Here are some important things to note as the year comes to a close.
As every calendar year ends, the window slowly closes on some notable financial deadlines and opportunities. Here are several to keep in mind before 2016 arrives.
Don’t forget that IRA RMD. If you are older than age 70½ and own one or more traditional IRAs, you have to take your annual IRA required minimum distribution (RMD) by December 31. If you are being asked to take your very first RMD, you actually have until April 1, 2016 to take it – but your 2016 income taxes may be substantially greater as a result. (Note: original owners of Roth IRAs never have to take RMDs from those accounts.)
Did you recently inherit an IRA? If you have and you weren’t married to the person who started that IRA, you must take the first RMD from that IRA by December 31 of the year after the death of that original IRA owner. You have to do it whether the original account is a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA.
You might want to divide that inherited IRA into multiple inherited IRAs before New Year’s Eve, thereby promoting a lengthier payout schedule for younger inheritors of those assets. This move must be made by the end of the year that follows the year in which the original IRA owner died. Otherwise, any co-beneficiaries receive distributions per the life expectancy of the oldest beneficiary. Check with the IRA custodian to see if it will permit this.
Can you contribute more to a 401(k), 403(b), 457 or TSP plan? You have until December 31 to boost your 2015 contribution. This year, the contribution limit on both plans is $18,000 for those under 50, $24,000 for those 50 and older.
Can you do the same with your IRA? The traditional and Roth IRA contribution limit for 2015 is $5,500 for those under 50, $6,500 for those 50 and older. (You must have employment compensation to make IRA contributions.) Some taxpayers earn too much to make Roth IRA contributions – above $131,000 AGI, an individual filing as single or head of household can’t make a Roth contribution for 2015, and neither can joint filers with AGI exceeding $193,000.
Ever looked into a Solo(k) or a SEP plan? If you have self-employment income, you can save for the future using a self-directed retirement plan, such as a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan or a Solo 401(k). You don’t have to be exclusively self-employed to set one of these up – you can work full-time for someone else and contribute to one of these while also deferring some of your salary into the retirement plan sponsored by your employer. Contributions to SEPs and Solo 401(k)s are tax-deductible. December 31 is the annual deadline to set one up, and if you meet that deadline, you can make your contributions for the current year as late as April 15 of next year.
You can contribute up to 25% of your net self-employment income to a SEP for 2015 – up to $53,000. For a Solo 401(k), the same $53,000 limit applies – but you can reach it by contributing a mix of Roth or pre-tax salary deferrals and up to 25% of your net self-employment income (20% if your business is an LLC or sole proprietorship). You are allowed to defer up to $18,000 in salary and up to 20%/25% of net self-employment income into a Solo 401(k) for 2015, and up to $24,000 and up to 20%/25% net self-employment income if you are 50 or older. (If you contribute to another employer’s 401(k) plan, the sum of your employee salary deferrals plus your Solo(k) contributions can’t be greater than the aforementioned $18,000/$24,000 limits.)
Do you need to file IRS Form 706? If you are wealthy and your spouse passed away in 2015, this may be necessary. Executors of estates use Form 706 to notify the IRS of the size of an estate. If a gross estate and adjusted taxable gifts of a decedent exceed the estate tax exemption (currently $5.43 million), the executor of that estate must file Form 706 after the decedent’s passing. If the decedent’s gross estate and adjusted taxable gifts are less than the estate tax exemption, Form 706 should be filed anyway to show the IRS that the unused portion of the decedent’s estate tax exemption may be carried over to the surviving spouse. A new IRS rule says that executors filing returns after July 31, 2015 for estates exceeding the estate tax exemption must inform both heirs and the IRS about the value of certain types of assets so that tax won’t be underreported should these assets be sold. (See your tax advisor for details.)
Are you feeling generous? You could gift appreciated securities to charity before 2015 ends – you may take a charitable deduction for them on your 2015 1040 form and avoid capital gains taxes on the shares. You may want to gift a child, relative, or friend – a single taxpayer can gift up to $14,000 this year to as many other individuals as desired, and a couple may jointly gift up to $28,000 to as many individuals as they wish. Just remember the current $5.43 million/$10.86 million lifetime exemption.