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10 Tax Tips for 2020 for Individuals and Businesses

Daniel Epstein, CPA, MBA

Sr. Tax Director


  • These 10 2020 tax tips will help to minimize your tax liability.
  • Whether for your business, yourself, or your family, there’s still time to optimize your taxes before year-end.
10 Tax Tips for 2020

The year is almost over, but there’s still time to strategically minimize your tax liability. Consult with your Mercer Advisors team to help you make the right tax moves. These 10 tax tips for 2020 can help you save money:


2020 Tax Tips for Businesses


1. Maximize benefits for your employees (or yourself if you’re self-employed).

If you offer retirement plans or health savings accounts to your employees, have them review and maximize their contributions. If you don’t offer plans, you may have time to establish them.


2. Defer business payments in ways that can benefit you.

On an accrual basis, you should make sure your accounts receivables and customer deposits are current. On a cash basis, you can defer your invoicing or customer payment requests until after year-end. Besides reporting losses, you should use any credit carryovers that will expire by year’s end. Finally, if you run any businesses with your spouse, consider treating those ventures as disregarded entities.


3. Accelerate business expenses, including purchases.

Prepay for expenses where you can, and purchase assets that have advantageous depreciation rules by the end of December. Consider increasing your basis in partnerships or S-Corporations (e.g. contributing capital or loaning money to them) to deduct available losses, including business vehicle leases.


4. Optimize the new 20% deduction for qualified business income.

The 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act means deductions for you as a business owner. Consider your net profit in relation to your payroll to maximize credit. You should also think about separating out parts of your business in order to maximize your deductions. If you implement other tax tips from this article, they could bring your income under certain thresholds, which may increase your total 20% deduction.


2020 Tax Tips for Individuals


5. Optimize gains and losses.

While your advisor will optimize gains and losses within your investment portfolio, there are other ways to optimize your total tax liability. For example, pull together a list of all your sources of income for the year, and review the different sources, including wage income, pension income, social security, any side jobs, property sales, stock grants that vest, and even gains in accounts outside of Mercer Advisors, etc. In addition, ask your advisor about using methods like installment sales or like-kind exchanges when disposing assets. You can also take measures that can help you manage the Net Investment Tax. Finally, be aware of tips like the 14-day rental limit on your vacation home.


6. Take advantage of adjustments and credits.

Review your corporate benefits and maximize your cafeteria plan options. These plans allow for you to pay for childcare, health expenses, and parking/transit expenses on a tax-favored basis. They are often called HSA (health savings account), FSA (flexible spending arrangement), DCP (Dependent Care Program), and Parking and Transit. Routing your expenses through these accounts can create significant tax savings! If there are any unused amounts in a plan near year-end, it may still be possible to use them toward other qualifying expenses such as medical or dependent care (under Notice 2020-29). Ask your plan custodian for more details. Popular current tax credits include purchasing qualifying electric vehicles or solar equipment.


7. Consider Roth conversions.

Consider converting some of your Traditional IRA assets to a Roth IRA. Roth IRA’s are not subject to required minimum distribution requirements, and Roth withdrawals after you retire will be tax-free. Amounts converted would be taxable income this year, but it may make sense due to the long-term benefits of the conversion. Especially consider this if your income is lower than in previous years as you might be in a lower tax bracket than normal. Ask your advisor if a Roth conversion may be right for you this year.


8. Manage your standard deductions to minimize taxes.

If your annual itemized deductions are close to the standard deduction amount, consider ”bunching” your actual deductions, such as charitable contributions, into one tax year. Strategically, you can use actual deductions and the standard deduction in alternating years. Consider utilizing donor-advised funds or donating highly appreciated stock directly to charity. You will not be taxed on any gains when you donate the stock, which creates a significant tax-and-gifting advantage compared to selling the stock first, then donating the net proceeds. As a reminder, state and property taxes are now maxed at $10k per year, so it may not make sense to accelerate paying your property taxes in the current year if your municipality allows you to do so.


9. Leverage excess cash flow into tax-gifting opportunities.

Take advantage of the annual gift-tax exclusion, which allows you and your spouse to gift tax-exempt amounts of up to $15,000 to another person ($30,000 if you’re married and use a gift-splitting election) every year without requiring additional IRS paperwork. Consider gifting highly appreciated assets to recipients who may be subject to lower tax liabilities.


10. Be sure to factor in life events.

COVID-19 has affected many people’s businesses and life situations, so consider adjusting your wage withholdings or estimated tax payments based on recent changes. Inheritance, marriage, divorce, and higher education expenses, along with retirement, can affect your tax situation in different ways. Your status on December 31 determines your filing status. Make sure your advisor and tax advisor are aware of these changes as soon as they happen, so they don’t negatively impact your overall tax rate.

Start planning your tax strategy and consult with our tax advisors today.  For a complete list of 2021 federal quarterly tax payments, see our updated calendar.

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