Avoid end-of-year tax traps

Friday - 12/30/2011, 11:26am EST

Ed Zurndorfer, registered employee benefit consultant

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By Jolie Lee
@jleewfed
Federal News Radio

You have hours left to give your charitable contribution in order to save on your 2011 taxes.

If you are mailing a cash or check, be sure to have it postmarked no later than Dec. 31, said registered employee benefit consultant Ed Zurndorfer.

He added, "Otherwise, you cannot deduct on your 2011 taxes. You'll have to wait until 2012. So you have to be careful about that."

If you use a credit card to contribute, make sure your card is charged no later than Dec. 31 to be able to deduct the contribution for 2011, Zurndorfer said.

People who want to give goods must keep in mind that the charities must have the goods in hand by Dec. 31.

"If you're thinking about calling up the Good Will or Value Village to come to your house to pick up your goods, I think it's too late for that. I don't think they're going to come today or tomorrow," he said.

Zurndorfer recommended you go to the charity yourself.

Capital assets

For people with capital assets — stocks, bonds, mutual bonds — today is the day to sell.

"If you sell your capital asset at a loss, you'll generate a so-called capital loss and that capital loss can be applied to any capital gains you may have," he said. "You will therefore save paying taxes on the capital gains."

You can save up to $3,000 in capital losses to be applied to other income, he added.

Anyone who owns a capital asset and has owned it for at least one year and sells it at a gain pays a flat 15 percent tax on it in the 25 percent or higher tax bracket. Anyone in the 10 or 15 percent tax bracket will pay no tax on the long-term capital gains.

However, there is talk in Congress of raising the rate to 20 percent starting in 2013, Zurndorfer said.

So if you have no capital assets, today is the day to buy if you want to sell your assets in a year and pay the lower rate, he said.

IRS 2011 tax table