“People naturally want to minimize their taxes in retirement. Instead, what often happens is the opposite: Retirees too often face an abrupt and unexpected increase in federal income taxes, due to large accumulations in tax-deferred accounts, like IRAs and 401(k) plans.”
It's frustrating when you’ve been responsible and saved diligently for your retirement throughout your working career, but the tax bites keep on coming. Over the course of time, those accounts most likely grew substantially, observes the Citizen Times in its article “Try this strategy to save on taxes in retirement.” The growth comes from maximizing annual contributions and the power of compounding interest, which is what 20th century genius Albert Einstein is quoted as saying is the most powerful force in the universe.
Now that you’re retired, or near to retirement, you’ll want to use tax-efficient ways to withdraw money from your investment accounts. There was a rule of thumb from the financial investment community that said just leave those tax-deferred accounts alone and use the money from your taxable accounts until you reach age 70½. You can then start taking Required Minimum Distributions, or RMDs.
Here’s the problem: that equation assumes that your income has decreased in retirement and that simply may not be true.
Another impact could be the reduction of individual income tax rates that went into effect this year, because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which expires in 2025. Those tax cuts may not be extended or may be changed, so future tax rates might go up again in 2026. When that tax cut expires, you’ll need to review your tax burden again.
So, what can you do?
If you are a retiree between 59½ and 70½, consider a Roth conversion. Proactively convert a portion of your tax-deferred accounts into a Roth IRA on an annual basis. You’ll have to pay federal income tax on the amount you convert every year. However, you’re taking advantage of lower rates before those provisions mentioned above expire and before the RMDs begin. The goal is to convert just what you need to keep you in your current tax bracket.
Be mindful that you must do this right. Work out the numbers so you don’t trigger a higher Medicare premium or the 3.8% Medicare surtax. There are a lot of moving parts. However, this could save you a huge amount in taxes. Make sure it aligns with your estate plan—check with your estate planning attorney to make sure the entire plan works.
Resource: Citizen Times (July 29, 2018) “Try this strategy to save on taxes in retirement”