Every year is an election year when it comes to making decisions on your annual income tax return. Here are four common examples that can create tax savings opportunities if you elect the correct option.
1. Tax filing status. Typically, filing a joint tax return instead of filing separately is beneficial to a married couple, but not always! For instance, if one spouse has a high amount of medical expenses and the other doesn’t, your total medical deduction may be greater filing separately due to the 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI) threshold before you can deduct these expenses.
2. Higher education expenses. Thanks to new legislation, many parents of college students again face a decision: Whether to take one of the two credits for higher education expenses or the tuition and fees deduction. The tuition and fees deduction, once expired, is now extended through 2020. To complicate matters, the credits and the deduction are all phased out based on different modified adjusted gross income (AGI) levels. Before you elect which tax benefit makes the most sense, you will need to evaluate all options.
3. Investment interest. Investment interest expenses can be deducted up to the amount of net investment income for the year. This income does not usually include capital gains, because of favorable tax treatment of this type of gain. However, you can elect to include capital gains to help you deduct your interest expense. You can even cherry-pick which capital gains to use for this deduction. If you take this election you forego the favorable tax rate for long-term gains.
4. Installment sales. If you sell real estate or other assets in installments over two or more years, the tax liability is spread over the years that payments are received. Thus, you may be able to postpone the tax due. This technique can reduce the total tax paid depending on your effective tax rate each year. However, you can also elect out of installment sale treatment by paying the entire tax in the year of the sale. You may wish to take this election if your income is lower in the year of the sale.
Thankfully there is help navigating these key tax elections. Simply call with any questions.
As always, feel free to pass this Tip along to friends, and reach out if you need help with your personal tax and finance situation.