Elec­tion can help us fo­cus on our taxes

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ni­cole Odeh Guest Colum­nist

Now that we have reached Novem­ber, the at­ten­tion of many is turn­ing (even more) to the up­com­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. And a great deal of the rhetoric sur­round­ing that sit­u­a­tion is turn­ing peo­ple’s at­ten­tion to tax talk.

As some­one who works in the tax in­dus­try, it is al­ways sur­pris­ing to me when events cause this to oc­cur. Taxes clearly in­ter­est me more than they do most peo­ple, and I find that many peo­ple, in­clud­ing some of my clients, do not like talk­ing about their tax sit­u­a­tion. I un­der­stand this, as no one likes to fully face watch­ing money they earned go­ing to other peo­ple.

I sup­pose that is the rea­son why the Trump/Clin­ton tax plans are get­ting so much at­ten­tion. Pick­ing a side gives us the chance to have some voice in how we want taxes to af­fect our pay­checks. I be­lieve ev­ery­one would do well, how­ever, to re­mem­ber that who­ever wins the elec­tion can­not sin­gle-hand­edly de­ter­mine tax pol­icy and in­sti­tute im­me­di­ate sweep­ing changes.

This does not mean that you can­not take con­trol of your tax sit­u­a­tion, though. What you do your­self with your own fi­nances will have a much greater ef­fect

on your bot­tom line than who­ever next takes up res­i­dence in the White House (espe­cially see­ing as their mov­ing day doesn’t come un­til 2017).

The time left in 2016 is dwin­dling, though, so if you want to make changes, now is the time. Again, I know these are is­sues that few en­joy talk­ing about, but by do­ing so, you can make

some changes to what your tax re­turn will look like when it is filled out early next year. So here are some things worth think­ing about be­fore tax sea­son re­ally be­gins.

First, has your in­come ex­pe­ri­enced any sig­nif­i­cant changes in the past year? If things there are mov­ing in the pos­i­tive di­rec­tion for you, con­grat­u­la­tions. You just also will want to en­sure that you are with­hold­ing enough in taxes at the same time, how­ever, to keep from fac­ing a sur­pris­ingly

large tax bill when you file next year.

It is pos­si­ble that you are mak­ing less money, too, which means that your tax bur­den is also de­creas­ing. It is pos­si­ble that you have al­ready with­held enough to cover your re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the year and chang­ing your with­hold­ing over these last few weeks of 2016 could be like giv­ing your­self a small raise.

There may be no bet­ter time of year to take home a lit­tle ex­tra, as the hol­i­day sea­son ap­proaches. We are

not all in the blessed po­si­tion to re­ceive one, but it is also a good time for ev­ery­one to think about mak­ing a char­i­ta­ble do­na­tion. You will feel good about do­ing it (and there is re­search that says do­nat­ing money is one of the best things to do with your funds to in­crease your own hap­pi­ness) and get the bonus of a po­ten­tial tax de­duc­tion. You can even give your­self some money in ways that ease your tax sit­u­a­tion. Most peo­ple have un­til the end of the year to add to 401(k) plans and

there are con­tri­bu­tions that can be made to IRAs un­til April 15 that will still af­fect your tax bot­tom line.

If, on the other hand, you have with­drawn money from a re­tire­ment ac­count, you will want to be sure that you have taken into ac­count how that trans­ac­tion af­fects your tax pic­ture. Other big events that may also have an ef­fect in­clude tak­ing any cap­i­tal gains or losses, pur­chas­ing real es­tate and start­ing or sell­ing a business.

This is a lot to think of

at once and the an­swers are never ob­vi­ous or easy. Hid­ing from them will not help, though. Fac­ing the sit­u­a­tion gives you the power to make pos­i­tive changes. Keep that in mind and if there’s some­thing you don’t un­der­stand, reach out to a tax pro­fes­sional.

Ni­cole Odeh

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