Inflation can be a double-edged sword. While it’s great to see your wages rise in tandem with the cost of living, it can also push you into a higher tax bracket, resulting in an unexpected tax burden. This phenomenon is known as tax-bracket creep. The good news is that there are several strategies you can employ to mitigate its impact and reduce your tax bill.
In this blog post, we’ll explore eight effective ways to tackle tax-bracket creep and keep more of your hard-earned money.
- Maximize Retirement Contributions
One of the most powerful tools at your disposal to reduce taxable income is maximizing contributions to your retirement accounts. If you have access to a workplace retirement plan, such as a 401(k), take advantage of it. In 2023, the contribution limit for such plans is $22,500 (an increase from $20,500 in 2022). For individuals aged 50 and older, catch-up contributions of $7,500 are permitted. Additionally, IRA contribution limits have been raised to $6,500 for 2023.
By contributing to these accounts, you not only secure your financial future but also lower your taxable income, helping you stay in a lower tax bracket.
- Remember Your Health Savings Account (HSA)
For those with high-deductible health plans, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) offer a fantastic tax advantage. In 2023, individuals can contribute up to $3,850, with an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution for those aged 55 and older. This is a substantial increase from the 2022 limits of $3,650 for individuals and $7,300 for families. HSAs not only provide tax benefits but also help cover medical expenses, making them a valuable financial tool.
- Defer Payouts and Payments
Timing is everything when it comes to managing your income and taxes. If you anticipate a substantial taxable gain from selling a house or other valuable assets, consider delaying the transaction to the following year. This strategy can prevent you from being pushed into a higher tax bracket. Similarly, if you have the flexibility to choose when you receive income, think about deferring it to a year when your tax liability is lower.
- Make the Best Use of a Roth Conversion
Roth conversions can be a smart tax strategy. While the conversion itself is taxable, Roth accounts offer tax-free withdrawals under specific conditions. Additionally, converting a traditional IRA to a Roth can reduce your Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) in the future, potentially lowering your tax burden during retirement.
- -Loss Harvesting
Year-round tax-loss harvesting involves using realized losses to offset gains elsewhere, reducing your taxable income. This strategy can save you money and improve your investment portfolio. Be mindful of the wash-sale rule, which prohibits buying a substantially identical security within 30 days of selling it.
- Make Full Use of Asset Location
Optimize your tax efficiency by placing investments in the right types of accounts. Tax-advantaged retirement accounts, like IRAs and 401(k)s, can shelter your investments from annual taxes. Conversely, investments with higher tax consequences, such as bonds or actively managed stock mutual funds, are better suited for taxable brokerage accounts.
- Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)
If you’re over 70½ and facing Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your retirement accounts, consider making Qualified Charitable Distributions. These distributions to charity, up to $100,000 per individual, are not taxable and can satisfy your RMD requirement for the year. This strategy reduces your taxable income and supports a charitable cause.
- Deductions for Charitable Contributions
Bunching your charitable deductions is another strategy worth considering. Concentrate your donations in a single year, allowing you to itemize deductions, and then use the standard deduction in the following year. Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) provide flexibility, enabling you to claim the deduction in one year while spreading your charitable giving over several years.
While tax-bracket creep can be a concern during periods of high inflation, these eight strategies can help you navigate the tax landscape and reduce your tax bill. It’s essential to adapt your financial plan to changing circumstances and consult with a tax advisor or financial professional to create a personalized strategy that works best for your situation. By taking proactive steps, you can keep more of your income and ensure your financial well-being in the long run.
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