Seven Tax Tips for Individuals
Frequent tax law changes have made the tax code very complicated; only the informed taxpayer can take advantage of tax-cutting opportunities that remain. Here are some suggestions that provide a starting point for a review of the opportunities available for cutting your taxes.
- Reduce your consumer debt.
The interest you pay on consumer debt is not deductible. Consider shifting consumer debt to a home-equity loan (where available and not to exceed $100,000) to maintain deductibility for the interest. Don’t rush into anything, however. Consider loan origination costs and points you may have to pay. Also, realize that if you can’t make the payments on the home-equity loan, you could lose your house.
- Add energy improvements to your home.
Individual taxpayers are allowed a personal tax credit, known as the nonbusiness energy property credit, for energy efficient improvements to a dwelling unit in the U.S. owned and used by the taxpayer as the taxpayer’s principal residence. This credit is equal to 30% of the amount paid for qualified energy efficiency improvements installed during the tax year. The credit maxes at $300 for any single energy efficiency improvement type, however solar still has a big credit potential.
- Watch for AMT liability.
The alternative minimum tax (AMT) is the one you pay when too many tax preference items reduce your regular tax below a certain amount. If you use preference items to reduce your taxes – such as accelerated depreciation, private activity bond interest, etc. – you may want to shift income and deductions to keep the alternative minimum tax from applying to you.
- Time any change in marital status with a view to minimizing taxes.
Among the areas that could be affected are deductibility of IRA contributions, lost itemized deductions, and a shift to a different tax bracket. You might be able to cut your tax bill by delaying or accelerating the event.
- Contribute to a retirement plan.
Retirement plans are still an excellent tax shelter. Consider a SEP (Simplified Employee Pension Plan) if you are self-employed, even part-time or in a second business. If you’re an employee, find out if your company has a 401(k) plan and make contributions to it.
- Use your vacation home wisely.
If you own a second or vacation home, find out whether you get a better tax break by treating the property as a second residence or as a rental property. The number of days you personally use the home is crucial, so get details immediately.
- Avoid the “kiddie” tax.
Check the income of any children 18 or under (under age 24 if a full-time student). Unearned income beyond a certain amount ($2,100 for 2017) will be taxed at your highest rate. Shifting investments or making other adjustments may be appropriate.
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