Whether you're saving for retirement or you're already retired, it's important to understand how retirement decisions affect your tax return.
Contributing to a qualified retirement plan, such as an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) or a 401(k) plan, can lower your tax bill while you are still in your working years. In fact, saving money on this year's tax return can be a great reason to start or contribute to a retirement plan.
One of the easiest ways to get started saving for retirement, if your employer offers a 401(k) or similar plan, is to have a percentage of your wages or salary deducted from your pay. This method is easy for two reasons.
First, it's a lot easier to save money when it's a small amount, deducted regularly from every paycheck, and the money never lands in your checking account.
Second, the contribution amount lowers your taxable income, so you have less income tax withheld from your paycheck. Because you're having less withheld, your paycheck won't be reduced as much as you think.
401(k)s and similar plans are not the only way to save for retirement. If you are self-employed, you may want to set up a Self-Employed SEP plan or a SIMPLE IRA.
You may also qualify to open a deductible IRA - an account you open yourself at a brokerage or other institution. IRAs are also a good choice if you need to roll over funds from another account. For example, if you have a 401(k) account at an employer you no longer work for, you can roll over the balance directly into your own IRA account without paying a penalty.
Roth IRAs work on a different principle. You can't deduct contributions to a Roth IRA, but when you withdraw money from your Roth IRA at retirement, the entire withdrawal is tax free.
Another advantage of Roth IRAs is that you can generally withdraw your contributions (not interest or other earnings) if you need to, without penalty. This may make you feel more comfortable contributing if you're afraid you may need the money for an emergency.
If you are an employee or are self-employed, you contribute to the Social Security system your entire working life. If you work after full retirement age, you may even pay Social Security tax at the same time you're taking Social Security benefits.
The decisions you make about when you start taking Social Security benefits and how you take them are very important. The longer you put off taking Social Security benefits (up to a point), the more you will receive in monthly benefits.
If you are or have been married, deciding how to take Social Security benefits becomes more complex. You may be able to claim Social Security benefits based on your current or former spouse.
In some cases, you may be better off claiming your own benefits, and then switching over to benefits based on a former spouse. If your former spouse has more than one spouse who can claim benefits based on his or her earnings, the benefits one spouse claims do not affect the benefits available for another spouse.
You can get answers to questions about your own Social Security benefits by creating an account on the Social Security website at ssa.gov.
When you start taking retirement distributions, the way they affect your taxes depends on the type of plan and other factors.
The general rule is that you pay tax before you contribute it to a retirement plan, you pay tax when you withdraw money from the plan, or some combination of the two.
If you take qualified distributions from a deductible traditional IRA, the distributions are taxable income. The same is true of distributions from deductible 401(k) plans and most other plans that you contributed to with pre-tax money.
If you take qualified distributions from a Roth IRA, you don't include the distributions in taxable income.
When you receive retirement benefits from a pension plan or other qualified plan to which you made after-tax contributions, you may pay tax on only part of the distributions. The Form 1099-R you receive from the financial institution may tell you how much of your distributions are taxable.
February 10 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full.
February 10 — Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.
February 10 — Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.
February 10 — Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.
February 10 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer Details
February 15 — All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2017 Details
February 15 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.
February 15 — All employers
Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2017, but did not give you Form W4 to continue the exemption this year.
February 15 — Individuals
If you claimed exemption from income tax withholding last year on the Form W-4, you must file a new Form W-04 by this date to continue your exemption for another year Details
February 19 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (Washington's Birthday) Details
February 28 — All businesses
File information returns (for example, Forms 1099) for certain payments you made during 2017.
February 28 — Payers of gambling winnings.
File Form 1096 along with Copy A of all the Forms W2G you issued for 2017. If you file Forms W2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to 03-31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains 01-31.
February 28 — All employers
File Form W3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, along with Copy A of all the Forms W2 you issued for 2017. If you file Forms W2 electronically, your due date for filing them with the SSA will be extended to 03-31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains 01-31.
February 28 — Large food and beverage establishment employers
File Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips. Use Form 8027T, Transmittal of Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips, to summarize and transmit Forms 8027 if you have more than one establishment. If you file Forms 8027 electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to 03-31.