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Year-End Planning: Taking Advantage of Employee Benefits

With the year-end approaching, employees can take the opportunity to revisit some of their benefits.  The following is a list explaining some of the common benefits and their potential tax ramifications.

  1. Do you have the opportunity to participate in a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Health Flexible Spending Account (FSA)? If enrolled through your employer, you may contribute to these plans pre-tax up to certain limits annually, and spend the money on qualified healthcare expenses such as deductibles, copays, and prescriptions.  If your employer offers both an HSA and FSA, you may want to consult your tax advisor to decide which is best for you.
  2. Your employer may also offer a dependent care FSA. Similar to a Health FSA, this account permits pre-tax contributions that can be withdrawn to pay for child care.  The maximum annual contribution limit is $5,000.
  3. Have you asked about your employer's qualified transportation benefits? This permits the employer to reimburse you tax free for transportation.  This includes transit passes, parking, vanpooling, and bicycle commuting.
  4. Year end is a good time to evaluate your retirement plans, and set goals for the future. The contribution limit to a 401(k) in 2016 is $18,000.  This is tax deferred income that can grow exponentially by retirement.  If you're nearing retirement, there are options too; the IRS permitted an extra contribution of $6,000 to your 401(k) in 2016 if you are 50 or older by year-end.
  5. Finally, it may be worth taking a look at your pay stub and seeing at what rate you are withholding. If you are not withholding enough, you may be subject to interest and penalties when you file your tax return.  If you are withholding too much, you are granting the IRS an interest free loan.  These are funds you could have put towards an FSA or retirement, which could in turn generate further tax savings.  In order to change your withholding, ask your employer for a Form W-4.

If you have questions on how these benefits may impact your individual tax situation, please contact your tax advisor.

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