What’s with the Corrected 1099s?

iStock_000085316771_XXXLargeIt’s tax season, and like last year, you received a corrected 1099 in the mail from your account’s custodian, such as Charles Schwab. If you already filed your taxes and are just receiving the corrected 1099 online or by mail, there’s no need to panic.

Revised 1099s are commonplace, and in the majority of cases, the custodian isn’t causing the revisions or holding up the process. Custodians are, however, required to issue a corrected 1099—no matter how insignificant the changes are—so they can give account owners the most accurate, up-to-date information for filing their taxes before the April 15 tax deadline.

To produce a 1099, custodians receive and aggregate all available information relating to distributions made from investments in an account during the previous calendar year. This information includes the character of distributions, such as dividends, qualified dividends, interest, capital gains or return of principal. One such investment is a mutual fund, which is often composed of 100s if not 1000s of securities. A diversified portfolio is often made up of 10 or more mutual funds, and if just one of these securities within a mutual fund issues a correction, the 1099 may need to be revised.

If you received a revised/corrected 1099 and already filed your taxes, you may not have to do anything. The revisions might not be meaningful enough to require filing an amended return. The 1099-DIV, related to the characterization of dividends, is the most commonly revised 1099 form. If the revisions end up being significant enough to impact your tax return, then you can always file an amended return with the correct information. If this leads to a refund, then you have three years from your original filing date to file an amended return to receive the refund. If the revision leads to owing more taxes, filing an amended return as soon as possible will save you on interest and penalties.

Waiting until closer to the April 15 deadline to file your taxes reduces the risk of receiving a corrected 1099 and having to file an amended return reflecting the changes.

Tax provisions in the American Taxpayer Relief Act

The American Taxpayer Relief Act, passed by Congress on January 1, 2013, contains many far-reaching tax provisions. In addition to extending many tax items that had expired or were due to expire, the act also made permanent many provisions of previous tax acts. The tax features of this act are too numerous to list here, but the most comprehensive description of these changes I have found is this Journal of Accountancy article.

I highly recommend you read this article or consult a qualified tax professional to assess the impact of this act on your personal situation.

2013 retirement contribution limits

As we near the end of 2012, it’s time to start thinking about your finances for 2013. While some year-end planning might still be needed, it’s not too early to start thinking about next year. Many employers will start having their open enrollment periods over the next few weeks, and this is a great time to review your retirement plan contributions.

The new 2013 retirement contribution limits are as follows:

  • The elective deferral contribution limit for 401(k), 403(b) and most 457 plans increased to $17,500 from $17,000 in 2012.
  • The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and older into those same plans remains unchanged at $5,500 for 2013.
  • The maximum total contributions into a defined contribution plan rise to $51,000 for 2013 compared to $50,000 for 2012. For those aged 50 and older, the limit is $56,500.
  • If you participate in a Simple IRA plan, the salary reduction contribution limit increases to $12,000 in 2013, up from $11,500 in 2012. The catch-up contribution remains at $2,500.
  • The limit for IRA and Roth contributions increased to $5,500 from $5,000 in 2012. The catch-up contribution remains at $1,000 for 2013.
  • For traditional IRAs, there are a few different scenarios where different income limitations apply. These income limits increased from years prior and need to be looked at in more detail for each specific situation.
  • For Roth IRAs, the AGI phase out range is $178k-$188k for married couples filing jointly. For single and heads of households, the phase-out range is $112,000-$127,000.

If you’d like to learn more, you can read the IRS press release here.

Hedging higher tax rates with Roth conversions

With the Bush-era tax cuts set to expire at the end of 2012, many investors are seeking ways to hedge against a potential increase in tax rates for 2013 and beyond. One option that should not be overlooked is the use of Roth conversions.

A Roth conversion allows you to pay tax on the converted IRA assets now, with those assets then growing tax-free for the rest of your life. It is generally preferable to defer taxes for as long as possible, but in a situation where tax rates may increase in the future, it may be worth locking in the taxes at today’s rates. For example, the top tax rate in 2012 is 35%; In 2013, the top tax rate may be as high as 43.4% (39.6% top marginal rate plus the 3.8% “Medicare surtax”). If tax rates don’t increase, you can always undo the conversion by recharacterizing the Roth back to a traditional IRA. As long as a recharacterization is done by the extended due date of the tax return (October 15th), you’ll just be back to where you started.

It is also important to recognize that a Roth conversion may bump you up into a higher tax bracket in the year of the conversion, depending on the amount converted. In that case, you should consider a partial conversion, where you only convert enough to stay within your current tax bracket. This is where the assistance of a tax professional can be invaluable.

Everyone’s situation is different, and whether a Roth conversion makes sense for you will depend on your particular circumstances and desires. Your financial advisor and CPA can help you weigh the costs and benefits of such a strategy to determine if it is right for you.