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Tax Tidbits

It’s tax time again! Here are some recent public tax updates we thought might be helpful.

On December 18, 2015, the President signed the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes of 2015 (PATH) Act. The Act extends over 50 tax provisions that had expired earlier in the year, as well as creates new changes that were not expected. The following is a brief summary of the Act’s major tax provisions impacting financial planning.

  • Teachers’ Classroom Expense Deduction – Elementary and secondary school teachers who work at least 900 hours per school year are allowed an above-the-line deduction of up to $250 for unreimbursed classroom expenses. This deduction is now permanent, and the $250 ceiling amount will be indexed for inflation beginning in 2016
  • Mortgage Insurance Premium Deduction – Many homeowners are required to obtain mortgage insurance. Such premium payments can be treated as deductible interest for a qualified residence through 2016. Mortgage interest premiums are treated in the same fashion as mortgage interest payments, meaning they are subject to the existing AGI phase-out rules that apply to the mortgage interest deduction.
  • Deduction for Qualified Tuition & Related Expenses – The above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses for the post-secondary education of a taxpayer, their spouse or a dependent has been extended for 2015 and 2016. The maximum deductible amount is $4,000 if AGI is less than $65,000 ($130,000 married joint filers) and $2,000 if AGI is between $65,000 -$80,000 ($130,000 – $160,000 married joint filers). No deduction is available if AGI exceeds $80,000 ($160,000 married joint filers).
  • Qualified Expenses for 529 Plans – Historically, computers have not been deemed a qualified educational expense unless specifically required for class. Now computers are deemed a qualified education expense including software, peripheral and even internet access expenses. The beneficiary must be enrolled at an eligible education institution. In addition, refunds of tuition paid from 529 accounts will remain a qualified expense if re-deposited to a 529 account within 60 days of the refund.
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit – This credit is for qualified education expenses paid for an eligible student for the first four years of higher education. One may be able to claim a credit of up to $2,500 for adjusted qualified education expenses paid for each student who qualifies for the credit, subject to adjusted gross income (AGI) phase-out amounts of $80,000 (single) and $160,000 (married filing jointly). This credit can be claimed in the same year the beneficiary takes a tax-free distribution from a 529 plan as long as the same expenses are not used for both benefits. The credit was scheduled to expire after 2017.
  • State and local sales tax deduction – The ability to claim an itemized deduction for state and local general sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes has been extended for 2015 and made permanent. This provision is particularly beneficial to residents of states that do not impose an income tax.

As you evaluate your finances this tax season, remember that as a member of Great Basin you always have access to Financial Consultant, Steve Lindquist. He can help you with retirement planning, estate planning, college funding, business planning, and more. No cost, no obligation. And he’s a pretty nice guy, too. Contact him today.

This information is for informational purposes only. We always recommend that you speak with a tax professional. Steve Lindquist does not give tax or legal advice or counsel. Securities offered through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC (doing insurance business in CA as CFGAN Insurance Agency), member FINRA/SIPC. Cetera is under separate ownership from any other named entity. California Insurance license # 0G30574 *Insurance noted not offered by Cetera.

Too Good To Be True?

I have this friend. I know, you thought all I did was sit on the computer to blog and update facebook. But, I have a friend, and she has been telling me for years about these books that tell her if she saves x amount for x years, she will be a millionaire by the time she’s 45! Awesome, sign me up! I never can seem to get started though; the 2 problems that immediately scare me away are a) that sounds way too good to be true and b) who has extra money every month to start this!? I am a numbers person so I wanted to spell it out (wait, numbers person or letters person?) and see the proof. Well I did, and I am here to dispel both of these myths!

A) It is NOT too good to be true. Let’s break it down by looking at an example of my friend’s saving plan compared to mine:

  • Let’s say that my friend started saving $1,000 per year in a mutual fund (earning 8% annually) when she was 18 years old.
  • She added $1,000 per year for a total of 15 years.
  • After 15 years, she stopped adding to the mutual fund and simply sat back and watched it grow.
  • Now let’s say that I waited until I was 36 years old to begin saving anything.
  • I deposit $1,000 per year in the same mutual fund at the same 8% rate for the next 30 years.

  • So, my friend invested a total of $15,000. I invested a total of $30,000. But by the time we’re 65, my friend has over three times as much as me in her savings account!
  • Well, in this example, neither one of us are millionaires, but the reason I showed this example using $1,000 per year is to point out how easy that really can be. $1,000 a year is only $83.33 per month. Or $16.67 per week. That’s only $2.38 per day! I could find that at the bottom of my purse every day in change probably!

So the point of the story? Well, there are several:

  1. The sooner you start saving, the more you can reap the rewards of compounding interest. Time really is money!
  2. It’s totally not too good to be true!
  3. Does your company offer a 401(k)? Start participating today. Especially if they have a match program!
  4. We have a financial consultant at the credit union that can talk to you about your savings plan. Give us a call today!

Stay tuned for next week’s blog when I help debunk my second myth – “B) who has the extra money every month to start this!?”


The assumed rate of return in this chart is hypothetical and does not represent the return of any particular investment.

Want to Retire Tomorrow?

I tell members they ­might be able to, but it depends on how much money they want to live on.  Some people prefer to work longer so they can have a higher income; others are willing to live on less if they can retire earlier.  That’s why financial planning is such an individual process.

Setting goals is the first most important step.  I worked with one member who needed to retire for health reasons but didn’t think he could until all his debts were paid off.  I helped him design an income plan in which he had a higher income until his debts were paid off and then lowered it for future years.  Another member wanted to retire early and thought he would use his 401k to pay off his house so he could live less expensively.  I showed him that he would pay so much in early withdrawal penalties and taxes it would use up his whole account.  Instead, we set up a monthly automatic withdrawal to pay his house payment and invested the rest of the funds for future growth.  Many members want a higher income stream early in retirement while they still have to pay for health insurance or want to do a lot of traveling.

So do you have enough to retire tomorrow?  It depends on what your goals are.  Get the clearest idea you can about what is most important.    If you are not ready, you’ll have to decide whether you want to retire later, live on less, save more, or some combination of the above.

Join us for a complimentary workshop on avoiding the “10 Most Common Retirement Mistakes” on Wednesday, February 29th at 5:30 p.m. This workshop will be held at the Main Branch. Please click here for details and to RSVP.

Betsy Dart is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM for the MEMBERS Financial Services programs located in Great Basin Federal Credit Union.   For more information on Betsy and her services, please click here.

The Backup Plan

I was asked a question I had never heard the other day.  A member asked me how to invest, knowing the world will end in 2012.  I was stumped for a minute, and then I said that if the world is going to end in 2012 he may as well spend all his money now.  However, he might want to consider a back-up plan, in case his information turns out to be wrong. 

A back-up plan is something we all should have.  You may not live to be 100 years old, but if you do, you don’t want to be broke.  You may love your job and want to work the rest of your life.  But what if you can’t?  What if your health fails?

Your financial plan not only needs to consider what you want to happen and what you want to do, but also a good back-up plan. It is not as fun to plan for, but it sure brings peace of mind. 

Betsy Dart is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (TM) for the MEMBERS Financial Services programs located in Great Basin Federal Credit Union. For more information on Betsy and her services, please click here.

Betsy also invites you to our complimentary “Estate Planning Essential” workshop on October 19th at 6:00 p.m.  Topics include wills, beneficiaries, powers of attorney, living trusts, asset protection and more.  RSVP by clicking here.