It’s hard to believe that the new year is upon us, and with the transition to 2016, the specter of taxes looms as large as ever. If you are struggling to pay your tax bill, don’t go in debt to the IRS. A loan from loved ones, part-time consulting work, or the reliable income offered by a reverse mortgage can all help dig you out of a hole. But don’t be so quick to fork over your hard-earned money! Even the IRS advises seniors to be mindful of tax breaks that can reduce their total tax bill. As a starting point, check out these deductions you might not already be using.
Mortgages and Home Sales
The mortgage interest deduction is a cornerstone of tax policy that most seniors know about. What you might not know is that, if you sell your home, you may not have to claim the profits on your income tax returns. If you have lived in your home for at least two of the last five years and the profits are less than $250,000—or $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly—you don’t have to claim them on your tax returns. If you plan to sell your home to move to a smaller place or retirement community, don’t forget about this important benefit.
Until 2017, seniors over the age of 65 can deduct all medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income (AGI). In 2017, the figure becomes 10%. You might be surprised by how much you spend on health care expenses, so don’t forget about these important deductions:
- Insurance premiums
- Prescription drug expenses
- Medical visits
- Dental, mental health, acupuncture, chiropractic, and other medical providers
- Medical supplies, such as a CPAP machine or back brace
Your investments probably figure prominently in your retirement income. But the fact that you’re retired doesn’t mean you have to stop investing. Indeed, continuing investments can keep you going well into your second century! You can deduct costs associated with making investments, including financial advisors, fees for online services, fees to brokers, the costs of a safe deposit box, and tools—such as smartphone apps or a limited-purpose laptop—you use to help you invest.
Part-Time Business Expenses
Retirement doesn’t mean you have to stop working. Seventy-five percent of Americans say they want to work as long as they can. Whether you’re finally getting the chance to indulge a hobby, are taking on consulting work, or getting a part-time job to supplement your income, you can deduct expenses associated with part-time work, including:
- Memberships on freelancing or job search sites
- Business expenses such as office furniture
- Advertising such as business cards or Internet ads
- Work-related educational materials, including books and continuing education seminars
- Professional memberships and fees, such as membership in a Bar Association for lawyers, or a professional advocacy organization for other professionals
You probably already know that you can deduct charitable giving—and if you don’t, it’s time to start! It’s not just cash donations that are deductible, though. Many seniors donate old clothes, home supplies, and even cars. Doing so does more than clear the clutter. It can also earn you a tax break. You can generally deduct fair market value of your charitable donations, but you’ll need to have a receipt proving you made the donation.
Annie Doisy is a reverse mortgage expert who helps seniors enhance their lives by taking advantage of the equity in their homes. Annie writes for ReverseMortgages.com where her goal is to educate consumers on a wide range of topics around mortgages and other financial services.