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Investing Specialists

Your 2021 Tax Fact Sheet and Calendar

Bookmark this guide to stay abreast of the tax-related dates and data that should be on your radar this year.

Editor's note: This content is part of Morningstar's Tax and IRA Guide special report. A version of this article was published in January 2020. 

This article has been updated to reflect the new U.S. tax filing deadline of May 17, 2021. 

The year 2020 brought seismic changes to our lives in most important respects. But as 2021 dawns, the changes to the tax code are more evolutionary than revolutionary. Of course, Congress could make more significant changes this year, and if so, they could be retroactive to the beginning of the year. But as of right now, most of the changes amount to tweaks to income or contribution limits, reflective of the effects of inflation in various provisions within the tax code.

Here are key tax-related dates and data points to have on your radar for the year ahead.

2021 Important Tax Facts for All Taxpayers
Income Tax Brackets: Seven tax brackets remain, but the specific parameters have changed, as follows: 

• 10%: Single taxpayers with incomes of $9,950 or less; married couples filing jointly with incomes of $19,900 or less.
• 12%: Single taxpayers with incomes between $9,951 and $40,525; married couples filing jointly with incomes between $19,901 and $81,050.
• 22%: Single taxpayers with incomes between $40,526 and $86,375; married couples filing jointly with incomes between $81,051 and $172,750.
• 24%: Single taxpayers with incomes between $86,376 and $164,925; married couples filing jointly with incomes between $172,751 and $329,850.
• 32%: Single taxpayers with incomes between $164,926 and $209,425; married couples filing jointly with incomes between $329,851 and $418,850.
• 35%: Single taxpayers with incomes between $209,426 and $523,600; married couples filing jointly with incomes between $418,851 and $628,300.
• 37%: Single taxpayers with incomes of $523,601 or more; married couples filing jointly with incomes of $628,301 or more.

Standard Deduction: Standard deduction amounts are increasing slightly in 2021, to $12,550 for individuals and $25,100 for married couples filing jointly.

AMT-Exempt Amounts: The exemption amounts for the alternative minimum tax are increasing slightly in 2021, to $73,600 for single filers and $114,600 for married couples filing jointly. The exemption amounts phase out for single filers with alternative minimum taxable incomes of less than $523,600, and $1,047,200 for married couples filing jointly.

Estate/Gift Tax Exemption: This amount is increasing slightly, to $11.7 million per individual. The annual gift-tax exclusion amount stays the same at $15,000. (Note that annual gifts in excess of this amount do not automatically trigger any sort of gift tax. Most people won't owe estate or gift taxes in their lifetimes under current tax laws.)

2020 Important Tax Facts for Investors
Qualified Dividend and Long-Term Capital Gains Rates: Three rates are still in place for dividends and long-term capital gains--0%, 15%, and 20%--but they don't map perfectly by tax bracket as they did in the past. Here are the parameters for each of the rates.

• 0%: Single taxpayers with incomes between $0 and $40,400; married couples filing jointly with incomes between $0 and $80,800.

• 15%: Single taxpayers with incomes between $40,401 and $445,850; married couples filing jointly with incomes between $80,801 and $501,600.

• 20%: Single taxpayers with incomes over $445,850; married couples filing jointly with incomes over $501,600.

Medicare Surtax: As in years past, an additional 3.8% Medicare surtax will apply to the lesser of net investment income or the excess of modified adjusted gross income over $200,000 for single taxpayers and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly.

IRA Contribution Limits (Roth or traditional): $6,000 under age 50/$7,000 over age 50.

Income limits for deductible IRA contribution, single filers or married couples filing jointly who aren't covered by a retirement plan at work: None; fully deductible contribution.

Income limits for deductible IRA contribution, single filers covered by a retirement plan at work: Modified adjusted gross income under $66,000--fully deductible contribution; between $66,000 and $76,000--partially deductible contribution; more than $76,000--contribution not deductible.

Income limits for deductible IRA contribution, married couples filing jointly, if the spouse making the contribution is covered by a retirement plan at work: Modified adjusted gross income under $105,000--fully deductible contribution; between $105,000 and $125,000--partially deductible contribution; more than $125,000--contribution not deductible.

Income limits for deductible IRA contributions, married couples filing jointly, if the spouse making the contribution isn't covered by a retirement plan at work but his/her spouse is: Modified adjusted gross income under $198,000--fully deductible contribution; between $198,000 and $208,000--partially deductible contribution; more than $208,000--contribution not deductible.

Income limits for nondeductible IRA contributions: None.

Income limits for IRA conversions: None.

Income limits for Roth IRA contribution, single filers: Modified adjusted gross income under $125,000--full Roth contribution; between $125,000 and $140,000--partial Roth contribution; more than $140,000--no Roth contribution.

Income limits for Roth IRA contribution, married couples filing jointly: Modified adjusted gross income under $198,000--full Roth contribution; between $198,000 and $208,000--partial Roth contribution; more than $208,000--no Roth contribution.

Contribution limits for 401(k), 403(b), 457 plan, or self-employed 401(k) (traditional or Roth): $19,500 under age 50; $26,000 for age 50 and older--same as in 2020.

Total 401(k) contribution limits, including employer (pretax, Roth, aftertax) and employee contributions and forfeitures: $58,000 if under age 50; $64,500 if 50-plus.
Income limits for 401(k), 403(b), 457 plans: None, though annual compensation limits can come into play in certain situations.

SEP IRA contribution limit: The lesser of 25% of compensation or $58,000.

Saver's Tax Credit, income limit, single filers: $33,000.

Saver's Tax Credit, income limit, married couples filing jointly: $66,000.

Health savings account contribution limit, single contributor: $3,600 (under 55); $4,600 (over 55).

Health savings account contribution limit, family coverage: $7,200 (contributor under 55); $8,200 (contributor 55-plus).

High-deductible health plan minimum deductible, self-only coverage: $1,400.

High-deductible health plan minimum deductible, family coverage: $2,800.

High-deductible health plan out-of-pocket maximum, self-only coverage: $7,000.

High-deductible health plan out-of-pocket maximum, family coverage: $14,000.

2021: Important Tax Dates to Remember
Jan. 1: New IRA, retirement plan, and HSA contribution and income limits went into effect for 2021 tax year, as listed above.

Jan. 15: Estimated tax payments due for fourth quarter of 2020.

April 15: Estimated tax payments due for first quarter of 2021.

May 17:
• Individual tax returns (or extension request forms) due for 2020 tax year.
• Last day to contribute to IRA for 2020 tax year (2020 contribution limits: $6,000 under age 50; $7,000 for age 50 and above).
• Last day to contribute to HSA for 2020 tax year (2020 contribution limits: $3,550 for single coverage, contributor under age 55; $4,550 for single coverage, contributor age 55 and above; $7,100 for family coverage, contributor under age 55; $8,100 for family coverage, contributor age 55 and above).

June 15: Estimated tax payments due for second quarter of 2021.

Sept. 15: Estimated tax payments due for third quarter of 2021.

Oct. 15: Individual tax returns due for taxpayers who received a six-month extension on their 2020 returns.

Dec. 31:
• Retirees age 72 and older must take required minimum distributions from traditional IRAs and 401(k)s; those RMDs are based on their balances at the end of 2020.
• Last date to make contributions to company retirement plans (401(k), 403(b), 457) for 2021 tax year. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that catchup contributions are available for SEP IRAs. The total contribution limit for SEP IRAs is $58,000 in 2021 regardless of the contributor's age.

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