Year-End Tax Planning: Freelancer Options

It’s never too early to start a retirement plan and Freelance consultants are encouraged to set aside money whenever possible.  Be advised that contributions to a self-funded retirement plan are guided by your net earnings from self-employment.  If you net $80,000 this year,  then you may contribute 20%  of that amount,  or $16,000,  to a SEP IRA or Solo 401K plan.  If you are age 50 +,  a  “catch-up”  contribution of maximum $5,500  (in 2014)  can raise your total allowed retirement fund contribution  (and tax deduction)  to $21, 500.  The maximum amount that one can contribute in tax year 2014 is $52,000 and $57,500 for those age 50 +.  However,  if you are a high earner and you consult with a savvy tax specialist,  it may be possible to divert lots more tax-deductible dollars to a Solo 401K than is allowed with a SEP IRA.

 

SIMPLE IRA

The Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees Individual Retirement Account is a type of traditional IRA that is tailored for small business owners and self-employed Freelance consultants.  As with a traditional IRA,  contributions are tax-deductible and savings held in the account are tax-deferred until retirement withdrawals are made  (age 59 1/2 the youngest and age 70 1/2 the oldest).  If you have employees,  they may contribute to the SIMPLE IRA themselves and you the employer are required to make annual contributions as well,  whether or not the employee chooses to contribute.  You may make a 100%  match of the employee’s contribution,  but the maximum is 3% of your  net earnings,  or you may limit your employer contribution to 2%  of your  net earnings.

Any business entity that employs 100 or fewer workers may establish a SIMPLE IRA for employees and the owners,  too.  If you anticipate growth in your business that will likely cause you to hire even one full-time employee,  then consider a SIMPLE IRA,  because adding employees to the plan is relatively easy,  unlike other retirement plans.  The big downsides to SIMPLE IRA are 1).  the $12,000 annual contribution limit is considerably lower than that of SEP IRA and Solo 401K and 2). the  $2,5000  “catch-up contribution”  for Freelancers and business owners who are age 50 + is paltry by comparison as well.

However,  as a business owner or self-employed Freelance consultant,  you are your own employer and you may contribute to your SIMPLE IRA as both employer and employee.  You may add in up to 3% of net earnings,  in this example up to $2,400,  to contribute $14,4000 in 2014 and $2,500 extra if you are age 50 +.  Finally,  if you don’t make much money but you still want to set aside a little something for retirement,  if your net earnings from self-employment are $12,000 or less,  you may contribute 100% of the amount of your net earnings to your SIMPLE IRA.

ROTH 401K

A designated Roth Retirement Account is an individual retirement account that exists under the umbrella of your 401K,  solo or traditional  (if the 401K is set up to allow it).  Unlike SEP and Solo 401K,  Roth 401K contributions are made with after-tax income and when you are ready to access the account,  you will draw down tax-free money.   The 2014 maximum Roth 401K contribution is $5,500  ($6,500 for those age 50 +).

Your selection of a Roth designation within your 401K will depend upon your financial circumstances and you should meet with a reliable financial adviser in advance.  An individual or couple might choose a Roth when there are insufficient deductions to itemize at tax time,  thus negating the tax deduction benefit of the other retirement accounts .  The Roth,  paid with after-tax dollars,  gives account holders the benefit of tax-free income during retirement.   Wealthy Freelance consultants who are concerned about minimizing taxes during retirement may also benefit from the Roth.

You may have both a  (pre-tax)  Solo 401K and an  (after tax)  Roth 401K and it is permissible to use the salary-deferred portion of your Solo 401K to make a Roth 401K contribution.  Profit sharing Solo 401K contributions are not eligible to be made as a Roth 401K contribution,  since they are made pre-tax and are tax deductible and you cannot commingle the two.

While Roth 401K income-deferred contributions are NOT tax-deductible,  withdrawals made after age 59 1/2 are tax-free IF five years have passed since your first contribution to the Roth  (known as the 5 year rule).  One is NOT required to take distributions at least by age 70 1/2 and that feature may be useful for retirement cash flow planning.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

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