While you’re gathering information to prepare your 2015 tax return, set aside time for a financial review. Here are steps to get started.
Compile a year-end list of your assets and debts and compare the list to last year. Are you gaining or losing ground? What actions can you take to improve your financial situation in 2016?
Review your insurance. Do you have disability insurance to replace take-home pay if you become incapacitated? What about life insurance – will the benefit provide enough cash to pay your family’s expenses in the event something happens to you or your spouse? Is your home protected with replacement value property insurance? What about insurance for automobile accidents or lawsuits?
Update your will and estate plan. What changed during 2015? Did you marry? Divorce? Have a child? Move to a new state? Receive an inheritance? All of these events can affect your planning. This year, you can leave up to $5,450,000 to your heirs with no federal estate tax liability. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore estate planning, which includes expressing your wishes for who will make decisions for you in times of emergencies as well as who will receive your assets.
For more suggestions, call us. We’re here to help.
By purchasing stock in certain small businesses, you can not only diversify your portfolio but also enjoy preferential tax treatment. And under a provision of the tax extenders act signed into law this past December (the PATH Act), such stock is now even more attractive from a tax perspective.
100% exclusion from gain
The PATH Act makes permanent the exclusion of 100% of the gain on the sale or exchange of qualified small business (QSB) stock acquired and held for more than five years. The 100% exclusion is available for QSB stock acquired after September 27, 2010. (Smaller exclusions are available for QSB stock acquired earlier.)
The act also permanently extends the rule that eliminates QSB stock gain as a preference item for alternative minimum tax (AMT) purposes.
What stock qualifies?
A QSB is generally a domestic C corporation that has gross assets of no more than $50 million at any time (including when the stock is issued) and uses at least 80% of its assets in an active trade or business.
Many factors to consider
Of course tax consequences are only one of the many factors that should be considered before making an investment. Also, keep in mind that the tax benefits discussed here are subject to additional requirements and limits. Consult us for more details.
1. Check whether your children need to file a 2015 tax return. They’ll need to file if wages exceeded $6,300, self-employment income was over $400, or investment income exceeded $1,050. When income includes both wages and investment income, other thresholds apply.
2. Consider whether you’ll contribute to a Roth or traditional IRA. Since you have until April 18 to make a 2015 contribution (April 19 if you live in Maine or Massachusetts), you can schedule an amount to set aside from each paycheck for the next few months. The maximum contribution for 2015 is the lesser of your earned income for the year or $5,500 ($6,500 when you’re age 50 or older). Be sure to tell your bank or other trustee that these 2016 contributions are for 2015 until you reach the 2015 limit. You can then deduct these 2016 amounts on your 2015 tax return for a quicker tax benefit.
3. Do you need to file a gift tax return? For 2015, you may need to file a return if you gave gifts totaling more than $14,000 to someone other than your spouse. Some gifts, such as direct payments of medical bills or tuition, are not subject to gift tax. Gift tax returns are due at the same time as your federal income tax return.
Call us for more tips on getting ready for filing your 2015 income taxes.
For the last several years, taxpayers have been allowed to take an itemized deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes. This break can be valuable to those residing in states with no or low income taxes or who purchase major items, such as a car or boat. But it had expired December 31, 2014. Now the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) has made the break permanent.
So see if you can save more by deducting sales tax on your 2015 return. Don’t worry — you don’t have to have receipts documenting all of the sales tax you actually paid during the year to take full advantage of the deduction. Your deduction can be determined by using an IRS sales tax calculator that will base the deduction on your income and the sales tax rates in your locale plus the tax you actually paid on certain major purchases.
Questions about this or other PATH Act breaks that might help you save taxes on your 2015 tax return? Contact us — we can help you identify which tax breaks will provide you the maximum benefit
When a customer complains, think of it as three opportunities in one.
An opportunity to get feedback on something that’s not working right in your organization.
An opportunity to convert a disgruntled customer into a loyal customer.
An opportunity to head off negative publicity.
Here are four steps to take to convert a complaint into a positive outcome.
1. The initial response. Be respectful and helpful. Avoid becoming defensive or saying “it’s not our fault.”
2. Understand the complaint. What’s the true complaint? It may not be easy to stay calm when faced with an angry rant, but making sure your customer knows you’re listening can defuse hostility and ill will. Gathering the facts provides valuable feedback to help you pinpoint the problem and find out what went wrong.
3. Fix the problem. Have established procedures so your employees know who has the responsibility and the authority to correct a problem. Do employees need managerial approval to compensate a customer for inconvenience with an upgrade or refund? What actions can your employee take to remedy the customer’s immediate concern?
4. Follow up. A phone call or letter within a reasonable time can ensure the problem has been resolved and turn the customer from “disgruntled” to “loyal.”
In mid-December, Congress renewed a long list of tax breaks known as “extenders” that have been expiring on an annual basis. This year many of the rules are retroactive to the beginning of 2015, and you can benefit from them as you prepare your 2015 federal income tax return.
In addition, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, which was signed into law on December 18, 2015, makes some of the rules effective through December 31, 2016. Others are effective through 2019, and some are effective permanently. Provisions in the Act also make changes to existing tax rules that were not part of the extenders. All of these changes will affect your tax planning for 2016 and future years. Here’s an overview of selected provisions.
● When you’re age 70½ and over, you can make a tax-free distribution of up to $100,000 from your IRA to a charity. This provision was reinstated for 2015 and is now permanent.
● The deduction for up to $250 of out-of-pocket eligible educator expenses is available for your 2015 return. It’s now permanent and will be indexed for inflation beginning with 2016 tax returns.
● You can choose to claim the itemized deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of deducting state and local income taxes on your 2015 return. This break is now permanent.
● The tuition and fees above-the-line deduction for qualified higher education expenses is available for 2015 and 2016.
● If you’re a homeowner, you can exclude mortgage debt cancellation or forgiveness of up to $2 million in 2015 and 2016. Discharges of qualified mortgage debt can also be excluded after January 1, 2017, if you have a binding written agreement in effect before that date. This tax break is only available for your principal residence.
● The maximum Section 179 deduction for qualified business property, including off-the-shelf software, is available for 2015 and is now permanently set at $500,000 (subject to a taxable income limitation). The deduction is phased out above a $2 million threshold. Both thresholds will be indexed for inflation beginning in 2016.
● The additional first-year depreciation deduction, known as “bonus depreciation,” is available for 2015 when you buy qualified business property. The deduction is extended through 2019.
● You can claim the work opportunity tax credit for 2015 if you hired eligible individuals last year. This credit is extended for five years (through 2019).
Because the Act was passed so late in the year, you’ll have to review your 2015 transactions to take advantage of applicable breaks and claim them on your 2015 federal income tax return. Also, with the rules now extended through 2016 (and in some cases beyond), you can begin to update your current tax plan with some measure of certainty.
Give us a call for more information and for help in determining which changes affect you.
The IRS has launched a new campaign to encourage you to protect your tax and financial data, both digital and paper. As part of the campaign, the IRS plans to release videos and consumer friendly tax tips, and sponsor local events across the country.
A new year means tax return filing season has arrived once again. Among the tax deadlines you may be required to meet in the next few months are the following:
● January 15 – Due date for the fourth and final installment of 2015 estimated tax for individuals (unless you file your 2015 return and pay any balance due by February 1).
● February 1 – Employers must furnish 2015 W-2 statements to employees. Payers must furnish 1099 information statements to payees. (The deadline for Form 1099-B and consolidated statements is February 16.)
● February 1 – Employers must generally file 2015 federal unemployment tax returns and pay any tax due.
● February 29 – Payers must file information returns (except Forms 1095-B and 1095-C) with the IRS. (March 31 is the deadline if filing electronically.)
● February 29 – Employers must send W-2 copies to the Social Security Administration. (March 31 is the deadline if filing electronically.)
● March 31 – Large employers must furnish Form 1095-C to employees.
● May 31 – Forms 1095-B and 1095-C due to IRS. (June 30 is the deadline if filing electronically.)
Commitment to effective practices and techniques can be the key to keeping your business operating on a sound footing. Some tips: Reduce lag time– Reducing the time between sending out invoices and receiving payment may take the form of giving incentive discounts to customers who pay early. On the expense side, aim for just-in-time inventory to reduce holding costs. Establish a line of credit– To cover shortfalls resulting from excessive lag time, unforeseen business disruptions, or weakening in your particular market, set up a line of credit with your local financial institution. What to watch out for: The tendency to let short-term credit develop into a crutch that props up poor cash management. Check out new customers-Assess whether new clients are likely to pay on time before extending credit. Deadbeat clients can squeeze your firm’s cash flow quickly. Grow with caution– Expanding into new markets can bring momentum and additional sources of income. But developing new product lines, expanding facilities, hiring employees, and ramping up your marketing budget all consume cash. Be sure your cash forecasts are accurate. Review and update them on a regular basis.
The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) extended a wide variety of tax breaks, in some cases making them permanent. Extended breaks include many tax credits — which are particularly valuable because they reduce taxes dollar-for-dollar (compared to deductions, for example, which reduce only the amount of income that’s taxed).
Here are two extended credits that can save businesses taxes on their 2015 returns:
1. The research credit. This credit (also commonly referred to as the “research and development” or “research and experimentation” credit) has been made permanent. It rewards businesses that increase their investments in research. The credit, generally equal to a portion of qualified research expenses, is complicated to calculate, but the tax savings can be substantial.
2. The Work Opportunity credit. This credit has been extended through 2019. It’s available for hiring from certain disadvantaged groups, such as food stamp recipients, ex-felons and veterans who’ve been unemployed for four weeks or more. The maximum credit ranges from $2,400 for most groups to $9,600 for disabled veterans who’ve been unemployed for six months or more.
Want to know if you might qualify for either of these credits? Or what other breaks extended by the PATH Act could save taxes on your 2015 return? Contact us!