When the IRS extended the 2019 tax-filing deadline until July 15, 2020, the time limit was also extended for contributing to several tax-advantaged accounts. You still have time to make tax-deductible contributions for 2019 and get back an extra refund if you already filed your income tax return or take advantage of extra opportunities to build up tax-free savings for the future. See if you can benefit from these tax breaks, especially if you’re in better financial shape now than you were when the deadline was originally extended in March, and find out about these strategies that can help you boost your contributions:
— Contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA.
— Build retirement security with a spousal IRA.
— Give your kids a head start on tax-free savings with a Roth IRA.
— Get a triple tax break with a health savings account.
— Find tax-deductible savings if you’re a freelancer.
— Get an extra refund if you already filed your tax return.
Contribute to a Traditional or Roth IRA
You have until July 15 to contribute up to $6,000 to an individual retirement account for 2019, or up to $7,000 if you were 50 or older last year. Anyone who earned income from working can contribute to a traditional IRA, even if you already saved in a 401(k). The money grows tax-deferred until it’s withdrawn, and your contributions may be tax-deductible depending on your income and whether or not you or your spouse were covered by a retirement plan at work. See the IRS’ IRA Deduction Limits factsheet for details.
Or you can contribute to a Roth IRA if your modified adjusted gross income in 2019 was less than $203,000 if married filing jointly or $137,000 for single filers (the contribution amount starts to phase out if your income was more than $193,000 for joint filers, or $122,000 for single filers). You don’t get a current tax break for Roth IRA contributions, but the money grows tax-deferred through the years, and your earnings can be withdrawn tax-free after age 59½, as long as you’ve had a Roth for at least five years. And you can withdraw your Roth contributions without penalties or taxes at any time — which can serve as a back-up emergency fund.
Build Retirement Security With a Spousal IRA
You generally need to have earned income from a job to be eligible to make IRA contributions. But if your spouse worked but you did not, he or she can contribute to a spousal IRA on your behalf. The spousal IRA contribution limit is also $6,000 for 2019, or $7,000 if you’re 50 or older. The IRA can be a traditional or Roth IRA based on the same joint income limits that apply to regular contributions.
Contributing to a spousal IRA can be particularly valuable because spouses who didn’t earn income for the year also didn’t have an opportunity to contribute to a 401(k) or other retirement savings plan at work. “It is so important to strive for financial independence, and a spousal IRA is a good start,” says Mari Adam, a certified financial planner in Boca Raton, Florida. “So many women find themselves later in life with no retirement assets, so the sooner they start the better.”
Give Your Kids a Head Start on Tax-Free Savings With a Roth IRA
Kids of any age who earned some income from working in 2019 — even just from a summer or part-time job — can still contribute to a Roth IRA for the year and build tax-free savings for the future. They can contribute up to the amount they earned from working, but no more than the $6,000 limit. You can even give them the money to contribute. You may need to sign extra papers if you are setting up the account for a minor.
Starting contributions when they’re young — and continuing with the savings habit as they get older — can make a huge difference in their financial future. For example, if they contribute $6,000 every year starting when they’re 18, and bump up their annual contributions to $7,000 when they turn 50, they could have more than $1.6 million in tax-free savings when they’re 65 if their investments return 6% per year, says Adam. “Probably the No. 1 way you can help your young adult kids, or grandkids, is to encourage them to set up a Roth IRA,” she says.
It’s best to keep the money growing tax-free in the account for retirement, but they can also withdraw the contributions at any time without penalties or taxes, which can be a great source of savings for a house down payment or emergency fund.
Get a Triple Tax Break With a Health Savings Account
If you had an HSA-eligible health insurance policy in 2019 with a deductible of at least $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage, you still have time to contribute to a health savings account. You can contribute up to $3,500 for 2019 if you had self-only coverage, or $7,000 for family coverage, plus an extra $1,000 if you were 55 or older, whether your insurance was through your employer or on your own. Your contributions are tax-deductible and you can use the money tax-free for eligible medical expenses at any time, either now or in the future. If you only had an HSA-eligible policy for part of 2019, your contribution limit may be prorated based on the number of months you had eligible coverage.
A frequently overlooked strategy for catch-up contributions: If both spouses are age 55 or older and covered by an HSA-eligible policy, they can both add an extra $1,000 in catch-up contributions, says Roy Ramthun, president of HSA Consulting Services. Both spouses can’t add the catch-up contributions to the same account, however, so one will need to open a separate account and they can split the family contributions however they’d like between the two spouses — even if the health insurance policy was through one spouse’s employer.
You could get an extra refund if you already filed your 2019 income tax return and make tax-deductible HSA contributions now. If you need the money now, you can withdraw it tax-free from the HSA for eligible medical expenses right away — including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, health insurance deductibles and copayments, and other out-of-pocket medical expenses you incurred since you opened the account. You can also withdraw money tax-free from the HSA to pay your health insurance premiums if you’re receiving unemployment benefits or if you’re continuing your employer’s coverage on COBRA after losing your job.
You’ll reap the biggest tax benefits if you can afford to leave the money growing in the account and then use it tax-free for eligible medical expenses in the future. After you turn age 65, you can also withdraw HSA money tax-free for Medicare Part B, Part D and Medicare Advantage premiums, making it a great source of savings for medical expenses in retirement.
Find Tax-Deductible Savings if You’re a Freelancer
If you had any income from self-employment in 2019, even if you just earned some freelance money on the side, you still have until July 15 to make tax-deductible contributions to a Simplified Employee Pension. You can contribute up to 20% of your net earnings from self-employment, with a $56,000 maximum for 2019, which grows tax-deferred for retirement. You can set up a SEP at most banks, brokerage firms and mutual fund companies that offer IRAs.
Another option for self-employed savings is a solo 401(k). You can only make 2019 contributions to a solo 401(k) if you already set up the account by Dec. 31, 2019. But if you did have an account then, you may be able to save more in the solo 401(k) than you can in a SEP, especially if you earned just a few thousand dollars in self-employed income for the year. You can contribute up to $19,000 (or $25,000 if you were 50 or older in 2019) or 100% of your self-employed earnings, whichever is less, plus up to 20% of your net earnings from self-employment, with a $56,000 maximum for 2019.
For more information about both types of plans, see IRS Publication 560 Retirement Plans for Small Business.
Get an Extra Refund if You Already Filed Your Tax Return
If you haven’t filed your income tax return for 2019 yet, just report the deductions on your regular return by the July 15 deadline. You’ll usually get a refund fastest if you file electronically and have your refund direct-deposited into your bank account.
If you already filed your return for 2019, you can either file a superseding or an amended return to report the additional deductions and reduce your taxable income — which could result in an extra refund.
A superseding return is a return filed before the July 15 deadline that replaces the return that you already filed for the year. You’ll need to file a paper version of Form 1040 and write “superseding return” at the top, says Trish Evenstad, an enrolled agent in Westby, Wisconsin, who is authorized to represent taxpayers before the IRS.
Or you can file an amended return, Form 1040X, up to three years after the tax-filing deadline. Currently, you have to file an amended return for 2019 on paper, but you may be able to file an amended return electronically in about a month. “If the taxpayer is willing to wait a bit, the IRS will be accepting electronically filed amended returns later this summer. They have given a date of Aug. 17, but we will have to see if they are on schedule,” says Evenstad. “My guess is with the 11 million pieces of mail that the IRS still needs to process, that waiting until the electronic amended filing for 2019 becomes available in August would be their fastest way to the refund.”
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