We at The Motley Fool are celebrating our 10-year anniversary by offering 10 ways to make money now. In that spirit, today we'll offer 10 ways to take a bicuspid out of your tax bite.
1. Invest in dividend-paying stocks
Because of the more favorable tax treatment recently bestowed upon dividend income, holding stocks that pay dividends isn't as "taxing" as it used to be. This might make such investments more attractive than other cash-generating securities, such as bonds. Of course, you don't want to own a stock just because it pays dividends, but if you're analyzing a stock that appeals to you, don't forget to consider that dividends are the proverbial "bird in the hand" -- and more tax-friendly than they used to be.
2. Buy to hold long term
Dividends weren't the only type of income given favorable tax treatment. Long-term capital gains (gains on assets held for more than one year) were also given the government seal of approval. So when you decide to sell a stock, make sure you've held that stock for the long term to reap the tax savings.
3. Purchase business assets
If you own a business, now may be the time to upgrade your furniture, fixtures, computers, or autos. The new rules governing bonus depreciation and the "expensing" deduction could save you substantial tax dollars. Of course, don't buy business equipment just because you're getting a tax break. But if there is business equipment that you'll need in the near future, now may be the time to purchase it.
4. Plan now!
Don't wait until Dec. 31 to plan your year-end tax moves. It's way too late by then. Instead, take a look at your finances and investments now -- today! -- and find ways that you might be able to structure your financial life in order to pay less when April 15 rolls around.
5. Don't forget loan points
With the flurry of refinancing that we've seen over the last few years, many of you might be forgetting that you can receive a deduction for the loan points that you pay when you refinance. Points are really nothing more than prepaid (deductible) interest. In most cases, you'll have to claim the deduction over time. But a small deduction is better than none at all. And you'll find a pot at the end of the rainbow when the loan is finally paid off. If you've purchased a house, the news is even better -- you can deduct the points in full.
6. Take the worthless stock deduction
Many publicly traded companies are no longer around or are in the process of drying up and blowing away. Many of the shares in those companies have been de-listed, and are impossible to trade. But that doesn't mean you can't claim a loss on a stock that has gone bad simply because you can't trade the shares. You can always claim the worthless stock deduction. Or better yet, sell the junk to a qualified relative, keeping the stock in the family (just in case it does amount to something in the future) while securing a loss in the year that best benefits you.
7. Make contributions to retirement accounts
By contributing to your employer-sponsored retirement plan -- such as a 401(k), 403(b), or 457 plan -- you will reduce your taxable income, and you won't pay taxes on the investments in the account until you make withdrawals. Also, if you're at a lower income level, you'll actually receive a tax credit for the contribution that you make. Finally, if you're over age 50, you can make "catch up" contributions to your 401(k) or IRA above and beyond the normal contribution limits.
8. Make charitable contributions
Part and parcel of Foolishness is giving to those in need. And Uncle Sam will reward your generosity with a tax deduction. But it's not just cash contributions that get you that deduction. Clean out a closet, donate the property, save the receipt, and get a deduction. You're not using that stuff anyway -- you might as well turn it into cash in the form of reduced taxes. Don't know how to value the stuff? Check out It's Deductible for help with valuing your contributions. You can also donate that clunker sitting in your driveway. And consider the contribution of appreciated stock for double-barreled tax savings.
9. Gifts to kids
Consider shifting your income to your younger children. That means making a gift to them, generally of appreciated stock. You might want to wait until the child turns age 14 (in order to avoid the kiddie tax rules). But if you gift the stock to a child, and the child then sells the stock, the long-term gain will be taxed at the child's tax rate, which is likely much lower than your rate. Depending on the child's other income and the amount of the gain, the tax on the gain could fall all the way to zero!
10. Sell your home
There is a huge tax break ($500,000 for married couples and $250,000 for unmarrieds) on the gain of the sale of your principal residence. There are still many folks out there that believe that this is a one-time break, but it's just not true. This break is something that you can use every two years. So if you don't mind moving often, and are lucky enough to invest in a home that has increased in value and now have the itch to move, don't forget to make use of this valuable (and legal) tax dodge.
Many thanks to all who have joined us over the past decade. Cheers for making Fool.com the best place to talk money and stocks on the Web. Check back often this month for Fool retrospectives and fun. And feel free to drop by our 10-Year Anniversary discussion board (no subscription required for this one).
Here's to the next 10 years!
Roy Lewis lives in a trailer down by the river and is a motivational speaker when not dealing with tax issues, and he understands that The Motley Fool is all about investors writing for investors. You can take a look at the stocks he owns as long as you promise not to ask him which stock to buy. He'll be glad to help you compute your gain or loss when you finally sell a stock, though.