Taxpayers are always sensitive to the amount of tax that they pay, but perhaps even more so at this time of year when April 15th payments have just been made. When you are doing your tax planning for the current year, it can pay to take a close look at the adjustments to income you can take on the bottom of page 1 of your Form 1040 or Form 1040A. These adjustments, which reduce the taxable income you’ll declare, are known as above-the-line deductions—you enter them just above the last line on the page, where you report your adjusted gross income (AGI). Above-the-line deductions offer two key advantages. First, you are allowed to take the page 1 deductions regardless of whether you itemize deductions on Schedule A of your tax return. Second, above-the-line deductions reduce your AGI and, in many situations, also reduce your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). A lower AGI or MAGI, in turn, can provide tax savings on various tax return items. For instance, most taxpayers now can deduct medical expenses only to the extent they exceed 10% of AGI. With a lower AGI, you may qualify for a larger itemized medical deduction.
Looking at the lineup
There are more than a dozen categories of above-the-line deductions. They include:
IRAs. You can make contributions for 2014 until April 15 of 2015. Although many taxpayers won’t be able to deduct IRA contributions because of income and participation in an employer plan, some people might qualify for deductions. Example: Alice Baker is a home- maker with no earned income in 2014; her husband, Carl, is employed and participates in his company’s retirement plan. The couple’s MAGI for 2014 is over $116,000, so Carl cannot make a deductible IRA contribution for that year. However, if the couple’s 2014 MAGI is less than $181,000, Alice can make a fully tax deductible contribution of up to $5,500 ($6,500 if she is 50 or older).
Other retirement accounts. Contributions to such accounts also reduce your AGI. Moreover, if you had self-employment income in 2014, you can contribute to a simplified employee pension (SEP) plan until the due date of your 2014 tax return. Thus, with a filing extension, the SEP deadline can be October 15, 2015. You generally can contribute nearly 20% of your self-employment income, with a SEP contribution cap of $52,000 for 2014.
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). With certain high deductible health insurance plans, you can make tax-deductible contributions to an HSA; you can tap these accounts for health care costs without owing income tax. Again, if you qualify for a 2014 HSA contribution, the deadline is April 15, 2015. Contribution limits go up to $7,550 for someone age 55 or older with family coverage.
Self-employed health insurance. Self-employed individuals can deduct the premiums paid for any medical insurance, dental and long-term care insurance. Policies also can cover the worker’s spouse, dependents, and non-dependent children who were under age 27 at the end of last year. What’s more, the IRS has said that Medicare premiums paid by self-employed individuals can be taken as an above-the-line adjustment to income. There are some conditions that must be met to claim this deduction; our office can help you report the appropriate amount.
Alimony. Amounts you paid to your spouse or a former spouse under a divorce or separation decree that qualify as alimony for tax purposes are deductible here. Other above-the-line deductions include job-related moving expenses and interest payments on student loans. Our office can help you make the most of the various above-the-line adjustments to income on your tax return.