Roth IRA, Invest to Pay Less Taxes

by John Holland, South Shore Investment Advisors, Charleston, WV

Social Security was intended originally to be a tax free benefit for retirees in America. Over the years this has changed for the majority of us.

Income Thresholds
There are two separate income thresholds for filers that will determine whether they have to pay tax on their Social Security benefits. Here is a breakdown of the categories:

Income Percentage of Social Security Taxable
Single, Head of Household, Qualifying Widower and Married Filing Separately
(where the spouses lived apart the entire year)
Below $25,000 All SS income is tax-free
$25,000 – $34,000 Up to 50% of SS income may be taxable
$34,000 and up Up to 85% of SS may be taxable
Married Filing Jointly Below $32,000 All SS income is tax-free
$32,000 – $44,000 Up to 50% of SS income may be taxable
$44,000 and up Up to 85% of SS may be taxable

When calculating your income you must include ½ of your social security benefit and all of your interest and dividend income. This includes tax exempt interest from municipal bonds and distributions from IRA’s or 401k retirement plans.

As an example, let’s say Jim Johnson withdrew $19,500 from an IRA and had $2,000 of interest income. He received $16,000 from social security and had $1,500 of gambling winnings. ($19,500 + $2,000 + $8,000 + $1,500 = $31,000). Jim is single so his social security benefit will be 50% taxable.

You can see that if you’re married and your spouse receives social security as well as distributions from a retirement plan, your tax liability will start eating up your social security benefit pretty quickly.  If both husband and wife receive just $2,000 a month from an IRA they will easily be in the upper threshold paying taxes on 85% of their combined benefit.

There is currently a loophole that exists called the Roth IRA. If you’re over 59 ½ and your Roth has been established for at least 5 years, you can take tax free distributions from it. Under current law these distributions don’t count when calculating your social security taxability. You can take a distribution of any size from a Roth and owe zero taxes on it and zero taxes on your social security. Let’s do another example.

John Doe has a Roth IRA with a balance of $1,500,000. He’s 65 years old and the account has been established for more than five years. He starts taking a $100,000 annual distribution and he receives $24,000 each year from social security. His income tax will be zero. The Roth IRA distributions are tax free and don’t count towards his social security income threshold. John will receive $124,000 annually in retirement benefit with zero tax liability. Of course these tax laws could change in the future, but today a Roth IRA is the best retirement vehicle available.

If your single and make less than $107,000 you can make a full contribution to a Roth and if you’re married the limit is $169,000. If your annual income is higher than these limits you can still convert a traditional IRA to a Roth. Of course you have to pay taxes in the year you convert the assets and I believe you should do this while the Bush tax cuts remain intact. I believe these tax cuts will be repealed in 2013 and replaced with higher marginal rates.

If you are an equity partner in a small business, this might make even more sense if we let your company pay the taxes (as an executive bonus or alternative form of compensation) on the money you move out of our existing retirement accounts into a Roth IRA.  It can be done gradually dictated by cash flow coming from the business.  If it is done before we lose the tax breaks it could make sense.

No matter if you’re 25 years away from retirement or 5 years away you should consider a Roth IRA for at least a portion of your retirement income. The tax free benefits in retirement are too great to ignore.  

John Holland e-mail: hollandzjr@aol.com

Good advice for the younger generation, especially with all the hype over social security.  If you’re a small business owner and you’re worried about higher capital gains taxes into your retirement years, there’s some good advice for you here as well.  Subscribe – Comments welcome. Pass it on.  : http://wp.me/p1nHZg-Dr

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About Idea Capitalist
Family guy and entrepreneur. Small Business owner. NFIB Leadership Council member. Serial blogger.

One Response to Roth IRA, Invest to Pay Less Taxes

  1. Dan Wiessner says:

    Good article! Roths are a great deal especially if you believe (as I do) that marginal tax rates will increase from where they are now. Unless you are in a high bracket headed lower due to retirement or other circumstances, this is something to take advantage to the extent you possibly can.

    Like

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