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Archive for April, 2008

The Tax “Rebate,” Use It or Lose It!

April 29th, 2008 at 08:21 pm

In the next few days you may be receiving a tax “rebate.” How are you going to spend it?

While our elected officials want you to go out and spend your rebate to help “stimulate” the economy, you might want to use it to begin to recession proof your life for the present as well as future recessions. If you would like to begin approaching life from abundance instead of scarcity, here are some possible ways to “spend” your rebate.

1. Use it to pay off your credit card debt, one of the most expensive forms of debt available.

2. Begin funding your “emergency fund.” An emergency fund is a highly liquid account which provides coverage for between six months to one year of your current expenditures. This fund will allow you to survive a business downturn, job loss or short- term disability without invading your retirement accounts.

3. If you are saving for a first house, use it to fund a Roth IRA. Even if you have a company retirement plan, you can contribute up to $5,000 annually to a Roth IRA, if you are single and earn less than $101,000 or earn less than $159,000 if you file taxes jointly. Once your Roth IRA has been established for five years, you pay no taxes when withdrawing up to $10,000 of Roth income plus all of your Roth contributions for a down payment on your first house.

4. If your employer provides matching funds to your company retirement plan contribution, use it to contribute up to the maximum amount that your employer matches. The matching funds are “free money” that virtually guarantee you a high rate of return.

5. If you have children that will one day go to college, use it to fund a Coverdell Education Savings Plans or a Section 529 College Savings Plan. With both plans, the invested funds will grow tax free and can be withdrawn tax free when used for educational expenses.

6. Invest it in either an IRA or Roth IRA for retirement. In future posts, I will demonstrate how you can never have too much for retirement.

You have probably heard the expression “use it or lose it.” If you spend the rebate buying another “thing” you will lose it. If you put it to work for you in one of the ways listed above, you will use it now and in the future.

Was your 2007 Tax bill too high?

April 16th, 2008 at 09:11 pm

Yesterday was the deadline to pay your 2007 taxes. If you are like most people, you probably feel that you paid too much. If so, now is the time to identify ways to lower your 2008 taxes. Every dollar of reduced taxes can be used to help fund educational or retirement expenses.

In Financial Abundance Guide I devote almost 100 pages to strategies for reducing your taxes. To demonstrate that I “eat my own cooking,” I will describe the approaches to tax reduction that my wife and I used in 2007. In parentheses I will put the page of my book on which the referenced strategy can be found.

1. In spite of receiving significant long term capital gains in 2007, we reported gains of less than $1,000 on our tax return. This was accomplished by keeping most of our equity holdings in our IRA or Roth IRA retirement accounts (pages 125 -126).

2. We were able to deduct $7,250 by fully funding our Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) in 2007. Since my wife and I are both over age 55, by setting up separate HSAs, we could each deduct an additional $800 over the normal family deduction of $5,650 (pages 63-66). In 2008, we will be able to contribute (and deduct) a total of $7,600 into our HSAs.

3. Thanks to the expenses involved in writing, publishing and marketing my book in 2007, I had virtually no earned income. However, my wife had more than adequate income to allow for me to fund my IRA as a “spousal IRA” and receive a deduction of $5,000 (page 44-45). Since our AGI was under $159,000 my wife contributed $5,000 to a Roth IRA, even though she was covered by a company sponsored retirement plan (pages 46-47).

4. Our itemized deductions included a $10,000 gift to our “Donor Advised Fund” charitable giving account (pages 81-83). This was a gift of highly appreciated stock that we bought for $4,000 in 1999. By giving the stock to our charitable fund, the $6,000 capital gain was completely tax free, saving us from paying $900 in capital gains taxes (page 80-81).

5. Our daughter, in her third year of college, had tuition bills exceeding $8,000 in 2007. Thanks to the Lifetime Learning Credit, we received a $1,600 tax credit against actual taxes owed (page 38-39).

6. After all deductions and credits, our tax bill would have been $0. Knowing this was likely, I ran a pro forma tax return in early December. I determined that we could convert a significant amount of our IRA savings into a Roth IRA, and pay very little in taxes (pages 48-50). In December 2007, we converted $55,000 of IRA funds to Roth IRA funds. The total tax bill for this conversion was $2,605 for an effective tax rate of 4.7%. These funds can grow on a tax free basis for as long as we live. If we are able to leave an inheritance for our children, inherited Roth funds can continue to grow tax free for our children (page 176-177).

Minimize your taxes is Step 3 of the 7 Steps to Financial Abundance. As I have demonstrated, active tax management can substantially increase your financial abundance. The next time that you are trying to maximize you investment returns, take a few minutes to consider methods of minimizing your taxes. The time spent may provide an “investment return” that far exceeds your expectations.

Politicians for Affordable Health Care?

April 2nd, 2008 at 05:36 pm

Politicians, both Democrat and Republican continue to talk about the need to provide affordable health care for all Americans. However, by preparing your 2007 tax return and using Schedule A to itemize deductions, you get a first hand opportunity to witness the hypocrisy of our political class.

If politicians really wanted to reduce health care costs, their first act would be to remove the 7.5% of AGI deduction penalty for health care expenses. If you are married and your combined Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is $100,000, your first $7,500 in medical expenses is not deductible from your taxes. Assuming that you are in the 25% federal tax bracket and pay a 5% state income tax rate, this “health care penalty” will cost you $2,250 in additional taxes. Eliminating this penalty would provide a 30% reduction in health care costs.

The political hypocrisy is even more evident when you consider that all of the mortgage interest that you pay for your house is deductible, but you cannot deduct most, if not all of your health care costs. If you agree that health care costs should get as least as favorable tax treatment as home mortgage costs, join me in contacting your representative to congress and your senators.

If politicians really want more affordable health care, they could easily take the first step by eliminating the “health care penalty” in our tax code.