO atQBench. "Future years are likely to be similar, barring major legislative changes to tax rules. The first year will be the most confusing, and it's best to get some expert help."
They stay updated on the IRS tax laws, like tax deductions, factors like the child tax credit, etc. The tax advisors can suggest the right steps to prepare and submit your claim while fully complying with tax regulations.
Maximize all tax deductions.
Tax deductions are valid for retirees, so you should focus on that during your tax year. The most notable types include:
- Property taxes- For homeowners, mentioning the property taxes they paid on their property as tax deductions is beneficial.
- Medical expenses-Qualified medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your AGI are deductible. Costs like prescription medicine fees, doctors' visit fees, and long-term care expenses fall under this category.
- Charitable contributions-You can itemize the donations to qualified charities as tax deductions.
Prioritize Social Security Taxation
It is worth noting that around 40.2% of senior citizens in the USA depend on Social Security entirely as an income source. But that is not ideal. Instead, you should consider additional sources of income for proper financial management. At the same time, determine how much of your social security will become subject to federal income tax.
It would help if you summed up your total income, including tax-exempt interest, AGI (adjusted gross income), and around half of your Social Security benefits. Such factors will determine how much tax you must pay fully, so measure carefully.
Consider Roth Conversions as an option.
Roth conversions are suitable for retirees who own traditional IRAs. "One strategy for correctly filing taxes for retirement income is to consider Roth conversions. Evaluate the benefits of converting a traditional retirement account to a Roth IRA. Although this generates taxable income in the year of conversion, it can provide tax-free distributions in retirement", says Roy Lau, Co-Founder of 28 Mortgage.
"By strategically timing conversions based on your tax bracket and goals, you can optimize your tax situation and potentially reduce your overall tax liability. For example, if you expect your tax rate to be higher in retirement, a Roth conversion can help you avoid higher taxes on distributions."
You can convert a portion of your capital saved in your traditional IRA retirement account into a Roth IRA. Then, your future RMDs owed will reduce, and you will get this amount as a small secondary income exempt from taxes.
In this situation, retirees typically risk immediate tax liability after the Roth conversion. Therefore, seeking professional help would help with getting the best outcome.
Focus on Tax Credits
Tax credits can directly reduce tax liability for people, which makes them a valuable tool for retirees. Some tax credits that may apply to the taxpayers include:
- Disabled/Elderly Tax Credit- These tax credits apply to people over 65. Alternatively, people with a permanent disability like blindness under 65 are also eligible for this tax credit type.
- Earned income tax credit- EITC is suitable for low-income earners. Retirees in the moderate-income group can also apply.
- Saver's credit-If you continue to save for retirement through contributions to IRAs or workplace retirement plans, you may be eligible for the Saver's Credit.
Prepare for required minimum distributions or RMDs
Retirees with traditional retirement accounts should take RMDs within the specified deadline. Take the time to correctly measure your RMD and take the correct distribution amount to avoid any penalties. You can plan for RMDs by setting up automatic withdrawals or by taking the help of tax advisors.
Make sure to check state laws.
The rules and tax rates in states can vary widely. For example, eleven U.S. states (e.g., Illinois, Florida, and Alaska) do not charge any state income tax on either regular or retirement income. Some states have state taxes, like Oregon, which charges top tax rates on people's retirement income. Regarding retirement distributions, the state allows around $7,050 credit maximum.
So, be sure to understand your state's tax laws and any applicable deductions or credits for retirees.
Stay up-to-date on changes in tax laws.
Income tax rates fluctuate per tax year as the regulations related to tax laws change. Therefore, you should keep up with financial news about retirement income-related tax laws via credible news sources. Or, you can depend on a qualified tax advisor who knows the changes in tax laws across previous tax years.
Use tactics like e-filing or direct deposit.
Retirees can use mediums like direct deposit or electronic tax filing for a quicker process. The faster you can file your forms, the quicker you will receive the expected tax refund. Many tax preparation software programs offer step-by-step guidance, making it easier for retirees to file correctly.
Utilize tax software
User-friendly tax preparation software can simplify the filing process. These programs often prompt you with relevant questions, automatically calculate deductions and credits, and help you avoid common errors.
File an extension on your deadline if necessary.
No one can predict what might happen in the future. In this context, retirees often prepare things like an emergency fund to securely finance retirement years in case of sudden emergencies like an accident. While saving enough capital early for retirement is useful for future financial freedom, such sudden emergencies can also cause problems. For example, you might get distracted with handling such a situation and miss the deadline for tax filing.
If you need more time to gather your documents or complete your return, consider filing for a tax extension. Yet, an extension will only give you more time to file your tax returns. Your deadline for paying your owed taxes will still be the same.
Tax season doesn't have to be a stressful time for retirees. With careful tax preparation, like learning the tax rules specific to your situation, you can make the process simple and efficient.
Do the necessary research on tax deductions, tax credits, etc., for retirement income. Take proper professional help for this process and reduce your tax liability. With the appropriate steps, you can keep the most hard-earned retirement income each tax year.
With proper help you can
- Lower your monthly payments
- Reduce credit card interest rates
- Waive late fees
- Reduce collection calls
- Avoid bankruptcy
- Have only one monthly payment