• Using Home Equity for Business Needs

    8 May 2017
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    Often times, small business owners find difficulties in obtaining financing for their businesses without putting their personal assets up as collateral. With this, tapping into your home equity is a tempting alternative but should be carefully considered.

    In general, interest on debt used to acquire and operate your business is deductible against that business. However, debt secured by your home may be nondeductible, only partially deductible or fully deductible against your business.

    Home mortgage interest is limited to the interest on $1 million of acquisition debt and $100,000 of equity debt secured by a taxpayer’s primary residence and designated second home. The interest on the debts within these limits can only be treated as home mortgage interest and must be deducted as part of your itemized deductions. Only the excess can be deducted for your business, provided that the use of the funds can be traced to your business use. This creates a number of problems:

    • Using the Standard Deduction – If you do not itemize your deductions, you will be unable to deduct the interest on the first $100,000 of the equity debt, which cannot be allocated to your business.
    • Subject to the AMT – Even if you do itemize your deductions, if you happen to be subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT), you still would not be able to deduct the first $100,000 of equity debt interest, since it is not allowed as a deduction for AMT purposes.
    • Subject to Self-Employment (SE) Tax – Your self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare) is based on the net profits from your business. If the net profit is higher, because not all of the interest is deductible by the business, your SE tax may also be higher.

    Example: Suppose the mortgage you incurred to purchase your home (acquisition debt) has a current balance of $165,000 and your home is worth $400,000. You need $150,000 to acquire a new business. To obtain the needed cash at the best interest rates, you decide to refinance your home mortgage for $315,000. The interest on this new loan will be allocated as follows:

    New Loan:                                                  $ 315,000

    Part Representing Acquisition Debt                 <165,000>  52.38%

    Balance                                                      $ 150,000     

    First $100,000 Treated as Home Equity Debt    <100,000>  31.75%

    Balance Traced to Business Use                     $ 50,000      15.87%

    If the interest for the year on the refinanced debt was $10,000, then that interest would be deducted as follows:

    Itemized Deduction Regular Tax                     $ 8,413         84.13%

    Itemized Deduction Alternative Minimum Tax   $ 5,238         52.38%

    Business Expense                                        $ 1,587         15.87%        

    There is a special tax election that allows you to treat any specified home loan as not secured by the home. If you file this election, then interest on the loan can no longer be deducted as home mortgage interest, since tax law requires that qualified home mortgage debt be secured by the home. However, this election would allow the normal interest tracing rules to apply to that unsecured debt. This might be a smart move if the entire proceeds were used for business and all of the interest expense could be treated as a business expense. However, if the loan were a mixed-use loan and part of it actually represented home debt (such as a refinanced home loan), then the part that represented the home debt could not be allocated back to the home, and the interest on that portion of the debt would become nondeductible and would provide no tax benefit.

    As you can see, using equity from your home can create some complex tax situations. Please contact Dagley & Co. for assistance in determining the best solution for your particular tax situation.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Tax Benefits for Parents

    17 February 2017
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    Are you a parent? Did you know there are a significant number of tax benefits available to you? Whether you’re single, divorced or married, there are many deductions, exemptions and credits that can help put a dent in your tax liability.

    Exemptions – Regardless of filing status, you receive a $4,050 income exemption for each of your qualifying children whom you claim as a dependent on your tax return. In the case of divorced or separated parents, the exemption is allowed to the custodial parent unless the custodial parent releases the exemption to the non-custodial parent. If you are the custodial parent, you can release the exemption on a year-by-year basis or for multiple years if you wish to do so. However, being unable to foresee the future means it is generally wiser to release the exemption annually. The exemption amount gradually decreases to zero once a certain income threshold is reached; this phase out generally applies to higher income taxpayers.

    Child Tax Credit – If you have dependent children, you are also entitled to a nonrefundable tax credit of $1,000 for each child under the age of 17 at the close of the year. The term “nonrefundable” means the credit can only be used to offset any tax liability you may have, and the balance of the credit is lost. If you are not filing jointly with the child’s other parent and have released the exemption to that parent, then you will not qualify for the child tax credit for that child. In addition, this credit also phases out for higher income taxpayers. For lower income parents, a portion of the child tax credit, which is normally nonrefundable, can become refundable.

    Earned Income Tax Credit – The earned income credit benefits lower income parents based upon your earned income, filing status (either married filing jointly or unmarried) and the number of qualifying children you have up to three. The credit for 2017 can be as much as $6,318, and better yet, the amount not used to offset your tax liability is fully refundable. This credit is phased out for higher income filers, and those with investment income of more than $3,450 for 2017 aren’t eligible.

    Head of Household Filing Status – The tax code provides a special filing status – head of household – for unmarried and separated taxpayers. The benefit of head of household filing status is that it provides lower tax rates and a higher standard deduction than the single status ($9,350 as opposed to $6,350 for a single individual in 2017). If you are an unmarried parent and you pay more than one-half the cost of the household for yourself and your child, you qualify for this filing status. Even if you are married, if you lived apart from your spouse the last six months of the year and pay more than one-half the cost of the household for yourself and your child, you qualify for this filing status.

    Childcare – Many parents who work or are looking for work must arrange for care of their children. If this is your situation, and your children requiring care are under 13 years of age, you may qualify for a nonrefundable tax credit that can reduce your federal income taxes.

    The childcare credit is an income-based percentage of up to $3,000 of qualifying care expenses for one child and up to $6,000 of qualifying care expenses for two or more children. The allowable expenses are also limited to your earned income, and if you are married, both you and your spouse must work and the limit is based upon the earned income of the spouse with the lower earnings. The credit percentages range from a maximum of 35% if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is $15,000 or less to 20% for an AGI of over $43,000.

    If your employer provides dependent care benefits under a qualified plan that pays your child care provider either directly or by reimbursing you for the expenses, or your employer provides a day care facility, you may be able to exclude these benefits from your income. Of course, the same expenses aren’t eligible for both tax-free income and the child care credit.

    Education Savings Plans – The tax code provides two plans to save for your children’s future education. The first is the Coverdell Education Savings Account, which allows non-deductible contributions of up to $2,000 per year. The earnings on these accounts are tax-free provided the amounts withdrawn from the accounts are used to pay qualified expenses for kindergarten and above. Coverdell contributions will phase out for higher income taxpayers beginning at an AGI of $190,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly and half that amount for other taxpayers.

    A second plan, called a Qualified Tuition Plan (sometimes referred to as a Sec 529 plan), allows individuals to gift large sums of money for a family member’s college education while continuing to maintain control of the funds. The earnings from these accounts grow tax-deferred and are tax-free if used to pay for college tuition and related expenses.

    Contributions to these plans are not limited to the child’s parents and can be made by virtually anyone, although if not the parents, then typically it is the grandparents who fund the accounts.

    Education Credits – If you are a parent with a child or children in college, don’t overlook the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). It provides a tax credit equal to 100% of the first $2,000 of qualified tuition and related expenses and 25% of the next $2,000 for each child who was enrolled at least half time. Better yet, 40% of the credit is refundable. This credit is good for the first four years of post-secondary education.

    There is a second education credit called the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) that provides a nonrefundable tax credit equal to 20% of up to $10,000 of qualified tuition and related expenses. Unlike the AOTC, which is allowed per student, the LLC is calculated on a per-family basis with a maximum credit of $2,000 but is not limited to the first four years of post-secondary education.

    You don’t even have to pay the expenses to get the credits. The credits are allowed to the person claiming the exemption for the child. So if the child’s grandparent, uncle, aunt or even an ex-spouse or the child’s other parent pays the tuition, you still get the credit as long you claim the child as your dependent.

    Student Loan Interest – Generally, personal interest you pay, other than certain mortgage interest, isn’t deductible on your tax return. However, there is a special deduction, up to $2,500 per year, allowed for interest paid on a student loan (also known as an education loan) used for higher education. You don’t have to itemize deductions to take advantage of this deduction, but you must have paid the interest on a loan taken out for your own or your spouse’s education or that of a dependent. So if you were legally obligated to pay the loan for one of your children who was your dependent when the loan was taken out, you may be able to claim this deduction, even if the child is no longer your dependent.

    The student must have been enrolled at least half-time, and the loan must have been taken out solely to pay qualified higher education expenses. The lender can’t be a related person. This deduction phases out if your AGI is more than $65,000 ($130,000 if filing a joint return) and isn’t allowed if you use the married filing separate status.

    Child’s Medical Expenses – If you itemize deductions, the unreimbursed medical expenses you pay for your dependents are counted for figuring your total medical expenses. This is true for both parents even if they do not file together as long as one of them is able to claim the child as a dependent.

    If you have questions related to any of these benefits, please give Dagley & Co. a call.

     

     

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  • Ten Questions to Ask Your Financial Team When Starting Up

    11 January 2017
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    Starting your own business or service can be an exciting, yet confusing time. To make it easier, we recommend working with us, as well as a financial planning team, to get off to a good start. We also recommend asking these ten questions to a professional:

    #1: What should be in a basic business plan?

    A business plan should outline each detail of your company including who will run it, how much you’ll charge, and what you expect to earn. Putting time into creating a thorough business plan is important. Work with your team to ensure your plan is accurate and represents your business well.

    #2: Who will you need to pay taxes to?

    Your local jurisdiction and state have specific taxation requirements. You’ll likely have to pay taxes on sales, but also costs associated with payroll. Ensure your accountant not only talks to you about who you need to pay, but payment deadlines as well.

    #3: What is a projected cash flow for the business?

    How much cash does your company need to keep on hand? The key here is to be able to anticipate how much it will cost you to operate your business. Most companies should not expect to have positive cash flow for at least a year, often longer. Your professionals can help you decide what your cash flow projections are.

    #4: How much of an investment do you need to put into your company right now?

    Your financial team can help you project the cost of setting up your new business. This will include costs related to establishing the physical business and paying for supplies. Your initial investment generally will be the highest amount put into the company by the founder, but it changes significantly from one company to the next.

    #5: What is your break-even analysis?

    This may be an important question to ask early on. How much do you need to make to break even? You’ll want to talk to your financial team about the timeline for this and what can be done to help ensure you break even as soon as possible.

    #6: What liability insurance do you need?

    While most tax professionals don’t offer recommendations here, having adequate policies to cover potential loss is important. Work with your team to ensure you have comprehensive protection to minimize risks against your company’s financial health.

    #7: What will interest cost you?

    Interest on loans is not something to overlook. You’ll want to ensure you have an accurate representation of how much you are paying in interest so you can make adjustments to pay off any borrowed debt sooner, make better decisions about borrowing, or factor in the cost.

    #8: How will you manage payroll?

    This is a very big component of starting up since it can be troublesome for most startups to actually know how to pay employees and meet all federal and state requirements. Working with a payroll provider is often the easiest option (and most financially secure since paying an employee to do this work tends to be more expensive).

    #9: How can you reduce your taxes?

    Tax professionals will work with you to determine if there are any routes to reducing taxation on your business including local incentives that may be available. You’ll also want to talk about projects taxes, investments that could reduce taxes, and having all possible deductions in place.

    #10: What’s the right profit margin?

    Working with a financial team often comes down to this question. How much should you charge to make the best profit possible while still ensuring your company can grow? It’s not a simple question, but having the right team by your side ensures it will be clarified as much as possible.

    Make an appointment with Dagley & Co. to get your business off to the right start. We are here for you for any tax, payroll or accounting questions or issues you may have for your new business.

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Surprised by the Alternative Minimum Tax?

    8 August 2016
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    Ever noticed an amount on line 45 of your tax return?  If so, it this is because you are subject to the alternative minimum tax, also known as AMT.  The AMT is a generally punitive method of computing income tax that does not allow some of the tax preferences and deductions that regular tax computation allows. When an AMT computation results in a higher tax, the higher tax applies, and the additional tax from the AMT is added on line 45 of your return.

    The AMT was originally designed (nearly 50 years ago) to impose a minimum tax on higher-income taxpayers who were avoiding taxes by claiming certain (legal) deductions or other tax benefits (also termed “preferences”). However, years of inflation have caused an increasing number of taxpayers to be subject to the AMT.

    It is complicated to determine when an individual will be subject to the AMT, for many tax preferences can trigger the AMT, alone or in combination. The following are some of the items that frequently trigger the AMT for the average taxpayer:

    • Medical Deductions – Deductions for medical expenses are allowed for the AMT computation – but only to the extent that they exceed 10% of the taxpayer’s income. Although the limit is also 10% for regular tax purposes, through 2016, taxpayers age 65 and over enjoy a lower limit of 7.5%, which leads to an AMT adjustment. Sometimes, it is possible to defer or accelerate medical expenses from one year to another (for example, by paying an orthodontist in installments or all at once). If your employer offers a flexible spending plan, consider participating, as such plans allow you to pay medical expenses with pretax dollars while avoiding both regular and AMT deduction limitations.
    • Deduction for Taxes Paid – When itemizing deductions, a taxpayer is allowed to deduct a variety of other taxes, such as real or personal property taxes and state income or sales taxes. However, for AMT purposes, none of these itemized taxes is deductible. For most taxpayers, this represents one of the largest tax deductions, and it frequently triggers the AMT. If you are affected by the AMT, conventional wisdom dictates deferring tax payments to a subsequent year when the AMT may not apply. When deferring, care should be exercised regarding late-payment penalties and interest on underpayments. In addition, taxpayers can annually elect to capitalize their taxes on unimproved and unproductive real estate. This means foregoing the deduction and adding the tax paid to the cost basis of the real property.
    • Home Mortgage Interest – For both regular tax and AMT computations, interest paid on a debt to acquire or substantially improve a first or second home is deductible as long as it does not exceed the debt limit (generally $1 million). This is also true of refinanced debt, except that any increase in debt is treated as equity debt. For regular tax purposes, the interest on up to $100,000 of equity debt on the first two homes can also be deducted. However, equity debt is not deductible when computing the AMT; neither is acquisition or equity debt on a motor home or boat that may qualify as a second home. Therefore, taxpayers should exercise caution when incurring home equity debt. Generally, loan brokers are not aware of these limitations, and there are numerous pitfalls.
    • Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions – Among miscellaneous deductions, the category that includes employee business and investment expenses is not deductible for AMT purposes. For certain taxpayers with deductible employee business expenses, this will often trigger the AMT. Employees with significant employee business expenses should attempt to negotiate an “accountable” reimbursement plan with their employers. Under this type of plan, reimbursement for qualified expenses is tax-free. An employee who has been reimbursed no longer claims a deduction for those expenses, thus eliminating the miscellaneous deduction. Another strategy would be to defer the expenses to a year that is not affected by the AMT.
    • Personal Exemptions – The AMT computation does not allow a deduction for personal exemptions, which in 2016 is $4,050 each for the taxpayer, his or her spouse (if any) and any dependents. Divorced or separated parents should carefully consider which party should claim the exemption for their children if one of the parents is subject to the AMT.
    • Standard Deduction – For regular tax purposes, taxpayers have the option of itemizing their deductions or taking the standard deduction. However, for AMT purposes, there is no standard deduction. Thus, a taxpayer who ends up with an AMT when taking the standard deduction should try to force itemized deductions, even if the result is less than the standard deduction. The result will be an increased regular tax but a reduced AMT, which could result in overall tax savings. Even the smallest of deductions will benefit those who are taxed at a minimum of 26% (the lowest bracket for the AMT).
    • Incentive Stock Options – Although not frequently encountered, incentive stock options (ISOs) can have a profound impact on a taxpayer’s AMT. Generally, to achieve the beneficial long-term capital gains rates on stock acquired through an ISO, a taxpayer must hold the stock for more than one year after exercising the stock option and two years after the option is granted. However, the difference between the fair market value and the option price must be added to the taxpayer’s AMT income in the year the option is exercised. To avoid this substantial AMT preference income, the taxpayer can sell the stock in the year that the option is exercised and forego long-term capital gains rates. Alternatively, when doing so is beneficial, the taxpayer can exercise the option in small blocks over a period of years.
    • Business Incentives – Taxpayers’ investments in businesses and partnerships sometimes provide tax incentives that the AMT does not allow. There is a long list of these incentives, but the most common are depletion allowances and intangible drill costs. Generally, these items appear on a Schedule K-1 (which the business activity issues to the investor) and are then included in the taxpayer’s AMT calculation.

    AMT is a very complicated area of the tax law.  You must be very careful while planning to minimize the effects of AMT as much as possible.

    Dagley & Co., CPA is here to assist you with this planning.  Please contact our office at (202) 417-6640 or send us an email at info@dagleyco.com.

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  • Win an Employment Lawsuit? Here Are the Good and Bad Tax News

    4 August 2016
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    Employment legal actions in monetary settlements and damage awards have complex and sometimes discriminatory tax laws. The actual taxation of the award is primarily based on the following factors: the nature of the legal action, whether a settlement occurred before trial, and how the legal costs were handled.

    Nature of the Legal Action – Generally, all monetary awards as the result of an employment-related legal action are fully taxable, with one exception. Under the exception, the tax code allows an exclusion from gross income for damages received due to a personal physical injury or a physical sickness. Consequently, when a lawsuit is based on a physical injury or sickness, all damages (other than punitive damages, which are always taxable) flowing from that suit are treated as payments received due to a physical injury or sickness, and are therefore excluded from income. This is true whether or not the recipient of the damages is the injured party.

    Here are some commonly encountered situations and their taxability: Wrongful Death – Wrongful death is considered physical injury or physical sickness for purposes of the income exclusion. In addition, punitive damages are excludable where state law provides that only punitive damages can be awarded in wrongful death suits. Emotional Distress – Emotional distress isn’t considered physical injury or physical sickness for purposes of the income exclusion. However, the exclusion from gross income does apply to the amount of damages received for emotional distress that is attributable to a physical injury, but not in excess of the amount paid for medical care related to emotional distress. Previously Deducted Medical Expenses – Even though awards for physical injury or physical sickness are excludable, if any part of the award received is compensation for medical expenses deducted in a prior year, that portion of the award must be included as income, up to the amount of the deduction taken. Employment Discrimination – No exclusion is allowed for damages received in a suit involving employment discrimination or an injury to reputation that is accompanied by a claim of emotional distress. However, the exclusion would apply to a claim of emotional distress related to a physical injury or physical sickness. Age Discrimination - The law doesn’t consider back pay or liquidated damages received under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to be compensation for personal injuries; therefore, these payments are includable in income. But see the special treatment of attorney fees below. Punitive Damages – Punitive damages are made as a punishment for unlawful conduct and are always taxable; they cannot be excluded from income as damages received due to personal physical injury or physical sickness, except as noted above for wrongful death. Unpaid or Disputed Employment Earnings – Back pay, severance pay, overtime pay, etc., are all treated as W-2 type income and are both taxable and subject to payroll FICA withholding. Interest – Interest that may be included in an award, even one for personal injury or sickness, is not excludable and must be included in gross income.

    Settlements – In legal actions, the plaintiff may frequently sue for both excludable and non-excludable damages. For example, an employee is injured on the job and sues for back vacation pay of $10,000 and damages for personal injury in the amount of $90,000 (a total of $100,000). If the suit is settled for $50,000 without a stipulation of how the settlement is applied, the settlement will need to be allocated in the same manner as the original suit. In this example, the settlement would be allocated $5,000 for back vacation pay (taxable) and $45,000 for personal injury (excludable).

    Legal Costs – Generally, legal costs associated with employment-related legal actions can only be deducted as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on the employee’s Schedule A itemized deductions. When all or some of the monetary award is excludable, the fees are prorated between the taxable and excludable award, and only the portion allocated to the taxable portion is deductible.

    This is where significant tax problems are encountered because miscellaneous itemized deductions must be reduced by 2% of the employee-taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI), and the gross monetary award received is included in the employee’s AGI, making it abnormally high. On top of that, miscellaneous itemized deductions are not even allowed for purposes of the alternative minimum tax (AMT), which is very frequently triggered in situations of this nature. This would result in the taxpayer having to include the entire monetary award in income and not being able to deduct much, if any, of the legal costs. The taxpayer, in effect, is paying taxes on just about the entire, or in some cases the total, amount, including what the attorney got.

    There is a very limited exception that allows attorney fees to be deducted above-the-line (without itemizing), thus eliminating the 2% reduction and the AMT issues. However, it only applies in connection with a claim of unlawful discrimination, certain claims against the federal government, or a private cause of action under the Medicare Secondary Payer statute.

    So, before you rush out and spend any of the award money you received, you had better drop by the office and see what the government’s share is, because it could be substantial. In addition, with some careful analysis, it may be possible to take actions that will reduce the tax.

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  • First 2016 Estimated Tax Payment Due Soon

    8 April 2016
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    Did you know the government has a “pay-as-you-go” system and wants its tax revenue up front? If your pre-paid amount is not enough, you may become liable for non-deductible interest penalties. To facilitate that concept, the government has provided several means of assisting taxpayers in meeting the “pay-as-you-go” requirement. The primary among these include: payroll withholding for employees; pension withholding for retirees; and estimated tax payments for self-employed individuals and those with other sources of income not covered by withholding.

    Determining how much tax to pre-pay through withholding and estimated tax payments has always been difficult, and thanks to Congress’ constant tinkering with the tax laws, ensuring there are no underpayment penalties or tax surprises when the tax return is prepared next year can be challenging.

    When a taxpayer fails to prepay a safe harbor (minimum) amount, he or she can be subject to the underpayment of estimated tax penalty. This penalty is the short-term federal rate plus 3 percentage points, and the penalty is computed on a quarter-by-quarter basis. So, even if you pre-pay the correct amount for the year, if the amounts are not paid evenly, you could be subject to a penalty. Interestingly enough, withholding amounts are treated as paid ratably throughout the year, so taxpayers who are underpaid in the earlier part of the year can compensate by bumping up their withholding in the later part of the year.

    Federal tax law does provide ways to avoid the underpayment penalty. If the underpayment is less than $1,000 (referred to as the de minimis amount), no penalty is assessed. In addition, the law provides “safe harbor” prepayments –meaning if you meet the parameters set by law, you won’t be penalized, even if your underpayment is more than $1,000. There are two safe harbors. The first safe harbor is based on the tax owed in the current year. If your payments equal or exceed 90% of what is owed in the current year, you can escape a penalty. The second safe harbor is based on the tax owed in the immediately preceding tax year. This safe harbor is generally 100% of the prior year’s tax liability. However, for a higher income taxpayer who has AGI exceeding $150,000 ($75,000 for married taxpayers filing separately), the prior year’s safe harbor is 110%.

    Example: Suppose your tax for the year is $10,000 and your prepayments total $5,600. The result is that you owe an additional $4,400 on your tax return. To find out if you owe a penalty, see if you meet the first safe harbor exception. As 90% of $10,000 is $9,000, your prepayments fell short of the mark. You can’t avoid the penalty under this exception.

    However, in the above example, the safe harbor may still apply. Assume your prior year’s tax was $5,000. As you prepaid $5,600, which is greater than 110% of the prior year’s tax (110% = $5,500), you qualify for this safe harbor and can escape the penalty.

    If your state has a state tax, the state’s de minimis amount and safe-harbor percentage and amount may be different.

    This example underscores the importance of making sure your prepayments are adequate, especially if you have a large increase in income. This is common when there is a large gain from the sale of stocks, sale of property, when large bonuses are paid, or when a taxpayer retires. If you need to make estimated tax installments for 2016, please note that the first payment for 2016 is due April 18, 2016.

    If you have questions regarding your pre-payments or would like to review and adjust your W-4 payroll withholding, W-4P pension withholding, and estimated tax payments to provide the desired tax result for 2016, please give Dagley & Co. a call.

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  • Not All Home Mortgage Interest Is Deductible; The IRS is Watching

    10 February 2016
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    The IRS is watching and currently they are checking to see if taxpayers are deducting too much home equity debt interest. But you need to know that not all home-mortgage interest is deductible. Generally, taxpayers are allowed to deduct the interest on up to $1 million of home acquisition debt (includes subsequent debt incurred to make improvements, but not repairs) and the interest on up to $100,000 of home equity debt. Equity debt is debt not incurred to acquire or improve the home. Taxpayers frequently exceed the equity debt limit and fail to adjust their interest deduction accordingly.

    The best way to explain this interest deduction limitation is by example. Let’s assume you have never refinanced the original loan that was used to purchase your home, and the current principal balance of that acquisition debt is less than $1 million. However, you also have a line of credit on the home, and the debt on that line of credit is treated as equity debt. If the balance on that line of credit is $120,000, then you have exceeded the equity debt limitation and only 83.33% ($100,000/$120,000) of the equity line interest is deductible as home mortgage interest on Schedule A. The balance is not deductible unless you can trace the use of the excess debt to either investment or business use. If traceable to investments, the interest you pay on the amount traceable would be deductible as investment interest, which is also deducted on Schedule A but is limited to an amount equal to your net investment income (investment income less investment expenses). If the excess debt was used for business, you could deduct the interest on that excess debt on the appropriate business schedule.

    Alternatively, the IRS allows you to elect to treat the equity line debt as “not secured” by the home, which would allow the interest on the entire equity debt to be traced to its use and deducted on the appropriate schedule if deductible. For instance, you borrow from the equity line for a down payment on a rental. If you make the “not secured” election, the interest on the amount borrowed for the rental down payment would be deductible on the Schedule E rental income and expense schedule and not subject to the home equity debt limitations.

    However, one of the rules that allows home mortgage interest to be deductible is it must be secured by the home, and if the unsecured election is used, none of the interest can be traced back to the home itself. So, for example, if the equity line was used partly for the rental down payment and partially for personal reasons, the interest associated with the personal portion of the loan would not be deductible since you elected to treat it as not secured by your home.

    Using the unsecured election can have unexpected results in the current year and in the future. You should use that election only after consulting with this office.

    Generally, people not familiar with the sometimes complicated rules associated with home mortgage interest believe the interest shown on the Form 1098 issued by their lenders at the end of the year is fully deductible. In many cases when taxpayers have refinanced or have equity loans, that may be far from the truth and could result in an IRS inquiry and potential multi-year adjustments. In fact, for Forms 1098 issued after 2016 (thus effective for 2016 information), the IRS will be requiring lenders to include additional information, including the amount of the outstanding mortgage principal as of the beginning of the calendar year, the mortgage origination date and the address of the property securing the mortgage, which will provide the IRS with additional tools for audits.

    When in doubt about how much interest you can deduct or if you have questions about how refinancing or taking on additional home mortgage debt will impact your taxes, please Dagley & Co. for assistance.

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  • Are You Ignoring Retirement?

    24 January 2016
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    The time is now. If you’re still young, working 9 to 5, and caring for children or elders, retirement is something you need to be aware of and not put off for the last minute. Some people ignore the issue until late in life and then have to scramble at the last minute to fund their retirement. Others even ignore the issue altogether, thinking their Social Security income (assuming they qualify for it) will take care of their retirement needs.

    By current government standards, a single individual with $11,770 or a married couple with $15,930 of annual household income is at the 100% poverty level. If you compare those levels with potential Social Security income, you may find that expecting to retire on just Social Security income may result in a bleak retirement.

    You can predict your future Social Security income by visiting the Social Security Administration’s Retirement Estimator. With the Retirement Estimator, you can plug in some basic information to get an instant, personalized estimate of your future benefits. Different life choices can alter the course of your future, so try out different scenarios – such as higher and lower future earnings amounts and various retirement dates – to get a good idea of how these scenarios can change your future benefit amounts. Once you’ve done this, consider what your retirement would be like with only Social Security income.

    If you are fortunate enough to have an employer-, union- or government-funded retirement plan, determine how much you can expect to receive when you retire. Add that amount to any Social Security benefits you are entitled to and then consider what retirement would be like with that combined income. If this result portends an austere retirement, know that the sooner you start saving for retirement, the better off you will be.

    With today’s relatively low interest rates and up-and-down stock market, it is much more difficult to grow a retirement plan with earnings than it was 10 or 20 years ago. With current interest rates barely mirroring inflation rates, there is little or no effective growth. That means one must set aside more of one’s current earnings for retirement to prepare for a comfortable retirement.

    Because the government wants you to save and prepare for your own retirement, tax laws offer a variety of tax incentives for retirement savings plans, both for wage earners and for self-employed individuals and their employees. These plans include:

    Traditional IRA – This plan allows up to $5,500 (or $6,500 for individuals age 50 and over) of tax-deductible contributions each year until reaching age 70½. However, the amount that can be deducted phases out for higher-income taxpayers who also have retirement plans through their employer.

    Roth IRA – This plan also allows up to $5,500 (or $6,500 for individuals age 50 and over) of contributions each year. Like the Traditional IRA, the amount that can be contributed phases out for higher-income taxpayers; unlike the Traditional IRA, these amounts phase out even for those who do not have an employer-related retirement plan.

    myRA Accounts – This relatively new retirement vehicle is designed to be a starter retirement plan for individuals with limited financial resources and those whose employers do not offer a retirement plan. The minimum amount required to establish one of these government-administered plans is $25, with monthly contributions as little as $2. Once the total value of the account reaches $15,000 or after 30 years, the account must be converted to a commercial Roth IRA account.

    Employer 401(k) Plans – An employer 401(k) plan generally enables employees to contribute up to $18,000 per year, before taxes. In addition, taxpayers who are age 50 and over can contribute an extra $6,000 annually, for a total of $24,000. Many employers also match a percentage of the employee’s contribution, and this can amount to a significant sum for those who stay in the plan for many years.

    Health Savings Accounts – Although established to help individuals with high-deductible health insurance plans pay medical expenses, these accounts can also be used as supplemental retirement plans if an individual has already maxed out his or her contributions to other types of plans. Annual contributions for these plans can be as much as $3,350 for individuals and $6,750 for families.

    Tax Sheltered Annuities – These retirement accounts are for employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations; they enable employees to make annual tax-deferred contributions of up to $18,000 (or $24,000 for those age 50 and over).

    Self-Employed Retirement Plans – These plans, also referred to as Keogh plans, allow self-employed individuals to contribute 25% of their net business profits to their retirement plans. The contributions are pre-tax (which means that they reduce the individual’s taxable net profits), so the actual amount that can be contributed is 20% of the net profits.

    Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) – This type of plan allows contributions in the same amounts as allowed for self-employed retirement plans, except that the retirement contributions are held in an IRA account under the control of the employee or self-employed individual. These accounts can be established after the end of the year, and contributions can be made for the prior year.

    Each individual’s financial resources, family obligations, health, life expectancy, and retirement expectations will vary greatly, and there is no one-size-fits-all retirement savings strategy for everyone. Purchasing a home and putting children through college are examples of events that can limit an individual’s or family’s ability to make retirement contributions; these events must be accounted for in any retirement planning.

    If you have questions about any of the retirement vehicles discussed above, please give Dagley & Co. a call.

     

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  • Is the Interest on Your Vehicle Loan Tax Deductible?

    10 March 2015
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    Have you ever wondered whether the interest on your vehicle is tax deductible? Whether or not the interest you pay on a loan to acquire a vehicle is deductible for tax purposes depends how the vehicle is being used (for business or personal purposes), the tax form on which the expenses are being deducted, and the type of loan.

    If the loan were a consumer loan secured by the vehicle, then the following rules would apply:

    • If the vehicle is being used partially for business and the expenses are being deducted on your self-employed business schedule, then the business portion of the interest will be deductible as business interest, but the personal portion will not.
    • If the vehicle is being used partially for business as an employee and the expenses are being deducted as an itemized deduction, then neither the business portion nor the personal portion of the interest will be deductible.
    • If the vehicle is entirely for personal use, then none of the interest will be deductible, because the only interest that is still deductible as an itemized deduction is home mortgage interest and investment interest.

    As an alternative to a nondeductible consumer loan, you might consider acquiring that vehicle with a home equity line of credit. Generally, current law allows individual taxpayers to borrow up to $100,000 of home equity and deduct the interest on that loan as home mortgage interest. This would also apply to the purchase of a vehicle or motor home. Using a home equity line will generally make the interest deductible.

    Before borrowing against a home, you should consider the following:

    • Treat the home equity loan like a consumer loan and pay it off over the same period of time you would have had to pay the consumer loan. Otherwise, you may reach retirement age without having the home paid for.
    • When buying a car, you can sometimes get very favorable interest rates or a rebate. To determine which is best, compare the difference in total loan payments over the life of the loans to the rebate amount.
    • It is also good practice to make sure the benefit of making the interest deductible is greater by using the home equity line of credit than the benefit of the low interest consumer loan or the rebate.
    • If there is any chance of defaulting on the loan, the repercussions from defaulting on a home loan are far more serious than on consumer debt.

    If you need assistance in deciding on a course of action, please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co.

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