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Posts from the ‘Qualified Retirement Plans, 401(k), IRA, etc.’ Category

27
Apr

Coping with Market Volatility: Be Willing to Take Advantage of Market Downturns

Anyone can look good during a bull market. Smart investors are prepared to weather the inevitable rough patches, and even the best aren’t successful all the time. When the market goes off the tracks, knowing why you originally made a specific investment can help you evaluate whether those reasons still hold, regardless of what the overall market is doing.

If you no longer want to hold an investment, you could take a tax loss, if that’s a possibility. Selling locks in any losses on an investment, but it also generates cash that can be used to purchase other investments that may be available at an appealing discount.  Sound research might turn up buying opportunities on stocks that have dropped for reasons that have nothing to do with the company’s fundamentals. In a down market, most stocks are available at lower prices, but some are better bargains than others.

There also are other ways to reap some benefit from a down market. If the value of your IRA or 401(k)  has dropped dramatically, you likely won’t be able to harvest a tax benefit from those losses, because taxes generally aren’t owed on those accounts until the money is withdrawn. However, if you’ve considered converting a tax-deferred plan to a Roth IRA, a lower account balance might make a conversion more attractive. Though the conversion would trigger income taxes in the year of the conversion, the tax would be calculated on the reduced value of your account. With some expert help, you can determine whether and when such a conversion might be advantageous.

A volatile market is never easy to endure, but learning from it can better prepare you and your portfolio to weather and take advantage of the market’s ups and downs.

For more information on these strategies, contact us. We’re here to help.

All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful.

Although there is no assurance that working with a financial professional will improve investment results, a professional can evaluate your objectives and available resources and help you consider appropriate long-term financial strategies.

To qualify for the tax-free and penalty-free withdrawal of earnings (and assets converted to a Roth), Roth IRA distributions must meet a five-year holding requirement, and the distribution must take place after age 59½ (with some exceptions). Under current tax law, if all conditions are met, the account will incur no further income tax liability for the rest of the owner’s lifetime or for the lifetime of the owner’s heirs, regardless of how much growth the account experiences.

17
Apr

CARES Act: Retirement Plan Relief Provisions

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act  was signed into law on March 27, 2020. This $2 trillion emergency relief package represents a bipartisan effort to assist both individuals and businesses in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and accompanying economic crisis. The CARES Act provisions for retirement plan relief for individuals under federal tax law are discussed here.

For those seeking access to their retirement funds, these include special provisions for coronavirus-related distributions and loans. For those seeking to preserve their retirement funds, certain required minimum distributions from retirement funds have been suspended.

Coronavirus-related distributions

A 10% penalty tax generally applies to distributions from an employer retirement plan or individual retirement account (IRA) before age 59½ unless an exception applies. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the penalty tax will not apply to up to $100,000 of coronavirus-related distributions to an individual during 2020. Additionally, income resulting from a coronavirus-related distribution is spread over a three-year period for tax purposes unless an individual elects otherwise. Coronavirus-related distributions can also be paid back to an eligible retirement plan within three years of the day after the distribution was received.

What does “coronavirus related” mean?

For purposes of the distribution and loan rules described here, “coronavirus related” applies to individuals diagnosed with the illness or who have a spouse or dependent diagnosed with the illness, as well as individuals who experience adverse financial consequences as a result of the pandemic. Adverse financial consequences could include quarantines, furloughs, and business closings.

Loans from qualified plans

Qualified plans such as a 401(k) can allow an employee to take out a loan. These loans can generally be repaid over a period of up to five years. They’re also generally limited to the lesser of $50,000 or 50% of the total benefit the employee has a right to receive under the plan. However, for a coronavirus-related loan made between March 27, 2020, and September 22, 2020, the loan limit is increased to $100,000 or 100% of the amount the employee can rightfully receive under the plan (whichever amount is less). In the case of a loan outstanding after March 26, 2020, the due date for any repayment that would normally be due between March 27, 2020, and December 31, 2020, may be delayed by coronavirus-related qualifying  individuals for one year, and the delay period is disregarded in determining the five-year period and the term of the loan.

Most required minimum distributions (RMDs) suspended for 2020

RMDs are generally required to start from an employer retirement plan or IRA by April 1 of the year after the plan participant or IRA owner reaches age 70½ (age 72 for those who reach age 70½ after 2019). If an employee continues working after age 70½ (age 72 for those who reach age 70½ after 2019), RMDs from an employer retirement plan maintained by the current employer can be deferred until April 1 of the year after retirement. (RMDs are not required from a Roth IRA during the lifetime of the IRA owner.) RMDs are also generally required to beneficiaries after the death of the plan participant or IRA owner. A 50% penalty applies to an RMD that is not made.

The CARES Act suspends RMDs from IRAs and defined contribution plans (other than Section 457 plans for nongovernmental tax-exempt organizations) for 2020. This waiver includes any RMDs for 2019 with an April 1, 2020, required beginning date that were not taken in 2019. This one-year suspension does not generally affect how post-2020 RMDs are determined.

A recent IRS Notice (2020-23) clarifies the application to RMDs taken between February 1 and May 15. The 60-day rollover rule is waived if rolled over by July 15, 2020. The one-per-year rule still applies to all rollover situations, and inherited IRA RMDs cannot be rolled over.

There may be additional guidance issued in the future. It is not clear why RMDs made in January and after May 15th are not covered. Maybe the one-per-year rule would be modified.

4
Feb

The SECURE Act and Your Retirement Savings

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act was enacted in December 2019 as part of a larger federal spending package. This long-awaited legislation expands savings opportunities for workers and includes new requirements and incentives for employers that provide retirement benefits. At the same time, it restricts a popular estate planning strategy for individuals with significant assets in IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Here are some of the changes that may affect your retirement, tax, and estate planning strategies. All of these provisions were effective January 1, 2020, unless otherwise noted.

Benefits for retirement savers
Later RMDs. Individuals born on or after July 1, 1949, can wait until age 72 to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans instead of starting them at age 70½ as required under previous law. This is a boon for individuals who don’t need the withdrawals for living expenses, because it postpones payment of income taxes and gives the account a longer time to pursue tax-deferred growth. As under previous law, participants may be able to delay taking withdrawals from their current employer’s plan as long as they are still working.

No traditional IRA age limit. There is no longer a prohibition on contributing to a traditional IRA after age 70½ — taxpayers can make contributions at any age as long as they have earned income. This helps older workers who want to save while reducing their taxable income. But keep in mind that contributions to a traditional IRA only defer taxes. Withdrawals, including any earnings, are taxed as ordinary income, and a larger account balance will increase the RMDs that must start at age 72.

Tax breaks for special situations. For the 2019 and 2020 tax years, taxpayers may deduct unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income. In addition, withdrawals may be taken from tax-deferred accounts to cover medical expenses that exceed this threshold without owing the 10% penalty that normally applies before age 59½. (The threshold returns to 10% in 2021.) Penalty free early withdrawals of up to $5,000 are also allowed to pay for expenses related to the birth or adoption of a child. Regular income taxes apply in both situations.

Tweaks to promote saving. To help workers track their retirement savings progress, employers must provide participants in defined contribution plans with annual statements that illustrate the value of their current retirement plan assets, expressed as monthly income received over a lifetime. Some plans with auto-enrollment may now automatically increase participant contributions until they reach 15% of salary, although employees can opt out. (The previous ceiling was 10%.)

More part-timers gain access to retirement plans. For plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2021, part-time workers age 21 and older who log at least 500 hours annually for three consecutive years generally must be allowed to contribute to qualified retirement plans. (The previous requirement was 1,000 hours and one year of service.) However, employers will not be required to make matching or nonelective contributions on their behalf.

Benefits for small businesses
In 2019, only about half of people who worked for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees had access to retirement benefits.1 The SECURE Act includes provisions intended to make it easier and more affordable for small businesses to provide qualified retirement plans.

The tax credit that small businesses can take for starting a new retirement plan has increased. The new rule allows a credit equal to the greater of (1) $500 or (2) $250 times the number of non-highly compensated eligible employees or $5,000, whichever is less. The previous credit amount allowed was 50% of startup costs up to $1,000 ($500 maximum credit). There is also a new tax credit of up to $500 for employers that launch a SIMPLE IRA or 401(k) plan with automatic enrollment. Both credits are available for three years.

Effective January 1, 2021, employers will be permitted to join multiple employer plans (MEPs) regardless of industry, geographic location, or affiliation. “Open MEPs,” as they have become known, enable small employers to band together to provide a retirement plan with access to lower prices and other benefits typically reserved for large organizations. (Previously, groups of small businesses had to be related somehow in order to join an MEP.) The legislation also eliminates the “one bad apple” rule, so the failure of one employer in an MEP to meet plan requirements will no longer cause others to be disqualified.

Goodbye stretch IRA
Under previous law, nonspouse beneficiaries who inherited assets in employer plans and IRAs could “stretch” RMDs — and the tax obligations associated with them — over their lifetimes. The new law generally requires a beneficiary who is more than 10 years younger than the original account owner to liquidate the inherited account within 10 years. Exceptions include a spouse, a disabled or chronically ill individual, and a minor child. The 10-year “clock” will begin when a child reaches the age of majority (18 in most states).

This shorter distribution period could result in bigger tax bills for children and grandchildren who inherit accounts. The 10-year liquidation rule also applies to IRA trust beneficiaries, which may conflict with the reasons a trust was originally created.

In addition to revisiting beneficiary designations, you might consider how IRA dollars fit into your overall estate plan. For example, it might make sense to convert traditional IRA funds to a Roth IRA, which can be inherited tax-free (if the five-year holding period has been met). Roth IRA conversions are taxable events, but if converted amounts are spread over the next several tax years, you may benefit from lower income tax rates, which are set to expire in 2026.

If you have questions about how the SECURE Act may impact your finances, this may be a good time to consult your financial, tax, and/or legal professionals.
1) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

The foregoing is provided for information purposes only.  It is not intended or designed to provide legal, accounting, tax, investment or other professional advice.  Such advice requires consideration of individual circumstances.  Before any action is taken based upon this information, it is essential that competent individual professional advice be obtained.  JAS Financial Services, LLC is not responsible for any modifications made to this material, or for the accuracy of information provided by other sources. This legislation maybe revised to correct errors and/or clarified.

3
Jan

New Spending Package Includes Sweeping Retirement Plan Changes

The $1.4 trillion spending package enacted on December 20, 2019, included the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, which had overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives in the spring of 2019, but then subsequently stalled in the Senate. The SECURE Act represents the most sweeping set of changes to retirement legislation in more than a decade.

While many of the provisions offer enhanced opportunities for individuals and small business owners, there is one notable drawback for investors with significant assets in traditional IRAs and retirement plans. These individuals will likely want to revisit their estate-planning strategies to prevent their heirs from potentially facing unexpectedly high tax bills.

All provisions take effect on or after January 1, 2020, unless otherwise noted.

Elimination of the “stretch IRA”

Perhaps the change requiring the most urgent attention is the elimination of longstanding provisions allowing non-spouse beneficiaries who inherit traditional IRA and retirement plan  assets to spread distributions — and therefore the tax obligations associated with them — over their lifetimes. This ability to spread out taxable distributions after the death of an IRA owner or retirement plan participant, over what was potentially such a long period of time, was often referred  to as the “stretch IRA” rule.   The new law, however, generally requires any beneficiary who is more than 10 years younger than the account owner to liquidate the account within 10 years of the account owner’s death unless the beneficiary is a spouse, a   disabled or chronically ill individual, or a minor child. This shorter maximum distribution period could result in unanticipated tax bills for beneficiaries who stand to inherit high-value traditional IRAs. This is also true for IRA trust beneficiaries, which may affect estate plans that intended to use trusts to manage inherited IRA assets.

In addition to possibly reevaluating beneficiary choices, traditional IRA owners may want to revisit how IRA dollars fit into their  overall estate planning strategy. For example,  it may make sense to consider the possible implications of  converting traditional IRA funds to Roth IRAs, which can be inherited income tax free. Although Roth IRA conversions are taxable events, investors who spread out a series of conversions over the next several years may benefit from the lower income tax rates that are set to expire in 2026.

Benefits to individuals

On the plus side, the SECURE Act includes several provisions designed to benefit American workers and retirees.

  • People who choose to work beyond traditional retirement age will be able to contribute to traditional IRAs beyond age 70½. Previous laws prevented such contributions.
  • Retirees will no longer have to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from traditional IRAs and retirement plans by April 1 following the year in which they turn 70½. The new law generally requires RMDs to begin by April 1 following the year in which they turn age 72.
  • Part-time workers age 21 and older who log at least 500 hours in three consecutive years generally must be allowed to participate in company retirement plans offering a qualified cash or deferred arrangement. The previous requirement was 1,000 hours and one year of service. (The new rule applies to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2021.)
  • Workers will begin to receive annual statements from their employers estimating how much their retirement plan assets are worth, expressed as monthly income received over a lifetime. This should help workers better gauge progress toward meeting their retirement-income goals.
  • New laws make it easier for employers to offer lifetime income annuities within retirement plans. Such products can help workers plan for a predictable stream of income in retirement. In addition, lifetime income investments or annuities held within a plan that discontinues such investments can be directly transferred to another retirement plan, avoiding potential surrender charges and fees that may otherwise apply.
  • Individuals can now take penalty-free early withdrawals of up to $5,000 from their qualified plans and IRAs due to the birth or adoption of a child. (Regular income taxes will still apply, so new parents may want to proceed with caution.)
  • Taxpayers with high medical bills may be able to deduct unreimbursed expenses that exceed 5% (in 2019 and 2020) of their adjusted gross income. In addition, individuals may withdraw money from their qualified retirement plans and IRAs penalty-free to cover expenses that exceed this threshold (although regular income taxes will apply). The threshold returns to 10% in 2021.
  • 529 account assets can now be used to pay for student loan repayments ($10,000 lifetime maximum) and costs associated with registered apprenticeships.

Benefits to employers

The SECURE Act also provides assistance to employers striving to provide quality retirement savings opportunities to their workers. Among the changes are the following:

  • The tax credit that small businesses can take for starting a new retirement plan has increased. The new rule allows employers to take a credit equal to the greater of (1) $500 or (2) the lesser of (a) $250 times the number of non-highly compensated eligible employees or (b) $5,000. The credit applies for up to three years. The previous maximum credit amount allowed was 50% of startup costs up to a maximum of $1,000 (i.e., a maximum credit of $500).
  • A new tax credit of up to $500 is available for employers that launch a SIMPLE IRA or 401(k) plan with automatic enrollment. The credit applies for three years.
  • With regards to the new mandate to permit certain part-timers to participate in retirement plans, employers may exclude such employees for nondiscrimination testing purposes.
  • Employers now have easier access to join multiple employer plans (MEPs) regardless of industry, geographic location, or affiliation. “Open MEPs,” as they have become known, offer economies of scale, allowing small employers access to the types of pricing models and other benefits typically reserved for large organizations. (Previously, groups of small businesses had to be affiliated somehow in order to join an MEP.) The legislation also provides that the failure of one employer in an MEP to meet plan requirements will not cause others to fail, and that plan assets in the failed plan will be transferred to another. (This rule is effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2021.)
  • Auto-enrollment safe harbor plans may automatically increase participant contributions until they reach 15% of salary. The previous ceiling was 10%.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The foregoing is provided for information purposes only.  It is not intended or designed to provide legal, accounting, tax, investment or other professional advice.  Such advice requires consideration of individual circumstances.  Before any action is taken based upon this information, it is essential that competent individual professional advice be obtained.  JAS Financial Services, LLC is not responsible for any modifications made to this material, or for the accuracy of information provided by other sources. This legislation maybe revised to correct errors and/or clarified.

7
Nov

2018 Year-end opportunity

The end of the year presents a unique opportunity to look at your overall personal financial situation.   With factors like tax reform, life changes or just working towards your goals, end of year is an especially important time to review things.  Weaving together your prior planning, subsequent changes and revised goals helps you stay on course. Following are some things you consider before the year ends.

Income Tax Planning –Ensure you are implementing tax reduction strategies like maximizing your retirement plan contributions, tax loss harvesting in portfolios and making charitable contributions can all help reduce current and future tax bills.   It is also good to review your current year tax projection based on your income and deductions year to date and how that may be different from before.

Estate Planning – Examine your current estate plan to visualize what would happen to each of your assets and how the current estate tax law will impact you.  Be sure that your estate planning documents are up to date – not just your will, but also your power of attorney, health care documents, and any trust agreements and beneficiary designations are in line with your desires. If you have recently been through a significant life event such as marriage, divorce or the death of a spouse, this is especially important right now.

Investment Strategy– The recent market volatility has some people feeling uncomfortable.  Market declines are a natural part of investing, and understanding the importance of maintaining discipline during these times is imperative.  Regular portfolio rebalancing will allow you to maintain the appropriate amount of risk in your portfolio.  And, if you are retired and living off your portfolio, you also want to maintain an appropriate cash reserve to cover living expenses for a certain period of time so that you do not have to sell equities in a down market.

Charitable Giving – There are many ways to be tax efficient when making charitable gifts. For example, donating appreciated stock could make sense in order to avoid paying capital gains taxes. Further, you may want to consider bunching charitable deductions by deferring donations to next year or making your planned 2019 donations ahead of time. If the numbers are large enough, you might even consider a private foundation or donor advised fund for your charitable giving.  If you are at least 70.5 you may want to consider Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD) from your IRA.

Retirement Planning –Think about your future when working becomes optional.  Whether you expect a typical full retirement or a career change to something different, determining an appropriate balance between spending and saving, both now and in the future is important. There are many options available for saving for retirement, and we can help you understand which option is best for you.   If you are at least 70.5 you should be sure your 2018 Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) from your IRAs are paid before year-end. Qualified Charitable Contributions, up to $100,000, will be treated as part of your RMD but not taxed.

 

Cash Flow Planning – Review your 2018 spending and plan ahead for next year. Understanding your cash flow needs is an important aspect of determining if you have sufficient assets to meet your goals.  If you are retired, it is particularly important to maintain a tax efficient withdrawal strategy to cover your spending needs. If you have not yet reached age 70.5, it is prudent to ensure you are making tax-efficient withdrawal decisions.  If you are over age 70.5 make sure you are taking your RMDs because the penalties are significant if you don’t.

Risk Management – It is always a good idea to periodically review your insurance coverages in various areas. Recent catastrophic events like hurricanes serve as a powerful reminder to make sure your property insurance coverage is right for your needs. If you are in a Federal disaster area, there are additional steps necessary to recover what you can and explore the tax treatment of casualty losses. Other areas of risk management that may need to be revisited include life and disability insurance.

Education Funding – Funding education costs for children or grandchildren is important to many people.  While the increase in college costs have slowed some lately, this is still a major expense for most families. It is important to know the many different ways you can save for education to determine the optimal strategy. Often, funding a 529 plan comes with tax benefits, so making contributions before the end of the year is key.  With the added flexibility of funding k-12 years (set at a $10,000 limit), 529 accounts become even more advantageous.

Elder Planning – There are many financial planning elements to consider as you age, and it is important to consider these things before it’s too late. Having a plan in place for who will handle your financial affairs should you suffer cognitive decline is critical.  Making sure your spouse and/or family understands your plans will help reduce future family conflicts and ensure your wishes are considered.

The decisions you make each year with your personal finances will have a lasting impact.  I hope this has begun to generate some insight to areas of your personal finance that need attention. Please contact me if you have any comments or questions.

 

 

 

15
Mar

Still Time to Contribute to an IRA for 2017

There’s still time to make a regular IRA contribution for 2017! You have until your tax return due date (not including extensions) to contribute up to $5,500 for 2017 ($6,500 if you were age 50 by December 31, 2017). For most taxpayers, the contribution deadline for 2017 is April 17, 2018.

You can contribute to a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA, or both, as long as your total contributions don’t exceed the annual limit (or, if less, 100% of your earned income). You may also be able to contribute to an IRA for your spouse for 2017, even if your spouse didn’t have any 2017 income.

Traditional IRA

You can contribute to a traditional IRA for 2017 if you had taxable compensation and you were not age 70½ by December 31, 2017.   However, if you or your spouse was covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan in 2017, then your ability to deduct your contributions may be limited or eliminated depending on your filing status and your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) (see table below). Even if you can’t deduct your traditional IRA contribution, you can always make nondeductible (after-tax) contributions to a traditional IRA, regardless of your income level. However, in most cases, if you’re eligible, you’ll be better off contributing to a Roth IRA instead of making nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA.

2017 income phaseout ranges for determining deductibility of traditional IRA contributions:    
1. Covered by an employer-sponsored plan and filing as: Your IRA deduction is reduced if your MAGI is: Your IRA deduction is eliminated if your MAGI is:
Single/Head of household $62,000 to $72,000 $72,000 or more
Married filing jointly $99,000 to $119,000 $119,000 or more
Married filing separately $0 to $10,000 $10,000 or more
2. Not covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, but filing joint return with a spouse who is covered by a plan $186,000 to $196,000 $196,000 or more

 

Roth IRA

You can contribute to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is within certain dollar limits (even if you’re 70½ or older). For 2017, if you file your federal tax return as single or head of household, you can make a full Roth contribution if your income is $118,000 or less. Your maximum contribution is phased out if your income is between $118,000 and $133,000, and you can’t contribute at all if your income is $133,000 or more. Similarly, if you’re married and file a joint federal tax return, you can make a full Roth contribution if your income is $186,000 or less. Your contribution is phased out if your income is between $186,000 and $196,000, and you can’t contribute at all if your income is $196,000 or more. And if you’re married filing separately, your contribution phases out with any income over $0, and you can’t contribute at all if your income is $10,000 or more.

2017 income phaseout ranges for determining ability to contribute to a Roth IRA:    
  Your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA is reduced if your MAGI is: Your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA is eliminated if your MAGI is:
Single/Head of household $118,000 to $133,000 $133,000 or more
Married filing jointly $186,000 to $196,000 $196,000 or more
Married filing separately $0 to $10,000 $10,000 or more

 

Even if you can’t make an annual contribution to a Roth IRA because of the income limits, there’s an easy workaround. If you haven’t yet reached age 70½, you can simply make a nondeductible contribution to a traditional IRA, and then immediately convert that traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need to aggregate all traditional IRAs and SEP/SIMPLE IRAs you own — other than IRAs you’ve inherited — when you calculate the taxable portion of your conversion. (This is sometimes called a “back-door” Roth IRA.)

Finally, keep in mind that if you make a contribution to a Roth IRA for 2017 — no matter how small — by your tax return due date, and this is your first Roth IRA contribution, your five-year holding period for identifying qualified distributions from all your Roth IRAs (other than inherited accounts) will start on January 1, 2017.

You should consult with your own advisor to see if there are other considerations or factors that you should consider before making contributions to any IRA.

10
Nov

IRA and Retirement Plan Limits for 2018

IRA contribution limits

The maximum amount you can contribute to a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA in 2018 is $5,500 (or 100% of your earned income, if less), unchanged from 2017. The maximum catch-up contribution for those age 50 or older remains at $1,000. You can contribute to both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA in 2018, but your total contributions can’t exceed these annual limits.

Traditional IRA income limits

The income limits for determining the deductibility of traditional IRA contributions in 2018 have increased. If your filing status is single or head of household, you can fully deduct your IRA contribution up to $5,500 in 2018 if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $63,000 or less (up from $62,000 in 2017). If you’re married and filing a joint return, you can fully deduct up to $5,500 in 2018 if your MAGI is $101,000 or less (up from $99,000 in 2017). Note that these figures assume you are covered by a retirement plan at work.

If your 2018 federal income tax filing status is: Your IRA deduction is limited if your MAGI is between: Your deduction is eliminated if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household $63,000 and $73,000 $73,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) $101,000 and $121,000 (combined) $121,000 or more (combined)
Married filing separately $0 and $10,000 $10,000 or more

If you’re not covered by an employer plan but your spouse is, and you file a joint return, your deduction is limited if your MAGI is $189,000 to $199,000 (up from $186,000 to $196,000 in 2017), and eliminated if your MAGI exceeds $199,000. Single filers, head-of-household filers, and married joint filers who are not covered by an employer plan can deduct the full amount of their contributions.

Roth IRA income limits

The income limits for determining how much you can contribute to a Roth IRA have also increased for 2018. If your filing status is single or head of household, you can contribute the full $5,500 to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is $120,000 or less (up from $118,000 in 2017). And if you’re married and filing a joint return, you can make a full contribution if your MAGI is $189,000 or less (up from $186,000 in 2017). (Again, contributions can’t exceed 100% of your earned income.)

If your 2018 federal income tax filing status is: Your Roth IRA contribution is limited if your MAGI is: You cannot contribute to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household More than $120,000 but under $135,000 $135,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) More than $189,000 but under $199,000 (combined) $199,000 or more (combined)
Married filing separately More than $0 but under $10,000 $10,000 or more

Employer retirement plans

Most of the significant employer retirement plan limits for 2018 have also increased. The maximum amount you can contribute (your “elective deferrals”) to a 401(k) plan is $18,500, up from $18,000 in 2017. This limit also applies to 403(b) and 457(b) plans, as well as the Federal Thrift Plan. If you’re age 50 or older, you can also make catch-up contributions of up to $6,000 to these plans in 2018. (Special catch-up limits apply to certain participants in 403(b) and 457(b) plans.)

If you participate in more than one retirement plan, your total elective deferrals can’t exceed the annual limit ($18,500 in 2018 plus any applicable catch-up contributions). Deferrals to 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and SIMPLE plans are included in this aggregate limit, but deferrals to Section 457(b) plans are not. For example, if you participate in both a 403(b) plan and a 457(b) plan, you can defer the full dollar limit to each plan — a total of $37,000 in 2018 (plus any catch-up contributions).

The amount you can contribute to a SIMPLE IRA or SIMPLE 401(k) plan remains unchanged at $12,500, and the catch-up limit for those age 50 or older remains at $3,000.

Plan type: Annual dollar limit: Catch-up limit:
401(k), 403(b), governmental 457(b), Federal Thrift Plan $18,500 $6,000
SIMPLE plans $12,500 $3,000

Note: Contributions can’t exceed 100% of your income.

The maximum amount that can be allocated to your account in a defined contribution plan (for example, a 401(k) plan or profit-sharing plan) in 2018 is $55,000, up from $54,000 in 2017, plus age 50 catch-up contributions. (This includes both your contributions and your employer’s contributions. Special rules apply if your employer sponsors more than one retirement plan.)

Finally, the maximum amount of compensation that can be taken into account in determining benefits for most plans in 2018 is $275,000 (up from $270,000 in 2017), and the dollar threshold for determining highly compensated employees (when 2018 is the look-back year) remains unchanged at $120,000.

16
May

Six Steps to Consider Before Tapping Your Retirement Savings Plan

You’ve worked long and hard for years, saving diligently through your employer-sponsored retirement savings plan. Now, with retirement on the horizon, it’s time to begin thinking about how to tap your plan assets for income. But hold on, not so fast. You may need to take a few steps first.

Step 1: Evaluate your needs
The first step in any retirement income plan is to estimate how much income you’ll need to meet your desired lifestyle. The conventional guidance is to plan on needing anywhere from 70% to 100% of your pre-retirement income each year during retirement; however, your amount will depend on your unique circumstances. While some expenses may fall in retirement, others may rise. So before even thinking about how to tap your plan assets, you should have a concrete idea of how much you’ll need to (1) cover your basic needs and (2) live comfortably, according to your wishes.

First, estimate your non-negotiable fixed needs — such as housing, food, and medical care. This will help you project how much you’ll need just to make ends meet. Then focus on your variable wants — including travel, leisure, and entertainment. This is the area that you’ll have the easiest time adjusting, if necessary, as you refine your income plan.

Step 2: Assess your sources of predictable income
Next, you’ll want to determine how much to expect from sources of predictable income, such as Social Security and traditional pension plans. These could be considered the foundation of your retirement income.

Social Security
A key decision regarding Social Security is when to claim benefits. Although you can begin receiving benefits as early as age 62, the longer you wait to begin (up to age 70), the more you’ll receive each month.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates your retirement benefit using a formula that takes into account your 35 highest earning years, so if you had some years of no or low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had worked steadily.

You can estimate your retirement benefit by using the calculators on the SSA website, https://www.ssa.gov . You can also sign up for a my Social Security account so that you can view your Social Security Statement online. Your statement contains a detailed record of your earnings, as well as estimates of retirement, survivor, and disability benefits, along with other information about Social Security.

Pensions
Traditional pensions have been disappearing from employer benefit programs over the past couple of decades. If you’re one of the lucky workers who stand to receive a pension benefit, congratulations! But be aware of your pension’s features. For example, will your benefit remain steady throughout retirement or increase with inflation?

Your pension will most likely be offered as either a single or joint and survivor annuity. A single annuity provides benefits until the worker’s death, while a joint and survivor annuity generally provides reduced benefits until the survivor’s death.1

Step 3: Reflect
If it looks as though your Social Security and pension income will be enough to cover your fixed needs, you may be well positioned to use your retirement savings plan assets to fund the extra wants. On the other hand, if those sources are not sufficient to cover your fixed needs, you’ll need to think carefully about how to tap your retirement savings plan assets, as they will be a necessary component of your income.

Step 4: Understand your plan options
Upon leaving your employer, you typically have four options:

1. Plans may allow you to leave the money alone or may require that you begin taking distributions once you reach the plan’s normal retirement age.

2. You may choose to withdraw the money, either as a lump sum or a series of substantially equal periodic payments for the rest of your life, or you might use other withdrawal options offered by your plan. Note that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that only third of 401(k) plans offer other withdrawal options, such as installment payments, systematic withdrawals, and managed payout funds.

3. You may roll the money into an IRA. You’ll want to carefully compare the investment options, fees, and expenses of both your current plan and the IRA before making any rollover decision.

4. If you continue to work during your retirement years, you may be able to roll the money into your new employer’s plan, if that plan allows. Again, be sure to compare plans before making any decisions.

An annuity is an insurance contract designed to provide steady income over a set period of time or over either your lifetime or that of you and your spouse. According to the GAO, only about 25% of 401(k) plans offer an annuity option as a plan feature. If you think an annuity may apply to your situation, check to see if it is available in your plan. You may want to consider rolling at least some of your tax-deferred money into an IRA and purchasing an immediate fixed annuity. As noted above, however, you’ll want to carefully compare fees and expenses associated with all options before making any final decisions.3

Step 5: Compare tax deferred and tax-free
If you have both tax-deferred and tax-free (Roth) accounts, consider that the taxable portion of distributions from tax-deferred accounts will be taxed at your current income tax rate, while qualified withdrawals from Roth accounts are tax-free. For this reason, general guidelines often suggest tapping tax-deferred accounts before Roth accounts to allow those accounts to continue potentially growing free of taxes.

Note that all assets in employer-sponsored retirement savings plans — even money held in Roth accounts — will be subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs). These rules state that minimum distributions generally must begin in the year you turn age 70½; however, you may delay your first distribution up to April 1 of the following year.

Roth IRAs, however, are not subject to RMD rules until after your death. This is just one reason you might consider converting your employer-sponsored retirement assets to a Roth IRA. Keep in mind that a conversion will trigger an immediate tax consequence on the taxable portion of the converted assets, which can result in a hefty bill from Uncle Sam.

Step 6: Seek professional assistance
Determining the appropriate way to tap your assets can be challenging and should take into account a number of factors. These include not only your tax situation, but also whether you have other assets you’ll use for income, your overall health, and your estate plan. A financial professional can help make sense of your options in light of your unique situation.

1 Current federal law requires employer-sponsored plan participants to select a joint and survivor annuity unless the spouse waives those rights. This requirement is not mandated in an IRA, however.

2
“401(k) Plans: DOL Could Take Steps to Improve Retirement Income Options for Plan Participants,” GAO Report to Congressional Requesters, August 2016

3 Generally, annuity contracts have fees and expenses, limitations, exclusions, holding periods, termination provisions, and terms for keeping the annuity in force. Most annuities have surrender charges that are assessed if the contract owner surrenders the annuity in the early years of the contract. Qualified annuities are typically purchased with pre-tax money, so withdrawals are fully taxed as ordinary income. Withdrawals prior to age 59½ may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. Any guarantees are contingent on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. It is important to understand that purchasing an annuity in an IRA or an employer-sponsored retirement plan provides no additional tax benefits other than those available through the tax-deferred retirement plan.

The foregoing is provided for information purposes only.  It is not intended or designed to provide legal, accounting, tax, investment or other professional advice.  Such advice requires consideration of individual circumstances.  Before any action is taken based upon this information, it is essential that competent, individual, professional advice be obtained.  JAS Financial Services, LLC is not responsible for any modifications made to this material, or for the accuracy of information provided by other sources.

27
Sep

IRS Announces New Waiver Procedure for Taxpayers Who Inadvertently Miss the 60-day Rollover Deadline

Background–direct and indirect (60-day) rollovers
If you’re eligible to receive a taxable distribution from an employer-sponsored retirement plan (like a 401(k)) you can avoid current taxation by directly rolling the distribution over to another employer plan or IRA (with a direct rollover you never actually receive the funds). You can also avoid current taxation by actually receiving the distribution from the plan, and then rolling it over to another employer  plan or IRA within 60 days following receipt (a “60-day” or “indirect” rollover). But if you choose to receive the funds instead of making a direct rollover the plan must withhold 20 percent of the taxable portion of your distribution, even if you intend to make a 60-day rollover. (You’ll need to make up those withheld funds from your other assets if you want to roll over the entire amount of your plan distribution.)

Similarly, if you’re eligible to receive a taxable distribution from an IRA, you can  avoid current taxation by either transferring the funds directly to another IRA or to an employer plan that accepts rollovers (sometimes called a “trustee-to-trustee transfer”), or by taking the  distribution and making a 60-day indirect rollover (20% withholding doesn’t apply to IRA distributions).

Under recently revised IRS rules you can make only one tax-free, 60-day, rollover from any IRA  you own (traditional or Roth) to any other IRA you own in any 12-month period. However, this limit does not apply to direct  rollovers or trustee-to-trustee transfers (or to Roth IRA conversions). Because of the 20% withholding rule, the one-rollover-per-year rule, and the possibility of missing the 60-day deadline, in almost all cases you’re better off making a direct rollover or trustee-to-trustee transfer to move your retirement plan funds from one account to another.
 

Exceptions to the 60-day rollover deadline
But what happens if you do receive an actual distribution from your employer plan or IRA and you want to roll over the funds, but you’ve missed the 60 day deadline? There are limited statutory exceptions to the 60-day rule. For example, the time for making a rollover may be extended for those serving in a combat zone or in the event of a presidentially declared disaster or a terrorist or military action.

But the IRS also has the authority to waive the 60-day limit “where the failure to waive such requirement would be against equity or good conscience, including casualty, disaster, or other events beyond the [individual’s] reasonable control.” To seek a waiver you previously had to  request a private letter ruling from the IRS. However, the IRS has just announced (in Revenue Procedure 2016-47) a simpler alternative to seeking a private letter ruling.

The new waiver alternative: “self-certification”
Under the new procedure, if you want to make a rollover but the 60-day limit has expired, you can simply send a letter (the Revenue Procedure contains a sample)  to the plan administrator or IRA trustee/custodian certifying that you missed the 60-day deadline due to one of the following 11 reasons:

  1. The financial institution receiving the contribution, or making the distribution to which the contribution relates, made an error.
  2. You misplaced and never cashed a distribution made in the form of a check.
  3. Your distribution was deposited into and remained in an account that you mistakenly thought was an eligible retirement plan.
  4. Your principal residence was severely damaged.
  5. A member of your family died.
  6. You or a member of your family was seriously ill.
  7. You were  incarcerated.
  8. Restrictions were imposed by a foreign country.
  9. A postal error occurred.
  10. Your distribution was made on account of an IRS tax levy and the proceeds of the levy have been returned to you.
  11. The party making the distribution delayed providing information that the receiving plan or IRA needed to complete the rollover, despite your reasonable efforts to obtain the information.

To qualify for this new procedure, you must make your rollover contribution to the employer plan or IRA as soon as practicable after the applicable reason(s) above no longer prevent you from doing so. In general, a rollover contribution made within 30 days is deemed to satisfy this requirement.

Effect of self-certification
It’s important to understand that this new self-certification process is not an automatic waiver by the IRS of the 60-day rollover requirement. The self-certification simply allows you and the financial institution to treat and report the contribution as a valid rollover. However, if you’re subsequently audited, the IRS can still review whether your contribution met the requirements for a waiver.

For example, the IRS may determine that the requirements for a waiver were not met because (1) you made a material misstatement in the self-certification, (2)  the reason(s) you claimed for missing the 60-day deadline did not prevent you from completing the rollover within 60 days following receipt, or (3) you failed to make the contribution as soon as practicable after the reason(s) no longer prevented you from making the contribution. In that case, you may still be subject to additional income taxes and penalties. Because of this potential risk, some taxpayers may still prefer the certainty of a private letter ruling from the IRS waiving the 60-day deadline,  despite the additional time and expense involved.

Remember, you can make only one tax-free, 60-day, rollover from any IRA you own (traditional or Roth) to any other IRA you own in any 12-month period. This limit does not apply to direct  rollovers or trustee-to-trustee transfers (or to Roth IRA conversions).

Also keep in mind that you can generally leave your funds in a 401(k) or similar plan (at least until the plan’s normal retirement age) if your vested account balance at the time you terminate employment exceeds $5,000.

 

The foregoing is provided for information purposes only.  It is not intended or designed to provide legal, accounting, tax, investment or other professional advice.  Such advice requires consideration of individual circumstances.  Before any action is taken based upon this information, it is essential that competent, individual, professional advice be obtained.  JAS Financial Services, LLC is not responsible for any modifications made to this material, or for the accuracy of information provided by other sources.
9
Feb

There’s Still Time to Contribute to an IRA for 2015

There’s still time to make a regular IRA contribution for 2015! You have until your tax return due date (not including extensions) to contribute up to $5,500 for 2015 ($6,500 if you were age 50 by December 31, 2015). For most taxpayers, the contribution deadline for 2015 is April 18, 2016 (April 19, 2016, if you live in Maine or Massachusetts).

You can contribute to a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA, or both, as long as your total contributions don’t exceed the annual limit (or, if less, 100% of your earned income). You may also be able to contribute to an IRA for your spouse for 2015, even if your spouse didn’t have any 2015 income.

Traditional IRA   

You can contribute to a traditional IRA for 2015 if you had taxable compensation and you were not age 70½ by December 31, 2015.

However, if you or your spouse was covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan in 2015, then your ability to deduct your contributions may be limited or eliminated depending on your filing status and your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) (see table below). Even if you can’t deduct your traditional IRA contribution, you can always make nondeductible (after-tax) contributions to a traditional IRA, regardless of your income level. However, in most cases, if you’re eligible, you’ll be better off contributing to a Roth IRA instead of making nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA.

2015 income phaseout ranges for determining deductibility of traditional IRA contributions:
1. Covered by an employer-sponsored plan and filing as: Your IRA deduction is reduced if your MAGI is: Your IRA deduction is eliminated if your MAGI is:
Single/Head of household $61,000 to $71,000 $71,000 or more
Married filing jointly $98,000 to $118,000 $118,000 or more
Married filing separately $0 to $10,000 $10,000 or more
2. Not covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, but filing joint return with a spouse who is covered by a plan $183,000 to $193,000 $193,000 or more


Roth IRA

You can contribute to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is within certain dollar limits (even if you’re 70½ or older). For 2015, if you file your federal tax return as single or head of household, you can make a full Roth contribution if your income is $116,000 or less. Your maximum contribution is phased out if your income is between $116,000 and $131,000, and you can’t contribute at all if your income is $131,000 or more. Similarly, if you’re married and file a joint federal tax return, you can make a full Roth contribution if your income is $183,000 or less. Your contribution is phased out if your income is between $183,000 and $193,000, and you can’t contribute at all if your income is $193,000 or more. And if you’re married filing separately, your contribution phases out with any income over $0, and you can’t contribute at all if your income is $10,000 or more.

Even if you can’t make an annual contribution to a Roth IRA because of the income limits, there’s an easy workaround. If you haven’t yet reached age 70½, you can simply make a nondeductible contribution to a traditional IRA, and then immediately convert that traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need to aggregate all traditional IRAs and SEP/SIMPLE IRAs you own–other than IRAs you’ve inherited–when you calculate the taxable portion of your conversion. (This is sometimes called a “back-door” Roth IRA.)

Finally, keep in mind that if you make a contribution to a Roth IRA for 2015–no matter how small–by your tax return due date, and this is your first Roth IRA contribution, your five-year holding period for identifying qualified distributions from all your Roth IRAs (other than inherited accounts) will start on January 1, 2015.

 

The foregoing is provided for information purposes only.  It is not intended or designed to provide legal, accounting, tax, investment or other professional advice.  Such advice requires consideration of individual circumstances.  Before any action is taken based upon this information, it is essential that competent, individual, professional advice be obtained.  JAS Financial Services, LLC is not responsible for any modifications made to this material, or for the accuracy of information provided by other sources.