Taxable, Tax-Deferred, or Tax-Free?
Maintaining a mix of taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-free accounts offers flexibility in managing income each year. However, determining when and how to tap each type of account and asset can be tricky. Consider the following points:
Taxable accounts. Income from most dividends and fixed-income investments and gains from the sale of securities held 12 months or less are generally taxed at federal rates as high as 37%. By contrast, qualified dividends and gains from the sale of securities held longer than 12 months are generally taxed at lower capital gains rates, which max out at 20%.
Tax-deferred accounts. Distributions from traditional IRAs, traditional work-sponsored plans, and annuities are also generally subject to federal income tax. On the other hand, company stock held in a qualified work-sponsored plan is typically treated differently. Provided certain rules are followed, a portion of the stock’s value is generally taxed at the capital gains rate, no matter when it’s sold; however, if the stock is rolled into a traditional IRA, it loses this special tax treatment.2
Tax-free accounts. Qualified distributions from Roth accounts and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are tax-free and therefore will not affect Social Security taxability and Medicare premiums. Moreover, some types of fixed-income investments offer tax-free income at the federal and/or state levels.3
One income-management strategy retirees often follow is to tap taxable accounts in the earlier years of retirement in order to allow the other accounts to continue benefiting from tax-deferred growth. However, traditional IRAs and workplace plans cannot grow indefinitely. Account holders must begin taking minimum distributions after they reach age 73 (for those who reach age 72 after December 31, 2022). Depending on an account’s total value, an RMD could bump an individual or couple into a higher tax bracket. (RMDs are not required from Roth IRAs and, beginning in 2024, work-based plan Roth accounts during the primary account holder’s lifetime.)
State taxes are also a factor. Currently, seven states impose no income taxes, while New Hampshire taxes dividend and interest income and Washington taxes the capital gains of high earners. Twelve states tax at least a portion of a retiree’s Social Security benefits.
Finally, both current and future retirees will want to monitor congressional actions over the next few years. That’s because today’s historically low marginal tax rates are scheduled to revert to higher levels in 2026, unless legislation is enacted (see table).
Putting together a retirement-income strategy that strives to manage taxes is a complex task indeed. Investors may want to seek the help of a qualified tax or financial professional before making any final decisions.4
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2023
Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, LP (“CFS”) a registered broker-dealer(Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or other wise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. The Credit Union has contracted with CFS for investment services. Atria Wealth Solutions, Inc. (“Atria”) is a modern wealth management solutions holding company. Atria is not a registered broker-dealer and/or Registered Investment Advisor and does not provide investment advice. Investment advice is only provided through Atria’s subsidiaries. CUSO Financial Services, LP is a subsidiary of Atria.