Friday, December 20, 2013

2 Tax Breaks You Can Take Advantage of After Dec. 31

Sean Williams for writes: Time certainly flies when you're having fun -- and much fun was to be had this year, with all three major market indexes returning more than 20% year to date and the S&P 500 soaring to a fresh all-time closing high earlier this week.
Two retirement tax breaks you can still take advantage of after Dec. 31!
Christmastime means two things: hustling and bustling malls filled with gift-givers on a mission, and the mad scramble of Americans to get last-second tax items shored up, such as making charitable contributions and tax-loss selling. Although the majority of tax moves for the current year need to be made by Dec. 31 in order to qualify for your 2013 return, there are two important exceptions to this rule.
Traditional IRA & Roth IRA -- deadline April 15, 2014
As if individual retirement accounts didn't already have enough allure, investors can make contributions to both a traditional IRA or Roth IRA (or a combination of both) until April 15, 2014, and still utilize that contribution on their 2013 taxes, if applicable.
Keep in mind that the total contribution to any IRA (or combination) is $5,500 in 2013 and that not all IRA contributions are tax-deductible.
Traditional IRAs allow you to take an upfront tax deduction for your contribution limit, whereas Roth IRAs don't offer an upfront tax deduction. Over the long run, though, retirees who begin taking distributions on their Traditional IRA will pay capital gains taxes on whatever profit their investments have netted, while Roth IRA investments will grow completely tax-free (so long as you don't take your withdrawal before age 59 and a half).
Simplified employee pension -- deadline can be extended until Oct. 15, 2014
A simplified employee pension, or SEP-IRA, is a similar IRA investment option, except it's designed for self-employed individuals or companies that are making contributions on behalf of their employees. Because of the ability to file for a tax extension, people who are SEP-IRA eligible can add to their SEP plan as late as Oct. 15, 2014 and still have it count toward their 2013 contribution. SEP-IRAs allow self-employed people or proprietors to contribute up to 25% of their net earnings -- up to a maximum of $51,000 in 2013. This figure will be raised by $1,000 to $52,000 in 2014. 
IRA ideasOne aspect that both of these late-tax season vehicles share is that they qualify for a full array of investments, including stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, to name a few. As Christmas is but five days away and I'm still in the spirit of giving, here are five stocks for you to consider for your Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or SEP-IRA.
1. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  )
For those of you who favor consistency and dividends above all else, Johnson & Johnson could be the perfect stock for your IRA. J&J has boosted its dividend in 51 consecutive years and recently purchased Synthes, a medical-device maker, which will give it access to higher-growth emerging markets. Between its strong branded-pharmaceutical growth and the steadiness of its consumer products division, I don't see how investors would lose much sleep at night owning J&J.
2. MasterCard (NYSE: MA  )
If you'd prefer something with a slightly faster growth rate than J&J, payment processing facilitator MasterCard may fit the bill. This payment processor has absolutely no loan liability, so the only thing it needs to focus on is growing the number of merchants in its network and maintaining its pricing power. With much of the world still untapped when it comes to credit- and debit-card usage, MasterCard could be staring down a multidecade double-digit growth opportunity. It also doesn't hurt that the company boosted its quarterly payout by 83% and announced a $3.5 billion share repurchase program last week. 
3. Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU  )
For younger investors, who may find dividends less appealing, consider search engine Baidu as an intriguing long-term investment. Baidu is China's largest search engine by a mile, and it's poised to take advantage of a growing middle class and a GDP growth figure that has averaged 10% over the past three decades for years to come. When the Chinese mobile Internet market really matures, Baidu could grow from an industry giant to an unstoppable force.
4. Realty Income (NYSE: O  )
For those of you on the other end of the spectrum and nearing your retirement age, perhaps a retail REIT that invests in retail properties and then leases those properties out over the long term could be your calling. The majority of Realty Income's renters are investment grade, and more than half of its rental agreements are setup through at least 2023, so there's little worry about Realty Income's recurring cash flow. With 74 total dividend increases under its belt since 1994, Realty Income's 5.6% yield and monthly dividend could be the perfect recipe for income-seekers.
5. NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE  )
Finally, if you're a socially conscious investor NextEra Energy might be a decent company to target. Unlike traditional electric utilities which generate the majority of their electricity from coal and natural gas-powered facilities, NextEra is the United States' leading generator of alternative energy (wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal). Last year alone, NextEra commissioned its 10,000th MW from wind power. With green energy helping to lower NextEra's costs over the long run, it'll hold a competitive advantage over most of its peers, presumably leaving long-term investors sitting pretty.


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