Over the last few months, I developed plans to minimize my tax bill, earn more money, and invest in the stock market. Much of this financial planning is motivated by an upcoming tax burden that’s sure to sting.
The problem starts with self-employed earnings. These are filed under Schedule C of the U.S. tax code. Unfortunately, those earnings don’t include withheld funds that support Medicare and Social Security. To account for this, the federal government requests about 30% in self-employment taxes.
As someone who’s funneled as much cash as possible to swiftly pay off student loans, I don’t necessarily have a lot of liquidity or extra funds to pay this tax bill (yet). The U.S. government doesn’t adequately account for someone paying off student loans when asking for the tax bill at the end of the year (and this is just the tip of the iceberg for financial aid concerns).
With these worries in mind, I took time today to restrict my spending ability, increase my regular income, and provide a bit of a tax shelter. And it all starts with dividends.
One of the most contentious elements in our tax code has to do with capital gains and dividend taxes. Whereas normal income from work is taxed at steep, progressive rates, these stock-affiliated earnings receive an artificial discount. If you make over $406,750 as a single person, you pay only a 20% tax on dividend earnings. And if you hold stocks/assets for over one year, you also qualify for this reduced rate.
For me, as a single filer with projected earnings of less than $36,900 for 2014, I’m looking at a brilliant tax rate of 0%! You heard me right: zero percent! That means for every stock that I hold onto for over one year or qualified dividend I receive, I should be able to keep the entirety of that income. Here’s where nifty financial planning will help lower my tax burden and increase the money in my pocket.
Today, I made a small (large for me, though) investment in Apple Inc. (AAPL). The stock is currently valued at $95.25, as of August 5, 2014. At that value, it is hardly one of the greatest income earners, but it pays a substantial 2% dividend yield. Simultaneously, Apple is still highly favorable among stock analysts — Yahoo Finance suggests that the collective price target is $104.79 within 1 year.
Based on stagnant yield growth, I should make about $31.96 per year from dividends. That’s all income that should receive a 0% tax due to those gains. Based on about a 10% (possible) appreciation in Apple for one year, any gains will be completely protected from taxation — even after I sell the stock. I will again have the 0% tax liability.
The political climate around changing capital gains taxes is terrible. The regulations should change — they need to stop benefiting the wealthy. Warren Buffett has frequently complained about this tax code inconsistency, and suggested that it unfairly rewards the wealthy. I think he knows a thing or two about investing, too! Until then, and as a low-income earner, I need to use this system to my advantage to reduce my tax liability and increase earnings.