Graduating this spring? Congratulations! Graduation is a huge milestone along the road of adulthood. It marks a shift into a new chapter of your life, and, with it, your tax situation will inevitably change.
Understand your tax obligation
Up to this point, what role have you had in your tax situation? Rein in your record keeping—this means collecting the documents that detail your sources of income, receipts, student loan interest payments, and any interest you earn on your accounts. If you’re self-employed, you must keep records of your tax-deductible expenses, and consult your Simma Flottemesch & Orenstein CPA to determine your estimated tax payments for the year.
Take interest in your interest
When you’re repaying your student loans, you’re also repaying the added interest. When it comes time to do your taxes, you can subtract the interest you pay from your taxable income. If you earned less than $65,000, you can deduct up to $2,500 from your taxable income. If you earned between $65,000 and $80,000, the maximum deduction amount is reduced.
*Note: If the loan is in your parents’ name, he or she receive the deduction. If the loan is in your name, but you’re a dependent on your parent’s tax return, neither receive the deduction.
Continue your education
In today’s job market, a lower level degree may not achieve all of the skills training or job requirements you need. If you opt to continue your education, utilize the Lifetime Learning Credit. As a single filer, if your modified adjusted gross income is $65,000 or less ($130,000 if you’re filing a joint return), the credit could help you recoup up to $2,000 per year spent on post-secondary coursework. While this credit doesn’t require that you are enrolled in a degree program, you must receiving the coursework from an eligible educational institution.
Utilize company programs
It is becoming less common for recent graduates to receive benefits in the workplace. So, if your employer offers benefits, utilize them. Contribute as much as you can to the company 401(k)—you’ll be receiving free money down the road if your company offers a contribution matching program. Know when enrollment deadlines for HSAs and FSAs roll around in your workplace. These accounts shelter your funds from taxation.
Save, save, save
Retirement may seem like a long ways off, but saving early will set you up for success later in life. You can deduct up to $5,500 of your contributions to a traditional IRA each year. This money will only grow during your lifetime. What’s more, you may qualify for the saver’s credit. This credit could reduce your tax bill by up to $1,000 ($2,000 if married filing jointly). The value of your individual credit is determined by your contributions. Consult your Simma Flottemesch & Orenstein professional for details that apply to your individual situation.
Stash from your side gig
Freelance and contract positions are an expanding realm in the modern job market. There’s a sense of freedom and empowerment that comes from being self-employed, but your taxes aren’t automatically being withheld from your income throughout the year. Rather than face a huge tax bill in the spring (and maybe a penalty for not making estimated payments), most would advise that you set aside 25 percent of what you earn.
With this step, you’re facing numerous life changes, including your tax scenario. Arm yourself with the knowledge to confidently carry forward, and consult your tax professional for changes that are specific to your situation.