October 29, 2020

Year-End Tax Planning for 2020: RMD Changes, Tax Law Proposals and Strategies to Consider

Being nimble has seemed like a requirement for all of 2020. We have needed to be nimble with our businesses, as we pivot product or service lines to deal with the COVID pandemic. We have needed to be nimble as Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act relief efforts and additional guidance, requirements and implementation. It comes as no surprise that year-end tax planning will also require us to be nimble during our current economic and political environment. While our planning will evolve going into 2021, below we dig into things you can do now and year-end tax planning strategies to consider.

Take Advantage of Changes to Required Minimum Distributions

There have been two big changes to required minimum distributions (RMD) over the past 12 months. The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act was signed into law on December 20, 2019. One aspect of the bill pushed back the age at which retirement plan participants need to take their RMDs, from 70½ to 72 years of age. This extra year-and-a-half can change the landscape of which source of income to support your lifestyle, as well as, potentially providing additional opportunities for ROTH conversions.

The second big change came with the CARES Act, which was signed into law on March 27th, 2020. One piece of this bill suspended the requirement of RMDs for the 2020 calendar year. This is a great opportunity to allow the qualified retirement account to continue to grow tax deferred.

Planning considerations:

  • Have you previously had large withholdings on your RMDs to cover your federal and state tax liabilities? Don’t forget to consider making quarterly estimated tax payments if you choose not to take your RMD in 2020.
  • Are you still planning on taking a distribution? Consider utilizing a qualified charitable deduction (QCD) to fund your charitable intentions. The distribution will not be included in income, but no additional charitable deduction is available. Typically, this strategy is still more tax advantageous.
  • Will your tax bracket significantly decrease without your normal RMD? Consider a partial ROTH IRA conversion to utilize the lower tax brackets. Additional details discussed below.

Be Aware of Proposed Tax Changes

Tax laws are always evolving at their own pace. In the current political environment, differences in tax policy are on the forefront of everyone’s mind. While it is completely uncertain when, or even if, tax law changes could be implemented, here are some current proposals on the horizon and strategies to keep in mind going into the end of the year.

  • Proposal of increasing the top individual tax rate back to 39.6% and the top corporate tax rate to 28%. The normal “defer income, accelerate expenses” may not be the best strategy depending on how everything plays out.
  • Proposal on increasing net long-term capital gains tax rate on individuals making over $1 million. The current top tax rate is 23.8% when considering the net investment income tax. The top rate under this proposal could be as high as 43.4%. Careful consideration should be taken when planning for the sale of securities and recognition of capital gains.
  • Proposal to change itemized deductions. This would likely eliminate the current $10,000 limit on state and local taxes, however, would also reinstate the limitation on itemized deductions for higher-income taxpayers. This would likely limit deductions to 28% for upper income individuals. Specific scenarios should be analyzed to determine if there is a better tax benefit under current law or proposed law when considering the timing of year-end charitable giving and fourth quarter state estimated tax payments. Many factors will come into play.
  • Proposal to change current gift and estate taxes. There are many different scenarios which could ultimately transpire: The estate tax exemption could be lowered from the current $11.58 million, to pre-Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of $5.5 million, or even lower.  There is also talk about raising the top estate tax rate from 40% to 45%, as well as the possibility of eliminating the step-up in basis to the beneficiary on inherited assets.  The time is now to re-visit estate plans and consider utilizing lifetime gift tax exemptions. 

Don’t Forget Traditional Year-End Strategies

While each individual scenario warrants specific recommendations and guidance, here are some traditional items to keep in mind before 2021.

  • Qualified Business Income (QBI), also known as the “20% Business Deduction”, is a large tax planning strategy. In order to optimize the QBI deductions, careful considerations need to take place to determine year-end bonuses or if considering accelerating or deferring income/expenses.
  • Consider contributing to 529 college savings plan. Some states may allow a deduction for contributions made in this calendar year. Missouri, for example, allows up to $8,000 per taxpayer to be contributed and deducted on their return. 
  • Consider ROTH IRA conversions to utilize lower tax brackets. Whether due to COVID, RMD suspension, or if you are just entering retirement, some individuals may find themselves in a unique situation of being in a lower than usual tax bracket. This is a prime opportunity to convert some of your traditional retirement account to a ROTH retirement account. Pay a little extra tax today but will have tax-free growth going forward.  
  • Revaluate payroll deductions. Before the last paycheck of the year, see if you should make any adjustments to your pre-tax benefits. Have you contributed enough to your retirement to maximize your company’s match? Also, if you are over 50, you are eligible for an additional $6,000 catch-up contribution. Have you maximized your health savings account (HSA)? If you are over 55, you are eligible for an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution.

While I’m sure many of us are ready to put 2020 behind us, there is still time to put some of these tax planning strategies in place before the end of the year. Contact an Anders advisor below to further discuss your tax planning options, or visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for more CARES Act considerations.

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