But the myRA won't be in place until much later this year. And some little-used retirement savings options are good to use now during tax season. Ever think of dedicating part of your tax refund to buy Series I savings bonds? Or taking a look at a saver's credit for IRA contributions?
"People should actually use the IRA," said Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. If someone doesn't have a 401(k) at their workplace, setting up an IRA is a good option.
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Munnell, who sees the myRA as a good idea, said using a tax refund to buy I Bonds is another way to easily set aside money.
Many people, she said, need to save money for retirement before they see that cash in their checking accounts, especially if they're on a tight budget. "If the money gets into their hands, there are real needs they have to spend it on," she said.
Some options for saving for retirement at tax time:
The Retirement Savings Contribution Credit or the Saver's Credit
Some low- to moderate-income taxpayers who file jointly could obtain an average tax credit of $215 on their federal income tax returns, if they qualify, and set aside money for retirement in IRAs or 401(k)s.
The maximum credit is up to $1,000 or up to $2,000 if filing jointly. Oddly, many taxpayers who could qualify do not even know about this credit, said Catherine Collinson, president for the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.
Fewer than one in four American workers with annual household incomes of less than $50,000 are aware of the credit, according to a survey from the nonprofit Transamerica Center.
You could take the credit if your adjusted gross income is $29,500 in 2013 or less if single, or $44,250 or less if you are head of a household! .
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The adjusted gross income can be as high as $59,000 to qualify for the credit in 2013, if married filing jointly. Income limits rise slightly for 2014.
To get the saver's credit on the 2013 return, eligible workers could still make qualifying retirement contributions until April 15 to set up a new individual retirement account or add money to an existing IRA for 2013.
If you might qualify, you need to realize that you cannot take the credit if you file a Form 1040EZ. So you'd want to file a Form 1040 or 1040A or 1040NR.
The credit is based on filing status, adjusted gross income, tax liability, and the amount contributed to qualifying retirement programs.
Single filers averaged about $128 for the credit in 2011, the most recent figures available, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Saver's credits totaling more than $1.1 billion were claimed on 6.4 million returns in tax-year 2011.
Marshall Hunt, certified public accountant and director of tax services for the Accounting Aid Society in metro Detroit, said some restrictions apply. The retirement savings credit, for example, is not available for taxpayers of any age who are full-time students or married taxpayers filing separately.
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Taxpayers also must be 18 years old or older to qualify for the credit and not be claimed as a dependent on another person's return.
The credit is not refundable if you do not have a tax liability. The credit could increase your refund for taxes already paid or reduce the amount you would owe.
Dedicating part of a tax refund to buy Series I Savings Bonds
It is possible to buy Series I U.S. Savings Bonds with a portion or all of your federal tax refund for you — and for someone else, too, such as a child or grandchild.
The rest of your tax refund money could be deposited into another account — or mailed by paper check to you.
Th! e composi! te rate for Series I bonds issued Nov. 1, 2013, through April 30 is 1.38%. The fixed rate is 0.2% and an inflation adjustment is added on top of that. The fixed rate does not change for the life of the bond, but the inflation rate can and usually does change every six months.
You may use all or part of a tax refund to buy up to $5,000 in U.S. Series I Savings Bonds.
Paper savings bonds can be bought through the tax refund process in denominations of $50, $100, $200, $500, $1,000, and $5,000.
Or the taxpayer can set up an electronic TreasuryDirect account where I Bonds can be bought to the penny anywhere from $25 to $5,000 using tax refund money.
More often, of course, big tax refunds are used to buy big TVs or pay off big bills, not save big for retirement.
In 2012, as of mid-December, 36,244 taxpayers requested 174,809 savings bonds from their federal income tax refunds. The total purchase price came to $21.3 million, according to David Starck, a spokesman for the Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Fiscal Service.
Yet buying even one savings bond, instead of just spending that refund, can build some savings. If we're going to hear more talk about saving for retirement, why not start a little extra savings now?
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