April is not the time to think about your taxes. April is just the deadline for filing your personal tax returns for the prior year. By next April, just about all of your options to reduce your 2015 taxes will have run out. Now is the time! It's October. You still have many options for reducing your 2015 tax bill and you have more than two full months to make some moves. What moves? Here are a few things to consider.
1. Contribute to a 529 plan.
Not sure if you heard, but college is kind of... well... expensive, isn't it? Here's a good way to help out with the cost. If you contribute money to your state's 529 plan, any capital or interest gains are nontaxable as long as you use the money for higher education for yourself or your family. It's a great way to grow your money tax free for college and it's not even taxed when you withdraw the money, as long as the funds are used for higher-education expenses (which include room and board). More info on 529 plans can be found here.
2. Employ your kids.
If you're a business owner, put your kids to work. Any earnings under $6,300 won't be taxable. And it's likely they won't have to file a tax return either. And you don't pay payroll taxes. And... best part... you get a deduction. Of course, make sure the work is legitimate. Your kids could get some good experience out of this. And the money will be all theirs, so let's hope they do their best to spend it wisely. Here are some good rules to follow.
3. Make charitable deductions now.
Don't do the end-of-year runaround. Charitable contributions are a popular deductible item, and there are a lot of organizations that need help. And remember, it doesn't have to be cash. Gather old stuff in your home and office -- clothes, equipment, supplies, furniture, computers, even a car, and donate it. Be sure to get a receipt for its fair value. Here are some more tips from the IRS for taking charitable deductions.
4. Write off inventory.
You know that stuff you bought a few years because you got that great deal from that guy? You know... that guy? OK, so you haven't sold it yet. And here's the truth: you're not going to sell it. It's been sitting there, gathering dust. Look, you made a lousy decision. It happens, right? You've made plenty of great decisions, so don't feel so bad about it. You can make things a little better by just scrapping that junk and then taking a write-off for the cost you paid. In other words: clean up your inventory by the end of the year.
5. Write off accounts receivable.
You know that other guy who you sold that stuff to a few years ago because it was a great deal? You know... that guy? OK, so you haven't been paid by him yet. And here's the truth: you're not go to get paid. He's outta here. Or maybe he's still there and still promising but come on, really? Look, so you made another lousy decision. It happens... more than once... right? And like I said, you've make plenty of other great decisions, so buck up and move on. Write off that receivable and put that guy out of your mind. In other words: clean up your receivables by the end of the year.
6. Take a big deduction for the equipment you bought... hopefully.
Every year it seems that businesses have to wait for Congress to decide if they're going to extend the rules for taking the Section 179 "accelerated depreciation" deduction (in other words, writing off the cost of an asset up to $500,000) to the next year. Right now, you can write off only about $25,000 in new equipment this year. But last year the rule was extended right near the deadline and there's hope that Congress will do the same before the end of 2015. So gather the receipts for the capital equipment you've bought so far and be ready to spring and buy up more stuff if Congress does extend the rule. Remember, even if you finance an equipment purchase at today's low, low interest rates, you can still deduct the entire cost of the equipment, assuming an extension happens. Fingers crossed -- a bill is slowly moving through Congress.
7. For God's sake, meet with your accountant.
Did I mention that it's October, not April? Whatever tips I've just given you may be only a fraction of the ideas your accountant will have for you. That's because he or she is way more familiar with your personal situation. Maybe you should adjust your withholdings and give yourself more money in your paycheck (the IRS doesn't pay you interest when you get a refund, friends). Or maybe you got creamed on a stock this summer but can offset the loss against a gain somewhere else to mitigate any tax issues. Or maybe you've got a good reason to deduct home office expenses or more medical expenses. Meet. Have a beer or two. Review your return from last year. Bring him her or her up to speed on any changes in your life. Nothing stays the same.