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There's still time to reap this lucrative tax break

The Motley Fool logo The Motley Fool 6/30/2020 Maurie Backman
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In March, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit with full force, the IRS made the decision to postpone the tax-filing deadline from April 15 to July 15, giving Americans three more months to get their returns in order. Now that the July 15 deadline is rapidly approaching, many filers are scrambling to get their taxes in order. But as you gather your documents and receipts and sit down to file your return, don't forget that you still have an opportunity to take advantage of one huge money-saving tax break: funding your 2019 IRA.

Normally, you get until the tax-filing deadline to fund an IRA for the year you're submitting taxes for. Had 2019 taxes been due on April 15, you would've had until April 15 to put money into your 2019 IRA. But because the deadline was pushed back three months, you now have until July 15 to contribute to last year's IRA, and doing so could result in a world of savings.

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An easy way to save

Anyone with earned income can fund an IRA, and if you're looking to lower your tax bill in a very meaningful way, it pays to contribute to one. The annual contribution limit for 2019 IRAs is the same as this year's limit: $6,000 for workers under 50, and $7,000 for those 50 and over.

If you put money into a traditional IRA, you'll lower your tax burden immediately, but withdrawals from your retirement plan will be subject to taxes later on. If you fund a Roth IRA, you don't get an immediate tax break, but your withdrawals are yours to enjoy tax-free during your senior years.

There are plenty of good reasons to house your retirement savings in a Roth IRA, but if you're hoping for immediate tax savings, a traditional IRA is the way to go. What sort of savings might you be looking at? Say you're under 50, and so the maximum amount you can contribute toward last year's IRA is $6,000. If you put in that full amount and you fall into the 22% tax bracket, you'll shave $1,320 off your 2019 tax bill. And that way, you get the best of both worlds -- money earmarked for retirement that you can invest and grow, and immediate tax savings that will either cause you to owe the IRS less, or put a bigger refund in your pocket.

Don't wait

Thought the 2019 tax-filing deadline is still a few weeks away, don't wait until the very last minute to put money into your 2019 IRA. It may take a day or two for funds you contribute to clear your account, so be sure to get moving on that contribution sooner rather than later.

Of course, some people are grappling with financial problems right now, and if you're one of them, you may not be in a position to max out last year's IRA. But remember, you don't have to contribute the full $6,000 or $7,000 to reap some tax savings, so if $500 is all you can swing, go for it. Every little bit you put into a traditional IRA will help you pay less tax to the IRS, all the while setting you up with some funds for the future.

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