Year end is often an extremely busy time of year. We think about tax planning that has to be completed by December 31st. As we approach the holiday season, it’s a good idea to reflect on what makes your life meaningful and how you want to give back.

Goals

  • Have you met your short-term goals for this year?
  • Have you set your short-term goals for next year?
  • Are you making progress on your long-term goals (over one year)?
  • Do you need to re-prioritize your goals?

Net Worth

  • Has your net worth increased this year?
  • Do you have your emergency reserves in place?
  • Do you have any opportunities to refinance your debt at lower rates?

Credit Report

  • Have you checked your credit report this year?
  • Do you need to freeze your credit to help prevent identity theft?

Investments

  • Is your portfolio in balance? Is it within the ranges specified in your Investment Policy Statement (IPS)? Do you need to revise your IPS to reflect a change in risk tolerance?
  • Do you have too much or not enough in cash investments? 
  • Review realized capital gains and losses. Review any capital loss carry forwards. Should you make any changes to your portfolio for tax reasons?
    • Watch out for year-end capital gains distributions from mutual funds as you do any year-end rebalancing.

Tax

  • Do you need a year-end tax projection? Did you have unanticipated stock compensation, large bonuses, other windfalls? Don’t get caught having to pay tax penalties because you didn’t withhold enough for tax. 
  • Should you consider accelerating stock options exercises as you think about future tax rates? 
  • Did your marital status change during the year? How will that affect your taxes?
  • Do you want to “bunch” deductions like charitable contributions? If you will be below the threshold for the standard deduction, you may want to give more in some years so that you can deduct those contributions. 
  • Have you reported any unusual capital gains to your CPA? Do you need to adjust your estimated tax payments?
  • Do you want to do a Roth IRA conversion? Partial or complete? How will that affect your tax bracket? Coordinate with your CPA. 
  • Are you going to make Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)? Remember to tell your CPA. 
  • Where do you stand with realized gains and losses year-to-date? Should you take any capital gains or losses before year-end?
  • Do you have a prior year capital loss carry forward? Charitable carry forward?
  • If you are in a lower income year, do you want to take any capital gains or do any Roth IRA conversions to “fill up” your lower tax brackets? This may help lower tax in the future. 

Education Funding

  • Have you funded the children’s or grandchildren’s college accounts this year?
  • Do you know what tax breaks you are eligible for if your children are in college?
  • Did you take money out of a 529 and then have the school return it? You need to put that money back by year-end.

Company Stock

  • Do you have any stock options that are going to expire soon? 
  • If you have incentive stock options, do you know where you stand with AMT (alternative minimum tax) for the year?
  • Do you want to exercise nonqualified stock options before year-end?
  • Do you have any stock from an incentive stock option exercise that is now eligible to be sold at lower capital gains rates because you’ve held it at least one year?
  • Do you have a strategy to make the most of stock options and restricted stock considering diversification, cash flow needs and taxes?
  • Do you have a 10b5-1 plan in place? Do you need to update your old plan?

Retirement

  • Have you taken your RMD (required minimum distribution) from your IRA? If this is the first year you need to take one, have you decided to defer to next year or take it now? Have you considered this in context with any Roth IRA conversions you plan to do?
    • Note: The CARES Act gives everyone a holiday from taking RMDs in 2020.
    • The IRS is allowing anyone who took an RMD and wants to put it back to do so by August 31st, 2020.
  • Do you want to do a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) from your traditional IRA? Do you have check writing for that account?
  • Have you looked at your spending in retirement? Do you need to adjust your withdrawal rate?
  • Do you need to update your retirement plan? Save more? Will you need or want to defer retirement?
  • Have you contributed as much as possible to your retirement plan? Have you made any catch-up contributions you may be eligible for?
  • Did you inherit an IRA in the last year? Did you take your required minimum distribution?

Estate

  • Are your documents up-to-date? 
  • Have you touched base with your attorney about the SECURE Act?? Certain types of trusts may need to be restated. 
  • Are your trusts funded?
  • Are your beneficiary designations up-to-date?
  • Do you want to do any gifting before year-end? Should you give low cost basis stock or cash?
    • Note: The CARES Act allows you to give up to 100% of Adjusted Gross Income in 2020 and 2021 if you make the contribution in cash and it doesn’t go to a Donor Advised Fund or family-funded Private Foundation. 
    • Do you want to involve your family in making gifts from a Donor Advised Fund this year? You might want to have a family meeting over the holidays where you discuss what your family values and how you want to give back. 

This checklist is one of many offered through Financial Planning Diagnostics, part of the Dreams of Wealth series of books (www.dreamsofwealth.com).

Copyright ©2021 Stevens Visionary Strategies LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the owner except as expressly permitted by U.S. copyright law.

Disclosures
The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.