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Taxes: Note to Self

April 17th, 2023 at 02:01 pm

I was so pleasantly surprised how low overall our taxes were last year (with MH working full year, with my raise and bonus, etc.) that I never noticed that we had graduated out of the 12% tax rate.  😡  Which also means...  No more 0% tax on investments.

Which means...  I need some time wrap my brain around that and actually think about taxes when it comes to investments.  We've been spoiled for so long.

I went back and looked more closely because I thought maybe it was just the investments (I sold a lot of investments last year).  In the end, taxable income was $89K and that only included about $3K of investment income.    The rest is pretty simple.  Mostly just salaries and the standard deduction.  (Though we will obviously have a lot more bank interest in 2023.) With our (more than 3%) raises this year, we are clearly in a new tax bracket.  22%.

It's going to get nasty with the I Bonds.  Tax-free if used for "college tuition".  Not going to be tax-free re: our very low tuition costs.  So that's one more tax thing I will have to think about and plan around.  I had wanted to use the I Bond money for college rent.  But it might make the most sense to just consider the I Bonds our emergency fund, so that we can then tap more accessible cash (without any tax consequences).

I will also have to reconsider utilizing my work 401K.  If we are really close re: hitting the next tax bracket and losing 0%-tax investment space.  It might be worth throwing a few thousand dollars into a 401K if it gets us back to tax-free investments.  Will just have to see how the year shakes out.

Another note to self:  

First ~$13K of earned income is tax-free for the kids.  Have been having them claim exempt.  In the end, MM(19) made $6,000 in 2022.  What I didn't think about was that only $5,200 of CA wages are exempt (single standard deduction).  MM(19) ended up owing $3 to California.  I suppose he can continue to claim exempt for Federal.  (Can do so if prior year and current year are both $0 tax years).  But technically is no longer able to claim exempt (California) because he paid $3 tax for 2022.  Will have to keep an eye on that.  DL(17) is more likely to just work something like 15 hours per week year round, so he will probably start piling up the dough pretty quickly.  Will have to have him submit a separate California W4. 

I appreciated that we realized this without a big tax bill to pay! 

EV Purchase - Part III

March 8th, 2023 at 02:17 pm

For the Used EV credit, the IRS states very clearly that you need to get a signed statement from the dealership that includes certain information.  Purchase needs to be from a licensed dealership or something like that, can not be a private party purchase for the used EV credit.

The two dealerships my in-laws went through had never heard of the credit.  They had no idea about the $25K cap but were happy to haggle once my in-laws pointed it out.  (I mean, they had to walk out to get their attention, but obviously they aren't paying $25,001+ if it will cost them a $4,000 tax credit.  The dealership got the point that they weren't going to budge.)

Now that they have the car, the dealership refuses to provide this tax information.  I don't know if it's worth fighting in the moment.  They should eventually figure it out and it may be easier to ask for this information at the end of the year.  Let other people fight this battle?

They are supposed to provide documentation at time of sale *and* also to the IRS.  I am less concerned about the latter.  As long as we have the documentation, is really all that is important.  

I had been thinking that it would be pretty enticing to buy a hybrid and to get this credit, for MM(19).  Something like my car, that I saved my whole life working up to and is very luxurious.  A car like that is $16,000 right now and would only be $12,000 with the used EV credit.  MM(19) has the cash for that and it would last him a very long time.  Though he has a very cheap heart and might want to go more used.  The used EV Credit will swing the pendulum substantially towards an electric hybrid.  I wouldn't have recommended before, given the uncertainty of long-term situation (how long he will be renting, etc.).  I think without a charger at his residence, the full EV would be much easier/better for his situation.  But is also more expensive.  (Easier to charge out and about, with the fast chargers.)  I just don't see how you'd ever charge a hybrid, in contrast.  But if you can save $4,000...  I've seen a lot of people say over the years they only drive in gas mode or EV mode, and it doesn't seem to matter much either way.  

But...  This whole idea is off the table until the dealerships straighten up.  I would refuse to purchase if they had no idea what I was talking about and couldn't provide a tax document.  

I figured I'd share as a warning, if you are considering the used EV credit.  Heck, this also has to be an issue with the new EV credit.  This is a dealership that sells brand new EVs.  So they have to be giving new EV buyers the same runaround when it comes to providing tax documentation.  If not, they would have any clue what we were talking about.

Bunching Tax Deductions

December 30th, 2022 at 02:57 pm

For the first time ever, looks like we will just be taking the standard deduction for our taxes.  It's about $26,000.

Last year we itemized $34,000.  The obvious difference is that we had $9K in medical bills last year and has ~$0 this year (miracle of miracles.)  $9K was extreme, but $0 is a miracle.  Both were very extreme years compared to our average.   Usually we hit our $3K deductible. 

{Knock on wood.  The year isn't over so won't celebrate coming in under medical deductible until January 1.  But any medical bills that pop up this week will be 2023 expenses to figure out.}

In the future, will have less than $4K mortgage interest (woohoo!).  That's an itemized deduction that is dropping rapidly.  Property taxes and charity.  That's about it.

State/local taxes are the opposite of what most presume.  Our State income tax system is progressive, we've paid ~$0 during the years we have had kids under 18.  (Lord knows I've done tax returns for regressively taxed states, where every dollar earned is taxed, in contrast.)  Property taxes can not rise more than 2% every year (Prop 13).  

Medical is most of what we deduct.  Health insurance premiums ($$$$$$) + medical/dental/ortho expenses.  We had the usual expenses, but just no deductible and nothing extra this year.  No orthodontist, no wisdom teeth, no other medical procedures.

I was making a note to get charity/donations in before 12/31.  Particularly re: the $1,000 in law gift.  They gift us $1,000 every year to forward on to charities.  I decided that it's probably better to push that off to 2023 and to bunch deductions. 

The bigger thing I will have to consider bunching is property taxes.  I have just been paying once a year for simplicity.  Which I really really like.  Less to keep track and use brain power for.  But, interest rates were also nothing the years I have done this.  With interest rates bumping up and being able to financially benefit from bunching deductions, I will have to ponder.  Taxes aren't due again until December, and so I can make a well informed decision at that time.  If I want to delay the second installment until 2024.

The whole point of bunching deduction is that if you would consistently come in under the standard deduction, you could at least bunch some deductions every other year and itemize (more than the standard deduction).  Being so on the cusp, we might just be more likely to itemize in 2023.  If we have an average medical year.  So it's beneficial to push off deductions to next year.

I expect I will have a few years where I ponder the hassle of bunching tax deductions and give some extra brain power to that.  But I expect inflation to outpace our deductions.  I think that will happen quickly, in the next few years.

Edited to add:  Will still itemize for California, but that doesn't really mean anything. 

Taxes (Almost) Done

January 9th, 2022 at 03:42 pm

Feeling productive today.  Got our taxes mostly done.  Is generally how I handle it.  Just get everything entered and then double check that tax forms match my records, as those forms come in.  Try to file before February.

I really miss the professional work software and how much time it saved me.  I've just been throwing tax projections into last year's software and then mentally tweaking what I know is different for the next year. It's not great but it's the most cost effective (and fast) way I can figure out how to do tax projections.

I had to share because when throwing all my numbers into tax software I was coming up with some large tax due at first.  Was kind of ignoring and figuring it would sort out as I entered more data.  Oh yeah, that extra $6K in medical expenses this year, ended up putting us massively over the standard deduction.  That did help.

Towards the end though I still had $2,000 shown due.  At the very end it was $2,001.  Did I mess thing up that bad?  Nope, I figured it out pretty quickly.  That last $2,000 was college tax credits.  Did I literally get our taxes down to the penny?  Er, down to $1?!  Holy cow!

I told MH to give me a gold star.  😁

In the end, I refined a couple of more deductions and so the taxes went down a bit.  The only estimate that remains is I threw in some investment dividends as 'taxable' and I know a lot of that will sort out to non-taxable (qualified dividends at 0% tax rate).    So that's the one thing I have to wait for to finalize.  Should get investment tax forms in 1-2 weeks.  

Another Stimulus Update

April 15th, 2020 at 08:20 pm

The IRS updated their website. You can now check on your stimulus "economic impact payment" status. & you can also provide your direct deposit information if you didn't have a "direct deposit refund" on your filed 2018 or 2019 tax returns.

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The website just went live today and so it may be better to check back later.

You will get a confirmation once you go through the process. Or you will get a message stating "Payment Status Not Available" with a link to information on eligibility rules. (To clarify: You will get the "Status Not Available" message if your income is too high to collect the stimulus payment, or if you are otherwise ineligible). If you don't receive any sort of confirmation, you will need to try again. (I was apparently too slow my first time through, but that will probably be a common problem today. The second time I tried I got a confirmation message).

Edited to add: After one day of the new site "Get My Payment" website being up, there is now a FAQ page that answers a lot of questions:
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Stimulus Update - IRS Site Updated

April 10th, 2020 at 11:31 pm

The IRS updated their website:

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The IRS has created a new website that allows non-filers to request the stimulus (economic impact) payments. Just go to the link above and you will see more info.

Individuals receiving social security benefits are not required to use this new tool to receive their payments. That said, you'd want to check it out if you have dependents and receive social security benefits (and haven't filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019). This is the only way you can let the IRS know that you have eligible dependents, in this situation.

The IRS also announced that a website for taxpayers to enter direct deposit information, and a website to check the status of your stimulus payment, will be available next week.

They also have a reminder (on the link above) to update your address (the usual channels) if the IRS doesn't have your most current address.

Stimulus Update

April 3rd, 2020 at 05:36 am

I am absolutely exhausted (work week from hell). So if this is gibberish, I will fix it later.

The U.S. tax stimulus will be $1,200 per adult and $500 per dependent child (under age 17). There is also an income cutoff for receiving these payments. (Just google it, it's all over the news).

Edited to add: The definition of "adult" is mostly someone who is not a dependent. So your college kids are not going to receive the $1,200 and you will not receive $500 for them.

As pointed out to me in my last blog post, you get to keep this stimulus. It sorts out when you file your 2020 tax return if you are owed a bigger stimulus amount (if your income changed, you had a new baby, etc.). But if you were overpaid based on income/dependent changes, you won't have to pay anything back.

Tax Planning Point: They will base these stimulus payments based on your 2019 tax return if it was filed. Based on 2018 if you did not file your 2019 tax return yet. If you had a big jump in income in 2019 and haven't filed yet, you might want to take your time. Not sure how much that helps if it takes 20 weeks to mail out checks. But, I have seen this advice thrown around. I suppose it could be wise to file an extension and not file your tax return until you get your stimulus if that's the case.

The wish of the legislature was to get these checks out in 2 weeks. πŸ™„ This sounds pretty pie-in-the-sky to me. But I know firsthand the IRS is severely understaffed, and also that many of their workers were sent home. But anyway, I just saw a headline on CNN that the IRS said they need 20 weeks to get checks out. Yes, 20 weeks!

IRS put up a site with some FAQs that I will put at the end of this post. Last I looked (a few days ago) it was mostly, "Check back later for details". In that FAQ they said that if for any reason you didn't file a tax return in '18 or '19, for example if you only had social security income and had no requirement to file, they will set up a simple online process to file a "basic" tax return just to provide the information to get your stimulus check.

Oh yeah, and if you had a direct deposit refund in 2018 or 2019, they will use that information to direct the deposit into your bank account. Direct deposit stimulus payments are expected to be done around April 15th. So if you had a tax refund and chose direct deposit, you might get your stimulus payment in about two weeks. (It's the remaining checks that will take several weeks to process. It will take them 5 weeks to be able to print out the first stimulus checks). On the IRS FAQ they also mentioned setting up some kind of an online form for taxpayers to provide their direct deposit information for a quicker stimulus payment. Details to follow later...

I ended up taking a tax/COVID class yesterday. The tax professionals were pushing back hard. The IRS expecting every fixed-income retired adult to figure out how to request their stimulus?... Tax professionals were insisting there must be a way to cross reference social security records, at the least.

In the end, the IRS has already caved. The IRS will also issue stimulus payments based on social security records. There will still be people who don't file tax returns for various reasons and will have the chance to request their stimulus with some sort of online process, but at least this captures a chunk of the lower income/older population who isn't going to have a lot of help with this stuff in isolation. (& now that I am reading the updated website, they don't have any mention of how you request stimulus in other situations, so it seems to be just changing every day at this point. Who knows).

Economic impact payments: What you need to know

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Social Security Recipient Update:
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Some Americans could wait 20 weeks to receive stimulus checks, IRS tells House Democrats
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One final tax thing: IRS has extended tax deadlines from April 15th to July 15th. You will have to check to see if your state has followed suit. There was a lot of back and forth, "What about this and that and this?" Estimate payments, IRA contributions, etc. At this point, it's all extended to July 15th.

Edited to Add: As of April 9th, I see they extended pretty much EVERYTHING, including (June 15th) second quarter estimate deadline. Also finally caved on 3/15 business tax deadlines.

Spending, Taxes

February 2nd, 2018 at 01:42 pm

**MH saw some noise cancelling headphones on Amazon for 90% off. He figured what the heck. In the end I guess it was a pricing mistake because they canceled the order.

**MH is still looking for the right blu ray player for the TV we bought 9 months ago. In the end he saw another "too good to be true" deal for $25. I guess this was at Walmart. In the store it didn't show the advertised price (85% off) and they seemed to think he was crazy when he inquired, but it rang up for $25.

He hadn't picked one up before because he was being crazy picky. I got the sense this had everything he wanted, but maybe also willing to settle a bit in the interim because nothing to lose at that price. In the end, it seemed to have some problems and they were out of stock by then (couldn't exchange) but he diagnosed that he needed a better cable and it seems fine now.

So I thought he was 0 for 2, but maybe this one will work out. He is going to give it some time.

**My cell phone is almost 4 years old and I was targeting all along to replace this spring (at the 4 year mark). Given work uncertainty, I asked MH yesterday to keep an eye out. I told him I probably rather get used to a new phone before I am more seriously job searching. & I'd rather buy a phone while I have a (high paying) job. So he will start looking around for me.

My phone is mostly fine but has admittedly been wonky for about 18 months. It is not secure as I am sure it is no longer receiving updates, so that is my main concern. It turns off randomly at times (but I don't use enough for it to matter). MH saved it from a "black screen of death" about a year ago. I know his tech skills have helped me to keep it the 4 years that everyone else seems to think is crazy and impossible. But even MH has been nagging me a bit as he knows I no longer receive security updates. I was dead set on 4 years because I had paid $400 for it. I can be okay with 3 years and 10 months.


I usually file taxes early, before I have tax forms. Because I don't need the tax forms. But I peruse the tax forms as they come in and make sure they agree to my records.

In the end, my mortgage company reported that I paid more interest than I did. ??? It's the only tax form mistake I ever recall catching. I double checked their website and their monthly interest amounts (2017) matched mine, so I will ignore the tax form. It was in my favor so I won't worry about it. If it went the other way I would make sure that they correct it.

I plan to file taxes today. Our software at work hadn't been updated yet. I talked to the person in charge of that yesterday and she seemed confused, but we finally decided she was out Friday and hadn't followed up on our weekly updates. (They should get done regardless, but she usually makes sure that they are done). She got it updated ASAP when she realized we couldn't file *any* tax returns yet. It was a hectic day/week, so will just press the "send" button when I get to work today. I knew I had all sorts of tax forms in the mail (in route or sitting in mail box) and figured I better check those first.

I did well with harvesting tax gains for kids. I always strategically harvest tax gains at 0% tax rate. But this year I squeaked by with harvesting tax gains and not even having to file a tax return for them. I don't know how realistic that goal is as their investments grow, but works for now.

Raise, Taxes

January 16th, 2018 at 01:53 pm

Was shocked to get a raise this year. Just seemed unlikely given economics of employer. (Was a bit of a niche market that just happened to fared very well during the recession, but now we have an aging/retiring client base). There is still a weird dynamic where I am youngest in office but have surpassed some of my elders, and so have been the only one to get raises over many years. Ever since I realized this, I've not taken raises for granted. I was legitimately shocked this year.

Well, that's easy! I can take care of everything I wanted to in 2018 budget/spending plan without worrying about it.

--Health insurance went up $65/month
(Where the vast majority of my raises have gone since having kids. This year was a small increase in the grand scheme of things.)

--MM wanted to attend third weekly gymnastics class offered this year. We told him we have better things to do than to drive him over there 3 times a week (yikes!) But, that we could discuss after my work review. I am more open to it now; will have some extra funds. Will still have to find some reasonable balance.

--I wanted to bump up our short-term savings. Expenses like insurance (life, disability) are creeping up. Most especially since I turned 40. (Maybe some "leaping up" in that case). This gives us more breathing room in the budget because we use short-term savings for one-off expenses. It's a hard balancing act because if we save money we want to leave it there, and I think psychologically it might work well being a little tight. But it's starting to get a little out of balance and is stressful at the end of the year when I really haven't saved enough for all this stuff.

This breaks out to:
$5,500 property taxes
$4,300 insurance (various)
$2,000 vacation
$1,500 car maintenance
$1,200 Dental
$2,300 Misc.

The extra $1,200 to Misc. = some breathing room. Phew!

When I plugged my new salary into a paycheck calculator I came up with +$280 monthly income with a $250 monthly raise. I presumed that was because of the new tax tables. Anyway, I will do some tax projections today and figure out what to do. I barely withhold any taxes from my monthly paycheck, because I get a OT check every year that's taxed like a bonus. So while it would probably be wise to adjust my withholding with the extra windfall, I also don't see the point of letting the government hold my money all year. It may be that I just decide to put the entire difference ($80/month?) into investments. That is money I can put into tax withholding if my job situation changes.

But I will do a tax projection, make sure I am paying in enough state tax, etc. Once I figure out how much I need for taxes, I can finalize my 2018 goals.

I may just leave sidebar goals as is because they are very aggressive. Not really entirely sure I can or even want to make these goals, but aiming high seems to work well for us.

Maybe I am weird, but the more money we make the harder I find it to save 20% or 30% for long-term. I think that's probably because of taxes. But is probably also the longer we have gone without any BIG expenses. When I am not replacing cars, paying for braces (x2), funding teen drivers, and doing maintenance on a 20-year-old home, it's much easier to lock up 30% of income in retirement and other long-term funds.

Tax Notes:

--Our taxes will remain unchanged with the new tax laws. Our "taxable income" will increase substantially because we lose all of our exemptions. Which probably doesn't bode well for the long run. (For the short run, like just a couple of years, this increase is offset by child tax credits)

--That said, MH's small income is getting taxed at 15% instead of 30%. If we are shifting to a two full-time income, then the timing works out pretty well. As long as we have kids, I still pay "almost nothing" as to taxes on my income. Which is why the high tax rate on an additional few thousand dollars has been so jarring.

--Accordingly, we will probably drop the 401k contributions. We've only done for tax reasons, which annoys me, because increasing cash flow would be the motivation for this job. Will build up taxable investments instead of adding to 401k, which just makes more sense given our financial situation.

It depends how my tax projections go today. Not 100% decided, but I like that I feel less tied to the 401k.

--Will stick with the Traditional IRAs (as much as we can; MH is being phased out). Taxes are complex, and we need the Traditional IRAs to increase our itemized deductions and to lower our taxes. I believe last I calculated was a 24% savings for every dollar we put in Traditional IRA, because it increases our itemized deductions the more we can decrease AGI. So that is why. I will check today now that I have some better salary estimates to plug in. Oh, and we have to do the Traditional IRAs to keep our taxable investments tax-free. Between those two points, I don't see any ROTH contributions in our near future.

Edited to add: It was probably a bigger second income which was much more palate-able with the new tax law. Which is just interesting timing for us. I can't re-create that 15% tax rate with current income situation, so I am guessing that was a more long-term/higher income tax projection.

I ran numbers today and we save 32% for every dollar we put into 401k+Traditional IRA. Looks like we will stick with the 401k. (It's the loss of 0% investment tax rate that is tripping me up).

Federal tax withholding is surprisingly better than I remembered (withholding enough from salary to cover all taxes for year, even with lower withholding rates). But I have to send +$40/month to the state, a 50% increase. This leaves $40-ish per month for investments. I will just round up to $50.

Harvesting Tax Gains

July 20th, 2017 at 07:50 pm

Today I harvested some tax gains. Is a strategy to keep "taxable" investments tax-free.

In the process, I just converted to admiral shares and way lower expense ratios. In theory, I'd generally just immediately buy back what I sold; selling solely to lock in 0% tax rate on those gains. But in the end I decided to move funds over in the process and to be a little more efficient.

For myself, technically any long-term capital gains are tax-free for Federal. But... That's not entirely true because bumping up our AGI (even just a couple of thousand dollars) wreaks all sorts of havoc on the rest of our taxes. It decreases what we can put in tax-deductible IRAs and reduces our medical expense deduction, etc. But, whatever. It's not like it's going to get better than a 0% tax rate. (I mostly expect our income and taxes to be much higher in the future).

Since we've mostly been able to shelter our investments in retirement funds, this is the first time that I've had a tax-free gain to harvest. At about $3,000 for long-term gains and I figured I could live with that. (I probably wouldn't want to add much more to our tax return. We are already on track to maybe have 10% more wage income than last year).

For the kids, I have been selling off funds frequently to the same end, though I got a bit of a break the past two years. But for today, MM was at a good selling point. $1,000 investment income is tax-free for them. $1,500 is just some very minimal state tax. I might have timed it well enough that they are more in the $1k range and won't owe any state taxes.

Note to self:
$1,000 investment income is the sweet spot for kids. No requirement to file a tax return at this investment income level.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, here is a link that explains:

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I guess this came to front of mind because my dad *finally* sold some mutual funds that he had wanted to sell a few years back. He's waited for tax reasons, and I guess given my tax perspective I have no idea what he has been waiting for. !! I mean, Obamacare was the reason the last two years, but now in 2017 I would have sold January 1. Not sure how long 0% investment tax rate will be around and am glad he finally took advantage.

As for the kids' "college" money, it's conservatively invested (balanced fund) and I have an equal amount in cash (our cash savings/emergency fund). So I feel that I Can shoulder any short-term market fluctuations. It seems way too premature to do anything with that. Kids start college in 4 & 6 years. Keeping in mind that we used our own "college money" for a home down payment instead of college. (College is still super cheap here and housing is only more insane now than it was then). This really could be money that remains untouched for 10+ years. So for now, we have no plans to cash out any college money or to shift to a more conservative allocation. We may set aside more new money in cash, as college becomes more imminent.


January 22nd, 2017 at 03:30 pm

Finished our taxes yesterday.

I have the financial records to complete taxes on January 1, generally, but was waiting for investment 1099s (the only info I can't calculate on my own). I got an e-mail that those were ready on Friday.

I also haven't seen a pay stub for MH in months (got locked out of his online account) so will just wait to file until we get his W-2. I otherwise probably wouldn't even wait for the W-2. I expect I know his gross pay within a few pennies or a dollar, but would rather it all match 100%. We do not withhold any income taxes from his check, so that is some of why I don't really need his pay stubs. As long as the direct deposits are what I would expect them to be.

{I am totally fine with filing taxes before I have W-2s or 1099s, when I have any financial records whatsoever. It's just that I am flying pretty blind with MH's income}.

With MH working all year, we bumped up our "taxable income" from $46,000 to $48,000. We are still nowhere near the next tax bracket of 25%.

But, MH's income is being taxed around 30%. Taxes are complex.

In the end, we'd owe $1,400 if we did ROTH IRAs, or we get $1,000 back if we do Traditional IRAs. Total tax savings of $2,400. We can't max out the Traditional IRAs because of MH's work retirement plan. But rounding a bit, we can put $5,000 into his Traditional IRAs and $500 into his ROTH. I will hold off funding those until I get his W-2 and finalize everything. I already knew I could max out my Traditional IRA and did fund that already. We will do the Traditional IRAs and will invest the tax savings, per sidebar goals. (I expect for 2017 that MH won't be able to put nearly as much into Traditional IRA).

When I get the 1k refund I will just throw it at our investments. Not entirely sure how I will come up with the other $1,400. I think I will probably just fund that part when I get my OT check.

When we first started doing this it was like "$2,500 tax refund" for Traditional IRA or "no taxes due" for ROTH contributions. I did it this way because we were really in "flip a coin" territory, and I did want to just invest the difference. I'd say we are still somewhat in "flip a coin" territory, but also I am just covering MH's income taxes from my paycheck. I will just leave it be, for now. I expect everything to change, tax-wise, anyway. So we can re-evaluate from there. For now, this works, and still gives us some room to go either way.