By John Golway, CPA and Founder of Financial Designs Tax Services, LLC

Updated to reflect 2020 information.

It’s that time of year… cheery music, crisp weather, shiny lights… and wrapping up your taxes for 2020. Don’t worry – if you have a good CPA, it shouldn’t be as intimidating as it sounds. See below for our top 5 year-end tax tips for doctors with independent contractor (1099) income.

1) Significantly reduce your taxable income

To ensure you are maximizing your tax savings, you want to reduce your taxable income as much as possible. Here are some key items you can deduct as a 1099 provider:

 2) Take advantage of high retirement contribution maximums 

As a self-employed doctor, you have a few options for retirement savings, and many times this can be one of your biggest deductions. The two most common accounts for 1099 doctors are the SEP IRA and Solo (or “Individual”) 401(k). The maximum you can contribute in 2020 is $57,000 (with a $6,500 “catch-up” option for the Solo 401(k) if you are 50+ years of age). Each plan has its own advantages. The Solo 401(k) allows you to also fund a Roth IRA (or Backdoor Roth IRA) if it makes sense to do so. A lesser known fact is that a Defined Benefit Plan can allow you to save well over the typical $57,000 (more than $100k for some of our clients). Not ready for the commitment of a Defined Benefit Plan? Consider hiring your spouse to save a little more in a tax-deductible capacity. Work with your financial adviser and CPA to determine the right retirement savings strategy that also maximizes your tax deductions.

Additionally, please note, in most instances the deadline to open and fund a retirement account is typically the tax filing deadline. If you file an extension, you can use the extension deadline. For example, it is possible to open and fund a retirement account for 2020 in October 2021 if an extension is filed. This varies for S-Corps. Work with your CPA and investment advisor for more information.

3) Determine if you can take advantage of the QBI deduction

The QBI deduction is a huge deal. Historically, your retirement contribution was likely the largest deduction you were taking as a 1099 doctor. It’s possible your QBI deduction might exceed your retirement contribution amount. The key is to lower your taxable income to be between $326,600 and $426,600 for married filing jointly (lower than $326,600 receives the full benefit), and between $163,300 and $213,300 for filing single (lower than $160,700 receives the full benefit). See a full explanation here. If you have an S Corp, you might want to consider if it makes sense to dissolve the entity, so you can take full advantage of the QBI deduction. See more here about entity formations and talk to your CPA.

4) Don’t forget the CARES Act

As a result of the pandemic, the CARES Act was passed. Many of the components are applicable to independent contractor providers. If you received a PPP loan, wait to apply for forgiveness. You have 10 months from when you received the PPP funds to submit the forgiveness application. More information on tax implications are still being finalized. We recommend to wait for those details before moving forward with this step.

If you had loss of income due to COVID19 and took a retirement plan distribution (up to $100k), you have 3 years to pay back the funds and not be taxed. If you aren’t going to pay back the funds, you can spread the tax payments over 3 years. Work with your CPA and investment advisor to formulate the best strategy for your situation.

Tell your CPA if you had loss of income due to being sick with COVID, family members who were sick, or children who were home because of school closures. You may be able to take a tax credit based on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

5) Evaluate the use of the standard deduction

The standard deduction increased. If your state/local/property taxes (cap at $10k), mortgage interest, and charitable contributions add up to lower than $24,800 for joint filing or $12,400 for single, then you will want to take the standard deduction. Some people are choosing to exceed the $24,800 with charitable funds deposited into a Donor Advised fund. This allows donors to receive an immediate tax deduction and then distribute funds at their discretion over time.  Contact your tax adviser for more details if applicable.

Don’t let the holidays get the best of your tax planning and preparation. For more information about how to find the best tax strategy for your situation, contact your tax professional or our experienced team (we have been helping doctors manage their wealth for over 40 years).

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