December is time to look over your personal finances with an eye to how tax rules in the current and new year will affect your pocketbook. For example, keep an eye on health care.
Investopedia describes some tax advantages and disadvantages of the Affordable Care Act. It's a mixed bag next year, according to a post by Jean Folger. "Many people will be eligible for a new kind of tax credit, and if you are required to have health insurance and you don't have coverage, you will have to pay a penalty fee on your 2014 tax return," writes Folger. "Obamacare also brings tax increases for certain people, including a Medicare tax increase for high earners and increased taxes on net investment income (NII)."
The tax-collecting IRS has a surprisingly good home page, with fast links to forms, warnings about scams, ways to file electronically, and newsy updates and reports, such as the IRS plan to tighten oversight of some tax-exempt groups that spend money in connection with political campaigns. Also, as of now, the IRS has delayed the start of the tax-filing window by a week - to Jan. 28, because of October's government shutdown. That could change, though, as the time draws closer. The notice here says to stay tuned.
A year-end "tax to-do list" by financial planner Erin Baehr is posted at credit.com. Baehr has suggestions you may not think of on your own, such as making a mad dash to insulate your home before a year-end deadline on the tax credit for improvements that make your home energy-efficient. Another thing? If you are old enough and must make withdrawals from your IRA, you may find a tax benefit in donating to charity directly from the IRA account. Other ideas that can lead to reduced 2013 taxes if you take action now: Pay college tuition bills before Jan. 1, and get money into a 401(k) retirement account.
For more tips on taxes, read over Kiplinger.com's post by Sandra Block on "71 ways to cut your tax bill." Not all are year-end tips. The post reminds teachers to take advantage of a special $250 deduction for out-of-pocket classroom expenses - a deduction that will be subject to restrictions after 2013. And, after the aggressive rise this year in the stock market, you may get a big tax break by donating to charity appreciated stocks or mutual fund shares.
While you're at it, look over the list of eight tax breaks expiring at the end of 2013, posted by Susan Johnson at usnews.com. While items on the list may get extended into next year, you never know what's going to happen with the situation as it is in Washington.