By Bill Ringham, vice president, senior wealth strategist, RBC Wealth Management-U.S.
For something as certain in life as taxes, the hard-and-fast rules that people live by can be quite confusing and surprisingly subject to change.
I’m not talking about the intricacies of the U.S. tax code – keeping tabs on those rules is a full-time job to be left only to the experts. But there are a few high-level “rules” that most U.S. taxpayers believe to be true but aren’t.
These two in particular may surprise you:
Rule #1: Taxes are always due on April 15.
While that is certainly true most years, this year, the deadline for filing your individual tax return is actually April 18, 2016.
Because Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in Washington D.C. that is celebrated each year on April 16, falls on a Saturday in 2016, meaning it will be observed the day before on Friday, April 15. Local government offices – which in Washington D.C. include myriad federal government offices such as the Internal Revenue Service – will be closed in observance of the holiday, giving U.S. tax payers one more business day to file their 2015 taxes.
Little known fact: The same thing happened in 2007, when the observance Emancipation Day prompted the extension of the 2006 income tax filing deadline to April 17.
Rule #2: Any investment or contribution made outside of the Jan. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2015 window can’t be claimed on your 2015 taxes.
That’s a pretty good rule of thumb, but there are actually a few exceptions. The most important pertains to contributions to your individual retirement accounts.
Individuals can continue to make contributions to their traditional or Roth IRA right up until the filing deadline of April 18.
The rules on how much you can contribute, however, are still the same. Total annual contributions to your traditional and Roth IRAs combined cannot exceed $5,500 if you are under the age of 50; or $6,500 if you are age 50 or older.
Your contributions into your traditional IRA may or may not be deductible depending upon whether you participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, your tax filing status, and your household modified adjusted gross income. So, always check with your CPA to determine whether a deduction may be available to you and/or your spouse. Roth IRA contributions, on the other hand, are always non-deductible. Whether you are able to enjoy the benefit of a tax deduction on your contribution or not, saving for your retirement should be your first priority.
So, before you file your 2015 individual tax return, check conventional wisdom at the door. Doing so this year could save you both time and money.