Recently Divorced? Tax Strategies to Save Money in 2020

By Jacki Roessler, CDFA® On 11/18/2020

Newer divorcees have a unique position to take advantage of money-saving tax strategies in 2020. Jacki Roessler turns to her collegue Matt Trujillo, CFP®, for his year-end tax tips.

It’s an opportune time to discuss tax planning for the recently divorced. Let’s turn to a professional, my colleague Matt Trujillo, CFP®, for his year-end tax tips. Many of my clients have the benefit of working with my colleague Matt for their post-divorce financial planning needs. Matt is an enthusiastic advocate for clients when it comes to tax savings.

Right now, newer divorcees may be in a unique position to take advantage of money-saving tax strategies in 2020. 

Although they may be receiving substantial income, much of it might be non-taxable. Like child support for example. Any spousal support that began after January 1, 2019, is also treated as a non-taxable income. As some divorcing clients transition back into the workforce over the next few years, they may find themselves in the lowest tax bracket of their life. Low tax brackets can be used to an investors’ advantage when they have tax-savvy advice. 

  1. One of Matt’s key strategies is converting traditional IRA dollars into Roth IRAs. How do Roth Conversions save taxpayers over the long term? Money converted is treated as ordinary income. The long-term benefit of Roth IRA accounts is that the money grows income tax-free versus income tax-deferred growth in regular IRAs. When it’s withdrawn in retirement, there is no tax due. Plus, there are no required minimum distributions (RMDs) on Roth IRAs whereas RMDs are required beginning at age 72 in Regular IRAs. So while taxes are due at the time of conversion, Matt reminded me that clients in transition can take advantage of “locking in” their lower tax rate today by converting IRAs when they are in an extraordinarily low tax bracket. Of course, this doesn’t make sense for every divorced person, and often, it takes some careful planning that incorporates converting a set amount each year for years to be the most tax-efficient.

    Money converted into Roth IRAs must come out of the regular IRA by the end of the year to qualify.

  2. Another important strategy Matt employs is tax-efficient investing which involves tax-loss harvesting, tax gain harvesting, and appropriate asset allocation. Many divorced clients don’t realize the amount of money they lose on tax-inefficient investing; what is often referred to as “tax drag”. Loss harvesting involves selling positions that have decreased in value to realize a “capital loss” that offsets any capital gains realized in the same tax year. Losses can even be realized today and “carried over” to future tax years. With the market performance this year, many investors will have to report significant mutual fund capital gains. Offsetting gains with losses can save immediate dollars today. 

    Matt shared with me that tax-efficient asset allocation strategies are a key component of smart investing that novice investors may not be aware of. For example, do clients own municipal bonds and low turnover funds inside of their IRA accounts? These types of assets are best utilized in taxable accounts where their low anticipated return is in correlation with their tax efficiency. Holding them inside of retirement accounts is an unnecessary redundancy that may limit growth opportunities. 

The greatest takeaway for every new divorcee is that they should sit down with their financial advisor and tax professional to determine what they can do right now. If you wait until 2021, you may be leaving money on the table that could be in your pocket.

Any opinions are those of Jacki Roessler and Matt Trujillo and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. While we are familiar with the tax issues presented here, as financial advisors with Raymond James, we do not provide specific tax advice. You should speak to the appropriate tax professional in regards to your particular situation. All investing involves risks, including loss of principal amount invested. No investment or tax strategy can guarantee your objectives will be met. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

Tagged with: divorce, investment, roth, IRA, tax, strategies, cdfa, cfp