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The Individual Investor’s Guide to Personal Tax Planning 2014

The Individual Investor’s Guide To Personal Tax Planning 2014 Splash image

We start this year’s tax guide with some good news: You may have a smaller federal tax bill in 2015.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) adjusted several line items to account for inflation. This indexing increases the dollar amounts defining each tax bracket and the dollar amounts for various exemptions and deductions. The net result is that less of your income may be taxed. Plus, if you are just above the breakpoint for a tax bracket this year, the adjustments could potentially put you into a lower tax bracket in 2015.

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The amount of any federal tax savings will vary by taxpayer. Some of you may actually pay more, particularly if your income is higher in 2015 or if there are certain exemptions or deductions that you no longer qualify for. A new penalty for not having health insurance is now in effect as well. Still, many taxpayers will get a savings next year. Wolters Kluwer, CCH estimates that a married couple with total taxable income of $100,000 will pay $125.50 less in income taxes in 2015 than they will on the same income in 2014, assuming they file a joint return. An unmarried person with income of $50,000 will pay $62.50 less in 2015 than he or she will in 2014. Keep in mind that these are just estimates. The numbers also exclude the impact of state and local taxes.

Most of the inflation adjustments for 2015 are included in this guide. In a welcome change, the Internal Revenue Service published much of the index adjustments before we went to press. This has recently not been the case because of the fiscal cliff situation in 2012 and the government shutdown in 2013. There were a few line items yet to be adjusted for 2015, such as the mileage deductions, and we’ll update them on AAII.com after the information becomes available.

We’re also waiting to hear about the final fate of tax extenders. More than 50 tax breaks for individuals and businesses expired at the end of 2013 and were never renewed. They include the deduction for state and local sales taxes, tax-free distributions from an individual retirement account to a charity, the mortgage insurance deduction, and parity for employer-provided mass transit and parking benefits. There is scuttlebutt about a compromise being reached to renew at least some of these breaks during the lame duck session of Congress. If the extenders actually are renewed, and it’s not certain that they will be, we’ll post an update on AAII.com.

Some of the changes in the tax code occurred outside of the legislative branch. The IRS published new rules regarding the disbursement of pretax and aftertax contributions to defined-contribution retirement plans (e.g., 401(k) plans). A tax court ruling led to a new rule limiting IRS rollovers to one per year. The implementation of floating net asset values for money market funds prompted a proposed rule change sparing individuals from incurring the wash-sale rule. We’ll cover all of these changes in this guide.

This year, we’ve also added a new section discussing the tax impact of investing for and in retirement (here). This section is intended to add some clarity to the rules. It also lists milestone birthdays to be aware of both before and during retirement.

There is some speculation that progress could be made on comprehensive tax reform in 2015. It’s a difficult task complicated by politics, ideological differences and special interest influences. Regardless of what does or does not happen on the legislative front, one thing will be constant: You will still have to pay taxes. Furthermore, even a simplified tax code is still likely to be too complex; hence the need for tax guides. As has been the case in years past, our tax guide provides an overview of the tax rates and deductions likely to impact the majority of AAII members. Since there are many details, loopholes and pitfalls within the tax code, it is impossible for this guide to provide enough details to cover specific tax situations. If you have questions, consult a tax professional. It is your tax return, and the IRS will hold you responsible for any errors made on it.

  2014 2015 2016
Long-Term Capital Gains Rate
Tax Bracket Equals 39.6%* 20% 20% 20%
Tax Brackets 25%–35%* 15% 15% 15%
Tax Bracket 15% or Below 0% 0% 0%
 
Qualified Dividends Rate
Tax Bracket Equals 39.6%* 20% 20% 20%
Tax Brackets 25%–35%* 15% 15% 15%
Tax Bracket 15% or Below 0% 0% 0%
 
Marginal Income Tax Rates
Top Bracket 39.6% 39.6% 39.6%
Sixth Bracket 35% 35% 35%
Fifth Bracket 33% 33% 33%
Fourth Bracket 28% 28% 28%
Third Bracket 25% 25% 25%
Second Bracket 15% 15% 15%
First Bracket 10% 10% 10%
 
Child Tax Credit $1,000 $1,000 $1,000
 
Marriage Penalty Relief
Standard Deduction (% of S.D. for singles) 200% 200% 200%
15% Tax Bracket (% of bracket for singles) 200% 200% 200%
 
Personal Exemption Phase-outs $305,050 $309,900 $309,900**
 
Limitation on Itemized Deductions $305,050 $309,900 $309,900**
 
AMT Exemption
Single $52,800 $53,600 $53,600**
Married Filing Joint $82,100 $83,400 $83,400**
Head of Household $52,800 $53,600 $53,600**
 
Estate Tax
Exemption $5.34 million $5.43 million $5.43  million**
Maximum Rate 40% 40% 40%
*3.8% net investment income tax (NII) surtax applies when AGI is above $250,000/$200,000.
**Subject to change based on inflation.

Estimate Your Taxes on AAII.com

We are continuing to give you the ability to estimate your 2014 and 2015 tax liabilities on AAII.com. Our Tax Forecasting Worksheet allows you to enter your data on our website. The fillable PDF document will calculate the results.

Once you are finished, you can print a copy for your records. (Be sure to print the document if you want to preserve your work, since the document cannot be saved to AAII.com.)

What’s New?

Most individuals will continue to fall into the long-standing tax brackets of 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35%. High-income earners will pay a 39.6% marginal tax rate on income. The dollar amounts defining each brackets have been revised upward to account for inflation.

Social Security is taxed at 6.2% for employees and 12.4% for those working in self-employed positions on the first $117,000 of wages. In 2015, this limit will rise to $118,500.

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption is $82,100 for married couples filing jointly and $52,800 for single filers in 2014. In 2015, the exemption will rise to $83,400 and $53,600, respectively. The exemptions are indexed to the rate of inflation and will continue be raised accordingly in the future barring any new legislation. This automatic increase is important because previously the AMT exemption was not indexed to inflation. New legislation had to be passed to prevent the AMT from ensnaring an ever-larger number of taxpayers.

To read more, please become an AAII Registered User or CLICK HERE.


Discussion

P Rathinasamy Pa from FL posted 20 days ago:

" This is a per-spouse exclusion and it is portable, meaning if one spouse passes away, the surviving spouse can claim the exclusion, resulting in a total effective exclusion of $10.68 million in 2014 and $10.86 million in 2015. The large figures will prevent most families from having to pay estate taxes." Please explain by giving examples.- Excellent & exhaustive article. Thanks.


Charles Rotblut from IL posted 20 days ago:

The IRS has a question and answer section on their website regarding estate taxes that you may find to be helpful.

-Charles


James Kim from FL posted 20 days ago:

How you handle spousal death in the middle of the year and is there special provision for that kind of situation for tax preparation? Any help would be appreciated.


Charles Rotblut from IL posted 20 days ago:

James, IRS Publication 17 discusses the topic. My sympathies for the loss.

-Charles


Robert Mellon from florida posted 19 days ago:

standard deductions. you have no figures for those over 65 or legally blind.have these been taken away or not.


Charles Rotblut from IL posted 19 days ago:

Robert,

The standard deduction figures are listed in the 2014 Allowable Tax Benefits and the 2015 Allowable Tax Benefits tables. It's additional $1,200/$1,550 for married and singles over 65 and blind.

-Charles


Harry Mccullough from PA posted 19 days ago:

Charles:
Excellent and exhaustive...yet.
I don't usually see this considered tax planning, but if you keep your adjusted gross income under 85K (170K for joint) you can avoid increased medicare premiums.If it's this article, and I missed it, I apologize.
Thank you.


David Lillard from KS posted 18 days ago:

Medicare recipients are taxed significantly for tax-exempt interest income in premium surcharges.


Richard O from CA posted 12 days ago:

Harry McCullough has an excellent point that is important for retired seniors to do their tax planning. It is also useful for adult children who are either doing of helping their senior parent or parents do their tax planning.

Both Part B premiums and Part D premiums are incrementally affected at various income levels.

Suggest that going forward that AAII add this information to your year end Tax planning information. Not all seniors are internet savvy and know to go to the medicare.gov website and find the relevant information and then to use it.

If one is doing yearly incremental IRA to ROTH conversions, considering the MAGI impact of the $170,000 threshold, or the other rate thresholds that apply to Part B and Part D premiums can be critical to tax and expense planning.


Sj Muse from OH posted 11 days ago:

How do you go about gift ting cash to an adult child ? What are the steps ?
Thanks in advance for response/s


Charles Rotblut from IL posted 11 days ago:

SJ,

See the IRS's FAQ on the Gift Tax.

-Charles


Charles Rotblut from IL posted 11 days ago:

Answers to many tax questions can be found by simply typing "[tax subject] IRS" into Google. Google will generally call up the appropriate page on the IRS' website with information.

-Charles


Kimland from KY posted 1 day ago:

I am curious about asset candidates for an IRA account, to avoid occupying it with assets that are already tax efficient.

At the same time I take interst in assets like MLPs, REITS and Royalty Trusts, which are treated specially by the taxman. The nature of tax treatment to any of these is rather opaque to me, so I cannont evaluate whether it would be beneficial or redundant to hold them in an IRA. Is there any guide as to what types of investments would not benefit from IRA provisions?


Charles Rotblut from IL posted about 8 hours ago:

Kimland,

See in the March 2010 AAII Journal.

-Charles