During his first week in office, President Trump signed an executive order asking federal agencies to reduce the economic burden the Patient Protection andAffordable Care Act (ACA) puts on American citizens.
Unfortunately, this executive order is causing confusion. Many people are left wondering if fines will no longer be imposed or rules no longer need to be followed. Until the agencies impacted by this executive order publish their intent, act as though current laws are still in play. This includes:
The requirement to have health insurance
The requirement to pay a shared responsibility tax if you do not have continuous health insurance coverage
The ability to receive a health insurance premium credit if you qualify
Possible health insurance credits for qualifying small businesses
It’s important to realize that unless tax laws actually change, you are expected to follow the laws as they are currently written.
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.
Are you going to school this fall to earn an advanced degree or to brush up on your work skills? If so, you might be able to deduct what you pay for tuition, books, and other supplies.
If you’re self-employed or working for someone else, you may be able to claim a deduction for out-of-pocket educational costs if the training is necessary to maintain your skills or is required by your employer.
Just remember that even when the education meets those two tests, if you’re qualified to work in a new trade or business when you’ve completed the course, your expenses are personal and nondeductible. That’s true even if you do not get a job in the new trade or business.
Work-related education expenses are an itemized deduction when you’re an employee and a business expense when you’re self-employed. You may also be eligible for other tax benefits, such as the lifetime learning credit.
The income tax credit for certain energy-efficient home improvements and equipment purchases was extended through 2016 by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (the PATH Act). So, you still have time to save both energy and taxes by making these eco-friendly investments.
The credit is for expenses related to your principal residence. It equals 10% of certain qualified improvement expenses plus 100% of certain other qualified equipment expenses, subject to a maximum overall credit of $500, which is reduced by any credits claimed in earlier years. (Because of this reduction, many people who previously claimed the credit will be ineligible for any further credits in 2016.)
Examples of improvement investments potentially eligible for the 10% of expense credit include:
• Insulation systems that reduce heat loss or gain,
• Metal and asphalt roofs with heat-reduction components that meet Energy Star requirements, and
• Exterior windows (including skylights) and doors that meet Energy Star requirements. These expenditures are subject to a separate $200 credit cap.
Examples of equipment investments potentially eligible for the 100% of expense credit include:
• Qualified central air conditioners; electric heat pumps; electric heat pump water heaters; water heaters that run on natural gas, propane, or oil; and biomass fuel stoves used for heating or hot water, which are subject to a separate $300 credit cap.
• Qualified furnaces and hot water boilers that run on natural gas, propane or oil, which are subject to a separate $150 credit cap.
• Qualified main air circulating fans used in natural gas, propane and oil furnaces, which are subject to a separate $50 credit cap.
Manufacturer certifications required
When claiming the credit, you must keep with your tax records a certification from the manufacturer that the product qualifies. The certification may be found on the product packaging or the manufacturer’s website. Additional rules and limits apply. For more information about these and other green tax breaks for individuals, contact us.
The Child and Dependent Care Credit is valuable because it reduces the amount of tax you owe dollar-for-dollar. Here’s an overview of the rules.
● Child care expenses must be work-related. This requirement means you have to pay for child care so you can work or actively look for work. If you’re married, you and your spouse must both work. Exceptions to this “earned income” rule include spouses who are full-time students or who are not able to care for themselves due to mental or physical limitations.
● Expenses generally must be paid for care of your under-age-13 child. However, expenses you pay to care for a physically or mentally disabled spouse or adult dependent may also count.
● Expenses must be paid to someone who is not your dependent. Amounts you pay your spouse, your child’s parent (such as an ex-spouse), anyone claimed as a dependent on your tax return, or your own child age 18 or younger do not qualify for the credit. For example, if you pay your 17-year-old dependent child to watch a younger sibling, that expense doesn’t count for purposes of claiming the credit.
● The care provider has to be identified on your tax return. You’ll typically need to show the name, address, and taxpayer identification number. You can request this information by asking your provider to complete Form W-10, Dependent Care Provider’s Identification and Certification.
● The amount you can claim depends on how much you spend for the care up to a dollar limit of $3,000 of expenses for one dependent and $6,000 for two or more dependents.
Looking for suggestions to reduce your 2016 business tax liability? Here are three tips to consider as summer gets underway. 1. Business trips. When you travel on business this summer, you can write off your expenses – including airfare, lodging, and 50% of the cost of meals – if the primary motive of the trip is business-related. Costs attributable to personal side trips are nondeductible. If you travel by car, deduct actual business-related auto costs or a flat rate of 54 cents per mile (plus tolls and parking fees). 2. Hire your child. Does your teenaged child need a summer job? If you hire your child, the wages paid for actual services rendered are deductible, the same as wages of other employees. The wages will be taxable to your child at your child’s tax rate, which may be lower than your rate or that of your business. 3. Job credits. When your business hires workers from certain “target groups,” such as veterans and food stamp recipients, you may be able to claim the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. The maximum credit is generally $2,400 per qualified worker. A special summertime credit is available for hiring youths residing in empowerment zones or enterprise communities who work for you between May 1 and September 15.
We have more summertime tax planning suggestions for your business. Contact us today.
Although the kids might still be in school for a few more weeks, summer day camp is rapidly approaching for many families. If yours is among them, did you know that sending your child to day camp might make you eligible for a tax credit?
The power of tax credits
Day camp (but not overnight camp) is a qualified expense under the child and dependent care credit, which is worth 20% of qualifying expenses (more if your adjusted gross income is less than $43,000), subject to a cap. For 2016, the maximum expenses allowed for the credit are $3,000 for one qualifying child and $6,000 for two or more.
Remember that tax credits are particularly valuable because they reduce your tax liability dollar-for-dollar — $1 of tax credit saves you $1 of taxes. This differs from deductions, which simply reduce the amount of income subject to tax. For example, if you’re in the 28% tax bracket, $1 of deduction saves you only $0.28 of taxes. So it’s important to take maximum advantage of the tax credits available to you.
Rules to be aware of
A qualifying child is generally a dependent under age 13. (There’s no age limit if the dependent child is unable physically or mentally to care for him- or herself.) Special rules apply if the child’s parents are divorced or separated or if the parents live apart.
Eligible costs for care must be work-related, which means that the child care is needed so that you can work or, if you’re currently unemployed, look for work. However, if your employer offers a child and dependent care Flexible Spending Account (FSA) that you participate in, you can’t use expenses paid from or reimbursed by the FSA to claim the credit.
If you’re in business long enough, you’ll run into a customer who doesn’t pay you. Despite your best efforts, you may conclude that you’ll never receive the money. Do you have a tax-deductible bad debt? The answer depends in part on whether you operate your business using the cash or accrual method of accounting. Cash. When you use the cash method, you report taxable income when you receive it and deduct expenses when they are actually paid. While this makes your bookkeeping simple, you get no direct deduction for a bad debt. Since the income was never received, it was never reported or taxed. However, you will still be able to indirectly deduct the labor, merchandise, and overhead used to provide for the goods or services that were delivered but not paid for. Accrual. Under the accrual method, you report income when you send an invoice to the customer. Expenses are deducted when they are due, regardless of when you pay them. This method is more complicated than the cash method, since you must track accounts receivable and accounts payable. However, because you report taxable income when you bill your customers, you have a bad debt deduction that you can claim as an operating expense if your customers fail to pay.
For more information about accounting for bad debts, contact us.
Financial literacy is a vital skill in today’s world. Will your children be able to handle their finances when they became adults? Here are tips to help ensure the answer is yes.
Shave spending. Take the weekly allowance to the next level by helping your child develop a budget. Review the results to reinforce good habits.
Stress savings. Even young children can grasp the power of compound interest. A simple example is asking your child to put a dollar in a piggy bank. Offer to pay five percent interest if the money is still there in a week or a month. Make the same offer at the end of the first time period, and pay “interest on the interest” as well.
Introduce investments. Create a portfolio, either real or paper, consisting of shares of one or more stocks or mutual funds. Make a game of charting the investment’s progress on a regular basis.
Cover credit. Take on the role of lender and let your child request an advance on a weekly allowance. Charge interest.
Talk taxes. Use word search or crossword puzzles to teach tax terminology. Consider creating a “Family Economy” game using examples from your own budget.
Lessons in financial responsibility can benefit your children now and in the future. Get them started on the right path.
If you conduct qualified research activities, you may be eligible to claim a federal income tax credit known as the “research and development” credit. This credit is now permanent and may benefit you when you design, develop, and improve business products or processes. Beginning in 2016, the research and development credit can be applied against your alternative minimum tax liability. In some cases, the credit may also be applied against up to $250,000 of payroll taxes