Planning for Higher Tax Bills for Retirees

Planning for Higher Tax Bills for Retirees

October 13, 2021

Tax planning and financial planning go hand-in-hand. As you near retirement, avoiding tax planning could create major hurdles for your financial future. Here’s what you need to know about the potential impending tax hikes and what they could mean for your golden years.


There’s a common misconception that when you retire, your tax bills shrink, your tax returns become simpler and tax planning is a thing of the past. While that might be true for some, others find that the combination of Social Security, pensions, and withdrawals from retirement accounts increase their income in retirement and therefore may push them into a higher tax bracket.


With speculation about taxes possibly going up in the near future, your best course of action may be to incorporate tax strategies in your financial plan geared toward retirement. How much of your income will be taxable in retirement? What will your tax rate be after you retire? It's important to remember that today’s rates are low by historical standards, and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act expires after 2025. Here’s a couple ways to plan accordingly.

Open a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k)

Based on the premise that taxes will be higher in the future, a wise move is making contributions that can grow tax-free. Two vehicles toward that goal are a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k). Contributions are made after taxes, meaning your taxable income isn’t reduced by the amount of your contributions when filing your taxes. But the benefit is in retirement, as earnings can be withdrawn tax-free starting at age 59½.

Three differences between the Roth IRA and Roth 401(k):

  1. Roth 401(k)s have a higher contribution limit. Employees can save up to $19,500 in 2021, and workers older than 50 have a maximum limit of $26,000 per year. Roth IRA contributions are limited to $6,000 annually, while workers older than 50 can contribute $7,000.

  2. There is no required minimum distribution for a Roth IRA. However, there is an RMD for the Roth 401(k) beginning at age 72. You can avoid that RMD by rolling it into a Roth IRA when you retire.

  3. Investors in a Roth IRA have more control over their accounts than they do in a Roth 401(k). In a Roth IRA, investors can choose any type of investment – stocks, bonds, etc. – but in a 401(k), they are limited to the funds offered by their employers.

Consider the timing of Social Security benefits

You can begin receiving Social Security benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The later you start, the larger the benefit amount — so, if you don’t need the money right away, putting it off may be a good investment. Also, benefits are reduced if you start them before you reach full retirement age and continue to work.

Keep in mind that if your income from other sources exceeds certain thresholds, your Social Security benefits will become partially taxable. For example, married couples filing jointly with combined income over $44,000 are taxed on up to 85% of their Social Security benefits. (Combined income is adjusted gross income plus nontaxable interest plus half of Social Security benefits.)

Make Qualified Charitable Distributions

You’re required to begin RMDs from tax-deferred retirement accounts once you reach age 72 (up from 70½ for people born before July1, 1949) though you’re able to defer your first distribution until April 1st of the year following the year you reach age 72. RMDs are generally taxed as ordinary income and you must take them regardless of whether you need the money. As previously noted, a large RMD can push you into a higher tax bracket.

One strategy for reducing the amount of RMDs, at least if you’re charitably inclined, is to make a qualified charitable distribution (QCD). If you’re 70½ or older (this age didn’t increase when the RMD age increased), a QCD allows you to distribute up to $100,000 tax-free directly from an IRA to a qualified charity and to apply that amount toward your RMDs.

The funds aren’t included in your income, so you avoid tax on the entire amount, regardless of whether you itemize. In addition, the income-based limits on charitable deductions don’t apply. Any amount excluded from your income by virtue of the QCD is similarly excluded from being treated as a charitable deduction.


Final Thoughts


Making smart tax decisions can have a big impact on the amount of money someone has in retirement. Strategic withdrawals from Roth accounts can help retirees from creeping over income thresholds that cause these higher taxes and premiums.

At Agemy Financial Strategies, we have an array of will and retirement planning solutions to guide you through the entire process all with the help of our trusted financial planners. 

If you have any questions on our company, services, values and more, contact the team at Agemy Financial here today. Our highly experienced financial advisors in both Denver, Colorado and Guilford, Connecticut are waiting for your call!