taxes

An Overlooked Tax Break for Part-Timers

Semiretired or part-time workers saving money in an IRA or other retirement plan may qualify for an often-ignored tax credit that will lower their tax bill.

Question: I retired a few years ago, but I still get paid to do some consulting work, so I contribute to a Roth IRA. Can I qualify for the retirement savers' tax credit, too?

Answer: If your annual income is less than the cutoff, you can qualify for the retirement savers' tax credit. This frequently overlooked tax break is worth up to $1,000 per person ($2,000 for joint filers) if you contribute to a retirement savings account, such as a 401(k), traditional or Roth IRA, 403(b), 457, Simplified Employee Pension, SIMPLE or the federal Thrift Savings Plan.

The lower your income, the larger the credit. The maximum credit is worth 50% of your retirement-savings contribution for the year (up to $2,000 in contributions per person, with a maximum credit of $1,000). To claim the full credit on your 2017 federal tax return, your adjusted gross income must be less than $38,000 if you're married filing jointly, $28,500 if filing as head of household, or $19,000 if single or married filing separately. You can claim a credit for 20% of your contribution if your income is $38,001 to $41,000 if married filing jointly, $28,501 to $30,750 if filing as head of household, or $19,001 to $20,500 if single or married filing separately. And you can get a credit worth 10% of your contribution if your income is $41,001 to $63,000 if married filing jointly, $30,751 to $47,250 if filing as head of household, or $20,501 to $31,500 if single or married filing separately. You aren't eligible for the credit for 2017 if your income is more than that. To see the slightly higher income limits for 2018, go to the IRS's Retirement Savings Contribution Credits page.

You must also meet other criteria to qualify for the credit. You must be 18 or older, not a full-time student and not claimed as a dependent on another person's tax return. A lot of people overlook this credit in your situation (they are partially retired and their income has dropped, but they still earn some money and contribute to an IRA or other retirement savings plan).

To claim the credit, file Form 8880, Credit for Qualify Retirement Savings Contributions, with your 2017 tax return. This is a credit, not a deduction, so it lowers your tax liability dollar for dollar.

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