Do You Pay Income Taxes in Retirement?


As you get closer to retirement, one question that may cross your mind is whether you still have to pay income taxes? This is a key question for retirees since typically they no longer earn a steady income. However, taxes are almost inevitable. So, with the proper planning, you can lower or potentially eliminate your income tax burden during retirement.

Taxes are certain

While retirement ends steady earnings and the daily commute to the office and never-ending Zoom meetings, one thing that remains unchanged is income taxes.

Therefore, to plan properly, it’s important to understand what taxes you must pay when you are retired and what portion of your income is taxable. The following are some basics considerations:

  • Some withdrawals from an annuity are taxable. An annuity is tax-deferred, which means you don’t pay income taxes until you begin withdrawing money. The IRS taxes withdrawals depending on whether you have a qualified or non-qualified annuity. Withdrawals from a qualified annuity are taxable. When you make a withdrawal from a non-qualified annuity only the earnings are taxable.
  • Funds from a tax-deferred investment are taxable. 401(k)’s and IRA’s are tax-deferred investments. Contributions to a tax-deferred account are not-taxed while the opposite is true when it’s time to withdraw your money. When you start withdrawing from a traditional IRA, the taxable amount is based on earnings. Any money you from your 401(k) is taxable.
  • Social Security benefits can be taxable. Retirees do not have a steady paycheck coming in, which means there are no federal tax, Social Security, or Medicare to pay. However, believe it or not, your Social Security benefits can be taxed. The taxable amount depends on any other retirement income you receive. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the IRS can tax up to 85% of your Social Security benefits.

How to lower your tax bill in retirement

Taxes in retirement could make up a large portion of your expenses, which is one reason to make sure you plan well. Although the part of your income that’s taxable varies, there are several tools you should be aware of that can help decrease or eliminate your taxes in retirement.

As you begin your financial planning, consider some of the following strategies:

  • Contribute to a Roth IRA. Think about opening a Roth IRA or, convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. With a Roth IRA, you are not taxed on earnings or distributions in retirement. You must follow certain rules, for example, you must keep the account open for a minimum of five years.
  • Set up a health savings account. Contributions to a health savings account (HSA) account are tax-deductible, and the earnings and withdrawals you make for qualified medical expenses are tax-free. Therefore, an HSA serves two important purposes in retirement: reducing or eliminating taxes and providing an extra income source to cover healthcare costs. For 2022, the maximum contribution individuals can make is $3,650. For families, the maximum is $7,300. Also, those aged 55 and older may qualify for an annual $1,000 catch-up contribution.
  • Take advantage of untaxable income sources. For example, the proceeds you gain from selling your primary home are not taxable. The non-taxable proceeds from a home sale vary depending on whether you are single or married. You can also give some of your assets to family members to lower or avoid estate taxes.

Plan your retirement properly

Whether you’ve already started planning for retirement or are just about to start, it’s never too early or too late to talk to a financial advisor. A financial advisor will help you create a retirement plan that’s best suited for you and can provide guidance by adjusting your current investments.

Whether you start early or late, you’ll find that discussing your financial situation with an experienced financial advisor is beneficial in planning for retirement properly. This is especially true with so many investment and retirement options, each with its own unique and often overwhelming tax rules. Contacting a qualified financial advisor will certainly help you figure out if you’re on the right track or if there are other better options available for you.

Learn more about how taxes can affect your retirement by attending one of our Retirement Planning 101 Classes.

Recurring Income in your Retirement?

When thinking about retirement, you should make sure to have a clear understanding of savings vs. income. When thinking about retirement, many think about a particular savings amount that they would like to reach. This type of thinking comes from how general purchases are made. If you want to buy a computer, you would save the amount of money that you would need to buy a computer. However, saving for retirement is not as easy.

The issue with retirement planning is that you do not know how exactly your investments will perform. You also do not know how long you will live. When thinking about retirement, many recommend that you have at least 70%-80% of your pre-retirement income. Considering that you might spend additional money on travel and leisure in retirement, only being able to spend 70%-80% of your pre-retirement income may not be comfortable.

You should carefully plan how you want to live in retirement so that you can determine the income that you need. Reducing your expenses on housing and transportation can positively impact your budget and give you more flexibility. Once you determine the income level that you will need, you should determine the approximate amount of savings that you will need. Figuring out your desired lifestyle is an important part of determining your needed savings and income.

Many individuals do not truly know how much money they would need to comfortably retire. For example, you are only supposed to withdraw 4%-6% every year of your savings for retirement. If you have $300,000 saved, you would only be able to withdraw $12,000 to $18,000. According to SmartAsset, the median average net worth for a head of household aged 55-64 in the United States is only $187,300. For many of them, Social Security benefits that average $1,354 is there only source of income. Considering the somewhat fragile state of Social Security, relying on Social Security for a significant part of retirement is not a good idea.

Many individuals planning for retirement today are planning to work in their retirement. The reality is that working when older can become difficult because of health issues. There is also a good amount of age discrimination in many companies. Obtaining a new job at 55 years of age is difficult. At 70 years of age, obtaining a new job can be nearly impossible. Also, if your spouse needs support, working in your later years can no longer be an option.

Another important point in determining your savings and income needs is determining what sort of housing you will want in retirement. One of the goals of many is to own outright a house or apartment. However, you should consider the interest rate on your mortgage. If the expectation of your investment returns going forward is greater than the interest rate on your mortgage, you should keep your money in your investments.

Another consideration with housing is the liquidity of your assets. If most of your money is in your house, you will not be able to use those savings for emergency income. You should also consider the riskiness of your investments. Many recommend extremely safe investments for your savings. Having all of your investment in riskless investments is probably not a smart choice if you are planning to live many decades after you retire.

You should carefully consider your income needs. You should also plan for increasing healthcare costs as you age. Also, you should plan that as you age your mobility may decrease so that you will need to pay for additional expenses such as a stairlift that Medicare does not cover.

Charitable Giving in Retirement


As you planned and saved over the years of your working life, you might have also considered those in need. By year-end, you may have made enough charitable donations to qualified organizations to also enjoy the benefits of charitable giving. You felt good by doing good.

Now that you’ve retired, you can still take advantage of many charitable giving tax benefits. Here are some of the ways to do that.

Plan for giving

To start taking advantage of charitable giving during retirement, calculate your taxable income for this year and how much you can afford to give. You can use the standard deduction, which has increased considerably. You can deduct up to $600 in cash contributions to eligible organizations for the 2021 tax year. The maximum deduction for 2022 has not been determined but is likely to be either $300 or $600.

In any case, if you’re not sure how you’ll file or what your income might be, the best place to start is last year’s return. Unless your income or employment status has changed markedly, your prior year return is a good initial guide.

As noted, the IRS permitted standard-deduction taxpayers to deduct charitable donations of $300 in 2020 and $600 in 2021. The deduction should be available for 2022 gifts, although the IRS has not determined the allowable deduction.

Maximize your benefits

Here are other donation types which benefit not only the target organizations but also your own tax bill and pocketbook.

Qualified charitable distribution

You have the option to make a qualified charitable distribution directly from your IRA  to the charity of your choice. By contributing directly from your IRA, you can avoid paying income tax on the distribution. It also works when you must take Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) but don’t need the distribution for your daily living expenses. You can contribute up to the full amount of your RMD avoiding any tax consequences on the RMD for that year.

Form 1040 instructions explain how to account for charitable deductions. If the contribution came from a non-deductible IRA, additional tax documents may be required. Consult your tax professional for additional information.

Charitable gifts of assets

You can also make charitable gifts of assets, such as appreciated stocks or bonds. You won’t have to pay capital gains taxes on those instruments. By donating them, you deduct their appreciated fair market value without raising capital gains by selling them to donate cash to the qualified charitable organization. This allows the amount you would have paid in taxes to stay with the charity, which doesn’t pay taxes.

Once again, you’ll want to consider whether the standard deduction makes this a useful strategy for you or not. If you’re not itemizing, a $300 or $600 stock donation won’t avoid a lot of capital gains taxes.

Donor-advised funds

If you’re planning a lot of charitable giving and have sufficient assets, you can consider creating a donor-advised fund. This method lets you make distributions to the charitable organizations of your choice. A donor-advised fund is a separate account operated by a qualified charitable organization, called the sponsoring organization. The account includes contributions made by various donors.

As the donor, when you make a contribution, the organization has legal control over it. However, you or your representative can still advise about the distribution of funds and the investment of assets in the account.

You can deduct a significant portion of your donor-advised fund contribution. However, you should know that the IRS is aware of abuses related to the use of donor advised funds. So, do your due diligence and talk to your financial advisors to find the best options for you.

Charity still begins at home

As you can see, retiring doesn’t mean you can no longer make contributions to qualified charitable organizations. In fact, with IRAs and other retirement vehicles, it can even be easier to make them.

Another benefit of retirement is that you can make a gift that most charitable organizations are desperate for in today’s busy world — your time. At the beginning of this century, one in four Americans volunteered. Today that number is far less, especially since the pandemic began. Think about ways that you can be of value, both as a giver and a volunteer or even a cyber-volunteer. You’re still feeling good by doing good.