We're less than three months away from the end of the tax year. If you think you will owe the IRS for 2014, now is the time to think about ways to reduce your tax bill, because not maximizing your tax advantages is equivalent to throwing money away. The IRS encourages many legal ways save money on taxes. Read on for five ways to lower your tax bill this year.
1. Move taxable income to 2015
Not everyone has control over when they receive their income, but if you do, you can easily reduce your tax bill this year by moving income to 2015. Those who are self-employed can move income to 2015 by not billing clients until after the New Year.
Those who are employed also have options. For example, if you are set to receive a year-end bonus in December, you can ask your employer to pay it out in January. The difference of a few days can mean you won't owe anything on that bonus until April 15, 2016. You can then let your money grow for a full year, rather than paying out a large percent of it to the government in April.
2. Maximize 401(k) contributions
If you work for a company that offers an employer-sponsored retirement plans (like a401(k)), remember that your contributions to 401(k)s are tax-deductible, meaning that the amount you sock away in the plan both comes out before taxes are taken out, as well as lower the amount of your taxable income. Plus, 401(k)s have far higher contribution limits than individual retirement accounts. For 2014, you can contribute up $17,500. If you are aged 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $5,500 for a total contribution limit of $23,000.
It is important to note that unlike with IRAs, you only have until Dec. 31, 2014 to contribute to a 401(k) plan for tax year 2014.
3. Maximize contributions to IRAs
Anyone can open an individual retirement account. For 2014, the IRA contribution limit is $5,500, and people aged 50 or older can contribute an additional $1,000.
There are two important things to know when it comes to IRAs and taxes. For single filers who are not covered by a retirement plan at work, contributions to regular IRAs are always tax-deductible. For those who are covered by a retirement plan at work, contributions to regular IRAs are tax-deductible, but the deduction begins to phase out for single filers with earned income of $60,000 and is phased out completely at $70,000. For those who are married filing jointly, the tax deduction phases out between $96,000 and $116,000.
The second important point to understand is that, unlike with a 401(k), you can contribute to an IRA for tax year 2014 until the day taxes are due -- that is, April 15, 2015.
4. Donate to charity
For those who itemize tax deductions, another way you can lower your tax bill for 2014 is by donating to a qualified tax-exempt charitable organization, also known as a 501(c)3. If you are unsure whether an organization is tax-exempt, the IRS has a lookup tool here.
The tax-deductibility of charitable donations begins to be limited for individuals with incomes above $250,000. Most people, however, can deduct up to 20% of their adjusted gross income with no limits. Once you donate more than that, limits begin to apply depending on the type of donation, your income, and the type of organization you're donating to. For more information, you can read the IRS' complete guide to limits on charitable donations.
One of the best donations investors can make is stock that has greatly appreciated and would therefore be subject to capital gains taxes if sold. You get to claim the donation at the market value of the shares, you don't get hit with capital gains tax, and you get to deduct your donation from your taxable income.
It's important to remember that any donation over $250 requires a receipt from the organization.
5. Take taxable losses before the end of the year to offset gains
If you have assets, like stocks, that you have lost money on, you can sell them before the end of the year to generate a capital loss. These losses can be used to offset any capital gains you have during the year. For lowering your taxable income, you can offset up to $3,000 of regular income if you have capital losses left over after offsetting all capital gains.
It's important to note that if you take a capital loss on a stock, you cannot repurchase it within 30 days. If you do, the capital loss is void, as it is added to the cost of the repurchased stock for deduction in a future tax year.