Donald Trump’s election win will likely mean lower taxes for wealthy Americans, possibly as early as next year. The top 1% of all earners will receive about half of the total benefit of Trump’s plan, but there will be a small reduction in taxes for the middle and lower classes as well. Trump will need Congressional approval for his tax plan, and that may be difficult to obtain, even though the GOP now controls both the House and the Senate.
Many financial advisors for wealthy clients are already betting that taxes will go down in 2017 and are employing various strategies that will enable their clients to take advantage of the lower tax rates that Trump has promised. (For more, see: A Trump Estate Tax Repeal? Not So Fast.)
Defer Income Until Next Year
This is the most obvious tactic that taxpayers in any bracket can employ in order to lower their overall tax bill. Employees can ask employers to delay paying end-of-year bonuses until January. Investors can wait to sell appreciated holdings until after the New Year, when they may pay a lower rate of capital gains tax on their profits. Those who are selling a business or other holding can likewise request for the buyer to defer payment for the holding until next year.
If you are taking distributions from a retirement plan, consider holding off on them until January when your tax bracket may be more favorable. But be sure to continue receiving your required minimum distributions if you have them - the penalty for failure to take them is 50% of the amount that should have been distributed. Small business owners even have some flexibility to wait to the New Year to invoice for services or goods they've provided.
Accumulate Tax Deductions
Because taxes in 2016 will likely be higher than taxes in 2017, taxpayers would be wise to accumulate as many deductions for this year as they can. If you are going to make charitable contributions in January, consider making them now instead so that you can write off the deduction for this year, when taxes are higher. (For more, see Donald Trump’s Tax Plan: Who Will Love It.)
The same holds true with medical expenses. This year might be a better time to have medical or dental procedures done that you will have to pay for out-of-pocket than later on. Also find out whether you can pay real estate or property taxes that you will owe next year early, so that you can write them off for 2016. Generating additional itemized deductions this year is especially important, because Trump’s tax plan will substantially raise the standard deduction amount for most taxpayers.
Maximize Retirement Plan Contributions
Contribute to your employer-sponsored retirement plan before the end of the year, and consider opening or making further deductible contributions to a traditional IRA. You have until the tax filing deadline next year to make a contribution to your IRA for this year, so if generating the maximum amount of deductions has emptied your bank account, then you can wait until spring to make your contribution.
Harvest Tax Losses
If you are holding any securities in a taxable retail account that have dropped in value since you bought them, consider selling them in order to realize a capital loss that can be used to offset any taxable capital gains that you realized this year. It may make more sense to go ahead and sell your winners now if you also have some losers that will reduce or eliminate that gain, especially if you are concerned that the price of your winners may not hold up until next year. You can also write off up to $3,000 of unused capital losses against ordinary income each year until the entire amount of the loss has been deducted.
The Bottom Line
The four strategies above will help make the most of the lower tax rates that Trump has promised. (For more, see: Trump’s Upper-Middle-Class Tax Increase.)