It's that time of year again. The 1099s and W-2s have appeared in the mailbox. Your accountant may have asked you to schedule a visit. It's as if you can hear the tax man knocking on the door.
Luckily, the IRS gives you some extra time to reduce your 2018 income taxes and invest for your future by contributing to certain retirement accounts. Here are three of them.
Individual retirement account (IRA)
The grand dame of all retirement accounts, the traditional IRA allows you to make contributions and deduct them from your 2018 income up until the tax filing deadline (not counting extensions) of April 15. (You can also contribute to a Roth IRA, but Roth contributions are not tax-deductible, though they can make sense for other reasons.)
You can open an IRA through just about any financial institution or bank. To qualify for an IRA, you must be under age 70 1/2, and you must have earned income such as wages from full-time or part-time work. Your contributions cannot exceed your earned income. For 2018, the maximum IRA contribution is $5,500, or $6,500 if you were age 50 or older by the end of last year.
Anyone under age 70 1/2 with earned income can make a contribution to an IRA, but whether or not your contribution is deductible will depend on your modified adjusted gross income and whether you have a workplace retirement plan available to you, such as a 401(k). You can find more details here, but if you're a high earner whose employer offers a qualified retirement plan, then your IRA contribution may only be partially deductible -- or not deductible at all. If your employer doesn't offer a workplace retirement plan, then your IRA contributions are fully deductible regardless of your income.
As a simple example, let's say that Dick and Jane, a married couple filing jointly, have a total of $100,000 in taxable income for 2018. If each of them maxes out an IRA, they'll reduce their taxable income by $11,000 (they're under 50, so that means they contribute $5,500 apiece.) That means they'll only owe federal income tax on $89,000.
If you have some spare cash to invest in an IRA before April 15, consider using this powerful savings vehicle to lower your 2018 tax burden. Be sure to flag the contribution as a 2018 tax year contribution, or it will be recorded for 2019.
Health savings account (HSA)
If you have a high-deductible health insurance plan at work, you're eligible for a health savings account (HSA). Contributions to an HSA are made on a pre-tax basis, which means they lower your income tax for the current year -- much like deductible IRA contributions.
The money in an HSA can also be rolled over into the next year, meaning there is no "use it or lose it" provision, unlike a flexible spending account. Earnings on the money inside an HSA can grow tax-free, too. A HSA can be used for medical bills, eyeglass prescriptions, medical procedures, and many more healthcare expenses. Qualified withdrawals made to pay for medical bills are tax-free, making the HSA a triple threat: You can enjoy pre-tax contributions, tax-free earnings, and tax-free distributions for qualified medical expenses. Not only that, but once you reach age 65, you can make withdrawals for any reason without paying a penalty (though withdrawals that don't go toward qualifying healthcare expenses will be subject to income tax). That makes the HSA an under-the-radar retirement account.
HSA contributions made by the April 15 tax filing deadline can reduce last year's tax burden. The maximum amount a family can contribute to an HSA for 2018 is $6,900, while single filers can contribute $3,450. Those who were aged 55 or older in 2018 can pitch in an extra $1,000. That means you could potentially save four figures on your 2018 tax bill.
Self-employed pension (SEP-IRA)
A SEP-IRA is another great way to save money on taxes and save for yourself long-term. Like its cousin the regular IRA, a SEP-IRA is a retirement account you can set up through any mutual fund company, and contributions going in are tax-deductible and grow tax-deferred, while withdrawals are subject to income tax. However, a SEP-IRA has much higher contribution limits than a regular IRA, and the deadline to fund a SEP-IRA is your tax deadline plus any extensions you get. The only caveat is that you must be in business for yourself and have self-employment income to fund a SEP-IRA.
Note that if you invest in a SEP-IRA for yourself, you must also make contributions for any employees you have. Learn more about the rules and limitations on SEP-IRAs here.
Most people would agree that tax time is a taxing time, given all the paperwork and anxiety over whether you will owe more or not. But if you can invest through one or more of these tax-advantaged accounts, you'll increase your long-term savings and hopefully shave some money off your 2018 tax bill.
Good luck this tax season.