During the holidays, many charities solicit gifts of money or property. This is partially because people are in the giving mood, but also because they know this is the last month for people and businesses to give – affecting their current tax year before a new year begins. Our article here includes tips for documenting your charitable gifts so that you can claim a deduction on your tax return. You may also want to read our article for advice for how not to be scammed by criminals trying to trick you into sending charitable donations to them.
To claim a charitable deduction you must itemize your deductions; if you don’t, there is no need to keep any records. In addition, only contributions to qualified charities are deductible. Of course, we all know that the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Cancer Society are legitimate, qualified charities, but what about small or local charities? To make sure a charity is qualified, use the IRS Select Check tool. You can always deduct gifts to churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and government agencies—even if the Select Check tool does not list them in its database.
The documentation requirements for cash and non-cash contributions are different. A donor may not claim a deduction for a cash, 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 a 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. In addition, if the contribution is $250 or more, the donor must also get an acknowledgment from the charity for each deductible donation.
When contributions are made via payroll deductions, a pay stub, Form W-2 or other verifying document should be maintained as verification of the gift. It must show the total amount withheld for charity. In addition, be sure to retain the pledge card showing the name of the charity.
Non-cash contributions are also deductible. Generally, contributions of this type must be in good condition, and they can include food, art, jewelry, clothing, furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances, and linens. Items of minimal value (such as underwear and socks) are generally not deductible. The deductible amount is the fair-market value of the items at the time of the donation, and as with cash donations, if the value is $250 or more, you save an acknowledgment from the charity for each deductible donation. Be aware: the door hangers left by many charities after picking up a donation do not meet the acknowledgement criteria; in one court case, taxpayers were denied their charitable deduction because their acknowledgement consisted only of door hangers. When a non-cash contribution is $500 or more, the IRS requires Form 8283 to be included with the return, and when the donation is $5,000 or more, a certified appraisal is generally required.
Special rules also apply to donations of used vehicles when the deduction claimed exceeds $500. The deductible amount is based upon the charity’s use of the vehicle, and Form 8283 is required. A charity accepting used vehicles as donations is required to provide Form 1098-C (or an equivalent) to properly document the donation.
There are also special rules for purchasing capital assets for a charity, such as travel, personal vehicle use, entertainment, and placement of students in a home. Please call for information related to these issues.
Charitable contributions are deductible in the year in which you make them. If you charge a gift to a credit card before the end of the year, it will count for 2015. This is true even if you don’t pay the credit card bill until 2016. In addition, a check will count for 2015 as long as you mail it in 2015.
If you have questions or concerns about your 2015 charitable donations or about the documentation required to claim deductions for them, please call us at Dagley & Co.
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It’s bad enough getting a call or email from the IRS, but it’s even worse if it’s fake. Yup, thieves use taxpayers’ natural fear of the IRS and other government entities to ply their scams, including e-mail and phone scams, to steal people’s money. They also use phishing schemes to trick people into divulging their SSNs, dates of birth, account numbers, passwords and other personal data that allow them to scam the IRS and others using someone’s name and destroy their credit in the process. They are clever and are always coming up with new and unique schemes to trick people, including you.
These scams have reached epidemic proportions, and this article will hopefully provide you with the knowledge to identify scams and avoid becoming a victim.
The very first thing you should be aware of is that the IRS never initiates contact in any other way than by U.S. mail. This means if you receive an e-mail or a phone call out of the blue with no prior contact, then it is a scam. DO NOT RESPOND to the e-mail or open any links included in the e-mail. If it is a phone call, simply HANG UP.
Additionally, it is important for taxpayers to know that the IRS:
- Never asks for credit card, debit card, or prepaid card information over the telephone.
- Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations.
- Never requests immediate payment over the telephone.
- Will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior written notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.
Potential phone scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or, on the flip side, that they are entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy. Other characteristics of these scams include:
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number. Make sure you do not provide the rest of the number or your birth date.
- Scammers alter the IRS toll-free number that shows up on caller ID to make it appear that the IRS is calling.
- Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS e-mails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
- After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up. Soon, others call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
DON’T GET TRICKED. This is a scam. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, DO NOT give the caller any information or money. Instead, you should immediately hang up. Call this office if you are concerned about the validity of the call.
IRS E-Mail Scam
Always remember, the first contact you will receive from the IRS will be by U.S. mail. If you receive e-mail or a phone call claiming to be from the IRS, consider it a scam.
Do not respond or click through to any embedded links. Instead, help the government combat these scams by forwarding the e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unscrupulous people are out there dreaming up schemes to get your money. They become very active toward the end of the year and during tax season. They create bogus e-mails disguised as authentic e-mails from the IRS, your bank, or your credit card company, none of which ever request information that way. They are trying to trick you into divulging personal and financial information they can use to invade your bank accounts, make charges against your credit card or pretend to be you to file phony tax returns or apply for loans or credit cards. Don’t be a victim.
Scammers become very active toward the end of the year and during tax season.
What they try to do is trick you into divulging your personal information, such bank account numbers, passwords, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, etc.
You need to be very careful when responding to e-mails asking you to update such things as your account information, pin number, password, etc. First and foremost, you should be aware that no legitimate company would make such a request by e-mail. If you get such e-mails, they should be deleted and ignored, just like spam e-mails.
We have seen bogus e-mails that looked like they were from the IRS, well-known banks, credit card companies and other pseudo-legitimate enterprises. The intent is to trick you and have you click through to a website that also appears legitimate where they have you enter your secure information. Here are some examples:
- E-mails that appeared to be from the IRS indicating you have a refund coming and that IRS official need information to process the refund. The IRS never initiates communication via e-mail! Right away, you know it is bogus. If you are concerned, please feel free to call this office.
- E-mails from a bank indicating it is holding a wire transfer and needs your bank routing information and account number. Don’t respond; if in doubt, call your bank.
- E-mails saying you have a foreign inheritance and require your bank information to wire the funds. The funds that will get wired are yours going the other way. Remember, if it is too good to be true, it generally is not true.
We could go on and on with examples. The key here is for you to be highly suspicious of any e-mail requesting personal or financial information.
What’s in Your Wallet?
What is in your wallet or purse can make a big difference if it is stolen. Besides the credit cards and whatever cash or valuables you might be carrying, you also need to be concerned about your identity being stolen, which is a far more serious problem. Thieves can use your identity to set up phony bank accounts, take out loans, file bogus tax returns and otherwise invade your finances, and all an identity thief needs to be able to do these things is your name, Social Security number, and birth date.
Think about it: your driver’s license has two of the three keys to your identity. And if you also carry your Social Security card or Medicare card, bingo! An identity thief then has all the information he needs.
You can always cancel stolen credit cards or close compromised bank and charge accounts, but when someone steals your identity and opens accounts you don’t know about, you can’t take any mitigating action.
So if you carry your Social Security card along with your driver’s license, you may wish to rethink that habit for identity-safety purposes.
What You Should NEVER Do:
Never provide financial information over the phone, via the Internet or by e-mail unless you are absolutely sure of with whom you are dealing. That includes:
- Social Security Number– Always resist giving your Social Security number to anyone. The more firms or individuals who have it, the greater the chance it can be stolen.
- Birth Date– Your birth date is frequently used as a cross check with your Social Security number. A combination of birth date and Social Security number can open many doors for ID thieves. Is your birth date posted on social media? Maybe it should not be! That goes for your children, as well.
- Bank Account and Bank Routing Numbers– These along with your name and address will allow thieves to tap your bank accounts. To counter this threat, many banks now provide automated e-mails alerting you to account withdrawals and deposits.
- Credit/Debit Card Numbers– Be especially cautious with these numbers, since they provide thieves with easy access to your accounts.
There are individuals whose sole intent is to steal your identity and sell it to others. Limit your exposure by minimizing the number of charges and credit card accounts you have. The more accounts have your information, the greater the chances of it being stolen. Don’t think all the big firms are safe; there have been several high-profile database breaches in the last year.
Phishing (pronounced “fishing”) is the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.
Communications purporting to be from popular social websites, auction sites, banks, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. Phishing e-mails may contain links to websites that are infected with malware. Phishing is typically carried out by e-mail spoofing or instant messaging, and it often directs users to enter details into a fake website that looks and feels almost identical to a legitimate one.
In the meantime, imagine trying to file your return and it gets rejected as already filed. You attempt to get a copy of the return but can’t because you don’t have the ID of the other unfortunate taxpayer who was used as the other spouse on the return. All the while, the scammers are enjoying their ill-gotten gains with impunity.
If you received a phone call or email from the IRS and you have questions about it, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Dagley & Co.
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On this hot, hot hot shopping and sales weekend, you may be looking everywhere for the best Black Friday and Small Business Saturday deals. There’s another way to save yourself a lot of money – potentially thousands of dollars – and that is by hiring an accountant from Dagley & Company to do the taxes of you, your family, and/or your small business.
For starters, our founder, Dan Dagley, has an exceptional track record with taxes and clients. He was a top-10 CPA with TurboTax’s Pro program, which is currently undergoing a makeover. You can read hundreds of his glowing reviews on our testimonials page. If you miss this TurboTax Pro service, Dagley & Company can help fill your need. Get started by getting in touch with us; you’ll find our contact information at the bottom of this screen.
If you’re one of those people who has never filed for taxes and hasn’t heard from the IRS, then it’s probably because you’re leaving money on the table. Each year, the IRS reports about $1 billion in unclaimed refunds for individuals who did not file a tax return – and about half of them are for amounts greater than $600! You could literally turn a profit simply by dropping us an email, so what are you waiting for?
Many people are handy at filing their own taxes, but our clients who decide to pivot to our team are consistently amazed at the money they save. It’s unlikely that you know all of the tax credits and benefits you are entitled to! There are credits for those who generate their own renewable energy, there are credits for those paying for education, there are credits for those who are taking care of elderly/disabled relatives, there are tax deductions for start-up businesses, and so many more. Let us sit down with you to see just how much of your own money you’re entitled to keep this year.
Finally, Dagley & Company is about as convenient as it gets. Yes, we are located in Washington, D.C., but we serve clients all over the United States, as well as a few scattered all over the globe. Best case scenario for you and us is you keep good records on Quickbooks or another digital program, and we can help you file the most accurate, succinct tax forms you’ve ever seen. Whether you prefer email or a personal phone call, we’re here to work with you to save you time and money.
We hope this has helped you make a decision about the best way to file your taxes – and happy shopping on this Black Friday!
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If your startup had a great year, then you have a lot to be thankful for this season! Enjoy the glory of your success, but don’t forget the hard and bleak reality that the majority of small business startups fail. So, to avoid being like the average startup, you need to create a plan for success. Here are Dagley & Co’s six steps for long term business success:
Choose the Right Entity
One of the first steps to forge a solid start includes selecting the right entity for your business. This legal structure will affect the amount of paperwork you need to do and the legal ramifications you will face.
The right entity will help you reduce your liability exposure and minimize your taxes. You need to ensure your business can be financed and run efficiently with a method that helps ensure the business operations will continue after the death of the owner. Along with making the startup process more organized in an official capacity for the company, the formalization process will also solidify the ownership of participants who are participating in the venture.
To choose your entity, you will first need to consider what personal level of risk you face from liabilities that could arise from your business. You will then need to consider what the best angle is for taxation, finding ways to avoid layers of taxation that can increase unnecessary expenses. Then, you will have to consider what kind of ability you have to attract investors and what ownership opportunities will need to be offered to key stakeholders. Finally, you will have to consider the overall costs of operating and maintaining whatever business entity you choose.
There isn’t necessarily only one entity that can fit your business. The key in this process is looking at how each entity will alter your business’s future to select the one that is right for you. You might choose a sole proprietor, corporation or limited liability company if you are a single owner. If your business is going to be owned by two or more individuals, then you might choose a corporation, limited liability, limited partnership, general partnership or a limited liability partnership.
- Sole Proprietorship: The most common entity type where a single owner is personally liable for financial obligations. This is the easiest type of business entity to form and offers complete control to you as the managerial owner.
- Partnership: When two or more people want to share the profits and losses of a business, they can benefit in a shared entity that does not pass along the tax burdens of their profits or benefits of the losses. In this entity form, however, both partners are personally liable for the financial obligations of the business.
- Corporation: A corporation is an entity that is separated from the founders and handles the responsibilities of the organization for which it bears responsibility. The corporation can be taxed and held legally liable for its actions, just like a person. The corporate status allows you to avoid personal liability, but you will have to provide the funds to form a corporation and keep extensive records to keep the corporation status. Double taxation can also be seen as a downside to the corporate status, but a Subchapter corporation can avoid this situation by using individual tax returns to show profits and losses.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): This is a hybrid form of a partnership entity that allows owner to benefit from aspects of the corporation and partnership forms of the business. Both profits and losses can be passed to the owners without taxing the business and while shielding owners from the personal liability factor.
Plan for Growth
Even though the number one reason startups fail is due to the production of a product no one wants, you can’t just stop with a great product. As an entrepreneur, you have to know about every aspect of your business. Even if you are not an expert in the process of business and aspects of your company, failure in those areas can still cost you your success. You have to know enough to catch key problems in your company’s startup process.
Too segmented, and your company will struggle with gaps and overlap. If the CEO believes it is his or her job to lead, but not to market, then he or she may miss an important connection between target audience and company direction. If the marketer believes it is his or her job to market, but not to develop the website, then he or she might find the website design does not appeal to the right audience. Each individual needs to be both responsible and organic in their approach to helping the company move in the right direction.
While you want growth, you need to be prepared to sustain it. In order to get your venture capital secured, you need accelerated growth; grow too slow and you won’t be eligible for the funds you need to keep growing. Yet, your company will have to be equipped for that growth. The shifting size will alter your ability to work as an agile startup, will force you to reconsider a variety of your tools and may even make you update your physical headquarters. This is just one more reason your current company leaders and employees need to be flexible in the nature of their coverage and thorough in the application of their talents.
The second major reason that companies fail is due to a shortage of funds. These companies run out of cash because their growth stalls. Stalling growth can kill a startup by making them lose to the competition, lose customers, lose employees and lose passion.
Once you’ve gotten your business prepared for substantial growth at a very rapid pace, you will need to focus your attention on increasing that growth. A relatively new term, growth-hackers are professionals that are specifically focused on the rapid growth of startups. Since the second largest reason startups fail is directly related to money shortages (and indirectly related to growth), you will want to focus a lot of your initial attention on increasing growth in creative ways.
The growth hacker job is usually done by a professional who stands in the place of a marketer. The growth hacker has to understand your startup’s audience and how to appeal to them for faster growth. The growth hacker will also break your large end goal (increased growth at a rapid rate) into smaller, actionable and achievable tasks, like doubling your content creation, to reach that end goal.
Watch the Money
In order to help manage the funds that you do have, you will want to establish financial controls to provide your startup with a solid foundation. The internal controls will include accounting, auditing, damage control planning and cash flow. You will need to have disciplined controls to ensure solid growth and help you never run out of cash.
You will want to adjust and re-adjust your projections for cash flow, never allowing the cash to run dry. This also means you need to set maximum limits of purchasing authority to keep partners or employees from overspending. You will need to require all payments to be recorded on invoices to support audits and keep spending on track. Additionally, you will want to use an inventory control system and use an edit log to track changes made to your website. Don’t overlook your suppliers as sources of financing or assume that all shipments are accurate or in good condition. Ask for term discounts, pay on time and always create purchasing contracts to ensure your goods are delivered.
Measure Your Achievements
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are ways to measure the company’s success in achieving key business goals. You will want to establish KPIs on multiple levels in order to monitor your efforts on meeting your objectives.
You will want to use SMART KPIs that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Goals that are too general, don’t have an end date and aren’t within your control are goals doomed to fail. To help your startup succeed, you need to discover the core objectives that will really improve your company status.
Work With Dagley & Company!
Finally, you need to spend more time growing your business than accounting for it. Remember, a misplacement of funds and lack of cash is the second biggest reason why startups fail.
Once you have a product that is worth taking to market and a plan in place to cultivate funding, you will be in a good place with your startup. Don’t let any of these points cause you to lose control of your business with a blind side hit that you could have prepared for. We look forward to taking your business to new heights in 2016!
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As the end of the year approaches, you will probably be besieged by requests from charitable organizations for contributions. The holiday season is the favorite time of the year for charities to solicit donations.
But you should be aware that it is also the time of year when scammers show up in force, pretending to be legitimate charities in hopes of deceiving you into giving them your hard-earned money.
When making a donation, you should take a few extra minutes to ensure your gifts are going to legitimate charities. IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, which allows people to find legitimate, qualified charities to which donations may be tax-deductible.
Here are some tips to make sure your contributions are going to legitimate charities.
- Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
- Don’t give out personal financial information, such as Social Security numbers or passwords, to anyone who solicits a contribution from you. Scam artists may use this information to steal your identity and money. Using a credit card to make legitimate donations is quite common, but please be very careful when you are speaking with someone who called you; don’t give out your credit card number unless you are certain the caller represents a legal charity.
- Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the gift.
Another long-standing type of abuse or fraud involves scams that occur in the wake of significant natural disasters. In the aftermath of major disasters, it’s common for scam artists to impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers. Scam artists can use a variety of tactics. Some scammers operating bogus charities may contact people by telephone or email to solicit money or financial information and may set up phony websites that claim to solicit funds on behalf disaster victims. Unscrupulous individuals may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims to get tax refunds.
Scammers may also attempt to get personal financial information or Social Security numbers that can be used to steal the victims’ identities or financial resources. Disaster victims with specific questions about tax relief or disaster-related tax issues may call a special IRS toll-free disaster assistance telephone number (1-866-562-5227) for information.
Don’t be scammed; make sure you are donating to recognized charities. Deductions to charities that are not legitimate are not tax deductible. If you have questions, please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co.
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Sometimes the IRS keeps all or a portion of the federal refund a citizen was expecting. If you’re one of those people and you’re wondering why, it may be because you owe money for certain delinquent debts. If that is true, the IRS or the Department of Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS), which issues IRS tax refunds, can offset or reduce your federal tax refund or withhold the entire amount to satisfy the debt.
Important facts you should know about tax refund offsets:
- If you owe federal or state income taxes your refund will be offset to pay those tax liabilities. If you had other debt such as child support or student loan debt that was submitted for offset, BFS will take as much of your refund as is needed to pay off the debt, and send it to the agency authorized to collect the debt. Any portion of your refund remaining after an offset will be refunded to you.
- The law prohibits the IRS from using liens or levies to collect any Affordable Care Act individual shared responsibility payment (the tax for not having required minimum essential health care coverage). However, if you owe a shared responsibility payment, the IRS may offset that liability against any tax refund that may be due to you.
- You will receive a notice if an offset occurs. The notice will reflect the original refund amount, your offset amount, the agency receiving the payment, and the address and telephone number of the agency.
- You should contact the agency shown on the notice if you believe you do not owe the debt or you are disputing the amount taken from your refund.
- If you filed a joint return and you are the spouse who is not responsible for the debt, but are entitled to a portion of the refund, you may request your portion of the refund by filing IRS Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation If you know that your spouse has outstanding debts and anticipates an offset, you can attach Form 8379 to your original Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040EZ. Or it can be filed by itself after you are notified of an offset.
- If you file a Form 8379 with your return, write “INJURED SPOUSE” at the top left corner of the Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ. IRS will process your allocation request before an offset occurs.
- If you are filing Form 8379 by itself, it must show both spouses’ social security numbers in the same order as they appeared on your income tax return. You, the “injured” spouse, must sign the form. Do not attach the previously filed Form 1040 to the Form 8379. Send Form 8379 to the Service Center where you filed your original return.
- If you reside in a community property state, overpayments (refunds) are considered to be joint property and are generally applied (offset) to legally owed past-due obligations of either spouse. There are exceptions, so please call for additional details if this rule affects you.
- The IRS will compute the injured spouse’s share of the joint return for you. Contact the IRS only if your original refund amount shown on the BFS offset notice differs from the refund amount shown on your tax return.
For assistance with IRS withheld refunds or completing Form 8379, please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co.
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If you want to start a business, you’re probably about get down and dirty with the registration process. The simplest and least expensive form of business is a sole proprietorship. A sole proprietorship is a one-person business that reports its income directly on the individual’s personal tax return (Form 1040) using a Schedule C. There is no need to file a separate tax return as is required by a partnership or corporation (if the business is set up as an LLC with just one member, filing is still done on Schedule C, although an LLC return may also be required by the state). Generally, there are very few bureaucratic hoops to jump through to get started.
However, we strongly recommend that you open a checking account that is used solely for depositing business income and paying business expenses. You will also need to check and see if there is a need to register for a local government business license and permit (if required for your business).
If you are conducting a retail business, you will need to obtain a resale permit and collect and remit local and state sales taxes.
If you hire employees, you will need to set up payroll withholding and remit payroll taxes to the government. Before you can do that, however, you’ll need to apply to the IRS for an employer identification number (EIN) because you can’t just use your Social Security number for payroll tax purposes. An EIN can be obtained online at the IRS web site or by completing a paper Form SS-4 and submitting it to the IRS.
As a sole proprietor, you can also very simply set aside tax-deductible contributions for your retirement.
Example: Paul has been working for a computer firm as an installation specialist but has decided to go out on his own. Unless he sets up a partnership, LLC or corporation, Paul is automatically classified as a sole proprietor. He does not need to file any legal paperwork. His business is automatically classified and treated as a sole proprietorship in the eyes of the IRS and his state government.
However, there is a big downside to conducting business as a sole proprietor, and that drawback is liability. Sole proprietors are 100% personally liable for all business debts and legal claims. As an example, in the case that a customer or vendor has an accident and is injured on your business property and then sues, you the owner are responsible for paying any resulting court award. Thus, all your assets, both business and personal, can be taken by a court order and sold to repay business debts and judgments. That would include your car, home, bank accounts and other personal assets.
Other forms of business, such as LLCs and corporations, can protect your personal assets from business liabilities. If you feel that your business is susceptible to lawsuits and would like to explore alternative forms of business, please give Dagley & Co. a call so we can discuss the tax ramifications of the various business entities with you. If you decide on something other than a sole proprietorship, you’ll need legal assistance to formally set up your new business.
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You would think federal taxes and law courts would keep up with each other, but they actually do not. In fact, family law courts make rulings that are contradictory to federal tax law all the time, causing confusion and inequity in divorce actions since family court rulings cannot trump federal tax law.
A common issue for divorced parents is who gets to claim the children for tax purposes. Federal tax law provides that the parent with physical custody claims the child unless that parent releases the exemption to the other parent. Frequently, family courts award physical custody to one parent and the tax exemption to the other. To make matters worse, the courts assume that the exemption deduction will provide a financial benefit to the non-custodial parent. Then the court adjusts child support accordingly, leaving the non-custodial parent with two unpleasant surprises when filing his or her tax return: the child support is not deductible and the child cannot be claimed as a dependent without a release from the custodial parent.
Who is to blame? At first glance, one would tend to blame the court. However, it is not the job of the court, but the duty of the attorney to bring the judge’s attention to federal tax law so that he or she is aware of what applies in order to make a correct judgment. Few family law judges know tax law.
Avoid mistakes – Consult with your tax advisor. Go over the proposed settlement and determine what the tax implications will be before the divorce is finalized. Here are some of the tax issues that need to be considered as part of a divorce:
Property settlements – When property is divided in a divorce, the spouse who keeps the property assumes the community basis. This, in effect, means that spouse assumes any tax liability when the property is sold.
Example: A couple has a home worth $450,000 and a mortgage of $50,000, which provides a net equity of $400,000. They also have a bank savings account worth $400,000. They divorce, and agree that the wife will keep the home and the husband will keep the bank account. On the surface, this sounds equitable, but, after taxes are considered, it may not be. Let’s assume the couple purchased the home for $100,000 several years ago. The wife assumes the community basis of $100,000. If the wife sells it for $450,000, she will net only $373,000 from the sale after paying the selling costs of approximately $27,000 and paying off the $50,000 loan. In addition, she has a taxable profit from the sale that is computed as follows:
Sales Price: $450,000
Community Basis: <100,000>
Sales Costs: < 27,000>
Home Sale Exclusion <250,000>
Taxable Gain $ 73,000
Federal Tax @ 15% 10,950 (there may also be a state tax, and Federal tax could be as high as 20%)
So, in our example, the wife nets $362,050 ($373,000 less taxes of $10,950), while her spouse nets a full $400,000 from the savings account. Not exactly even after taking into account the tax liability.
Issues involving Children – There are substantial tax issues related to the children. Here are some of them:
- Dependency – Federal tax law gives the dependency to the custodial parent unless the custodial parent releases, in writing, the dependency to the non-custodial parent. There is a tax deduction of $4,000 (2015) for each dependency exemption.
- Child Credit – The 2015 child tax credit, $1,000 for each child under age 17, goes to the parent who claims the child as a dependent.
- Joint Custody – Some courts award joint custody to the parents. In this situation, the IRS does not split the benefits of claiming the child as a dependent. Instead, the parent with physical custody the greater part of the year receives all of the benefits.
- Education Credits – The education tax credits for college tuition expenses go to the one who claims the exemption for the child, regardless of who paid the tuition.
- Child Care Credit – The parent who claims the child’s exemption is the only one who can claim a tax credit for child care expenses This can cause issues where both parents work and share custody.
- Child Support– is not deductible by the parent who pays the support and is not taxable to the one who receives it.
Alimony – is deductible by the spouse who pays it and includable in income by the spouse who receives it. To be treated as alimony, payments must be in cash, required by the divorce instrument, and end upon the death of the payee. In addition, alimony payments cannot be contingent on the status of a child and are valid only while the taxpayers live apart.
Conflict of Interest – Rules of Practice do not allow a tax practitioner to represent clients where there is a conflict of interest. This is an issue for divorcing couples since the divorce creates a conflict of interest and a practitioner may not be able to provide services to both clients and, in some cases, may not be allowed to provide services to either.
As you can see, there are a number of complications related to divorce and the status of the children of divorced parents. If you have questions, please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co.
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Have you ever thought about gifting money or property to someone – perhaps to one of your children or other family members – and wondered what the tax consequences could be? Gift and inheritance taxes were created long ago to make sure an individual’s assets are taxed as they pass on to future generations. Congress has frequently tinkered with these taxes, and currently the gift and inheritance taxes are unified with a top tax rate of 40%. However, the law does provide the following two exclusions from the tax:
Lifetime exclusion – For 2015, $5.43 million per person is excluded from gift and inheritance tax. This amount is annually adjusted for inflation and applies separately to each spouse of a married couple. Where one of the couple dies and does not use the entire exclusion amount, the unused portion of the exclusion can be passed on to the surviving spouse by filing an estate tax return for the decedent, even if one is otherwise not required.
Annual exclusion – The exclusion amount is periodically adjusted for inflation. For 2015 the annual gift exclusion is $14,000 per recipient. Thus, an individual can give up to $14,000 to as many recipients as he or she would like without creating a requirement to file a gift tax return. The $14,000 applies to each individual giver, so each spouse of a married couple can give $14,000, for a total per couple of $28,000 to any one person.
If a person gives more than $14,000 for the year to any single individual, then a gift tax return is required, and the excess of the gifts over $14,000 reduces the lifetime exclusion. Once the annual limit and the lifetime limit have been exceeded, the excess becomes taxable.
Gifts can take the form of cash or property. When property is given, the dollar value placed on the gift for gift tax purposes is the property’s fair market value (FMV) at the time of the gift. However, the gift recipient assumes the giver’s tax basis in the property, which means that if the giver’s property had built-in gains, the recipient becomes responsible for those gains when the recipient subsequently disposes of the property in a taxable event.
Example: Earl gives his son, Jack, stock worth $14,000 that originally cost Earl $5,000. Later, Jack sells the stock for $16,000. Jack’s taxable gain from selling the stock will be $11,000 ($16,000 – $5,000).
However, if Jack had inherited the stock from his father, Jack’s basis would have been the FMV of the stock at the date of his father’s death instead of what Earl had paid for the stock. Assuming the FMV was $14,000 at the time of Earl’s death and Jack subsequently sold the stock for $16,000, he would only have a taxable gain of $2,000 ($16,000 – $14,000).
This example points to a mistake often made by elderly taxpayers. They will frequently sign over their assets, most commonly their home, to their heirs while they are still alive rather than waiting and allowing the heirs to inherit the property. By doing this, they create a large tax liability for the heirs since the basis of the gift is the giver’s basis, thus the heirs become responsible for the giver’s built-in gain rather than inheriting the property with the basis equal to the FMV at the time of the decedent’s death.
Example: Mary signs over her home worth $500,000 to her son, John. Mary originally paid $100,000 for the home. If John immediately sells the home for $500,000 after Mary’s passing, he will have a taxable gain of $400,000. However, if John had inherited the property after Mary’s passing, his basis would be the FMV at date of death, or $500,000, and if he sold it for $500,000, he would have no taxable gain at all.
Additional Exclusions For Gift Tax – In addition, certain medical and education expenses are also excludable over and above the $14,000 annual exclusion cap.
Tuition Expenses – Tuition expenses paid directly to the qualifying educational institution are permitted without gift tax consequences. For example, a grandparent who wants to help out a college-bound grandchild can pay the student’s tuition directly to the college. Even if the amount is over $14,000, no gift tax reporting is required, and the grandparent’s annual gift exclusion with respect to the child and his or her lifetime exclusion are not affected.
Medical Expenses – Medical expenses paid directly to the qualifying medical institution or individual providing the care or to the insurance company providing the medical coverage are also exempt from the gift tax and don’t affect the gift tax exclusions. The payments cannot go through the hands of the individual who incurred the medical expenses, but must go directly to the medical provider or insurance company.
As you can see, gifting can be complicated and requires advance planning to fully take advantage of tax benefits. Please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co. if you need assistance planning your gifts or your estate.
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