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Tax Credit Offers Savings and Helps People Prepare for Retirement

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

For many people, the end of the year is marked by the celebration of whatever holiday one chooses to acknowledge during the holiday season and the welcoming of a new year. Yet, it is also a time when many households make preparations for a new tax season.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers a tax credit that not only allows people to save on their 2012 taxes, but also encourages middle and low income households to prepare for retirement. The saver's credit helps Middle Class families by offsetting a portion of the first $2,000 workers voluntarily contribute to a workplace retirement program, such as a common 401(k) account.

From an IRS press release:

Eligible workers still have time to make qualifying retirement contributions and get the saver’s credit on their 2012 tax return. People have until April 15, 2013, to set up a new individual retirement arrangement or add money to an existing IRA and still get credit for 2012.

There is a stipulation though that the IRS added. Elective contributions to an existing IRA must be added by the end of the year to qualify. What this means is if a person can't set aside money now, then they need to set up their contributions for 2013 by the end of the year for contributions made before April 15 to qualify for the tax credit.

The saver's credit, like all tax credits, can either increase the amount of a tax return or decrease the amount of money owed to the IRS depending on an individual's tax situation. Couples filing jointly are cautioned that even though the maximum saver's credit is $1,000 to $2,000 per joint household, other deductions and credits can make the end amount much less.

The saver's credit can be claimed by:

  • Married couples filing jointly with incomes up to $57,500 in 2012 or $59,000 in 2013
  • Heads of Household with incomes up to $43,125 in 2012 or $44,250 in 2013
  • Married individuals filing separately and singles with incomes up to $28,750 in 2012 or $29,500 in 2013

Other special rules that apply:

  • Eligible taxpayers must be at least 18 years of age
  • Anyone claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return cannot take the credit
  • A student cannot take the credit. A person enrolled as a full-time student during any part of 5 calendar months during the year is considered a student

The saver's credit was implemented in 2002 as a temporary provision, but was made a permanent part of the tax code by Congress in 2006.

During the 2010 tax year, the most recent year that offers complete data, over 6.1 million people claimed the saver's credit, combining over $1 billion in savings for low and middle income households. It is likely just one of many tax credits the IRS offers that millions of Americans don't know about and can apply to their own tax situation.

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