“If you look at what you have in life, you'll always have more.
If you look at what you don't have in life, you'll never have enough."
- Oprah Winfrey
This is the time of year we all gather financial information to prepare our state and federal tax returns. For the last few weeks we have published the schedule for Raymond James 1099s and other tax reporting. If you have any questions or need our assistance do not hesitate to let us know how we can help.
We thought it might be useful to share tax information regarding a couple of the COVID pandemic relief measures that may affect you. Anyone who distributed money from an IRA can fall under special rules even if you were under age 59 ½ if you were affected by Covid or the mandated restrictions. Be sure to check with your tax advisor for rules that may apply.
Many people decided to defer taking full Required Minimum Distributions from their retirement accounts in 2020 – it was the only year we can remember that this was allowed. In 2021, anyone who is required to take their RMD must do so before December 31st.
PANDEMIC RELIEF MEASURES AND YOUR TAX RETURN
The special rules for charitable gift deductions enacted for 2020 have been extended through 2021. For those who itemize deductions, the limit on the charitable gift deduction increased to 100% of AGI for direct cash gifts to public charities. For nonitemizers, a new $300 charitable deduction for 2020 and 2021 direct cash gifts to public charities are available. For joint filers, this deduction increases to $600 for 2021 cash gifts to charitable organizations.
The floor for deducting medical expenses has been permanently lowered to 7.5% of AGI. (It was scheduled to increase to 10% in 2021.) And starting in 2021, there is no deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses. Instead, the modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) phaseout range for the Lifetime Learning credit was increased to be the same as the phaseout range for the American Opportunity credit ($80,000 to $90,000 for single filers; $160,000 to 180,000 for joint filers).
A temporary provision that allows taxpayers to exclude discharged debt for a qualified principal residence from gross income was extended through 2025, though the limit has been reduced from $2 million to $750,000. Also through 2025, employers can pay up to $5,250 annually toward employees' student loans as a tax-free employee benefit.
Yes, unemployment aid is taxable!
The number of unemployed workers spiked above 22 million in March 2020, and more than 9 million people were still out of work at the end of the year.1 Both relief bills expanded unemployment benefits and provided them to many workers who normally are not eligible (including the self-employed, independent contractors, and part-time workers).
Unemployment benefits, which sustained many families impacted by the pandemic, are considered taxable income, and many recipients may not have correctly withheld taxes from their 2020 payments. Avoiding a surprise tax bill typically requires opting into a 10% withholding rate and, in some cases, paying additional quarterly taxes during the year.
Last year was unpredictable, and your financial situation may have been far from normal. You should file your 2020 tax return by the April 15 deadline, even if you are worried that it is going to show a balance due. Being up to date on filing is generally required to pursue a payment agreement with the IRS. If you owe $50,000 or less, you may even be able to apply online for a short-term extension (up to 120 days) or a longer payment agreement. Paying as much as you can afford can help limit penalties and interest that accrue on unpaid amounts.
Judith McGee, L.H.D., CFP®, ChFC
Senior Lead Advisor
1) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021
This information was developed by Broadridge, an independent third party. It is general in nature, is not a complete statement of all information necessary for making an investment decision, and is not a recommendation or a solicitation to buy or sell any security. Investments and strategies mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. Past performance may not be indicative of future results.
Source: Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.
The last week of February brings with it several important economic reports, led by the second estimate of the fourth-quarter gross domestic product. The initial, or advance, estimate saw the economy expand at an annual rate of 4.0%. Also out this week is the January issue of the personal income and outlays report. The personal consumption expenditures price index, an inflation indicator relied on by the Federal Reserve, showed that consumer prices rose 0.4% in December and advanced only 1.3% in 2020.
These highlights should not be viewed as a recommendation, nor is this a notification of an impending change in asset allocation. For more information, please contact your advisor with any questions. Opinions expressed in the attached article are those of Judith McGee and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice.
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