Now is a good time to think about year-end tax planning in multiple areas. Many people take advantage of the annual exclusion from gift tax that is available to each person to make gifts each year. For 2014, the annual exclusion amount is $14,000, and this amount can be given to an unlimited number of donees. You can also make direct payments of tuition and medical expenses for an individual without incurring any liability for gift tax. These payments are not subject to and do not count against the $14,000 annual exclusion amount.
Interest rates also remain very low, but many think increases are on the horizon. Intra-family sales of assets can be structured with loans bearing interest at the Applicable Federal Rate (AFR). For October 2014, the AFR for loans with a maturity of more than three but less than nine years is 1.85 percent for loans requiring annual payments of interest. For loans with a term of nine years or more, the rate is 2.89 percent with annual payments of interest. For very short-term loans of not more than three years, the rate is .38 percent for loans requiring annual payments of interest. Certain other wealth transfer strategies also benefit from a low interest rate environment. Included among these are grantor retained annuity trusts (GRAT). For September 2014, the discount rate used to compute the required annuity payment is 2.2 percent.
It may be advantageous to pay deductible expenses and make charitable contributions before year-end unless you have reason to believe your tax bracket will be significantly higher next year. Many itemized deductions are impacted by the alternative minimum tax, so you will have to prepare, or work with your accountant to prepare, a reasonably accurate tax projection.
Depending on your age, you may want to either make deductible contributions to retirement accounts or be required to take minimum distribution amounts out of the plan. Penalties apply where a required minimum distribution is not taken.
Finally, if you have realized capital gain income, you may wish to see if you have investments or other assets with unrealized losses you could sell to reduce your taxable gain. If you sell stock or other securities at a loss and wish to repurchase the same stock or securities, you can do so if you wait for 30 days after your sale. If the same stock or security is purchased within 30 days before or after your sale, the loss will not be deductible.