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Small business taxation, corporate tax rates, and changes to popular deductions are just some of the many complex changes to the Tax Code being debated in Congress. At the time this article was posted, the Senate is expected to approve, along party-lines, a sweeping overhaul of the Tax Code written by Senate Republicans. The House has already approved its tax bill, also along party-lines. If the Senate passes a tax bill, House and Senate conferees will seek to resolve differences between the two bills. Conferees will likely aim to reach an agreement quickly to send a bill to the White House before year-end.


As an economic incentive for individuals to save and invest, gains from the sale of capital assets held for at least one year unless offset by losses, as well qualified dividends received during the year, may be taxed at rates lower than ordinary income tax rates. The tax rate on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends for individuals is 20 percent, 15, percent, or 0 percent depending on their income tax bracket.


Information reporting has become a growing part of IRS’s enforcement and compliance strategy. Data matching, or even the inference that the IRS has the data to do so, statistically has increased overall income reporting nine-fold. Use of information returns, either in the form of Forms W-2, 1098s or 1099s, is here to stay, and growing.


Life insurance proceeds are received tax-free. However, any interest earned on life insurance proceeds, usually referred to as its cash value, is subject to tax. Special rules apply to transfers of ownership in a life insurance policy, accelerated death benefits, and viatical settlements.


The method and systems by which a taxpayer calculates the amount of income, gains, losses, deductions, and credits and determines when these items must be reported, constitute the taxpayer's method of tax accounting. Although the Tax Code and the regulations authorize the use of several accounting methods, and permit certain combinations of methods, a taxpayer must use the accounting method on the basis of which the taxpayer regularly computes book income. Further, the method must be used consistently and must clearly reflect income.


As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important federal tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of December 2017.


Gain or loss is not recognized when property held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment is exchanged for like-kind property. Instead, the taxpayer's basis and holding period in the property transferred carries over to the property acquired in the exchange. Deferring taxable gain, always a good strategy, makes more sense than ever after the recent rise in tax rates for many taxpayers under the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. In particular, Code Section 1031 like-kind exchanges deserve a close second look by many businesses and investors.


For many individuals, volunteering for a charitable organization is a very emotionally rewarding experience. In some cases, your volunteer activities may also qualify for certain federal tax breaks. Although individuals cannot deduct the value of their labor on behalf of a charitable organization, they may be eligible for other tax-related benefits.


Vacation homes offer owners tax breaks similar-but not identical-to those for primary residences. Vacation homes also offer owners the opportunity to earn tax-advantaged and even tax-free income. This combination of current income and tax breaks, combined with the potential for long-term appreciation, can make a second home an attractive investment.


Vacation homes offer owners many tax breaks similar to those for primary residences. Vacation homes also offer owners the opportunity to earn tax-advantaged and even tax-free income from a certain level of rental income. The value of vacation homes are also on the rise again, offering an investment side to ownership that can ultimately be realized at a beneficial long-term capital gains rate.


Loans without interest or at below-market interest rates are recharacterized so that the lender must recognize market-rate interest income. Put another way, below-market loans are loans for which a rate of interest that is lower than the applicable federal rate (AFR) (which is computed by the government and released by the IRS on a monthly bases). Special adjustments might be necessary to determine the interest rate on short period loans, variable rate loans, and loans denominated in foreign currencies.


An LLC (limited liability company) is not a federal tax entity. LLCs are organized under state law. LLCs are not specifically mentioned in the Tax Code, and there are no special IRS regulations governing the taxation of LLCs comparable to the regulations for C corporations, S corporations, and partnerships. Instead, LLCs make an election to be taxed as a particular entity (or to be disregarded for tax purposes) by following the check-the-box business entity classification regulations. The election is filed on Form 8832, Entity Classification Election. The IRS will assign an entity classification by default if no election is made. A taxpayer who doesn't mind the IRS default entity classification does not necessarily need to file Form 8832.


The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) has provided much needed certainty for estate tax planners and for taxpayers who want to arrange their financial affairs. For the first time in 10 years, beginning January 1, 2013, the maximum estate tax rate, the inflation-adjusted exclusion, and other estate tax features have been made permanent.


The limitation on itemized deductions (also known as the Pease limitation after the member of Congress who sponsored the original legislation) is reinstated by the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) for tax years beginning after December 31, 2012. The reinstated Pease limitation is intended to reduce or eliminate the itemized deductions of higher income taxpayers to raise revenue.


When starting a business or changing an existing one there are several types of business entities to choose from, each of which offers its own advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the size of your business, one form may be more suitable than another. For example, a software firm consisting of one principal founder and several part time contractors and employees would be more suited to a sole proprietorship than a corporate or partnership form. But where there are multiple business members, the decision can become more complicated. One form of business that has become increasingly popular is called a limited liability company, or LLC.


The IRS has announced a new optional safe harbor method, effective for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2013, for individuals to determine the amount of their deductible home office expenses (IR-2013-5, Rev. Proc. 2013-13). Being hailed by many as a long-overdue simplification option, taxpayers may now elect to determine their home office deduction by simply multiplying a prescribed rate by the square footage of the portion of the taxpayer's residence used for business purposes.


The IRS has issued proposed reliance regulations on the 3.8 percent surtax on net investment income (NII), enacted in the 2010 Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. The regulations are proposed to be effective January 1, 2014. However, since the tax applies beginning January 1, 2013, the IRS stated that taxpayers may rely on the proposed regulations for 2013. The IRS expects to issue final regulations sometime later this year.


Effective January 1, 2013, a new Medicare tax takes effect. The Additional Medicare Tax imposes a 0.9 percent tax on compensation and self-employment income above a threshold amount.  Unlike regular Medicare tax, the Additional Medicare Tax has no employer match but employers have withholding obligations. The IRS issued proposed reliance regulations about the Additional Medicare Tax in December 2012.


Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are popular retirement savings vehicles that enable taxpayers to build their nest egg slowly over the years and enjoy tax benefits as well. But what happens to that nest egg when the IRA owner passes away?


President Obama’s health care package enacted two new taxes that take effect January 1, 2013. One of these taxes is the additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on earned income; the other is the 3.8 percent tax on net investment income. The 0.9 percent tax applies to individuals; it does not apply to corporations, trusts or estates. The 0.9 percent tax applies to wages, other compensation, and self-employment income that exceed specified thresholds.


Certain planning techniques involve the use of interest rates to value interests being transferred to charity or to private beneficiaries. While the use of these techniques does not necessarily depend on the interest rate, low interest rates may increase their value.


Although it is generally not considered prudent to withdraw funds from a retirement savings account until retirement, sometimes it may appear that life leaves no other option. However, borrowing from certain qualified retirement savings account rather than taking an outright distribution might prove the best solution to getting you through a difficult period. If borrowing from a 401(k) plan or other retirement savings plan becomes necessary, for example to pay emergency medical expenses or for a replacement vehicle essential to getting to work, you should be aware that there is a right way and a number of wrong ways to go about it.


In recent years, the IRS has been cracking down on abuses of the tax deduction for donations to charity and contributions of used vehicles have been especially scrutinized. The charitable contribution rules, however, are far from being easy to understand. Many taxpayers genuinely are confused by the rules and unintentionally value their contributions to charity at amounts higher than appropriate.


Taxpayers recovering from the current economic downturn will get at least some relief in 2013 by way of the mandatory upward inflation-adjustments called for under the tax code, according to CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business. CCH has released estimated income ranges for each 2013 tax bracket as well as a growing number of other inflation-sensitive tax figures, such as the personal exemption and the standard deduction.


The Tax Code provides that the IRS generally may not select an individual, partnership, or corporate tax return for audit after a period of three years has expired, dating from the tax return's filing date or due date, whichever is later. For example, if a taxpayer filed his 2011 Form 1040 on February 10, 2012, and the due date for the filing of returns that year was April 17, 2012, then the statute of limitations period ends on April 17, 2015, and not February 10, 2015. On the other hand, if the taxpayer filed his tax return late, on November 10, 2012, and had not obtained an extension of time to file, the statute of limitations period would run from November 10, 2012.


As 2013 draws closer, news reports about “taxmageddon” and “taxpocalypse,” describing expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, are proliferating. Many taxpayers are asking what they can do to prepare. The answer is to prepare early. September may seem too early to be discussing year-end tax planning, but the uncertainty over the Bush-era tax cuts, incentives for businesses, and much more, requires proactive strategizing. Ultimately, the fate of these tax incentives will be resolved; until then, taxpayers need to be flexible in their year-end tax planning.


When disaster strikes, a casualty tax loss may provide some comfort. A casualty is the damage or destruction of property resulting from an identifiable event that is sudden, unexpected, or unusual. Damage resulting from the progressive deterioration of property through a steadily operating cause would not be a casualty loss. A deductible loss can result from a number of events, such as fire, flood, storm (including hurricanes and tornadoes), or earthquake. Storm losses can involve damage from flooding or wind, for example. Other “sudden and unexpected events,” such as an automobile accident, also qualify as a casualty for tax purposes.


The IRS has unveiled the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DTR), a time-saving tool designed to minimize the time required for college-bound students and their parents to complete the Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The new IRS DTR is available through the website www.fafsa.gov.


When Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its companion bill, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (collectively known as the Affordable Care Act) in 2010, lawmakers staggered the effective dates of various provisions.  The most well-known provision, the so-called individual mandate, is scheduled to take effect in 2014.  A number of other provisions are scheduled to take effect in 2013. All of these require careful planning before their effective dates.


In 2012, many taxpayers will have additional considerations when analyzing whether to sell investments before the end of the year or retain them in 2013. First, the Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. This affects ordinary income rates, as well as rates on capital gains and dividends. Second, under the health care law, a new 3.8 percent Medicare tax on unearned income, including interest, dividends and capital gains, will take effect in 2013. Together, these real and potential changes may add up to hefty new taxes in 2013, unless Congress takes action otherwise.


Stock is a popular and valuable compensation tool for employers and employees. Employees are encouraged to stay with the company and to work harder, to enhance the value of the stock they will earn. Employers do not have to make a cash outlay to provide the compensation, yet they still are entitled to a tax deduction.


Some individuals must pay estimated taxes or face a penalty in the form of interest on the amount underpaid. Self-employed persons, retirees, and nonworking individuals most often must pay estimated taxes to avoid the penalty. But an employee may need to pay them if the amount of tax withheld from wages is insufficient to cover the tax owed on other income. The potential tax owed on investment income also may increase the need for paying estimated tax, even among wage earners.


The dependency exemption is a valuable deduction that may be lost in many situations simply because some basic rules for qualification are not followed.  Classifying someone as a dependent can also entitle you to other significant deductions or credits.  Here is a rundown of some of the rules and their implications.

As businesses weather challenging economic times, one boost can come from depreciation.  The term “depreciation” is often associated with complicated accounting and tax transactions but the fundamental concept is fairly simple. Depreciation should not be overlooked as a valuable tool.


Proposals to reform retirement savings plans were highlighted during an April 2012 hearing by the House Ways and Means Committee.  Lawmakers were advised by many experts to move slowly on making changes to current retirement programs that might discourage employers from sponsoring plans for their workers.  Nevertheless, it is clear that Congress wants to make some bold moves in the retirement savings area of the tax law and that likely it will do so under the broader umbrella of general “tax reform.” While tax reform is gaining momentum, it is unlikely to produce any change in the tax laws until 2013 or 2014. Considering that retirement planning necessarily looks long-term into the future, however, now is not too soon to pay some attention to the proposals being discussed.

The family partnership is a common device for reducing the overall tax burden of family members. Family members who contribute property or services to a partnership in exchange for partnership interests are subject to the same general tax rules that apply to unrelated partners. If the related persons deal with each other at arm's length, their partnership is recognized for tax purposes and the terms of the partnership agreement governing their shares of partnership income and loss are respected.

Everybody knows that tax deductions aren't allowed without proof in the form of documentation. What records are needed to "prove it" to the IRS vary depending upon the type of deduction that you may want to claim. Some documentation cannot be collected "after the fact," whether it takes place a few months after an expense is incurred or later, when you are audited by the IRS. This article reviews some of those deductions for which the IRS requires you to generate certain records either contemporaneously as the expense is being incurred, or at least no later than when you file your return. We also highlight several deductions for which contemporaneous documentation, although not strictly required, is extremely helpful in making your case before the IRS on an audit.


A disregarded entity refers to a business entity with one owner that is not recognized for tax purposes as an entity separate from its owner.  A single-member LLC ("SMLLC"), for example, is considered to be a disregarded entity. For federal and state tax purposes, the sole member of an SMLLC disregards the separate legal status of the SMLLC otherwise in force under state law.


Retired employees often start taking benefits by age 65 and, under the minimum distribution rules, must begin taking distributions from their retirement plans when they reach age 70 ½. According to Treasury, a 65-year old female has an even chance of living past age 86, while a 65-year old male has an even chance of living past age 84. The government has become concerned that taxpayers who normally retire at age 65 or even age 70 will outlive their retirement benefits.

The IRS has released much-anticipated temporary and proposed regulations on the capitalization of costs incurred for tangible property. They impact how virtually any business writes off costs that repair, maintain, improve or replace any tangible property used in the business, from office furniture to roof repairs to photocopy maintenance and everything in between. They apply immediately, to tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2012.

Taxpayers with children should be aware of the numerous tax breaks for which they may qualify. Among them are: the dependency exemption, child tax credit, child care credit, and adoption credit. As they get older, education tax credits for higher education may be available; as is a new tax code requirement for employer-sponsored health care to cover young adults up to age 26. Employers of parents with young children may also qualify for the child care assistance credit.

The Treasury Department is authorized to offset a taxpayer’s tax refund to satisfy certain debts. A spouse who believes that his or her portion of the refund should not be used to offset the debt that the other spouse owes may request a refund from the IRS.

Claiming a charitable deduction for a cash contribution is straightforward. The taxpayer claims the amount paid, whether by cash, check, credit card or some other method, if the proper records are maintained. For contributions of property, the rules can be more complex.

In light of the IRS’s new Voluntary Worker Classification Settlement Program (VCSP), which it announced this fall, the distinction between independent contractors and employees has become a “hot issue” for many businesses. The IRS has devoted considerable effort to rectifying worker misclassification in the past, and continues the trend with this new program.  It is available to employers that have misclassified employees as independent contractors and wish to voluntarily rectify the situation before the IRS or Department of Labor initiates an examination.

Under a flexible spending arrangement (FSA), an amount is credited to an account that is used to reimburse an employee, generally, for health care or dependent care expenses. The employer must maintain the FSA. Amounts may be contributed to the account under an employee salary reduction agreement or through employer contributions.

With school out for the summer, working parents will not only need to arrange care for their children while at work, but how to do so in a cost effective way. For parents facing a summer season that requires juggling childcare and work (or finding work), the IRS provides a few tax breaks that can help make this balancing act a little less painful to the pocket. From the cost of day camp to summer school, how do you determine what kind of childcare is deductible and what is not? Let's take a look.