2 Important Breaks for Mature Taxpayers to Consider

If you're an "experienced" taxpayer, you're probably entitled to some age-based federal income tax breaks that younger taxpayers can't claim. Here are some details to help you take advantage of two valuable opportunities to lower your federal income tax obligations.

woman reviewing her taxes on her laptop

1. Make Retirement Account Catch-Up Contributions

If you're age 50 or older, you can make extra "catch-up" contributions each year to certain types of tax-favored retirement accounts. These extra contributions can make a significant difference in your retirement-age wealth.

IRA catch-up contributions. Once you've reached age 50, you can make extra catch-up contributions to your traditional IRA or Roth IRA. For 2024, the maximum catch-up contribution to these accounts is $1,000. You have until April 15, 2025, to make a catch-up contribution for the 2024 tax year, if you'll be 50 or older as of December 31, 2024.

Contributions to deductible IRAs create current tax savings, but your income may be too high to qualify. Contributions to Roth IRAs don't generate any up-front tax savings, but you can take tax-free withdrawals after age 59½ (assuming you've had at least one Roth account open for over five years). However, there are income restrictions on Roth contributions, too. Worst case, you can make extra nondeductible traditional IRA contributions and benefit from the account's tax-deferred earnings advantage.

Catch-up contributions to IRAs can add up. For example, Tom is currently 50. If he contributes an extra $1,000 to his IRA each year through age 65, he could have an extra nest egg worth $22,000, assuming a 4% annual return (rounded to the nearest $1,000). He would accumulate an extra $30,000, assuming an 8% annual return.  

Important: Making larger deductible contributions to a traditional IRA can lower your current income tax bills. Making additional Roth IRA contributions won't, but you'll be able to take more tax-free withdrawals later in life.

Company plan catch-up contributions. If your company's retirement plan allows it, you can also make extra salary-reduction contributions of up to $7,500 to your 401(k), 403(b) or 457(b) account for 2024. Salary-reduction contributions are subtracted from your taxable wages, so you effectively get a federal income tax deduction for making them. If your state has a personal income tax, you'll generally get a state tax deduction, too. You can use the resulting tax savings to help pay for part of your catch-up contribution, or you can set them aside in a taxable retirement savings account to further increase your retirement-age wealth.

Here's an example to show how making catch-up contributions to your company's plan can add up. Jerry is currently 50. If he contributes an extra $7,500 to his company's 401(k) plan each year through age 65, he could have an extra nest egg worth $164,000, assuming a 4% annual return (rounded to the nearest $1,000). He would accumulate an extra $227,000, assuming an 8% annual return. Plus, his extra contributions to the company plan would lower his income tax bills in the years the contributions were made.

2. Claim Your Rightful Medical Expense Deductions

Some taxpayers may automatically claim the standard deduction, instead of itemizing. That's because the current standard deduction amounts are quite generous, especially for seniors. For 2024, the standard deductions are as follows:

2024 Standard Deductions
2024 Standard Deductions

But failing to itemize if you qualify can be costly. Older taxpayers tend to have less mortgage interest expense and lower state and local tax bills that can be itemized than younger taxpayers. However, one itemizable outlay that can add up as you age is medical expenses.

Unfortunately, you can deduct medical expenses only to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). AGI includes all taxable income items and certain write-offs, such as deductible IRA contributions.

Will you have enough medical expenses in 2024 to itemize? Clearing the AGI hurdle may seem daunting at first. Of course, you're allowed to deduct out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as insurance co-payments, deductibles, and dental and vision care costs. In addition, seniors can deduct Medicare insurance premiums if they itemize.

The following Medicare insurance premiums qualify for purposes of claiming itemized medical expense deductions:

You can also count premiums for qualified long-term care (LTC) insurance for purposes of claiming itemized medical expense deductions. For each covered person, count the lesser of premiums paid in 2024 or the applicable age-based limit. For 2024, the age-based limits are as follows:

2024 LTC Age-Based Limits
2024 LTC Age-Based Limits

If your medical expenses exceed the 7.5%-of-AGI threshold, it's time to consider other categories of itemizable expenses that you might incur this year. Common examples include:

Add all your itemizable expenses to your medical expenses for 2024. If the total is greater than your standard deduction, you can itemize rather than claim the standard deduction this year, and lower your tax bill accordingly.

For More Information

To recap, mature taxpayers may be able to significantly reduce their tax bills by making deductible catch-up contributions to traditional IRAs or company plans. Some also may be eligible to claim itemized deductions for their medical expenses. Contact your tax advisor for help in getting the best tax results in your situation.

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