• Which 1040 Form Is Right For You?

    17 December 2015
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    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.

    QUICK LINK: Access the IRS,gov website with all of the 1040 forms and instructions here!

    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.

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  • Everything You Need To Know About Coverdell And 529 Education Savings Plans

    30 November 2015
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    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.

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  • Save on Black Friday: Hire Dagley & Company!

    27 November 2015
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    On this hot, hot hot shopping and sales weekend, you may be looking everywhere for the best Black Friday and Small Business Saturday deals. There’s another way to save yourself a lot of money – potentially thousands of dollars – and that is by hiring an accountant from Dagley & Company to do the taxes of you, your family, and/or your small business.

    For starters, our founder, Dan Dagley, has an exceptional track record with taxes and clients. He was a top-10 CPA with TurboTax’s Pro program, which is currently undergoing a makeover. You can read hundreds of his glowing reviews on our testimonials page. If you miss this TurboTax Pro service, Dagley & Company can help fill your need. Get started by getting in touch with us; you’ll find our contact information at the bottom of this screen.

    If you’re one of those people who has never filed for taxes and hasn’t heard from the IRS, then it’s probably because you’re leaving money on the table. Each year, the IRS reports about $1 billion in unclaimed refunds for individuals who did not file a tax return – and about half of them are for amounts greater than $600! You could literally turn a profit simply by dropping us an email, so what are you waiting for?

    Many people are handy at filing their own taxes, but our clients who decide to pivot to our team are consistently amazed at the money they save. It’s unlikely that you know all of the tax credits and benefits you are entitled to! There are credits for those who generate their own renewable energy, there are credits for those paying for education, there are credits for those who are taking care of elderly/disabled relatives, there are tax deductions for start-up businesses, and so many more. Let us sit down with you to see just how much of your own money you’re entitled to keep this year.

    Finally, Dagley & Company is about as convenient as it gets. Yes, we are located in Washington, D.C., but we serve clients all over the United States, as well as a few scattered all over the globe. Best case scenario for you and us is you keep good records on Quickbooks or another digital program, and we can help you file the most accurate, succinct tax forms you’ve ever seen. Whether you prefer email or a personal phone call, we’re here to work with you to save you time and money.

    We hope this has helped you make a decision about the best way to file your taxes – and happy shopping on this Black Friday!

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  • Tax Benefits for People (And Parents of Children) With Disabilities

    19 October 2015
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    The United States tax code includes a number of benefits for individuals with disabilities, but you can’t take advantage of these benefits unless you know them! Many of the benefits also apply to the parents of children with disabilities. We’ve put together a rundown for you:

    ABLE Accounts - Under tax law, states can offer specially designed, tax-favored ABLE accounts to people with disabilities who became disabled before age 26.

    Recognizing the special financial burdens faced by families raising children with disabilities, ABLE accounts are designed to enable people with disabilities, who became disabled before age 26, and their families to save for and pay for disability-related expenses.

    They are state run programs authorized by the federal tax statute, and must be established by your state. States that have established ABLE accounts can offer its residents the option of setting up one of these accounts, or if it chooses, contract with another state that offers such accounts. Contributions totaling up to the annual gift tax exclusion amount, currently $14,000, can be made to an ABLE account each year, and distributions are tax-free if used to pay qualified disability expenses.

    Disabled Spouse or Dependent Care Credit – A tax credit is available to individuals that incur child-care expenses for children who are under the age of 13 at the time the care is provided. This credit is also available for the care of the taxpayer’s spouse or dependent that is physically or mentally not able to care for himself or herself and lived with the taxpayer for more than half the year. This also true for individuals that would have been dependents except for the fact that they earned $4,000 or more (2015) or filed a joint return with their spouse. The credit ranges from 20 to 35%, with lower income taxpayers, benefiting from the higher percentage and those with AGI’s of $43,000 or more receiving only 20%. The care expenses qualifying for the credit are limited to $3,000 for one and $6,000 for two or more qualifying individuals.

    Medical Expense Deductions – In addition, to the “normal” medical expenses there other unusual deductible expenses that are incurred by individuals with disabilities. However, to gain a tax benefit, an eligible taxpayer must itemize their deductions on Schedule A, and their total medical expenses must exceed 10 percent of their adjusted gross income (7.5 percent for taxpayers who are at least age 65). Eligible expenses include:

    • Prosthesis, 
    • Vision Aids - contact lenses and eyeglasses,
    • Hearing Aids – and cost and repair of special telephone equipment for people who are deaf or hard of hearing,
    • Wheelchair – cost and maintenance,
    • Service Dog – cost and care of a guide dog or service animal,
    • Transportation – Modifications or special equipment added to vehicles to accommodate a disability.
    • Impairment-Related Capital Expenses – Amounts paid for special equipment installed in the home, or for improvements may be included in medical expenses, if their main purpose is medical care for the taxpayer, the spouse, or a dependent. The cost of permanent improvements that increase the value of the property may be partly included as a medical expense. The cost of the improvement is reduced by the increase in the value of the property. The difference is a medical expense. If the value of the property is not increased by the improvement, the entire cost is included as a medical expense. Certain improvements made to accommodate a home to a taxpayer’s disabled condition, or that of the spouse or dependents who live with the taxpayer, do not usually increase the value of the home and the cost can be included in full as medical expenses.
    • Learning Disability – Tuition fees paid to a special school for a child who has severe learning disabilities caused by mental or physical impairments, including nervous system disorders can be included in medical expenses. A doctor must recommend that the child attend the school. Tutoring fees recommended by a doctor for the child’s tutoring by a teacher who is specially trained and qualified to work with children who have severe learning disabilities may also be included.
    • Special Schooling – Medical care includes the cost of attending a special school designed to compensate for or overcome a physical handicap, in order to qualify the individual for future normal education or for normal living. This includes a school for the teaching of Braille or lip reading. The principal reason for attending must be the special resources for alleviating the handicap. The cost of tuition for ordinary education that is incidental to the special services provided at the school, and the cost of meals and lodging supplied by the school also is included as a medical expense.
    • Nursing Services – Wages and other amounts paid for nursing services can be included in medical expenses. Services need not be performed by a nurse as long as the services are of a kind generally performed by a nurse. This includes services connected with caring for the patient’s condition, such as giving medication or changing dressings, as well as bathing and grooming the patient. These services can be provided in the home or another care facility. Generally, only the amount spent for nursing services is a medical expense. If the attendant also provides personal and household services, these amounts must be divided between the time spent performing household and personal services and the time spent for nursing services.

    If you have questions related to any of the tax benefits listed above or have questions related to potential medical expenses not discussed above, please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co. so we can help!

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  • Family Courts Sometimes Contradict Federal Tax Law

    17 September 2015
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    You would think federal taxes and law courts would keep up with each other, but they actually do not. In fact, family law courts make rulings that are contradictory to federal tax law all the time, causing confusion and inequity in divorce actions since family court rulings cannot trump federal tax law.

    A common issue for divorced parents is who gets to claim the children for tax purposes. Federal tax law provides that the parent with physical custody claims the child unless that parent releases the exemption to the other parent. Frequently, family courts award physical custody to one parent and the tax exemption to the other. To make matters worse, the courts assume that the exemption deduction will provide a financial benefit to the non-custodial parent. Then the court adjusts child support accordingly, leaving the non-custodial parent with two unpleasant surprises when filing his or her tax return: the child support is not deductible and the child cannot be claimed as a dependent without a release from the custodial parent.

    Who is to blame? At first glance, one would tend to blame the court. However, it is not the job of the court, but the duty of the attorney to bring the judge’s attention to federal tax law so that he or she is aware of what applies in order to make a correct judgment. Few family law judges know tax law.

    Avoid mistakes – Consult with your tax advisor. Go over the proposed settlement and determine what the tax implications will be before the divorce is finalized. Here are some of the tax issues that need to be considered as part of a divorce:

    Property settlements – When property is divided in a divorce, the spouse who keeps the property assumes the community basis. This, in effect, means that spouse assumes any tax liability when the property is sold.

    Example: A couple has a home worth $450,000 and a mortgage of $50,000, which provides a net equity of $400,000. They also have a bank savings account worth $400,000. They divorce, and agree that the wife will keep the home and the husband will keep the bank account. On the surface, this sounds equitable, but, after taxes are considered, it may not be. Let’s assume the couple purchased the home for $100,000 several years ago. The wife assumes the community basis of $100,000. If the wife sells it for $450,000, she will net only $373,000 from the sale after paying the selling costs of approximately $27,000 and paying off the $50,000 loan. In addition, she has a taxable profit from the sale that is computed as follows:

    Sales Price:                $450,000

    Community Basis:        <100,000>

    Sales Costs:               < 27,000>

    Home Sale Exclusion     <250,000>

    Taxable Gain                 $ 73,000

    Federal Tax @ 15%          10,950 (there may also be a state tax, and Federal tax could be as high as 20%)

    So, in our example, the wife nets $362,050 ($373,000 less taxes of $10,950), while her spouse nets a full $400,000 from the savings account. Not exactly even after taking into account the tax liability.

    Issues involving Children – There are substantial tax issues related to the children. Here are some of them:

    • Dependency – Federal tax law gives the dependency to the custodial parent unless the custodial parent releases, in writing, the dependency to the non-custodial parent. There is a tax deduction of $4,000 (2015) for each dependency exemption.
    • Child Credit – The 2015 child tax credit, $1,000 for each child under age 17, goes to the parent who claims the child as a dependent.
    • Joint Custody – Some courts award joint custody to the parents. In this situation, the IRS does not split the benefits of claiming the child as a dependent. Instead, the parent with physical custody the greater part of the year receives all of the benefits.
    • Education Credits – The education tax credits for college tuition expenses go to the one who claims the exemption for the child, regardless of who paid the tuition.
    • Child Care Credit – The parent who claims the child’s exemption is the only one who can claim a tax credit for child care expenses This can cause issues where both parents work and share custody.
    • Child Support– is not deductible by the parent who pays the support and is not taxable to the one who receives it.

    Alimony – is deductible by the spouse who pays it and includable in income by the spouse who receives it. To be treated as alimony, payments must be in cash, required by the divorce instrument, and end upon the death of the payee. In addition, alimony payments cannot be contingent on the status of a child and are valid only while the taxpayers live apart.

    Conflict of Interest – Rules of Practice do not allow a tax practitioner to represent clients where there is a conflict of interest. This is an issue for divorcing couples since the divorce creates a conflict of interest and a practitioner may not be able to provide services to both clients and, in some cases, may not be allowed to provide services to either.

    As you can see, there are a number of complications related to divorce and the status of the children of divorced parents. If you have questions, please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co.

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  • Tax Consequences After Gifting Money or Property

    14 September 2015
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    Have you ever thought about gifting money or property to someone – perhaps to one of your children or other family members – and wondered what the tax consequences could be? Gift and inheritance taxes were created long ago to make sure an individual’s assets are taxed as they pass on to future generations. Congress has frequently tinkered with these taxes, and currently the gift and inheritance taxes are unified with a top tax rate of 40%. However, the law does provide the following two exclusions from the tax:

    Lifetime exclusion – For 2015, $5.43 million per person is excluded from gift and inheritance tax. This amount is annually adjusted for inflation and applies separately to each spouse of a married couple. Where one of the couple dies and does not use the entire exclusion amount, the unused portion of the exclusion can be passed on to the surviving spouse by filing an estate tax return for the decedent, even if one is otherwise not required.

    Annual exclusion – The exclusion amount is periodically adjusted for inflation. For 2015 the annual gift exclusion is $14,000 per recipient. Thus, an individual can give up to $14,000 to as many recipients as he or she would like without creating a requirement to file a gift tax return. The $14,000 applies to each individual giver, so each spouse of a married couple can give $14,000, for a total per couple of $28,000 to any one person.

    If a person gives more than $14,000 for the year to any single individual, then a gift tax return is required, and the excess of the gifts over $14,000 reduces the lifetime exclusion. Once the annual limit and the lifetime limit have been exceeded, the excess becomes taxable.

    Gifts can take the form of cash or property. When property is given, the dollar value placed on the gift for gift tax purposes is the property’s fair market value (FMV) at the time of the gift. However, the gift recipient assumes the giver’s tax basis in the property, which means that if the giver’s property had built-in gains, the recipient becomes responsible for those gains when the recipient subsequently disposes of the property in a taxable event.

    Example: Earl gives his son, Jack, stock worth $14,000 that originally cost Earl $5,000. Later, Jack sells the stock for $16,000. Jack’s taxable gain from selling the stock will be $11,000 ($16,000 – $5,000).

    However, if Jack had inherited the stock from his father, Jack’s basis would have been the FMV of the stock at the date of his father’s death instead of what Earl had paid for the stock. Assuming the FMV was $14,000 at the time of Earl’s death and Jack subsequently sold the stock for $16,000, he would only have a taxable gain of $2,000 ($16,000 – $14,000).

    This example points to a mistake often made by elderly taxpayers. They will frequently sign over their assets, most commonly their home, to their heirs while they are still alive rather than waiting and allowing the heirs to inherit the property. By doing this, they create a large tax liability for the heirs since the basis of the gift is the giver’s basis, thus the heirs become responsible for the giver’s built-in gain rather than inheriting the property with the basis equal to the FMV at the time of the decedent’s death.

    Example: Mary signs over her home worth $500,000 to her son, John. Mary originally paid $100,000 for the home. If John immediately sells the home for $500,000 after Mary’s passing, he will have a taxable gain of $400,000. However, if John had inherited the property after Mary’s passing, his basis would be the FMV at date of death, or $500,000, and if he sold it for $500,000, he would have no taxable gain at all.

    Additional Exclusions For Gift Tax – In addition, certain medical and education expenses are also excludable over and above the $14,000 annual exclusion cap.

    Tuition Expenses – Tuition expenses paid directly to the qualifying educational institution are permitted without gift tax consequences. For example, a grandparent who wants to help out a college-bound grandchild can pay the student’s tuition directly to the college. Even if the amount is over $14,000, no gift tax reporting is required, and the grandparent’s annual gift exclusion with respect to the child and his or her lifetime exclusion are not affected.

    Medical Expenses – Medical expenses paid directly to the qualifying medical institution or individual providing the care or to the insurance company providing the medical coverage are also exempt from the gift tax and don’t affect the gift tax exclusions. The payments cannot go through the hands of the individual who incurred the medical expenses, but must go directly to the medical provider or insurance company.

    As you can see, gifting can be complicated and requires advance planning to fully take advantage of tax benefits. Please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co. if you need assistance planning your gifts or your estate.

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  • Generating Your Own Home Power: There Are Tax Credits For That!

    8 September 2015
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    Are you a renewable energy junkie? You probably already know that generating your own power has some financial upsides, and we’re excited to share some of the current credits and benefits you may qualify for.

    Through 2016, taxpayers can get a tax credit on their federal tax return equal to 30 percent of the costs for installing certain power-generating systems on their homes. The credit is non-refundable – which means it can only be used to offset a taxpayer’s current tax liability – but any excess can be carried forward to offset tax through 2016.

    Systems that qualify for the credit include the following:

    • Solar water heating system – Qualifies if used in a dwelling unit used by the taxpayer as a main or second residence where at least half of the energy used by the property for such purposes is derived from the sun. Heating water for swimming pools or hot tubs does not qualify for the credit. The property must be certified for performance by the Solar Rating Certification Corporation or a comparable entity endorsed by the state government where the property is installed.
    • Solar electric system – This is a qualified system that uses solar energy to generate electricity for use in a dwelling unit located in the U.S. and used as a main or second residence by the taxpayer.
      • Fuel cell plant –A fuel cell power plant is a system installed in the taxpayer’s principal residence that converts a fuel into electricity using electrochemical means. It must have an electricity-only generation efficiency of greater than 30% and generate at least 0.5 kilowatt of electricity. The credit is 30% of qualified fuel cell expenditures but is limited to $500 for each 0.5 kilowatt of the fuel cell property’s capacity to produce electricity.
      • Qualified small wind energy – A wind turbine used to generate electricity for use in connection with a dwelling unit used as a main or second residence by the taxpayer is eligible for the credit.
    • Qualified geothermal heat pump –This is a system in which a pump uses the ground or ground water as a thermal energy source to heat the dwelling unit used as a main or second residence by the taxpayer or as a thermal energy sink to cool the dwelling unit. The system must meet the Energy Star program requirements in effect when the expenditure is made.

    Other aspects of the credit include the following:

    • Limited carryover The credit is a non-refundable personal credit that limits the credit to the taxpayer’s tax liability for the year. However, the portion of the credit that is not allowed because of this limitation may be carried to the next tax year and added to the credit allowable for that year.
    • Installation costs Expenditures for labor costs allocable to onsite preparation, assembly, or original installation of property eligible for the credit, and for piping or wiring connecting the property to the residence, are expenditures that qualify for the credit.
    • Swimming pool Expenditures that are for heating a swimming pool or hot tub are not taken into account for purposes of the credit.
    • Newly constructed homes – The credit can be taken for newly constructed homes if the costs of the residential energy efficient property can be separated from the other home construction expenses and the required certification documents are available.
    • Installation costs – Costs for labor allocable to onsite preparation, assembly, or original installation of the qualified residential energy property may be included.
    • Certification – A taxpayer may rely on a manufacturer’s certification that a product is Qualified Energy Property. A taxpayer is not required to attach the certification statement to the return on which the credit is claimed. However, taxpayers are required to retain the certification statement as part of their records. The certification statement provided by the manufacturer may be a written copy of the statement with the packaging of the product, in printable form on the manufacturer’s website, or in any other manner that will permit the taxpayer to retain the certification statement for tax recordkeeping purposes.

    If you have questions about how you can benefit from these credits, please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co.

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  • Back-to-School Tax Tips for Parents and Students

    4 September 2015
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    If you’re smart enough to seek an advanced education (and/or help your children seek it for themselves), be smart enough to take advantage of its tax breaks! Going to college – and figuring out how to pay for it – can be stressful for students and their families. Congress has provided a variety of new tax incentives to help defray the cost of education. Some of these require long-term planning to become beneficial, while others provide almost immediate tax deductions or credits. The benefits may even cover vocational schools.

    If your child is below college age, there are tax-advantaged plans that allow you to save for the cost of college. Although providing no tax benefit for contributions to the plans, they do provide tax-free accumulation; so the earlier they are established, the more you benefit from them.

    • Section 529 Plans—Section 529 Plans (named after the section of the IRS Code that created them) are plans established to help families save and pay for college in a tax-advantaged way and are available to everyone, regardless of income. These state-sponsored plans allow you to gift large sums of money for a family member’s college education while maintaining control of the funds. The earnings from these accounts grow tax-deferred and are tax-free, if used to pay for qualified higher education expenses. They can be used as an estate-planning tool as well, providing a means to transfer large amounts of money without gift tax. With all these tax benefits, 529 Plans are an excellent vehicle for college funding. Section 529 Plans come in two types, allowing you to either save funds in a tax-free account to be used later for higher education costs, or to prepay tuition for qualified universities. For 2015, you can contribute $14,000 without gift tax implications (or $28,000 for married couples who agree to split their gift). The annual amount is subject to inflation-adjustment. There is also a special gift provision allowing the donor to prepay five years of Sec 529 gifts up front without gift tax.
    • Coverdell Education Savings Account—These accounts are actually education trusts that allow nondeductible contributions to be invested for a child’s education. Tax on earnings from these accounts is deferred until the funds are withdrawn, and if used for qualified education purposes, the entire withdrawal can be tax-free. Qualified use of these funds includes elementary and secondary education expenses in addition to post-secondary schools (colleges). This is the only one of the educational tax benefits that allows tax-free use of the funds for below college-level expenses. A total of $2,000 per year can be contributed for each beneficiary under the age of 18. The ability to contribute to these plans phases out when the modified adjusted gross income is between $190,000 and $220,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, and between $95,000 and $110,000 for all others.
    • Education Tax Credits—Two tax credits, the American Opportunity Credit (partially refundable) and the Lifetime Learning Credit (nonrefundable), are available for qualified post-secondary education expenses for a taxpayer, spouse, and eligible dependents. Both credits will reduce one’s tax liability dollar for dollar until the tax reaches zero. The credit is not allowed for taxpayers who file Married Separate returns.
      • The American Opportunity Credit—is a credit of up to $2,500 per student per year, covering the first four years of qualified post-secondary education. The credit is 100% of the first $2,000 of qualifying expenses plus 25% of the next $2,000 for a student attending college on at least a half-time basis. Forty percent of the American Opportunity credit is refundable (if the tax liability is reduced to zero). This credit phases out for joint filing taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income between $160,000 and $180,000, and between $80,000 and $90,000 for others.
      • The Lifetime Learning Credit—is a credit of up to 20% of the first $10,000 of qualifying higher education expenses. Unlike the American Opportunity Credit, which is on a per-student basis, this credit is per taxpayer. In addition to post-secondary education, the Lifetime Credit applies to any course of instruction at an eligible institution taken to acquire or improve job skills. For 2015 this credit phases out for joint filing taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income between $110,000 and $130,000, and between $55,000 and $65,000 for others. The credit is not allowed for taxpayers who file Married Separate returns.

    Qualifying expenses for these credits are generally limited to tuition. However, student activity fees and fees for course-related books, supplies, and equipment qualify if they must be paid directly to the educational institution for the enrollment or attendance of the student.

    You may qualify for this credit even if you did not pay the tuition. If a third party (someone other than the taxpayer or a claimed dependent) makes a payment directly to an eligible educational institution for a student’s qualified tuition and related expenses, the student would be treated as having received the payment from the third party, and, in turn, pay the qualified tuition and related expenses. Furthermore, qualified tuition and related expenses paid by a student would be treated as paid by the taxpayer if the student is a claimed dependent of the taxpayer.

    • Education Loan Interest—You can deduct qualified interest of $2,500 per year in computing AGI. This is not limited to government student loans and this could include home equity loans, credit card debt, etc., if the debt was incurred solely to pay for qualified higher education expenses. For 2015, this deduction phases out for married taxpayers with an AGI between $130,000 and $160,000 and for unmarried taxpayers between $65,000 and $80,000. This deduction is not allowed for taxpayers who file married separate returns.

    We all know that a child’s success in life has a great deal to do with the education they receive. You cannot start the planning process too early. Please call Dagley & Co. if you would like assistance in planning for your children’s future education.

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  • September 2015 Tax Due Dates For Business Owners

    2 September 2015
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    A few days ago, you probably read our post about September tax due dates for individuals. As promised, here are the tax due dates coming up this month for business owners. Please contact us at Dagley & Co. if you need a CPA to walk you through these steps and smooth out the process. You’ll find our information at the bottom of this webpage.

    September 15 – Corporations

    File a 2014 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120 or 1120-A) and pay any tax, interest, and penalties due. This due date applies only if you timely requested an automatic 6-month extension.

    September 15 – S Corporations

    File a 2014 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120S) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you requested an automatic 6-month extension.

    September 15 – Corporations

    Deposit the third installment of estimated income tax for 2015 for calendar year corporations.

    September 15 – Social Security, Medicare and withheld income tax

    If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.

    September 15 – Nonpayroll Withholding

    If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.

    September 15 – Partnerships 

    File a 2014 calendar year return (Form 1065). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 5-month extension. Provide each partner with a copy of K-1 (Form 1065) or a substitute Schedule K-1.

    September 15 – Fiduciaries of Estates and Trusts

    File a 2014 calendar year return (Form 1041). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 5-month extension. If applicable, provide each beneficiary with a copy of K-1 (Form 1041) or a substitute Schedule K-1.

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  • Tax Credits and Benefits for Disabled Taxpayers

    18 August 2015
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    Taxpayers with disabilities, and parents of children with disabilities, may qualify for a number of tax credits and benefits. Listed below are several tax credits and other benefits we have put together that are available if you or someone else listed on your federal tax return is disabled.

    1. Increased Standard Deduction – If a tax return filer and/or spouse are legally blind, they are entitled to a higher standard deduction on their tax return.
    2. Exclusions from Gross Income – Certain disability-related payments, Veterans Administration disability benefits, and Supplemental Security Income are excluded from gross income.
    3. Impairment-Related Work Expenses - Employees, who have a physical or mental disability limiting their employment, may be able to claim business expenses in connection with their workplace. The expenses must be necessary for the taxpayer to work.
    4. Credit for the Elderly or Disabled – This credit is generally available to certain taxpayers who are 65 and older, as well as to certain disabled taxpayers who are younger than 65 and are retired on permanent and total disability.
    5. Earned Income Tax Credit – EITC is available to disabled taxpayers as well as to the parents of a child with a disability. If you retired on disability, taxable benefits that were received under your employer’s disability retirement plan are considered earned income until a minimum retirement age is reached. The EITC is a tax credit that not only reduces a taxpayer’s tax liability but may also result in a refund. Many working individuals with a disability who have no qualifying children, but are older than 25 and younger than 65, may qualify for EITC. Additionally, if the taxpayer’s child is disabled, the age limitation for the EITC is waived. The EITC has no effect on certain public benefits. Any refund that is received because of the EITC will not be considered income when determining whether a taxpayer is eligible for benefit programs, such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.
    6. Child or Dependent Care Credit – Taxpayers who pay someone to come to their home and care for their dependent or disabled spouse may be entitled to claim this credit. For children this credit is usually limited to the care expenses paid only until age 13, but there is no age limit if the child is unable to care for him- or herself.
    7. Special Medical Deductions – In addition to conventional medical deductions, the tax code provides special medical deductions related to disabled taxpayers and dependents. They include:
    • Learning Disability – Tuition fees paid to a special school for a child who has severe learning disabilities caused by mental or physical impairments, including nervous system disorders can be included in medical expenses. A doctor must recommend that the child attend the school. Tutoring fees recommended by a doctor for the child’s tutoring by a teacher who is specially trained and qualified to work with children who have severe learning disabilities might also be included.
    • Impairment-Related Expenses – Amounts paid for special equipment installed in the home, or for improvements, may be included in medical expenses, if their main purpose is medical care for the taxpayer, the spouse, or a dependent. The cost of permanent improvements that increase the value of the property may only be partly included as a medical expense.
    • Drug Addiction – Amounts paid by a taxpayer to maintain a dependent in a therapeutic center for drug addicts, including the cost of the dependent’s meals and lodging, are included in medical expenses.
    1. Exclusion Of Qualified Medicaid Waiver Payments –Payments made to care providers caring for related individuals in the provider’s home are excluded from the care provider’s income. Qualified foster care payments are amounts paid under the foster care program of a state (or political subdivision of a state or a qualified foster care placement agency). For more information please call our office – you can find our contact information at the bottom of this page.
    2. ABLE Accounts – Qualified ABLE programs provide the means for individuals and families to contribute and save for the purpose of supporting individuals with disabilities in maintaining their health, independence, and quality of life.

    Federal law enacted in 2014 authorizes the States to establish and operate an ABLE program. Under the ABLE program, an ABLE account may be set up for any eligible state resident, which would generally be the only person who could take distributions from the account. ABLE accounts are very similar in function to Sec 529 plans. However, they should not be considered as estate planning devices, as is sometimes the case with 529 plans; the main purpose of ABLE accounts is to shelter assets from means testing required by government benefit programs. Individuals can contribute to ABLE accounts subject to Gift Tax limitations. Distributions to the disabled individual are tax free if the funds are used for qualified expenses of the disabled individual. These accounts are new and must be established at the state level before taxpayers can start making contributions to them. Call the office for more information.

    For more information on tax credits and benefits available to disabled taxpayers, please consult us at Dagley & Co.

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