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Understanding Tax Rules by Age

By the time you've reached your mid-twenties, you've usually passed some of the biggest milestone ages—age 16, when you can get a driver's license; age 18, when you're legally an adult; or even age 25, when you can rent a vehicle without paying a "young driver" surcharge. You may assume there's little else to look forward to, age-wise, until retirement.

But your age, as well as the ages of your spouse and dependents, can directly impact some of the tax burdens and benefits you experience during your working life. Learn more about how your tax landscape can vary over your thirties, forties, fifties and beyond.

Tax Rules Through the Ages

Although tax rules can seem draconian, just about every tax rule and regulation has certain carve-outs and exceptions. Listed below are just a few of the age-specific rules that apply to federal taxpayers.

Age 13: Your Child Loses the Childcare Credit

If you pay childcare expenses for a dependent child, you may be entitled to a deduction of up to $3,000 (for one child) or $6,000 (for two or more children), depending on your actual out-of-pocket costs. However, once your child turns 13, this credit is no longer available unless the child is disabled and requires ongoing care.

Age 19 to 24: Your Child "Ages Out" as a Dependent

Taxpayers who wish to claim a child as a dependent must be able to show that the child is either younger than 19 years old or a student under 24 years old. (There are some exceptions, however, including adult children who are permanently disabled.)

Age 25: Child-Free Taxpayers Qualify for Earned Income Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, is a refundable tax credit that's designed to boost the cash reserves of low-income households, particularly those with children. However, single or married taxpayers who file jointly are eligible to claim the EITC once they turn 25. This eligibility continues until the taxpayer turns 65, so long as their income remains below the EITC earning thresholds.

Age 50: Taxpayers Qualify for "Catch Up" Retirement Contributions

Except for a small number of individuals who earn too much income to contribute to individual retirement accounts (IRAs), in 2019, taxpayers are entitled to contribute up to $6,000 per year to a traditional or Roth IRA. But taxpayers who turn 50 at some point during the tax year become eligible for an additional "catch up" contribution of $1,000 per year.

Age 55: Taxpayers Qualify for "Catch Up" Health Savings Account Contributions

Taxpayers who are covered by a high deductible health plan can contribute pre-tax funds to a health savings account (HSA). Taxpayers who will be 55 before the end of the tax year can add an additional $1,000 to their HSA contribution, for a total limit of $8,000 (for a family plan) or $4,500 (for an individual plan) in 2019.

How Does Age Impact Your Tax Burden?

Boomers, Millennials, Gen X-ers, and even members of Generation Z are all fighting for a voice in federal tax policy—and for good reason. Statistics show that the percentage of total income paid in taxes can vary widely among age brackets.

In 2011, taxpayers age 45 and older paid nearly 75 percent of all individual tax revenue collected. Those under age 35 contributed less than eight percent to this total, while nearly $1 of every $5 in tax revenue collected by the government came from someone age 65 or older.

And while some of this disparity can be attributed to a greater average earning capacity for those with a few decades of workforce experience, it's also a reflection of the loss of child- and student-loan related tax credits that many taxpayers enjoy in their twenties and thirties.

Preparing Your Taxes

Because of the impact age can have on one's tax burden, each new stage of life can require a different approach to preparing one's taxes. The DIY approach may work well when you're young and your income and deductions are fairly simple. But once your taxes become more complicated, the savings you can realize through expert guidance can more than pay for the cost of an accounting professional.

Posted by Scott Boyar CPA

 

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