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IRS Announces Higher 2020 Retirement Plan Contribution Limits For 401(k)s And More

How much can you save for retirement in 2020? The Treasury Department has announced inflation-adjusted figures for retirement account savings for 2020: 401(k) contribution limits are up; traditional IRA contribution limits stay the same; almost all the other numbers are up.

The amount you can contribute to your 401(k) or similar workplace retirement plan goes up from $19,000 in 2019 to $19,500 in 2020. The 401(k) catch-up contribution limit—if you’re 50 or older in 2020—will be $6,500 for workplace plans, up from $6,000. But the amount you can contribute to an Individual Retirement Account stays the same for 2020: $6,000, with a $1,000 catch-up limit if you’re 50 or older.

So super-savers age 50-plus can sock away $33,000 in these tax-advantaged accounts for 2020. If your employer allows aftertax contributions or you’re self-employed, you can save even more. The overall defined contribution plan limit moves up to $57,000, from $56,000.

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Sounds unreachable? During 2018, 13% of employees with retirement plans at work saved the then maximum of $18,500/$24,500, according to Vanguard’s How America Saves. In plans offering catch-up contributions, 15% of those age 50 or older took advantage of the extra savings opportunity. High earners are really saving: 6 out of 10 folks earning $150,000+ contributed the maximum allowed, including catch-ups.

Want to join in? We outline the numbers below; see IRS Notice 2019-59 for technical guidance. For more on 2020 tax numbers: Forbes contributor Kelly Phillips Erb has all the details on 2020 tax brackets, standard deduction amounts and more. We have all the details on the new higher 2020 retirement account limits too.

401(k)s. The annual contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is $19,500 for 2020—a $500 boost over 2019. Note, you can make changes to your 401(k) election at any time during the year, not just during open enrollment season when most employers send you a reminder to update your elections for the next plan year.

The 401(k) Catch-Up. The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 or older in these plans is $6,500 for 2020. That’s the first increase since 2015 when the limit rose to $6,000. Even if you don’t turn 50 until December 31, 2020, you can make the additional $6,500 catch-up contribution for the year.

SEP IRAs and Solo 401(k)s. For the self-employed and small business owners, the amount they can save in a SEP IRA or a solo 401(k) goes up from $56,000 in 2019 to $57,000 in 2020. That’s based on the amount they can contribute as an employer, as a percentage of their salary; the compensation limit used in the savings calculation also goes up from $280,000 in 2019 to $285,000 in 2020.

Aftertax 401(k) contributions. If your employer allows aftertax contributions to your 401(k), you also get the advantage of the $57,000 limit for 2020. It’s an overall cap, including your $19,500 (pretax or Roth in any combination) salary deferrals plus any employer contributions (but not catch-up contributions).

The SIMPLE. The limit on SIMPLE retirement accounts goes up from $13,000 in 2019 to $13,500 in 2020. The SIMPLE catch-up limit is still $3,000.

Defined Benefit Plans. The limitation on the annual benefit of a defined benefit plan goes up from $225,000 in 2019 to $230,000 in 2020. These are powerful pension plans (an individual version of the kind that used to be more common in the corporate world before 401(k)s took over) for high-earning self-employed folks.

Individual Retirement Accounts. The limit on annual contributions to an Individual Retirement Account (pretax or Roth or a combination) remains at $6,000 for 2020, the same as in 2019. The catch-up contribution limit, which is not subject to inflation adjustments, remains at $1,000. (Remember that 2020 IRA contributions can be made until April 15, 2021.)

Deductible IRA Phase-Outs. You can earn a little more in 2020 and get to deduct your contributions to a traditional pretax IRA. Note: Even if you earn too much to get a deduction for contributing to an IRA, you can still contribute—it’s just nondeductible.

In 2020, the deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have modified adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $65,000 and $75,000, up from $64,000 and $74,000 in 2019. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range is $104,000 to $124,000 for 2020, up from $103,000 to $123,000.

For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $196,000 and $206,000 in 2020, up from $193,000 and $203,000 in 2019.

Roth IRA Phase-Outs. The inflation adjustment helps Roth IRA savers too. In 2020, the AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $196,000 to $206,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $193,000 to $203,000 in 2019. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $124,000 to $139,000, up from $122,000 to $137,000 in 2019.

If you earn too much to open a Roth IRA, you can open a nondeductible IRA and convert it to a Roth IRA as Congress lifted any income restrictions for Roth IRA conversions. To learn more about the backdoor Roth, see Congress Blesses Roth IRAs For Everyone, Even The Well-Paid.

Saver’s Credit. The income limit for the saver’s credit for low- and moderate-income workers is $65,000 for married couples filing jointly for 2020, up from $64,000; $48,750 for heads of household, up from $48,000; and $32,500 for singles and married filing separately, up from $32,000. See Grab The Saver’s Credit for details on how it can pay off.

QLACs. The dollar limit on the amount of your IRA or 401(k) you can invest in a qualified longevity annuity contract is increased to $135,000 from $130,000. See Make Your Retirement Money Last For Life for how QLACs work.

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I’m an associate editor on the Money team at Forbes based in Fairfield County, Connecticut, leading Forbes’ retirement coverage. I manage contributors who cover retirement and wealth management. Since I joined Forbes in 1997, my favorite stories have been on how people fuel their passions (historic preservation, open space, art, for example) by exploiting the tax code. I also get into the nitty-gritty of retirement account rules, estate planning and strategic charitable giving. My favorite Forbes business trip: to Plano, Ill. to report on the restoration of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, then owned by a British baron. Live well. Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ashleaebeling Send me an email: aebeling@forbes.com

Source: IRS Announces Higher 2020 Retirement Plan Contribution Limits For 401(k)s And More

The IRS announced changes to contribution and benefit limits for 2019. CSIG’s Alison Bettonville, CFA highlights the limit changes that affect various qualified retirement plans. Highlights include: -402(g) limit increased to $19,000 -415 or the Total Annual Additions limit increased to $56,000 -Catch up contributions limit remained at $6,000 -Compensation limit increased $280,000 -Highly Compensated Employee definition increased to $125,000 To the extent that any portion of the information submitted by CSIG contains material that is copyrighted, the recipient shall observe the protection of such material as provided under applicable copyright laws. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Diversification does not guarantee investment returns and does not eliminate risk of loss. We believe the information provided here is reliable, but do not warrant its accuracy or completeness. Opinions and estimates offered constitute our judgment and are subject to change without notice, as are statements of financial market trends, which are based on current market conditions. This material is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument. The views and strategies described may not be suitable for all investors. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, accounting, legal, or tax advice. References to future returns are not promises or even estimates of actual returns a client portfolio may achieve. Any forecasts contained herein are for illustrative purposes only and are not to be relied upon as advice or interpreted as a recommendation. The price of equity securities may rise or fall because of changes in the broad market or changes in a company’s financial condition, sometimes rapidly or unpredictably. International investing involves a greater degree of risk and increased volatility. There is no guarantee that companies that can issue dividends will declare, continue to pay, or increase dividends.

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IRS Introduces New Tax Withholding Estimator To Help Taxpayers Avoid Surprises In 2020

Remember all of the times that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reminded you to do a payroll checkup (like this one)? And remember that you didn’t? The IRS is hoping you’ll reconsider this year. The agency has launched a new Tax Withholding Estimator that they hope will make it easier for everyone to figure the right amount of tax withheld during the year.

Why the need for a checkup? Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), many individual taxpayers experienced significant changes. Those changes included new tax rates, limits on the deductions for state and local taxes (SALT taxes), a cap on the amount that you can borrow for purposes of the home mortgage interest (you can find additional information about re-fis here), and exclusions for certain kinds of job-related expenses (like the home office deduction – more here).

With the first official tax season following the TCJA now in the books, the IRS has been exploring ways to help taxpayers have a better tax year in 2020. That includes replacing the old Withholding Calculator with the new Tax Withholding Estimator.

“The new estimator takes a new approach and makes it easier for taxpayers to review their withholding,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “This is part of an ongoing effort by the IRS to improve quality services as we continue to pursue modernization and enhancements of our taxpayer relationships.”

One of the criticisms of the old Withholding Calculator was that it didn’t work well for all taxpayers; it tended to benefit single-wage earners who were also W-2 employees. Now, the IRS says that the new Tax Withholding Estimator offers workers, as well as retirees and self-employed individuals, a more user-friendly tool to figure the amount of income tax they must have withheld from wages and pension payments.

You can find the Tax Withholding Estimator on the IRS website here. To get started, you’ll need to be able to estimate your 2019 income, the number of children you will claim for the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and other items that will affect your 2019 taxes like itemized deduction amounts. You’ll also want to have your most recent pay stubs and a copy of your last year’s form 1040 handy.

The Tax Withholding Estimator is more user-friendly than its predecessor. Here’s what the opening screen looks like:

You’ll begin by entering information about you, including your dependents:

You’ll next input information about your income. Unlike the last calculator, the new Tax Withholding Estimator gives you more options related to the kinds of income you might receive, like these:

Along the way, the tool uses plain language, asking taxpayers questions like:

Deductions reduce the amount of your income subject to income tax. Most taxpayers take the standard deduction. Would you like to take the standard deduction or itemize your deductions?

If you itemize, you can estimate the value of those deductions:

The Tax Withholding Estimator also allows you to go back and fix your errors without starting over – and skip questions that don’t apply (that’s a big change from before).

Remember that the results are only as good as the information you provide. And if your circumstances change during the year (say, for example, that you get a new job, buy a new house or have a baby), you’ll want to revisit the Tax Withholding Estimator to make sure that your withholding is still correct.

If you are an employee, the Tax Withholding Estimator can help you determine whether you need to give your employer a new form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate (downloads as a PDF). You can use your results to help fill out the form and adjust your income tax withholding. For more information about form W-4, click here. If you receive pension income, you can use the results to complete a form W-4P (downloads as a PDF).

One more thing: if you’re worried about privacy, the Tax Withholding Estimator will not ask you to provide sensitive personally-identifiable information like your name, Social Security number, address or bank account numbers. Additionally, the IRS says that it does not save or record the information you enter on the Tax Withholding Estimator.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Years ago, I found myself sitting in law school in Moot Court wearing an oversized itchy blue suit. It was a horrible experience. In a desperate attempt to avoid anything like that in the future, I enrolled in a tax course. I loved it. I signed up for another. Before I knew it, in addition to my JD, I earned an LL.M Taxation. While at law school, I interned at the estates attorney division of the IRS. At IRS, I participated in the review and audit of federal estate tax returns. At one such audit, opposing counsel read my report, looked at his file and said, “Gentlemen, she’s exactly right.” I nearly fainted. It was a short jump from there to practicing, teaching, writing and breathing tax. Just like that, Taxgirl® was born.

Source: IRS Introduces New Tax Withholding Estimator To Help Taxpayers Avoid Surprises In 2020

 

How IRS Taxes Fire Victims

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Do wildfire victims worry about their taxes? You bet. How fire victims are taxed depends on what they collect, what they claim on their taxes, if they are rebuilding their property, their insurance and more. Another big variable is whether they sue PG&E. It can build out a complex tax picture, especially now that there is a new tax on litigation settlements, as many legal fees can no longer be deducted.

The IRS (and California’s notoriously tough Franchise Tax Board) require annual tax filings, so several years may be peppered with fire items. Say you lose a $1M home, but collect $1M from your insurance company or PG&E. There’s no tax, right? Not so fast. You need to know about the tax basis of the property, usually purchase price, plus improvements. Your property might be worth $1M when it was destroyed, but if the original purchase price plus improvements was only $100K, there is a $900K gain.

Does that mean a fire victim must pay tax on $900K? Not necessarily. If you qualify and replace your home, you can apply your old $100K tax basis to a replacement. That means you should not need to pay tax on that $900K gain until you eventually sell the replacement home. The replacement must generally be purchased within two years after the close of the first year in which any part of the casualty gain is realized. For Federal Declared Disasters, you get four years. However, if your insurance company has paid you enough to create even $1 of gain on your destroyed property, the clock for acquiring replacement property may already have started.

Another big issue is claiming a casualty loss. Up until 2018, many taxpayers could claim casualty losses on their tax returns. For 2018 through 2025, casualty losses are allowed only if your loss was the result of a Federal Declared Disaster. Most major California wildfires are a Federal Declared Disaster, but determining whether claiming a loss is a good move can be complex.

How to handle expenses for temporary housing and similar expenses can also be tricky. If your primary residence is damaged or destroyed, insurance proceeds intended to compensate you for living expenses like housing and food may be partially tax-free. However, if the insurance proceeds pay you for living expenses you would have normally incurred if your home had not been damaged, say your mortgage payment or your typical food expenses, that portion may be taxable income to you. If the insurance proceeds exceed the actual amount you spend on temporary housing, food, and other living expenses, that surplus can be taxable.

For victims who eventually get a legal settlement, how will it be taxed? Health problems from smoke inhalation or from the exacerbation of pre-existing medical problems can be enough for tax-free damages. Section 104 of the tax code excludes damages for personal physical injuries or physical sickness. But the damages must be physical, not merely emotional, and that can be a chicken or egg issue.

Most money in fire cases is fully taxable, and if you do not reinvest in time, you may have a big capital gain. However, up to $500K from a primary residence may be tax free for a married couple filing jointly. It isn’t only the IRS that collects tax. States do too, notably California, where all income is taxed at up to 13.3%, even capital gain.

Many fire victim plaintiffs use contingent fee lawyers. Up until 2018, it was clear that legal fees were virtually always tax deductible. Now, however, many legal fees are no longer deductible. Thus, some plaintiffs may have to pay taxes on their gross recoveries, even though 40% or more is paid to their lawyer, who also must pay tax on the same fees. The tax treatment of the legal fees has become a major tax problem associated with many types of litigation. Fortunately, if the money can be treated as capital gain, the legal fees can often be treated as additional basis or as a selling expense. In effect, it can mean paying tax only on the net recovery.

Understandably, most fire victims hope not to face any tax hit at all. That is possible in some cases, but it can involve scrupulous attention to timing and details. When it comes to taxes or fire, be careful out there.

This is not legal advice. For tax alerts or tax advice, email me at Wood@WoodLLP.com.

Check out my website.

I handle tax matters across the U.S. and abroad (www.WoodLLP.com), addressing tax problems, tax disputes, writing tax opinions, tax advice on legal settlements

 

Source: How IRS Taxes Fire Victims

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