Manage your taxes

Key Points

  • Distributions of earnings and pre-tax contributions are generally taxable.
  • Distributions of after-tax contributions are generally not taxable.
  • Qualified distributions from a Roth IRA account are tax-free.

Your tax situation can change rapidly throughout retirement. Applying appropriate tax strategies can help you learn how to reduce the taxes you owe so you keep more of the money you've earned and invested.

Knowing what is and isn't taxable

Understanding which sources of retirement income are taxable and which are non-taxable can be tricky. These guidelines can help you get started by looking at some typical retirement income sources. When evaluating your options, be sure to consider all sources of income, and work with your advisor and tax professional to determine what makes sense for your unique situation.

 

Taxable Non-taxable
Social Security – up to 85% of your Social Security benefits may be taxable depending on the amount of additional income you have from other sources Social Security – if your income is below certain limits
Withdrawals of earnings and pre-tax contributions from IRAs, 401(k)s, and other retirement plans Withdrawals of after-tax contributions from 401(k)s, IRAs and other retirement savings plans (whether withdrawals are considered to be from after-tax or pre-tax contributions are based on the law and will depend on ordering rules applicable to the account)
Pension payments Qualifying withdrawals from Roth 401(k)s, Roth IRAs, and Roth 403(b)s

To help you determine what, if any, part of your Social Security is taxable, the IRS has created a series of worksheets found in IRS Publication 915 (Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits). The calculation is part of filling out your 1040 and is found in the Form 1040 instructions.

Minimizing taxes when possible

Work with your tax advisor to help reduce the amount of taxes you may pay during retirement by considering the following:

  • Possible advantages of deductions available to you.
  • If you itemize, use charitable gifts to potentially lower your taxable income.
  • Realize long-term capital gains if they will be in the 10 percent and 15 percent ordinary income tax brackets – there is a 0 percent rate on them.
  • If you're in a higher tax bracket, consider selling stock at a loss to offset current gains and up to $3,000 of ordinary income. Unused capital losses can be carried forward.
  • You may be able to lower your lifetime taxes by spreading withdrawals from your IRA or 401(k) over your lifetime (even before age 70-1/2).
  • The sale of your home. You may be able to exclude capital gain on the sale of your personal residence up to $250,000 if you are single and $500,000 if you are married (and filing a joint return).
  • Investments in municipal bonds to generate tax-free income if you are in a higher tax bracket.
  • Whether bunching itemized deductions in any given year will be better than the standard deduction.

Sometimes it makes sense to pay taxes now to lessen your future tax liability, especially if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket in the future. If you might be in this situation, consider converting part, or all, of your traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs. 

The benefits of working with a financial advisor and tax professional

Your advisor can help you balance your financial priorities with tax implications by helping you create a lifetime plan that meets both your personal and financial goals. Because your Ameriprise financial advisor understands your finances, he or she may also be able to recommend a tax professional for you. Working together, your Ameriprise financial advisor and your tax professional can help structure your investments and retirement distributions for tax efficiency.