• GOP Unveils Its Obamacare Repeal and Replacement Legislation

    15 March 2017
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    HOR

    Last week, on March 6th, the House Republicans unveiled their draft legislation that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This plan would ultimately continue the ACA’s premium tax credit through 2019 and then replace it in 2020. Then, a new credit for individuals without government insurance and those who are not offered insurance by their employer will be available.

    Additional details are provided below. Dagley & Co. wants you to keep in mind that the legislation is only a draft legislation and is subject to changes.

    Repeal of the Individual Mandate

    Background: Under the ACA, individuals are generally required to have ACA-compliant health insurance or face a “shared responsibility payment” (penalty for not being insured). For 2016, the annual penalty was $695 per uninsured individual ($347.50 per child), with a maximum penalty of $2,085 per family.

    GOP Legislation: Under the new legislation, this penalty would be repealed after 2015.

    Repeal of the Employer Mandate

    Background: Under the ACA, large employers, generally those with 50 or more equivalent full-time employees, were subject to penalties that could reach thousands of dollars per employee for not offering their full-time employees affordable health insurance. These employers were also subject to some very complicated reporting requirements.

    GOP Legislation: Under the new legislation, this penalty would be repealed after 2015.

    Recapture and Repeal of the Premium Tax Credit

    Background: The premium tax credit (PTC) is a health insurance subsidy for lower-income individuals, and it is based on their household income for the year. Since the household income can only be estimated at the beginning of the year, the insurance subsidy, known as the advance premium tax credit (APTC), must also be estimated at the beginning of the year. Then, when the tax return for the year is prepared, the difference between the estimated amount of the subsidy (APTC) and the actual subsidy allowed (PTC) is determined based on the actual household income for the year. If the subsidy paid was less than what the individual was entitled to, the excess is credited to the individual’s tax return. If the subsidy paid was more than what the individual was entitled to, the difference is repaid on the tax return. However, for lower-income taxpayers there is a cap on the amount that needs to repaid, and this is also based on household income.

    GOP Legislation: For tax years 2018 and 2019, the GOP legislation would require the repayment of the entire difference regardless of income. In addition, the PTC would be repealed after 2019.

    Catastrophic Insurance

    Background: The current law does not allow the PTC to be used for the purchase of catastrophic health insurance.

    GOP Legislation: The new legislation would allow premium tax credits to be used for the purchase of qualified “catastrophic-only” health plans and certain qualified plans not offered through an Exchange.

    Refundable Tax Credit for Health Insurance

    Beginning in 2020, as a replacement for the current ACA insurance subsidies (PTC), the GOP Legislation would create a universal refundable tax credit for the purchase of state-approved major medical health insurance and un-subsidized COBRA coverage. Generally eligible individuals are those who do not have access to government health insurance programs or an offer of insurance from any employer.

    The credit is determined monthly and ranges from $2,000 for those under age 30 to $4,000 for those over 60. The credit is additive for a family and capped at $14,000. The credit phases out for individuals who make more than $75,000 and for couples who file jointly and make more than $150,000.

    Health Savings Accounts

    Background: Individuals covered by high-deductible health plans can generally make tax-deductible contributions to a health savings account (HSA). Currently (2017), the maximum that can be contributed is $3,400 for self-only coverage and $6,750 for family coverage. Distributions from an HSA to pay qualified medical expenses are tax-free. However, non-qualified distributions are taxable and generally subject to a 20% penalty.

    GOP Legislation: Beginning in 2018, the HSA contribution limit would be increased to at least $6,550 for those with self-only coverage and to $13,100 for those with family coverage. In addition, the new legislation would do the following:

    • Allow both spouses to make catch-up contributions (applies to those age 55 through 64) beginning in 2018.
    • Allow medical expenses to be reimbursed if they were incurred 60 days prior to the establishment of the HSA (whereas currently only expenses incurred after the HSA is established qualify).
    • Lower the penalty for non-qualified distributions from the current 20% to 10% (the amount of the penalty prior to 2011).

    Medical Deduction Income Limitation

    Background: As part of the ACA, the income threshold for itemizing and deducting medical expenses was increased from 7.5% to 10% of the taxpayer’s AGI.

    GOP Legislation: Under the new legislation, the threshold would be returned to 7.5% beginning in 2018 (2017 for taxpayers age 65 or older).

    Repeal of Net Investment Income Tax

    Background: The ACA imposed a 3.8% surtax on net investment income for higher-income taxpayers, generally single individuals with incomes above $200,000 and $250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly.

    GOP Legislation: The new legislation would repeal this tax after 2017.

    Repeal on FSA Contribution Limits

    Background: Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) generally allow employees to designate pre-tax funds that can be deposited in the employer’s FSA, which the employee can then use to pay for medical and other qualified expenses. Effective beginning in 2013, annual contributions to health FSAs (also referred to as cafeteria plans) were limited to an inflation-adjusted $2,500. For 2017, the inflation limitation is $2,550.

    GOP Legislation: The new legislation would remove the health FSA contribution limit, effective starting in 2017.

    Repeal of Increased Medicare Tax

    Background: Beginning in 2013, the ACA imposed an additional Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) surtax of 0.9% on individuals with wage or self-employed income in excess of $200,000 or $250,000 for married couples filing jointly.

    GOP Legislation: The new legislation would repeal this surtax beginning in 2018.

    Other Provisions

    • Preexisting Conditions – Prohibits health insurers from denying coverage or charging more for preexisting conditions. However, to discourage people from waiting to buy health insurance until they are sick, individuals will need to maintain “continuous” coverage. Those who go uninsured for longer than a set period will be subject to 30% higher premiums as a penalty.
    • Children Under Age 26 – Allows children under age 26 to remain on their parents’ health plan until they are 26.
    • Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credit – Repealed after 2019
    • Medical Device Tax – Repealed after 2017
    • Tanning Tax – Repealed after 2018
    • Over-the-Counter Medication Tax – Repealed after 2017

    This is a proposed law change, and it may not ultimately turn out as described here. If you have any questions, please give Dagley & Co. a call.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Didn’t File in 2013? Last Chance to Get Your Refund

    13 March 2017
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    Have not yet filed your 2013 federal tax return? If not, you need to act quickly because your return must be filed by April 18, 2017. Otherwise, you forfeit your refund, and the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.

    The IRS estimates that more than 1 million taxpayers have not filed their 2013 tax returns and that more than $1 billion of unclaimed refunds are available for those taxpayers. The IRS estimates that these taxpayers will have an average refund of $763.

    By failing to file a return, people stand to lose more than just refunds for taxes withheld or paid during 2013. In addition, many low- and moderate-income workers did not claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which helps individuals and families with incomes below certain thresholds. For unmarried individuals in 2013, these thresholds were $46,227 for those with three or more children, $43,038 for those with two children, $37,870 for those with one child, and $14,340 for those with no children. Each amount is $5,340 more for married joint filers. In addition, parents who are eligible to claim the refundable portion of the child tax credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit (education tax credit) will forfeit those benefits if they don’t file a return.

    When filing a 2013 return, the law requires that the return be properly addressed, mailed and postmarked by April 18th. There is no late-filing penalty for those who qualify for a refund.

    As a reminder, taxpayers seeking a 2013 refund should know that their checks will be held if they have not also filed tax returns for 2011 and 2012. In addition, their refunds will first be applied to any amounts that they still owe to the IRS and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past-due federal debts caused by student loans, repayment of unemployment compensation and state taxes owed.

    Contact Dagley & Co. with any questions, or make your tax appointment today.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Tax Deductions for Owner-Operator Truckers

    8 March 2017
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    If you are in the trucking industry, many times your tax situation is unique. More specifically, if you are an “owner-operator” in the trucking industry, you have many tax benefits to take advantage of. You are allowed special allowances for meals and you are allowed very large write-offs for the tractors, trucks and other equipment needed to run your business. On the other hand, you must pay for permits and any additional taxes that may be involved. Dagley & Co. realizes you may also have special reporting requirements on your tax return, so if you or someone you know have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. To help with this, the following is an overview of tax issues that may apply to owner-operators:

    • Meals Away from Home – As an owner-operator trucker, you may deduct the actual cost of your meals; this requires you to save your receipts. Alternatively, you can deduct the IRS’ standard meal allowance for the transportation industry, using your logbooks as substantiation. For 2016 and 2017, amount for meals and incidental expenses is $63 per day. Whether you use the actual-expense method or the standard method, only 80% of the total for the year is deductible. Even though only 80% is deductible, keep track all expenses for tax purposes, as the 80% adjustment is made during the tax-return preparation process

    Meals are deductible if you need to stop for substantial rest in order to properly perform your duties while traveling on business.

    • Lodging – Lodging expenses are deductible. Unfortunately, there is no standard allowance for lodging; thus, you must keep a receipt for each lodging expense. Generally, to deduct lodging expenses, you must be away from home overnight.

    One issue that could result in the disallowance of lodging and other travel expenses is not having a regular place of business or place of residence. In this case, you would be considered an itinerant (or transient), and your home for tax purposes would be wherever you work. As an itinerant, you would not be able to claim a deduction for lodging and meals because you would never be considered to be away from home.

    Other On-The-Road Expenses – Generally, to be deductible, items must be both ordinary and necessary to your job. For truckers, these expenses include laundry (when away overnight), gloves, logbooks, maps, cell phones, CB radios, tools, safety gear, cargo straps, and any other incurred expenses that are ordinary and necessary in the business. Generally, receipts are required, but if the business expense is less than $75, a receipt is not necessary, provided that you record all of the information in a diary in a timely manner.

    • Vehicle (Tractor) Cost Write-Offs – The current tax code provides several options for writing off the cost of a vehicle, including immediate expensing of up to $510,000 (as of 2017) during the year the property is put into service; first-year depreciation equal to 50% of the vehicle’s cost; normal deprecation; or a combination of all three. These options allow owner-operators to pick almost any amount of write-off to best suit their particular circumstances. For normal depreciation, the IRS allows a recovery period of 3 years for over-the-road tractor units and of 5 years for trailers, trailer-mounted containers and heavy-duty trucks (13,000 pounds or more).
    • Vehicle (Tractor) Operating Expenses – Of course, vehicle operating expenses – including fuel, licenses, taxes, maintenance and insurance – are deductible. Depending on the nature and cost, some expenses may have to be depreciated.
    • General Business Expenses – Owner-operators can usually deduct the following expenses: trucking-industry and business-related subscriptions, association dues, computers and software, Internet service, cleaning supplies, business interest, office supplies, DOT physicals, drug testing, sleep apnea studies, postage and other business-related expenses.
    • Heavy Highway Vehicle Use Tax – The heavy highway vehicle use tax (Form 2290) applies to highway vehicles weighing 55,000 pounds or more. The due date for this form is based on when (during the annual filing period) the vehicle is first used on a public highway. For the period of July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017, Form 2290 is due by the end of August 2016 for vehicles first used on a public highway in July 2016. For vehicles first used on a public highway after July, the use tax is prorated, and the form is due by last day of the month following the month of first use. See when to file for more details. The use tax ranges from $100 to $550 per vehicle for a full year, depending on the vehicle’s weight. You will need to have an employer ID number to file the Form 2290; your Social Security number cannot be used as the ID number.
    • Subcontractor Payments – If you paid an individual for services during the year, that person was most likely a subcontractor. Payments of $600 or more to subcontractors must be reported to the government by filing Form 1099-MISC. This form requires the subcontractor’s name, address and tax ID number as well as the payment amount. There are penalties for failing to file this form, for filing it late and for filing it without the tax ID number. All these penalties can be avoided by (1) having contractors complete Form W-9 before you pay them and (2) filing the 1099-MISC forms by January 31 of the subsequent year.

    Some expenses are not deductible; those with limited knowledge of trucker expenses may take these deductions, potentially triggering IRS inquiries and audits. One example is deducting the cost of street clothing. For clothing, only the cost of uniforms or protective clothing is allowed as a deduction.

    Another example is deducting lost income:

    • For time you spend repairing or maintaining your own equipment,
    • As a result of a deadhead, or
    • Because of downtime.

    Lost income is already accounted for, as you do not have to report the income on your tax return in the first place.

    If you have any questions related to trucking and taxes, please call Dagley & Co. This office is knowledgeable regarding the drivers’ and owner-operators’ tax issues, and are here to help you eliminate the stress of accounting and tax filing. Our phone number is 202-417-6640.

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  • Education Credits Aren’t Just For Children’s Tuition

    6 March 2017
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    Many people do not realize that education credits are not only available for your child’s tuition. Instead, they are also available for you, your spouse, or your dependents. Even if you attend school part-time, these credits may still be available.

    There are two education-related credits available: the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC). For either credit, the student must be enrolled in an eligible educational institution for at least one academic period (semester, trimester or quarter) during the year. An eligible educational institution is any accredited public, nonprofit, or proprietary post-secondary institution that can participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s student aid programs.

    The credits phase out for higher-income taxpayers who are married filing jointly (MFJ) or who are unmarried. Those who are married filing separately (MFS) do not qualify for either credit.

    The following table provides the qualifications for both credits:

     

    QUALIFICATIONS AOTC LLC
    Allowance Period First 4 years of post-secondary education Any post-secondary education for any number of years
    Enrollment Must be considered at least a half-time student by the educational institution Not required to be enrolled at least half-time
    Program Type Must be pursuing a program leading to a degree or another recognized educational credential Not required to be enrolled for the purpose of obtaining a degree or other credential
    Credit Applied Per student Per family
    Credit Amount 100% of the first $2,000 and 25% of the next $2,000 in qualified expenses 20% of up to $10,000 in qualified expenses
    Qualified Expenses Qualified tuition and related expenses, which include books, supplies and equipment required for enrollment or attendance Qualified tuition and related expenses; the books, supplies and equipment must be purchased from the educational institution
    High Income Phase-out Based upon filing status and adjusted gross income (inflation-adjusted annually; 2017 amounts shown) MFJ: $160,000 to $180,000MFS: No credit allowedUnmarried: $80,000 to $90,000 MFJ: $112,000 to $132,00MFS: No credit allowedUnmarried: $56,000 to $66,000
    Refundable* Partially; 40% of the credit is treated as refundable No

    *Generally, credits are nonrefundable, meaning that they can only be used to offset your tax liability; any amount exceeding your current-year tax liability is lost. However, unlike other credits, the AOTC is partially refundable in most cases.

    Many individuals who both work and attend school can be enrolled less than halftime and still qualify for the LLC.

    Another interesting twist to education credits is that the taxpayer who qualifies for and claims the student’s exemption for the year gets the credit—even if someone else pays the expenses. Thus, for example, even if a noncustodial parent pays a child’s college expenses, the custodial parent gets the credit if he or she is otherwise qualified. The same applies when grandparents help pay for their grandchild’s education; the grandparents do not qualify for the credit unless they, and not the child’s parents, claim the student as a dependent.

    Generally, the educational institution sends a Form 1098-T to the taxpayer (or dependent); this includes the information necessary to complete the IRS form and claim the credit. Unless the IRS has exempted the educational institution from having to file a 1098-T, the law requires the taxpayer to have this 1098-T in hand to claim either of the credits.

    If you have questions about how this these education tax credit provisions apply to you, please give Dagley & Co. a call.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Use Direct Deposit for Faster Refunds

    1 March 2017
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    Did you know, direct deposit is the quickest way to obtain your refund? At Dagley & Co., we don’t recommend waiting around for your paper check in the mail. We’ve broke down the crucial info to be aware of when it comes to finally receiving your hard-earned tax refund:

    • Speed—When combining e-file with direct deposit, the IRS will likely issue your refund in no more than 21 days.
    • Security—Direct Deposit offers the most secure method of obtaining your refund. There is no check to lose. Each year, the U.S. Post Office returns thousands of refund checks to the IRS as un-deliverable mail.

    Direct deposit eliminates un-deliverable mail and is also the best way to guard against having a tax refund check stolen.

    • Easy—Simply provide this office with your bank routing number and account number when we prepare your return and you’ll receive your refund far more quickly than you would by check.
    • Convenience— The money goes directly into your bank account. You won’t have to make a special trip to the bank to deposit the money yourself.
    • Eligible Financial Accounts – You can direct your refund to any of your checking or savings accounts with a U.S. financial institution as long as your financial institution accepts direct deposits for that type of account and you provide valid routing and account numbers. Examples of savings accounts include: passbook savings, individual development accounts, individual retirement arrangements, health savings accounts, Archer MSAs, and Coverdell education savings accounts.
    • Multiple Options—You can deposit your refund into up to three financial accounts that are in your name or your spouse’s name if it is a joint account. You can’t have part of the refund paid by paper check and part by Direct Deposit. With the split refund option, taxpayers can divide their refunds among as many as three checking or savings accounts at up to three different U.S. financial institutions. Check with your bank or other financial institution to make sure your Direct Deposit will be accepted.
    • Deposit Can’t Be to a Third Party’s Bank Account—To protect taxpayers from scammers, direct deposit tax refunds can only be deposited into an account or accounts owned by the taxpayer.  Therefore, only provide your own account information and not account information belonging to a third party.
    • Fund Your IRA—You can even direct a refund into your IRA or myRA account.

    To set up a direct deposit, you will need to provide the bank routing number (9 digits) and your account number for each account into which you wish to make a deposit. Be sure to have these numbers available at your appointment.

     

    For more information regarding direct deposit of your tax refund and the split refund option, Dagley & Co. would be happy to discuss your options with you at your tax appointment.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Using Custom Fields and Classes in QuickBooks Online

    22 February 2017
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    QuickBooks is perfect for many small business accounting departments. There are so many ways within the program to customize for your clients, customers, location, vendors, etc. to really make it your own. “Custom Fields” and “Classes” are two items Dagley & Co. recommends customizing on your QuickBooks Online account.

    Start from the Beginning with Custom Fields

    You can start working with custom fields and classes at any time. They’re most effective, though, when you build them in as you’re just starting to use QuickBooks Online.

    Let’s look at custom fields first. When we refer to “fields,” we simply mean the rectangular boxes in records and forms that either already contain data or that can be filled in by you, either by entering the correct word or phrase, or by selecting from drop-down lists. Most of these are already named. On an invoice, for example, there are fields for information like Invoice date and Due date.

    But you can add up to three additional fields to sales forms. To do so, click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the screen and select Account and Settings, then click Sales in the vertical navigation bar on the left. The second block here contains Sales form content. Click Custom fields, and you’ll see something like this:

    qb

    Click the word Off if it appears, and it will change to On and display three blank fields. Think carefully about what you would like to appear here, as this isn’t something you’ll want to change. If you haven’t yet met with us about how to set up QuickBooks Online, let’s schedule some sessions to go over all your setup procedures, including custom fields.

    Enter the words or phrases you want displayed on sales forms in the three fields. Then decide whether you want them to be visible only to you and your accounting staff or to your customers, too. Click within the Internal and Public to create check marks. When you’re done, click Save.

    Additional Categorization with Classes

    QuickBooks Online’s classes provide another way to categorize transactions. You can use them to differentiate between, for example, departments or divisions. If you’re a construction company, you might have different classes for New Construction and Remodel. Unlike custom fields, you’re not limited to three classes.

    You can filter many reports by class. QuickBooks Online contains report templates designed specifically for reporting by class, like Sales by Class Detail, Purchases by Class Detail, and Profit and Loss by Class.

    Here’s how you create your own list. Click the gear icon in the upper right of the screen and select Account and Settings. Then click Advanced in the left vertical navigation toolbar. Under the fourth heading, Categories, you’ll see Track classes. If the word “Off” appears to the right, click in the box to turn this feature on. A box like this will appear:

    qb2

    Even if you’ve defined a number of classes, they’re not required on transactions. If you want to be reminded should you forget to classify one, click in the box in front of Warn me when a transaction isn’t assigned a class. You can also choose to assign one class to an entire transaction or to each individual row. Click the arrow to the right of One to entire transaction to drop the option box down and make your choice. When you’re done, click Save.

    You can create classes as you’re entering transactions by clicking the arrow next to Class over to the right of the screen and selecting +Add new. We recommend, though, that you think this through ahead of time and make at least an initial list by clicking the gear icon in the upper right and choosing All Lists, then Classes, then New.

    Great Flexibility

    These are two of the customization tools that are built into QuickBooks Online. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been using the site for a while, Dagley & Co. can introduce you to all the ways that you can make QuickBooks Online your own.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Don’t Overlook Tax Deductions for Home Ownership

    20 February 2017
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    As a homeowner, you should be aware of the many tax benefits that go along with ownership. At Dagley & Co., we compiled a list of tax benefits that will be helpful for the current and next year’s tax season:

    Mortgage Interest Deduction – Although it may seem that you will never get that mortgage paid off, keep in mind that unmarried taxpayers and married couples can deduct, as an itemized deduction, the interest on up to $1 million of acquisition debt plus $100,000 of equity debt on their first and second homes, provided the loans are secured by the homes. A married taxpayer filing separately is limited to deducting the interest on $500,000 of acquisition debt and $50,000 of equity debt.

    Home Improvement Loan Interest Deduction – If you took out a loan secured by your home to make improvements on your main or a second home, that mortgage is treated the same as home acquisition debt, and the interest you pay on that loan is deductible as acquisition debt, so long as the combined total acquisition debt of the two homes does not exceed the $1 million limit on acquisition debt. Even if it does exceed the $1 million limit, the excess interest on up to the $100,000 equity debt limit may still be deductible. However, if you used the loan money to make repairs rather than improvements, the debt would only qualify as equity debt.

    Equity Debt – If you used the equity in your home to borrow money to buy a car, take a vacation, or for another use, interest paid on that debt is deductible up to the $100,000 equity debt limit. That is why it is sometimes better to finance large purchases with a deductible home equity loan rather than a non-deductible consumer loan.

    Property Tax Deduction – If you itemize your deductions, you can deduct the property taxes you paid during the year on your home. However, be careful; generally property taxes are billed on a fiscal year basis, so the amount billed may cover parts of two years. You can only deduct what you actually paid during the year. If you have an impound account (sometimes called an escrow account) with your mortgage lender, the amount paid will be included on the lender’s annual statement. Also be aware that if you are subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT), a deduction for taxes is not allowed when computing the AMT.

    Private Mortgage Insurance Premiums – Generally when home buyers are unable to make a 20% down payment when purchasing a home, the lender will require them to obtain private mortgage insurance (PMI) and the insurance premiums that go along with it. To be deductible, the insurance contract must have been issued after December 31, 2006. Those premiums are deductible if incurred for the purchase of your first or second home, and they are not limited by the $1 million limitation on home acquisition debt.

    The deductible amount of the premiums phases out ratably by 10% for each $1,000 by which the taxpayer’s AGI exceeds $100,000 (10% for each $500 by which a married separate taxpayer’s AGI exceeds $50,000). If AGI is over $109,000 ($54,500 married separate), the deduction is totally phased out.

    Congress failed to extend this deduction, and thus 2016 is the last year for it. If you are stuck with a PMI and your equity in your property has grown to be greater than 20% (you’ve paid down the mortgage balance to 80% of the home’s original appraised value), you may want to contact your lender about removing the PMI, refinancing to get rid of it, or obtaining an updated appraisal. When the balance drops to 78%, the mortgage servicer is required to eliminate PMI. (These rules generally don’t apply if your loan is guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).)

    Solar Energy Credits – Through 2021, taxpayers can get a tax credit on their federal tax return for purchasing and installing solar electric or solar water heating systems. The credit is 30% of the cost through 2019, at which time it begins to phase out and the credit is reduced to 26% for 2020 and 22% for the final year of 2021.

    The credit is nonrefundable, which means it can only be used to offset a taxpayer’s current tax liability, but any excess can be carried forward to offset tax through 2021. Both the solar electric and the solar water systems qualify for credit if installed on a taxpayer’s primary and secondary residences. However, no credit is allowed for heating water for hot tubs and swimming pools.

    Impairment-Related Home Expenses – If you, your spouse or a dependent living in your home has a physical handicap and you make modifications to the home or install special equipment to alleviate that disability, those costs may be deductible as a medical expense. The portion of the cost of permanent improvements that increases the value of the home is not deductible, but the difference can be included as a medical expense. However, home modifications made to accommodate a home for an individual’s handicap generally do not increase the value of the home and can be included in full with your medical deductions. These improvements include, but are not limited to, the following items:

    • Constructing entrance or exit ramps for the home,
    • Widening doorways at entrances or exits to the home,
    • Adding handrails, support bars and grab bars,
    • Lowering or modifying kitchen cabinets and equipment, and
    • Installing porch and stair lifts.

    Points Deduction – Points are a form of prepaid interest; one point is equal to 1% of a loan amount. Points are often labeled “loan origination fees,” “premium charges,” etc. At times, certain loan charges may be called points but are really amounts lenders charge for setting up a loan. Such “service charge points” aren’t normally deductible.

    Generally, prepaid interest must be amortized (deducted) over the life of a loan; however, tax law carved out a special rule that allows points incurred for purchase of a primary residence to be fully deducted on the return for the year in which they are paid. This special rule also applies to loan points incurred for home improvement loans.

    Home Office Deduction – If you are self-employed, you may qualify for a deduction for the business use of your home, commonly known as the home office deduction. You may also qualify if you are an employee and the use of the home is for the convenience of the employer. In either case the portion of the home used for business qualifies for the deduction only if it is used exclusively for business.

    There are two methods that can be used to determine the deduction: (1) the actual expense method, where you prorate the home expenses such as utilities, insurance, maintenance, interest, taxes and depreciation, or (2) a simplified deduction, which is $5 per square foot of office space, with a maximum square footage of 300. If the latter method is used, mortgage interest and real property tax deductions may be claimed as usual as part of itemized deductions, but a proration of other home-related expenses isn’t deductible. In either case, the deduction is limited to the income from the business activity.

    If you have questions about any of these tax related home ownership deductions/issues, give Dagley & Co. a call. Or, are you considering purchasing a home? Dagely & Co. will help you to understand how the home ownership will impact your taxes.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Tax Benefits for Parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

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  • Don’t Overlook Standard Mileage Rate Add-Ons

    15 February 2017
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    Business owners and employees often use the standard mileage rate when taking a deduction for the business use of their vehicle. The standard mileage rate is determined annually by the IRS by using data based on the prior year’s costs. For 2017, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) is 53.5 cents per mile for business miles driven, down from 54 cents for 2016. Operating expenses include:

    • Gasoline
    • Oil
    • Lubrication
    • Repairs
    • Vehicle registration fees
    • Insurance
    • Straight line depreciation (or lease payments)

    What business owners using the standard mileage rate frequently overlook is that parking and tolls, as well as state and local property taxes paid for the vehicle and attributable to business use, may be deducted in addition to the standard mileage rate.

    Regardless of whether the standard mileage rate or actual expense method is used, a self-employed taxpayer may also deduct the business use portion of interest paid on an auto loan on their Schedule C. However, employees may not deduct interest paid on a consumer car loan.

    If you have questions related to taking a tax deduction for the business use of your vehicle, please give Dagley & Co. a call.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Childcare Providers Enjoy Special Tax Deductions

    13 February 2017
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    Are you a childcare provider? If so, did you know are certain tax laws that provide you and your business with special tax breaks? These breaks include deductions for travel, capital purchases, supplies, children’s meals and the business use of your home. Dagley & Co. has broke down each tax break category for you:

    Travel – Your auto expenses are based on the number of qualified business miles that you drive. Auto expenses for you (as a day care provider) could include transportation:

    • To and from a class taken to enhance your day care skills;
    • For field trips with those for whom you are providing care;
    • For errands related to day care business (e.g., going to the bank to deposit day care receipts or to the store to shop for day care supplies); or
    • To chauffeur day care attendees.

    To claim business use of your vehicle, use the actual expense method or the standard mileage rate. However, the actual method requires far more detailed records; you must keep track of your business miles and total miles to prorate the costs of fuel, insurance, repairs, etc. You will probably find the standard mileage rate to be far less complicated, as you only need to contemporaneously record your business miles and the purpose of each trip. Even with the standard method, you’ll still need to know the total miles driven for the year. For 2017, the rate is 53.5 cents per mile, down from 54.0 cents per mile in 2016.

    Capital Purchases – Capital items are those that normally last more than one year, including cribs and playground equipment. Be sure to keep receipts for these items, as they can generally be depreciated or expensed, whichever works best for you.

    Supplies and Business Expenses – The cost of items such as crayons, coloring books, paper plates, cups, cleaning supplies, and first aid supplies are also deductible in the year they are purchased. However, you need to keep receipts for all such purchases.

    Food – You can also deduct the actual cost of any food that is provided to the children in your care. It can be a bookkeeping nightmare to keep track of which grocery items were purchased for the childcare business and which were for personal consumption. Luckily, the government allows a care provider to deduct standard meal rates in lieu of actual amounts. This method does not require you to keep grocery receipts, and the IRS will not contest a food deduction based on the standard rates. The rates are the same throughout the contiguous U.S. states, with higher allowances for Alaska and Hawaii.

     

    Year State Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snack
     2016 ContiguousAlaska

    Hawaii

    $1.32$2.11

    $1.54

    $2.48$4.02

    $2.90

    $2.48$4.02

    $2.90

    $0.74$1.20

    $0.86

    2017 ContiguousAlaska

    Hawaii

    $1.31$2.09

    $1.53

    $2.46$3.99

    $2.88

    $2.46$3.99

    $2.88

    $0.73$1.19

    $0.86

     

    Business Use of the Home – Generally, when a taxpayer claims a business deduction for the use of his or her home, the portion of the home that is used must be exclusively used for business purposes. Knowing that childcare providers do not use a specific space in the home 100 percent of the time, Congress added an exception related to the business’s licensing, certification, registration, or approval as a day care center or family/group care home under the provisions of any applicable state law. This exception applies only if the childcare owner or operator has applied for, been granted, or is exempt from such approval. In addition, the exception does not apply if the services performed are primarily educational or instructional in nature (e.g., musical instruction). However, the exception does apply if the services are primarily custodial, such that any educational, developmental or enrichment activities are only incidental to the custodial services. The services must be provided for adults age 65 or older, children, or other individuals who are physically or mentally incapable of caring for themselves.

    When calculating the percentage use of a home for business, there are two factors: the space used to operate the day care business and the amount of time that the space is used to provide day care, including preparation and cleaning time.

    Example – Edna uses her living room, kitchen, and bathroom ten hours a day, five days a week to provide licensed day care services. The home is 2,400 square feet, and the living room, kitchen, and bathroom are a combined 1,400 square feet. Edna’s percentage use of her home for business is determined as follows:

     

    Edna’s Home Use Expenses (full year)

     Utilities                                        $645

     Homeowner’s Insurance                   550

     Mortgage Interest                         6,150

     Property Tax                                2,550

     Depreciation                                4,585

     TOTAL                                    $14,480

     Business Deduction                      $2,514 (.1736 x $14,480)

     

    There is also a simplified deduction method for the business use of a home; it may be useful for individuals who work from a home office, but it is generally unsuitable for a childcare business.

    The deduction for the business use of a home is limited to gross income from the business. If that limit applies to you, any home mortgage interest and property taxes that you have paid, as well as any casualty losses that you have incurred for the year, are always deductible when you itemize deductions, regardless of whether you claim a deduction for the business use of the home.

    If you have questions related to how any of these tax breaks apply to you and your childcare business, please give Dagley & Co. a call.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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