TaxTipTuesday-The investment interest expense deduction: Less beneficial than you might think

 

 

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Investment interest — interest on debt used to buy assets held for investment, such as margin debt used to buy securities — generally is deductible for both regular tax and alternative minimum tax purposes. But special rules apply that can make this itemized deduction less beneficial than you might think.

 
Limits on the deduction
First, you can’t deduct interest you incurred to produce tax-exempt income. For example, if you borrow money to invest in municipal bonds, which are exempt from federal income tax, you can’t deduct the interest.

 
Second, and perhaps more significant, your investment interest deduction is limited to your net investment income, which, for the purposes of this deduction, generally includes taxable interest, non-qualified dividends and net short-term capital gains, reduced by other investment expenses. In other words, long-term capital gains and qualified dividends aren’t included.

 
However, any disallowed interest is carried forward. You can then deduct the disallowed interest in a later year if you have excess net investment income.

 
Changing the tax treatment
You may elect to treat net long-term capital gains or qualified dividends as investment income in order to deduct more of your investment interest. But if you do, that portion of the long-term capital gain or dividend will be taxed at ordinary-income rates.

 
If you’re wondering whether you can claim the investment interest expense deduction on your 2016 return, please contact us. We can run the numbers to calculate your potential deduction or to determine whether you could benefit from treating gains or dividends differently to maximize your deduction.

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Are you starting a new business in the new year? Put these items on your to-do list.

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1. Business plan. Outline who will own the business and what the legal form will be, your qualifications to run the business, the competitive market you face, the products or services you will sell, and how you intend to advertise to prospective customers. How much cash will you need to start up and where will those funds come from?

2. Legal form. You can incorporate, or operate as an LLC, a partnership, or a sole proprietorship. Consider both tax and non-tax reasons for selecting a given entity.

3. Location. If your business will consist only of online sales, your world headquarters can be wherever you are. However, if your business needs foot traffic to thrive, you’ll need to research rents and other costs such as utilities, as well as zoning and traffic restrictions.

4. Taxes. You’ll have to work with the IRS, state tax agencies, and local governments to obtain permits and occupational licenses.

5. Advisors. Create a business financial team that includes a banker, an insurance agent, an attorney, and an accountant. Involve your advisors early and frequently.

Need more suggestions for getting your business off to a good start? Contact us. We’re here to help.

#TaxTipTuesday-Deduction for state and local sales tax benefits some, but not all, taxpayers

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The break allowing taxpayers to take an itemized deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes was made “permanent” a little over a year ago. 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.

 
Your 2016 tax return
How do you determine whether you can save more by deducting sales tax on your 2016 return? Compare your potential deduction for state and local income tax to your potential deduction for state and local sales tax.

 
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 (for which you will need substantiation).

 
2017 and beyond
If you’re considering making a large purchase in 2017, you shouldn’t necessarily count on the sales tax deduction being available on your 2017 return. When the PATH Act made the break “permanent” in late 2015, that just meant that there’s no scheduled expiration date for it. Congress could pass legislation to eliminate the break (or reduce its benefit) at any time.

 
Recent Republican proposals have included elimination of many itemized deductions, and the new President has proposed putting a cap on itemized deductions. Which proposals will make it into tax legislation in 2017 and when various provisions will be signed into law and go into effect is still uncertain.

 
Questions about the sales tax deduction or other breaks that might help you save taxes on your 2016 tax return? Or about the impact of possible tax law changes on your 2017 tax planning? Contact us — we can help you maximize your 2016 savings and effectively plan for 2017.

Tax bracket, tax rate, what’s the difference?

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The difference between your tax bracket and your tax rate is more than a trick question. For example, knowing your tax rate gives you an accurate reflection of your tax liability in relation to your total income. Knowing your tax bracket is useful for planning purposes. For instance, you may want to spread a Roth conversion over several years in order to stay within the income limits of a particular tax bracket.

So, what’s the difference between the two? The main difference is that a tax bracket is a range of income to which a specific tax rate applies, while your effective tax rate is the percentage of your income that you actually pay in tax. Put another way, not every dollar is taxed at the same rate. Your tax bracket shows the rate of tax on the last dollar you made during the tax year. Your effective tax rate reflects the actual amount you paid on all your taxable income.

For example, say you’re single and in the 25% bracket for 2016. That means your taxable income is between $37,650 and $91,150.

Yet the tax you pay is less than 25% of your income.

Why? Because the 25% tax rate only applies to the amount of taxable income within the 25% bracket. The tax on income below $37,650 is calculated using the rate that applies to income in the 10% and 15% brackets.

So, if your 2016 taxable income is $40,000, only $2,350 is taxed at 25%. The remainder is taxed at 10% and 15%, leading to a “blended” overall rate. The result: a tax bracket of 25%, and an effective tax rate of less than that.

Good tax advice can affect both your bracket and your rate. Want to know how? Contact us.

You don’t have to itemize to claim these deductions on your 2016 return

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Can’t itemize? You can still claim some expenses on your 2016 federal income tax return. Here’s how you can benefit.

 

 

 

 

* IRA and HSA contributions

If you made a contribution to your traditional IRA for 2016, or if you plan to make a 2016 contribution by April 18, 2017, you may qualify to deduct up to the maximum contribution amount of $5,500 ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older). Income limitations apply in some cases, and you can’t deduct contributions to Roth IRAs.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are IRA-like accounts set up in conjunction with a high-deductible health insurance policy. The annual contributions you make to your HSA are deductible. Contributions are invested and grow on a tax-deferred basis, and you’re allowed to withdraw money in the account tax-free to pay for your unreimbursed medical expenses. For 2016, you can deduct up to the contribution limit of $3,350 if you’re filing single and $6,750 when you’re married filing jointly. You may also be able to deduct an additional $1,000 if you were age 55 or older and made a catch-up contribution to your HSA.

* Student loan interest and tuition fees

Deduct up to $2,500 of interest on student loans for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents on your 2016 return. For 2016 returns, you can also deduct up to $4,000 of tuition and fees for qualified higher education courses. Income limitations apply, and you must coordinate these deductions with other education tax breaks.

* Self-employment deductions

If you’re self-employed, you can generally deduct the cost of health insurance premiums, retirement plan contributions, and one-half of self-employment taxes.

* Other deductions

Alimony you pay, certain moving expenses, and early savings withdrawal penalties are also deductible on your 2016 return, even if you don’t itemize. Teachers can deduct up to $250 for classroom supplies purchased out-of-pocket in 2016.

Contact our office for more information on these and other costs you may be able to deduct on your 2016 tax return.

#TaxTipTuesday-Help prevent tax identity theft by filing early

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If you’re like many Americans, you might not start thinking about filing your tax return until close to this year’s April 18 deadline. You might even want to file for an extension so you don’t have to send your return to the IRS until October 16.

But there’s another date you should keep in mind: January 23. That’s the date the IRS will begin accepting 2016 returns, and filing as close to that date as possible could protect you from tax identity theft.

Why early filing helps

In an increasingly common scam, thieves use victims’ personal information to file fraudulent tax returns electronically and claim bogus refunds. This is usually done early in the tax filing season. When the real taxpayers file, they’re notified that they’re attempting to file duplicate returns.

A victim typically discovers the fraud after he or she files a tax return and is informed by the IRS that the return has been rejected because one with the same Social Security number has already been filed for the same tax year. The IRS then must determine who the legitimate taxpayer is.

Tax identity theft can cause major headaches to straighten out and significantly delay legitimate refunds. But if you file first, it will be the tax return filed by a potential thief that will be rejected — not yours.

Another important date

Of course, in order to file your tax return, you’ll need to have your W-2s and 1099s. So another key date to be aware of is January 31 — the deadline for employers to issue 2016 W-2s to employees and, generally, for businesses to issue 1099s to recipients of any 2016 interest, dividend or reportable miscellaneous income payments.

Delays for some refunds

The IRS reminded taxpayers claiming the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit to expect a longer wait for their refunds. A law passed in 2015 requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming these credits until at least February 15.

An additional benefit

Let us know if you have questions about tax identity theft or would like help filing your 2016 return early. If you’ll be getting a refund, an added bonus of filing early is that you’ll be able to enjoy your refund sooner.

2017 financial shape up: Small steps toward big goals

Shaping up your finances in 2017 may seem like a big goal, perhaps even too daunting. But if you take one small step at a time, these small steps will add up. Here are suggestions.
* Shift out of automatic. Have you established automatic bill pay at your bank or service provider, or automatic charges to your credit card?
 Small step: Look for payments for goods or services you no longer use, such as recurring monthly subscriptions, and cancel them.
 Big goal: Reduce total expenses and increase savings.

 
* Take the urgency out of emergency. Sure, you know that having an account with enough funds specifically earmarked for emergencies is a good idea. But the amount you need to save seems overwhelming. The good news is you don’t have to immediately fund six months of living expenses.
 Small step: Set up a separate account with automatic deposits of $5 or $10 per paycheck, perhaps with funds you’ve redirected from those unused recurring monthly subscriptions.
Big goal: An emergency fund with enough cash to cover six months of expenses.

 
* Give yourself credit. Maybe you intend to pay off your credit card debt. But do you have a plan? Knowing where you stand is the first step in getting to where you want to be.
 Small step: Make a list of your cards, the balances, the minimum payments, and the interest rates.
 Big goal: Eliminate finance charges by being able to pay off your balance each month.

 
* Retire your excuses. Does your employer offer a retirement plan? If so, you may be leaving money on the table.
 Small step: Find out what amount is on offer as “matching” funds. That’s money your employer will add to your account when you make contributions.
 Big goal: Maximize your retirement contributions.

 
Small steps can lead to big improvements in your financial well-being. Contact us for more tips.

#TaxTipTuesday-Key Deadlines for businesses and other employers

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Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the first quarter of 2017. 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.

 
January 31
• File 2016 Forms W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement,” with the Social Security Administration and provide copies to your employees.
• File 2016 Forms 1099-MISC, “Miscellaneous Income,” reporting nonemployee compensation payments in Box 7 with the IRS, and provide copies to recipients.
• File Form 941, “Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return,” to report Medicare, Social Security and income taxes withheld in the fourth quarter of 2016. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return. Employers that have an estimated annual employment tax liability of $1,000 or less may be eligible to file Form 944,“Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return.”
• File Form 940, “Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return,” for 2016. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it’s more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.
• File Form 945, “Annual Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax,” for 2016 to report income tax withheld on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on accounts such as pensions, annuities and IRAs. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.

 
February 28
File 2016 Forms 1099-MISC with the IRS and provide copies to recipients. (Note that Forms 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation in Box 7 must be filed by January 31, beginning with 2016 forms filed in 2017.)

 
March 15
If a calendar-year partnership or S corporation, file or extend your 2016 tax return. If the return isn’t extended, this is also the last day to make 2016 contributions to pension and profit-sharing plans.

IRS Extended Due Date For Forms 1095

friendly-reminder-1When you’re an applicable large employer (generally, when you employ 50 or more full-time workers and equivalents), you’re required to provide information about health coverage to the IRS and to your employees. The IRS extended the date on which two of these forms are due to your employees. Instead of being due January 31, Form 1095-B, Health Coverage, and Form 1095-C, Employer Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage, are now due March 2, 2017. There is no change to the February 28, 2017, due date for filing paper forms with the IRS, nor the March 31, 2017, due date for filing electronically.

#Payroll-New Due Dates

post-it-150262__180Did you spot the new due dates on the tax calendar? As you begin your January payroll preparation, take into account earlier due dates for two common information reporting forms.
Forms W-2 for 2016 are due January 31 for all copies. In the past, you had to provide Forms W-2 to your employees by January 31. Now the January 31 deadline also applies to copies submitted to the Social Security Administration.
The due date for filing all copies of 2016 Forms 1099-MISC with non-employee compensation in Box 7 is January 31, 2017. For these forms, the January 31 due date also applies to both paper and electronic filing.