In the wake of the “Affordable Care Act,” one of the largest and most substantially rising expenses are health insurance premiums. Although the cost of health insurance is allowed as part of an individual’s medical deductions when itemizing deductions, only the amount of total medical expenses that exceed 10% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) is deductible. The 10% limitation is reduced to 7.5% through 2016 where a taxpayer or spouse (if any) is age 65 or over as of the end of the year. Prior to the increased limitation imposed by the “Affordable Care Act,” the limitation was 7.5% for everyone.
The purpose of this article is twofold: first, to remind you what insurance can be included as a medical deduction, and second, to inform you of an alternate means of deducting health insurance for certain self-employed individuals—a means that avoids the AGI limitation and allows for deduction without itemizing.
Let’s start by looking at what is treated as deductible health insurance. It includes the premiums you pay for coverage for yourself, your dependents, and your spouse, if applicable, for the following types of plans: Health Care and Hospitalization Insurance, Long-Term Care Insurance (but limited based upon age), Medicare-B, Medicare-C (aka Medicare Advantage Plans), Medicare-D, Dental Insurance, Vision Insurance, and Premiums Paid through a Government Marketplace net of the Premium Tax Credit.
However, premiums paid on your or your family’s behalf by your employer aren’t deductible because their cost is not included in your wage income. Or, if you pay premiums for coverage under your employer’s insurance plan through a “cafeteria” plan, those premiums aren’t deductible either because they are paid with pre-tax dollars.
If you are a self-employed individual, you can deduct 100% (no AGI reduction) of the premiums without itemizing your deductions. This above-the-line deduction is limited to your net profits from self-employment. If you are a partner who performs services in the capacity of a partner and the partnership pays health insurance premiums on your behalf, those premiums are treated as guaranteed payments that are deductible by the partnership and are includible in your gross income. In turn, you may deduct the cost of the premiums as an above-the-line deduction under the rules discussed in this article.
No above-the-line deduction is permitted when the self-employed individual is eligible to participate in a “subsidized” health plan maintained by an employer of the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, any dependent, or any child of the taxpayer who hasn’t attained age 27 as of the end of the tax year. This rule is applied separately to plans that provide coverage for long-term care services. Thus, an individual eligible for employer-subsidized health insurance may still be able to deduct long-term care insurance premiums, as long as he isn’t eligible for employer-subsidized long-term care insurance. In addition, to be treated as subsidized, 50% or more of the premium must be paid by the employer.
This above-the-line deduction is also available to more-than-2% S corporation shareholders. For purposes of the income limitation, the shareholder’s wages from the S corporation are treated as his or her earned income.
If you have any questions related to deducting health insurance premiums, either as an itemized deduction or an above-the-line deduction for self-employed individuals, please give Dagley & Co. a call.
Image via. public domain
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.
Image via public domain
On Friday, Congress reached a bipartisan agreement on tax extenders, named “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015”. Much to everyone’s surprise, some were made permanent while others were only extended for a period of time. Though the PATH act is not perfect, many are touting the act as a win for local economies and working families. Congress also modified several provisions and added new ones to reduce tax fraud.
Here is a look at some of the key provisions included in the legislation that pertain to individuals, small businesses, and certain energy-related provisions:
- Child Credit – This credit was made permanent; it provides a $1,000 credit for each dependent child who is under the age of 17 at year’s end, who lived with the taxpayer for over half of the year and who meets the relationship test. The credit phases out for higher-income taxpayers, and a portion of the credit is refundable for lower-income taxpayers. The changes also include program integrity provisions that prohibit an individual from retroactively claiming the child credit by amending a return (or filing an original return if he or she failed to file) for any prior year in which the individual for whom the credit is claimed did not have an ITIN – generally a Social Security number).
After 2015, when a taxpayer improperly claims the credit, the legislation includes a disallowance period when no credit is allowed. For fraud, the disallowance period is 10 years, and for reckless or intentional disregard of rules and regulations, the disallowance period is 2 years.
- American Opportunity Credit (AOTC) – This credit, which was due to expire after 2017, has been made permanent. This is a tax credit equal to 40% of the cost of tuition and qualifying expenses for higher education, with a maximum credit of $2,500. The credit applies to 100% of the first $2,000 and 25% of the next $2,000 of qualifying expenses. The credit offsets any tax liability, and 40% of the credit is refundable even if the taxpayer does not have any tax liability. It also phases out between $160,000 and $180,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly and between $80,000 and $90,000 for others – except for married taxpayers filing separately, who get no credit.
After 2015, when a taxpayer improperly claims the credit, the legislation includes a disallowance period when no credit is allowed. For fraud, the disallowance period is 10 years, and for reckless or intentional disregard of rules and regulations, the disallowance period is 2 years.
A provision was added that prohibits an individual from retroactively claiming the AOTC by amending a return or filing a late original return for any prior year when the individual or a student for whom the credit is claimed did not have an ITIN (generally a Social Security number).
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – The EITC is a refundable credit allowed to certain low-income workers who have W-2 wages and self-employed income. The credit is larger for taxpayers with children. The credit for taxpayers with children is based upon the number of children; those with three or more children receive the highest credit – as much as $6,269 in 2015. The higher credit for three or more children, which was a temporary provision that was set to expire after 2017, has been made permanent.
The changes also include added program integrity provisions that prohibit an individual from retroactively claiming the AOTC by amending a return (or filing an original return if the individual failed to file) for any prior year in which the individual for whom the credit is claimed did not have an ITIN (generally a Social Security number). The changes also reduced the marriage penalty by increasing the income phase-out for those filing jointly.
- Teachers’ $250 Above-the-Line Deduction – This provision, which was available from 2002 through 2014, allows teachers and other eligible educators (levels kindergarten through grade 12) to take an above-the-line deduction of up to $250 for unreimbursed expenses incurred as part of their educational work. This deduction has been made permanent and modified by adjusting the $250 for inflation in years after 2015. In addition, professional development expenses were added to the qualified expenses allowed as part of the $250 deduction.
- Transit Pass & Parking Fringe Benefit Parity – From 2010 through 2014, the monthly exclusion amount for employer-paid transit passes and qualified parking were temporarily the same. The parity of these two fringe benefits has been made permanent. Thus, for 2015 they will both be $250.
- Optional Deduction of State and Local General Sales Taxes – Since 2004, taxpayers who itemized their deductions have had the option to deduct the Larger of (1) state and local income tax paid during the year, or (2) state and local sales tax paid during the year. This provision, which had been previously extended through 2014, provides the greatest benefit to those taxpayers who reside in a state that has no income tax (which include Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming). This election has been made permanent.
- Above-the-Line Deduction for Qualified Tuition and Related Expenses – This above-the-line deduction for qualified higher education tuition and related expenses had been available from 2002 through 2014. The deduction includes adjusted gross income (AGI) limitations; it is not allowed for joint filers with an AGI of $160,000 or more ($85,000 for other filing statuses). This deduction has been retroactively extended through 2016.
- Tax-Free IRA Distributions For Charitable Purposes – This provision was temporarily added in 2004 and originally expired in 2011; it was not extended until late in the year during the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, thus limiting its application in those three years. The provision allows taxpayers age 70.5 and over to directly transfer (not rolled over) funds from their IRA accounts to a qualified charity. The distribution is not taxable, but it does count toward the individuals’ required minimum distribution (RMD) for the year. The maximum allowable transfer is $100,000 per year. No charitable deduction is allowed, as the distribution is not taxable. This provision has been made permanent; it provides four potential tax advantages:
- The distribution is not included in income, thus lowering the taxpayer’s AGI, which in turn helps to avoid various AGI phase-outs and limitations.
- Keeping the AGI lower also helps to minimize the amount of Social Security income that is subject to tax for some taxpayers.
- Taxpayers using the standard deduction cannot get a charitable deduction, but they are essentially deducting the charitable deduction from their gross income when making contributions this way.
- The transferred distribution counts towards the taxpayer’s RMD for the year.
- Discharge of Qualified Principal Residence Indebtedness – When an individual loses his or her home to foreclosure, abandonment or short sale or has a portion of his or her loan forgiven under the HAMP mortgage reduction plan, that person generally will end up with cancellation of debt (COD) income. COD income is taxable unless the taxpayer can exclude it. A taxpayer can exclude the COD income in the extent that he or she is insolvent (with debts exceeding assets immediately before the event occurs) using the insolvency exclusion.
Due to the housing market crash, in 2007, Congress added the qualified principal residence COD exclusion, which allowed taxpayers to exclude COD income to the extent that it was discharged acquisition debt. Acquisition debt is debt originally incurred to acquire a home or substantially improve it – not debt used for other purposes, which is called equity debt. However, equity debt is deemed to be discharged first, thus limiting the exclusion when both equity and acquisition debt are involved in the transaction.
The qualified principal residence COD exclusion had been previously extended but had expired at the end of 2014. This exclusion has been retroactively extended through 2016 (a two-year extension).
- Mortgage Insurance Premiums – For tax years 2007 through 2014, taxpayers could deduct (as an itemized deduction) the cost of premiums for qualified mortgage insurance on a qualified personal residence (first or second home). To be deductible, the premiums must have been related to acquisition debt incurred after Dec. 31, 2006. However, this deduction phases out for higher-income taxpayers (generally those whose AGI exceeds $100,000). This provision, which had expired after 2014, has been retroactively extended through 2016, a two-year extension.
- Research Credit – Tax law provides a tax credit of up to 20% of qualified expenditures for businesses that develop, design or improve products, processes, techniques, formulas or software (and similar activities). The credit has been available off and on since 1981 without being made permanent. It had been extended several times but had expired at the end of 2014. This credit has been retroactively made permanent. In addition, it is not a tax preference for small businesses.
- 100% Exclusion of Gain – Certain Small Business Stock – Previously, for stock issued after September 27, 2010, and before January 1, 2015, non-corporate taxpayers could exclude 100% of any gain realized on the sale or exchange of “qualified small business stock” held for more than 5 years. In addition, there was no alternative minimum tax (AMT) preference when the exclusion percentage was 100%. Generally, the term “qualified small business” means any domestic C corporation with assets of $50 million or less. This provision has been made permanent.
- Differential Wage Payment Credit – Through 2014, eligible small business employers – generally those that have an average of fewer than 50 employees and that pay a individual called into active duty military service all or part of the wages that they would have otherwise received from the employer – can claim a credit. This differential wage payment credit is equal to 20% of up to $20,000 of differential pay made to an employee during the tax year. This credit has been retroactively made permanent; for years after 2015, the credit will apply to any size employer.
- Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) – Through 2014, employers could elect to claim a WOTC for up to 40% of employees’ first-year wages for hiring workers from targeted groups – not exceeding wages of $6,000 (a maximum credit of $2,400). First-year wages are wages paid during the tax year for work performed during the one-year period beginning on the date when the employee begins work for the employer. This credit has been retroactively extended for five years through 2019; it applies to veterans and non-veterans and adds qualified long-term unemployment recipients to the list of targeted groups for years after 2015.
- Section 179 Election – Since 2003, the Section 179 election has been temporarily increased from its statutory limit of $25,000 to between $100,000 and $500,000. Since 2010, the expense cap has been $500,000 (or $250,000 on a married-filing-separate tax return), and the investment limit has been $2 million. However, the last extension expired after 2014; without an extension, the cap would have returned to the statutory $25,000 limit in 2015. The statutory expensing limit of $500,000 and the $2 million investment limit have both been made permanent.
The application of the Section 179 election to “off-the-shelf” computer software, qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant property and qualified retail improvements has also been made permanent.
- Leasehold and Retail Improvements and Restaurant Property – The class life for qualified leasehold and retail Improvements and restaurant property had been temporarily included in the 15-year depreciation class life, as opposed to the 31-year category. Qualified leasehold and retail Improvements and restaurant property have been retroactively and permanently included in the 15-year MACRS class life.
- Bonus Depreciation – As a means of stimulating the economy, a 50 percent bonus depreciation was temporarily implemented in 2008 and subsequently extended through 2014. For the period between September 8, 2010, and before January 1, 2012, it was even boosted to 100 percent. Bonus depreciation applies to personal tangible property placed in service during the year for which the original use began with the taxpayer.
The 50% bonus depreciation has been extended for 2 years (through 2016) for property placed in service before January 1, 2017. This generally applies to property with a class life of 20 years or less, to qualified leasehold improvements and to certain plants bearing fruits and nuts that are planted or grafted before January 1, 2020.
- Enhanced First-Year Depreciation for Autos and Trucks – This is the so-called “luxury limit” on the deprecation deduction of passenger automobiles and light trucks used for business. For such vehicles placed in service in 2015, the limits are $3,160 and $3,460, respectively. In the past, the bonus depreciation had increased the first-year luxury limits by $8,000. Under the new law, the bonus depreciation applicable to luxury vehicles will be phased out through 2019. Thus, the luxury auto rates will be increased by the following bonus depreciation rates: $8,000 for 2015 through 2017, $6,000 for 2018 and $4,800 for 2019.
- Residential Energy (Efficient) Property Credit – From 2006 through 2014, a nonrefundable credit had been available for qualified improvements to make the taxpayer’s existing primary home more energy efficient. Qualified improvements generally included insulation, storm windows and doors certain types of energy-efficient roofing materials, and energy-efficient air conditioning and hot-water systems. The credit was equal to 10% of the improvement’s cost (not including installation), with a lifetime credit of $500. The credit has been retroactively extended through 2016 (two years).
- Credit for Fuel-Cell Vehicles – Through 2014, a taxpayer could claim a credit for vehicles fueled by chemically combining oxygen with hydrogen to create electricity. Generally, the credit was $4,000 for vehicles weighing 8,500 pounds or less (and up to $40,000 for heavier vehicles, depending on their weight). An additional $1,000 to $4,000 credit was available for cars and light trucks to the extent that their fuel economy exceeded the 2002 base fuel economy set forth in the Internal Revenue Code. This credit has been retroactively extended for two years through 2016.
If you have questions related to these or other, less commonly encountered provisions of the new law (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015), please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co. Benefiting from these provisions for 2015 will require taking action before year’s end, so please call if you need assistance.
Image via public domain
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” He managed to name two of the things that people loathe and fear the most. What makes taxes so unpleasant is the fact that you have to hand over some of your hard-earned money to the government, and the other is that it can be so difficult to figure out how to fill out the forms – and which one to use.
The rule of thumb for choosing your personal income tax form is to try to go with the one that is easiest to understand, but that being said, you also need to be sure that it is the one that is correct. The government provides three forms – the 1040, the 1040A, and the 1040EZ – and all are meant to help you pay the amount that you owe. Each form has a different purpose, and choosing the wrong one can end up meaning that you either pay more than you owe or pay fines for not paying enough.
The simplest form is the one known as the EZ, while the long Form 1040 is the most complicated. Though it may be tempting to go for the one that takes the least amount of time to complete, if you simply jump for the fastest way through your filing responsibilities, you may end up cheating yourself of the opportunity to take some of the tax breaks to which you’re entitled. That’s because the more detail the form asks for, the more chances there are for you to provide information that may entitle you to a write-off.
The Affordable Care Act Might Preclude the Use of the EZ – Many people who were formerly able to file Form 1040EZ may find that they are no longer eligible to use this short form. This is because those who purchase health insurance through a state or federal exchange under the Affordable Care Act have the option to receive advance payment of the premium tax credit, which helps pay some of the costs of the insurance. In order to ensure that you receive the appropriate amount of credit, the taxpayer is required to submit all appropriate information on Form 8962, which cannot be filed with the 1040EZ – it can only be submitted with Form 1040 or 1040a. Though this means that taxpayers have to do a bit more paperwork, but it ensures that the proper amount of credit is taken and also provides the opportunity for the government to reimburse you if not enough of a credit is provided.
How Using The EZ May Be A Mistake – In some cases, using the 1040EZ can end up costing you money. This is because the short form, which is often the one selected by taxpayers who believe that their uncomplicated finances make it the most appropriate for them, does not provide the opportunity to take advantage of tax breaks you may be entitled to. For example, a recent college graduate who was just hired by his first employer would naturally assume that his taxes are so simple that there’s no need to fuss with a longer form. But doing so eliminates the possibility of taking a write-off for any interest that he paid on a student loan. Similarly, if he was wise and started setting aside money into a traditional IRA upon learning that his new employer offered no retirement plan, then his contributions would be deductible – but the short form doesn’t even ask that question. He might end up in a lower tax bracket by using the long form and would be able to pay just fifteen percent on taxes rather than 25 percent, simply based on these two deductions. Another deduction that can be taken on a 1040 or 1040A but not on a 1040EZ is the Lifetime Learning tax credit for courses taken to improve job skills – and there are many more. Form 1040EZ has the advantage of being simple, but it can end up working against you if you want to get the greatest possible deduction.
Reviewing the Three Tax Returns – It can be difficult to know which of the three tax returns is the right one for you and your particular situation. Here is some basic information on each one to provide you with a better sense of which you should choose.
Form 1040EZ – This simplest of all of the IRS forms is open to people who meet the following criteria:
- You are filing as either single or as married filing jointly
- You are younger than 65. If you are filing a joint return with your spouse, then your spouse must also be younger than 65. If your 65th birthday (or your spouse’s 65th birthday) falls on January 1 of the tax year, then you are considered to have turned 65 in the previous year, and will become ineligible to use the form.
- Neither you nor your spouse (if filing jointly) can have been legally blind during the tax year.
- You cannot have dependents and use this form.
- Your interest income must be less than $1,500.
- Your income (or joint income if filing with your spouse) must be less than $100,000.
Though the 1040 EZ does make things easier by being just one page long, it minimizes the amount of deductions that you are able to take. The 1040EZ limits taxpayers to taking just the earned income tax credit, and it may end up cheating you of deductions to which you are entitled. For that reason, it makes sense to consider the other forms that are available.
Form 1040A – Form 1040A is available regardless of what the taxpayer’s filing status is. Those who file as single, married filing either separately or jointly, head of household, or qualifying widow or widower can all use this form. In addition to having this advantage, it also provides the opportunity to claim more than just the earned income tax credit. Taxpayers are also able to take advantage of tax credits for their children, education, dependent care, retirement savings credits, and elderly or disabled care. All of these deductions are available using the 1040A, but not the 1040EZ. Additional criteria for using the 1040A include:
- You must have taxable income (or combined incomes) below $100,000.
- You cannot itemize deductions.
- You can have capital gain distributions but cannot have capital losses or gains.
There are other adjustments allowed for those using Form 1040A. These are known as above-the-line deductions, and they reduce the total gross income counted against you for tax purposes. By using these adjustments, you are able to reduce your overall tax burden. These adjustments include some IRA contributions, educator expenses, college tuition and fees, and student loan interest.
Form 1040 – For those who have higher incomes, need to itemize their deductions, or have investments and income that require a more complicated tax preparation, the appropriate form is the 1040. The 1040 generally requires additional documentation and forms, but using it is often the only way to get the additional savings that are due to the taxpayer. Some of these credits include deductions for taxes paid in a foreign country, deductions for the cost of adopting a child, and a number of above-the-line deductions that are not available with the other forms. The purpose of having these other adjustments available is to provide people with the greatest opportunity to reduce their gross income, thereby reducing the overall tax burden. People who use Form 1040 are able to take deductions for self-employment taxes that have been paid, moving taxes, alimony payments, and more. There is no need to use a form Schedule A, as the available deductions are already listed on the front page of the 1040 – however, certain forms or schedules may need to be completed and attached.
Although any taxpayer can use the 1040, it is most generally used by taxpayers:
- Who itemize their deductions,
- Who are self-employed, or
- Who have capital gain income from the sale of stocks or other assets.
If you are still uncertain as to which form is most appropriate for you, IRS Publication 17 provides many answers and details, including special circumstances and specific examples.
It is important to remember that just because a form was appropriate for you in the past, it may not be in the future, and there is no requirement that you use it again. It may be appropriate for you to consult with a professional tax preparer, like us at Dagley & Co., to ensure you receive all the tax breaks and benefits you are entitled to.
Image via Dagley & Co.
If you’re struggling with your money, then no doubt you may be excited about your upcoming potential tax refund.
However, that excitement may be premature if you have outstanding federal or state debts. The Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) issues federal tax refunds, and Congress authorizes BFS to reduce your refund through its Treasury Offset Program (TOP) to pay:
- Past-due child and parent support;
- Federal agency non-tax debts;
- State income tax obligations; or
- Certain unemployment compensation debts owed to a state.
If you owe a debt that’s past due, it can reduce your federal tax refund and all or part of your refund may go to pay your outstanding federal or state debt if it has been submitted for tax refund offset by an agency of the federal or state government.
If you have an outstanding debt and want to be proactive, you can contact the agency with which you have a debt to determine if your debt was submitted for a tax refund offset. You may call BFS’s TOP call center at 800-304-3107 or TDD 866-297-0517, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST.
If your debt was submitted for offset, BFS will reduce your refund as needed to pay off the debt and send it to the agency you owe. Any portion of your remaining refund after offset is issued in a check or is direct deposited as originally requested on the return.
If you choose to wait and see what happens when you file your return, BFS will send you a notice if an offset occurs. If you wish to dispute the amount taken from your refund, you will have to contact the agency that submitted the offset claim. It will be shown on the notice you will receive from the BFS.
If you filed a joint tax return, and only one spouse is responsible for the debt, the other spouse may be entitled to part of or all the refund. To request the refund of the spouse that is not responsible for the offset, you can file Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation. The benefits provided under the injured spouse allocation will generally not apply if you reside in a community property state.
Please contact Dagley & Co. if have you have questions about refund offsets. You’ll find our information at the bottom of this page.
Image via public domain
Have a merry month – and not a stressful month – with these December tax deadline tips from Dagley & Co! Image via public domain.
December – Time for Year-End Tax Planning
December is the month to take final actions to affect your 2015 taxes. Taxpayers with substantial increases or decreases in income, changes in marital status or dependent status, and those who sold property during 2015 should get in touch with us at Dagley & Company for a tax planning consultation appointment. In case you need more reasons, do read our special post from Black Friday about why we may be the perfect accounting firm for you!
December 10 – Report Tips to Employer
If you are an employee who works for tips and received more than $20 in tips during November, you are required to report them to your employer on IRS Form 4070 no later than December 10. Your employer is required to withhold FICA taxes and income tax withholding for these tips from your regular wages. If your regular wages are insufficient to cover the FICA and tax withholding, the employer will report the amount of the uncollected withholding in box 12 of your W-2 for the year. You will be required to pay the uncollected withholding when your return for the year is filed.
December 31 – Last Day to Make Mandatory IRA Withdrawals
Last day to withdraw funds from a Traditional IRA Account and avoid a penalty if you turned age 70½ before 2015. If the institution holding your IRA will not be open on December 31, you will need to arrange for withdrawal before that date.
December 31 – Last Day to Pay Deductible Expenses for 2015
Last day to pay deductible expenses for the 2015 return (doesn’t apply to IRA, SEP or Keogh contributions, all of which can be made after December 31, 2015). Taxpayers who are making state estimated payments may find it advantageous to prepay the January state estimated tax payment in December (Please call the office for more information).
December 31 – Where did the time go?! Last Day of the Year!
If the actions you wish to take cannot be completed on the 31st or a single day, you should consider taking action earlier than December 31st.
When it comes to saving for your children’s education, the tax code provides two primary advantages. We frequently get questions about the differences between the programs and about which program is best suited for a family’s particular needs.
The Coverdell Education Savings Account and the Qualified Tuition Plan (frequently referred to as a Sec 529 Plan) are similar; neither provides tax-deductible contributions, but both plans’ earnings are tax-free if used for allowable expenses, such as tuition. Therefore, with either plan, the greatest benefit is derived by making contributions to the plan as soon as possible—even the day after a child is born—so as to accumulate years of investment earnings and maximize the benefits. However, that is where the similarities end, and each plan has a different set of rules.
Coverdell Savings Accounts only allow a total annual maximum contribution of $2,000. The contributions can be made by anyone, including the beneficiary, so long as the contributor’s adjusted gross income is not high enough to phase out the allowable contribution. (The phase-out threshold is $190,000 for married contributors filing jointly and $95,000 for others.) Unless the beneficiary of the account is a special needs student, the funds must be withdrawn prior to age 30. The funds can be used for kindergarten through post-secondary education. Allowable expenses generally include tuition; room, board, and travel expenses required to attend school; books; and other supplies. Tutoring for special needs students is also allowed. Funds can be rolled over from one beneficiary to another in the same family. Although the funds can be used starting in kindergarten, the chances are that not enough of earnings will have been accumulated by that time to provide any significant benefit.
On the other hand, state-run Sec 529 plan benefits are limited to postsecondary education, but they allow significantly larger amounts to be contributed; multiple people can each contribute up to the gift tax limit each year. This limit is $14,000 for 2015, and it is periodically adjusted for inflation. A special rule allows contributors to make up to five years of contribution in advance (for a total of $70,000 in 2015).
Sec. 529 Plans allow taxpayers to put away larger amounts of money, limited only by the contributor’s gift tax concerns and the contribution limits of the intended plan. There are no limits on the number of contributors, and there are no income or age limitations. The maximum amount that can be contributed per beneficiary is based on the projected cost of college education and will vary between the states’ plans. Some states base their maximum on an in-state four-year education, but others use the cost of the most expensive schools in the U.S., including graduate studies. Most have limits in excess of $200,000, with some topping $370,000. Generally, once an account reaches that level, additional contributions cannot be made, but that doesn’t prevent the account from continuing to grow.
Which plan (or combination of plans) is best for your family depends on a number of issues, including education goals, the number and ages of your children, the finances of your family and of any grandparents or other relatives willing to help, and a number of other issues. For assistance in establishing education savings plans, please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co.
Image via public domain
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!
Image via public domain
Does your favorite tax benefit expire this year? More than 50 tax provisions that Congress routinely extends on a yearly basis expired at the end of 2014. The big problem is, each year they are extending the provisions later and later in the year, creating uncertainty for taxpayers on whether they can depend on these tax incentives or not. This makes tax planning unclear and leaves taxpayers wondering about their projected tax liability.
Although there were serious discussions among some members of Congress in the spring related to passing an extender bill, those discussions withered away with the summer heat and little has been discussed recently about either making some of the provisions permanent or extending some or all of them for another year. So whether we will have extender legislation and, if we do, what will be included in that legislation is up in the air.
So you may wish to review the expiring provisions to see how you will be affected if they are not extended. Each of these tax benefits expired at the end of 2014 and will not apply in 2015 unless Congress acts. Although more than 50 provisions are expiring, the list below only includes those that most likely will impact individuals and small businesses:
- Teachers’ Above-the-Line Expense Deduction – Elementary and secondary teachers have been allowed to deduct up to $250 for classroom supplies without itemizing their deductions. As an alternative, these teachers can deduct these expenses as a charitable itemized deduction if they work for a public school or charitable organization and obtain the required documentation verifying the expenses.
- Principal Residence Acquisition Debt Forgiveness Exclusion - When a lender forgives debt, the amount of the debt forgiven is income to the borrower; and, although the law allows a taxpayer to exclude that debt relief income to the extent the taxpayer is insolvent, many taxpayers saddled with this problem were not insolvent. To alleviate that situation, Congress passed a law allowing debt relief income from the discharge of qualified principal residence acquisition debt to also be excluded from one’s income. This exclusion does not apply to forgiven equity debt income.
- Excludable Commuter Transportation and Transit Passes – The tax law allows an employer to reimburse, tax-free, an employee for qualified parking, certain commuter transportation and transit passes. For several years now, the monthly maximum has been the same for all three ($250 in 2014). However, the nontaxable amount of commuter transportation and transit passes will drop to $130 in 2015 if the higher deduction is not extended.
- Mortgage Insurance Premiums – A temporary provision has been allowing lower-income taxpayers to deduct mortgage insurance premiums on contracts in connection with acquisition indebtedness on the taxpayer’s principal residence.
- General Sales Tax Deduction – This temporary provision allows taxpayers to take a deduction for state and local general sales and use taxes in lieu of a deduction for state and local income taxes. The big losers here will be residents of states that do not have a state income tax; these taxpayers will end up without either deduction if the provision is not extended.
- Qualified Conservation Contributions – This special rule for contributions of capital gain real property made for conservation purposes allowed qualified conservation contributions to be deducted up to 50% of a taxpayer’s AGI (100% for qualified farmers and ranchers). Without an extension, the allowable contribution will be limited to 30% of the taxpayer’s AGI. The portion of the contribution that exceeds the AGI limitation is carried over for up to five future years.
- Above-the-line Tuition Deduction – This deduction allows moderate and low-income taxpayers to take an above-the-line deduction (maximum $4,000) for qualified higher education tuition and related expenses. As an alternative, most taxpayers will qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
- IRA to Charity Contribution – A temporary provision allowed taxpayers age 70½ or older to directly transfer up to $100,000 from an IRA to a qualified charity without including the distribution in income, and it would also count towards their required minimum distribution. Although no charitable deduction is allowed, the benefit is the same as (or even better than) taking a taxable distribution and then getting a charitable deduction. It also keeps the donor’s AGI lower for purposes of all the AGI limitations built into the tax laws. It is especially helpful for those with Social Security income that becomes taxable because of an IRA distribution. As a hedge, in case this provision is extended, act as if it has been.
- Bonus Depreciation – For the past several years, as an incentive for businesses to invest in equipment and boost the economy, this provision allowed businesses to take bonus depreciation in the first year the property is placed in service. At one time it was 100%, but was 50% in 2014. The impact here, if the provision is not extended, is that equipment will have to be depreciated over the equipment’s useful life, generally 5 or 7 years. Where applicable, the Sec 179 expense deduction can be used, but it too is reduced drastically without extension (see below).
- Sec 179 Expense Deduction – As part of the economic recovery efforts of the last few years, Congress temporarily increased the Sec. 179 expensing limit from $25,000 per year to $500,000, which it has been since 2010. The property cost limit phaseout threshold was also increased to $2 million. Without extension the maximum deduction will return to $25,000 with a $200,000 cost limit phaseout.
- Qualified Real Property Sec 179 Deduction – For years 2010 through 2014, the definition of qualified property for purposes of the Sec 179 deduction was temporarily amended, with some limitations, to include:
- Qualified leasehold improvement property,
- Qualified restaurant property, and
- Qualified retail improvement property
Thus, without an extension, these properties will no longer qualify for the Sec 179 expense deduction.
- 15-year Life – A temporary provision allows 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant buildings and improvements, and qualified retail improvements. Without an extension, these items will have to be depreciated over a 31-year life.
Where Congress left off this summer was with a Senate bill that would extend the provisions for 2015 and 2016 and House legislation that would only extend a few of the provisions for 2015 only. With the partisan battles going on in Congress, the distraction of the upcoming elections and the holiday recesses just around the corner, what will happen to the extender legislation is anyone’s guess at this point. If history is an indicator, passage will come very late in the year.
If you have any questions, please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co. You’ll find our information at the bottom of this page.