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How Can I Minimize Taxes During Retirement?

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Take time to consider the tax impact of your financial decisions and speak to a professional to make sure you don’t pay more than anticipated during your non-working years.

During your working years, your actions to minimize taxes aren’t the same as those you’ll need after retirement. How you manage your tax liability may have an even bigger impact during your non-working years, says a recent article, “5 Ways to Minimize Taxes on Retirement Income,” from U.S. News & World Report. Re-evaluating finances and tax liabilities at retirement age can help minimize taxes for the coming decades.

Roth Conversion. Once you’ve turned 59 ½ years old and the account has been opened for at least five years, you may take withdrawals tax-free at any time with no taxes or penalties. The conversion takes planning to avoid pitfalls. First, you must be prepared to pay the taxes on the converted accounts. You’ll also need to be careful not to place yourself in a higher tax bracket. Converting to a Roth should be done when income is lower.

Delay Social Security Benefits. When you start taking benefits, it will impact whether the amount you receive could be subject to taxes. If you file taxes single and your income is more than $25,000, you’ll pay taxes on as much as 85% of your Social Security benefit! Married couples with income exceeding $32,000 will suffer the same tax fate. If possible, delay taking Social Security until after you reach Full Retirement Age (FRA), which is 66 or 67 for most people. If you can delay taking benefits until age 70, you’ll have reached the maximum benefits, but circumstances don’t always allow this.

Coordinate Estate Planning with Required Minimum Distributions (RMD). After age 73, you’ll probably need to start taking RMDs from traditional IRAs and 401(k)s. If you forget, there will be penalties. If you take the RMDs, you must pay taxes on the income. Talk with your estate planning attorney to explore how you might keep your withdrawals within lower tax brackets to minimize taxes.

Consider Low-Tax States. If retirement relocation is in your future, consider state tax laws in your decision-making. Some states don’t tax Social Security benefits, while others provide exemptions for pensions. You’ll want to investigate income, sales, and property taxes. It can be a great way to minimize taxes. Your analysis should include an overview of all the factors. For instance, a state may not tax Social Security, but it might have higher property taxes.

Create an Irrevocable Trust. Creating a trust removes assets from your taxable estate. Depending upon the trust your estate planning attorney recommends, you may need an irrevocable trust, which gives the trust the assets and control of the assets to the trustee. Income generated by the assets in the trust may be taxed at a different rate than your income.

Estate planning and tax planning intersect in many ways, so speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to see what strategies are available and which are best suited to your situation.

Reference: U.S. News & World Report (March 14, 2024) “5 Ways to Minimize Taxes on Retirement Income”