Posted on Wed, Feb 4, 2015
As 2014 has ended, it's time for the annual deluge of tax forms – including 1098's reporting mortgage interest or W-2's from employers reporting your annual wages.
But while gathering documents for the past year's taxes is important, equally pressing is the need to adjust your budget to account for changes in the tax code that take effect starting on New Year's Day.
After all, you have been paying taxes and making retirement contributions all year even though taxes don't need to be filed until the following April. While there are a handful of last-minute strategies to play catch up on 2014 tax obligations, the sad reality is that many folks who have waited until now to think about their taxes are too late.
A better strategy is to plan ahead based on what you think you will owe the Internal Revenue Service, and be proactive on your withholding and savings strategies.
Regardless of what your situation looked like in 2014, here are seven big changes that will affect a large number of taxpayers starting in January 2015.
Health Insurance Penalty: Part of the Affordable Care Act mandates that all Americans have health insurance, or pay a tax penalty as a result. In 2014, the penalties are 1% of your household income or $95 per person – whichever is greater. But in 2015, those penalties ramp up significantly to 2% of total household income, or $325 per person. That can really add up for a middle-class family of four. If you're not covered and paying a penalty on your 2014 taxes, make sure you get health insurance ASAP to avoid penalties as we enter a new tax year in January.
401(k) Limits: The limit on employee contributions to a 401(k) plan will increase to $18,000, up $500 from 2014's cap. That means you tell your payroll department to adjust up your contribution starting on the first of the year to ensure you save the maximum allowable in 2015. Also, the "catch-up" allowance for those over than 50 has also been increased, allowing for an additional $6,000 in contributions instead of the $5,500 cap previously. These new contribution levels are also applicable to 403b accounts and most 457 retirement plans as well.
Flexible Spending Account Limits: The annual limit on employee contributions to flexible spending accounts is now $2,550 for qualified health care expenses. That's up $50 from 2014, so make sure you opt in for this new maximum amount if you take advantage of a health care FSA.
Standard Deduction: The standard deduction – that is, the basic tax break extended to all Americans each year -- rises to $6,300 for single filers and $12,600 for married taxpayers filing jointly in 2015. That's up $100 and $200, respectively, from 2014 figures. The standard deduction is crucial to tax planning and withholding, because if you cannot itemize enough deductions to surpass this amount, this is the only tax break the government will likely be giving you on next year's tax return.
Tax Brackets: For the new tax year starting in January, income tax thresholds have again been adjusted up for inflation. The highest tax rate of 39.6%, for instance, will now apply to single filers who make over $413,200 and married couples making $464,850. Both figures are up about 1.6% from tax year 2014. For more information on specific income tax brackets by filing status, check out the latest IRS revenue procedure document.
IRA Rollovers: Starting in 2015, you can only make one single rollover from an IRA in a 12-month period. This is a bit tricky, because you can still make as many "trustee-to-trustee" transfers as you wish, moving your money directly from one provider to another. What the new IRS rule targets is the practice of withdrawing all those funds and then re-depositing them in a new account – a tactic some folks were using as a short-term, interest-free loan. To protect yourself, limit all rollovers to direct transfers in 2015 if you plan on moving money more than once.
AMT Changes: The so-called "alternative minimum tax" is quite a headache for many middle-class Americans. Since certain breaks can significantly reduce your tax bill, the IRS created the AMT to set a limit on those benefits – and ensure a minimum tax burden on you. The Alternative Minimum Tax exemption amount for tax year 2015 is $53,600 for individuals or $83,400 for joint filers. That's up slightly, about 1.5% from 2014.
For questions or more information, contact Dr. Wes Scott
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