NEW HAMPSHIRE’S STATE motto is “live free or die.” But for my wife and me, the first part might be better expressed as “live tax-free.”
We just moved to New Hampshire from Maryland. The move’s main purpose is to be near our kids, enjoy lake and mountain activities, and experience cooler summers. But New Hampshire’s zero tax rate on earned income, pensions and capital gains is a major bonus.
Eight states have no tax on personal income,
I HATE LOOKING AT life through the lens of taxation. But at this time of year, it’s hard to avoid.
I’ve been doing my own taxes for more than four decades. But this year represents a new milestone in my tax return preparation career. We moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey at the end of March 2021, so I’ve had to prepare 2021 tax returns for both states. Although I’d researched New Jersey’s tax code and made an estimate of what the differences would cost,
WILL YOU BE WORKING with a CPA to file your tax return? For eight years, I was one of the folks on the other side of this annual ordeal. Want to make life easier both for yourself and for us green-shade types? Here are 22 insights:
1. Time is money. CPAs sell expertise by the hour. They track everything they do, all day long, in six-minute increments—or perhaps 15. For the business to survive,
TAX SEASON IS HERE. You’ve probably received your W-2 and, if they haven’t arrived already, your investment tax forms may be just days away. If you’re like me, your email inbox has been inundated with tax-filing services pitching their latest deal. I’m no expert on which tax-prep provider is best, but each year I check this page for reviews of the major sites.
I have two other tips that might save you a few bucks.
WOULD YOU BASE important financial or life choices on false or misleading information? Of course not. Yet, when deciding on key economic and social issues, that’s exactly what people often do.
I’m addicted to social media. I follow advocacy groups focused on Social Security, health care and taxes, as well as the politicians who are especially engaged in these issues.
Some tweets and memes reinforce what people want to believe or provide the easy answers they seek.
IN HINDSIGHT, MY WIFE and I made a mistake by over-saving in tax-deferred accounts. It’s not that we saved too much overall. Rather, we ended up with retirement savings that aren’t diversified among different account types. In fairness, this was caused by the limitations of our work-sponsored retirement plans, coupled with the stock market’s handsome appreciation in recent years.
The classic approach is to build a three-legged stool for retirement—Social Security, a pension if available,
I’D LIKE TO START with a seemingly simple question: If you purchased an investment for $19,000 and later sold it for $287,000, would there be a gain or a loss? If you answered that there would be a gain, I’d agree with you. Specifically, it appears the gain would be $268,000. But what if there was no gain and the investment was actually sold at a loss? Could that be the case?
I’VE BEEN WAITING since late last year for a stock market correction. No, I’m not sitting on a pile of cash and looking to time the market. Instead, I’m simply hoping to trim my tax bill.
Last October, I sold the recently vested shares of my company stock and used the proceeds to buy Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (symbol: VTI). This sell-high-buy-high exchange was meant for diversification, but I also hoped that the market would drop later.
WHEN A FRIEND TOLD me about his newfound interest in buying and selling sports trading cards, it reminded me of the joy that collecting brought me in my childhood. And when he asked me to explain the relevant taxation, it got me thinking: The core of the tax code is more logical than we give it credit for. It’s the ever-changing details that make it squirrelly.
If you buy and sell collectibles—whether it be sports cards,
MANY FOLKS SPEND December frantically hunting for ways to cut their taxes, whether it’s realizing losses in their taxable investment accounts, making charitable donations or raising their 401(k) contributions for the year’s final few paychecks.
A better strategy: Manage your taxes year-round rather than just at year-end. Filing a tax return is a reactive process—a record of income and deductions that have already occurred. It takes foresight and action to shape what those lines will look like on next year’s tax return.
AS THEY APPROACH retirement age, workers sometimes get to choose between a monthly pension and a lump-sum payout. It’s a choice I recently made—one I researched carefully. In the end, I made an unusual decision that took a few extra steps.
Let me start at the beginning. In 1984, I began working for American National Insurance Company as an investment analyst. I left the company in 1991, but still qualified for a small pension.
TAX-LOSS HARVESTING is a popular strategy at this time of year. It works best with mutual funds and exchange-traded index funds, for which very similar investments exist. By swapping your losing funds for similar investments, you can realize your tax losses and maintain your market exposure without violating the wash-sale rule.
By contrast, tax-loss harvesting is difficult to implement with individual stocks. Is there a “nearly identical” investment for a company such as Tesla or Amazon?
THIS IS THE TIME of year when many folks rush to purchase last-minute gifts. Not me. While others are out buying, I’m at home selling. You see, this is when I make moves in my brokerage account to limit my tax bill.
What have I been up to? First, I logged on to my Schwab account and reviewed my year-to-date realized gains and losses. I had generated $8,000 in long-term capital gains earlier in 2021 by selling an appreciated exchange-traded fund.
EARLIER THIS YEAR, I swapped the Vanguard Short-Term Bond Index Fund (symbol: VBIPX) in my 401(k) for an inflation-indexed Treasury ETF (VTIP). The trade worked out well: The replacement fund has since fared better, thanks to this year’s accelerating inflation.
To buy the inflation-indexed ETF, I had to open a brokerage subaccount within my company’s retirement plan—a feature some 401(k)s offer, though these “brokerage windows” typically aren’t heavily promoted for fear employees will end up trading too much.
TRAVELING DURING the holidays? As we drive east out of Ohio and into Pennsylvania, we know to fill the gas tank before we cross the border. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania has the third-highest gasoline tax in the country, behind California and Illinois, and about 20 cents per gallon higher than Ohio.
All states have to balance their budget. But they take very different approaches. This provides 50 experiments in taxation—and those taxes influence our behavior.