By Scott D Abrahamson, CFP® and Chris Pawlowski, CFP®, CRPC®, APMA®
Another year is right around the corner. Tax season is also right around the corner—and sparks far less excitement. Although most people would love to avoid tax planning altogether, at SpringSource Wealth Advisors, we believe taking a proactive stance can make all the difference in the health and success of your financial picture.
While it’s tempting to postpone these tasks until the last minute, adopting a proactive approach to your tax-planning strategies not only preserves time but can also lead to big savings. Here are my top 10 tax-planning strategies for 2024 to help you optimize your financial landscape for the upcoming year and beyond.
1. Maximize Your Retirement Contributions
Maximizing your retirement contributions is one of the best ways to minimize your tax liability. This is because retirement plans offer useful tax advantages that are not available if you were to simply put your money in a savings account. There are several accounts to consider, depending on your unique circumstances:
- 401(k), 403(b), and 457 Plans: These accounts allow you to contribute up to $22,500 for 2023 (1) and $23,000 annually for 2024 (2) ($30,500 if over age 50). Not only that, but contributions done pre-tax won’t show up as part of your annual income. This is a great way to defer taxes until your retirement years when you could potentially be in a lower tax bracket.
- Traditional IRA: Contributing to a traditional IRA is another way to reduce your tax liability if your income is within certain limits. You can contribute up to $6,500 for 2023 and $7,000 for 2024, (3) with a $1,000 catch-up contribution limit for those over age 50. Unlike the qualified retirement plans listed above, contributions to a traditional IRA can be made until the April 15th tax filing deadline.
- Roth IRA: This is an attractive savings vehicle for many reasons, including no required minimum distributions (RMDs), tax-free withdrawals after age 59½, and the ability to pass wealth tax-free to your heirs. The contribution limits are the same as traditional IRAs. However, Roth IRAs have income restrictions (4) and you may not be able to open an account outright if you are above certain limits.
2. Update Tax Withholding Elections
In line with the inflation adjustments that have led to an increase in retirement contribution limits, income tax brackets have also risen. In practical terms, this means you can earn higher income amounts without heading into higher tax brackets. To view the 2023 tax brackets, visit the CFP Board site. (5) (Note that they will increase again in 2024.) You may want to capitalize on this change by reducing your tax withholding elections, which will potentially boost your take-home pay.
3. Contribute to a Health Savings Account
An efficient but underutilized way to maximize your savings and minimize your taxes is to contribute to a health savings account (HSA). HSAs offer triple tax savings: contributions are tax-deductible, earnings grow tax-free, and you can withdraw the funds tax-free to pay for medical expenses. Unused funds roll over each year and will essentially become an IRA at age 65, at which point you can withdraw funds penalty-free for non-medical expenses. You must be enrolled in a high-deductible health plan in order to qualify for an HSA.
HSAs can be a great tax-management tool if you are able to pay medical expenses out of pocket and leave the HSA funds to grow. The 2023 contribution limits (6) for HSAs are $3,850 for individuals and $7,750 for families. (The 2024 limits will increase to $4,150 and $8,300, respectively.) If you are 55 or older, you may also be able to make catch-up contributions of $1,000 per year. You have until April 15th for your contributions to count for the previous year’s tax return.
4. Contribute to a Donor-Advised Fund
If you itemize your tax deductions because of charitable contributions, you may want to consider investing in a donor-advised fund (DAF). You can contribute a lump sum all at once and then distribute those funds to various charities over several years. With this strategy, you can itemize deductions when you make the initial contribution and then take the standard deduction in the following years, allowing you to make the most out of your donation tax-wise.
You can also donate appreciated stock, which can further maximize your tax savings. By donating the appreciated position, you avoid paying the capital gain tax that would have been due upon sale of the stock and you are effectively donating more to your charities of choice than if you had sold the stock and donated the proceeds.
5. Make a Qualified Charitable Donation
If you own a qualified retirement account and are at least 70½, you can use a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) to receive a tax benefit for your charitable giving. Since this is an above-the-line deduction, it can be used in conjunction with other charitable tax strategies. A QCD is a distribution made from your retirement account directly to your charity of choice. It can also count toward your RMD when you turn age 73, but unlike RMDs, it won’t count toward your taxable income. Individuals can donate up to $100,000 in QCDs per year, (7) which means a married couple can contribute a combined amount of $200,000!
6. Utilize Tax-Loss Harvesting
Tax-loss harvesting involves selling investments at a loss in order to offset the gains in your portfolio. By realizing a capital loss, you are able to counterbalance the taxes owed on capital gains. The investments that are sold are usually replaced with similar securities in order to maintain the desired asset allocation and expected return.
With the ups and downs of the market in 2023, chances are you have some capital losses that can be utilized. For example, if you are expecting a large capital gain this year, consider selling an underperforming stock to harvest the unrealized loss to offset some of your gains.
Tax-loss harvesting can also be used to reduce your ordinary income tax liability if capital losses exceed capital gains. In this case, up to $3,000 can be deducted from your income, and capital losses in excess of this amount can be carried forward to later tax years.
7. Understand Long-Term vs. Short-Term Capital Gains
Understanding the tax implications of long-term versus short-term capital gains can go a long way in reducing your tax liability. For instance, in 2023 a married taxpayer would have paid 0% capital gains tax on their long-term capital gains if their taxable income falls below $89,250. That rate jumps to 15% and 20% for taxable incomes that exceed $89,250 and $553,850, respectively. Understanding where you fall on the tax table is an important part of minimizing your liability.
Gains that are short term in nature (held less than one year) will be taxed at your marginal tax bracket, which could be up to 37%! Knowing both the nature of your gain, as well as your tax bracket, is crucial information if you want to minimize your tax liability.
8. Take a Qualified Business Income Deduction
Business owners involved in partnerships, S corporations, or sole proprietorships can take a qualified business income deduction (QBID) to help reduce taxable income and maximize tax savings. This allows for a maximum deduction of 20% of qualified business income, but limits apply if your taxable income exceeds a certain threshold. (8) To qualify for this deduction, consider reducing or deferring income so that you can remain below the phase out threshold. A great way to do this is to maximize your retirement contributions to tax-advantaged accounts (as discussed in point #1).
9. Consider Estate Tax-Planning Techniques
Estate tax-planning techniques can also be an effective way to reduce current-year tax liability. For 2024, the lifetime exemption for assets that can be given gift-tax free is estimated at $13.61 million for individuals and $27.22 for married couples (12.92 million for 2023).
The annual gift tax exclusion is estimated to increase to $18,000 per recipient in 2024, up from $17,000 in 2023. This is the annual amount taxpayers can give tax-free without using any of the above-mentioned lifetime exemption. Not only that, but the annual exclusion applies on a per-person basis, so each taxpayer can give $18,000 per person to any number of people per year.
Though gifting and other estate tax-planning strategies are not tax-deductible, they can help to significantly reduce your taxable estate over time.
10. Make Sure Your Advisory Team Is Working Together
Beyond consulting with a tax professional, you’ll want to be sure your entire financial team is working together to provide cohesive oversight and guidance. This should include professionals like CPAs, financial advisors, investment advisors, and estate attorneys. Your finances don’t exist in a bubble and so neither will your tax-minimization strategies. When your advisory team works together, strategies are easier to identify and execute, and proactive tax solutions become much easier to implement, reducing stress and your tax bill.
Reach Out Today
Dealing with the complexities of tax planning doesn’t have to be a source of stress, especially when you have the support of seasoned advisors with extensive experience. Though it’s wise to seek advice from your tax advisor, our team at SpringSource Wealth Advisors can offer additional support in guiding you through effective strategies to support your overall financial picture.
If you’re ready to reduce your tax liability and increase your savings, we’re here to help. Take the first step by scheduling an introductory appointment. We invite you to set up a meeting today or call (503) 714-9531 or email email@example.com to get in touch.
Scott Abrahamson is Owner and Wealth Advisor at SpringSource Wealth Advisors, a fee-only fiduciary Wealth Advisor with a passion for making the retirement planning process simple. With their goals-based planning approach, SpringSource helps individuals, families, and small businesses make smart financial decisions and realize the core value of their finances: living an abundant life. As an independent CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional with over 20 years’ experience, Scott’s mission is to empower clients to reach financial freedom through exceptional, caring service. He takes time to explore each client’s core values about money and partners with them to formulate clear goals based on those values. The result is a powerful, personalized road map designed to help each client successfully navigate every life phase. Scott loves watching clients experience a sense of peace and financial independence through smart financial planning over time.
Outside of the office, he enjoys playing and coaching sports, boating, outdoor activities, spending time with family, and serving in the community. To learn more about Scott, connect with him on LinkedIn.
Chris Pawlowski is Wealth Advisor at SpringSource Wealth Advisors, a fee-only fiduciary Wealth Advisor with a passion for making the retirement planning process simple. With their goals-based planning approach, SpringSource helps individuals, families, and small businesses make smart financial decisions and realize the core value of their finances: living an abundant life. Since entering the financial planning industry in early 2013, Chris enjoys understanding his clients’ goals and working hard to formulate effective strategies for them. With the technical experience in the planning industry that puts him in a strong position to help clients through every life stage, Chris desires to empower families to reach financial freedom through exceptional, caring service.
As a Veteran who served in both the U.S. Army and the CA Air National Guard, Chris has a special passion for helping his brothers and sisters at arms in pursuing their financial goals. He holds the CFP®, Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM (CRPC®), and Accredited Portfolio Management AdvisorSM (APMA®) designations. Outside of the office, Chris devotes his time to his beautiful wife, Yvette, his church, and his hobbies, which include backpacking, kayaking, hiking, and enjoying time with his family and friends. He also partners with Hope World Wide, a faith-based charity organization in Portland, to serve local families in need. To learn more about Chris, connect with him on LinkedIn.
Information provided herein is provided by SpringSource Wealth Advisors, LLC. This information is for general informational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Information was compiled from third-party sources believed to be reliable and accurate but cannot be guaranteed. Investment advisory services are offered through Oswego Wealth Advisors, Inc., an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Neither SpringSource Wealth Advisors, LLC nor Oswego Wealth Advisors, Inc render any legal, accounting, or tax advice. All investments involve risk, are not guaranteed, and may lose value. We recommend that all investors consult with a qualified adviser to assess your personal situation before implementing any strategy.
Please remember to contact your advisor when your financial circumstances or objectives change. Your advisor may recommend adjustments to your financial planning and investment strategies to better suit your current situation.