End-of-Year Tax Planning Considerations

End-of-Year Tax Planning Considerations

Last Updated: 12/8/2009 4:27:24 PM

As the New Year approaches, taxpayers around the nation are thinking about making gifts or other financial moves before January 1 that will benefit them come April 15, 2010. Here are some year-end considerations of particular interest to seniors.

A Reprieve on RMDs

Last year, as the stock market plunged and the economy teetered on the brink, Congress suspended the penalty for seniors who fail to take the required minimum distribution (RMD) from their IRA and employer retirement accounts in 2009.

There is normally a penalty for failure to withdraw once the account owner reaches retirement age — after age 70 1/2. Taxpayers generally must begin taking annual distributions from their retirement accounts by the April 1 occurring after they reach age 70 1/2 or pay a whopping 50 percent excise tax on the amount that should have been distributed but was not. To prevent seniors from being forced to sell stocks in a down market, Congress suspended the required minimum distribution rule for 2009.

If you turned age 70 1/2 before 2009, you would normally be required to take your 2009 distribution by December 31, 2009. If you turned or will turn age 70 1/2 in 2009, you would normally be required to take your required distribution no later than April 1, 2010. In either case, you will not need to take this distribution. The new law also waives 2009 distributions for beneficiaries of inherited IRAs and employer retirement accounts. However, taxpayers still must take their 2010 distributions no later than December 31, 2010.

Charitable Donations From an IRA Not Taxable

As part of the large financial rescue package, Congress retroactively extended the IRA charitable rollover provision from January 1, 2008, through December 31, 2009. This reinstates the rollover exemption that was part of the Pension Protection Act of 2006.

Previously, those wishing to make charitable donations using money in their IRA accounts were required to withdraw funds from their IRA and pay income tax on the withdrawal before they could take a charitable donation deduction on their annual tax returns. But under the new law, so long as the donation is transferred directly from a traditional or Roth IRA or rollover IRA account to an eligible public charity, the donor doesn’t have to pay any income tax on the withdrawal at all. As far as the federal government is concerned, money donated to the charity simply is not income. (But note that the transfer is no longer eligible for the charitable tax deduction, either.) For details and restrictions, click here. For more from the IRS on this and other charitable donation rules, click here.

If you have questions about how to take advantage of tax-saving opportunities before year’s end, be sure to consult your attorney or financial advisor.