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Jan 12 2016
Could you save more by deducting state and local sales taxes?

Posted in tax

For the last several years, taxpayers have been allowed to take an itemized deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes. This break can be valuable to those residing in states with no or low income taxes or who purchase major items, such as a car or boat. But it had expired December 31, 2014. Now the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) has made the break permanent.

So see if you can save more by deducting sales tax on your 2015 return. Don’t worry — you don’t have to have receipts documenting all of the sales tax you actually paid during the year to take full advantage of the deduction. Your deduction can be determined by using an IRS sales tax calculator that will base the deduction on your income and the sales tax rates in your locale plus the tax you actually paid on certain major purchases.

Questions about this or other PATH Act breaks that might help you save taxes on your 2015 tax return? Contact us — we can help you identify which tax breaks will provide you the maximum benefit.

Last Updated by Admin on 2016-01-12 12:21:26 PM

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Nov 03 2015
The 529 savings plan: A tax-smart way to fund college expenses

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If you’re saving for college, consider a Section 529 plan. Although contributions aren’t deductible for federal purposes, plan assets can grow tax-deferred. (Some states do offer tax incentives for contributing.)

Distributions used to pay qualified expenses (such as tuition, mandatory fees, books, equipment, supplies and, generally, room and board) are income-tax-free for federal purposes and typically for state purposes as well, thus making the tax deferral a permanent savings.

529 plans offer other benefits as well:

  • They usually offer high contribution limits, and there are no income limits for contributing.
  • There’s generally no beneficiary age limit for contributions or distributions.
  • You can control the account, even after the child is of legal age.
  • You can make tax-free rollovers to another qualifying family member.

Finally, 529 plans provide estate planning benefits: A special break for 529 plans allows you to front-load five years’ worth of annual gift tax exclusions and make up to a $70,000 contribution (or $140,000 if you split the gift with your spouse).

The biggest downside may be that your investment options — and when you can change them — are limited. Please contact us for more information on 529 plans and other tax-smart strategies for funding education expenses.

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-11-03 11:57:15 AM

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Oct 27 2015
Save tax — or at least defer it — by carefully timing business income and expenses

Posted in tax

The first step to smart timing is to project your business’s income and expenses for 2015 and 2016. With this information in hand, you can determine the best year-end timing strategy for your business.

If you expect to be in the same or lower tax bracket in 2016, consider:

Deferring income to 2016. If your business uses the cash method of accounting, you can defer billing for your products or services. Or, if you use the accrual method, you can delay shipping products or delivering services.

Accelerating deductible expenses into 2015. If you’re a cash-basis taxpayer, you may make a state estimated tax payment before December 31, so you can deduct it this year rather than next. Both cash- and accrual-basis taxpayers can charge expenses on a credit card and deduct them in the year charged, regardless of when the credit card bill is paid.

If you expect to be in a higher tax bracket in 2016, accelerating income and deferring deductible expenses may save you more tax over the two-year period (though it will increase your 2015 tax liability).

For help projecting your income and expenses or for more ideas on how you can effectively time them, please contact us.

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-10-27 09:23:51 AM

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Oct 20 2015
2 tax consequences to consider if you’re refinancing a home

Posted in tax

Now may be a great time to refinance, because mortgage rates are still low but expected to increase. Before deciding to refinance, however, here are a couple of tax consequences to consider:

1. Cash-out refinancing. If you borrow more than you need to cover your outstanding mortgage balance, the tax treatment of the cash-out portion depends on how you use the excess cash. If you use it for home improvements, it’s considered acquisition indebtedness, and the interest is deductible subject to a $1 million debt limit. If you use it for another purpose, such as buying a car or paying college tuition, it’s considered home equity debt, and deductible interest is subject to a $100,000 debt limit.

2. Prepaying interest. “Points” paid when refinancing generally are amortized and deducted ratably over the life of the loan, rather than being immediately deductible. If you’re already amortizing points from a previous refinancing and you refinance with a new lender, you can deduct the unamortized balance in the year you refinance. But if you refinance with the same lender, you must add the unamortized points from the old loan to any points you pay on the new loan and then deduct the total over the life of the new loan.

Is your head spinning? Don’t worry; we can help you understand exactly what the tax consequences of refinancing will be for you. Contact us today!

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-10-20 11:06:31 AM

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Sept 15 2015
How to determine if you need to worry about estate taxes

Posted in tax

Here’s a simplified way to project your estate tax exposure. Take the value of your estate, net of any debts. Also subtract any assets that will pass to charity on your death.

Then, if you’re married and your spouse is a U.S. citizen, subtract any assets you’ll pass to him or her. Those assets qualify for the marital deduction and avoid potential estate tax exposure until the surviving spouse dies. The net number represents your taxable estate.

You can transfer up to your available exemption amount at death free of federal estate taxes. So if your taxable estate is equal to or less than the estate tax exemption (for 2015, $5.43 million) reduced by any gift tax exemption you used during your life, no federal estate tax will be due when you die. But if your taxable estate exceeds this amount, it will be subject to estate tax. Many states, however, now impose estate tax at a lower threshold than the federal government does, so you’ll also need to consider the rules in your state.

If you’re not sure whether you’re at risk for the estate tax or if you’d like to learn about gift and estate planning strategies to reduce your potential liability, please contact us.

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-09-15 01:35:16 PM

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Sept 10 2015
When will Congress pass “extenders” legislation to revive expired tax breaks for 2015?

Posted in tax

With Congress returning from its August recess, this is the question on tax-savvy Americans’ minds. Many valuable tax breaks aren’t permanent, so Congress has to pass legislation extending them to keep them in effect. Unfortunately, Congress often waits until the last minute to do so.

For example, Congress didn’t pass 2014 extenders until December 2014, making the legislation retroactive to January 1, 2014 — but not extending the breaks to 2015. So we’re again in a waiting game to see what will happen with extenders legislation. Some believe Congress will act soon, while others think we’ll again be waiting until December.

Here are several expired breaks that may benefit you or your business if extended:

  • The deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes,
  • Tax-free IRA distributions to charities,
  • 100% bonus depreciation,
  • Enhanced Section 179 expensing,
  • Accelerated depreciation for qualified leasehold improvement, restaurant and
    retail improvement property,
  • The research tax credit,
  • The Work Opportunity tax credit, and
  • Various energy-related tax incentives.

Please check back with us for the latest information. Keep in mind that quick action after extenders legislation is passed may be required in order to take maximum advantage of the extended breaks.

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-09-10 08:22:58 AM

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Sept 02 2015
All income investments aren’t alike when it comes to taxes

Posted in tax

The tax treatment of investment income varies, and not just based on whether the income is in the form of dividends or interest. Qualified dividends are taxed at the favorable long-term capital gains tax rate (generally 15% or 20%) rather than at the applicable ordinary-income tax rate (which might be as high as 39.6%). Interest income generally is taxed at ordinary-income rates. So stocks that pay qualified dividends may be more attractive tax-wise than other income investments, such as CDs and taxable bonds.

But there are exceptions. For example, some dividends aren’t qualified and therefore are subject to ordinary-income rates, such as certain dividends from:

  • Real estate investment trusts (REITs),
  • Regulated investment companies (RICs),
  • Money market mutual funds, and
  • Certain foreign investments.

Also, the tax treatment of bond income varies. For example:

  • Interest on U.S. government bonds is taxable on federal returns but exempt on state and local returns.
  • Interest on state and local government bonds is excludable on federal returns. If the bonds were issued in your home state, interest also might be excludable on your state return.
  • Corporate bond interest is fully taxable for federal and state purposes.

While tax treatment shouldn’t drive investment decisions, it’s one factor to consider — especially when it comes to income investments. For help factoring taxes into your investment strategy, contact us.

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-09-02 05:50:45 AM

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Aug 26 2015
Exporters and others: Save taxes with an IC-DISC

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If your business exports American-made goods or performs architectural or engineering services for foreign construction projects, an interest-charge domestic international sales corporation (IC-DISC) can help slash your tax bill.

An IC-DISC is a “paper” corporation you set up to receive commissions on export sales, up to the greater of 50% of net income or 4% of gross receipts from qualified exports. Your business deducts the commission payments, while distributions received from the IC-DISC are treated as qualified dividends, not capital gains.

Essentially, an IC-DISC allows you to convert ordinary income taxed at rates as high as 39.6% into dividends taxed at 15% or 20%. An IC-DISC also allows you to defer taxes on up to $10 million in commissions held by the IC-DISC by paying a modest interest charge to the IRS.

Think an IC-DISC might be right for you? Contact us for more information.

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-08-26 11:43:30 AM

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July 29 2015
Tax treatment of NQSOs differs from that of their better-known counterpart

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With nonqualified stock options (NQSOs), if the stock appreciates beyond your exercise price, you can buy shares at a price below what they’re trading for. This is the same as for the perhaps better-known incentive stock options (ISOs).

The tax treatment of NQSOs, however, differs from that of ISOs: NQSOs create compensation income — taxed at ordinary-income rates — on the “bargain element” (the difference between the stock’s fair market value and the exercise price) when exercised. This is regardless of whether the stock is held or sold immediately. Also, NQSO exercises don’t create an alternative minimum tax (AMT) preference item that can trigger AMT liability.

When you exercise NQSOs, you may need to make estimated tax payments or increase withholding to fully cover the tax. Keep in mind that an exercise could trigger or increase exposure to top tax rates, the additional 0.9% Medicare tax and the 3.8% net investment income tax.

Have tax questions about NQSOs or other stock-based compensation? Let us know — we’d be happy to answer them.

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-07-29 06:49:57 AM

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June 17 2015
Married with a large estate? Why you still need a credit shelter trust

Posted in tax

Even though portability now allows married couples to use up both spouses’ estate tax exemptions without having to make lifetime asset transfers or set up trusts, this “easier” path isn’t necessarily the better path. For couples with large estates, making lifetime asset transfers and setting up trusts can provide benefits that exemption portability doesn’t offer.

With portability, if one spouse dies and part (or all) of his or her estate tax exemption is unused at death, the estate can elect to permit the surviving spouse to use the deceased spouse’s remaining estate tax exemption. But making the portability election doesn’t protect future growth on assets from estate tax like applying the exemption to a credit shelter trust does.

Also, the portability provision doesn’t apply to the GST tax exemption, and some states don’t recognize exemption portability. Credit shelter trusts offer GST and state estate tax planning opportunities, as well as creditor and remarriage protection.

If you’d like to learn more about credit shelter trusts or other estate planning strategies for your situation, please let us know.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-06-17 09:43:50 AM

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June 11 2015
Why the details matter when selling investments

Posted in tax

If you don’t pay attention to the details, the tax consequences of a sale may be different from what you expect. For example, if you bought the same security at different times and prices and want to sell high-tax-basis shares to reduce gain or increase a loss to offset other gains, be sure to specifically identify which block of shares is being sold.

And when it gets close to year end, keep in mind that the trade date, not the settlement date, of publicly traded securities determines the year in which you recognize the gain or loss.

Finally, consider the transaction costs, such as broker fees. While of course such costs aren’t taxes, like taxes they can have a significant impact on your net returns, especially over time, because they also reduce the amount of money you have available to invest.

If you have questions about the potential tax impact of an investment sale you’re considering — or all of the details you should keep in mind to minimize it — please contact us.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-06-11 01:35:07 PM

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May 14 2015
You're a real estate investor, but are you a "professional"?

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Income and losses from investment real estate or rental property are passive by definition — unless you’re a real estate professional. Why is this important? Passive income may be subject to the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT), and passive losses are deductible only against passive income, with the excess being carried forward.

To qualify as a real estate professional, you must annually perform:

  • More than 50% of your personal services in real property trades or businesses in which you materially participate, and
  • More than 750 hours of service in these businesses during the year.

Each year stands on its own, and there are other nuances. If you’re concerned you’ll fail either test and be subject to the 3.8% NIIT or stuck with passive losses, consider increasing your hours so you’ll meet the test. (Special rules for spouses may help.) Also be aware that the IRS has successfully challenged claims of real estate professional status in instances where the taxpayer didn’t keep adequate records of time spent.

If you’re not sure whether you qualify as a real estate professional, please contact us. We can help you make this determination and guide you on how to properly document your hours.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-14 05:56:34 AM

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May 08 2015
100% deduction for certain M&E expenses!

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Generally, businesses are limited to deducting 50% of allowable meal and entertainment (M&E) expenses. But certain expenses are 100% deductible, including expenses:

  • For food and beverages furnished at the workplace primarily for employees,
  • Treated as employee compensation,
  • That are excludable from employees’ income as de minimis fringe benefits,
  • For recreational or social activities for employees, such as holiday parties, or
  • Paid or incurred under a reimbursement or similar arrangement in connection with the performance of services.

If your company has substantial M&E expenses, you can reduce your tax bill by separately accounting for and documenting expenses that are 100% deductible. If doing so would create an administrative burden, you may be able to use statistical sampling methods to estimate the portion of M&E expenses that are fully deductible. For more information on how to take advantage of the 100% deduction, please contact us.

© 2015

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Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:28:21 AM

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May 08 2015
Got ISO's? You need to understand their tax treatment

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Incentive stock options allow you to buy company stock in the future at a fixed price equal to or greater than the stock’s fair market value on the grant date. If the stock appreciates, you can buy shares at a price below what they’re then trading for.

ISOs must comply with many rules but receive tax-favored treatment:

  • You owe no tax when ISOs are granted.
  • You owe no regular income tax when you exercise ISOs.
  • If you sell the stock after holding the shares at least one year from the exercise date and two years from the grant date, you pay tax on the sale at your long-term capital gains rate. You also may owe the 3.8% net investment income tax.
  • If you sell the stock before long-term capital gains treatment applies, a “disqualifying disposition” occurs and any gain is taxed as compensation at ordinary-income rates.

There also might be alternative minimum tax consequences in certain situations. If you’ve received ISOs, contact us. We can help you determine when to exercise them and whether to immediately sell shares received from an exercise or to hold them.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:27:30 AM

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May 08 2015
Now's the time to begin your 2015 tax planning

Posted in tax

Whether you filed your 2014 income tax return by the April 15 deadline or filed for an extension, you may think that it’s a good time to take a break from thinking about taxes. But doing so could be costly. Now is actually the time you should begin your 2015 tax planning — if you haven’t already.

A tremendous number of variables affect your overall tax liability for the year, and starting to look at these variables early in the year can give you more opportunities to reduce your 2015 tax bill. For example, the timing of income and deductible expenses can affect both the rate you pay and when you pay. By regularly reviewing your year-to-date income, expenses and potential tax, you may be able to time income and expenses in a way that reduces, or at least defers, your tax liability.

In other words, tax planning shouldn’t be just a year end activity. To get started on your 2015 tax planning, contact us. We can discuss what strategies you should be implementing now and throughout the year to minimize your tax liability.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:26:49 AM

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May 08 2015
Facing an unexpected bill for the additional 0.9% Medicare tax?

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The additional 0.9% Medicare tax applies to FICA wages and self-employment income exceeding $200,000 per year ($250,000 for married filing jointly and $125,000 for married filing separately). Unfortunately, the withholding rules have been tripping up some taxpayers, causing them to face an unexpected tax bill — plus interest and penalties — when they file their returns.

Employers must withhold the additional tax beginning in the pay period when wages exceed $200,000 for the calendar year — without regard to an employee’s filing status or income from other sources. So if your wages don’t exceed $200,000, your employer won’t withhold the tax — even if you’re liable for it. This might occur because you and your spouse’s combined wages exceed the $250,000 threshold for joint filers or because you have wages from a second job or have self-employment income.

If you expect to be in the same situation in 2015, consider filing a W-4 form to request additional income tax withholding, which can be used to cover the shortfall and avoid interest and penalties. Or you can make estimated tax payments. If you have questions about the additional 0.9% Medicare tax, please contact us.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:25:56 AM

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May 08 2015
Still filing a paper return? Be Sure you understand the "timely mailed = timely filed" rule

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The IRS considers a paper return that’s due April 15 to be timely filed if it’s postmarked by midnight on April 15. But dropping your return in a mailbox on the 15th may not be sufficient.

For example, let’s say you mail your return with a payment on April 15, but the envelope gets lost. You don’t figure this out until a couple of months later when you notice that the check still hasn’t cleared. You then refile and send a new check. Despite your efforts to timely file and pay, you’re hit with failure-to-file and failure-to-pay penalties totaling $1,500.

To avoid this risk, use certified or registered mail or one of the private delivery services designated by the IRS to comply with the timely filing rule, such as:

  • FedEx Priority Overnight
  • FedEx Standard Overnight
  • FedEx 2Day
  • UPS Next Day Air Saver
  • UPS 2nd Day Air
  • UPS 2nd Day Air A.M.

Beware: If you use an unauthorized delivery service, your return isn’t “filed” until the IRS receives it. For example, DHL is no longer an authorized delivery service.

If you’re concerned about meeting the April 15 deadline, another option is to file for an extension. We can help you determine if that makes sense for you.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:24:52 AM

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May 08 2015
Yes, there's still time to make a 2014 IRA contribution!

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The deadline for 2014 IRA contributions is April 15, 2015. The limit for total contributions to all IRAs generally is $5,500 ($6,500 if you were age 50 or older on Dec. 31, 2014).

If you haven’t already maxed out your 2014 limit, consider making one of these types of contributions by April 15:

1. Deductible traditional. If you and your spouse don’t participate in an employer-sponsored plan such as a 401(k) — or you do but your income doesn’t exceed certain limits — the contribution is fully deductible on your 2014 tax return. Account growth is tax-deferred; distributions are subject to income tax.

2. Roth. The contribution isn’t deductible, but qualified distributions — including growth — are tax-free. Income-based limits may reduce or eliminate your ability to contribute, however.

3. Nondeductible traditional. If your income is too high for you to fully benefit from a deductible traditional or a Roth contribution, you may benefit from a nondeductible contribution to a traditional IRA. The account can still grow tax-deferred, and when you take qualified distributions you’ll be taxed only on the growth. Alternatively, shortly after contributing, you may be able to convert the account to a Roth IRA with minimal tax liability.

Want to know which option best fits your situation? Contact us.

© 2015

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Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:22:58 AM

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May 08 2015
Do you need to file a 2014 gift tax return by April 15?

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Generally, you’ll need to file a gift tax return for 2014 if, during the tax year, you made gifts:

  • That exceeded the $14,000-per-recipient gift tax annual exclusion (other than to your U.S. citizen spouse),
  • That you wish to split with your spouse to take advantage of your combined $28,000 annual exclusions, or
  • Of future interests — such as remainder interests in a trust — regardless of the amount.

If you transferred hard-to-value property, such as artwork or interests in a family-owned business, consider filing a gift tax return even if you’re not required to. Adequate disclosure of the transfer in a return triggers the statute of limitations, generally preventing the IRS from challenging your valuation more than three years after you file.

There may be other instances where you’ll need to file a gift tax return — or where you won’t need to file one even though a gift exceeds your annual exclusion. Contact us for details.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:22:10 AM

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May 08 2015
Taking advantage of tangible property safe harbors

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If your business has made repairs to tangible property, such as buildings, machinery, equipment and vehicles, you may be eligible for a deduction on your 2014 income tax return. But you must make sure they were truly “repairs,” and not actually “improvements.”

Why? Costs incurred to improve tangible property must be depreciated over a period of years. But costs incurred on incidental repairs and maintenance can be expensed and immediately deducted. Distinguishing between repairs and improvements can be difficult, but a couple of IRS safe harbors can help:

Routine maintenance safe harbor. Recurring activities dedicated to keeping property in efficient operating condition can be expensed. These are activities that your business reasonably expects to perform more than once during the property’s “class life,” as defined by the IRS.

Small business safe harbor. For buildings that initially cost $1 million or less, qualified small businesses may elect to deduct the lesser of $10,000 or 2% of the unadjusted basis of the property for repairs, maintenance, improvements and similar activities each year. (A qualified small business is generally one with gross receipts of $10 million or less.)

Contact us to ensure that you’re taking all of the repair and maintenance deductions you’re entitled to.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:20:51 AM

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May 08 2015
You might benefit from deducting investment interest expense on your 2014 tax return

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Investment interest — interest on debt used to buy assets held for investment, such as margin debt used to buy securities — generally is deductible for both regular tax and alternative minimum tax purposes. But special rules apply that can make the deduction less beneficial than you might think.

Your investment interest deduction is limited to your net investment income, which, for the purposes of this deduction, generally includes taxable interest, nonqualified dividends and net short-term capital gains, reduced by other investment expenses. In other words, long-term capital gains and qualified dividends aren’t included. However, any disallowed interest is carried forward, and you can deduct it in a later year if you have excess net investment income.

You may elect to treat net long-term capital gains or qualified dividends as investment income in order to deduct more of your investment interest. But if you do, that portion of the long-term capital gain or dividend will be taxed at ordinary-income rates.

If you’re wondering whether you can claim the investment interest expense deduction on your 2014 return, please contact us. We can run the numbers to calculate your potential deduction — or to determine whether you could benefit from treating gains or dividends differently to maximize your deduction.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:20:02 AM

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May 08 2015
Should you forgo a personal exemption so your child can take the American Opportunity Credit?

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If you have a child in college, you may not qualify for the American Opportunity credit on your 2014 income tax return because your income is too high (modified adjusted gross income phaseout range of $80,000–$90,000; $160,000–$180,000 for joint filers), but your child might. The maximum credit, per student, is $2,500 per year for the first four years of postsecondary education.

There’s one potential downside: If your dependent child claims the credit, you must forgo your dependency exemption for him or her — and the child can’t take the exemption.

But because of the exemption phaseout, you might lose the benefit of your exemption anyway. The 2014 adjusted gross income thresholds for the exemption phaseout are $254,200 (singles), $279,650 (heads of households), $305,050 (married filing jointly) and $152,525 (married filing separately).

If your exemption is fully phased out, there likely is no downside to your child taking the credit. If your exemption isn’t fully phased out, compare the tax savings your child would receive from the credit with the savings you’d receive from the exemption to determine which break will provide the greater overall savings for your family.

We can help you run the numbers and can provide more information about qualifying for the American Opportunity credit.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:18:35 AM

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May 08 2015
The "manufacturers' deduction": It's not just for manufacturers

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The manufacturers’ deduction, also called the “Section 199” or “domestic production activities” deduction, is 9% of the lesser of qualified production activities income or taxable income. The deduction is also limited to 50% of W-2 wages paid by the taxpayer that are allocable to domestic production gross receipts.

Yes, the deduction is available to traditional manufacturers. But businesses engaged in activities such as construction, engineering, architecture, computer software production and agricultural processing also may be eligible.

The deduction isn’t allowed in determining net self-employment earnings and generally can’t reduce net income below zero. But it can be used against the alternative minimum tax.

Contact us to learn whether this potentially powerful deduction could reduce your business’s tax liability when you file your 2014 return.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:17:43 AM

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May 08 2015
Why you shouldn't procrastinate on filing your 2014 income tax return

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If you’re like many Americans, you may not start thinking about filing your tax return until the April 15 deadline is just a few weeks — or perhaps even just a few days — away. But there’s another date you should keep in mind: Jan. 20. That’s the date the IRS began accepting 2014 returns, and filing as close to that date as possible could protect you from tax return fraud.

In this increasingly common scam, thieves use victims’ personal information to file fraudulent tax returns electronically and claim bogus refunds. When the real taxpayers file, they’re notified that they’re attempting to file duplicate returns.
Tax return fraud can cause major headaches to straighten out and significantly delay legitimate refunds. But if you file first, it will be the thief who’s filing the duplicate return, not you.

Of course you need to have your W-2s and 1099s to file. So another key date to be aware of is Feb. 2 — the deadline for employers to issue 2014 W-2s to employees and, generally, for businesses to issue 1099s to recipients of any 2014 interest, dividend or reportable miscellaneous income payments.

Let us know if you have questions about tax return fraud or would like help filing your 2014 return early.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:15:56 AM

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May 08 2015
Have you had your annual estate plan checkup?

Posted in tax

An annual estate plan checkup is critical to the health of your estate plan. Because various exclusion, exemption and deduction amounts are adjusted for inflation, they can change from year to year, impacting your plan:

2014

2015

Lifetime gift and estate tax exemption

$5.34 million

$5.43 million

Generation-skipping transfer tax exemption

$5.34 million

$5.43 million

Annual gift tax exclusion

$14,000

$14,000

Marital deduction for gifts to noncitizen spouse

$145,000

$147,000

You may need to update your estate plan based on these changes. But the beginning of the year isn’t the only time for an estate plan checkup. Whenever there are significant changes in your family — such as births, deaths, marriages or divorces — it’s a good idea to revisit your estate plan. Your plan also merits a look any time your financial situation changes significantly.

If you haven’t yet had your annual estate plan checkup, please contact us. Or, if you don’t yet have an estate plan, we can help you create one.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:14:16 AM

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May 08 2015
Tax extenders: 3 credits for businesses on their 2014 returns

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The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (TIPA) extended through Dec. 31, 2014, a wide variety of tax breaks, including many tax credits — which are particularly valuable because they reduce taxes dollar-for-dollar. Here are three credits that businesses may benefit from when they file their 2014 returns:

1. The research credit. This credit (also commonly referred to as the “research and development” or “research and experimentation” credit) rewards businesses that increase their investments in research. The credit, generally equal to a portion of qualified research expenses, is complicated to calculate, but the tax savings can be substantial.

2. The Work Opportunity credit. This credit is available for hiring from certain disadvantaged groups, such as food stamp recipients, ex-felons and veterans who’ve been unemployed for four weeks or more. The maximum credit ranges from $2,400 for most groups to $9,600 for disabled veterans who’ve been unemployed for six months or more.

3. The Sec. 45L energy-efficient new home credit. An eligible construction contractor can claim a credit for each qualified new energy efficient home that the contractor built and that was acquired by a person from the contractor for use as a residence during 2014. The credit equals either $1,000 or $2,000 per unit depending on the projected level of fuel consumption.

Wondering if you qualify for any of these tax credits? Or what other breaks extended by TIPA could reduce your 2014 tax bill? Contact us!

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:13:19 AM

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May 08 2015
Tax extenders: 3 breaks for individuals on their 2014 returns

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On Dec. 19, the president signed into law the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (TIPA), which extended through Dec. 31, 2014, many valuable tax breaks that had expired at the end of 2013. Here are three that individuals may be able to take advantage of when filing their 2014 returns:

1. State and local sales tax deduction. Individuals can take an itemized deduction for state and local sales taxes instead of for state and local income taxes. This option can be valuable for taxpayers who live in states with no or low income tax rates or purchase major items, such as a car or boat.

2. Tuition and related expenses deduction. This above-the-line deduction for qualified higher education expenses may be beneficial to taxpayers who’re ineligible for education-related tax credits, though income-based limits also apply to the deduction.

3. Home mortgage debt forgiveness exclusion. Discharge of indebtedness income from qualified principal residence debt, up to a $2 million limit ($1 million for married taxpayers filing separately), may be excluded from gross income.

To learn whether you qualify for these — or other breaks extended by TIPA — please contact us.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:11:49 AM

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May 08 2015
You may be able to save more for retirement in 2015

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Many retirement plan contribution limits increase slightly in 2015; thus, you may have opportunities to increase your retirement savings:


Type of limitation

2014 limit

2015 limit

Elective deferrals to 401(k), 403(b), 457(b)(2) and 457(c)(1) plans

$17,500

$18,000

Annual benefit for defined benefit plans

$210,000

$210,000

Contributions to defined contribution plans

$52,000

$53,000

Contributions to SIMPLEs

$12,000

$12,500

Contributions to IRAs

$5,500

$5,500

Catch-up contributions to 401(k), 403(b), 457(b)(2) and 457(c)(1) plans

$5,500

$6,000

Catch-up contributions to SIMPLEs

$2,500

$3,000

Catch-up contributions to IRAs

$1,000

$1,000

Other factors may affect how much you can contribute (or how much your employer can contribute on your behalf). For example, income-based limits may reduce or even eliminate your ability to take advantage of IRAs. For more information on how to make the most of your tax-advantaged retirement-saving opportunities in 2015, please contact us.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:10:48 AM

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May 08 2015
3 extended tax breaks to act on by Dec. 31

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On Dec. 16, the Senate passed the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (TIPA), which the House had passed on Dec. 3. TIPA extended many valuable tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013 — but only through Dec. 31, 2014.

Here are three types of extended tax breaks that you may want to take action on before year end:

1. Small business stock gains exclusion. Gains realized on the sale or exchange of qualified small business (QSB) stock acquired in 2014 will be eligible for an exclusion of 100% if the stock has been held for at least five years. So you may want to consider purchasing QSB stock by Dec. 31.

2. Tax-free IRA distributions to charities. Taxpayers age 70½ or older can make direct contributions from their IRA to qualified charitable organizations without incurring any income tax on the distribution, up to $100,000 for the 2014 tax year. You can even use the distribution to satisfy a required minimum distribution. But the distribution must be made by Dec. 31.

3. Depreciation-related breaks. Businesses can enjoy larger 2014 deductions if they invest in property that qualifies for enhanced Section 179 expensing, 50% bonus depreciation, and/or accelerated depreciation for qualified leasehold-improvement, restaurant and retail-improvement property. But the property must be placed in service by Dec. 31.

Additional rules and limits apply to these breaks, so please contact us to find out which ones you can benefit from.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:10:00 AM

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May 08 2015
Why you should make annual exclusion gifts before year end

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The 2014 gift tax annual exclusion allows you to give up to $14,000 per recipient tax-free without using up any of your lifetime gift tax exemption. If you and your spouse “split” the gift, you can give $28,000 per recipient.

The gifted assets are removed from your taxable estate, which can be especially advantageous if you expect them to appreciate. That’s because the future appreciation can avoid gift and estate taxes.

The exclusion is scheduled to remain at $14,000 ($28,000 for split gifts) in 2015. But that’s not a reason to skip making annual exclusion gifts this year. You need to use your 2014 exclusion by Dec. 31 or you’ll lose it.

The exclusion doesn’t carry from one year to the next. For example, if you don’t make an annual exclusion gift to your daughter this year, you can’t add $14,000 to your 2015 exclusion to make a $28,000 tax-free gift to her next year.

We can help you determine how to make the most of your 2014 gift tax annual exclusion.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:08:57 AM

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May 08 2015
How much time is left to make donations you can deduct on your 2014 return?

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To take a 2014 charitable donation deduction, the gift must be made by Dec. 31, 2014. According to the IRS, a donation generally is “made” at the time of its “unconditional delivery.” But what does this mean? Is it the date you, for example, write a check or make an online gift via your credit card? Or is it the date the charity actually receives the funds — or perhaps the date of the charity’s acknowledgment of your gift?

The delivery date depends in part on what you donate and how you donate it. Here are a few examples for common donations:

Check. The date you mail it.

Credit card. The date you make the charge.

Pay-by-phone account. The date the financial institution pays the amount.

Stock certificate. The date you mail the properly endorsed stock certificate to the charity.

Many additional rules apply to the charitable donation deduction, so please contact us if you have questions about the deductibility of a gift you’ve made or are considering making. But act soon — you don’t have much time left to make donations that will reduce your 2014 tax bill.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2015-05-08 10:07:32 AM

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Nov 25 2014
Buying a business vehicle before year end may reduce your 2014 tax bill!

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If you’re looking to reduce your 2014 tax bill, you may want to consider purchasing a business vehicle before year end. Business-related purchases of new or used vehicles may be eligible for Section 179 expensing, which allows you to expense, rather than depreciate over a period of years, some or all of the vehicle’s cost.

The normal Sec. 179 expensing limit generally applies to vehicles weighing more than 14,000 pounds. The limit for 2014 is $25,000, and the break begins to phase out dollar-for-dollar when total asset acquisitions for the tax year exceed $200,000. These amounts have dropped significantly from their 2013 levels. But Congress may still revive higher Sec. 179 amounts for 2014.

Even when the normal Sec. 179 expensing limit is higher, a $25,000 limit applies to SUVs weighing more than 6,000 pounds but no more than 14,000 pounds. Vehicles weighing 6,000 pounds or less are subject to the passenger automobile limits. For 2014, the depreciation limit is $3,160.

Many additional rules and limits apply to these breaks. So if you’re considering a business vehicle purchase, contact us to learn what tax benefits you might enjoy if you make the purchase by Dec. 31.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-11-25 12:49:12 PM

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Nov 13 2014
Will the lame-duck Congress revive expired tax breaks for 2014?

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With the midterm elections now behind us and control of the U.S. Senate set to shift parties in January, it’s time to revisit the valuable tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013. Will the lame-duck 113th Congress revive any of them for 2014? Or will nothing happen until the 114th Congress goes into session after the new year begins?

Here are some of the breaks in question:

  • The deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes,
  • Tax-free IRA distributions to charities,
  • 100% bonus depreciation,
  • Enhanced Section 179 expensing,
  • Accelerated depreciation for qualified leasehold improvement, restaurant and retail improvement property,
  • The research tax credit,
  • The Work Opportunity tax credit, and
  • Various energy-related tax incentives.

For you to benefit on your 2014 tax return from any breaks that are revived, you might need to take additional action by Dec. 31. So it’s a good idea to consider what you’d need to do so you can act quickly if applicable breaks are indeed revived. If you have questions about what you can do to prepare, please contact us.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-11-13 06:18:45 AM

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Nov 05 2014
How higher-bracket taxpayers can take advantage of the 0% long-term capital gains rate.

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The long-term capital gains rate is 0% for gain that would be taxed at 10% or 15% based on the taxpayer’s ordinary-income rate. If you have loved ones in the 0% bracket, you may be able to take advantage of it by transferring appreciated assets to them. The recipients can then sell the assets at no federal tax cost.

Before acting, make sure the recipients you’re considering won’t be subject to the “kiddie tax.” This tax applies to children under age 19 as well as to full-time students under age 24 (unless the students provide more than half of their own support from earned income).

For children subject to the kiddie tax, any unearned income beyond $2,000 (for 2014) is taxed at their parents’ marginal rate rather than their own, likely lower, rate. So transferring appreciated assets to them will provide only minimal tax benefits.

It’s also important to consider any gift and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax consequences. For more information on transfer taxes, the kiddie tax or capital gains planning, please contact us. We can help you find the strategies that will best achieve your goals.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-11-05 01:52:51 PM

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Oct 29 2014
Timing business income and expenses to your tax advantage!

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Typically, it’s better to defer tax. Here are two timing strategies that can help businesses do this:

  1. Defer income to next year. If your business uses the cash method of accounting, you can defer billing for your products or services. Or, if you use the accrual method, you can delay shipping products or delivering services.
  2. Accelerate deductible expenses into the current year. If you’re a cash-basis taxpayer, you may make a state estimated tax payment before Dec. 31, so you can deduct it this year rather than next. Both cash- and accrual-basis taxpayers can charge expenses on a credit card and deduct them in the year charged, regardless of when the credit card bill is paid.

But if you think you’ll be in a higher tax bracket next year, consider taking the opposite approach — accelerating income and deferring deductible expenses. This will increase your tax bill this year but can save you tax over the two-year period.

These are only some of the nuances to consider. Please contact us to discuss what timing strategies will work to your tax advantage, based on your specific situation.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-10-29 10:58:54 AM

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Oct 17 2014
Self-employed? Save more by setting up your own retirement plan!

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If you’re self-employed, you may be able to set up a retirement plan that allows you to make much larger contributions than you could make as an employee. For example, the maximum 2014 employee contribution to a 401(k) plan is $17,500 — $23,000 if you’re age 50 or older. Look at how the limits for these two options available to the self-employed compare:

1. Profit-sharing plan. The 2014 contribution limit is $52,000 — $57,500 if you’re age 50 or older and the plan includes a 401(k) arrangement.

2. Defined benefit plan. This plan sets a future pension benefit and then actuarially calculates the contributions needed to attain that benefit. The maximum future annual benefit toward which 2014 contributions can be made is generally $210,000. Depending on your age, you may be able to contribute more than you could to a profit-sharing plan.

You don’t even have to make your 2014 contributions this year. As long as you set up one of these plans by Dec. 31, 2014, you can make deductible 2014 contributions to it until the 2015 due date of your 2014 tax return. Additional rules and limits apply, so contact us to learn which plan would work better for you.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-10-17 06:53:31 AM

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Sept 30 2014
Maximizing depreciation deductions in an uncertain tax environment.

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For assets with a useful life of more than one year, businesses generally must depreciate the cost over a period of years. Special breaks are available in some circumstances, but uncertainty currently surrounds them:

Section 179 expensing. This allows you to deduct, rather than depreciate, the cost of purchasing eligible assets. Currently the expensing limit for 2014 is $25,000, and the break begins to phase out when total asset acquisitions for the year exceed $200,000. These amounts have dropped significantly from their 2013 levels. And the break allowing up to $250,000 of Sec. 179 expensing for qualified leasehold-improvement, restaurant and retail-improvement property expired Dec. 31, 2013.

50% bonus depreciation. This additional first-year depreciation allowance expired Dec. 31, 2013, with a few exceptions.

Accelerated depreciation. This break allowing a shortened recovery period of 15 — rather than 39 — years for qualified leasehold-improvement, restaurant and retail-improvement property expired Dec. 31, 2013.

Many expect Congress to revive some, if not all, of the expired enhancements and breaks after the midterm election in November. So keep an eye on the news. In the meantime, contact us for ideas on how you can maximize your 2014 depreciation deductions.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-09-30 01:10:03 PM

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Sept 24 2014
Watch out for the wash sale rule!

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If you’ve cashed in some big gains this year, consider looking for unrealized losses in your portfolio and selling those investments before year end to offset your gains. This can reduce your 2014 tax liability.

But if you want to minimize the impact on your asset allocation, keep in mind the wash sale rule. It prevents you from taking a loss on a security if you buy a substantially identical security (or an option to buy such a security) within 30 days before or after you sell the security that created the loss. You can recognize the loss only when you sell the replacement security.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the wash sale rule and still achieve your goals:

  • Immediately buy securities of a different company in the same industry or shares in a mutual fund that holds securities much like the ones you sold.
  • Wait 31 days to repurchase the same security.
  • Before selling the security, purchase additional shares of that security equal to the number you want to sell at a loss; then wait 31 days to sell the original portion.

For more ideas on saving taxes on your investments, please contact us.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-09-24 10:58:13 AM

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Sept 19 2014
Careful tax planning critical for RSUs — and other stock-based compensation.

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If you’re an executive or other key employee, you might be compensated with more than just salary, fringe benefits and bonuses: You might also be awarded stock-based compensation, such as restricted stock or stock options. Another form that’s becoming more common is restricted stock units (RSUs).

RSUs are contractual rights to receive stock (or its cash value) after the award has vested. Unlike restricted stock, RSUs aren’t eligible for the Section 83(b) election that can allow ordinary income to be converted into capital gains.

But RSUs do offer a limited ability to defer income taxes: Unlike restricted stock, which becomes taxable immediately upon vesting, RSUs aren’t taxable until the employee actually receives the stock.

So rather than having the stock delivered immediately upon vesting, you may be able to arrange with your employer to delay delivery. This will defer income tax and may allow you to reduce or avoid exposure to the additional 0.9% Medicare tax (because the RSUs are treated as FICA income). However, any income deferral must satisfy the strict requirements of Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 409A.

If RSUs — or other types of stock-based awards — are part of your compensation package, please contact us. Careful tax planning is critical.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-09-19 01:53:02 PM

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July 09 2014
Have you misclassified employees as independent contractors?

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An employer enjoys several advantages when it classifies a worker as an independent contractor rather than as an employee. For example, it isn’t required to pay payroll taxes, withhold taxes, pay benefits or comply with most wage and hour laws. However, there’s a potential downside: If the IRS determines that you’ve improperly classified employees as independent contractors, you can be subject to significant back taxes, interest and penalties.

To determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, the IRS considers three categories of factors related to the degree of control and independence:

1. Behavioral. Does the employer control, or have the right to control, what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?

2. Financial. Does the employer control the business aspects of the worker’s job? Does the employer reimburse the worker’s expenses or provide the tools or supplies to do the job?

3. Type of relationship. Will the relationship continue after the work is finished? Is the work a key aspect of the employer’s business?

Determining the proper classification under these factors may not be easy. If you’re concerned you may have misclassified workers, please contact us.

Last Updated by Admin on 2014-07-09 06:03:09 AM

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June 25 2014
If you’ve put your home on the market, you need to know the tax consequences of a sale.

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Summer is a common time to put a home on the market. If you’re among those who are following this trend, it’s important to be aware of the tax consequences.

If you’re selling your principal residence, you can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) of gain — as long as you meet certain tests. Gain that qualifies for exclusion also is excluded from the Affordable Care Act’s 3.8% net investment income tax.

A loss on the sale of your principal residence generally isn’t deductible. But if part of your home is rented out or used exclusively for your business, the loss attributable to that portion may be deductible.

If you’re selling a second home, be aware that it won’t be eligible for the gain exclusion. But if it qualifies as a rental property, it can be considered a business asset, and you may be able to defer tax on any gains through an installment sale or a Section 1031 exchange. Or you may be able to deduct a loss.

If you have a home on the market, please contact us to learn more about the potential tax consequences of a sale.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-06-25 09:43:39 AM

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June 17 2014
Consider the Sec. 83(b) election to save tax on restricted stock awards.

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Restricted stock is stock that’s granted subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture. Income recognition is normally deferred until the stock is no longer subject to that risk or you sell it. You then pay taxes on the stock’s fair market value at your ordinary-income rate.

But you can instead make a Section 83(b) election to recognize ordinary income when you receive the stock. This election, which you must make within 30 days after receiving the stock, can be beneficial if the stock is likely to appreciate significantly. Why? Because it allows you to convert future appreciation from ordinary income to long-term capital gains income and defer it until the stock is sold.

There are some potential disadvantages, however:

·         You must prepay tax in the current year — which also could push you into a higher income tax bracket or trigger or increase the additional 0.9% Medicare tax.

·         Any taxes you pay because of the election can’t be refunded if you eventually forfeit the stock or sell it at a decreased value.

If you’ve recently been awarded restricted stock or expect to be awarded such stock this year, work with us to determine whether the Sec. 83(b) election is appropriate for you.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-06-17 01:10:05 PM

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June 11 2014
Who’s subject to the 50% limit on meal and entertainment deductions?

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In general, when meal and entertainment expenses are incurred in the context of an employer-employee or customer–independent contractor relationship, one party will be subject to a 50% limitation on the deduction. But which party? Last year, the IRS finalized regulations that address this question.

In the employer-employee setting:

·         If the employer reimburses the employee for meal or entertainment expenses and treats the reimbursement as compensation, the employee reports the entire amount as taxable income. The employer deducts the payment as compensation, and the employee may be able to claim a business expense deduction, subject to the 50% limit.

·         If the employer doesn’t treat the reimbursement as compensation, the employee excludes the entire amount from taxable income and the employer deducts the expense, subject to the 50% limit.

In a customer–independent contractor setting, the final regulations allow the parties to agree as to who will be subject to the 50% limit. If there isn’t an agreement, then:

·         If the contractor accounts to the customer for meal and entertainment expenses reimbursed by the customer (i.e., properly substantiates the expenses), the 50% limit applies to the customer.

·         If the contractor doesn’t, the limit applies to the contractor.

The rules surrounding meal and entertainment expense deductions are complex. Please contact us to ensure you’re making the most of the deductions available to you but not putting yourself at risk for back taxes, interest and penalties.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-06-11 01:16:45 PM

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June 03 2014
What to do with your old retirement plan when you change jobs?

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First and foremost, don’t take a lump-sum distribution from your old employer’s retirement plan. It generally will be taxable and, if you’re under age 59½, subject to a 10% early-withdrawal penalty. Here are three alternatives:

1. Stay put. You may be able to leave your money in your old plan. But if you’ll be participating in your new employer’s plan or you already have an IRA, keeping track of multiple plans can make managing your retirement assets more difficult. Also consider how well the old plan’s investment options meet your needs.

2. Roll over to your new employer’s plan. This may be beneficial if it leaves you with only one retirement plan to keep track of. But evaluate the new plan’s investment options.

3. Roll over to an IRA. If you participate in a new employer’s plan, this will require keeping track of two plans. But it may be the best alternative because IRAs offer nearly unlimited investment choices.

There are additional issues to consider when deciding what to do with your old retirement plan. We can help you make an informed decision — and avoid potential tax traps.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-06-03 02:10:57 PM

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May 21 2014
3 tax traps when donating real estate to charity!

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If you’re considering donating a property to charity, here are three potential tax traps you need to be aware of:

  1. If you donate real estate to a public charity, you generally can deduct the property’s fair market value. But if you donate it to a private foundation, your deduction is limited to the lower of fair market value or your cost basis in the property.
  2. If the property is subject to a mortgage, you may recognize taxable income for all or a portion of the loan’s value. And charities might not accept mortgaged property because it may trigger unrelated business income tax for them.
  3. If the charity sells the property within three years, it must report the sale to the IRS. If the price is substantially less than the amount you claimed, the IRS may challenge your deduction.

These are only some of the traps that could reduce the tax benefit of your real estate donation. Please contact us to help ensure that you avoid these and other traps.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-05-21 10:13:58 AM

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May 15 2014
Employers: Have you amended your FSA plan?

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Health care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) allow employees to redirect pretax income to an employer-sponsored plan that pays, or reimburses them for, qualified medical expenses not covered by insurance. A maximum employee contribution limit of $2,500 went into effect in 2013. (Employers can set a lower limit, however, and there will continue to be no limit on employer contributions to FSAs.)

Employers that haven’t yet done so must amend their plans and summary plan descriptions to reflect the $2,500 limit (or a lower one, if they wish) by Dec. 31, 2014.

While you’re making those amendments, you may want to consider another amendment: allowing a $500 rollover.

Generally, an employee loses any FSA amount that hasn’t been used by the plan year’s end. But last year the IRS issued guidance permitting employers to amend their FSA plans to allow up to $500 to be rolled over to the next year. However, if your plan was previously amended to allow a 2½-month grace period for incurring expenses to use up the previous year’s contribution, you cannot add the rollover provision unless you eliminate the grace period provision.

Questions about amending your FSA plan — or adding FSAs to your benefits offering? Then contact us; we’d be pleased to answer these and other questions related to taxes and employee benefits.

Last Updated by Admin on 2014-05-15 06:01:46 AM

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May 06 2014
Don’t lose tax benefits when combining business travel with vacation pleasure!

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Are you thinking about turning a business trip into a family vacation this summer? This can be a great way to fund a portion of your vacation costs. But if you’re not careful, you could lose the tax benefits of business travel.

Generally, if the primary purpose of your trip is business, then expenses directly attributable to business will be deductible (or excludable from your taxable income if your employer is paying the expenses or reimbursing you through an accountable plan). Reasonable and necessary travel expenses generally include:

  • Air, taxi and rail fares,
  • Baggage handling,
  • Car use or rental,
  • Lodging,
  • Meals, and
  • Tips.

Expenses associated with taking extra days for sightseeing, relaxation or other personal activities generally aren’t deductible. Nor is the cost of your spouse or children traveling with you. During your trip it’s critical to carefully document your business vs. personal expenses. Also keep in mind that special limitations apply to foreign travel, luxury water travel and certain convention expenses.

For more information on how to maximize your tax savings when combining business travel with a vacation, please contact us. In some cases you may be able to deduct expenses that you might not think would be deductible.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-05-06 12:46:10 PM

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Apr 22 2014
Your 2013 tax return is filed. What tax records can you toss?

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The short answer is: none. You need to hold on to all of your 2013 tax records for now. But this is a great time to take a look at your records for previous tax years and determine what you can purge.

At minimum, keep tax records for as long as the IRS has the ability to audit your return or assess additional taxes, which generally is three years after you file your return. This means you likely can shred and toss most records related to tax returns for 2010 and earlier years.

But you’ll need to hang on to certain records beyond the statute of limitations:

·         Keep tax returns themselves forever, so you can prove to the IRS that you actually filed. (There’s no statute of limitations for an audit if you didn’t file a return.)

·         For W-2 forms, consider holding them until you begin receiving Social Security benefits. Why? In case a question arises regarding your work record or earnings for a particular year.

·         For records related to real estate or investments, keep documents as long as you own the asset, plus three years after you sell it and report the sale on your tax return.

This is only a sampling of retention guidelines for tax-related documents. If you have questions about other documents, please contact us.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-04-22 02:06:24 PM

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Apr 16 2014
Making the most of your business’s NOL.

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If during 2013 income tax return filing you found that your business had a net operating loss (NOL) for the year, the news isn’t all bad. While no one enjoys being unprofitable, an NOL does have an upside: tax benefits.

In a nutshell, an NOL occurs when a company’s deductible expenses exceed its income — though of course the specific rules are more complex.

When a business incurs a qualifying NOL, there are a couple of options:

  1. Carry the loss back up to two years, and then carry any remaining amount forward up to 20 years. The carryback can generate an immediate tax refund, boosting cash flow.
  2. Elect to carry the entire loss forward. If cash flow is fairly strong, carrying the loss forward may be more beneficial. After all, it will offset income for up to 20 years. Doing so may be especially savvy when business income is expected to increase substantially.

In the case of flow-through entities, owners might be able to reap individual tax benefits from the NOL.

If you have questions about the NOL rules or would like assistance in determining how to make the most of an NOL, please contact us.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-04-16 06:29:57 AM

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Apr 04 2014
Can I claim my elderly parent as a dependent?

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For you to deduct up to $3,900 on your 2013 tax return under the adult-dependent exemption, in most cases the parent must have less gross income for the tax year than the exemption amount. Generally Social Security is excluded, but payments from dividends, interest and retirement plans are included.

In addition, you must have contributed more than 50% of your parent’s financial support. If the parent lived with you, the amount of support you claim under the 50% test can include the fair market rental value of part of your residence.

If you shared caregiving duties with a sibling and your combined support exceeded 50%, the exemption can be claimed even though no one individually provided more than 50%. However, only one of you can claim the exemption.

The adult-dependent exemption is just one tax break that you may be able to employ to ease the financial burden of caring for an elderly parent. Contact us for more information on qualifying for this break or others.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-04-04 07:31:18 AM

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Mar 27 2014
It’s not too late to make a 2013 contribution to an IRA?

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Tax-advantaged retirement plans allow your money to grow tax-deferred — or, in the case of Roth accounts, tax-free. But annual contributions are limited by tax law, and any unused limit can’t be carried forward to make larger contributions in future years. So it’s a good idea to use up as much of your annual limits as possible.

Have you maxed out your 2013 limits? While it’s too late to add to your 2013 401(k) contributions, there’s still time to make 2013 IRA contributions. The deadline is April 15, 2014. The limit for total contributions to all IRAs generally is $5,500 ($6,500 if you were age 50 or older on Dec. 31, 2013).

A traditional IRA contribution also might provide some savings on your 2013 tax bill. If you and your spouse don’t participate in an employer-sponsored plan such as a 401(k) — or you do but your income doesn’t exceed certain limits — your traditional IRA contribution is fully deductible on your 2013 tax return.

If you don’t qualify for a deductible traditional IRA contribution, consider making a Roth IRA or nondeductible traditional IRA contribution. We can help you determine what makes sense for you.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-03-27 06:13:51 AM

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Feb 27 2014
Could deducting state and local sales taxes save you more?

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For the last several years, taxpayers have been allowed to take an itemized deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes. Although this break hasn’t yet been extended to 2014, it is available for 2013.

It can be valuable if you reside in a state with no or low income taxes or if you purchase major items, such as a car or boat. So see if you can save more by deducting sales tax on your 2013 return. And if you’re contemplating a major purchase, keep an eye on Congress to see if the break will be revived for 2014. You may want to factor the deduction’s availability into your purchase decision.

For help determining whether deducting sales tax makes sense for you — and for the latest information on the status of the deduction for 2014 — please contact us.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2014-02-27 03:09:50 PM

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Feb 22 2014
Short-term ACA relief now available for midsize and large employers!

Posted in general

Recently released IRS final regulations for the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) employer shared-responsibility provision provide some short-term relief for midsize and large employers.

Under the ACA, the shared-responsibility provision (commonly referred to as “play-or-pay”) applies to “large” employers — those with the equivalent of 50 or more full-time employees. Play-or-pay had been scheduled to go into effect in 2014 but last year the IRS pushed that out to 2015. Now, under the final regs, eligible midsize employers that otherwise would be considered large employers under the ACA won’t be subject to the provision until 2016. To qualify for the midsize-employer relief, an employer must:

  • Employ on average fewer than 100 full-time employees or the equivalent during 2014,
  • Maintain its workforce size and aggregate hours of service,
  • Maintain the health care coverage it offered as of Feb. 9, 2014, and
  • Certify that it meets these requirements.

The final regs also provide some relief for large employers that don’t qualify for the midsize-employer relief: In 2015, they can avoid the penalty for not offering minimum essential coverage by offering such coverage to at least 70% of their full-time employees, rather than the 95% originally scheduled. The 95% requirement will apply in 2016 and beyond.

The final regs also clarify certain aspects of the play-or-pay provision. Please contact us if you’d like more information on the final play-or-pay regs or other ACA provisions.

© 2014

Last Updated by Admin on 2014-02-22 07:34:32 AM

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Feb 17 2014
There’s still time to get substantiation for 2013 donations!

Posted in general

To support a charitable deduction, you need to comply with IRS substantiation requirements. This generally includes obtaining a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the charity stating the amount of the donation, whether you received any goods or services in consideration for the donation, and the value of any such goods or services.

“Contemporaneous” means the earlier of 1) the date you file your tax return, or 2) the extended due date of your return. So if you made a donation in 2013 but haven’t yet received substantiation from the charity, it’s not too late — as long as you haven’t filed your 2013 return. Contact the charity and request a written acknowledgement.

And don’t take the substantiation requirements lightly. In one U.S. Tax Court case, the taxpayers substantiated a donation deduction with canceled checks and a written acknowledgment. The IRS denied the deduction, however, because the acknowledgment failed to state whether the taxpayers received goods or services in consideration for their donation. The taxpayers obtained a second acknowledgment including the required statement, but the Tax Court didn’t accept it because it wasn’t contemporaneous.

Additional substantiation requirements apply to some types of donations. We can help ensure you meet them so you can enjoy the deductions you’re expecting.

© 2014

Last Updated by Admin on 2014-02-17 12:42:22 PM

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Feb 06 2014
Home office deduction 101.

Posted in general

If your use of a home office is for your employer’s benefit or because you’re self employed, you may be able to deduct a portion of your mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance, utilities and certain other expenses, as well as the depreciation allocable to the office space. Or you may be able to take the new, simpler, “safe harbor” deduction.

Beginning with 2013 tax returns, taxpayers can use the safe harbor deduction in lieu of calculating, allocating and substantiating actual expenses. Other rules — such as the requirement that the office be used regularly and exclusively for business — still apply. The safe harbor deduction is capped at $1,500 per year, based on $5 per square foot up to a maximum of 300 square feet.

Also be aware that, for employees, home office expenses are a miscellaneous itemized deduction. This means you’ll enjoy a tax benefit only if these expenses plus your other miscellaneous itemized expenses exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). If, however, you’re self-employed, you can deduct eligible home office expenses against your self-employment income.

Questions about deducting home office expenses? Contact us; we’d be pleased to answer them.

 

Last Updated by Admin on 2014-02-06 12:51:45 PM

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Jan 31 2014
File early to reduce your risk of tax return fraud!

Posted in general

With the well-publicized security breach at major retailer Target recently, identity theft is likely on your mind. And stolen credit isn’t your only risk.

In an increasingly common scam, identity thieves use victims’ personal information to file fraudulent tax returns electronically and claim bogus refunds. When the real taxpayers file their returns, they’re notified that they’re attempting to file duplicate returns. It can take months to straighten things out, causing all sorts of headaches and delaying legitimate refunds.

You can reduce your likelihood of becoming a victim by filing your return as soon as possible after you receive your W-2 and 1099s. If you file first, it will be the thief who’s filing the duplicate return, not you.

Also, if you did shop at Target during the security breach, be sure to check your bank and credit card accounts frequently, and consider signing up for the free year of credit monitoring the retailer is offering potential victims.

If you’d like to file your tax return early this year, please contact us. We’d be happy to help. Also let us know if you have questions about protecting yourself from tax return fraud and identity theft.

 

Last Updated by Admin on 2014-01-31 06:42:20 AM

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Jan 21 2014
Are you meeting the ACA’s additional Medicare tax withholding requirements?

Posted in general

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), beginning in 2013, taxpayers with FICA wages over $200,000 per year ($250,000 for joint filers and $125,000 for married filing separately) had to pay an additional 0.9% Medicare tax on the excess earnings.

Unlike regular Medicare taxes, the additional Medicare tax doesn’t include a corresponding employer portion. But employers are obligated to withhold the additional tax to the extent that an employee’s wages exceed $200,000 in a calendar year. The $200,000 amount doesn’t include the employee’s income from any other sources or take into account his or her tax filing status.

In December 2013, the IRS released final regulations regarding the additional Medicare tax and the employer withholding requirements. The only substantial change from the proposed regulations is that employers no longer have access to relief from payment liability for any additional Medicare tax that was required to be withheld but that they didn’t withhold — unless the employer can provide evidence that the employee in question has paid the tax.

Please let us know if you have questions about the requirements. We’d be happy to answer them and help you ensure you’re in compliance with these as well as other ACA requirements.

 

Last Updated by Admin on 2014-01-21 03:17:24 PM

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Jan 15 2014
Time for an estate plan checkup!

Posted in general

Now that we’re in the new year, it’s time for an estate plan checkup. Why? First, various exclusion, exemption and deduction amounts are adjusted for inflation and can change from year to year, so it’s a good idea to see if they warrant any updates to your estate plan:

 

2013

2014

Lifetime gift and estate tax exemption
 

$5.25 million

$5.34 million

Generation-skipping transfer tax exemption
 

$5.25 million

$5.34 million

 Annual gift tax exclusion
 

$14,000

$14,000


Marital deduction for gifts to noncitizen spouse
 

$143,000

$145,000

But inflation adjustments aren’t the only reason for an estate plan checkup. You should also review your plan whenever there are significant changes in your family, such as births, deaths, marriages or divorces. And your estate plan also merits a look if your financial situation has changed significantly.

If you want to find out if your estate plan needs updating — or if you don’t have an estate plan and would like to put one in place — please contact us. We can help you ensure you have a plan that will achieve your goals.

Last Updated by Admin on 2014-01-15 01:37:25 PM

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Jan 08 2014
Will Congress revive expired tax breaks?

Posted in tax

Many valuable tax breaks expired at the end of 2013. But Congress probably will revive at least some of them, likely retroactively to Jan. 1, 2014. The question is exactly which breaks they’ll extend and when they’ll pass the necessary legislation to do so.

Here are several that may benefit you or your business if extended:

  • The deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes,
  • Tax-free IRA distributions to charities,
  • 100% bonus depreciation,
  • Enhanced Section 179 expensing,
  • Accelerated depreciation for qualified leasehold improvement, restaurant and retail improvement property,
  • The research tax credit,
  • The Work Opportunity tax credit, and
  • Various energy-related tax incentives.
Please check back with us for the latest information. In the meantime, keep in mind that, if you qualify, you can take advantage of these breaks on your 2013 tax return.

Last Updated by Admin on 2014-01-08 11:51:26 AM

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Jan 06 2014
Should you increase your retirement plan contributions in 2014?

Posted in general

With the new year upon us, it’s time to start thinking about 2014 retirement plan contributions. Contributing the maximum you’re allowed to an employer-sponsored defined contribution plan is likely a smart move:

  • Contributions are typically pretax.
  • Plan assets can grow tax-deferred — meaning you pay no income tax until you take distributions.
  • Your employer may match some or all of your contributions pretax.

Also consider contributing to a traditional IRA. If you participate in an employer-sponsored plan, your IRA deduction may be reduced or eliminated, depending on your income. But you can still benefit from tax-deferred growth. 
Consider your Roth options as well. Contributions aren’t pretax, but qualified distributions are tax-free.

Retirement plan contribution limits generally aren’t going up in 2014, but consider contributing more this year if you’re not already making the maximum contribution. And if you are already maxing out your contributions but you’ll turn age 50 in 2014, you can put away more this year by making “catch-up” contributions.

Type of contribution

2014 limit

Elective deferrals to 401(k), 403(b), 457(b)(2) and 457(c)(1) plans

$17,500

Contributions to SIMPLEs

$12,000

Contributions to IRAs

$5,500

Catch-up contributions to 401(k), 403(b), 457(b)(2) and 457(c)(1) plans

$5,500

Catch-up contributions to SIMPLEs

$2,500

Catch-up contributions to IRAs

$1,000

For more ideas on making the most of tax-advantaged retirement-savings options in 2014, please contact us.

Last Updated by Admin on 2014-01-06 06:58:02 AM

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Dec 23 2013
Avoid the year-end vacation-time scramble!

Posted in general

Every December are your employees scrambling to use up their vacation time because of limits on what they can roll over to the new year? Or do you allow rollovers and have long-time employees who’ve built up large balances that create a significant liability on your books? Then you may want to consider a paid time off (PTO) contribution arrangement that allows employees with unused vacation hours to elect to convert them to retirement plan contributions.

If the plan has a 401(k) feature, it can treat these amounts as a pretax benefit, similar to normal employee deferrals. Alternatively, the plan can treat the amounts as employer profit sharing, converting the excess PTO amounts to employer contributions.

If you’d like to offer this option, you simply need to amend your plan. However, you must still follow the plan document’s eligibility, vesting, rollover, distribution and loan terms, and additional rules apply. Please contact us for more information on the ins and outs.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-12-23 12:35:00 PM

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Dec 18 2013
Why the self-employed should consider setting up a retirement plan before year end!

Posted in general

For 2013, the maximum IRA contribution is $5,500 — $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older on Dec. 31. (The maximum IRA contribution or deduction may be reduced or eliminated depending on various factors.) But if you’re self-employed, you may be eligible for a retirement plan that allows you to make much larger contributions. As long as you set up one of the following plans by Dec. 31, 2013, you can make deductible 2013 contributions as late as the 2014 due date of your tax return:

Profit-sharing plan. This allows discretionary contributions and flexibility in plan design. The 2013 contribution limit is $51,000 ($56,500 for taxpayers age 50 and older).

Defined benefit plan. This plan sets a future pension benefit and then actuarially calculates the contributions needed to attain that benefit. So you may be able to contribute more to a defined benefit plan than to a profit-sharing plan. The maximum future annual benefit toward which 2013 contributions can be made is generally $205,000.

Various caveats and limits apply, so contact us for details. But act soon; there’s not much time left to set up a plan for 2013.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-12-18 06:57:18 AM

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Dec 11 2013
Will your donations be more powerful this year?

Posted in general

Maybe. Deductions are more valuable when tax rates are higher, and higher-income taxpayers face higher rates in 2013. But the return of the itemized deduction reduction could make your donation deduction less valuable. Also keep in mind that the amount of your deduction depends on various factors, including what you give. For example:

Long-term capital gains property. This might be stocks or bonds held more than one year. You may deduct the current fair market value. You also avoid any tax you’d pay on the gain if you sold the property. So such property can make one of the best donations.

Tangible personal property. Your deduction depends on the situation:

  • If the property isn’t related to the charity’s tax-exempt function (such as an antique donated for a charity auction), your deduction is limited to your basis. 
  • If the property is related to the charity’s tax-exempt function (such as an antique donated to a museum for its collection), you can deduct the fair market value.

Services. You may deduct only your out-of-pocket expenses, not the fair market value of your services. You can deduct 14 cents per charitable mile driven.

It’s important to pay attention to the many additional rules and limits that apply. If you don’t, your benefit could be smaller than expected. So before making a significant donation, please contact us to find out the tax benefit you’ll receive.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-12-11 06:53:27 AM

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Dec 04 2013
Year-end tax planning for your investments.

Posted in general

While tax consequences should never drive investment decisions, it’s critical that they be considered — especially this year: Higher-income taxpayers may face more taxes on their investment income in the form of the returning 39.6% top short-term capital gains rate and 20% top long-term capital gains rate and a new 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT).

Holding on to an investment until you’ve owned it more than one year so the gains qualify for long-term treatment may help substantially cut tax on any gain. Here are some other tax-saving strategies:

  • Use unrealized losses to absorb gains.
  • Avoid wash sales.
  • See if a loved one qualifies for the 0% rate.

Many of the strategies that can help you save or defer income tax on your investments can also help you avoid or defer NIIT liability. And because the threshold for the NIIT is based on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), strategies that reduce your MAGI — such as making retirement plan contributions — can also help you avoid or reduce NIIT liability.

Questions about year-end tax planning for your investments? Contact us today!

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-12-04 11:16:02 AM

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Nov 26 2013
Holiday Open House

Posted in general

Anfinson Thompson & Company, P.A.
                            and
Anfinson Thompson Financial Services

invite you to join us for refreshments

Friday, December 6th, 2013
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Willmar Office in Skylark Center

2013 tax organizers will be available.

Door prizes will be given away.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-11-26 12:50:15 PM

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Nov 26 2013
Smart timing of business income and expenses can save tax — or at least defer it.

Posted in general

By projecting your business’s income and expenses for 2013 and 2014, you can determine how to time them to save — or at least defer — tax. If you’ll be in the same or lower tax bracket in 2014, consider:

Deferring income to 2014. If your business uses the cash method of accounting, you can defer billing for your products or services. Or, if you use the accrual method, you can delay shipping products or delivering services.

Accelerating deductible expenses into 2013. If you’re a cash-basis taxpayer, you may make a state estimated tax payment before Dec. 31, so you can deduct it this year rather than next. Both cash- and accrual-basis taxpayers can charge expenses on a credit card and deduct them in the year charged, regardless of when the credit card bill is paid.

But if it looks like you’ll be in a higher tax bracket in 2014, accelerating income and deferring deductible expenses may save you more tax.

Accurately projecting income and expenses can be challenging. For help, please contact us. We can also provide additional ideas for timing business income and expenses to your  tax advantage.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-11-26 11:20:28 AM

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Nov 20 2013
Beware of the AMT when doing year-end tax planning.

Posted in general

As year end approaches, you may be trying to accelerate deductible expenses into 2013 to reduce, or at least defer, tax. But you must beware of the alternative minimum tax (AMT) — a separate tax system that limits some deductions and doesn’t permit others, such as:

  • State and local income tax deductions,
  • Property tax deductions, and
  • Miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% of adjusted gross income floor, such as investment expenses and unreimbursed employee business expenses.

Accelerating these expenses could trigger the AMT, because you must pay the AMT if your AMT liability exceeds your regular tax liability.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) set higher AMT exemptions permanently, indexing them — as well as the AMT brackets — for inflation going forward. This will provide some AMT relief, but higher-income taxpayers could still be vulnerable.
We’d be happy to help you determine whether accelerating deductible expenses will reduce your 2013 tax bill — or could trigger the AMT.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-11-20 06:08:03 AM

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Nov 13 2013
Holiday Schedules

Posted in general

Our offices will be closed the following days:

Thanksgiving Schedule:
Thursday, November 28th
Friday, November 29th

Christmas Schedule:
Tuesday, December 24th
Wednesday, December 25th

New Years Schedule:
Tuesday, December 31st
Wednesday, January 1st


Last Updated by Admin on 2013-11-13 12:30:02 PM

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Nov 13 2013
Even with rising exemptions, 2013 annual exclusion gifts still a good idea.

Posted in tax

Recently, the IRS released the 2014 annually adjusted amount for the unified gift and estate tax exemption and the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption: $5.34 million (up from $5.25 million in 2013). But even with the rising exemptions, making annual exclusion gifts is still a good idea.

The 2013 gift tax annual exclusion allows you to give up to $14,000 per recipient tax-free -- without using up any of your gift and estate or GST tax exemption. (The exclusion remains the same for 2014.)

The gifted assets are removed from your taxable estate, which can be especially advantageous if you expect them to appreciate. That's because the future appreciation can avoid gift and estate taxes.

But you need to use your 2013 exclusion by Dec. 31. The exclusion doesn't carry over from year to year. For example, if you and your spouse don't make annual exclusion gifts to your granddaughter this year, you can't add $28,000 to your 2014 exclusions to make a $56,000 tax-free gift to her next year.

Please contact us for ideas on how to make the most of annual exclusion gifts.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-11-13 06:12:48 AM

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Nov 06 2013
2013 may be your last chance for a "charitable IRA rollover"!

Posted in tax

If you're age 70 1/2  or older, you can make a direct contribution -- up to $100,000 -- from your IRA to a qualified charitable organization in 2013 without owing any income tax on the distribution. This "charitable IRA rollover" can be used to satisfy required minimum distributions.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) revived this opportunity, but only for 2012 and 2013. So if you'd like to make a charitable IRA rollover, consider doing so this year in case the opportunity isn't extended. If you already took advantage of the ATRA provision that allowed a charitable rollover made in January 2013 to be treated for tax purposes as if it had been made Dec. 31, 2012, you can make another $100,000 rollover this year for 2013 tax purposes.

Have questions about charitable IRA rollovers or other giving strategies? Please contact us. We can help you create a giving plan that will meet your charitable goals and maximize your tax savings.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-11-06 09:39:45 AM

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Oct 29 2013
Maximize your 2013 depreciation deductions with a cost segregation study.

Posted in tax

If you've recently purchased or built a building or are remodeling existing space, consider a cost segregation study. It identifies property components and related costs that can be depreciated much faster, perhaps dramatically increasing your current deductions. Typical assets that qualify include decorative fixtures, security equipment, parking lots and landscaping.

The benefit of a cost segregation study may be limited in certain circumstances, such as if the business is subject to the alternative minimum tax or is located in a state that doesn't follow federal depreciation rules.

For more information on cost segregation studies -- or on other strategies to maximize your 2013 depreciation deductions -- contact us today.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-10-29 02:21:48 PM

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Oct 23 2013
Will your exec comp be subject to expanded Medicare taxes?

Posted in tax

Maybe. The following types of executive compensation could be subject to the health care act's 0.9% additional Medicare tax:

  • Fair market value (FMV) of restricted stock once the stock is no longer subject to risk of forfeiture or it's sold
  • FMV of restricted stock when it's awarded if you make a Section 83(b) election
  • Bargain element of nonqualified stock options when exercised
  • Nonqualified deferred compensation once the services have been performed and there's no longer a substantial risk of forfeiture

And the following types of gains will be included in net investment income and could trigger or increase exposure to the act's new 3.8% Medicare contribution tax:

  • Gain on the sale of restricted stock if you've made the Sec. 83(b) election
  • Gain on the sale of stock from an incentive stock option exercise if you meet the holding requirements

We'd be happy to help you determine the best strategy for your exec comp. With smart timing, you may be able to reduce or avoid exposure to the expanded Medicare tax.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-10-23 06:02:44 AM

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Oct 16 2013
Why you should max out your 2013 401(k) contribution?

Posted in tax

Contributing the maximum you're allowed to an employer-sponsored defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan, is likely a smart move:

  • Contributions are typically pretax, reducing your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), which can also help you reduce or avoid exposure to the new 3.8% Medicare tax on net investment income.
  • Plan assets can grow tax-deferred -- meaning you pay no income tax until you take distributions.
  • Your employer may match some or all of your contributions pretax.

For 2013, you can contribute up to $17,500 -- plus an additional $5,500 if you'll be age 50 or older by Dec. 31.

If you participate in a 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan, it may allow you to designate some or all of your contributions as Roth contributions. While Roth contributions don't reduce your current MAGI, qualified distributions will be tax-free. Roth contributions may be especially beneficial for higher-income earners, who are ineligible to contribute to a Roth IRA.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-10-16 08:08:47 AM

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Oct 09 2013
Expiration date for home mortgage debt forgiveness rapidly approaching.

Posted in tax

Since 2007, homeowners have been allowed to exclude from their taxable income up to $2 million in cancellation-of-debt (COD) income ($1 million for married taxpayers filing separately) in connection with qualified principal residence indebtedness (QPRI). The exclusion had been available only for debts forgiven through 2012, but Congress extended it. Now that expiration date -- Dec. 31, 2013 -- is rapidly approaching.

You can have COD income if a creditor forgives a debt, reduces the interest rate or gives you more time to pay or in connection with a mortgage foreclosure, including a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure. QPRI means debt used to buy, construct or substantially improve your principal residence, and it extends to the refinance of such debt. Relief isn't available for a second home, nor is it available for a home equity loan or cash-out refinancing to the extent the proceeds are used for purposes other than home improvement.

If you're considering a mortgage foreclosure or restructuring in relation to your home, you may want to act before year end to take advantage of the COD income exclusion in case it's not extended again.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-10-09 06:43:15 AM

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Oct 02 2013
IRS issues final regs on tangible property expenses.

Posted in tax

The regulations (IRS T.D. 9636) provide guidance on how to comply with Sections 162 and 263 of the Internal Revenue Code. These sections require amounts paid to acquire, produce or improve tangible property to be capitalized but allow amounts for incidental repairs and maintenance of property to be deducted -- potentially saving you more tax in the current year.

The final regs explain how to distinguish between capital expenditures and deductible business expenses. They replace temporary regs issued in 2011, but they retain many of the temporary regs' provisions. In addition, they modify several sections and create a number of new safe harbors.

The final regs generally will apply to tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014. They affect all businesses that own or lease tangible property, including buildings, machinery, vehicles, furniture and equipment.

If you have expenditures related to tangible property, the final regs apply to you. Compliance may require changes to your current capitalization procedures and the filing of Form 3115, "Application for Change in Accounting Method." If you have questions regarding the final regulations and how to best proceed, we'd be happy to help.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-10-02 02:24:11 PM

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Sept 27 2013
Will your investment income be subject to the new 3.8% NIIT?

Posted in tax

Under the health care act, starting in 2013, taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) over $200,000 per year ($250,000 for joint filers and $125,000 for married filing separately) may owe a new Medicare contribution tax, also referred to as the "net investment income tax" (NIIT). The tax equals 3.8% of the lesser of your net investment income or the amount by which your MAGI exceeds the applicable threshold.

Many of the strategies that can help you save or defer income tax on your investments can also help you avoid or defer NIIT liability. And because the threshold for the NIIT is based on MAGI, strategies that reduce your MAGI (such as making retirement plan contributions) can also help you avoid or reduce NIIT liability.

The rules on what is and isn't included in net investment income are somewhat complex, so please contact us for more information and to find out what tax-saving strategies may be effective in your particular situation.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-09-27 02:01:52 PM

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Sept 18 2013
Start planning now if you'd like to deduct medical expenses.

Posted in tax

Medical expenses that aren't reimbursable by insurance or paid through a tax-advantaged account (such as a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account) may be deductible -- but only to the extent that they exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income.

Before 2013, the floor was only 7.5% for regular tax purposes. (Taxpayers age 65 and older can still enjoy that 7.5% floor through 2016. The floor for AMT purposes, however, is 10% for all taxpayers, the same as it was before 2013.)

By "bunching" nonurgent medical procedures and other controllable expenses into alternating years, you may increase your ability to exceed the new 10% floor. Controllable expenses might include prescription drugs, eyeglasses and contact lenses, hearing aids, dental work, and elective surgery.

If it's looking like you're close to exceeding the floor this year, consider accelerating controllable expenses into this year. But if you're far from exceeding it, to the extent possible (without harming your health), you might want to put off medical expenses until next year, in case you have enough expenses in 2014 to exceed the floor.

Have questions about the 10% floor or exactly what expenses are deductible? Ask us!

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-09-18 10:16:12 AM

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Sept 10 2013
IRS makes more same-sex couples eligible for federal tax treatment as a married couple.

Posted in tax

In response to the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision regarding same-sex marriage, the IRS recently clarified that married same-sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax provisions in which marriage is a factor, such as filing status, dependent exemptions and child credits, and gift and estate tax breaks.

Significantly, the Supreme Court decision extended federal marriage-related benefits only to same-sex married couples in states recognizing their union; the IRS ruling expands eligibility for marriage-related federal tax benefits to same-sex married couples in all states, as long as they were married in a jurisdiction recognizing their marriage.

In light of the ruling, same-sex married couples should:

  • Evaluate how changing their filing status to "married" will affect their 2013 tax liability, and factor that into their year end tax planning
  • Determine whether they can receive a tax refund for previous years if they file amended returns as a married couple
  • Decide whether any changes to their estate plans are warranted to take advantage of the federal gift and estate tax benefits available to married couples
  • These are only some of the tax areas requiring attention. Please contact us for more information on the impact of the IRS ruling.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-09-10 12:04:46 PM

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Sept 03 2013
Owners of leasehold, restaurant and retail properties must act soon to enjoy extended depreciation-related breaks.

Posted in tax

In January, Congress extended some depreciation-related tax breaks that can benefit owners of leasehold, restaurant and retail properties:

50% bonus depreciation. Congress extended this additional first-year depreciation allowance to qualifying leasehold improvements made in 2013.

Section 179 expensing
.
Congress revived through 2013 the election to deduct under Sec. 179 (rather than depreciate over a number of years) up to $250,000 of qualified leasehold-improvement, restaurant and retail-improvement property.

The break begins to phase out dollar-for-dollar when total asset acquisitions for the tax year exceed $2 million.

Accelerated depreciation
.
Congress revived through 2013 the break allowing a shortened recovery period of 15 -- rather than 39 -- years for qualified leasehold-improvement, restaurant and retail-improvement property.
If you're anticipating investments in qualified property, you may want to make them this year to take advantage of these depreciation-related breaks while they're available. It's currently uncertain whether they'll be extended to 2014. Please contact us if you'd like to learn more about qualifying for these breaks.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2013-09-03 01:40:08 PM

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Aug 27 2013
You can still use ESA funds to pay elementary and secondary school costs.

Posted in tax

As the kids head back to school, it's a good time to think about Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). One major advantage of ESAs over another popular education saving tool, the Section 529 plan, is that tax-free ESA distributions aren't limited to college expenses; they also can fund elementary and secondary school costs. That means you can use ESA funds to pay for such qualified expenses as tutoring or private school tuition. This favorable treatment had been scheduled to expire after 2012, but Congress made it permanent earlier this year.
Here are some other key ESA benefits:

  • Although contributions aren't deductible, plan assets can grow tax-deferred.
  • You remain in control of the account -- even after the child is of legal age.
  • You can make rollovers to another qualifying family member.
Congress also made permanent the $2,000 per beneficiary annual ESA contribution limit, which had been scheduled to go down to $500 for 2013. However, contributions are further limited based on income. If you have questions about tax-advantaged ways to fund your child's -- or grandchild's -- education expenses, we'd be pleased to answer them.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-08-27 01:48:04 PM

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Aug 27 2013
New IRS website provides health care law information for just about everyone

Posted in tax

 

Many provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 have recently gone into effect, and some significant provisions will do so in 2014 and 2015. To help individuals and families, employers (both large and small), and other organizations learn more about how they'll be affected, the IRS has launched a new website: IRS.gov/aca. The site offers information on the tax benefits and responsibilities for various groups, such as:

  • Individuals and families -- new additional Medicare taxes, changes to the itemized medical expense deduction and open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace
  • Employers -- determining whether you're a large or small employer, shared responsibility payments for large employers, and the small business health care tax credit
  • Other organizations -- tax provisions for insurers, certain other business types and tax-exempt and government organizations


While the new website provides substantial information on tax-related provisions of the health care act, it's no substitute for professional advice. So please contact us for more information on how you can take advantage of any benefits available to you and minimize any negative tax consequences.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-08-27 07:56:59 AM

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Aug 13 2013
Now's the time to consider short-term GRATs.

Posted in tax

Congress's decision not to include a proposed minimum term for grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) in the tax legislation passed back in January -- combined with low interest rates -- may make it an ideal time to add short-term GRATs to your estate planning arsenal.

A GRAT consists of an annuity interest, retained by you, and a remainder interest that passes to your beneficiaries at the end of the trust term. The remainder interest's value for gift tax purposes is calculated using an IRS-prescribed growth rate. If the GRAT outperforms that rate -- which is easier to do in a low-interest-rate environment --  the GRAT can transfer substantial wealth gift-tax-free.

If you die during the trust term, however, the assets will be included in your taxable estate. By using a series of short-term GRATs (two years, for example), you can capture the upside of market volatility but minimize mortality risk.

If short-term GRATs might be right for you (consult us for more information), consider deploying them soon in case lawmakers revive proposals that would reduce or eliminate their benefits.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-08-13 01:51:44 PM

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Aug 12 2013
Don't Skimp On S Corporation Salaries

Posted in tax

S corporation owners often take modest salaries as a tax-saving strategy. By distributing most of the corporation's profits in the form of dividends rather than wages, the company and its owners can avoid payroll taxes on these amounts. The tax savings may be even greater now that the additional 0.9% Medicare tax on wages in excess of $200,000 ($250,000 for joint filers and $125,000 for married filing separately) has gone into effect. (S corporation dividends paid to shareholder-employees generally won't be subject to the new 3.8% Medicare tax on net investment income.)

Although S corporations may be tempted to pay little or no salary to their shareholder-employees, this is a dangerous tactic. The IRS has targeted S corporations, assessing unpaid payroll taxes, penalties and interest against companies whose owners' salaries are unreasonably low.

To avoid an unexpected tax bill, S corporations should conduct an analysis -- using compensation surveys, company financial data and other evidence -- to establish and document reasonable salaries for each position. Please contact us if you have questions about the right mix of salary vs. distributions for your S corporation's shareholder-employees.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-08-12 07:57:52 AM

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July 31 2013
Renting out your vacation home brings tax complications.

Posted in tax

 

If you rent out your vacation home for 15 days or more, you must report the income. But exactly what expenses you can deduct depends on whether the home is classified as a rental property for tax purposes, based on the amount of personal vs. rental use. Adjusting your personal use -- or the number of days you rent it out -- might allow the home to be classified in a more beneficial way.

With a rental property, you can deduct rental expenses, including losses, subject to the real estate activity rules. You can't deduct any interest that's attributable to your personal use of the home, but you can take the personal portion of property tax as an itemized deduction.

With a nonrental property, you can deduct rental expenses only to the extent of your rental income. Any excess can be carried forward to offset rental income in future years. You also can take an itemized deduction for the personal portion of both mortgage interest and property taxes.

We can help you determine how your vacation home rental will affect your tax bill ? and whether there are steps you can take to reduce the impact.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-07-31 06:35:16 AM

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July 23 2013
Could your frequent flyer miles be taxable?

Posted in tax

 

Now is the time of year when many Americans are using the frequent flyer miles they've built up from work-related travel or credit card rewards programs to take the family on a nice vacation. If you're among them, you may be wondering if those miles could be taxable.

Fortunately, in most cases the answer is "no." As a general rule, miles awarded by airlines for flying with them are considered nontaxable rebates, as are miles awarded for using a credit or debit card.

But there are exceptions, so it's a good idea to review your awards for potential tax liability. Types of mile awards the IRS might view as taxable include miles awarded as a prize in airline sweepstakes and miles awarded as promotions. The value of the miles for tax purposes generally is their estimated retail value.

If you're concerned you've received mile awards that could be taxable, please contact us and we'll help you determine your tax liability, if any.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-07-23 10:59:15 AM

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July 18 2013
Think twice before taking an early withdrawal from a retirement plan

Posted in tax

 

If you're in need of cash, early retirement plan withdrawals generally should be a last resort. With a few exceptions, distributions before age 59½ are subject to a 10% penalty on top of any income tax that ordinarily would be due on a withdrawal. Additionally, you'll lose the potential tax-deferred future growth on the withdrawn amount.

If you have a Roth account, you can withdraw up to your contribution amount free of tax and penalty. But you'll lose out on potential tax-free growth.

Alternatively, if your employer-sponsored plan, such as a 401(k), allows it, you can take a plan loan. You'll have to pay it back with interest and make regular principal payments, but you won't be subject to current taxes or penalties.

Please contact us if you have questions about potential taxes and penalties on early retirement plan withdrawals. We also can help you determine if there are better options available for meeting your cash needs.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-07-18 11:05:19 AM

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July 10 2013
Employers given another year to get into compliance with the health care act's "play or pay" provision

Posted in tax

 

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010's shared responsibility provision, commonly referred to as "play or pay," was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2014. But on July 2, the U.S. Treasury announced that the effective date would be delayed one year, to Jan. 1, 2015. IRS guidance will be issued providing more details and perhaps additional changes.
The original provision:

  • In some cases imposes nondeductible penalties (generally $2,000 per full-time employee) on "large employers" that don't offer coverage or that provide coverage that is "unaffordable" or that doesn't provide "minimum value," and
  • Defines a "large employer" as one with at least 50 full-time employees, or a combination of full-time and part-time employees that's "equivalent" to at least 50 full-time employees.

The rules are complex, and the new IRS guidance is expected to clarify -- and perhaps simplify -- them. Please contact us for the latest information and to determine how your company may be affected.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-07-10 08:10:52 AM

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June 20 2013
Kids going to day camp? You may be eligible for a tax credit

Posted in tax

Day camp is a qualified expense under the child or dependent care credit, which is worth 20% of qualifying expenses (more if your adjusted gross income is less than $43,000), subject to a cap. For 2013, the maximum expenses allowed for the credit are $3,000 for one qualifying child and $6,000 for two or more. The credit?s value had been scheduled to drop in 2013, but the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 made higher limits permanent.

Be aware, however, that overnight camp costs don?t qualify for the credit.

A wide variety of tax breaks are available to parents. If you?d like to learn more, please contact us.

Last Updated by Admin on 2013-06-20 01:26:11 PM

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Oct 17 2012
Welcome to Our Blog!

Posted in general

This is the home of our new blog. Check back often for updates!

Last Updated by Admin on 2012-10-17 10:30:12 AM

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