New year, new tax updates. What you need to know for 2020

Personal Finance

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It’s never too early to resolve to save more for retirement and trim your tax bill.

The IRS has made inflation adjustments to a range of key figures, from the amount you can put in a 401(k) retirement plan at work to the individual income tax brackets that help you determine your tax rate.

See below for your new tax bracket in 2020.

Pay attention to your standard deduction for the 2020 tax year. The IRS has bumped it to $12,400 for singles, up from $12,200 in the prior year.

The standard deduction for married joint filers will be $24,800, up from $24,400 in 2019.

The additional standard deduction for older taxpayers and those who are blind are still available.

Workplace retirement savings

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Resolve to save a few extra dollars in your retirement account at work.

The IRS has raised the employee contribution limit for 401(k), 403(b) and most 457 plans to $19,500, up from $19,000 in 2019.

If you’re 50 or older, you can save an additional $6,500. That’s up from $6,000 in 2019.

The contribution limit for individual retirement accounts, whether traditional or Roth, is holding steady at $6,000, plus another $1,000 for savers 50 and over.

One caveat: The IRS limits high-income earners’ ability to make direct contributions to Roth IRAs — accounts in which you can save after-tax dollars, have the money grow tax-free and use it in retirement free of taxes.

In 2020, if your adjusted gross income exceeds $124,000 and you’re single ($196,000 for married couples filing jointly), you won’t be able to make a full contribution directly to a Roth IRA.

Instead, those savers might consider using a strategy known as the “backdoor Roth,” where they make a nondeductible contribution with after-tax dollars to a traditional IRA and then convert it to a Roth.

Health savings opportunities

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Got a high-deductible plan in 2020? You most likely have access to a health savings account.

These accounts allow you to put away pretax or tax-deductible money and have it grow free of taxes. You can take a tax-free withdrawal to cover qualified health expenses.

In 2020, you can save up to $3,550 if you’re an individual with self-only health coverage. That’s up from $3,500 in 2019. Account holders with family plans can save up to $7,100 in this account (up from $7,000 in 2019).

HSAs differ from health-care flexible spending accounts primarily in that you can roll over the HSA balance from one year to the next.

Health-care FSAs generally must be used by the end of the plan year.

The IRS also bumped up the amount you can save in a health-care FSA: It will be $2,750 in 2020, up from $2,700 in 2019.

Gift and estate tax savings

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Good news for people sitting on millions of dollars: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubled the amount that decedents can bequeath in death — or gift over their lifetime — and shield it from federal estate and gift taxes, which are 40%.

Before the tax overhaul, the gift and estate tax exemption was $5.49 million per person.

For 2020, the lifetime gift and estate tax exemption will be $11.58 million per individual, up from $11.4 million in 2019.

Finally, the annual gift exclusion — the amount you can give to any other person without it counting against your lifetime exemption — will hold steady at $15,000 for 2020.

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