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Nov 24 2015
Considering Refinancing Your Home?

Posted in tax

Now may be a great time to refinance, because mortgage rates are still low but expected to increase. Before deciding to refinance, however, here are a couple of tax consequences to consider:

1. Cash-out refinancing. If you borrow more than you need to cover your outstanding mortgage balance, the tax treatment of the cash-out portion depends on how you use the excess cash. If you use it for home improvements, it’s considered acquisition indebtedness, and the interest is deductible subject to a $1 million debt limit. If you use it for another purpose, such as buying a car or paying college tuition, it’s considered home equity debt, and deductible interest is subject to a $100,000 debt limit.

2. Prepaying interest. “Points” paid when refinancing generally are amortized and deducted ratably over the life of the loan, rather than being immediately deductible. If you’re already amortizing points from a previous refinancing and you refinance with a new lender, you can deduct the unamortized balance in the year you refinance. But if you refinance with the same lender, you must add the unamortized points from the old loan to any points you pay on the new loan and then deduct the total over the life of the new loan.

Is your head spinning? Don’t worry; we can help you understand exactly what the tax consequences of refinancing will be for you. Contact us today!

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-11-24 05:12:41 AM

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Nov 17 2015
Should You "Bunch" Medical Expenses into 2015?

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Medical expenses that aren’t reimbursable by insurance or paid through a tax-advantaged account (such as a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account) may be deductible — but generally only to the extent that they exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income.

Taxpayers age 65 and older can enjoy a 7.5% floor through 2016. The floor for alternative minimum tax purposes, however, is 10% for all taxpayers.

By “bunching” nonurgent medical procedures and other controllable expenses into alternating years, you may increase your ability to exceed the applicable floor. Controllable expenses might include prescription drugs, eyeglasses and contact lenses, hearing aids, dental work, and elective surgery.

If it’s looking like you’re close to exceeding the floor in 2015, consider accelerating controllable expenses into this year. But if you’re far from exceeding it, to the extent possible (without harming your or your family’s health), you might want to put off medical expenses until next year, in case you have enough expenses in 2016 to exceed the floor.

For more information on how to bunch deductions or exactly what expenses are deductible, please contact us.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2015-11-17 05:04:40 AM

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Nov 10 2015
Selling Rather Than Trading in Business Vehicles Can Save Tax

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Although a vehicle’s value typically drops fairly rapidly, the tax rules limit the amount of annual depreciation that can be claimed on most cars and light trucks. Thus, when it’s time to replace a vehicle used in business, it’s not unusual for its tax basis to be higher than its value.

If you trade a vehicle in on a new one, the undepreciated basis of the old vehicle simply tacks onto the basis of the new one (even though this extra basis generally doesn’t generate any additional current depreciation because of the annual depreciation limits). However, if you sell the old vehicle rather than trading it in, any excess of basis over the vehicle’s value can be claimed as a deductible loss to the extent of your business use of the vehicle.

For example, if you sell a vehicle with an adjusted basis of $20,000 for $12,000, you’ll get an immediate write-off of $8,000 ($20,000 – $12,000). If you trade in the vehicle rather than selling it, the $20,000 adjusted basis is added to the new vehicle’s depreciable basis and, thanks to the annual depreciation limits, it may be years before any tax deductions are realized.

For more ideas on how to maximize your vehicle-related deductions, contact us.

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Last Updated by Admin on 2015-11-10 11:09:10 AM

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Sept 23 2015
Review Your Fringe Benefits To See What You Might Be Missing

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A business can offer many things as fringe benefits. So it’s a good idea to occasionally review the possibilities to see whether you might be missing something that could help you attract and retain the best employees. Two broad categories that are generally deductible by the employer and tax-free to employees are:

1. Working-condition fringe benefits. These are expenses that, if employees had paid them, they could have deducted on their personal tax returns. Examples include employer-paid subscriptions to business periodicals or websites and employer expenditures for some types of on-the-job training.

2. De minimis fringe benefits. Included here is any employer-provided property or service that has a value so small in relation to the frequency with which it’s provided that accounting for it is “unreasonable or administratively impracticable,” according to the IRS. Some examples of these items are group meals; occasional coffee, doughnuts or soft drinks; and permission to make occasional local telephone calls.

Also worth looking into are qualified transportation fringe benefits. These include covering expenditures (up to certain limits) related to commuter transportation, such as mass transit, van pooling, parking and bicycling.

Bear in mind that various rules must be followed to ensure the tax-advantaged treatment of fringe benefits. And that’s where we come in. Please contact us for help not only choosing the right offerings for your size and type of business, but also ensuring that the tax consequences will be what you expect.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-09-23 08:12:00 AM

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Sept 22 2015
All Income Investments Aren’t Alike When It Comes To Taxes

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The tax treatment of investment income varies, and not just based on whether the income is in the form of dividends or interest. Qualified dividends are taxed at the favorable long-term capital gains tax rate (generally 15% or 20%) rather than at the applicable ordinary-income tax rate (which might be as high as 39.6%). Interest income generally is taxed at ordinary-income rates. So stocks that pay qualified dividends may be more attractive tax-wise than other income investments, such as CDs and taxable bonds.

But there are exceptions. For example, some dividends aren’t qualified and therefore are subject to ordinary-income rates, such as certain dividends from:

  • Real estate investment trusts (REITs),
  • Regulated investment companies (RICs),
  • Money market mutual funds, and
  • Certain foreign investments.

Also, the tax treatment of bond income varies. For example:

  • Interest on U.S. government bonds is taxable on federal returns but exempt on state and local returns.
  • Interest on state and local government bonds is excludable on federal returns. If the bonds were issued in your home state, interest also might be excludable on your state return.
  • Corporate bond interest is fully taxable for federal and state purposes.

While tax treatment shouldn’t drive investment decisions, it’s one factor to consider — especially when it comes to income investments. For help factoring taxes into your investment strategy, contact us.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-09-22 08:32:18 AM

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Sept 10 2015
When Will Congress Pass “Extenders” Legislation To Revive Expired Tax Breaks For 2015?

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With Congress returning from its August recess, this is the question on tax-savvy Americans’ minds. Many valuable tax breaks aren’t permanent, so Congress has to pass legislation extending them to keep them in effect. Unfortunately, Congress often waits until the last minute to do so.

For example, Congress didn’t pass 2014 extenders until December 2014, making the legislation retroactive to January 1, 2014 — but not extending the breaks to 2015. So we’re again in a waiting game to see what will happen with extenders legislation. Some believe Congress will act soon, while others think we’ll again be waiting until December.

Here are several expired breaks that may benefit you or your business if extended:

  • The deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes,
  • Tax-free IRA distributions to charities,
  • 100% bonus depreciation,
  • Enhanced Section 179 expensing,
  • Accelerated depreciation for qualified leasehold improvement, restaurant and retail improvement property,
  • The research tax credit,
  • The Work Opportunity tax credit, and
  • Various energy-related tax incentives.

Please check back with us for the latest information. Keep in mind that quick action after extenders legislation is passed may be required in order to take maximum advantage of the extended breaks.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-09-10 09:00:33 AM

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Aug 31 2015
Who Should Be The Executor Of Your Estate?

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Choosing the right executor — sometimes known as a “personal representative” — is critical to the smooth administration of an estate. An executor’s duties may include:

  • Collecting, protecting and taking inventory of the estate’s assets,
  • Filing the estate’s tax returns and paying its taxes,
  • Handling creditors’ claims and the estate’s claims against others,
  • Making investment decisions,
  • Distributing property to beneficiaries, and
  • Liquidating assets if necessary.

You don’t have to choose a professional executor or someone with legal or financial expertise. Often, family members can effectively perform the job, hiring professionals as needed (at the estate’s expense) to handle matters beyond their expertise. However, appointing a loved one can lead to problems. For example, if your executor stands to gain from the will, he or she may have a conflict of interest, which can lead to will contests or other disputes by disgruntled family members. If this is a concern, consider choosing an independent outsider as executor.

Regardless of whom you choose, designate at least one backup executor to serve in the event that your first choice dies or becomes incapacitated before it’s time to settle your estate.

If you have questions about whom you should consider as an executor, please contact us.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-08-31 06:50:28 AM

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Aug 26 2015
What You Need To Know Before Donating Collectibles

Posted in tax

If you’re a collector, donating from your collection instead of your bank account or investment portfolio can be tax-smart. When you donate appreciated property rather than selling it, you avoid the capital gains tax you would have incurred on a sale. And long-term gains on collectibles are subject to a higher maximum rate (28%) than long-term gains on most long-term property (15% or 20%, depending on your tax bracket) — so you can save even more taxes.

But choose the charity wisely. For you to receive a deduction equal to fair market value rather than your basis in the collectible, the item must be consistent with the charity’s purpose, such as an antique to a historical society.

Properly substantiating the donation is also critical, and this may include an appraisal. If you donate works of art with a collective value of $5,000 or more, you’ll need a qualified appraisal, and if the collective value is $20,000 or more, a copy of the appraisal must be attached to your tax return. If an individual item is valued at $20,000 or more, you may also be required to provide a photograph of that item.

If you’re considering a donation of artwork or other collectibles, contact us for help ensuring you can maximize your tax deduction.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-08-26 06:31:29 AM

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Aug 18 2015
Independent Contractors Offer Expertise and Potential Risks

Posted in tax

Turning to independent contractors can be a smart option in a number of situations, such as when you have a seasonal upswing in workload or need a specialized skill for a short period. But independent contractors come with potential risks, too. They may not help you trim your total workforce costs if you use them excessively. More important, there can be tax and legal ramifications if you mishandle the relationship.

The IRS has long scrutinized employers’ use of independent contractors as a way to avoid payroll tax obligations. If the IRS recharacterizes an independent contractor as an employee, you could be on the hook for:

  • Back payroll taxes you should have paid,
  • Back payroll and income taxes you should have withheld, and
  • Interest and penalties.

Also, earlier this year, the Department of Labor renewed its focus on employee misclassification. Its Wage and Hour Division released Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2015-1, which includes six factors to help employers determine proper classification and warns of serious potential penalties.

Independent contractors can give you flexibility to even out the peaks and valleys of your workforce needs. But these arrangements have risks. We can help you understand the tax implications and work with your legal advisors to keep you in compliance. Contact us today!

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-08-18 02:52:52 PM

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Aug 17 2015
Act Soon If You Want To Help Your Child Buy A Home

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Mortgage interest rates are still at historically low levels, but they’re expected to go up by year end. So if you’ve been thinking about helping your child — or grandchild — buy a home, consider acting soon. There also are some favorable tax factors that will help:

0% capital gains rate. If the child is in the 10% or 15% tax bracket, instead of giving cash to help fund a down payment, consider giving long-term appreciated assets such as stock or mutual fund shares. The child can sell the assets without incurring any federal income taxes on the gain, and you can save the taxes you’d owe if you sold the assets yourself. As long as the assets are worth $14,000 or less (when combined with any other 2015 gifts to the child), there will be no federal gift tax consequences — thanks to the annual gift tax exclusion.

Low federal interest rates. Another tax-friendly option is lending funds to the child. Now is a good time for taking this step, too. Currently, Applicable Federal Rates — the rates that can be charged on intrafamily loans without causing unwanted tax consequences — are very low by historical standards. But these rates are also expected to increase by year end.

If you have questions about these or other tax-efficient ways to help your child or grandchild buy a home, please contact us.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-08-17 08:29:23 AM

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Aug 10 2015
How To Begin Collecting Your 2015 Tax Refund Now

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If you usually receive a large federal income tax refund, you’re essentially making an interest-free loan to the IRS. Rather than wait until you file your 2015 tax return in 2016, why not begin enjoying your “refund” now by reducing your withholdings or estimated tax payments for the remainder of 2015?

It’s particularly important to review your withholdings, and adjust them if necessary, when you experience a major life event, such as marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child, or a layoff suffered by you or your spouse.

If you’d like help determining what your withholding or estimated tax payments should be for the second half of the year, please contact us.

© 2015

Last Updated by Admin on 2015-08-12 08:33:27 AM

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