The question of “who controls the funds held in a Section 529 qualified tuition account?” is a very common question we hear. To answer this question please read the following:
Some parents will simply save money for their child or children’s college costs in a custodial account; these accounts become the children’s property once they reach the age of majority, depending upon state law, which is usually 18 or 21. At that point, the parents lose control. Unlike these child custodial accounts, Section 529 plans are not irrevocable gifts: The parent or other account owner retains control.
Generally, the same person who contributed the money controls the Section 529 account. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. Someone else, such as a grandparent, could make a donation but name the child’s parent as the account owner, or a parent could establish the account and allow others to contribute to it.
Money cannot be removed from the account without the permission of the account owner. If the child (the designated beneficiary of the plan) decides not to go to school, the account owner can simply change the beneficiary to another “family member,” a term that, for the purposes of beneficiary changes, can refer to the beneficiary’s sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces, certain in-laws, and any spouse of any of those individuals—but not the spouse of the original beneficiary.
This rule for beneficiary changes gives parents and other donors the flexibility to use the funds for the family member who needs them the most. For example, if a designated beneficiary decides not to attend college or receives a full scholarship, another child can be named (as long as the new child is a member of the family). Alternately, if funds remain in the plan after a child has finished school, a younger family member can be named as the beneficiary for the balance.
There are no tax issues if the transfer is within the same generation or an older generation of the family, such as changing the beneficiary to a sibling of the original beneficiary. However, if the transfer is to a beneficiary in a younger generation, the transfer is considered a taxable gift from the old beneficiary to the new beneficiary, and a gift tax return will need to be filed.
If you have questions related to Section 529 plans and how they might be used to save for a child’s future education, please call Dagley & Co.
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Are you a small business owner, or work within a small business’s accounting department? We have your rundown of some changes that need to be considered when preparing your 2016 and 2017 returns. As of December 2015, legislation passed the “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes” Act which extended a number of business provisions and made some permanent changes. As you start to file 2016’s taxes, please be aware of these provisions, as they can have a significant impact on you business’s taxes:
Section 179 Expensing – The Internal Revenue Code, Sec. 179, allows businesses to expense, rather than depreciate, personal tangible property other than buildings or their structural components used in a trade or business in the year the property is placed into business service. The annual limit is inflation-adjusted, and for 2017, that limit is $510,000, which is unchanged from 2016. The limit is reduced by one dollar for each dollar when the total cost of the qualifying property placed in service in any given year exceeds the investment limit, which is $2,030,000 for 2017, a $20,000 increase from the 2016 amount.
In addition to personal tangible property, the following are included in the definition of qualifying property for the purposes of Sec. 179 expensing:
- Off-the-Shelf Computer Software
- Qualified Real Property – The term “qualified real property” means property acquired by purchase for use in the active conduct of a trade or business, which is normally depreciated and is generally not property used for lodging except for hotels or motels. Qualified retail property includes:
- Qualified leasehold improvement property,
- Qualified restaurant property, and
- Qualified retail improvement property.
Bonus Depreciation – Bonus depreciation is extended through 2019 and allows first-year depreciation of 50% of the cost of qualifying business assets placed in service through 2017. After 2017, the bonus depreciation will be phased out, with the bonus rate 40% in 2018 and 30% in 2019. After 2019, the bonus depreciation will no longer apply. Qualifying business assets generally include personal tangible property other than real property with a depreciable life of 20 years or fewer, although there are some special exceptions that include qualified leasehold property. Generally, qualified leasehold improvements include interior improvements to non-residential property made after the building was originally placed in service, but expenditures attributable to the enlargement of the building, any elevator or escalator, and the internal structural framework of the building do not qualify.
In addition, the bonus depreciation will apply to certain trees, vines and plants bearing fruits and nuts that are planted or grafted before January 1, 2020.
Vehicle Depreciation – The first-year depreciation for cars and light trucks used in business is limited by the so-called luxury-auto rules that apply to highway vehicles with an unloaded gross weight of 6,000 pounds or less. The first-year depreciation amounts for cars and small trucks change slightly from time to time; they are currently set at $3,160 for cars and $3,560 for light trucks. However, a taxpayer can elect to apply the bonus depreciation amounts to these amounts. The bonus-depreciation addition to the luxury-auto limits is $8,000 through 2017, after which it will be phased out by dropping it to $6,400 in 2018 and $4,800 in 2019. After 2019, the bonus depreciation will no longer apply.
New Filing Due Dates – There are some big changes with regard to filing due dates for a variety of returns. Many of these changes have been made to combat tax-filing fraud. The new due dates are effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015. That means the returns coming due in 2017.
- Calendar Year: The due date for 1065 returns for the 2016 calendar year will be March 15, 2017 (the previous due date was April 15).
- Fiscal Year: Due the 15th day of the 3rd month after the close of the year.
- Extension: 6 months (September 15 for calendar-year partnerships).
- Calendar Year: 2016 calendar year 1120-S returns will be due March 15, 2017 (unchanged).
- Fiscal Year: Due the 15th day of the 3rd month after the close of the year.
- Extension: 6 months (September 15 for calendar-year S Corps).
- Calendar Year: The due date for Form 1120 returns for the 2016 calendar year will be April 18, 2017 (the previous due date was March 15). Normally, calendar-year returns will be due on April 15, but because of the Emancipation Day holiday that is observed in Washington, D.C., the 2017 due date is the 18th.
- Fiscal Year: Due the 15th day of the 4th month after the close of the year, a month later than in the past (exception: if fiscal year-end is June 30, the change in due date does not apply until returns for tax years beginning after December 31, 2025).
- Extension: 6 months. (Exceptions:  5 months for any calendar-year C corporation beginning before January 1, 2026, and  7 months for June 30 year-end C corps through 2025.) Thus, the extended due date for a 2016 Form 1120 for a calendar-year C Corp will be September 15, 2017.
W-2s, W-3s and 1099-MISC reporting non-employee compensation –
- Due Date: For 2016 W-2s, W-3s, and Forms 1099-MISC reporting non-employee compensation, the due date for filing the government’s copy is January 31, 2017 (the previous due date was February 28 or March 31 if filed electronically). The due date for providing a copy to the employee or independent contractor remains January 31.
- Extension – The 30-day automatic extension to file W-2s is no longer automatic. The IRS anticipates that it will grant the non-automatic extension of time to file only in limited cases in which the filer or transmitter’s explanation demonstrates that an extension of time to file is needed as a result of extraordinary circumstances
Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) – Employers may elect to claim a WOTC for a percentage of first-year wages, generally up to $6,000 of wages per employee, for hiring workers from a targeted group. First-year wages are wages paid during the tax year for work performed during the one-year period beginning on the date the target-group member begins work for the employer.
This credit originally sunset in 2014, but the PATH Act retroactively extended the credit for five years through 2019.
- Generally, the credit is 40% of first-year wages (not exceeding $6,000), for a maximum credit of $2,400 (0.4 x $6,000).
- The credit is reduced to 25% for employees who have completed at least 120 hours but fewer than 400 hours of service for the employer. No credit is allowed for an employee who has worked fewer than 120 hours.
- The legislation also added qualified long-term unemployment recipients to the list of targeted groups, effective for employees beginning work after December 31, 2015.
Research Credit – After 21 consecutive years of extending the research credit year by year, the PATH Act made it permanent and made the following modifications to the research credit:
- For years after December 31, 2015, small businesses (average of $50 million or less in gross receipts in the prior three years) can claim the credit against the alternative minimum tax.
- For years after December 31, 2015, small businesses (less than $5 million in gross receipts for the year the credit is being claimed and no gross receipts in the prior five years) can claim up to $250,000 per year of the credit against their employer FICA tax liability. Effectively, this provision is for start-ups.
What is in the future?
With the election of a Republican president and with a Republican majority in both the House and Senate, we can expect to see significant tax changes in the near future. President-elect Trump has indicated that he would like to see the Sec. 179 limit significantly increased and the top corporate rate dropped to 15%. Watch for future legislation once President-elect Trump takes office this Friday.
Contact us at Dagley & Co. if you have any questions or concerns regarding your 2016’s tax returns.
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At Dagley & Co. we hear a lot about the complexity of the tax code, as well as a lot of rhetoric from Washington about simplifying it. Tax codes were originally written to bring in money (taxes) to pay for government costs. But over the years, Congress has used tax codes more as a tool to manage social reform. As a result, the code has become very complex.
So with taxes becoming more complex with each passing year, why do people think they can prepare their own returns? We use software-costing thousands of dollars, so why do individuals, not educated in tax law and using low-cost computer software, think they can get their tax result right? Well, they may not, and they may miss deductions, credits, income exclusions, retirement benefits, and even more beneficial filing options just to save a few bucks on tax preparation costs.
However, paying a little more in tax than they need to should not be their biggest concern. A more troublesome situation is getting more tax refund than they are entitled to, and then a year or two later getting a letter from the IRS wanting the excess back. This is especially devastating to lower-income individuals and families that spend what they bring in just making ends meet and have no savings to fall back on when the IRS comes calling, leaving them with even a bigger financial hole.
To make matters worse, they may not even understand the IRS letter or the issue it is dealing with, and since they did their own return, they have no one to call for help in getting the tax assessment reduced or knowing how to get penalties abated.
Professional tax preparation offers more than just entering numbers into a computer program. If you usually file your own tax returns, perhaps you should consider a firm that can not only prepare your taxes properly, but also provide tax, financial and retirement guidance. We are also here to help plan for the future. Give Dagley & Co., CPA’s a call this year, we are here to help.
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