As we cruise through yet another year, there is still a window of time prior to December 31st to make some planning moves to improve your position going into 2010. Of course, it all depends on your particular situation, but here are some possible moves to make:
1. Purchase a car. State and local excise taxes that are paid for the purchase of a vehicle are potentially tax deductible. If you itemize your tax return, you may have the ability to include these taxes as additional deductions. In addition, there are significant tax credits available for energy efficient vehicles purchased before year end.
2. Energy credit for energy conservation. Purchasing insulation for your home that may not only save you money on your heating and air conditioning bills, but will also provide you with an energy-related tax credit. Keep in mind these are credits, not deductions. This means that the credit is a direct amount of money that will be returned to you in the form of an increased refund or lower tax bill.
3. Check gains and losses. You may wish to offset your gains with losses to the extent that you have any gains in 2009. If not, you may wish to sell assets before year end and take the tax loss, which may be utilized up to any gains, and if there are no gains, then up to $3,000.00 from other income for the year, with a carry-forward of the balance. Keep in mind that assets included in retirement plans are normally not tax deductible, so gains or losses are going to be taken on non-retirement plan assets.
4. Charitable deductions. Consider donating property, goods, and other assets, such as cash donations, stocks, bonds, etc. before year end. You may also consider making a 2010 donation in 2009, thus taking advantage of the deduction a year early. Payment of pledges for future obligations may also be made before year end, and these may also be charged to your credit card. By charging them in 2009, they become charitable deductions in this year even though you may not pay the charge card in the same year.
5. IRA Withdrawals. In 2009, it is not necessary to take a minimum required distribution from a retirement plan, thus allowing you to delay taxable withdrawals until the following year. The intent of this law was to allow your fund to accumulate more money for retirement, based on the downswing in the market. However, if you need the money, and if you have other obligations you wish to make, such as gifts or bills paying, consider reviewing the amount of taxable income anticipated for the year and take out only as much as necessary to maintain a low bracket for tax payments. Always be sure to consider the possibility that social security benefits will be taxable if the threshold for income is received based on your marital status.
6. Consider the child care credit or one for dependent care. In many cases, children may be supporting their parents, and they may need to sign a multiple support agreement, whereby the credit for the parent is rotated on an annual basis between multiple children. The credit is eligible for child care expenses as well as the expenses of caring for a disabled spouse or disabled adult who is dependent while you work or look for work.
While there are many other opportunities, these are a few that you can consider before the holidays occur, so there is ample time to attend to any payments, expenditures, or tax issues before December 31.