New Year’s Eve is just a little more than six weeks away.
I remember when I graduated college and filed my taxes for the first time.
It’s one of those big life milestones.
Unfortunately, after I filed my taxes, I realized I had missed an opportunity to lower my tax bill.
I remember thinking to myself, “Well, if I would have known that, I would have done it.” That’s true for many people.
But talking about money and financial strategies isn’t always at the top of everyone’s priority list at the end of the year.
Especially if you’re distracted by prepping for (and enjoying) the holiday season.
Before the hustle and bustle of the holidays set in, take time to reflect on your clients’ financial situations.
Take the time to sit down with your clients to discuss their portfolios.
Here are five helpful year-end client strategies.
1. Maximize charitable contributions.
The end of the year is popular for individuals to give to charity.
While it’s top of mind for many, this may be a good opportunity to discuss charitable-giving strategies such as qualified charitable distributions, or QCD.
This strategy can help individuals over the age of 70.5 years old take tax-free distributions out of their IRA and satisfy their IRS required minimum distribution, or RMD for the year.
It’s important that the RMD is sent directly to the 501(c)(3) charity of their choosing.
For those clients who are not over 70.5 years old, they could consider opening up a donor-advised fund.
With this option, the individual can receive a tax deduction even if they’re not sure which charity they want to give their money.
Additionally, if you have any individuals with highly appreciated stock inside an employee stock purchase plan or a non-qualified account, a gift to charity may be a good option to consider.
Keep in mind that many employers have charitable-matching programs that could potentially double your client’s generosity.
Lastly, consider potential state and community tax credits available for giving to specific purposes.
Many states and communities have tax-credit programs for giving money to specific charitable causes.
Talk with a local CPA to discuss options that might be available for your clients.
2. Harvest tax losses.
The end of the year typically includes the distribution of capital gains from mutual funds inside non-qualified accounts.
This can sometimes come as a surprise for many clients.
For example, in 2021, the average U.S. large-cap fund had an estimated capital gain of 9%.
It may be worth looking at clients’ asset classes in non-qualified accounts to determine if those assets are tax-efficient.
If your client wants to maintain their current portfolio make-up, they could proactively offset capital gains through tax-loss selling.
If they cannot find any tax losses or they seek to minimize long-term exposure to capital gains, they could look at asset classes that have a history of producing capital gains and putting those asset classes into an annuity that can grow tax-deferred.
3. Harvest tax-gains.
Many times we view end-of-the-year tax planning as a way to minimize taxable events.
However, it could also be a time to discuss the possibility of tax-gain harvesting.
If a client has a lower income on paper and seeks adjustments for long-term estate and taxation planning, it is a good idea to consider finding potential tax gains.
Selling out of a fund that has been producing quite a bit of capital gains could save taxes in the long term.
In addition, consideration of a Roth conversion to potentially minimize future RMDs and produce tax-free income is a sound strategy.
Tax-gain harvesting can help provide longer-term tax efficiency within your client’s financial plan.
4. Contribute to a retirement plan or IRA.
The end of the year is a good time to evaluate if you might need to make more contributions to a retirement plan.
Retirement plans typically require contributions to be made within 30 days of the end of the year.
Clients should also look at their IRA for the same purpose.
5. Understand key SECURE 2.0 Act 2024 rule changes.
Lastly, don’t forget about some provisions within the SECURE Act 2.0 that will become law starting on Jan. 1, 2024.
Provisions to know as the calendar turns include:
- Unused 529 assets can be rolled over into a Roth IRA for the beneficiary of the 529.
- Relaxation of 72(t) rules that allow for partial rollovers from an account from which 72(t) distributions are being made will not create modifications as long as the 72(t) payments are being made.
- Employers can match payments plan participants make to their student loans.
Also, keep an eye on the potential “sunsetting” of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act at the end of 2025.
This may increase or decrease your client’s tax bill — depending on how Congress decides to act.
Year-end is an opportunity to reflect on the past year’s financial milestones and discuss end-of-the-year strategies.
Clients never want to be in a position at the end of tax season to think to themselves, “I wish I would have known that.”
Credit: Harris and Ewing Collection/Library of Congress.