Still time to make IRA contributions

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Still looking for a way to cut your 2014 tax bill? Contributing to an individual retirement account might be the answer.

The money put into a traditional IRA is tax deductible for some folks. There are rules, of course. Income limits apply. You also have to take into account your filing status and whether you, or your spouse if you’re married, have retirement plans at work.

It’s definitely worth looking into since if you qualify, you can claim your traditional IRA contribution amount as an above-the-line deduction directly on your Form 1040 or 1040A.

April deadline for IRAs

But, you say, you didn’t put anything into your IRA last year. In fact, you didn’t even open an account.

No worries. You can open and contribute to an IRA for the prior tax year as late as the April 15 filing deadline. So you’ve got plenty of time to open an account, make a contribution and claim the deduction.

The tax day retirement account deadline also applies to Roth IRAs. You can’t deduct a Roth contribution, but you can still max out the money you put into the account for the 2014 tax year. That’s $5,500 if you’re 49 or younger, or $6,500 if you’re 50 or older.

More time for self-employed accounts

Retirement plan contributions also can help lower your tax bill if you are self-employed. Contributions to these accounts also are an above-the-line deduction that helps make your adjusted gross income a bit smaller.

Even better, if you’re self-employed, you have even more time to contribute to your retirement account.

While the IRA prior-year deadline is firm at April 15, many self-employed pension plans, such as the popular SEP-IRA and solo 401(k) options, allow contributions to be made up to the taxpayer’s extended filing deadline.

Opening vs. contributing

Beware, however, of other timing issues.

You can establish a SEP-IRA for your independent endeavor by the extension deadline.

But some other self-employment plans require that you open them by the tax year’s end or earlier. If you already have such a plan in place, great. Don’t waste the chance to put as much into it as you can for the prior tax year.

I confess that this is how I operate. I pay what I owe the U.S. Treasury by April 15 when I submit my Form 4868 for an annual tax return filing extension. Then in the next couple of months I come up with the money for my SEP-IRA for the previous tax year, put it into my retirement account and then file my final return by the Oct. 15 extension due date.

That eases any April cash-flow issues — why is my auto insurance due this month, too? — and allows me to put as much as I can into my retirement account for the prior year.

Regardless of whether you have a self-employed retirement plan or an IRA — Roth or traditional — consider socking away some cash for 2014 now. You could shave a few dollars off your current tax bill, and your future retired self will thank you for your forethought and fiscal responsibility.

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Veteran contributing editor Kay Bell is the author of the book “The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes” and co-author of the e-book “Future Millionaires’ Guidebook.”