Q & A About Year End Tax Planning 2010


As we approach the end of the year some people think about the Holidays, but our legal team thinks about taxes.

Q: What are some good tax planning tips for year end?

A: One major tax planning tip that you should consider completing before the end of the year involves your IRAs and 401ks. If over the years you have accumulated an IRA or 401k, when you start taking the money out you pay income tax. However for certain people it may make sense to convert their IRA or 401k to a Roth IRA or a Roth 401k. Not all employees will be eligible to convert their 401k. The advantage of a Roth IRA or Roth 401k is as follows:

  • The money in the account grows income tax free. When the money comes out of the account there are no income taxes to pay no matter how much the account has grown.
  • There is no mandatory distribution rule. That means if you don't need the money you do not have to take any distributions from the account even if you are 70- ½.

Q: Are there any disadvantages to converting to a Roth?

A: Yes generally the income will be taxed to you in the year you convert. For example if have a traditional IRA with $100,000 in it and convert it to a Roth, you must include the $100,000 in income and pay taxes on it. However there is a special rule in 2010 that expires at the end of the year that allows you to split the income between 2011 and 2012. For example if you convert a $100,000 IRA before the end of the year, you can include ½ of the IRA or $50,000 in your 2011 tax return and pay the tax by no later than April 15th of 2012 and include the rest in your 2012 return and pay the tax by April 15th 2013.

Also the inclusion of this amount of income could impact the taxability of your social security for those years and impact the cost of your Medicare premium for a couple of years

Q: Why would anyone want to pay taxes early?

A: That is a good question. Normally you try to defer taxes. This step is not for everyone. You should consider converting to a Roth if:

  • You don't need the money from their IRA to live off of.
  • You have extra cash to pay the taxes when the conversion takes place.
  • You or your heirs who inherit the Roth will be in an income tax bracket when you take money out equal to or greater than your current bracket.

It could also make sense in other situations. You should sit down with your financial advisor and see if a Roth conversion makes sense for you.

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