On Dec. 18, 2015, the President signed a bill that included several tax provisions affecting individuals, families, and business owners. Some provisions have been extended permanently—meaning that you can confidently include them into your long-term tax planning—while in other cases the deadlines have simply been pushed back. Among the items affected are the child tax credit, education tax benefits, and the IRA charitable rollover for those 70½ or older. Businesses will be interested in the extension of the Section 179 expensing limit and the Section 41 research and development credit, among others.
These are just a few of the tax benefits covered in the late-year legislation. As always, we can help you make sense of new tax developments. Please contact our office with any questions on the extenders and for advice on the impact they may have on your tax situation.
Take the Uncertainty Out of Health Care Reform
If you’re not sure what the new health care law means to you, you’re not alone. A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that just over a third of the public had tried to find out more information about the law—the Affordable Care Act—in recent months. About half of the respondents to the survey said they remain confused about the law and its provisions.
If you have questions we can provide the answers you need. Among other things, our individual clients should be aware of the Shared Responsibility Provision that becomes effective on January 1, 2014. Under the provision, people of all ages, including children, must either have minimum essential health coverage, qualify for an exemption or make a payment when they file their tax return. We can help you understand how gaps in coverage will be treated and what circumstances qualify for an exemption.
Do You Qualify for the Health Care Premium Tax Credit?
Individuals and families can buy private health insurance through Affordable Insurance Exchanges, which are marketplaces where individuals can find private health insurance. (This is a new program created by the Affordable Care Act.) If you purchase health insurance through an exchange, you may be eligible for a tax credit that will make your coverage more affordable.
The credit is aimed at middle-income individuals and families. A larger credit is available for older individuals whose coverage costs may be higher. The credit will be refundable, which means it can be used by people who pay little or no federal income tax. You can arrange for the credit to be paid to your insurer in advance so that you have little or no out-of-pocket costs. Are you eligible for the credit? We can help you find out.
Should You Report Changes to the Health Insurance Marketplace?
Do you receive your health insurance coverage through the government’s Health Insurance Marketplace? Many who do also qualify for a premium tax credit, which those with moderate incomes can use to help pay for coverage. You can choose to get the credit immediately or to receive it as a refund later when you file your tax return.
Taking the credit up front can help you defray the costs of coverage, but remember that the amount you’re eligible for may be affected by changes in your circumstances during the year. You may end up qualifying for a higher or lower credit depending on changes in your income or the size of your family, so it’s important to report those changes to the Marketplace when they occur. If you have questions about the tax consequences of your health insurance plan or any other tax-related issues, please contact our office today. Seeking a Job? You May Be Able to Deduct the Expenses
Did you know that if you are trying to find work in your current occupation, the costs of your search, including expenses for preparing and sending resumes, employment agency fees, and related travel expenses should be deductible? The deductions aren’t available in all cases. For example, you’re not eligible to use them if you are seeking employment in a new field or if this will be your first job. If it’s been along time since you left your last job, your costs also may not qualify. Don’t try to navigate the rules on your own. If you want to learn more about these deductions, or ask any questions about your tax situation, contact us today.
Know Your Rights as a Taxpayer
Internal Revenue Service audit. Those words would strike fear into the heart of any taxpayer, but did you know that the IRS has adopted a Taxpayer Bill of Rights that spells out the rules protecting people and businesses in any dealings with the Service? The 10 provisions include the right to challenge a position and be heard, to appeal an IRS decision in an independent forum and to pay no more than the correct amount of tax.
You also have the right to retain representation. Remember that we can represent you before the IRS any time you need help sorting through a tax-related problem. Not only can we help you navigate complicated tax rules—and ensure that you’re complying with them—we can also accompany you to meetings with IRS representatives or contact them directly to sort through any issues. Be sure to contact us with all your tax questions and concerns.
Wish You Had a Coach for Your New or Growing Business? We Can Help.
Are you launching a business or product line? You may have relied on us for years for timely and personalized tax advice, but you may not be aware that we help business owners start and expand their companies every day with several types of services. In fact, we frequently serve as a business coach or mentor for owners seeking help in their strategic planning, setting up payroll or other systems or selecting the best accounting software, among other projects. Due to our extensive contacts in the community, we can also recommend attorneys and bankers to work with your business.
We’ve seen the many kinds of challenges they face and we know how to implement the right solutions. And we’re business owners ourselves! Be sure to contact us to learn more about how we can help you achieve your business goals.
Don’t Be Taken in by Phony IRS Requests
The phone rings. The caller says they are from the Internal Revenue Service and they claim you owe taxes and must submit payment through a wire transfer or prepaid debit card. Or you receive an email supposedly from the IRS asking you to share your bank account, credit card or Social Security number. What should you do?
The sad truth is that many scammers pretend to be IRS agents as part of identity theft or other criminal activity. If you receive a surprising or suspicious communication purportedly from the IRS, we would urge you to call us immediately. We can help you identify a bogus request for information and work with you to respond to a legitimate IRS contact. You can also call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040 to verify any communication you receive.
A Simplified Home Office Deduction
Do you work at home or have a home-based business? If so, you should be aware that the IRS has created a simpler option for calculating the deduction for the business use of your home. The new option makes record keeping easier because, instead of maintaining records of specific home office expenses, you can use a standard rate per square foot. The rate is $5 per square foot (up to a maximum of 300 sq. feet or $1,500) for qualifying business use space in place of taking a pro rata percentage of items such as mortgage interest, taxes and repairs. Keep in mind there are good and bad aspects to this “simpler” method. The new method gives you back your full interest and tax deduction on schedule A, but you will lose your depreciation and loss carryover deductions. Of course, you must still use your home office regularly and exclusively for business. This may be a welcome relief for some taxpayers, but it might not be the best choice for others. Is it the right choice for you? Please contact us for answers to all your financial questions.
Student Loan Debt: We can Provide the Decision- Making Details You Need
Did you know that the average student loan balance is $24,803? Student debt is taking a heavy toll on borrowers, according to an American Institute of CPAs survey, which found that 75% of respondents or their children had made personal or financial sacrifices because of monthly student loan payments. Sacrifices included putting off saving for retirement (41%); delaying car purchases (40%); postponing a home purchase (29%); and even waiting on marriage (15%).
Among the most troubling findings were that only 39% fully understood the burden that student loan debt would place on their future and 60% had at least some regrets about their decisions on financing their education. That’s why it’s always critical to understand the full potential impact of all your financial choices.The good news is that your CPA can help. Contact us with all your financial questions and we’ll provide the knowledge and insights you need to make the best decisions for you.
Stop Tax Identity Theft in Its Tracks
Imagine after sending in your annual tax return, you receive a notice from the Internal Revenue Service saying that another return has already been filed using your name and Social Security number—and claiming a refund. Sound impossible? It can happen if you become one of a growing number of victims of tax return identity theft. According to one estimate, tax-related identity theft cases have soared more than 650% since 2008. At the least, this crime can lead to a delay in your refund, but the consequences may be much more serious. In addition, you may face a larger problem with identify theft if the scammer is also running up credit card debt or taking out loans in your name.
To avoid becoming a victim, we recommend steps such as safeguarding your Social Security number and other financial information, keeping an eye on changes to your credit ratings and taking precautions with electronic transfers of confidential information. Be sure to contact us if you believe you have been a victim of identity theft or would like advice on the best ways to secure your financial information.
What You Should Know about Changes in Education Provisions in the Tax Law
Are you making the most of tax benefits designed to offset some of the high costs of education? The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which settled the year-end fiscal cliff debate, extended the American Opportunity Tax Credit through 2017.The credit provides a tax break of up $2,500 for qualified college expenses. The Act also made permanent several education-related tax options, including a $2,000 maximum contribution amount for Coverdell education savings accounts, which can be used to pay certain elementary, secondary, and post-secondary expenses.
Given the many changes, we can help you make sense of the benefits available to you and ensure you’re taking full advantage of them. We can also offer advice on smart steps for financing the high cost of education, so please contact our office with all your questions.
Does the Investment Income Tax Apply to You?
As of Jan. 1, 2013, there is a 3.8% net investment income tax on some categories of passive investment income for individuals, trusts and estates that exceed certain income thresholds. As a result, it is in your best interest to identify these income sources and adopt strategies to lower your modified adjusted gross income or your net investment income to avoid the surtax.
If you think the new tax may apply to you, we can explain your choices and help you pick the best strategy to mitigate your tax bill.
How Do New Estate Tax Rules Affect You?
You may have heard that there are new rules on estate taxes as a result of the new tax law enacted in early 2013. Effective Jan. 1, 2013, the top tax rate on estates rose to 40% from 35%, but no tax will be imposed on the first $5.25 million of an estate (adjusted for inflation to $5.34M million in 2014). While this sounds high, and you may think that the estate tax doesn’t affect you or your family, you may be surprised. Estate planning should definitely be a priority. Contact us now to discuss all your questions about estate planning and the steps you can take to minimize the potential estate tax burden to your beneficiaries.
Is a Like-Kind Exchange a Good Option for Your Business?
Normally, when companies sell properties, they must pay taxes on any gain they receive. Like-kind exchanges, transactions in which companies trade properties, may be carried out without any immediate tax consequences. They must satisfy IRS rules, however, which include:
· The properties must have the same “nature or character,” as set forth in IRS guidance. · The exchanges can be business or investment properties put to a productive use. · The exchanges can’t involve inventory, most securities and some other assets. · Taxes must be paid on any cash or non-similar property that is part of the deal.
Keep in mind that like-kind exchanges are tax-deferred transactions, not tax free. When a company eventually sells the property it received in an exchange, it must pay tax on any gain from its original investment. In the meantime, though, the business/company can use the funds it would have paid in taxes and it has acquired a new property that may better suit its needs without necessarily making a cash outlay. Want more information about whether like-kind exchanges can be a good strategy for your business and insights on their tax impact? We can help. Contact us today for expert advice on the best ways to address your business and tax concerns.
Is Your Will Up To Date?
When was the last time you reviewed your will? People generally make wills to guarantee the proper disposition of their money and property, which is why it’s a good idea to consult your CPA when it’s time to create or update your will. We recommend that you revisit your will every time you experience a major life event, such as marriage, the birth of a child, retirement or other significant milestones. Even if there is no meaningful change in your life, it’s smart to review the document every couple of years to ensure it still addresses all your estate concerns and reflects your wishes. Changes in the value of your investments—such as a stock portfolio or real estate—may also require adjustments in your estate plans. Reviewing your will may raise questions about various areas of your financial life, including your retirement or estate planning, college savings, or other financial concerns. Be sure to turn to us for the perspective and advice you need to make the best choices.
Let Us Help You Leverage What You Can Learn from Your Tax Return
What does your tax return say about your financial situation? The fact is, the paperwork you file each year offers excellent information about how you are managing your money—and about areas where it might be wise to make changes in your financial habits. If you have questions about your financial situation, remember that we can help. Our firm is made up of highly qualified and educated professionals who work with clients like you all year long, serving as trusted business advisors. So whether you are concerned about budgeting; saving for college, retirement, or another goal; understanding your investments; cutting your tax bite; starting a business; or managing your debt, you can turn to us for objective answers to all your tax and financial questions.
How Do Taxes Affect Your Financial Picture?
Do you know how much you’re paying in taxes? You may have a sense of what you spend on income taxes, but have you also considered the taxes you pay on utilities, gasoline, cigarettes and alcohol, hotel stays and numerous other items? The CPA profession’s Total Tax Insights™ calculator (www.totaltaxinsights.org) can put these numbers in perspective, enabling you to make better informed financial decisions. Take a few minutes to drop in your numbers, and if your results raise questions about your financial planning choices, we can help.
We Can Help You Address the Issues that Keep You Up at Night
Where will your business be in five years? Would strategic budget cuts in some areas improve your company’s health? Are there ways you can boost revenue? If you’re nearing retirement, is there a buyer or successor in the wings? These are the kinds of questions that keep many business owners up at night. Fortunately, as your CPA, we can probably help you sleep a little easier. Our firm is made up of highly qualified and educated professionals who work with clients like you all year long, serving as trusted business advisers. We act as coaches, guides and trainers for our business clients, helping them chart the best route to success. So be sure to turn to us with all your business questions or concerns.
What's So Great About CPAs?
You may not have asked yourself that question in so many words, but you may have wondered what sets CPAs apart from other financial professionals. The answer in short: A lot. We typically begin our careers with years of college and graduate education. To become licensed, we must take the demanding Uniform CPA Examination, which tests our knowledge on a wide range of business topics over a total period of 14 hours. In addition, we have to meet an experience requirement and then be licensed by a State Board of Accountancy to practice. But it doesn’t stop there. Once we become CPAs, we also must meet continuing education requirements to update our knowledge of new business developments as well as commit to a strict code of ethical standards. Armed with this rigorous training, we’re on the job year round, ready to help individuals and businesses address their own unique challenges. If you want more information about our firm and how we can help you resolve all your financial issues, don't hesitate to contact us.
Have Questions? We're Here All Year!
Many clients see their CPAs at tax time, when the main focus is on completing and filing their tax return. As a result, they may not take the opportunity to ask questions about long-term tax planning or about other important financial concerns. The good news is that we are available to you all year. We have a full-time, year-round staff of experts with extensive expertise in a broad range of financial areas. We’re ready when you are to take some time reviewing your financial situation, helping you understand your options and make the best decisions. We’re also here in an emergency to help address unexpected financial concerns. So, give us a call to discuss your important financial issues whenever they arise.