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Is It Time to Think About Tax-Free Income?

Federal and state governments have spent extraordinary sums in response to the economic toll inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. At some point it is likely that governments will look for ways to increase revenue to compensate for this spending and increase income taxes as a result. That’s why it might be a good time to think about ways to help reduce your taxable income. Here are three potential sources of tax-free income to consider.

Roth IRA

Contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars — you don’t receive a tax deduction for money you put into a Roth IRA. Not only does the Roth IRA offer tax-deferred growth, but qualified Roth distributions including earnings are not subject to income taxation. And the tax-free treatment of distributions applies to beneficiaries who may inherit your Roth IRA.

Municipal Bonds

Municipal, or tax-exempt, bonds are issued by state and local governments to supplement tax revenues and to finance projects. Interest from municipal bonds is usually exempt from federal income tax. Also, municipal bond interest from a given state generally isn’t taxed by governmental bodies within that state, though state and local governments typically do tax interest on bonds issued by other states.

Health Savings Accounts

A health savings account (HSA) lets you set aside tax-deductible or pre-tax dollars to cover health-care and medical costs that your insurance doesn’t pay. HSA funds accumulate tax-deferred, and qualified withdrawals are tax-free. While an HSA is intended to pay for current medical and related expenses, you don’t necessarily have to seek reimbursement now. You can hold your HSA until retirement then reimburse yourself for all the medical expenses you paid over the years with tax-free HSA distributions — money you can use any way you’d like. Be sure to keep receipts for medical expenses you incurred.

Sources: Congressional Budget Office, April 28, 2020; U.S. Department of the Treasury, May 2020

Municipal bonds are subject to the uncertainties associated with any fixed income security, including interest rate risk, credit risk, and reinvestment risk. Bonds redeemed prior to maturity may be worth more or less than their original cost. Investments seeking to achieve higher yields also involve a higher degree of risk. Some municipal bond interest could be subject to the federal and state alternative minimum tax. Tax-exempt interest is included in determining if a portion of any Social Security benefit you receive is taxable. Because municipal bonds tend to have lower yields than other bonds, the tax benefits tend to accrue to individuals with the highest tax burdens.

HSA funds can be withdrawn free of federal income tax and penalties provided the money is spent on qualified health-care expenses. Depending upon the state, HSA contributions and earnings may or may not be subject to state taxes. You cannot establish or contribute to an HSA unless you are enrolled in a high deductible health plan (HDHP).

To qualify for the tax-free and penalty-free withdrawal of earnings, a Roth IRA must meet the five-year holding requirement and the distribution must take place after age 59½ or due to the owner’s death, disability, or a first-time home purchase (up to a $10,000 lifetime maximum).

All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful.

Source: Broadridge

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