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The IRS has just announced 2024 amounts for Health Savings Accounts

The IRS recently released guidance providing the 2024 inflation-adjusted amounts for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).


HSA fundamentals

An HSA is a trust created or organized exclusively for the purpose of paying the “qualified medical expenses” of an “account beneficiary.” An HSA can only be established for the benefit of an “eligible individual” who is covered under a “high-deductible health plan.” In addition, a participant can’t be enrolled in Medicare or have other health coverage (exceptions include dental, vision, long-term care, accident and specific disease insurance).
Within specified dollar limits, an above-the-line tax deduction is allowed for an individual’s contributions to an HSA. This annual contribution limitation and the annual deductible and out-of-pocket expenses under the tax code are adjusted annually for inflation.


Inflation adjustments for next year

In Revenue Procedure 2023-23, the IRS released the 2024 inflation-adjusted figures for contributions to HSAs, which are as follows:

Annual contribution limitation.

For calendar year 2024, the annual contribution limitation for an individual with self-only coverage under an HDHP will be $4,150. For an individual with family coverage, the amount will be $8,300. This is up from $3,850 and $7,750, respectively, in 2023.
There is an additional $1,000 “catch-up” contribution amount for those age 55 and older in 2024 (and 2023).

High-deductible health plan defined. 

For calendar year 2024, an HDHP will be a health plan with an annual deductible that isn’t less than $1,600 for self-only coverage or $3,200 for family coverage (up from $1,500 and $3,000, respectively, in 2023). In addition, annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) won’t be able to exceed $8,050 for self-only coverage or $16,100 for family coverage (up from $7,500 and $15,000, respectively, in 2023).


Advantages of HSAs

There are a variety of benefits to HSAs. Contributions to the accounts are made on a pre-tax basis. The money can accumulate tax-free year after year and can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for a variety of medical expenses such as doctor visits, prescriptions, chiropractic care and premiums for long-term care insurance. In addition, an HSA is “portable.” It stays with an account holder if he or she changes employers or leaves the workforce. Contact your employee benefits and tax advisors if you have questions about HSAs at your business.
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4 tax challenges you may encounter if you’re retiring soon

Are you getting ready to retire? If so, you’ll soon experience changes in your lifestyle and income sources that may have numerous tax implications.
Here’s a brief rundown of four tax and financial issues you may contend with when you retire:


Taking required minimum distributions.

These are the minimum amounts you must withdraw from your retirement accounts. You generally must start taking withdrawals from your IRA, SEP, SIMPLE and other retirement plan accounts when you reach age 73 if you were age 72 after December 31, 2022. If you reach age 72 in 2023, the required beginning date for your first RMD is April 1, 2025, for 2024. Roth IRAs don’t require withdrawals until after the death of the owner.

You can withdraw more than the minimum required amount. Your withdrawals will be included in your taxable income except for any part that was taxed before or that can be received tax-free (such as qualified distributions from Roth accounts).


Selling your principal residence.

Many retirees want to downsize to smaller homes. If you’re one of them and you have a gain from the sale of your principal residence, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of that gain from your income. If you file a joint return, you may be able to exclude up to $500,000.

To claim the exclusion, you must meet certain requirements. During a five-year period ending on the date of the sale, you must have owned the home and lived in it as your main home for at least two years.
If you’re thinking of selling your home, make sure you’ve identified all items that should be included in its basis, which can save you tax.


Getting involved in new work activities. 

After retirement, many people continue to work as consultants or start new businesses. Here are some tax-related questions to ask if you’re launching a new venture:
  • Should it be a sole proprietorship, S corporation, C corporation, partnership or limited liability company?
  • Are you familiar with how to elect to amortize start-up expenditures and make payroll tax deposits?
  • Can you claim home office deductions?
  • How should you finance the business?


Taking Social Security benefits.

If you continue to work, it may have an impact on your Social Security benefits. If you retire before reaching full Social Security retirement age (65 years of age for people born before 1938, rising to 67 years of age for people born after 1959) and the sum of your wages plus self-employment income is over the Social Security annual exempt amount ($21,240 for 2023), you must give back $1 of Social Security benefits for each $2 of excess earnings.
If you reach full retirement age this year, your benefits will be reduced $1 for every $3 you earn over a different annual limit ($56,520 in 2023) until the month you reach full retirement age. Then, your earnings will no longer affect the amount of your monthly benefits, no matter how much you earn.

Speaking of Social Security, you may have to pay federal (and possibly state) tax on your benefits. Depending on how much income you have from other sources, you may have to report up to 85% of your benefits as income on your tax return and pay the resulting federal income tax.


Tax planning is still important

As you can see, you may have to make many decisions after you retire. We can help maximize the tax breaks you’re entitled to so you can keep more of your hard-earned money.
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If you’re hiring independent contractors, make sure they’re properly handled

Many businesses use independent contractors to help keep their costs down — especially in these times of staff shortages and inflationary pressures. If you’re among them, be careful that these workers are properly classified for federal tax purposes. If the IRS reclassifies them as employees, it can be an expensive mistake.

The question of whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee for federal income and employment tax purposes is a complex one. If a worker is an employee, your company must withhold federal income and payroll taxes and pay the employer’s share of FICA taxes on the wages, plus FUTA tax. A business may also provide the worker with fringe benefits if it makes them available to other employees. In addition, there may be state tax obligations.

On the other hand, if a worker is an independent contractor, these obligations don’t apply. In that case, the business simply sends the contractor a Form 1099-NEC for the year showing the amount paid (if it’s $600 or more).


No one definition

Who’s an “employee?” Unfortunately, there’s no uniform definition of the term.
The IRS and courts have generally ruled that individuals are employees if the organization they work for has the right to control and direct them in the jobs they’re performing. Otherwise, the individuals are generally independent contractors. But other factors are also taken into account including who provides tools and who pays expenses.

Some employers that have misclassified workers as independent contractors may get some relief from employment tax liabilities under Section 530. This protection generally applies only if an employer meets certain requirements. For example, the employer must file all federal returns consistent with its treatment of a worker as a contractor and it must treat all similarly situated workers as contractors.
Note: Section 530 doesn’t apply to certain types of workers.


You can ask the IRS but think twice

Be aware that you can ask the IRS (on Form SS-8) to rule on whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee. However, you should also be aware that the IRS has a history of classifying workers as employees rather than independent contractors.

Businesses should consult with us before filing Form SS-8 because it may alert the IRS that your business has worker classification issues — and it may unintentionally trigger an employment tax audit.

It may be better to properly set up a relationship with workers to treat them as independent contractors so that your business complies with the tax rules.
Workers who want an official determination of their status can also file Form SS-8. Dissatisfied independent contractors may do so because they feel entitled to employee benefits and want to eliminate their self-employment tax liabilities.

If a worker files Form SS-8, the IRS will notify the business with a letter. It identifies the worker and includes a blank Form SS-8. The business is asked to complete and return the form to the IRS, which will render a classification decision.
These are the basic tax rules. Contact us if you’d like to discuss how to classify workers at your business. We can help make sure that your workers are properly classified.
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Questions you may still have after filing your tax return

If you’ve successfully filed your 2022 tax return with the IRS, you may think you’re done with taxes for another year. But some questions may still crop up about the return. Here are brief answers to three questions that we’re frequently asked at this time of year.


When will your refund arrive?

The IRS has an online tool that can tell you the status of your refund. Go to irs.gov and click on “Get Your Refund Status.” You’ll need your Social Security number, filing status and the exact refund amount.


Which tax records can you throw away
now?


At a minimum, keep tax records related to your return for as long as the IRS can audit your return or assess additional taxes. In general, the statute of limitations is three years after you file your return. So you can generally get rid of most records related to tax returns for 2019 and earlier years. (If you filed an extension for your 2019 return, hold on to your records until at least three years from when you filed the extended return.)

However, the statute of limitations extends to six years for taxpayers who understate their gross income by more than 25%.

You should hang on to certain tax-related records longer. For example, keep the actual tax returns indefinitely, so you can prove to the IRS that you filed legitimate returns. (There’s no statute of limitations for an audit if you didn’t file a return or you filed a fraudulent one.)

When it comes to retirement accounts, keep records associated with them until you’ve depleted the account and reported the last withdrawal on your tax return, plus three (or six) years. And retain records related to real estate or investments for as long as you own the asset, plus at least three years after you sell it and report the sale on your tax return. (You can keep these records for six years if you want to be extra safe.)


Can you still collect a refund for a tax credit or deduction if you overlooked claiming it?

In general, you can file an amended tax return and claim a refund within three years after the date you filed your original return or within two years of the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
However, there are a few opportunities when you have longer to file an amended return. For example, the statute of limitations for bad debts is longer than the usual three-year time limit for most items on your tax return. In general, you can amend your tax return to claim a bad debt for seven years from the due date of the tax return for the year that the debt became worthless.


Help available all year long

Contact us if you have questions about retaining tax records, receiving your refund or filing an amended return. We’re not just here at tax filing time. We’re here all year long.
 
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Use the tax code to make business losses less painful

Whether you’re operating a new company or an established business, losses can happen. The federal tax code may help soften the blow by allowing businesses to apply losses to offset taxable income in future years, subject to certain limitations.


Qualifying for a deduction

The net operating loss (NOL) deduction addresses the tax inequities that can exist between businesses with stable income and those with fluctuating income. It essentially lets the latter average out their income and losses over the years and pay tax accordingly.

You may be eligible for the NOL deduction if your deductions for the tax year are greater than your income. The loss generally must be caused by deductions related to your:
 
  • Business (Schedules C and F losses, or Schedule K-1 losses from partnerships or S corporations),
  • Casualty and theft losses from a federally declared disaster, or
  • Rental property (Schedule E).
The following generally aren’t allowed when determining your NOL:
 
  • Capital losses that exceed capital gains,
  • The exclusion for gains from the sale or exchange of qualified small business stock,
  • Nonbusiness deductions that exceed nonbusiness income,
  • The NOL deduction itself, and
  • The Section 199A qualified business income deduction.
Individuals and C corporations are eligible to claim the NOL deduction. Partnerships and S corporations generally aren’t eligible, but partners and shareholders can use their separate shares of the business’s income and deductions to calculate individual NOLs.


Limitations

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) made significant changes to the NOL rules. Previously, taxpayers could carry back NOLs for two years, and carry forward the losses 20 years. They also could apply NOLs against 100% of their taxable income.

The TCJA limits the NOL deduction to 80% of taxable income for the year and eliminates the carryback of NOLs (except for certain farming losses). However, it does allow NOLs to be carried forward indefinitely.

A COVID-19 relief law temporarily loosened the TCJA restrictions. It allowed NOLs arising in 2018, 2019 or 2020 to be carried back five years and removed the taxable income limitation for years beginning before 2021. As a result, NOLs could completely offset income. However, these provisions have expired.

If your NOL carryforward is more than your taxable income for the year to which you carry it, you may have an NOL carryover. The carryover will be the excess of the NOL deduction over your modified taxable income for the carryforward year. If your NOL deduction includes multiple NOLs, you must apply them against your modified taxable income in the same order you incurred them, beginning with the earliest.


Excess business losses

The TCJA established an “excess business loss” limitation, which took effect in 2021. For partnerships or S corporations, this limitation is applied at the partner or shareholder level, after the outside basis, at-risk and passive activity loss limitations have been applied.

Under the rule, noncorporate taxpayers’ business losses can offset only business-related income or gain, plus an inflation-adjusted threshold. For 2023, that threshold is $289,000 ($578,000 if married filing jointly). Remaining losses are treated as an NOL carryforward to the next tax year. In other words, you can’t fully deduct them because they become subject to the 80% income limitation on NOLs, reducing their tax value.

Important: Under the Inflation Reduction Act, the excess business loss limitation applies to tax years beginning before January 1, 2029. Under the TCJA, it had been scheduled to expire after December 31, 2026.


Planning ahead

The tax rules regarding business losses are complex, especially when accounting for how NOLs can interact with other potential tax breaks. We can help you chart the best course forward.
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Education benefits help attract, retain and motivate your employees

One popular fringe benefit is an education assistance program that allows employees to continue learning and perhaps earn a degree with financial assistance from their employers. One way to attract, retain and motivate employees is to provide education fringe benefits so that team members can improve their skills and gain additional knowledge. An employee can receive, on a tax-free basis, up to $5,250 each year from his or her employer under a “qualified educational assistance program.”

For this purpose, “education” means any form of instruction or training that improves or develops an individual’s capabilities. It doesn’t matter if it’s job-related or part of a degree program. This includes employer-provided education assistance for graduate-level courses, including those normally taken by individuals pursuing programs leading to a business, medical, law or other advanced academic or professional degrees.


More requirements

The educational assistance must be provided under a separate written plan that’s publicized to your employees, and must meet a number of conditions, including nondiscrimination requirements. In other words, it can’t discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees. In addition, not more than 5% of the amounts paid or incurred by the employer for educational assistance during the year may be provided for individuals (including their spouses or dependents) who own 5% or more of the business.
No deduction or credit can be taken by the employee for any amount excluded from the employee’s income as an education assistance benefit.


Job-related education

If you pay more than $5,250 for educational benefits for an employee during the year, he or she must generally pay tax on the amount over $5,250. Your business should include the amount in income in the employee’s wages. However, in addition to, or instead of applying the $5,250 exclusion, an employer can satisfy an employee’s educational expenses on a nontaxable basis, if the educational assistance is job-related . To qualify as job-related, the educational assistance must:
  • Maintain or improve skills required for the employee’s then-current job, or
  • Comply with certain express employer-imposed conditions for continued employment.
“Job-related” employer educational assistance isn’t subject to a dollar limit. To be job-related, the education can’t qualify the employee to meet the minimum educational requirements for qualification in his or her employment or other trade or business.
Educational assistance meeting the above “job-related” rules is excludable from an employee’s income as a working condition fringe benefit.


Assistance with student loans

In addition to education assistance, some employers offer student loan repayment assistance as a recruitment and retention tool. Starting next year, employers can help more. Under the SECURE 2.0 law, an employer will be able to make matching contributions to 401(k) and certain other retirement plans with respect to “qualified student loan payments.” The result of this provision is that employees who can’t afford to save money for retirement because they’re repaying student loan debt can still receive matching contributions from their employers. This will take effect in 2024.


Contact us to learn more about setting up an education assistance or student loan repayment plan at your business.
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Tax news for investors and users of cryptocurrency

If you’re a crypto investor or user, you may have noticed something new on your tax return this year. And you may soon notice a new form reporting requirements for digital assets.

Check the box
Beginning with tax year 2022, taxpayers must check a box on their tax returns indicating whether they received digital assets as a reward, award or payment for property or services or whether they disposed of any digital assets that were held as capital assets through sales, exchanges or transfers. If the “yes” box is checked, taxpayers must report all income related to the digital asset transactions.

New information form
Under the broker information reporting rules, brokers must report transactions in securities to both the IRS and investors. Transactions are reported on Form 1099-B. Legislation enacted in 2021 extended these reporting rules to cryptocurrency exchanges, custodians and platforms and to digital assets such as cryptocurrency. The new rules were scheduled to be effective for returns required to be filed, and statements required to be furnished, for post-2022 transactions. But the IRS has postponed the effective date until it issues new final regulations that provide instructions.

In addition to extending this reporting requirement to cryptocurrency, the legislation also extended existing cash reporting rules (for cash payments of $10,000 or more) to cryptocurrency. That means businesses that accept crypto payments of $10,000 or more must report them to the IRS on Form 8300. These rules apply to transactions that take place in 2023 and later years.

Existing rules and new reporting for digital assets
Currently, if you have a stock account, whenever you sell securities, you receive a Form 1099-B. On the form, your broker reports details of transactions, such as sale proceeds, relevant dates, your tax basis for the sale and the gain or loss.
The 2021 legislation expanded the definition of “brokers” who must furnish Forms 1099-B to include businesses that regularly provide services accomplishing transfers of digital assets on behalf of another person. Thus, once the IRS issues final regulations, any platform where you buy and sell cryptocurrency will have to report digital asset transactions to you and the IRS.

These exchanges/platforms will have to gather information from customers, so they can issue Forms 1099-B. Specifically, they will have to get customers’ names, addresses and phone numbers, the gross proceeds from sales, capital gains or losses and whether they were short-term or long-term.

Note: It’s not yet known whether exchanges/platforms will have to file Form 1099-B (modified to include digital assets) or a new IRS form.

Cash transaction reporting
Under a set of rules separate from the broker reporting rules, when a business receives $10,000 or more in cash, it must report the transaction to the IRS, including the identity of the person from whom the cash was received. This is done on Form 8300. For this reporting requirement, businesses will have to treat digital assets like cash.

Form 8300 requires reporting information including address, occupation and taxpayer identification number. The current rules that apply to cash usually apply to in-person payments in actual cash. It may be difficult for businesses seeking to comply with the reporting rules to collect the information needed for crypto transactions.

What you should know
If you use a cryptocurrency exchange or platform, and it hasn’t already collected a Form W-9 from you, expect it to do so. In addition to collecting information from customers, these businesses will need to begin tracking the holding periods and the buy-and-sell prices of digital assets in customers’ accounts. Contact us for more information in your situation.
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4 ways corporate business owners can help ensure their compensation is “reasonable”

If you’re the owner of an incorporated business, you know there’s a tax advantage to taking money out of a C corporation as compensation rather than as dividends. The reason: A corporation can deduct the salaries and bonuses that it pays executives, but not dividend payments. Therefore, if funds are paid as dividends, they’re taxed twice, once to the corporation and once to the recipient. Money paid out as compensation is only taxed once — to the employee who receives it.

However, there are limits to how much money you can take out of the corporation this way. Under tax law, compensation can be deducted only to the extent that it’s reasonable. Any unreasonable portion isn’t deductible and, if paid to a shareholder, may be taxed as if it were a dividend. Keep in mind that the IRS is generally more interested in unreasonable compensation payments made to someone “related” to a corporation, such as a shareholder-employee or a member of a shareholder’s family.

Steps to help protect yourself
There’s no simple way to determine what’s reasonable. If the IRS audits your tax return, it will examine the amount that similar companies would pay for comparable services under similar circumstances. Factors that are taken into account include the employee’s duties and the amount of time spent on those duties, as well as the employee’s skills, expertise and compensation history. Other factors that may be reviewed are the complexities of the business and its gross and net income.

There are four steps you can take to make it more likely that the compensation you earn will be considered “reasonable,” and therefore deductible by your corporation: Keep compensation in line with what similar businesses are paying their executives (and keep whatever evidence you can get of what others are paying to support what you pay). In the minutes of your corporation’s board of directors’ meetings, contemporaneously document the reasons for compensation paid. For example, if compensation is being increased in the current year to make up for earlier years in which it was low, be sure that the minutes reflect this. (Ideally, the minutes for the earlier years should reflect that the compensation paid then was at a reduced rate.) Cite any executive compensation or industry studies that back up your compensation amounts. Avoid paying compensation in direct proportion to the stock owned by the corporation’s shareholders. This looks too much like a disguised dividend and will probably be treated as such by the IRS. If the business is profitable, pay at least some dividends. This avoids giving the impression that the corporation is trying to pay out all of its profits as compensation.

You can avoid problems and challenges by planning ahead. Contact us if you have questions or concerns about your situation.
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There’s a favorable “stepped-up basis” if you inherit property

A common question for people planning their estates or inheriting property is: For tax purposes, what’s the “cost” (or “basis”) an individual gets in property that he or she inherits from another? This is an important area and is too often overlooked when families start to put their affairs in order.

Under the fair market value basis rules (also known as the “step-up and step-down” rules), an heir receives a basis in inherited property that’s equal to its date-of-death value. So, for example, if your grandfather bought shares in an oil stock in 1940 for $500 and it was worth $5 million at his death, the basis would be stepped up to $5 million for your grandfather’s heirs. That means all of that gain escapes income taxation forever!

The fair market value basis rules apply to inherited property that’s includible in the deceased individual’s gross estate, whether or not a federal estate tax return was filed, and those rules also apply to property inherited from foreign persons, who aren’t subject to U.S. estate tax. The rules apply to the inherited portion of property owned by the inheriting taxpayer jointly with the deceased, but not the portion of jointly held property that the inheriting taxpayer owned before his or her inheritance. The fair market value basis rules also don’t apply to reinvestments of estate assets by fiduciaries.


Lifetime gifting

It’s crucial for you to understand the fair market value basis rules so that you don’t pay more tax than you’re legally required to.

For example, in the above scenario, if your grandfather instead decided to make a gift of the stock during his lifetime (rather than passing it on when he died), the “step-up” in basis (from $500 to $5 million) would be lost. Property acquired by gift that has gone up in value is subject to the “carryover” basis rules. That means the person receiving the gift takes the same basis the donor had in it ($500 in this example), plus a portion of any gift tax the donor pays on the gift.

A “step-down” occurs if someone dies owning property that has declined in value. In that case, the basis is lowered to the date-of-death value. Proper planning calls for seeking to avoid this loss of basis. Giving the property away before death won’t preserve the basis. That’s because when property that has gone down in value is the subject of a gift, the person receiving the gift must take the date of gift value as his or her basis (for purposes of determining his or her loss on a later sale). Therefore, a good strategy for property that has declined in value is for the owner to sell it before death so he or she can enjoy the tax benefits of the loss.

These are the basic rules. Other rules and limits may apply. For example, in some cases, a deceased person’s executor may be able to make an alternate valuation election. And gifts made just before a person dies (sometimes called “death bed gifts”) may be included in the gross estate for tax purposes. Contact us for tax assistance when estate planning or after receiving an inheritance.
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Take advantage of the rehabilitation tax credit when altering or adding to business space

If your business occupies substantial space and needs to increase or move from that space in the future, you should keep the rehabilitation tax credit in mind. This is especially true if you favor historic buildings.

The credit is equal to 20% of the qualified rehabilitation expenditures (QREs) for a qualified rehabilitated building that’s also a certified historic structure. A qualified rehabilitated building is a depreciable building that has been placed in service before the beginning of the rehabilitation and is used, after rehabilitation, in business or for the production of income (and not held primarily for sale). Additionally, the building must be “substantially” rehabilitated, which generally requires that the QREs for the rehabilitation exceed the greater of $5,000 or the adjusted basis of the existing building.

A QRE is any amount chargeable to capital and incurred in connection with the rehabilitation (including reconstruction) of a qualified rehabilitated building. QREs must be for real property (but not land) and can’t include building enlargement or acquisition costs.

The 20% credit is allocated ratably to each year in the five-year period beginning in the tax year in which the qualified rehabilitated building is placed in service. Thus, the credit allowed in each year of the five-year period is 4% (20% divided by 5) of the QREs with respect to the building. The credit is allowed against both regular federal income tax and alternative minimum tax.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was signed at the end of 2017, made some changes to the credit. Specifically, the law:
  • Requires taxpayers to take the 20% credit ratably over five years instead of in the year they placed the building into service
  • Eliminated the 10% rehabilitation credit for pre-1936 buildings
Contact us to discuss the technical aspects of the rehabilitation credit. There may also be other federal tax benefits available for the space you’re contemplating. For example, various tax benefits might be available depending on your preferences as to how a building’s energy needs will be met and where the building is located. In addition, there may be state or local tax and non-tax subsidies available.

Getting beyond these preliminary considerations, we can work with you and construction professionals to determine whether a specific available “old” building can be the subject of a rehabilitation that’s both tax-credit-compliant and practical to use. And, if you do find a building that you decide you’ll buy (or lease) and rehabilitate, we can help you monitor project costs and substantiate the compliance of the project with the requirements of the credit and any other tax benefits.
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Paperwork you can toss after filing your tax return

Once you file your 2022 tax return, you may wonder what personal tax papers you can throw away and how long you should retain certain records. You may have to produce those records if the IRS audits your return or seeks to assess tax.
It’s a good idea to keep the actual returns indefinitely. But what about supporting records such as receipts and canceled checks? In general, except in cases of fraud or substantial understatement of income, the IRS can only assess tax within three years after the return for that year was filed (or three years after the return was due). For example, if you filed your 2019 tax return by its original due date of April 15, 2020, the IRS has until April 15, 2023, to assess a tax deficiency against you. If you file late, the IRS generally has three years from the date you filed.
However, the assessment period is extended to six years if more than 25% of gross income is omitted from a return. In addition, if no return is filed, the IRS can assess tax any time. If the IRS claims you never filed a return for a particular year, a copy of the return will help prove you did.


Property-related records

The tax consequences of a transaction that occurs this year may depend on events that happened years ago. For example, suppose you bought your home in 2007, made capital improvements in 2014 and sold it this year. To determine the tax consequences of the sale, you must know your basis in the home — your original cost, plus later capital improvements. If you’re audited, you may have to produce records related to the purchase in 2007 and the capital improvements in 2014 to prove what your basis is. Therefore, those records should be kept until at least six years after filing your return for the year of sale.
Retain all records related to home purchases and improvements even if you expect your gain to be covered by the home-sale exclusion, which can be up to $500,000 for joint return filers. You’ll still need to prove the amount of your basis if the IRS inquires. Plus, there’s no telling what the home will be worth when it’s sold, and there’s no guarantee the home-sale exclusion will still be available in the future.

Other considerations apply to property that’s likely to be bought and sold — for example, stock or shares in a mutual fund. Remember that if you reinvest dividends to buy additional shares, each reinvestment is a separate purchase.


Marital breakup

If you separate or divorce, be sure you have access to tax records affecting you that are kept by your spouse. Or better yet, make copies of the records since access to them may be difficult. Copies of all joint returns filed and supporting records are important, since both spouses are liable for tax on a joint return and a deficiency may be asserted against either spouse. Other important records include agreements or decrees over custody of children and any agreement about who is entitled to claim them as dependents.


Loss or destruction of records

To safeguard records against theft, fire, or other disaster, consider keeping important papers in a safe deposit box or other safe place outside your home. In addition, consider keeping copies in a single, easily accessible location so that you can grab them if you must leave your home in an emergency.

Contact us if you have any questions about record retention.
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The tax rules for donating artwork to charity

If you’re an art collector, you may wonder about the tax breaks available for donating a work of art to charity. Several different tax rules may come into play in connection with such contributions.

Basic rules
Your deduction for a charitable contribution of art is subject to be reduced if the charity’s use of it is unrelated to the purpose or function that’s the basis for its qualification as a tax-exempt organization. The reduction equals the amount of capital gain you would have realized had you sold the property instead of giving it to charity.

Example: You bought a painting five years ago for $10,000 and now it’s worth $20,000. You contribute it to a hospital. Your deduction is limited to $10,000 because the hospital’s use of the painting is unrelated to its charitable function and you would have had a $10,000 long-term capital gain had you sold it.
But what if you donate the painting to an art museum? In this case, your deduction is $20,000.

Substantiation requirements
There are substantiation rules when you donate a work of art. First, if you claim a deduction of less than $250, you must get and keep a receipt from the charity and you must keep reliable written records for each item you contributed.
If you claim a deduction of at least $250, but not more than $500, you must get and keep an acknowledgment of your contribution from the charity. The acknowledgment must state whether the organization gave you any goods or services in return for your contribution and include a description and good-faith estimate of the value.
If you claim a deduction of more than $500, but not over $5,000, in addition to getting an acknowledgment, you must maintain written records that include information about how and when you obtained the artwork and its cost basis. You must also complete an IRS form and attach it to your tax return.
If the claimed value of the property exceeds $5,000, in addition to an acknowledgment, you must also have an appraisal of the property. This appraisal must be done by a qualified appraiser no more than 60 days before the contribution date and meet other requirements. You include information about these donations on the IRS form you file with your return.
If your total deduction is $20,000 or more, you must attach a copy of the signed appraisal. The IRS may request that you provide a photograph. If an item has been appraised at $50,000 or more, you can ask the IRS to issue a “Statement of Value,” which can be used to substantiate the value.

Percentage limitations
In addition, your deduction may be limited to 20%, 30%, 50%, or 60% of your contribution base, which usually is your adjusted gross income. The percentage varies depending on the year the contribution is made, the type of organization and whether the deduction had to be reduced because of the unrelated use rule explained above. The amount not deductible on account of a ceiling may be deductible in a later year under carryover rules.

Partial interest gifts
Donors sometimes make gifts of partial interests in artwork. For example, a donor may contribute a 50% interest in a painting to a museum, with the understanding that the museum will exhibit it for six months of the year and the donor will keep possession of it for the other six months. Special requirements apply to these donations.

We can help
Contact us for guidance on large charitable gifts. We can help ensure the best tax outcome.
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The tax advantages of hiring your child this summer

Summer is around the corner so you may be thinking about hiring young people at your small business. At the same time, you may have children looking to earn extra spending money. You can save family income and payroll taxes by putting your child on the payroll. It’s a win-win!
Here are four tax advantages.

1. Shifting business earnings
You can turn some of your high-taxed income into tax-free or low-taxed income by shifting some business earnings to a child as wages for services performed. In order for your business to deduct the wages as a business expense, the work done by the child must be legitimate and the child’s salary must be reasonable.
For example, suppose you’re a sole proprietor in the 37% tax bracket. You hire your 16-year-old son to help with office work full-time in the summer and part-time in the fall. He earns $10,000 during the year (and doesn’t have other earnings). You can save $3,700 (37% of $10,000) in income taxes at no tax cost to your son, who can use his $13,850 standard deduction for 2023 to shelter his earnings.
Family taxes are cut even if your son’s earnings exceed his standard deduction. That’s because the unsheltered earnings will be taxed to him beginning at a 10% rate, instead of being taxed at your higher rate.

2. Claiming income tax withholding exemption
Your business likely will have to withhold federal income taxes on your child’s wages. Usually, an employee can claim exempt status if he or she had no federal income tax liability for last year and expects to have none this year.
However, exemption from withholding can’t be claimed if: 1) the employee’s income exceeds $1,250 for 2023 (and includes more than $400 of unearned income), and 2) the employee can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return.
Keep in mind that your child probably will get a refund for part or all of the withheld tax when filing a return for the year.

3. Saving Social Security tax
If your business isn’t incorporated, you can also save some Social Security tax by shifting some of your earnings to your child. That’s because services performed by a child under age 18 while employed by a parent aren’t considered employment for FICA tax purposes.
A similar but more liberal exemption applies for FUTA (unemployment) tax, which exempts earnings paid to a child under age 21 employed by a parent. The FICA and FUTA exemptions also apply if a child is employed by a partnership consisting only of his or her parents.
Note: There’s no FICA or FUTA exemption for employing a child if your business is incorporated or is a partnership that includes non-parent partners. However, there’s no extra cost to your business if you’re paying a child for work you’d pay someone else to do.

4. Saving for retirement
Your business also may be able to provide your child with retirement savings, depending on your plan and how it defines qualifying employees. For example, if you have a SEP plan, a contribution can be made for the child up to 25% of his or her earnings (not to exceed $66,000 for 2023).
Contact us if you have any questions about these rules in your situation. Keep in mind that some of the rules about employing children may change from year to year and may require your income-shifting strategies to change too.
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Choosing an entity for your business? How about an S corporation?

If you’re starting a business with some partners and wondering what type of entity to form, an S corporation may be the most suitable form of business for your new venture. Here are some of the reasons why.

A big benefit of an S corporation over a partnership is that as S corporation shareholders, you won’t be personally liable for corporate debts. In order to receive this protection, it’s important that:
  • The corporation be adequately financed,
  • The existence of the corporation as a separate entity be maintained, and
  • Various formalities required by your state be observed (for example, filing articles of incorporation, adopting by-laws, electing a board of directors and holding organizational meetings).
Dealing with losses
If you expect that the business will incur losses in its early years, an S corporation is preferable to a C corporation from a tax standpoint. Shareholders in a C corporation generally get no tax benefit from such losses. In contrast, as S corporation shareholders, each of you can deduct your percentage share of losses on your personal tax return to the extent of your basis in the stock and in any loans you made to the entity. Losses that can’t be deducted because they exceed your basis are carried forward and can be deducted by you in the future when there’s sufficient basis.

Once the S corporation begins to earn profits, the income will be taxed directly to you whether or not it’s distributed. It will be reported on your individual tax return and be aggregated with income from other sources. Your share of the S corporation’s income won’t be subject to self-employment tax, but your wages will be subject to Social Security taxes. To the extent the income is passed through to you as qualified business income (QBI), you’ll be eligible to take the 20% pass-through deduction, subject to various limitations.

Note: Unless Congress acts to extend it, the QBI deduction is scheduled to expire after 2025.

If you’re planning to provide fringe benefits such as health and life insurance, you should be aware that the costs of providing such benefits to a more than 2% shareholder are deductible by the entity but are taxable to the recipient.

Protecting S status
Also be aware that the S corporation could inadvertently lose its S status if you or your partners transfer stock to an ineligible shareholder such as another corporation, a partnership or a nonresident alien. If the S election was terminated, the corporation would become a taxable entity. You would not be able to deduct any losses and earnings could be subject to double taxation — once at the corporate level and again when distributed to you. In order to protect against this risk, it’s a good idea for each shareholder to sign an agreement promising not to make any transfers that would jeopardize the S election.
Before finalizing your choice of entity, consult with us. We can answer any questions you have and assist in launching your new venture.
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2023 Q2 tax calendar: Key deadlines for businesses and employers

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines that apply to businesses and other employers during the second quarter of 2023. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

April 18
  • If you’re a calendar-year corporation, file a 2022 income tax return (Form 1120) or file for an automatic six-month extension (Form 7004) and pay any tax due.
  • For corporations pay the first installment of 2023 estimated income taxes.
  • For individuals, file a 2022 income tax return (Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR) or file for an automatic six-month extension (Form 4868) and pay any tax due.
  • For individuals, pay the first installment of 2023 estimated taxes, if you don’t pay income tax through withholding (Form 1040-ES).
May 1
  • Employers report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for the first quarter of 2023 (Form 941) and pay any tax due.
May 10
  • Employers report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for the first quarter of 2023 (Form 941), if they deposited on time and fully paid all of the associated taxes due.
June 15
  • Corporations pay the second installment of 2023 estimated income taxes.
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The 2022 gift tax return deadline is coming up soon

Did you make large gifts to your children, grandchildren or other heirs last year? If so, it’s important to determine whether you’re required to file a 2022 gift tax return. And in some cases, even if it’s not required to file one, you may want to do so anyway.

Filing requirements

The annual gift tax exclusion has increased in 2023 to $17,000 but was $16,000 for 2022. Generally, you must file a gift tax return for 2022 if, during the tax year, you made gifts:
  • That exceeded the $16,000-per-recipient gift tax annual exclusion for 2022 (other than to your U.S. citizen spouse),
  • That you wish to split with your spouse to take advantage of your combined $32,000 annual exclusion for 2022,
  • That exceeded the $164,000 annual exclusion in 2022 for gifts to a noncitizen spouse,
  • To a Section 529 college savings plan and wish to accelerate up to five years’ worth of annual exclusions ($80,000) into 2022,
  • Of future interests — such as remainder interests in a trust — regardless of the amount, or
  • Of jointly held or community property.
Keep in mind that you’ll owe gift tax only to the extent that an exclusion doesn’t apply and you’ve used up your lifetime gift and estate tax exemption ($12.06 million in 2022). As you can see, some transfers require a return even if you don’t owe tax.

You might want to file anyway

No gift tax return is required if your gifts for 2022 consisted solely of gifts that are tax-free because they qualify as:
  • Annual exclusion gifts,
  • Present interest gifts to a U.S. citizen spouse,
  • Educational or medical expenses paid directly to a school or health care provider, or
  • Political or charitable contributions.
But if you transferred hard-to-value property, such as artwork or interests in a family-owned business, you should consider filing a gift tax return even if you’re not required to. Adequate disclosure of the transfer in a return triggers the statute of limitations, generally preventing the IRS from challenging your valuation more than three years after you file.

The deadline is April 18

The gift tax return deadline is the same as the income tax filing deadline. For 2022 returns, it’s April 18, 2023 — or October 16, 2023, if you file for an extension. But keep in mind that, if you owe gift tax, the payment deadline is April 18, regardless of whether you file for an extension. If you’re not sure whether you must (or should) file a 2022 gift tax return, contact us.
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Changes in Sec. 174 make it a good time to review the R&E strategy of your business

It’s been years since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 was signed into law, but it’s still having an impact. Several provisions in the law have expired or will expire in the next few years. One provision that took effect last year was the end of current deductibility for research and experimental (R&E) expenses.

R&E expenses
The TCJA has affected many businesses, including manufacturers, that have significant R&E costs. Starting in 2022, Internal Revenue Code Section 174 R&E expenditures must be capitalized and amortized over five years (15 years for research conducted outside the United States). Previously, businesses had the option of deducting these costs immediately as current expenses.
The TCJA also expanded the types of activities that are considered R&E for purposes of IRC Sec. 174. For example, software development costs are now considered R&E expenses subject to the amortization requirement.

Potential strategies
Businesses should consider the following strategies for minimizing the impact of these changes:
  • Analyze costs carefully to identify those that constitute R&E expenses and those that are properly characterized as other types of expenses (such as general business expenses under IRC Sec. 162) that continue to qualify for immediate deduction.
  • If cost-effective, move foreign research activities to the United States to take advantage of shorter amortization periods.
  • If cost-effective, purchase software that’s immediately deductible, rather than developing it in-house, which is now considered an amortizable R&E expense.
  • Revisit the R&E credit if you haven’t been taking advantage of it.
Recent IRS guidance
For 2022 tax returns, the IRS recently released guidance for taxpayers to change the treatment of R&E expenses (Revenue Procedure 2023-11). The guidance provides a way to obtain automatic consent under the tax code to change methods of accounting for specified research or experimental expenditures under Sec. 174, as amended by the TCJA. This is important because unless there’s an exception provided under tax law, a taxpayer must secure the consent of the IRS before changing a method of accounting for federal income tax purposes.
The recent revenue procedure also provides a transition rule for taxpayers who filed a tax return on or before January 17, 2023.

Planning ahead
We can advise you how to proceed. There have also been proposals in Congress that would eliminate the amortization requirements. However, so far, they’ve been unsuccessful. We’re monitoring legislative developments and can help adjust your tax strategies if there’s a change in the law.
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Protect the “ordinary and necessary” advertising expenses of your business

Under tax law, businesses can generally deduct advertising and marketing expenses that help keep existing customers and bring in new ones. This valuable tax deduction can help businesses cut their taxes.
However, in order to be deductible, advertising and marketing expenses must be “ordinary and necessary.” As one taxpayer recently learned in U.S. Tax Court, not all expenses are eligible. An ordinary expense is one that’s common and accepted in the industry. And a necessary expense is one that’s helpful and appropriate for the business.
According to the IRS, here are some advertising expenses that are usually deductible:
  • Reasonable advertising expenses that are directly related to the business activities.
  • An expense for the cost of institutional or goodwill advertising to keep the business name before the public if it relates to a reasonable expectation to gain business in the future. For example, the cost of advertising that encourages people to contribute to the Red Cross or to participate in similar causes is usually deductible.
  • The cost of providing meals, entertainment, or recreational facilities to the public as a means of advertising or promoting goodwill in the community.
Facts of the recent case
An attorney deducted his car-racing expenses and claimed they were advertising for his personal injury law practice. He contended that his racing expenses, totaling over $303,000 for six tax years, were deductible as advertising because the car he raced was sponsored by his law firm.

The IRS denied the deductions and argued that the attorney’s car racing wasn’t an ordinary and necessary expense paid or incurred while carrying on his business of practicing law. The Tax Court agreed with the IRS.

When making an ordinary and necessary determination for an expense, most courts look to the taxpayer’s primary motive for incurring the expense and whether there’s a “proximate” relationship between the expense and the taxpayer’s occupation. In this case, the taxpayer's car-racing expenses were neither necessary nor common for a law practice, so there was no “proximate” relationship between the expense and the taxpayer’s occupation. And, while the taxpayer said his primary motive for incurring the expense was to advertise his law business, he never raced in the state where his primary law practice was located and he never actually got any legal business from his car-racing activity.

The court noted that the car “sat in his garage” after he returned to the area where his law practice was located. The court added that even if the taxpayer raced in that area, “we would not find his expenses to be legitimate advertising expenses. His name and a decal for his law firm appeared in relatively small print” on his car.

This form of “signage,” the court stated, “is at the opposite end of the spectrum from (say) a billboard or a newspaper ad. Indeed, every driver’s name typically appeared on his or her racing car.” (TC Memo 2023-18)

Keep meticulous records
There are no deductions allowed for personal expenses or hobbies. But as explained above, you can deduct ordinary and necessary advertising and marketing expenses in a bona fide business. The key to protecting your deductions is to keep meticulous records to substantiate them. Contact us with questions about your situation.
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Awarded money in a lawsuit or settlement? It’s only tax-free in certain circumstances

You generally must pay federal tax on all income you receive but there are some exceptions when you can exclude it. For example, compensatory awards and judgments for “personal physical injuries or physical sickness” are free from federal income tax under the tax code. This includes amounts received in a lawsuit or a settlement and in a lump sum or in installments.

But as taxpayers in two U.S. Tax Court cases learned, not all awards are tax-free. For example, punitive damages and awards for unlawful discrimination or harassment are taxable. And the tax code states that “emotional distress shall not be treated as a physical injury or physical sickness.”


Here are the facts of the two cases.

Case #1: Payment was for personal injuries, not physical injuries

A taxpayer received a settlement of more than $327,000 from his former employer in connection with a lawsuit. He and his spouse didn’t report any part of the settlement on their joint tax return for the year in question. The IRS determined the couple owed taxes and penalties of more than $119,000 as a result of not including the settlement payment in their gross income.

Although the settlement agreement provided the payment was “for alleged personal injuries,” the Tax Court stated there was no evidence that it was paid on account of physical injuries or sickness. The court noted that the taxpayer’s complaint against the employer “alleged only violations of (state) labor and antidiscrimination laws, wrongful termination, breach of contract, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

The taxpayer argued that he had a physical illness that caused his employer to terminate him. But he didn’t provide a “direct causal link” between the illness and the settlement payment. Therefore, the court ruled, the amount couldn’t be excluded from his gross income. (TC Memo 2022-90)


Case #2: Legal malpractice payment doesn’t qualify for exclusion

This case began when the taxpayer was injured while at a hospital receiving medical treatment. She sued for negligence but lost her case. She then sued her attorneys for legal malpractice.
She received $125,000 in a settlement of her lawsuit against the attorneys. The amount was not reported on her tax return for the year in question. The IRS audited the taxpayer’s return and determined that the $125,000 payment should have been included in gross income. The tax agency issued her a bill for more than $32,000 in taxes and penalties.

The taxpayer argued that the payment was received “on account of personal physical injuries or physical sickness” because if it wasn’t for her former attorneys’ allegedly negligent representation, she “would have received damages from the hospital.” The IRS argued the amount was taxable because it was for legal malpractice and not for physical injuries. The U.S. Tax Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the IRS. (Blum, 3/23/22)


Strict requirements

As you can see, the requirements for tax-free income from a settlement are strict. If you receive a court award or out-of-court settlement, consult with us about the tax implications.
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 Child Tax Credit: The rules keep changing but it’s still valuable

If you’re a parent, you may be confused about the rules for claiming the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The rules and credit amounts have changed significantly over the last six years. This tax break became more generous in 2018 than it was under prior law — and it became even better in 2021 for eligible parents. Even though the enhancements that were available for 2021 have expired, the CTC is still valuable for parents. Here are the current rules.
For tax years 2022 and 2023, the CTC applies to taxpayers with children under the age of 17 (who meet CTC requirements to be ‘’qualifying children’’). A $500 credit for other dependents is available for dependents other than qualifying children.

CTC amount
The CTC is currently $2,000 for each qualifying child under the age of 17. (For tax years after 2025, the CTC will go down to $1,000 per qualifying child, unless Congress acts to extend the higher amount.)

Refundable portion
The refundable portion of the credit is a maximum $1,400 (adjusted annually for inflation) per qualifying child. The earned income threshold for determining the amount of the refundable portion for these years is $2,500. (With a refundable tax credit, you can receive a tax refund even if you don’t owe any tax for the year.) The $500 credit for dependents other than qualifying children is nonrefundable.

Credit for other dependents
In terms of the $500 nonrefundable credit for each dependent who isn’t a qualifying child under the CTC rules, there’s no age limit for the credit. But certain tax tests for dependency must be met. This $500 credit can be used for dependents including:
  • Those age 17 and older.
  • Dependent parents or other qualifying relatives supported by you.
  • Dependents living with you who aren’t related to the taxpayer.
AGI “phase-out” thresholds
You qualify for the full amount of the 2022 CTC for each qualifying child if you meet all eligibility factors and your annual adjusted gross income isn’t more than $200,000 ($400,000 if married and filing jointly). Parents with higher incomes may be eligible to claim a partial credit.
Before 2018 and after 2025, the income threshold amounts for the total credit are lower: $110,000 for a joint return; $75,000 for an individual filing as single, head of household or a qualifying widow(er); and $55,000 for a married individual filing a separate return.

Claiming the CTC
To claim the CTC for a qualifying child, you must include the child’s Social Security number (SSN) on your return. The number must have been issued before the due date for filing the return, including extensions. If a qualifying child doesn’t have an SSN, you may claim the $500 credit for other dependents for that child.
To claim the $500 credit for other dependents, you’ll need to provide a taxpayer identification number for each non-CTC-qualifying child or dependent, but it can be an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number or SSN.

Final points
If you expect the CTC to reduce your income tax, you may want to reduce your wage withholding. This is done by filing a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, with your employer.
These are the basics of the CTC. As you can see, it’s changed quite a bit and the credit is scheduled to change again in 2026. Contact us if you have any questions.
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Key tax issues in M&A transactions

Merger and acquisition activity dropped dramatically last year due to rising interest rates and a slowing economy. The total value of M&A transactions in North America in 2022 was down 41.4% from 2021, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
But some analysts expect 2023 to see increased M&A activity in certain industries. If you’re considering buying or selling a business, it’s important to understand the tax implications.

Two approaches
Under current tax law, a transaction can basically be structured in two ways:

1. Stock (or ownership interest). A buyer can directly purchase a seller’s ownership interest if the target business is operated as a C or S corporation, a partnership, or a limited liability company (LLC) that’s treated as a partnership for tax purposes.
The current 21% corporate federal income tax rate makes buying the stock of a C corporation somewhat more attractive. That’s because the corporation will pay less tax and generate more after-tax income. Plus, any built-in gains from appreciated corporate assets will be taxed at a lower rate when they’re eventually sold.

The current individual federal tax rates have also made ownership interests in S corporations, partnerships and LLCs more attractive. Reason: The passed-through income from these entities also is taxed at lower rates on a buyer’s personal tax return. However, individual rate cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2025.

2. Assets. A buyer can also purchase the assets of a business. This may happen if a buyer only wants specific assets or product lines. And it’s the only option if the target business is a sole proprietorship or a single-member LLC that’s treated as a sole proprietorship for tax purposes.

What buyers want
For several reasons, buyers usually prefer to buy assets rather than ownership interests. In general, a buyer’s primary goal is to generate enough cash flow from an acquired business to pay any acquisition debt and provide an acceptable return on the investment. Therefore, buyers are concerned about limiting exposure to undisclosed and unknown liabilities and minimizing taxes after a transaction closes.
A buyer can step up (or increase) the tax basis of purchased assets to reflect the purchase price. Stepped-up basis lowers taxable gains when certain assets, such as receivables and inventory, are sold or converted into cash. It also increases depreciation and amortization deductions for qualifying assets.

What sellers want
In general, sellers prefer stock sales for tax and nontax reasons. One of their objectives is to minimize the tax bill from a sale. That can usually be achieved by selling their ownership interests in a business (corporate stock, or partnership or LLC interests) as opposed to selling assets.
With a sale of stock or other ownership interest, liabilities generally transfer to the buyer and any gain on sale is generally treated as lower-taxed long-term capital gain (assuming the ownership interest has been held for more than one year).

Seek advice before a transaction
Be aware that other issues, such as employee benefits, can also cause tax issues in M&A transactions. Buying or selling a business may be the largest transaction you’ll ever make, so it’s important to seek professional assistance before finalizing a deal. After a transaction is complete, it may be too late to get the best tax results. Contact us about how to proceed.
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Have employees who receive tips? Here are the tax implications

Many businesses in certain industries employ individuals who receive tips as part of their compensation. These businesses include restaurants, hotels and salons.

Tip definition
Tips are optional payments that customers make to employees who perform services. They can be cash or noncash. Cash tips include those received directly from customers, electronically paid tips distributed to employees by employers and tips received from other employees under tip-sharing arrangements. Generally, workers must report cash tips to their employers.

Noncash tips are items of value other than cash. They may include tickets, passes or other items that customers give employees. Workers don’t have to report noncash tips to employers.

For tax purposes, four factors determine whether a payment qualifies as a tip: The customer voluntarily makes the payment, The customer has the unrestricted right to determine the amount, The payment isn’t negotiated with, or dictated by, employer policy, and The customer generally has the right to determine who receives the payment.

Tips can also be direct or indirect. A direct tip occurs when an employee receives it directly from a customer, even as part of a tip pool. Directly tipped employees include wait staff, bartenders and hairstylists. An indirect tip occurs when an employee who normally doesn’t receive tips receives one. Indirectly tipped employees include bussers, service bartenders, cooks and salon shampooers.

Daily tip records
Tipped workers must keep daily records of the cash tips they receive. To keep track of them, they can use Form 4070A, Employee’s Daily Record of Tips. It is found in IRS Publication 1244.

Workers should also keep records of the dates and value of noncash tips. Although the IRS doesn’t require workers to report noncash tips to employers, they must report them on their tax returns.

Reporting to employers
Employees must report tips to employers by the 10th of the month following the month they were received. The IRS doesn’t require workers to use a particular form to report tips. However, a worker’s tip report generally should include:
  • The employee’s name, address, Social Security number and signature,
  • The employer’s name and address,
  • The month or period covered, and
  • Total tips received during the period.
Note: Employees whose monthly tips are less than $20 don’t need to report them to their employers but must include them as income on their tax returns.

Employer requirements
Employers should send each employee a Form W-2 that includes reported tips. Employers also must:
  • Keep their employees’ tip reports.
  • Withhold taxes, including income taxes and the employee’s share of Social Security tax and Medicare tax, based on employees’ wages and reported tip income.
  • Pay the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes based on the total wages paid to tipped employees as well as reported tip income.
  • Report this information to the IRS on Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.
  • Deposit withheld taxes in accordance with federal tax deposit requirements.
In addition, “large” food or beverage establishments must file an annual report disclosing receipts and tips on Form 8027, Employer’s Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips.

Tip tax credit
If you’re an employer with tipped workers providing food and beverages, you may qualify for a federal tax credit involving the Social Security and Medicare taxes that you pay on employees’ tip income. The tip tax credit may be valuable to you. If you have any questions about the tax implications of tips, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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Many tax limits affecting businesses have increased for 2023

An array of tax-related limits that affect businesses are indexed annually, and due to high inflation, many have increased more than usual for 2023. Here are some that may be important to you and your business.

Social Security tax
The amount of employees’ earnings that are subject to Social Security tax is capped for 2023 at $160,200 (up from $147,000 for 2022).

Deductions
  • Section 179 expensing:
    • Limit: $1.16 million (up from $1.08 million)
    • Phaseout: $2.89 million (up from $2.7 million)
  • Income-based phase-out for certain limits on the Sec. 199A qualified business income deduction begins at:
    • Married filing jointly: $364,200 (up from $340,100)
    • Other filers: $182,100 (up from $170,050)
Retirement plans
  • Employee contributions to 401(k) plans: $22,500 (up from $20,500)
  • Catch-up contributions to 401(k) plans: $7,500 (up from $6,500)
  • Employee contributions to SIMPLEs: $15,500 (up from $14,000)
  • Catch-up contributions to SIMPLEs: $3,500 (up from $3,000)
  • Combined employer/employee contributions to defined contribution plans (not including catch-ups): $66,000 (up from $61,000)
  • Maximum compensation used to determine contributions: $330,000 (up from $305,000)
  • Annual benefit for defined benefit plans: $265,000 (up from $245,000)
  • Compensation defining a highly compensated employee: $150,000 (up from $135,000)
  • Compensation defining a “key” employee: $215,000 (up from $200,000)
Other employee benefits
  • Qualified transportation fringe-benefits employee income exclusion: $300 per month (up from $280)
  • Health Savings Account contributions:
    • Individual coverage: $3,850 (up from $3,650)
    • Family coverage: $7,750 (up from $7,300)
    • Catch-up contribution: $1,000 (no change)
  • Flexible Spending Account contributions:
    • Health care: $3,050 (up from $2,850)
    • Dependent care: $5,000 (no change)
These are only some of the tax limits and deductions that may affect your business and additional rules may apply. Contact us if you have questions.
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Why you might want to file early and answers to other tax season questions

The IRS announced it opened the 2023 individual income tax return filing season on January 23. That’s when the agency began accepting and processing 2022 tax year returns. Even if you typically don’t file until much closer to the mid-April deadline (or you file for an extension), consider filing earlier this year. The reason is you can potentially protect yourself from tax identity theft.

Here are some answers to questions taxpayers may have about filing.

How can your tax identity be stolen?
In a typical tax identity theft scam, a thief uses another individual’s personal information to file a fraudulent tax return early in the filing season and claim a bogus refund.

The actual taxpayer discovers the fraud when he or she files a return and is told by the IRS that the return is being rejected because one with the same Social Security number has already been filed for the tax year. Ultimately, the taxpayer should be able to prove that his or her return is the legitimate one, but tax identity theft can be time consuming and frustrating to straighten out. It can also delay a refund.
Your best defense may be to file early. Why? If you file first, the tax return filed by a potential thief will be rejected.

What are this year’s deadlines?

This year, the filing deadline to submit 2022 returns or file an extension is Tuesday, April 18 for most taxpayers. The due date is April 18, instead of April 15, because the 15th falls on a weekend and the District of Columbia’s Emancipation Day holiday falls on Monday, April 17.
If you’re requesting an extension, you’ll have until October 16, 2023, to file. Keep in mind that an extension of time to file your return doesn’t grant you any extension of time to pay your taxes. You should estimate and pay any taxes owed by the regular deadline to help avoid penalties.

When will your W-2s and 1099s arrive?

To file your tax return, you need all of your Form W-2s and 1099s. January 31 is the deadline for employers to issue 2022 W-2s to employees and, generally, for businesses to issue Form 1099s to recipients of any 2022 interest, dividend or reportable miscellaneous income payments (including those made to independent contractors).

If you haven’t received a W-2 or 1099 by February 1, first contact the entity that should have issued it. If that doesn’t work, ask us how to proceed.

Are there any other advantages to filing early?

In addition to protecting yourself from tax identity theft, another advantage of early filing is that, if you’re getting a refund, you’ll get it sooner. The IRS expects most refunds to be issued within 21 days. The time may be shorter if you file electronically and receive a refund by direct deposit into a bank account.
Direct deposit also avoids the possibility that a refund check could be lost, stolen, returned to the IRS as undeliverable or caught in mail delays.

Need assistance?

If you have questions or would like an appointment to prepare your return, please contact us. We can help ensure you file an accurate return and receive all of the tax breaks to which you’re entitled.
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Forms W-2 and 1099-NEC are due to be filed soon

With the 2023 filing season deadline drawing near, be aware that the deadline for businesses to file information returns for hired workers is even closer. By January 31, 2023, employers must file these forms:

Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.
W-2 forms show the wages paid and taxes withheld for the year for each employee. They must be provided to employees and filed with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The IRS notes that “because employees’ Social Security and Medicare benefits are computed based on information on Form W-2, it’s very important to prepare Form W-2 correctly and timely.”

Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements.
Anyone required to file Form W-2 must also file Form W-3 to transmit Copy A of Form W-2 to the SSA. The totals for amounts reported on related employment tax forms (Form 941, Form 943, Form 944 or Schedule H for the year) should agree with the amounts reported on Form W-3.
Failing to timely file or include the correct information on either the information return or statement may result in penalties.

Independent contractors
The January 31 deadline also applies to Form 1099-NEC, Nonemployee Compensation. These forms are provided to recipients and filed with the IRS to report non-employee compensation to independent contractors.
Payers must complete Form 1099-NEC to report any payment of $600 or more to a recipient.

If the following four conditions are met, you must generally report payments as nonemployee compensation:
  • You made a payment to someone who isn’t your employee,
  • You made a payment for services in the course of your trade or business,
  • You made a payment to an individual, partnership, estate, or, in some cases, a corporation, and
  • You made payments to a recipient of at least $600 during the year.
Your business may also have to file a Form 1099-MISC for each person to whom you made certain payments for rent, medical expenses, prizes and awards, attorney’s services and more.

We can help
If you have questions about filing Form W-2, Form 1099-NEC or any tax forms, contact us. We can assist you in staying in compliance with all rules.
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How the new SECURE 2.0 law may affect your business

If your small business has a retirement plan, and even if it doesn’t, you may see changes and benefits from a new law. The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement 2.0 Act (SECURE 2.0) was recently signed into law. Provisions in the law will kick in over several years.
SECURE 2.0 is meant to build on the original SECURE Act, which was signed into law in 2019. Here are some provisions that may affect your business.

Retirement plan automatic enrollment.
Under the new law, 401(k) plans will be required to automatically enroll employees when they become eligible, beginning with plan years after December 31, 2024. Employees will be permitted to opt out. The initial automatic enrollment amount would be at least 3% but not more than 10%. Then, the amount would be increased by 1% each year thereafter until it reaches at least 10%, but not more than 15%. All current 401(k) plans are grandfathered. Certain small businesses would be exempt.

Part-time worker coverage. 
The first SECURE Act requires employers to allow long-term, part-time workers to participate in their 401(k) plans with a dual eligibility requirement (one year of service and at least 1,000 hours worked or three consecutive years of service with at least 500 hours worked). The new law will reduce the three-year rule to two years, beginning after December 31, 2024. This provision would also extend the long-term part-time coverage rules to 403(b) plans that are subject to ERISA.

Employees with student loan debt. 
The new law will allow an employer to make matching contributions to 401(k) and certain other retirement plans with respect to “qualified student loan payments.” This means that employees who can’t afford to save money for retirement because they’re repaying student loan debt can still receive matching contributions from their employers into retirement plans. This will take effect beginning after December 31, 2023.

“Starter” 401(k) plans.
The new law will allow an employer that doesn’t sponsor a retirement plan to offer a starter 401(k) plan (or safe harbor 403(b) plan) that would require all employees to be default enrolled in the plan at a 3% to 15% of compensation deferral rate. The limit on annual deferrals would be the same as the IRA contribution limit with an additional $1,000 in catch-up contributions beginning at age 50. This provision takes effect beginning after December 31, 2023.

Tax credit for small employer pension plan start-up costs. 
The new law increases and makes several changes to the small employer pension plan start-up cost credit to incentivize businesses to establish retirement plans. This took effect for plan years after December 31, 2022.

Higher catch-up contributions for some participants.
 
Currently, participants in certain retirement plans can make additional catch-up contributions if they’re age 50 or older. The catch-up contribution limit for 401(k) plans is $7,500 for 2023. SECURE 2.0 will increase the 401(k) catch-up contribution limit to the greater of $10,000 or 150% of the regular catch-up amount for individuals ages 60 through 63. The increased amounts will be indexed for inflation after December 31, 2025. This provision will take effect for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2024. (There will also be increased catch-up amounts for SIMPLE plans.)

Retirement savings for military spouses. 
SECURE 2.0 creates a new tax credit for eligible small employers for each military spouse that begins participating in their eligible defined contribution plan. This became effective in 2023.
These are only some of the provisions in SECURE 2.0. Contact us if you have any questions about your situation.
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Tax-wise ways to save for college

If you’re a parent or grandparent with college-bound children, you may want to save to fund future education costs. Here are several approaches to take maximum advantage of the tax-favored ways to save that may be available to you.

Savings bonds

Series EE U.S. savings bonds offer two tax-saving opportunities when used to finance college expenses: You don’t have to report the interest on the bonds for federal tax purposes until the bonds are cashed in, and Interest on “qualified” Series EE (and Series I) bonds may be exempt from federal tax if the bond proceeds are used for qualified college expenses.

To qualify for the college tax exemption, you must purchase the bonds in your own name (not the child’s) or jointly with your spouse. The proceeds must be used for tuition, fees, etc. — not room and board. If only some proceeds are used for qualified expenses, only that part of the interest is exempt.

If your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds certain amounts, the exemption is phased out. For bonds cashed in 2023, the exemption begins to phase out when joint MAGI hits $137,800 for married joint filers ($91,850 for other returns) and is completely phased out if MAGI is $167,800 or more for joint filers ($106,850 or more for others).

Qualified tuition programs or 529 plans
Typically known as a “529 plans,” these programs allow you to buy tuition credits or make contributions to an account set up to meet a child’s future higher education expenses. 529 plans are established by state governments or private institutions.

Contributions aren’t deductible and are treated as taxable gifts to the child. But they’re eligible for the annual gift tax exclusion ($17,000 in 2023). A donor who contributes more than the annual exclusion limit for the year can elect to treat the gift as if it were spread out over a five-year period.

Earnings on the contributions accumulate tax-free until the college costs are paid from the funds. Distributions from 529 plans are tax-free to the extent the funds are used to pay “qualified higher education expenses,” which can include up to $10,000 in tuition for an elementary or secondary school. Distributions of earnings that aren’t used for “qualified higher education expenses” are generally subject to income tax plus a 10% penalty.

Coverdell education savings accounts (ESAs)
You can establish a Coverdell ESA and make contributions of up to $2,000 for each child under age 18. This age limitation doesn’t apply to beneficiaries with special needs.
The right to make contributions begins to phase out once AGI is over $190,000 on a joint return ($95,000 for single taxpayers). If the income limit is an issue, the child can make a contribution to his or her own account.

Although contributions aren’t deductible, income in the account isn’t taxed, and distributions are tax-free if spent on qualified education expenses. If the child doesn’t attend college, the money must be withdrawn when the child turns 30 and any earnings will be subject to tax plus a penalty. However, unused funds can be transferred tax-free to a Coverdell ESA of another member of the family who hasn’t reached age 30. The age 30 requirement doesn’t apply to individuals with special needs.

We can help
These are just some of the tax-favored ways to save a college fund for your children. Contact us with any questions regarding tax-favorable college savings. 
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Employers should be wary of ERC claims that are too good to be true

The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) was a valuable tax credit that helped employers that kept workers on staff during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the credit is no longer available, eligible employers that haven’t yet claimed it might still be able to do so by filing amended payroll returns for tax years 2020 and 2021.

However, the IRS is warning employers to beware of third parties that may be advising them to claim the ERC when they don’t qualify. Some third-party “ERC mills” are promising that they can get businesses a refund without knowing anything about the employers’ situations. They’re sending emails, letters and voice mails as well as advertising on television. When businesses respond, these ERC mills are claiming many improper write-offs related to taxpayer eligibility for — and computation of — the credit.

These third parties often charge large upfront fees or a fee that’s contingent on the amount of the refund. They may not inform taxpayers that wage deductions claimed on the companies’ federal income tax returns must be reduced by the amount of the credit.

According to the IRS, if a business filed an income tax return deducting qualified wages before it filed an employment tax return claiming the credit, the business should file an amended income tax return to correct any overstated wage deduction. Your tax advisor can assist with this.
Businesses are encouraged to be cautious of advertised schemes and direct solicitations promising tax savings that are too good to be true. Taxpayers are always responsible for the information reported on their tax returns. Improperly claiming the ERC could result in taxpayers being required to repay the credit along with penalties and interest.


ERC Basics

The ERC is a refundable tax credit designed for businesses that:
  • Continued paying employees while they were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or
  • Had significant declines in gross receipts from March 13, 2020, to September 30, 2021 (or December 31, 2021 for certain startup businesses).
Eligible taxpayers could have claimed the ERC on an original employment tax return or they can claim it on an amended return.
To be eligible for the ERC, employers must have:
  • Sustained a full or partial suspension of operations due to orders from an appropriate governmental authority limiting commerce, travel, or group meetings due to COVID-19 during 2020 or the first three quarters of 2021,
  • Experienced a significant decline in gross receipts during 2020 or a decline in gross receipts during the first three quarters of 2021, or
  • Qualified as a recovery startup business for the third or fourth quarters of 2021.
As a reminder, only recovery startup businesses are eligible for the ERC in the fourth quarter of 2021. Additionally, for any quarter, eligible employers cannot claim the ERC on wages that were reported as payroll costs in obtaining Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness or that were used to claim certain other tax credits.

How to Proceed
If you didn’t claim the ERC, and believe you’re eligible, contact us. We can advise you on how to proceed.
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The standard business mileage rate is going up in 2023

Although the national price of gas is a bit lower than it was a year ago, the optional standard mileage rate used to calculate the deductible cost of operating an automobile for business will be going up in 2023. The IRS recently announced that the 2023 cents-per-mile rate for the business use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck is 65.5 cents. These rates apply to electric and hybrid-electric automobiles, as well as gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles.

In 2022, the business cents-per-mile rate for the second half of the year (July 1 – December 31) was 62.5 cents per mile, and for the first half of the year (January 1 – June 30), it was 58.5 cents per mile.


How rate calculations are done

The 3-cent increase from the 2022 midyear rate is somewhat surprising because gas prices are currently lower than they have been. On December 29, 2022, the national average price of a gallon of regular gas was $3.15, compared with $3.52 a month earlier and $3.28 a year earlier, according to AAA Gas Prices. However, the standard mileage rate is calculated based on all the costs involved in driving a vehicle — not just the price of gas.

The business cents-per-mile rate is adjusted annually. It’s based on an annual study commissioned by the IRS about the fixed and variable costs of operating a vehicle, including gas, maintenance, repair and depreciation. Occasionally, if there’s a substantial change in average gas prices, the IRS will change the cents-per-mile rate midyear, as it did in 2022.


Standard rate versus actual expenses

Businesses can generally deduct the actual expenses attributable to business use of vehicles. This includes gas, oil, tires, insurance, repairs, licenses and vehicle registration fees. In addition, you can claim a depreciation allowance for the vehicle. However, in many cases, certain limits apply to depreciation write-offs on vehicles that don’t apply to other types of business assets.

The cents-per-mile rate is beneficial if you don’t want to keep track of actual vehicle-related expenses. With this method, you don’t have to account for all your actual expenses. However, you still must record certain information, such as the mileage for each business trip, the date and the destination.

Using the cents-per-mile rate is also popular with businesses that reimburse employees for business use of their personal vehicles. These reimbursements can help attract and retain employees who drive their personal vehicles a great deal for business purposes. Why? Under current law, employees can’t deduct unreimbursed employee business expenses, such as business mileage, on their own income tax returns.

If you do use the cents-per-mile rate, keep in mind that you must comply with various rules. If you don’t comply, the reimbursements could be considered taxable wages to the employees.


The standard rate can’t always be used
There are some cases when you can’t use the cents-per-mile rate. It partly depends on how you’ve claimed deductions for the same vehicle in the past. In other situations, it depends on if the vehicle is new to your business this year or whether you want to take advantage of certain first-year depreciation tax breaks on it.
As you can see, there are many factors to consider in deciding whether to use the standard mileage rate to deduct vehicle expenses. We can help if you have questions about tracking and claiming such expenses in 2023 — or claiming 2022 expenses on your 2022 income tax return.
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How to minimize the S corporation LIFO recapture tax

If you’re considering converting your C corporation to an S corporation, be aware that there may be tax implications if you’ve been using the last in, first out (LIFO) inventory method. That’s because of the LIFO recapture income that will be triggered by converting to S corporation status. We can meet to compute what the tax on this recapture would be and to see what planning steps might be taken to minimize it.

Inventory reporting
As you’re aware, your corporation has been reporting a lower amount of taxable income under LIFO than it would have under the first in, first out (FIFO) method. The reason: The inventory taken into account in calculating the cost of goods sold under LIFO reflects current costs, which are usually higher.

This benefit of LIFO over FIFO is equal to the difference between the LIFO value of inventory and the higher value it would have had if the FIFO method had been used. In effect, the tax law treats this difference as though it were profit earned while the corporation was a C corporation. To make sure there’s a corporate-level tax on this amount, it must be “recaptured” into income when the corporation converts from a C corporation to an S corporation. Also, the recapture amount will increase the corporation’s earnings and profits, which can have adverse tax consequences down the road.

Soften the blow
There are a couple of rules that soften the blow of this recapture tax to some degree. The increase in tax imposed on the C corporation in its final tax year because of the LIFO recapture may be paid over a four-year period. The basis of the corporation’s inventory will be increased by the amount of income recognized. So, the net effect may be one primarily of timing — because of the basis increase, the corporation may realize less income in later years, though only if there are decrements in the adjusted LIFO layer.
We can help you gauge your exposure to the LIFO recapture tax and can suggest strategies for reducing it. Contact us to discuss these issues in detail.
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Do you qualify for the QBI deduction? And can you do anything by year-end to help qualify?

If you own a business, you may wonder if you’re eligible to take the qualified business income (QBI) deduction. Sometimes this is referred to as the pass-through deduction or the Section 199A deduction.

The QBI deduction is:
  • Available to owners of sole proprietorships, single member limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships, and S corporations, as well as trusts and estates.
  • Intended to reduce the tax rate on QBI to a rate that’s closer to the corporate tax rate.
  • Taken “below the line.” In other words, it reduces your taxable income but not your adjusted gross income.
  • Available regardless of whether you itemize deductions or take the standard deduction.
Taxpayers other than corporations may be entitled to a deduction of up to 20% of their QBI. For 2022, if taxable income exceeds $170,050 for single taxpayers, or $340,100 for a married couple filing jointly, the QBI deduction may be limited based on different scenarios. For 2023, these amounts are $182,100 and $364,200, respectively.

The situations in which the QBI deduction may be limited include whether the taxpayer is engaged in a service-type of trade or business (such as law, accounting, health or consulting), the amount of W-2 wages paid by the trade or business, and/or the unadjusted basis of qualified property (such as machinery and equipment) held by the trade or business. The limitations are phased in.

Year-end planning tip

Some taxpayers may be able to achieve significant savings with respect to this deduction (or be subject to a smaller phaseout of the deduction), by deferring income or accelerating deductions at year-end so that they come under the dollar thresholds for 2022. Depending on your business model, you also may be able to increase the deduction by increasing W-2 wages before year-end. The rules are quite complex, so contact us with questions and consult with us before taking the next steps.
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Selling stock by year-end? Watch out for the wash sale rule 

If you’re thinking about selling stock shares at a loss to offset gains that you’ve realized during 2022, it’s important to watch out for the “wash sale” rule.

The loss could be disallowed
Under this rule, if you sell stock or securities for a loss and buy substantially identical stock or securities back within the 30-day period before or after the sale date, the loss can’t be claimed for tax purposes. The rule is designed to prevent taxpayers from using the tax benefit of a loss without parting with ownership in any significant way. Note that the rule applies to a 30-day period before or after the sale date to prevent “buying the stock back” before it’s even sold. (If you participate in any dividend reinvestment plans, it’s possible the wash sale rule may be inadvertently triggered when dividends are reinvested under the plan, if you’ve separately sold some of the same stock at a loss within the 30-day period.)

The wash sale rule even applies if you repurchase the security in a tax-advantaged retirement account, such as a traditional or Roth IRA.

Although a loss can’t be claimed on a wash sale, the disallowed amount is added to the cost of the new stock. So, the disallowed amount can be claimed when the new stock is finally disposed of in the future (other than in a wash sale).

Let’s look at an example
Say you bought 500 shares of ABC, Inc. for $10,000 and sold them on November 4 for $3,000. On November 29, you buy 500 shares of ABC again for $3,200. Since the shares were “bought back” within 30 days of the sale, the wash sale rule applies. Therefore, you can’t claim a $7,000 loss. Your basis in the new 500 shares is $10,200: the actual cost plus the $7,000 disallowed loss.

If only a portion of the stock sold is bought back, only that portion of the loss is disallowed. So, in the above example, if you’d only bought back 300 of the 500 shares (60%), you’d be able to claim 40% of the loss on the sale ($2,800). The remaining $4,200 loss that’s disallowed under the wash sale rule would be added to your cost of the 300 shares.

If you’ve cashed in some big gains in 2022, you may be looking for unrealized losses in your portfolio so you can sell those investments before year-end. By doing so, you can offset your gains with your losses and reduce your 2022 tax liability. But be careful of the wash sale rule. We can answer any questions you may have.
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Answers to your questions about taking withdrawals from IRAs

As you may know, you can’t keep funds in your traditional IRA indefinitely. You have to start taking withdrawals from a traditional IRA (including a SIMPLE IRA or SEP IRA) when you reach age 72.
The rules for taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) are complicated, so here are some answers to frequently
asked questions.

What if I want to take out money before retirement?
If you want to take money out of a traditional IRA before age 59½, distributions are taxable and you may be subject to a 10% penalty tax. However, there are several ways that the 10% penalty tax (but not the regular income tax) can be avoided, including to pay: qualified higher education expenses, up to $10,000 of expenses if you’re a first-time homebuyer and health insurance premiums while unemployed.

When do I take my first RMD?
For an IRA, you must take your first RMD by April 1 of the year following the year in which you turn 72, regardless of whether you’re still employed.

How do I calculate my RMD?
The RMD for any year is the account balance as of the end of the immediately preceding calendar year divided by a distribution period from the IRS’s “Uniform Lifetime Table.” A separate table is used if the sole beneficiary is the owner’s spouse who is 10 or more years younger than the owner.

How should I take my RMDs if I have multiple accounts?
If you have more than one IRA, you must calculate the RMD for each IRA separately each year. However, you may aggregate your RMD amounts for all of your IRAs and withdraw the total from one IRA or a portion from each of your IRAs. You don’t have to take a separate RMD from each IRA.

Can I withdraw more than the RMD?
Yes, you can always withdraw more than the RMD. But you can’t apply excess withdrawals toward future years’ RMDs.
In planning for RMDs, you should weigh your income needs against the ability to keep the tax shelter of the IRA going for as long as possible.

Can I take more than one withdrawal in a year to meet my RMD?
You may withdraw your annual RMD in any number of distributions throughout the year, as long as you withdraw the total annual minimum amount by December 31 (or April 1 if it is for your first RMD).

What happens if I don’t take an RMD?
If the distributions to you in any year are less than the RMD for that year, you’ll be subject to an additional tax equal to 50% of the amount that should have been paid out, but wasn’t.

Plan ahead wisely

Contact us to review your traditional IRAs and to analyze other aspects of your retirement planning. We can also discuss who you should name as beneficiaries and whether you could benefit from a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs are retirement savings vehicles that operate under a different set of rules than traditional IRAs. Contributions aren’t deductible but qualified distributions are generally tax-free.
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 Choosing a business entity? Here are the pros and cons of a C corporation

If you’re launching a new business venture, you’re probably wondering which form of business is most suitable. Here is a summary of the major advantages and disadvantages of doing business as a C corporation.

A C corporation allows the business to be treated and taxed as a separate entity from you as the principal owner. A properly structured corporation can protect you from the debts of the business yet enable you to control both day-to-day operations and corporate acts such as redemptions, acquisitions and even liquidations. In addition, the corporate tax rate is currently 21%, which is lower than the highest noncorporate tax rate.


Following formalities

In order to ensure that a corporation is treated as a separate entity, it’s important to observe various formalities required by your state. These include:
  • Filing articles of incorporation,
  • Adopting bylaws,
  • Electing a board of directors,
  • Holding organizational meetings, and
  • Keeping minutes of meetings.
Complying with these requirements and maintaining an adequate capital structure will ensure that you don’t inadvertently risk personal liability for the debts of the business.


Potential disadvantages

Since the corporation is taxed as a separate entity, all items of income, credit, loss and deduction are computed at the entity level in arriving at corporate taxable income or loss. One potential disadvantage to a C corporation for a new business is that losses are trapped at the entity level and thus generally cannot be deducted by the owners. However, if you expect to generate profits in year one, this might not be a problem.
Another potential drawback to a C corporation is that its earnings can be subject to double tax — once at the corporate level and again when distributed to you. However, since most of the corporate earnings will be attributable to your efforts as an employee, the risk of double taxation is minimal since the corporation can deduct all reasonable salary that it pays to you.


Providing benefits, raising capital

A C corporation can also be used to provide fringe benefits and fund qualified pension plans on a tax-favored basis. Subject to certain limits, the corporation can deduct the cost of a variety of benefits such as health insurance and group life insurance without adverse tax consequences to you. Similarly, contributions to qualified pension plans are usually deductible but aren’t currently taxable to you.

A C corporation also gives you considerable flexibility in raising capital from outside investors. A C corporation can have multiple classes of stock — each with different rights and preferences that can be tailored to fit your needs and those of potential investors. Also, if you decide to raise capital through debt, interest paid by the corporation is deductible.

Although the C corporation form of business might seem appropriate for you at this time, you may in the future be able to change from a C corporation to an S corporation, if S status is more appropriate at that time. This change will ordinarily be tax-free, except that built-in gain on the corporate assets may be subject to tax if the assets are disposed of by the corporation within 10 years of the change.


The optimum choice

This is only a brief overview. Contact us if you have questions or would like to explore the best choice of entity for your business.
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Strategies for investors to cut taxes as year-end approaches

The overall stock market has been down during 2022 but there have been some bright spots. As year-end approaches, consider making some moves to make the best tax use of paper losses and actual losses from your stock market investments.

Tax rates on sales

Individuals are subject to tax at a rate as high as 37% on short-term capital gains and ordinary income. But long-term capital gains on most investment assets receive favorable treatment. They’re taxed at rates ranging from 0% to 20% depending on your taxable income (inclusive of the gains). High-income taxpayers may pay an additional 3.8% net investment income tax.


Sell at a loss to offset earlier gains
Have you realized gains earlier in the year from sales of stock held for more than one year (long-term capital gains) or from sales of stock held for one year or less (short-term capital gains)? Take a close look at your portfolio and consider selling some of the losers — those shares that now show a paper loss. The best tax strategy is to sell enough losers to generate losses to offset your earlier gains plus an additional $3,000 loss. Selling to produce this loss amount is a tax-smart idea because a $3,000 capital loss (but no more) can offset the same amount of ordinary income each year.

For example, let’s say you have $10,000 of capital gain from the sale of stocks earlier in 2022. You also have several losing positions, including shares in a tech stock. The tech shares currently show a loss of $15,000. From a tax standpoint, you should consider selling enough of your tech stock shares to recognize a $13,000 loss. Your capital gains will be offset entirely, and you’ll have a $3,000 loss to offset against the same amount of ordinary income.

What if you believe that the shares showing a paper loss may turn around and eventually generate a profit? In order to sell and then repurchase the shares without forfeiting the loss deduction, you must avoid the wash-sale rules. This means that you must buy the new shares outside of the period that begins 30 days before and ends 30 days after the sale of the loss stock. However, if you expect the price of the shares showing a loss to rise quickly, your tax savings from taking the loss may not be worth the potential investment gain you may lose by waiting more than 30 days to repurchase the shares.


Use losses earlier in the year to offset gains

If you have capital losses on sales earlier in 2022, consider whether you should take capital gains on some stocks that you still hold. For example, if you have appreciated stocks that you’d like to sell, but don’t want to sell if it causes you to have taxable gain this year, consider selling just enough shares to offset your earlier-in-the-year capital losses (except for $3,000 that can be used to offset ordinary income). Consider selling appreciated stocks now if you believe they’ve reached (or are close to) the peak price and you also feel you can invest the proceeds from the sale in other property that’ll give you a better return in the future.

These are just some of the year-end strategies that may save you taxes. Contact us to discuss these and other strategies that should be put in place before the end of December.
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How savings bonds are taxed

Many people have savings bonds that were purchased many years ago. Perhaps they were given to your children as gifts or maybe you bought them yourself. You may wonder how the interest you earn is taxed. And if they reach final maturity, what action do you need to take to ensure there’s no loss of interest or unanticipated tax consequences?


Interest deferral

Series EE Bonds dated May 2005 and after earn a fixed rate of interest. Bonds purchased between May 1997 and April 30, 2005, earn a variable market-based rate of return.

Paper Series EE Bonds, issued between 1980 and 2012, are sold at half their face value. For example, you pay $25 for a $50 bond. The bond isn’t worth its face value until it matures. New electronic EE Bonds earn a fixed rate of interest that’s set before you buy the bond. They earn that rate for their first 20 years and the U.S.
Treasury may change the rate for the last 10 years of the bond’s 30-year life. Electronic EE bonds are sold at their face value. For example, you pay $100 for a $100 bond.

The minimum ownership term is one year, but a penalty is imposed if the bond is redeemed in the first five years.
Series EE bonds don’t pay interest currently. Instead, accrued interest is reflected in the redemption value of the bond. The U.S. Treasury issues tables showing redemption values. Series EE bond interest isn’t taxed as it accrues unless the owner elects to have it taxed annually. If the election is made, all previously accrued but untaxed interest is also reported in the election year. In most cases, the election isn’t made so that the benefit of tax deferral can be enjoyed. On the other hand, if the bond is owned by a taxpayer with little or no other current income, it may be beneficial to incur the income in low or no tax years to avoid future inclusion. This may be the case with bonds owned by children, although the “kiddie tax” may apply.

If the election isn’t made, all of the accrued interest is taxed when the bond is redeemed or otherwise disposed of (unless it was exchanged for a Series HH bond in an option available before September 1, 2004). The bond continues to accrue interest even after reaching its face value but at “final maturity” (after 30 years) interest stops accruing and must be reported (again, unless it was exchanged for an HH bond).

If you own EE bonds (paper or electronic), check the issue dates on your bonds. If they’re no longer earning interest, you probably want to redeem them and put the money into something more profitable.


Inflation-indexed bonds

Series I savings bonds are designed to offer a rate of return over and above inflation. The earnings rate is a combination of a fixed rate, which will apply for the life of the bond, and the inflation rate. Rates are announced each May 1 and November 1.

Series I bonds are issued at par (face amount). An owner of Series I bonds may either: Defer reporting the increase in the redemption (interest) to the year of final maturity, redemption, or other disposition, whichever is earlier, or Elect to report the increase each year as it accrues.
If 2 is elected, the election applies to all Series I bonds then owned by the taxpayer, those acquired later, and to any other obligations purchased on a discount basis, (for example, Series EE bonds). You can’t change to method 1 unless you follow a specific IRS procedure.


State and local taxes

Although the interest on EE and I bonds is taxable for federal income tax purposes, it’s exempt from state and local taxes. And using the money for higher education may keep you from paying federal income tax on the interest. Contact us if you have any questions about savings bond taxation.
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Computer software costs: How does your business deduct them?

These days, most businesses buy or lease computer software to use in their operations. Or perhaps your business develops computer software to use in your products or services or sells or leases software to others. In any of these situations, you should be aware of the complex rules that determine the tax treatment of the expenses of buying, leasing or developing computer software.

Software you buy

Some software costs are deemed to be costs of “purchased” software, meaning it’s either:
  • Non-customized software available to the general public under a nonexclusive license, or
  • Acquired from a contractor who is at economic risk should the software not perform.
The entire cost of purchased software can be deducted in the year that it’s placed into service. The cases in which the costs are ineligible for this immediate write-off are the few instances in which 100% bonus depreciation or Section 179 small business expensing isn’t allowed, or when a taxpayer has elected out of 100% bonus depreciation and hasn’t made the election to apply Sec. 179 expensing. In those cases, the costs are amortized over the three-year period beginning with the month in which the software is placed in service. Note that the bonus depreciation rate will begin to be phased down for property placed in service after calendar year 2022.

If you buy the software as part of a hardware purchase in which the price of the software isn’t separately stated, you must treat the software cost as part of the hardware cost. Therefore, you must depreciate the software under the same method and over the same period of years that you depreciate the hardware. Additionally, if you buy the software as part of your purchase of all or a substantial part of a business, the software must generally be amortized over 15 years.

Software that’s leased

You must deduct amounts you pay to rent leased software in the tax year they’re paid, if you’re a cash-method taxpayer, or the tax year for which the rentals are accrued, if you’re an accrual-method taxpayer. However, deductions aren’t generally permitted before the years to which the rentals are allocable. Also, if a lease involves total rentals of more than $250,000, special rules may apply.

Software that’s developed

Some software is deemed to be “developed” (designed in-house or by a contractor who isn’t at risk if the software doesn’t perform). For tax years beginning before calendar year 2022, bonus depreciation applies to developed software to the extent described above. If bonus depreciation doesn’t apply, the taxpayer can either deduct the development costs in the year paid or incurred, or choose one of several alternative amortization periods over which to deduct the costs. For tax years beginning after calendar year 2021, generally the only allowable treatment is to amortize the costs over the five-year period beginning with the midpoint of the tax year in which the expenditures are paid or incurred.

If following any of the above rules requires you to change your treatment of software costs, it will usually be necessary for you to obtain IRS consent to the change.

We can help

Contact us with questions or for assistance in applying the tax rules for treating computer software costs in the way that is most advantageous for you.
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Adopting a child? Bring home a tax break too

Two tax benefits are available to offset the expenses of adopting a child. In 2022, adoptive parents may be able to claim a credit against their federal tax for up to $14,890 of “qualified adoption expenses” for each child. This will increase to $15,950 in 2023. That’s a dollar-for-dollar reduction of tax.

Also, adoptive parents may be able to exclude from gross income up to $14,890 in 2022 ($15,950 in 2023) of qualified expenses paid by an employer under an adoption assistance program. Both the credit and the exclusion are phased out if the parents’ income exceeds certain limits.
Parents can claim both a credit and an exclusion for expenses of adopting a child. But they can’t claim both a credit and an exclusion for the same expenses.


Qualified expenses

To qualify for the credit or the exclusion, the expenses must be “qualified adoption expenses.” These are the reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, travel expenses (including meals and lodging), and other expenses directly related to the legal adoption of an “eligible child.”

Qualified expenses don’t include those
connected with the adoption of a child of a spouse, a surrogate parenting arrangement, expenses that violate state or federal law or expenses paid using funds received from a government program. Expenses reimbursed by an employer don’t qualify for the credit, but benefits provided by an employer under an adoption assistance program may qualify for the exclusion.

Expenses related to an unsuccessful attempt to adopt a child may qualify. Expenses connected with a foreign adoption (the child isn’t a U.S. citizen or resident) qualify only if the child is actually adopted.

Taxpayers who adopt a child with special needs are deemed to have qualified adoption expenses in the tax year in which the adoption becomes final, in an amount sufficient to bring their total aggregate expenses for the adoption up to $14,890 for 2022 ($15,950 for 2023). They can take the adoption credit or exclude employer adoption assistance up to that amount, whether or not they had those amounts of actual expenses.


Eligible child

An eligible child is under age 18 at the time a qualified expense is paid. A child who turns 18 during the year is eligible for the part of the year he or she is under age 18. A person who is physically or mentally incapable of caring for him- or herself is eligible, regardless of age.

A special needs child refers to one who the state has determined can’t or shouldn’t be returned to his or her parents and who can’t be reasonably placed with adoptive parents without assistance because of a specific factor or condition. Only a child who is a citizen or resident of the U.S. is included in this category.


Phase-out amounts

The credit allowed for 2022 is phased out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) over $223,410 ($239,230 for 2023) and is eliminated when AGI reaches $263,410 ($279,230 for 2023).

Note: The adoption credit isn’t “refundable.” So, if the sum of your refundable credits (including any adoption credit) for the year exceeds your tax liability, the excess amount isn’t refunded to you. In other words, the credit can be claimed only up to your tax liability.


Get the full benefit

Contact us with any questions. We can help ensure you get the full benefit of the tax savings available to adoptive parents.
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Inflation means you and your employees can save more for retirement in 2023

How much can you and your employees contribute to your 401(k)s next year — or other retirement plans? In Notice 2022-55, the IRS recently announced cost-of-living adjustments that apply to the dollar limitations for pensions, as well as other qualified retirement plans for 2023. The amounts increased more than they have in recent years due to inflation.

401(k) plans

The 2023 contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k) plans will increase to $22,500 (up from $20,500 in 2022). This contribution amount also applies to 403(b) plans, most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan.

The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in 401(k) plans and the other plans mentioned above will increase to $7,500 (up from $6,500 in 2022). Therefore, participants in 401(k) plans (and the others listed above) who are 50 and older can contribute up to $30,000 in 2023.

SEP plans and defined contribution plans

The limitation for defined contribution plans, including a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan, will increase from $61,000 to $66,000. To participate in a SEP, an eligible employee must receive at least a certain amount of compensation for the year. That amount will increase in 2023 to $750 (from $650 for 2022).

SIMPLE plans

Deferrals to a SIMPLE plan will increase to $15,500 in 2023 (up from $14,000 in 2022). The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in SIMPLE plans will increase to $3,500 in 2023, up from $3,000.

Other plan limits

The IRS also announced that in 2023:
 
  • The limitation on the annual benefit under a defined benefit plan will increase from $245,000 to $265,000. For a participant who separated from service before January 1, 2023, the participant’s limitation under a defined benefit plan is computed by multiplying the participant’s compensation limitation, as adjusted through 2022, by 1.0833.
  • The dollar limitation concerning the definition of “key employee” in a top-heavy plan will increase from $200,000 to $215,000.
  • The dollar amount for determining the maximum account balance in an employee stock ownership plan subject to a five-year distribution period will increase from $1,230,000 to $1,330,000, while the dollar amount used to determine the lengthening of the five-year distribution period will increase from $245,000 to $265,000.
  • The limitation used in the definition of “highly compensated employee” will increase from $135,000 to $150,000.

IRA contributions

The 2023 limit on annual contributions to an individual IRA will increase to $6,500 (up from $6,000 for 2022). The IRA catch-up contribution limit for individuals age 50 and older isn’t subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and will remain $1,000.

Plan ahead

Current high inflation rates will make it easier for you and your employees to save much more in your retirement plans in 2023. The contribution amounts will be a great deal higher next year than they’ve been in recent years. Contact us if you have questions about your tax-advantaged retirement plan or if you want to explore other retirement plan options.

11/1/22
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You may be liable for “nanny tax” for all types of domestic workers

You’ve probably heard of the “nanny tax.” But even if you don’t employ a nanny, it may apply to you. Hiring a house cleaner, gardener or other household employee (who isn’t an independent contractor) may make you liable for federal income and other taxes. You may also have state tax obligations.

If you employ a household worker, you aren’t required to withhold federal income taxes from pay. But you can choose to withhold if the worker requests it. In that case, ask the worker to fill out a Form W-4. However, you may be required to withhold Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes and to pay federal unemployment (FUTA) tax.


2022 and 2023 thresholds

In 2022, you must withhold and pay FICA taxes if your household worker earns cash wages of $2,400 or more (excluding the value of food and lodging). The Social Security Administration recently announced that this amount will increase to $2,600 in 2023. If you reach the threshold, all the wages (not just the excess) are subject to FICA.
However, if a nanny is under age 18 and childcare isn’t his or her principal occupation, you don’t have to withhold FICA taxes. So, if you have a part-time student babysitter, there’s no FICA tax liability.

Both an employer and a household worker may have FICA tax obligations. As an employer, you’re responsible for withholding your worker’s FICA share. In addition, you must pay a matching amount. FICA tax is divided between Social Security and Medicare. The Social Security tax rate is 6.2% for the employer and 6.2% for the worker (12.4% total). Medicare tax is 1.45% each for the employer and the worker (2.9% total).

If you want, you can pay your worker’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you do, your payments aren’t counted as additional cash wages for Social Security and Medicare purposes. However, your payments are treated as additional income to the worker for federal tax purposes, so you must include them as wages on the W-2 form that you must provide.

You also must pay FUTA tax if you pay $1,000 or more in cash wages (excluding food and lodging) to your worker in any calendar quarter. FUTA tax applies to the first $7,000 of wages paid and is only paid by the employer.


Making payments

You pay household worker obligations by increasing your quarterly estimated tax payments or increasing withholding from wages, rather than making an annual lump-sum payment.

As an employer of a household worker, you don’t have to file employment tax returns, even if you’re required to withhold or pay tax (unless you own your own business). Instead, employment taxes are reported on your tax return on Schedule H.

When you report the taxes on your return, include your employer identification number (not the same as your Social Security number). You must file Form SS-4 to get one.

However, if you own a business as a sole proprietor, you include the taxes for a household worker on the FUTA and FICA forms (940 and 941) that you file for the business. And you use your sole proprietorship EIN to report the taxes.


Keep careful records
Keep related tax records for at least four years from the later of the due date of the return or the date the tax was paid. Records should include the worker’s name, address, Social Security number, employment dates, dates and the amount of wages.
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Tax and other financial consequences of tax-free bonds

If you’re interested in investing in tax-free municipal bonds, you may wonder if they’re really free of taxes. While the investment generally provides tax-free interest on the federal (and possibly state) level, there may be tax consequences. Here’s how the rules work.


Purchasing a bond

If you buy a tax-exempt bond for its face amount, either on the initial offering or in the market, there are no immediate tax consequences. If you buy such a bond between interest payment dates, you’ll have to pay the seller any interest accrued since the last interest payment date. This amount is treated as a capital investment and is deducted from the next interest payment as a return of capital.


Interest excluded from income

In general, interest received on a tax-free municipal bond isn’t included in gross income although it may be includible for alternative minimum tax (AMT) purposes. While tax-free interest is attractive, keep in mind that a municipal bond may pay a lower interest rate than an otherwise equivalent taxable investment. The after-tax yield is what counts.

In the case of a tax-free bond, the after-tax yield is generally equal to the pre-tax yield. With a taxable bond, the after-tax yield is based on the amount of interest you have after taking into account the increase in your tax liability on account of annual interest payments. This depends on your effective tax bracket. In general, tax-free bonds are likely to be appealing to taxpayers in higher brackets since they receive a greater benefit from excluding interest from income. For lower-bracket taxpayers, the tax benefit from excluding interest from income may not be enough to make up for a lower interest rate.

Even though municipal bond interest isn’t taxable, it’s shown on a tax return. This is because tax-exempt interest is taken into account when determining the amount of Social Security benefits that are taxable as well as other tax breaks.


Another tax advantage

Tax-exempt bond interest is also exempt from the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT). The NIIT is imposed on the investment income of individuals whose adjusted gross income exceeds $250,000 for joint filers, $125,000 for married filing separate filers, and $200,000 for other taxpayers.


Tax-deferred retirement accounts

It generally doesn’t make sense to hold municipal bonds in your traditional IRA or 401(k) account. The income in these accounts isn’t taxed currently. But once you start taking distributions, the entire amount withdrawn is likely to be taxed. Thus, if you want to invest retirement funds in fixed income obligations, it’s generally advisable to invest in higher-yielding taxable securities.

We can help


These are only some of the tax consequences of investing in municipal bonds. As mentioned, there may be AMT implications. And if you receive Social Security benefits, investing in municipal bonds could increase the amount of tax you must pay with respect to the benefits. Contact us if you need assistance applying the tax rules to your situation or if you have any questions.
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Worried about an IRS audit? Prepare in advance

IRS audit rates are historically low, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report , but that’s little consolation if your return is among those selected to be examined. Plus, the IRS recently received additional funding in the Inflation Reduction Act to improve customer service, upgrade technology and increase audits of high-income taxpayers. But with proper preparation and planning, you should fare well.

From tax years 2010 to 2019, audit rates of individual tax returns decreased for all income levels, according to the GAO. On average, the audit rate for all returns decreased from 0.9% to 0.25%. IRS officials attribute this to reduced staffing as a result of decreased funding. Businesses, large corporations and high-income individuals are more likely to be audited but, overall, all types of audits are being conducted less frequently than they were a decade ago.

There’s no 100% guarantee that you won’t be picked for an audit, because some tax returns are chosen randomly. However, the best way to survive an IRS audit is to prepare in advance. On an ongoing basis you should systematically maintain documentation — invoices, bills, cancelled checks, receipts, or other proof — for all items to be reported on your tax returns. Keep all records in one place.

Audit targets

It also helps to know what might catch the attention of the IRS. Certain types of tax-return entries are known to involve inaccuracies so they may lead to an audit. Here are a few examples:
 
  • Significant inconsistencies between tax returns filed in the past and your most current return,
  • Gross profit margin or expenses markedly different from those of other businesses in your industry, and
  • Miscalculated or unusually high deductions.

Certain types of deductions may be questioned by the IRS because there are strict recordkeeping requirements for them — for example, auto and travel expense deductions. In addition, an owner-employee’s salary that’s much higher or lower than those at similar companies in his or her location may catch the IRS’s eye, especially if the business is structured as a corporation.

If you receive a letter

If you’re selected for an audit, you’ll be notified by letter. Generally, the IRS doesn’t make initial contact by phone. But if there’s no response to the letter, the agency may follow up with a call.

Many audits simply request that you mail in documentation to support certain deductions you’ve claimed. Only the strictest version, the field audit, requires meeting with one or more IRS auditors. (Note: Ignore unsolicited email or text messages about an audit. The IRS doesn’t contact people in this manner. These are scams.)

The tax agency doesn’t demand an immediate response to a mailed notice. You’ll be informed of the discrepancies in question and given time to prepare. Collect and organize all relevant income and expense records. If anything is missing, you’ll have to reconstruct the information as accurately as possible based on other documentation.

If you’re audited, our firm can help you:
 
  • Understand what the IRS is disputing (it’s not always clear),
  • Gather the specific documents and information needed, and
  • Respond to the auditor’s inquiries in the most effective manner.

The IRS normally has three years within which to conduct an audit, and an audit probably won’t begin until a year or more after you file a return. Don’t panic if the IRS contacts you. Many audits are routine. By taking a meticulous, proactive approach to tracking, documenting and filing your company’s tax-related information, you’ll make an audit less painful and even decrease the chances you’ll be chosen in the first place.

10/11/22
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Investing in the future with a 529 education plan

If you have a child or grandchild who’s going to attend college in the future, you’ve probably heard about qualified tuition programs, also known as 529 plans. These plans, named for the Internal Revenue Code section that provides for them, allow prepayment of higher education costs on a tax-favored basis.

There are two types of programs: Prepaid plans, which allow you to buy tuition credits or certificates at present tuition rates, even though the beneficiary (child) won’t be starting college for some time; and Savings plans, which depend on the investment performance of the fund(s) you place your contributions in.

You don’t get a federal income tax deduction for a contribution, but the earnings on the account aren’t taxed while the funds are in the program.
(Contributors are eligible for state tax deductions in some states.) You can change the beneficiary or roll over the funds in the program to another plan for the same or a different beneficiary withoutincome tax consequences.


Distributions from the program are tax-free up to the amount of the student’s “qualified higher education expenses.” These include tuition (including up to $10,000 in tuition for an elementary or secondary public, private or religious school), fees, books, supplies and required equipment. Reasonable room and board is also a qualified expense if the student is enrolled at least half time.

Distributions from a 529 plan can also be used to make tax-free payments of principal or interest on a loan to pay qualified higher education expenses of the beneficiary or a sibling of the beneficiary.
What about distributions in excess of qualified expenses? They’re taxed to the beneficiary to the extent that they represent earnings on the account. A 10% penalty tax is also imposed.

Eligible schools include colleges, universities, vocational schools or other postsecondary schools eligible to participate in a student aid program of the U.S. Department of Education. This includes nearly all accredited public, nonprofit and for-profit postsecondary institutions.

However, “qualified higher education expenses” also include expenses for tuition in connection with enrollment or attendance at an elementary or secondary public, private or religious school.
A school should be able to tell you whether it qualifies.

The contributions you make to the qualified tuition program are treated as gifts to the student, but the contributions qualify for the gift tax exclusion amount ($16,000 for 2022, adjusted for inflation). If your contributions in a year exceed the exclusion amount, you can elect to take the contributions into account ratably over a five-year period starting with the year of the contributions. Thus, assuming you make no other gifts to that beneficiary, you could contribute up to $80,000 per beneficiary in 2022 without gift tax. (In that case, any additional contributions during the next four years would be subject to gift tax, except to the extent that the exclusion amount increases.) You and your spouse together could contribute $160,000 for 2022 per beneficiary, subject to any contribution limits imposed by the plan.

A distribution from a qualified tuition program isn’t subject to gift tax, but a change in beneficiary or rollover to the account of a new beneficiary may be. Contact us with questions about tax-saving ways to save and pay for college.
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Separating your business from its real estate

Does your business need real estate to conduct operations? Or does it otherwise hold property and put the title in the name of the business? You may want to rethink this approach. Any short-term benefits may be outweighed by the tax, liability and estate planning advantages of separating real estate ownership from the business.

Tax implications

Businesses that are formed as C corporations treat real estate assets as they do equipment, inventory and other business assets. Any expenses related to owning the assets appear as ordinary expenses on their income statements and are generally tax deductible in the year they’re incurred.

However, when the business sells the real estate, the profits are taxed twice — at the corporate level and at the owner’s individual level when a distribution is made. Double taxation is avoidable, though. If ownership of the real estate were transferred to a pass-through entity instead, the profit upon sale would be taxed only at the individual level.

Protecting assets

Separating your business ownership from its real estate also provides an effective way to protect it from creditors and other claimants. For example, if your business is sued and found liable, a plaintiff may go after all of its assets, including real estate held in its name. But plaintiffs can’t touch property owned by another entity.

The strategy also can pay off if your business is forced to file for bankruptcy. Creditors generally can’t recover real estate owned separately unless it’s been pledged as collateral for credit taken out by the business.

Estate planning options

Separating real estate from a business may give you some estate planning options, too. For example, if the company is a family business but some members of the next generation aren’t interested in actively participating, separating property gives you an extra asset to distribute. You could bequest the business to one heir and the real estate to another family member who doesn’t work in the business.

Handling the transaction

The business simply transfers ownership of the real estate and the transferee leases it back to the company. Who should own the real estate? One option: The business owner could purchase the real estate from the business and hold title in his or her name. One concern is that it’s not only the property that’ll transfer to the owner, but also any liabilities related to it.

Moreover, any liability related to the property itself could inadvertently put the business at risk. If, for example, a client suffers an injury on the property and a lawsuit ensues, the property owner's other assets (including the interest in the business) could be in jeopardy.

An alternative is to transfer the property to a separate legal entity formed to hold the title, typically a limited liability company (LLC) or limited liability partnership (LLP). With a pass-through structure, any expenses related to the real estate will flow through to your individual tax return and offset the rental income.

An LLC is more commonly used to transfer real estate. It’s simple to set up and requires only one member. LLPs require at least two partners and aren’t permitted in every state. Some states restrict them to certain types of businesses and impose other restrictions.

Proceed cautiously

Separating the ownership of a business’s real estate isn’t always advisable. If it’s worthwhile, the right approach will depend on your individual circumstances. Contact us to help determine the best approach to minimize your transfer costs and capital gains taxes while maximizing other potential benefits.

9/27/22
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Don’t forget income taxes when planning your estate

As a result of the current estate tax exemption amount ($12.06 million in 2022), many estates no longer need to be concerned with federal estate tax. Before 2011, a much smaller amount resulted in estate plans attempting to avoid it. But now, because many estates won’t be subject to estate tax, more planning can be devoted to saving income taxes for your heirs.

While saving both income and transfer taxes has always been a goal of estate planning, it was more difficult to succeed at both when the estate and gift tax exemption level was much lower. Here are three considerations.


Plan gifts that use the annual gift tax exclusion.

One of the benefits of using the gift tax annual exclusion to make transfers during life is to save estate tax. This is because both the transferred assets and any post-transfer appreciation generated by those assets are removed from the donor’s estate.

As mentioned, estate tax savings may not be an issue because of the large estate exemption amount. Further, making an annual exclusion transfer of appreciated property carries a potential income tax cost because the recipient receives the donor’s basis upon transfer. Thus, the recipient could face income tax, in the form of capital gains tax, on the sale of the gifted property in the future. If there’s no concern that an estate will be subject to estate tax, even if the gifted property grows in value, then the decision to make a gift should be based on other factors.
For example, gifts may be made to help a relative buy a home or start a business. But a donor shouldn’t gift appreciated property because of the capital gain that could be realized on a future sale by the recipient. If the appreciated property is held until the donor’s death, under current law, the heir will get a step-up in basis that will wipe out the capital gain tax on any pre-death appreciation in the property’s value.


Take spouses’ estates into account.

In the past, spouses often undertook complicated strategies to equalize their estates so that each could take advantage of the estate tax exemption amount. Generally, a two-trust plan was established to minimize estate tax. “Portability,” or the ability to apply the decedent’s unused exclusion amount to the surviving spouse’s transfers during life and at death, became effective for estates of decedents dying after 2010. As long as the election is made, portability allows the surviving spouse to apply the unused portion of a decedent’s applicable exclusion amount (the deceased spousal unused exclusion amount) as calculated in the year of the decedent’s death. The portability election gives married couples more flexibility in deciding how to use their exclusion amounts.


Be aware that some estate exclusion or valuation discount strategies to avoid inclusion of property in an estate may no longer be worth pursuing.

It may be better to have the property included in the estate or not qualify for valuation discounts so that the property receives a step-up in basis. For example, the special use valuation — the valuation of qualified real property used for farming or in a business on the basis of the property’s actual use, rather than on its highest and best use — may not save enough, or any, estate tax to justify giving up the step-up in basis that would otherwise occur for the property.
If you’d like to discuss these strategies and how they relate to your estate plan, contact us.
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2022 Q4 tax calendar: Key deadlines for businesses and other employers

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the fourth quarter of 2022. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

Note: Certain tax-filing and tax-payment deadlines may be postponed for taxpayers who reside in or have businesses in federally declared disaster areas.

Monday, October 3
The last day you can initially set up a SIMPLE IRA plan, provided you (or any predecessor employer) didn’t previously maintain a SIMPLE IRA plan. If you’re a new employer that comes into existence after October 1 of the year, you can establish a SIMPLE IRA plan as soon as administratively feasible after your business comes into existence.

Monday, October 17
  • If a calendar-year C corporation that filed an automatic six-month extension:
    • File a 2021 income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax, interest and penalties due.
    • Make contributions for 2021 to certain employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Monday, October 31
  • Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for third quarter 2022 (Form 941) and pay any tax due. (See exception below under “November 10.”)

Thursday, November 10
  • Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for third quarter 2022 (Form 941), if you deposited on time (and in full) all of the associated taxes due.

Thursday, December 15
  • If a calendar-year C corporation, pay the fourth installment of 2022 estimated income taxes.

Contact us if you’d like more information about the filing requirements and to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines.

9/20/22
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Seller-paid points: Can homeowners deduct them?

In its latest report, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced that July 2022 existing home sales were down but prices were up nationwide, compared with last year. “The ongoing sales decline reflects the impact of the mortgage rate peak of 6% in early June,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. However, he added that “home sales may soon stabilize since mortgage rates have fallen to near 5%, thereby giving an additional boost of purchasing power to home buyers.”

If you’re buying a home, or you just bought one, you may wonder if you can deduct mortgage points paid on your behalf by the seller. The answer is “yes,” subject to some important limitations described below.


Basics of points

Points are upfront fees charged by a mortgage lender, expressed as a percentage of the loan principal. Points, which may be deductible if you itemize deductions, are normally the buyer’s obligation. But a seller will sometimes sweeten a deal by agreeing to pay the points on the buyer’s mortgage loan.
In most cases, points that a buyer pays are a deductible interest expense. And seller-paid points may also be deductible.
Suppose, for example, that you bought a home for $600,000. In connection with a $500,000 mortgage loan, your bank charged two points, or $10,000. The seller agreed to pay the points in order to close the sale.

You can deduct the $10,000 in the year of sale. The only disadvantage is that your tax basis is reduced to $590,000, which will mean more gain if — and when — you sell the home for more than that amount. But that may not happen until many years later, and the gain may not be taxable anyway. You may qualify for an exclusion for up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married couple filing jointly) of gain on the sale of a principal residence.


Important limits

There are some important limitations on the rule allowing a deduction for seller-paid points. The rule doesn’t apply:
 
  • To points that are allocated to the part of a mortgage above $750,000 ($375,000 for married filing separately) for tax years 2018 through 2025 (above $1 million for tax years before 2018 and after 2025);
  • To points on a loan used to improve (rather than buy) a home;
  • To points on a loan used to buy a vacation or second home, investment property or business property; and
  • To points paid on a refinancing, home equity loan or line of credit.


Tax aspects of the transaction

We can review with you in more detail whether the points in your home purchase are deductible, as well as discuss other tax aspects of your transaction.
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Year-end tax planning ideas for your small business

Now that Labor Day has passed, it’s a good time to think about making moves that may help lower your small business taxes for this year and next. The standard year-end approach of deferring income and accelerating deductions to minimize taxes will likely produce the best results for most businesses, as will bunching deductible expenses into this year or next to maximize their tax value.

If you expect to be in a higher tax bracket next year, opposite strategies may produce better results. For example, you could pull income into 2022 to be taxed at lower rates, and defer deductible expenses until 2023, when they can be claimed to offset higher-taxed income.

Here are some other ideas that may help you save tax dollars if you act before year-end.

QBI deduction

Taxpayers other than corporations may be entitled to a deduction of up to 20% of their qualified business income (QBI). For 2022, if taxable income exceeds $340,100 for married couples filing jointly (half that amount for others), the deduction may be limited based on: whether the taxpayer is engaged in a service-type business (such as law, health or consulting), the amount of W-2 wages paid by the business, and/or the unadjusted basis of qualified property (such as machinery and equipment) held by the business. The limitations are phased in.

Taxpayers may be able to salvage some or all of the QBI deduction by deferring income or accelerating deductions to keep income under the dollar thresholds (or be subject to a smaller deduction phaseout). You also may be able increase the deduction by increasing W-2 wages before year-end. The rules are complex, so consult us before acting.

Cash vs. accrual accounting

More small businesses are able to use the cash (rather than the accrual) method of accounting for federal tax purposes than were allowed to do so in previous years. To qualify as a small business under current law, a taxpayer must (among other requirements) satisfy a gross receipts test. For 2022, it’s satisfied if, during a three-year testing period, average annual gross receipts don’t exceed $27 million. Not that long ago, it was only $5 million. Cash method taxpayers may find it easier to defer income by holding off billings until next year, paying bills early or making certain prepayments.

Section 179 deduction

Consider making expenditures that qualify for the Section 179 expensing option. For 2022, the expensing limit is $1.08 million, and the investment ceiling limit is $2.7 million. Expensing is generally available for most depreciable property (other than buildings) including equipment, off-the-shelf computer software, interior improvements to a building, HVAC and security systems.

The high dollar ceilings mean that many small- and medium-sized businesses will be able to currently deduct most or all of their outlays for machinery and equipment. What’s more, the deduction isn’t prorated for the time an asset is in service during the year. Just place eligible property in service by the last days of 2022 and you can claim a full deduction for the year.

Bonus depreciation

Businesses also can generally claim a 100% bonus first year depreciation deduction for qualified improvement property and machinery and equipment bought new or used, if purchased and placed in service this year. Again, the full write-off is available even if qualifying assets are in service for only a few days in 2022.

Consult with us for more ideas

These are just some year-end strategies that may help you save taxes. Contact us to tailor a plan that works for you.

9/13/22
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Is your income high enough to owe two extra taxes?

High-income taxpayers face two special taxes — a 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT) and a 0.9% additional Medicare tax on wage and self-employment income. Here’s an overview of the taxes and what they may mean for you.


3.8% NIIT

This tax applies, in addition to income tax, on your net investment income. The NIIT only affects taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeding $250,000 for joint filers, $200,000 for single taxpayers and heads of household, and $125,000 for married individuals filing separately.
If your AGI is above the threshold that applies ($250,000, $200,000 or $125,000), the NIIT applies to the lesser of 1) your net investment income for the tax year or 2) the excess of your AGI for the tax year over your threshold amount.

The “net investment income” that’s subject to the NIIT consists of interest, dividends, annuities, royalties, rents and net gains from property sales. Wage income and income from an active trade or business isn’t included. However, passive business income is subject to the NIIT.

Income that’s exempt from income tax, such as tax-exempt bond interest, is likewise exempt from the NIIT. Thus, switching some taxable investments to tax-exempt bonds can reduce your exposure. Of course, this should be done after taking your income needs and investment considerations into account.
How does the NIIT apply to home sales? If you sell your principal residence, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of gain ($500,000 for joint filers) when figuring your income tax. This excluded gain isn’t subject to the NIIT.

However, gain that exceeds the exclusion limit is subject to the tax. Gain from the sale of a vacation home or other second residence, which doesn’t qualify for the exclusion, is also subject to the NIIT.
Distributions from qualified retirement plans, such as pension plans and IRAs, aren’t subject to the NIIT. However, those distributions may push your AGI over the threshold that would cause other types of income to be subject to the tax.


Additional 0.9% Medicare tax

Some high-wage earners pay an extra 0.9% Medicare tax on part of their wage income, in addition to the 1.45% Medicare tax that all wage earners pay. The 0.9% tax applies to wages in excess of $250,000 for joint filers, $125,000 for a married individuals filing separately and $200,000 for all others. It applies only to employees, not to employers.

Once an employee’s wages reach $200,000 for the year, the employer must begin withholding the additional 0.9% tax. However, this withholding may prove insufficient if the employee has additional wage income from another job or if the employee’s spouse also has wage income. To avoid that result, an employee may request extra income tax withholding by filing a new Form W-4 with the employer.
An extra 0.9% Medicare tax also applies to self-employment income for the tax year in excess of the same amounts for wage earners. This is in addition to the regular 2.9% Medicare tax on all self-employment income. The $250,000, $125,000, and $200,000 thresholds are reduced by the taxpayer's wage income.


Reduce the impact

As you can see, these two taxes may have a significant effect on your tax bill. Contact us to discuss these taxes and how their impact could be reduced.