Put Politics Aside and Consider Trump's Tax Plan a Gift
The tax plan President Donald Trump unveiled back in April was short on details but long on potential for retirees and pre-retirees.
SEE ALSO: The Retiree Tax Quiz
For those who stay informed and plan ahead, the plan could have significant impact for many retirees.
Trump's top economic aide, Gary Cohn, said in June that the goal is to release more information about the overhaul in September. Then the House and Senate will get involved ... so you might not want to start messing with your accounts just yet.
But if the tax reductions Trump is proposing eventually come to pass, you should be ready to make some moves. Given that our national debt is at almost $20 trillion, it may be a fire sale -- with the changes lasting only as long as this administration does.
What we do know is that a major part of the president's plan is to reduce the seven existing tax brackets to just three: 10%, 15% and 35%. It also would almost double the standard deduction, which for a married couple filing jointly would go from $12,700 to $24,000.
That will mean big tax savings for many retirees, and a golden opportunity to reduce various tax liabilities that are threatening to take a bite out of their retirement savings.
Although not appropriate for everyone, and of course we'll have to wait and see how Trump's plan plays out, there could be some opportunities ahead. For example, diligent savers who have been accumulating money in tax-deferred retirement accounts for years, even decades, might be able to blunt their looming tax consequences by accelerating their withdrawals or converting to a Roth IRA while taxes are low. Other tax-deferred financial vehicles, such as dividend-paying stocks or annuities, could be liquidated via structured distributions, again at these lower tax rates. There's also net unrealized tax appreciation on company stock to consider, as well as tax-basis planning.
Trump is also proposing the elimination of the alternative minimum tax, which is typically leveled against retirees or pre-retirees in northeastern states where state and property taxes are high. He wants to get rid of the estate tax altogether, which would allow certain high-net-worth taxpayers to move assets into trusts without any tax liability.
Even the rare individual whose taxes would increase under Trump might be able to override the negative implications with proper planning.
It doesn't matter if you're a Republican or a Democrat -- if Trump makes these changes stick, even for a little while, you should be prepared to take advantage. Consider this endorsement of tax planning by Judge Learned Hand in 1935:
"Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the Treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one's taxes. Over and over again the Courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everyone does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands."
This is what we do at our investment advisory firm every day. As a former tax attorney, I make it my mission to take fair advantage of tax breaks through detailed tax planning so my clients can retire with more of the nest egg they worked so hard to build. Essentially, we allow Uncle Sam to subsidize our client's retirement by paying fewer taxes so our clients can take home more of their hard-earned savings.
Make no mistake, this tax plan could be a retirement game-changer -- but you and your tax professional and financial adviser have to know how to make the most of it.
If you like President Trump, think of it as a promise fulfilled; if you don't, consider it an olive branch. But regardless of whether you're a Republican or Democrat, don't look this gift horse in the mouth.
Kim Franke-Folstad contributed to this article.
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Copyright 2017 The Kiplinger Washington Editors