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Year-End Tax Defferal Planning

Income tax rates will be lower next year than this year. In most cases there will be a tax benefit in shifting — deferring — some of your 2002 income to next year. This strategy is often overlooked, yet can result in hundreds of dollars, if not thousands in tax savings.

Deferral Strategies:

Self-employed persons typically defer income to next year by delaying billing for 2002 work until 2003. Employees may defer income by arranging in appropriate cases to have bonuses or other special compensation items paid in 2003. Investors can defer capital gains income by postponing sales to next year though such a move wasn’t created by the 2001 Tax Act's rate cuts since capital gains rates weren't changed.

You get the effect of income deferral by accelerating into 2002 itemized deductions that would otherwise fall into 2003. Examples include: prepayment of state and local as well as real estate taxes that would be owed for the current year anyway, but are usually paid as a fourth quarter estimate at the beginning of the following year, charitable contributions and investment advisory fees.

Deferrals don’t always work.

Deferral may not work in the following situations:

  1. The alternative minimum tax (AMT) can frustrate some deferral moves. One case is where taxable ordinary income is deferred leaving a higher proportion of tax preference and adjustment items to be hit by AMT. Another is where too much state income tax (not deductible for AMT) is accelerated.
  1. Time value of money. The more cash income you defer (through postponing income or accelerating deductions), the less money you have working for you now. Make sure the payoff from deferral (the taxes saved) is worth it.
  1. Estimated tax. Deferring income from 2002 to 2003 may not mean postponing tax payment for a full year. Remember quarterly estimated tax obligations for taxes not collected by withholding still need to be paid in a timely manner.

During year-end tax planning, one should explore the issues of deferral and its possible drawbacks:

(1) which items to defer and how to defer them,

(2) AMT, and

(3) the real payoff after time-value-of-money and estimated tax considerations.

For further information, contact Louis P. Stanasolovich, CFP™ at (412) 635-9210 or

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