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Year End Tax Tips For Your Financial Health

A Tax Tip Article from The Tax Institute at H&R Block


Before you start putting together your list of New Year's resolutions, consider these eight valuable tax tips worth acting on right now:

  1. Maximize contributions to company-sponsored retirement plans. If you haven't already maxed out your allowable contributions to a 401(k), or other company-sponsored retirement plan, find out if you can increase your contributions for the year. Because the money you put into the plan comes out of your salary pre-tax, the contribution reduces your taxable income and overall tax bill as a result. Plus, if your employer matches funds, your additional contribution may help your retirement savings grow faster.

  2. Take required minimum distributions (RMDs). If you turned 70 in 2010, you must take your RMD from your traditional IRA no later than April 1, 2011 (to avoid a penalty of up to 50%)-even if you are not yet retired. However, in times when tax rates may increase, it may be advantageous to take your first RMD in 2010. Keep in mind, your second RMD must be taken by December 31, 2011and all future RMDs must be taken by December 31 each year.

  3. Make charitable contributions by December 31. To be able to deduct contributions on your 2010 return, you must complete the contribution by December 31. For instance, if you made a pledge to donate $1,000 to a charity, you must make the donation before year-end to be able to deduct it. Remember, a bank record or receipt is needed for all cash donations. Written confirmation from the charitable organization is required for all cash donations over $250.

  4. Contribute to your IRA. If you're eligible to deduct your IRA contributions, you can make traditional IRA contributions to decrease your 2010 income. And, you can contribute right up until tax day in April to impact your 2010 return. If you're not eligible to for an IRA deduction because of income limitations and active participation in your employer's retirement plan, consider contributing to a Roth IRA instead.

  5. Consider a Roth IRA conversion. If you convert funds in a traditional IRA or an employer plan, such as a 401(k), to a Roth in 2010, you can choose how you want to report the income that results: 1) report half on your 2011 federal income tax return and half on your 2012 return, or 2) report all of the resulting income on your 2010 return. Whether a Roth conversion makes sense for you depends on a number of factors, but the flexibility afforded through this special provision available only for 2010 conversions makes a Roth conversion a strategy worth considering.

  6. Revisit your withholding. Take time to evaluate your W-4 to ensure that you have enough tax withheld or have paid enough estimated tax to meet your projected obligations and, in the case of the estimated tax, avoid any penalties for underpayment.

  7. Plan your "green" deductions. It is not too late to consider making home improvements that are eligible for a tax credit. The credit for 30% of the cost of energy saving furnaces, central air-conditioners, windows, etc. expires after 2010. The maximum credit for 2009 and 2010 combined is $1,500. For a complete list of eligible purchases, go to www.energystar.gov.

  8. Examine your portfolio. If you have a large net capital gain in 2010, you might want to consider reducing your tax liability by selling some stock that will generate a loss before year-end. Offsetting a short-term capital gain can be particularly advantageous, since such gains can be taxed as high as 35% in 2010.



HELPFUL HINTS

  • Read more tips for year-end tax planning to help you be well prepared when tax time rolls around.
  • Review your options for standard and itemized deductions so you can make sure you get every advantage you deserve.
  • Talk to your tax professional to gain a better understanding of how these and other tax strategies can impact your situation.
  • Go online to ask the H&R Block Tax Professionals all your tax questions at the Get It RightSM Community.

Find out everything you need to know about these hints and all your other tax needs at hrblock.com.