April 15 Approaches – Some Tax Tips For You

April 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Are you one of the millions of Americans who haven’t filed (or even started) your taxes yet? With the April 15 tax filing deadline less than a week away, here’s some last minute tax advice for you.

1. Stop Procrastinating. Resist the temptation to put off your taxes until the very last minute. Our office needs time to prepare your return, and we may need to request certain documents from you, which will take additional time.

2. Include All Income. If you had a side job in addition to a regular job, you might have received a Form 1099-MISC. Make sure you include that income when you file your tax return because you may owe additional taxes on it. If you forget to include it you may be liable for penalties and interest on the unreported income.

3. File on Time or Request an Extension. This year’s tax deadline is April 15. If the clock runs out, you can get an automatic six-month extension, bringing the filing date to October 15, 2014. You should keep in mind however, that filing the extension itself does not give you more time to pay any taxes due. You will still owe interest on any amount not paid by the April deadline, plus a late-payment penalty if you have not paid at least 90 percent of your total tax by that date.

Call us if you need to file an extension and we’ll take care of it for you. If you need to file for late-penalty relief, we can help with that too.

4. Don’t Panic If You Can’t Pay. If you can’t immediately pay the taxes you owe, there are several alternatives. You can apply for an IRS installment agreement, suggesting your own monthly payment amount and due date, and getting a reduced late-payment penalty rate. You also have various options for charging your balance on a credit card. There is no IRS fee for credit card payments, but processing companies generally charge a convenience fee. Electronic filers with a balance due can file early and authorize the government’s financial agent to take the money directly from their checking or savings account on the April due date, with no fee.

5. Sign and Double Check Your Return. The IRS will not process tax returns that aren’t signed, so make sure that you sign and date your return. You should also double check your social security number, as well as any electronic payment or direct deposit numbers, and finally, make sure that your filing status is correct.

Make Your 2013 IRA Contribution Now

March 27, 2014 Leave a comment

If you haven’t contributed funds to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) for tax year 2013, or if you’ve put in less than the maximum allowed, you still have time to do so. You can contribute to either a traditional or Roth IRA until the April 15 due date for filing your tax return for 2013, not including extensions.

Be sure to tell the IRA trustee that the contribution is for 2013. Otherwise, the trustee may report the contribution as being for 2014 when they get your funds.

Generally, you can contribute up to $5,500 of your earnings for 2013 (up to $6,500 if you are age 50 or older in 2013). You can fund a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA (if you qualify), or both, but your total contributions cannot be more than these amounts.

Note: IRA contribution limits remain at $5,500 ($6,500 if age 50 or older) in 2013.

Traditional IRA: You may be able to take a tax deduction for the contributions to a traditional IRA, depending on your income and whether you or your spouse, if filing jointly, are covered by an employer’s pension plan.

Roth IRA: You cannot deduct Roth IRA contributions, but the earnings on a Roth IRA may be tax-free if you meet the conditions for a qualified distribution.

Each year, the IRS announces the cost of living adjustments and limitation for retirement savings plans.

Saving for retirement should be part of everyone’s financial plan and it’s important to review your retirement goals every year in order to maximize savings. If you need help with your retirement plans, give us a call. We’re happy to help.

Check Out These Tax Breaks

March 13, 2014 Leave a comment

Confused about which credits and deductions you can claim on your 2013 tax return? You’re not alone. Here are six tax breaks that you won’t want to overlook.

1. State Sales and Income Taxes

Thanks to the fiscal cliff deal last January, the sales tax deduction, which originally expired at the end of 2011, was reinstated in 2013 (retroactive to 2012). As such, taxpayers filing their 2013 returns can still deduct either state income tax paid or state sales tax paid, whichever is greater.

If you bought a big ticket item like a car or boat in 2013, it might be more advantageous to deduct the sales tax, but don’t forget to figure any state income taxes withheld from your paycheck just in case. If you’re self-employed you can include the state income paid from your estimated payments. In addition, if you owed taxes when filing your 2012 tax return in 2013, you can include the amount when you itemize your state taxes this year on your 2013 return.

2. Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

Most parents realize that there is a tax credit for daycare when their child is young, but they might not realize that once a child starts school, the same credit can be used for before and after school care, as well as day camps during school vacations. This child and dependent care tax credit can also be taken by anyone who pays a home health aide to care for a spouse or other dependent–such as an elderly parent–who is physically or mentally unable to care for him or herself. The credit is worth a maximum of $1,050 or 35percent of $3,000 of eligible expenses per dependent.

3. Job Search Expenses

Job search expenses are 100percent deductible, whether you are gainfully employed or not currently working–as long as you are looking for a position in your current profession. Expenses include fees paid to join professional organizations, as well as employment placement agencies that you used during your job search. Travel to interviews is also deductible (as long as it was not paid by your prospective employer) as is paper, envelopes, and costs associated with resumes or portfolios. The catch is that you can only deduct expenses greater than 2percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI).

4. Student Loan Interest Paid by Parents

Typically, a taxpayer is only able to deduct interest on mortgages and student loans if he or she is liable for the debt; however, if a parent pays back their child’s student loans the money is treated by the IRS as if the child paid it. As long as the child is not claimed as a dependent, he or she can deduct up to $2,500 in student loan interest paid by the parent. The deduction can be claimed even if the child does not itemize.

5. Medical Expenses

Most people know that medical expenses are deductible as long as they are more than 10 percent of AGI for tax year 2013. What they often don’t realize is what medical expenses can be deducted, such as medical miles (24 cents per mile) driven to and from appointments and travel (airline fares or hotel rooms) for out of town medical treatment.

Other deductible medical expenses that taxpayers might not be aware of include: health insurance premiums, prescription drugs, co-pays, and dental premiums and treatment. Long-term care insurance (deductible dollar amounts vary depending on age) is also deductible, as are prescription glasses and contacts, counseling, therapy, hearing aids and batteries, dentures, oxygen, walkers, and wheelchairs.

If you’re self-employed, you may be able to deduct medical, dental, or long term care insurance. Even better, you can deduct 100 percent of the premium. In addition, if you pay health insurance premiums for an adult child under age 27, you may be able to deduct them as well.

6. Bad Debt

If you’ve ever loaned money to a friend, but were never repaid, you may qualify for a non-business bad debt tax deduction of up to $3,000 per year. To qualify however, the debt must be totally worthless, in that there is no reasonable expectation of payment.

Non-business bad debt is deducted as a short-term capital loss, subject to the capital loss limitations. You may take the deduction only in the year the debt becomes worthless. You do not have to wait until a debt is due to determine whether it is worthless. Any amount you are not able to deduct can be carried forward to reduce future tax liability.

Are you getting all of the tax credits and deductions that you are entitled to? Maybe you are…but maybe you’re not. Why take a chance? Make an appointment with us today and we’ll make sure you get all of the tax breaks you deserve.

Another Option for the Home Office Deduction 2013 Taxes

February 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Starting with their 2013 tax return, taxpayers who claim deductions for business use of a home (“the home office deduction”) now have another option. Taxpayers claiming the home office deduction are generally required to fill out a 43-line form (Form 8829) often with complex calculations of allocated expenses, depreciation and carryovers of unused deductions.

Taxpayers claiming the optional deduction will complete a significantly simplified form. The new optional deduction is capped at $1,500 per year based on $5 per square foot for up to 300 square feet. Give us a call if you’d like more information on the simplified home office deduction for 2013.

 

Saver’s Tax Credit Explained

January 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Low and moderate-income workers still have time to make qualifying retirement contributions and get the saver’s credit on their 2013 tax return.

Also known as the retirement savings contributions credit, the saver’s credit is available in addition to any other tax savings that apply and helps offset part of the first $2,000 workers voluntarily contribute to IRAs and to 401(k) plans and similar workplace retirement programs.

The saver’s credit supplements other tax benefits available to people who set money aside for retirement. Taxpayers have until April 15, 2014, to set up a new individual retirement arrangement or add money to an existing IRA for 2013.

Most workers may deduct their contributions to a traditional IRA. Though Roth IRA contributions are not deductible, qualifying withdrawals, usually after retirement, are tax-free. Normally, contributions to 401(k) and similar workplace plans are not taxed until withdrawn.

Note: Elective deferrals (contributions) must have been made by the end of the year to a 401(k) plan or similar workplace program, such as a 403(b) plan for employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations, a governmental 457 plan for state or local government employees, and the Thrift Savings Plan for federal employees.

The saver’s credit can be claimed by:

  • Married couples filing jointly with incomes up to $60,000 in 2014;
  • Heads of Household with incomes up to $45,000 in 2014; and
  • Married individuals filing separately and singles with incomes up to $30,000 in 2014.

The saver’s credit can increase a taxpayer’s refund or reduce the tax owed. The maximum saver’s credit is $1,000 for single filers and $2,000 for married couples and is based on filing status, adjusted gross income, tax liability and amount contributed to qualifying retirement programs.

Other special rules that apply to the saver’s credit include the following:

  • Eligible taxpayers must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Anyone claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return cannot take the credit.
  • A student cannot take the credit. A person enrolled as a full-time student during any part of 5 calendar months during the year is considered a student.

In tax-year 2011, the most recent year for which complete figures are available, saver’s credits totaling just over $1.1 billion were claimed on nearly 6.4 million individual income tax returns. Saver’s credits claimed on these returns averaged $215 for joint filers, $166 for heads of household and $128 for single filers.

Year End Planning for Section 179 Deductions

December 17, 2013 Leave a comment

The IRS is making changes regarding the annual election under Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), often referred to as the “Section 179 election” or the “Code Section 179 election.” For 2013 tax returns, the allowable 179 expense election is $500,000. For 2014, the allowable 179 expense election will be reduced to $25,000. This represents a significant decrease in allowable 179 deduction available for you in 2014. This reduction should be taken into consideration for 2013 year-end planning and budgets for the subsequent 2014 year. Please consult your tax advisor regarding your specific situation and how you can plan accordingly.

Section 179 Overview

Generally, the cost of property placed in service in a trade or business can’t be deducted in the year it’s placed in service if the property will be useful beyond the year. Instead, the cost is “capitalized” and depreciation deductions are allowed for most property (other than land), but are spread out over a period of years. Capitalization delays the tax benefits of business expenditures. For example, you may spend $50,000 on a new computer system today, but must spread your depreciation deductions over several years. That’s why the election to take immediate deductions is valuable.

Give To Your Favorite Cause Before Year End – Some Useful Tips

December 4, 2013 Leave a comment
Gifts

Gifts (Photo credit: Guudmorning!)

As the end of 2013 approaches, donors are likely thinking about their
favorite charity or ministry and what they may be able to do in the way
of support.

I know I am.  I am always encouraged when I think
about the important mission of these organizations and how lives are
being changed as a result of what they are doing.  After all, that is
why we give.  We give because we are taking part in something bigger
than we are.  We give because we believe in the mission of these great
organizations.  We give because we believe in the power of giving to
transform lives, maybe even our own.

So, after dwelling on the good stuff it is then time to consider how to give.  Should I give cash?  Should I donate stock?  Should I do something else?

Having served in some nonprofits, I know we were always thankful for unrestricted
gifts in whatever form they came to us.  This might be your first
consideration and I would recommend making your gifts unrestricted so
that the organization can put it to use in the best way possible.

Next, if your cash position is good you will certainly want to share the wealth.   Here are a few reminders about cash gifts–

  • Make sure you are donating to a qualified organization if you want a tax deduction.
  • Make sure to get an official receipt for your gift, especially if it is over $250.
  • For tax purposes, cash donations generally have a deductible limit of 50% of your AGI.
  • You must make your gift before the end of the year or make sure it is postmarked December 31 if mailed.

If you want to make stock gifts at the end of 2012, this is a positive
time to do so.  The stock market has performed well over the past couple
of years and you may have stocks that you feel have appreciated
significantly.  Also, the fiscal cliff that has been the focus of the
post-election likely will see income tax rates and capital gains tax
rates rise after 2012.  With this in thought, making a stock gift seems
like the right and prudent thing to do.  Here are some reminders about
making stock gifts–

  • You can take a tax deduction for the fair market value of the stock at the time of the gift.
  • For tax purposes, stock gifts and other capital gain property gifts are limited to 30% of your AGI.
  • Make sure to give the stock directly to the charity (don’t sell it yourself and then give the cash).

Of course, make sure you consult your professional advisor as you plan your year-end giving.

No matter what your situation, you have the ability to make a difference
through your giving to nonprofits.  Keep that in mind as you move
forward into this holiday season.

Year End Tax Planning – Charitable Contributions

November 17, 2013 Leave a comment

 

Property, as well as money, can be donated to a charity. You can generally take a deduction for the fair market value of the property; however, for certain property, the deduction is limited to your cost basis. While you can also donate your services to charity, you may not deduct the value of these services. You may also be able to deduct charity-related travel expenses and some out-of-pocket expenses, however.

 

Keep in mind that a written record of charitable contribution is required in order to qualify for a deduction. A donor may not claim a deduction for any contribution of cash, a check or other monetary gift unless the donor maintains a record of the contribution in the form of either a bank record (such as a cancelled check) or written communication from the charity (such as a receipt or a letter) showing the name of the charity, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.

 

Tip: Contributions of appreciated property (i.e. stock) provide an additional benefit because you avoid paying capital gains on any profit.

Year End Tax Planning Tips – More Tips

November 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Accelerating Income and Deductions

Accelerating income into 2013 is an especially good idea for taxpayers who anticipate being in a higher tax bracket next year or whose earnings are close to threshold amounts ($200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married filing jointly) that make them liable for additional Medicare tax or NIIT (see below).

Here are several examples of what a taxpayer might do to accelerate deductions:

  • Pay a state estimated tax installment in December instead of at the January due date. However, make sure the payment is based on a reasonable estimate of your state tax.
  • Pay your entire property tax bill, including installments due in year 2014, by year-end. This does not apply to mortgage escrow accounts.
  • Try to bunch “threshold” expenses, such as medical and dental expenses (10% of AGI starting in 2013) and miscellaneous itemized deductions. For example, you might pay medical bills and dues and subscriptions in whichever year they would do you the most tax good.

    Threshold expenses are deductible only to the extent they exceed a certain percentage of adjusted gross income (AGI). By bunching these expenses into one year, rather than spreading them out over two years, you have a better chance of exceeding the thresholds, thereby maximizing your deduction.

In cases where tax benefits are phased out over a certain adjusted gross income (AGI) amount, a strategy of accelerating income and deductions might allow you to claim larger deductions, credits, and other tax breaks for 2013, depending on your situation.

The latter benefits include Roth IRA contributions, conversions of regular IRAs to Roth IRAs, child credits, higher education tax credits and deductions for student loan interest.

Caution: Taxpayers close to threshold amounts for the Net Investment Income Tax (3.8% of net investment income) should pay close attention to “one-time” income spikes such as those associated with Roth conversions, sale of a home or other large assets that may be subject to tax.

If you know you have a set amount of income coming in this year that is not covered by withholding taxes, increasing your withholding before year-end can avoid or reduce any estimated tax penalty that might otherwise be due.

On the other hand, the penalty could be avoided by covering the extra tax in your final estimated tax payment and computing the penalty using the annualized income method.

Year End Tax Planning Tips – Time to Start Your Personal Review

November 7, 2013 Leave a comment

Tax planning presents more challenges than usual this year due to the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), which was signed into law on January 2, 2013, as well as certain tax provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 taking effect in 2013 and 2014.

Tax planning strategies for individuals this year–and for the next several years–require careful consideration of taxable income in relation to threshold amounts that might bump a taxpayer into a higher or lower tax bracket, thus, subjecting him or her to additional taxes such as the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) or an additional Medicare tax.

Even so, there are several more general tax planning strategies taxpayers might consider such as:

  • Selling any investments on which you have a gain or loss this year. For more on this, see Investment Gains and Losses, below.
  • If you anticipate an increase in taxable income in 2014 and are expecting a bonus at year-end, try to get it before December 31. Keep in mind however, that contractual bonuses are different, in that they are typically not paid out until the first quarter of the following year. Therefore, any taxes owed on a contractual bonus would not be due until you file a tax return for tax year 2014.
  • If your company grants stock options, you may want to exercise the option or sell stock acquired by exercise of an option this year if you think your tax bracket will be higher in 2014. Exercise of the option is often but not always a taxable event; sale of the stock is almost always a taxable event.
  • If you’re self employed, send invoices or bills to clients or customers this year in order to be paid in full by the end of December.

Caution: Keep an eye on the estimated tax requirements.

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