Last-Minute Tips for Your 2020 Personal Return

Goodbye, 2020. Hello, tax season. Individual taxpayers have until April 15, 2021, to pay Uncle Sam for taxes owed for 2020. (Remember, you can extend the deadline for filing your return until October 15, but you can’t extend the deadline for paying what you owe without penalty.)

Unfortunately, many people are struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic. If cash is tight, consider these six last-minute ideas to lower last year’s federal income tax liability.

1. Contribute to a Traditional IRA

If you’ve not yet made a deductible traditional IRA contribution for the 2020 tax year, you can still do so until April 15. Then you can claim the resulting write-off on your 2020 return, assuming last year’s income wasn’t too high to qualify. You also can potentially make a deductible contribution of up to $6,000 or up to $7,000 if you were age 50 or older as of December 31, 2020. If you’re married, your spouse can do the same.

Important: Under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, you can now make traditional IRA contributions regardless of your age. Before the SECURE Act, you lost the right to make traditional IRA contributions after reaching age 70½. Thankfully, that restriction is now gone.

There are two ground rules for deductible IRAs. First, you must have enough 2020 earned income (from jobs, self-employment or taxable alimony received) to equal or exceed your IRA contributions for the 2020 tax year. If you’re married, either you or your spouse (or both) can be the source of the necessary earned income.

Second, deductible IRA contributions are phased out (reduced or eliminated) if last year’s income was too high. Here are the phaseout ranges for 2020:

  • If you’re unmarried and were covered by a tax-favored retirement plan in 2020 (whether an employer-sponsored plan or a self-employed plan), your eligibility to make a deductible contribution for last year is phased out between adjusted gross income (AGI) of $65,000 and $75,000. For married filing separately, the phaseout range is $0 to $10,000.
  • If you’re unmarried and weren’t covered by a plan in 2020, your eligibility to make a deductible contribution isn’t affected by your AGI. You can make a fully deductible contribution up to the applicable limit, assuming you have enough earned income.
  • If you’re married and both you and your spouse were covered by retirement plans in 2020, the eligibility of both you and your spouse to make deductible contributions for last year is phased out between joint AGI of $104,000 and $124,000.
  • If you’re married and weren’t an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan for 2020, but your spouse was, your deductible IRA contribution phases out with AGI of between $194,000 and $206,000. (The participating spouse’s eligibility is phased out between joint AGI of $104,000 and $124,000.)

If you’re married and neither you nor your spouse were covered by a plan, your eligibility to make a deductible contribution isn’t affected by your AGI. You and your spouse can both make fully deductible contributions up to the applicable limit, assuming you have enough earned income.

2. Make a Deductible Health Savings Account (HSA) Contribution

If you had a qualifying high-deductible health plan (HDHP) last year, you can still make a deductible HSA contribution for your 2020 tax year if you’ve not already done so. The contribution deadline is April 15.

For 2020, the maximum deductible HSA contribution is $3,550 for self-only coverage or $7,100 for family coverage (anything other than self-only coverage). More specifically, if you’re eligible to make an HSA contribution for last year because you had a qualifying HDHP, you have until April 15 to establish an account and make your rightful deductible contribution.

Important: The write-off for HSA contributions is an above-the-line deduction. That means you can take the write-off even if you don’t itemize.

The HSA contribution privilege isn’t phased out for high-income taxpayers, as long as they have qualifying HDHPs and meet other eligibility requirements.

3. Deduct State and Local Sales Taxes (Instead of State and Local Income Taxes)   

If you live in a jurisdiction with low or no personal income tax or if you owe little or nothing to state and local income tax collectors, you have options. You can potentially claim itemized deductions on last year’s return for either:

  • State and local general sales taxes, or
  • State and local income taxes.

Important: Under current tax law, you can’t deduct more than $10,000 for all categories of state and local taxes combined ($5,000 if you used married filing separate status).

The sales tax option is only relevant if your allowable itemized deductions for last year would exceed your allowable standard deduction for last year. The standard deduction for 2020 was:

  • $24,800 for most married couples who file jointly,
  • $12,400 for most singles and those who use married filing separate status, and
  • $18,650 for most heads of households.

Higher standard deductions apply for those who were age 65 or older on December 31, 2020.

If you can benefit from choosing the sales tax option, you can use an IRS-provided table (based on your income, family size, state of residence, and local sales tax jurisdiction) to figure your allowable sales tax deduction. But if you kept receipts from 2020 purchases and that gives you a bigger write-off, you can add up the actual sales tax amounts and deduct the total.

Even if you use the IRS table, you can add on actual sales tax amounts from major purchases, such as:

  • Motor vehicles (including motorcycles, off-road vehicles and RVs),
  • Boats,
  • Aircraft, and
  • Home improvements.

In other words, you can deduct actual sales taxes for these major purchases on top of the predetermined amount from the IRS table.

4. Add Up Health Insurance Premiums and Medical Expenses

If you itemize deductions on your 2020 tax return, you can potentially claim a deduction for qualifying medical expenses you paid last year. This includes premiums for private health insurance coverage and premiums for Medicare health insurance.

Specifically, you can claim an itemized medical expense deduction if your total qualifying expenses exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) for the year. Under current tax law, the standard deduction amounts have been significantly increased for 2018 through 2025. So, fewer individuals will be itemizing on their 2020 returns. But having significant medical expenses may allow you to itemize and collect some tax savings.

Important: If you’re self-employed or an S corporation shareholder-employee, you can probably claim an above-the-line deduction for your health insurance premiums, including Medicare premiums. That means you don’t need to itemize to get the tax-saving benefit.

5. Take Advantage of COVID-19 Tax Relief for Certain Small Business Owners

Several COVID-19 federal tax relief measures are potentially available to eligible S corporation shareholders and owners of unincorporated businesses, including:

  • Sole proprietorships,
  • Single-member limited liability companies (LLCs) treated as sole proprietorships for tax purposes,
  • Partnerships, and
  • Multi-member LLCs treated as partnerships for tax purposes.

These relief provisions can significantly improve your personal tax situation. For example, you can carry back a 2020 business net operating loss (NOL) for up to five years and recover some or all of the personal federal income tax paid for the carryback year(s). Your tax pro can help you maximize tax-saving benefits of available COVID-19 relief provisions.

Coming Soon

The federal income tax filing deadline for individuals is just around the corner. So, if you haven’t yet filed (or extended) your 2020 return, contact us. We can help soften your tax hit with these and other planning moves.

© 2021

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Are you a Fiduciary?  You might be and not even know it.

This article is part of a Plan Sponsor’s Guide to 401(k) and 403(b) Plans.  Download it today! Are you a Fiduciary?  You might be and not even know it. The...

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19 Top Employee Benefit Plan Failures

This list is part of a larger report on employee benefit plans that can be found HERE. In no particular order, here are 19 top plan failures for employee benefit...

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8 Ways to Increase 401(k) Plan Participation and Why It’s Important

This article is part of Samet’s Plan Sponsor’s Guide to 401(k) and 403(b) Plans.  Find the full Guide here. Plan administrators may be noticing a lower than expected participation rate...

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Jay Kessler Presented at Boston Fiduciary Summit for 401(k) Plan Sponsors

On Wednesday, March, 24, Jay Kessler presented at the Boston Fiduciary Summit at the UMASS Club in Boston. Jay talked about the difference between an IRS audit and a DOL...

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TIR 15-2 Limited Amnesty for Taxpayers with Certain Liabilities

Status: TIR; Issued Tax types:  Corporate Excise, Estate Tax, Fiduciary Income Tax, Use Tax on Motor Vehicles Summary:  This TIR explains a 60-day amnesty period beginning on March 16 and...

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New Reporting Requirements for Cross-Border Transactions

Do you conduct business with foreign businesses? If so, you may have a new reporting requirement under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) rules that went into effect on...

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BBJ list of Largest Accounting Firms ranks Samet as 28

In the list published on March 6, Samet ranked 28th among its public accounting firm peers with 49 employees.          

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Samet releases Plan Sponsor's Guide to 401(k) and 403(b) Plans 2014 Edition

Each year, under the leadership of managing shareholder and employee benefit audit specialist, Jay Kessler, Samet publishes a Plan Sponsor’s Guide to 401(k) and 403(b) Plans based in its decades of...

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Connecticut Business Entity Tax must be paid again in 2015

The Connecticut Business Entity Tax must be paid again in 2015. The tax is due every other year, so no tax was paid in 2014. The amount of the tax...

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Samet Celebrity Sighting!

Jay Kessler, managing shareholder, and Joe Goldberg, manager, had the pleasure of meeting Cedric Maxwell, a retired Celtics star turned radio broadcaster, at a recent game.

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NECN interviews Norman Posner about Costly Tax Mistakes to Avoid

Norman Posner, shareholder, was interviewed by Peter Howe of NECN on Costly Tax Mistakes to Avoid for the station’s Money Saving Mondays series.    View the full video here: If...

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Should You Forgo a Personal Exemption So Your Child Can Take the American Opportunity Credit?

If you have a child in college, you may not qualify for the American Opportunity credit on your 2014 income tax return because your income is too high (modified adjusted...

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Massachusetts DOR Issues Proposed Regulation- Market Based Sourcing

Massachusetts tax law was changed for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2014 to require a multi-state taxpayer to apportion their receipts from services based on where the...

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Helen Schussler Awarded Certified Estate Planner Designation

Our Tax Manager, Helen Schussler, has been awarded the CEP designation from the National Institute of Certified Estate Planners. Helen has over 15 years of experience in working with families...

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Jay Kessler asked to return as speaker for Boston Fiduciary Summit

  Jay Kessler, Managing Shareholder, has been asked to return as a speaker at the 2015 Boston Fiduciary Summit on March 25.  The summit is an educational workshop for CFOs, Human...

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Client open house event photos

Thank you to all who attended our event!    

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CPAs – Are You Ready For Tax Season?

Our own Cathy Dana and Helen Schussler were published by the Massachusetts Society of CPAs for their article “Are YOU ready for tax season? 6 Tips for Massachusetts CPAs” giving advice...

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IRS Standard Mileage Rates for Your 2015 Taxes

The standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, or pickup truck in 2015 are: 57.5 cents per mile for business miles driven, up 1.5 cents from 2014...

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Tax Changes for Businesses and Health Plans Taking Effect in 2015

There are many important tax changes taking effect in 2015. They are the result of the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (TIPA) as well as other tax legislation, or...

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Tax Planning 2014: 10 Tax Planning Strategies for Businesses & Business Owners

In case you missed it, please read our recent tax planning articles, Tax planning 2014:  If and When Congress Decides to Act and Tax Planning 2014:  15 Tax Planning Strategies for...

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Tax Planning 2014: 15 Tax Planning Strategies for Individuals

If you missed it, please review our recent article, Tax planning 2014:  If and When Congress Decides to Act, which outlines the tax breaks that Congress has on its docket...

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Tax planning 2014: If and When Congress Decides to Act

Update:  In summary, everything that was in limbo has passed (once it has the President’s signature).   On December 16, Congress passed a tax extender package, known as the “Tax Increase...

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Kristie Cotter CPA Interviewed By Alma Mater NCC

Kristie Cotter, CPA, a Director with Samet, was interviewed by her alma mater, North Central College in Naperville, IL.  The college considers hers an alumni success story. She didn’t always...

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Samet Shareholders Attend TIAG International Conference in Hong Kong

  John Czyzewski, co-managing shareholder, and Norman Posner, shareholder at Samet & Company PC recently attended TIAG’s 31st international conference in Hong Kong. The conference, which took place on October 20...

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Edgar Allan Poe Foundation Statue Unveiling

Norman Posner, shareholder, attended the ceremony for the unveiling of the Edgar Allan Poe statue by Stefanie Rocknak.  This statue was commissioned by the non-profit, The Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of...

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Jay Kessler Participates in Juvenile Diabetes Walk Boston

On September 27, 2014, co-managing shareholder, Jay Kessler participated in the JDRF Walk for juvenile Diabetes.  His team, Natalie’s Neighborhood, collectively raised over $5,000.  

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Be Aware – That Caller May NOT be from the IRS

There are stories every day of scammers calling or emailing individuals and business owners pretending to be from the IRS and making dramatic claims of investigations and penalties.  It can be stressful...

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Congratulations to Joe Goldberg on His Wedding Day

Samet manager, Joe Goldberg, and Meghan Albert married in Newport, RI on Saturday, September 13.   All of us at Samet send heartfelt best wishes to the couple.  

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How to Protect Yourself From Underpayment Penalties

You can be subject to penalties if you don’t pay enough tax during the year through estimated tax payments and withholding. Here are some strategies to protect yourself: Know the...

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What’s the Difference Between a Compilation, Review, Audit?

The three basic levels of financial statement services are compilation, review, and audit.  There are other steps/procedures involved in all levels, but this is a basic summary: A Compilation provides...

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Top Takeaways from 2014 Boston Fiduciary Summit

Jay Kessler was a keynote speaker at the July 2014 Boston Fiduciary Summit.  This event was held for the benefit of employee benefit plan fiduciaries to learn trends and best...

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Jay Kessler Speaks at 2014 Boston Fiduciary Summit

  On July 17, Jay Kessler will speak at the Boston College Club for an audience of CFOs, HR Directors, business owners, and fiduciaries of employee benefit plans. Topics to...

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TIAG Alliances 2014 Mid-Year Report released

View the TIAG Alliances 2014 Mid-Year Report Excerpt from the report: As we pass the mid-year point in 2014, we can report very good progress on many fronts.  Our recruiting...

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Samet & Company, PC Creates New Director Role and Promotes Three

July 1, 2014 – Chestnut Hill, MA, USA – To recognize the next generation of leaders in the firm, Samet & Company, PC has created a new role at the...

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Samet & Company PC Attends TIAG International Conference in Miami

Samet shareholders John Czyzewski, and Norman Posner recently attended TIAG’s International Conference in Miami. The conference, which took place on May 5th through 7th, provided TIAG® members with the opportunity to...

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It’s Not Too Late To Make A 2013 Contribution To An IRA

Tax-advantaged retirement plans allow your money to grow tax-deferred — or, in the case of Roth accounts, tax-free. But annual contributions are limited by tax law, and any unused limit...

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Your 2013 Return May Be Your Last Chance For 2 Depreciation-Related Breaks

If you purchased qualifying assets by Dec. 31, 2013, you may be able to take advantage of these depreciation-related breaks on your 2013 tax return: 1. Bonus depreciation. This additional...

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2013 Higher Education Breaks May Save Your Family Taxes

Tax credits can be especially valuable because they reduce taxes dollar-for-dollar; deductions reduce only the amount of income that’s taxed. A couple of credits are available for higher education expenses:...

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Jeff Swersky re-joins Samet as Shareholder

Jeffrey Swersky, CPA, MBA, MST re-joins Samet & Company, PC as a shareholder of the firm. Most recently Swersky was a shareholder with Braver PC, a Needham based CPA firm....

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Samet & Company, PC Announces New Co-Managing Shareholders

Jay Kessler and John Czyzewski named CPA firm’s next generation of leadership. Pictured above:  John Czyzewski, Norman Posner, Jay Kessler The public accounting firm, Samet & Company, PC, today announces...

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