For the most part, an individual’s travel expenses from attending conventions or seminars can be deducted (provided that attendance benefits the taxpayer’s trade or business). But, the following travel expenses cannot be deducted: family members’ travel expenses, or expenses from attending investment, political, social or other types of meetings not related to the taxpayer’s trade or business. The entire cost of transportation and lodging, plus 50% of the meal expenses, is deductible for meetings held within the North American area. For a detailed list of areas within North America, please consult IRS Publication 463.
Meetings Outside the North American Area – Deducting travel expenses for a convention or meeting outside the North American area has requirements:
- The meeting must be directly related to the taxpayer’s trade or business (whereas meetings within the North American area need only benefit the taxpayer’s trade or business), and
- It must be reasonable to hold the meeting outside the North American area. There is no specific definition of “reasonable” for this purpose, which places the burden of proof on the taxpayer. Considerations include the meeting’s purpose and activities and the location of the meeting sponsors’ homes.
Even if the above requirements are met, the amount of deduction allowed depends upon the primary purpose of the trip and on the time spent on nonbusiness activities:
(1) If the entire time is devoted to business, all ordinary and necessary travel expenses are deductible.
(2) If the travel is primarily for vacation and only a few hours are spent attending professional seminars, none of the expenses incurred in traveling to and from the business location are deductible.
(3) If, during a business trip, personal activities take place at, near or beyond the business destination, then the expenses incurred in traveling to and from the business location have to be appropriately allocated between the business and nonbusiness expenses.
(4) If the travel is for a period of one week or less, or if less than 25% of the total time is spent on nonbusiness activities (on a day-by-day basis), then the travel deductions are treated the same as they would be for travel within the North American area.
Meetings Held On Cruise Ships – When a convention or meeting is held on a cruise ship and is directly related to a taxpayer’s trade or business, the taxpayer is limited to $2,000 per year in deductions for expenses from attending such conventions, seminars, or similar meetings. All ships that sail are considered cruise ships. The following rules also apply:
- The cruise ship must be registered in the United States.
- All of the cruise ship’s ports of call must be in the United States or its possessions.
If you have questions related to the deductibility of expenses from conventions and meetings or from foreign travel, please give Dagley & Co. a call.
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As a homeowner, you should be aware of the many tax benefits that go along with ownership. At Dagley & Co., we compiled a list of tax benefits that will be helpful for the current and next year’s tax season:
Mortgage Interest Deduction – Although it may seem that you will never get that mortgage paid off, keep in mind that unmarried taxpayers and married couples can deduct, as an itemized deduction, the interest on up to $1 million of acquisition debt plus $100,000 of equity debt on their first and second homes, provided the loans are secured by the homes. A married taxpayer filing separately is limited to deducting the interest on $500,000 of acquisition debt and $50,000 of equity debt.
Home Improvement Loan Interest Deduction – If you took out a loan secured by your home to make improvements on your main or a second home, that mortgage is treated the same as home acquisition debt, and the interest you pay on that loan is deductible as acquisition debt, so long as the combined total acquisition debt of the two homes does not exceed the $1 million limit on acquisition debt. Even if it does exceed the $1 million limit, the excess interest on up to the $100,000 equity debt limit may still be deductible. However, if you used the loan money to make repairs rather than improvements, the debt would only qualify as equity debt.
Equity Debt – If you used the equity in your home to borrow money to buy a car, take a vacation, or for another use, interest paid on that debt is deductible up to the $100,000 equity debt limit. That is why it is sometimes better to finance large purchases with a deductible home equity loan rather than a non-deductible consumer loan.
Property Tax Deduction – If you itemize your deductions, you can deduct the property taxes you paid during the year on your home. However, be careful; generally property taxes are billed on a fiscal year basis, so the amount billed may cover parts of two years. You can only deduct what you actually paid during the year. If you have an impound account (sometimes called an escrow account) with your mortgage lender, the amount paid will be included on the lender’s annual statement. Also be aware that if you are subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT), a deduction for taxes is not allowed when computing the AMT.
Private Mortgage Insurance Premiums – Generally when home buyers are unable to make a 20% down payment when purchasing a home, the lender will require them to obtain private mortgage insurance (PMI) and the insurance premiums that go along with it. To be deductible, the insurance contract must have been issued after December 31, 2006. Those premiums are deductible if incurred for the purchase of your first or second home, and they are not limited by the $1 million limitation on home acquisition debt.
The deductible amount of the premiums phases out ratably by 10% for each $1,000 by which the taxpayer’s AGI exceeds $100,000 (10% for each $500 by which a married separate taxpayer’s AGI exceeds $50,000). If AGI is over $109,000 ($54,500 married separate), the deduction is totally phased out.
Congress failed to extend this deduction, and thus 2016 is the last year for it. If you are stuck with a PMI and your equity in your property has grown to be greater than 20% (you’ve paid down the mortgage balance to 80% of the home’s original appraised value), you may want to contact your lender about removing the PMI, refinancing to get rid of it, or obtaining an updated appraisal. When the balance drops to 78%, the mortgage servicer is required to eliminate PMI. (These rules generally don’t apply if your loan is guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).)
Solar Energy Credits – Through 2021, taxpayers can get a tax credit on their federal tax return for purchasing and installing solar electric or solar water heating systems. The credit is 30% of the cost through 2019, at which time it begins to phase out and the credit is reduced to 26% for 2020 and 22% for the final year of 2021.
The credit is nonrefundable, which means it can only be used to offset a taxpayer’s current tax liability, but any excess can be carried forward to offset tax through 2021. Both the solar electric and the solar water systems qualify for credit if installed on a taxpayer’s primary and secondary residences. However, no credit is allowed for heating water for hot tubs and swimming pools.
Impairment-Related Home Expenses – If you, your spouse or a dependent living in your home has a physical handicap and you make modifications to the home or install special equipment to alleviate that disability, those costs may be deductible as a medical expense. The portion of the cost of permanent improvements that increases the value of the home is not deductible, but the difference can be included as a medical expense. However, home modifications made to accommodate a home for an individual’s handicap generally do not increase the value of the home and can be included in full with your medical deductions. These improvements include, but are not limited to, the following items:
- Constructing entrance or exit ramps for the home,
- Widening doorways at entrances or exits to the home,
- Adding handrails, support bars and grab bars,
- Lowering or modifying kitchen cabinets and equipment, and
- Installing porch and stair lifts.
Points Deduction – Points are a form of prepaid interest; one point is equal to 1% of a loan amount. Points are often labeled “loan origination fees,” “premium charges,” etc. At times, certain loan charges may be called points but are really amounts lenders charge for setting up a loan. Such “service charge points” aren’t normally deductible.
Generally, prepaid interest must be amortized (deducted) over the life of a loan; however, tax law carved out a special rule that allows points incurred for purchase of a primary residence to be fully deducted on the return for the year in which they are paid. This special rule also applies to loan points incurred for home improvement loans.
Home Office Deduction – If you are self-employed, you may qualify for a deduction for the business use of your home, commonly known as the home office deduction. You may also qualify if you are an employee and the use of the home is for the convenience of the employer. In either case the portion of the home used for business qualifies for the deduction only if it is used exclusively for business.
There are two methods that can be used to determine the deduction: (1) the actual expense method, where you prorate the home expenses such as utilities, insurance, maintenance, interest, taxes and depreciation, or (2) a simplified deduction, which is $5 per square foot of office space, with a maximum square footage of 300. If the latter method is used, mortgage interest and real property tax deductions may be claimed as usual as part of itemized deductions, but a proration of other home-related expenses isn’t deductible. In either case, the deduction is limited to the income from the business activity.
If you have questions about any of these tax related home ownership deductions/issues, give Dagley & Co. a call. Or, are you considering purchasing a home? Dagely & Co. will help you to understand how the home ownership will impact your taxes.
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A Roth IRA can provide tax-free retirement income, but it doesn’t just happen. Before its earnings can be withdrawn tax-free, the account must be “aged.”
Unlike traditional IRA accounts, contributions to Roth IRAs provide no tax deduction when they are made, and unlike traditional IRAs, earnings from Roths are tax-free if a distribution is what the IRS refers to as a “qualified distribution.”
A qualified distribution is one for which: One, the account has satisfied a five-year aging rule AND meets one of the following conditions: the distribution is made after the IRA owner reaches the age of 59.5, the distribution is made after the death of the IRA owner, the distribution is made on account of the IRA owner becoming disabled, OR the distribution (up to $10,000 lifetime, or $20,000 if filing jointly and the spouse also has a Roth IRA) is for a first-time homebuyer purchasing a home.
Figuring the five-year aging period can be tricky, and the holding period can actually be significantly less than five years. The five-year period:
Begins on the earlier of: the first day of the individual’s tax year for which the first regular (i.e., non-rollover) contribution is made to any of the individual’s Roth IRAs, or the first day of the individual’s tax year in which the first conversion contribution is made to any of the individual’s Roth IRAs; and ends on the last day of the individual’s fifth consecutive tax year beginning with the tax year described in either (a) or (b) above.
What complicates this a bit is the fact that a contribution to an IRA for a particular year can be made through the filing due date for the tax year in which the contribution applies. For example, an IRA contribution can be made as late as April 17, 2017, for the 2016 tax year. Thus, the five-year holding period would begin January 1, 2016, and end on December 31, 2020, so any distributions made January 1, 2021, and later would meet the five-year aging period. Each time a contribution is made to the Roth account, the aging period does not start over.
The five-year aging requirements apply separately for traditional IRA conversions to a Roth IRA referenced in (b) above.
If for some reason you decide to take a non-qualified distribution from your Roth IRA, i.e., one that does not meet the definition of a qualified distribution (discussed above), then the distributions are treated as made in the following order: from funds originally contributed as Roth contributions (which have no tax consequences), then from conversions of other retirement funds to a Roth IRA (which would be subject to early withdrawal penalties), and finally from earnings (which would be both taxable and subject to early withdrawal penalties).
If you are planning early retirement or planning to tap your Roth IRA account and wish to explore your options while minimizing taxes and penalties, please call Dagley & Co. for an appointment.
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It is not too late if you overlooked an item of income or forgot to claim a deduction or credit on your already filed tax return. An amended return can be filed to correct an already filed tax return. Failing to report an item of income will most certainly generate an IRS inquiry, which typically happens a year or more after the original return was filed and after the interest and penalties have built up. Therefore, it is best to file an amended return as soon as possible to avoid the headache of IRS correspondence and to minimize the interest and penalties on any additional tax you might owe.
On the flip side, if you overlooked a significant deduction or tax credit and you have a refund coming, you certainly don’t want that to go by the wayside.
The solution is to file an amended return as soon as the error or omission is discovered. Amended returns can also be used to claim an overlooked credit, correct the filing status or the number of dependents, report an omitted investment transaction, submit information from delayed K-1s, or anything else that should have been reported on the original return.
If the overlooked item will result in a tax increase, penalties and interest can be mitigated by filing an amended return as soon as possible. Procrastination leads to further complications once the IRS determines something is missing, so it is best to take care of the issue right away.
Generally, to claim a refund, an amended return must be filed within three years from the date the original return was filed or within two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later.
If any of the above applies to your situation, please give Dagley & Co. a call so we can prepare an amended tax return for you.
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Big Business write-offs are available. Extending bonus depreciation and making the Section 179 deduction’s higher expensing amount permanent are two significant changes Congress made in the tax law. These business-friendly changes are due to the enactment of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act. This article examines these changes so that you can take full advantage of them in your trade or business.
Section 179 Deduction – This provision allows a business owner or entity to immediately expense, rather than capitalize (depreciate), the cost of new or used tangible property—both personal property and certain real property—placed in service during the tax year. The maximum amount is adjusted annually for inflation and is $500,000 for 2016. However, based on Code Section 179, the maximum amount is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the cost of property placed in service during the tax year in excess of $2,010,000 (for 2016; this is also inflation-adjusted annually).
The PATH Act also dealt with the option to revoke the Section 179 election without the consent of the IRS, making it permanent as well; however, once an election is made and revoked, it becomes irrevocable.
In addition, the PATH Act permanently allows the ability to apply Section 179 expensing to off-the-shelf computer software and qualified real property, which is defined as qualified leasehold or restaurant property and retail improvements. In addition, the $250,000 expense limitation and the carryover limitations have been removed. Finally, air conditioning and heating units are eligible for expensing after December 31, 2015.
Bonus Depreciation – Although the PATH Act did not make bonus depreciation permanent, it extended it through 2019 by slowly phasing it out by reducing the bonus percentage. Bonus depreciation allows businesses to take a depreciation deduction in the first year that the property, which must be acquired new, is placed in service. This depreciation can be for as much as 50% in the years 2012 through 2017 before phasing out in 2018 and 2019; it will no longer be available after 2019 without further Congressional action. The following are the bonus depreciation percentage rates through 2019: 50% through 2017, 40% for 2018 and 30% for 2019.
Bonus depreciation generally applies to property with a class life of no more than 20 years. It also applies to: first, qualified leasehold property (qualified interior improvement to nonresidential property after the building is placed in service). Second, certain fruit- or nut-bearing plants planted or grafted before January 1, 2020.
Luxury Automobile Rates – Bonus depreciation also impacts the first-year deduction for automobiles and small trucks; in the past, this has added $8,000 to the first-year allowable deduction. Now that the bonus depreciation is being extended and phased out, so is the bonus allowance for automobiles and small trucks. Thus, the luxury auto rates will increase based on the following bonus depreciation rates: 2015 through 2017 – $8,000, 2018 – $6,400, 2019 – $4,800.
If you need assistance regarding strategies for your business’s use of the Section 179 expense deduction or bonus depreciation, please call Dagley & Co.
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