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.

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#TaxTipTuesday-Reduce Your 2016 Tax Bill by Accelerating Your Property Tax Deduction

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Smart timing of deductible expenses can reduce your tax liability, and poor timing can unnecessarily increase it. When you don’t expect to be subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT) in the current year, accelerating deductible expenses into the current year typically is a good idea. Why? Because it will defer tax, which usually is beneficial. One deductible expense you may be able to control is your property tax payment.

 
You can prepay (by December 31) property taxes that relate to 2016 but that are due in 2017, and deduct the payment on your return for this year. But you generally can’t prepay property taxes that relate to 2017 and deduct the payment on this year’s return.

 
Should you or shouldn’t you?
As noted earlier, accelerating deductible expenses like property tax payments generally is beneficial. Prepaying your property tax may be especially beneficial if tax rates go down for 2017, which could happen based on the outcome of the November election. Deductions save more tax when tax rates are higher.

 
However, under the President-elect’s proposed tax plan, some taxpayers (such as certain single and head of household filers) might be subject to higher tax rates. These taxpayers may save more tax from the property tax deduction by holding off on paying their property tax until it’s due next year.

 
Likewise, taxpayers who expect to see a big jump in their income next year that would push them into a higher tax bracket also may benefit by not prepaying their property tax bill.

 
More considerations
Property tax isn’t deductible for AMT purposes. If you’re subject to the AMT this year, a prepayment may hurt you because you’ll lose the benefit of the deduction. So before prepaying your property tax, make sure you aren’t at AMT risk for 2016.

 
Also, don’t forget the income-based itemized deduction reduction. If your income is high enough that the reduction applies to you, the tax benefit of a prepayment will be reduced.

 
Not sure whether you should prepay your property tax bill or what other deductions you might be able to accelerate into 2016 (or should consider deferring to 2017)? Contact us. We can help you determine the best year-end tax planning strategies for your specific situation.

#TaxTipTuesday- Year-end tax strategies for accrual-basis taxpayers

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The last month or so of the year offers accrual-basis taxpayers an opportunity to make some timely moves that might enable them to save money on their 2016 tax bill.

 
Record and recognize
The key to saving tax as an accrual-basis taxpayer is to properly record and recognize expenses that were incurred this year but won’t be paid until 2017. This will enable you to deduct those expenses on your 2016 federal tax return. Common examples of such expenses include:
• Commissions, salaries and wages,
• Payroll taxes,
• Advertising,
• Interest,
• Utilities,
• Insurance, and
• Property taxes.

 
You can also accelerate deductions into 2016 without actually paying for the expenses in 2016 by charging them on a credit card. (This works for cash-basis taxpayers, too.) Accelerating deductible expenses into 2016 may be especially beneficial if tax rates go down for 2017, which could happen based on the outcome of the November election. Deductions save more tax when tax rates are higher.

 
Look at prepaid expenses
Also review all prepaid expense accounts and write off any items that have been used up before the end of the year. If you prepay insurance for a period of time beginning in 2016, you can expense the entire amount this year rather than spreading it between 2016 and 2017, as long as a proper method election is made. This is treated as a tax expense and thus won’t affect your internal financials.

 
Miscellaneous tax tips
Here are a few more year-end tax tips to consider:
• Review your outstanding receivables and write off any receivables you can establish as uncollectible.
• Pay interest on all shareholder loans to or from the company.
• Update your corporate record book to record decisions and be better prepared for an audit.

 
Consult us for more details on how these and other year-end tax strategies may apply to your business.

The timing of your business’s income and deductible expenses can have a big impact on your tax liability. Here’s how to determine the right timing strategies for you this year.

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Typically, it’s better to defer tax. One way is through controlling when your business recognizes income and incurs deductible expenses. Here are two timing strategies that can help businesses do this:

 

  1. Defer income to next year. If your business uses the cash method of accounting, you can defer billing for your products or services. Or, if you use the accrual method, you can delay shipping products or delivering services.
  2. Accelerate deductible expenses into the current year. If you’re a cash-basis taxpayer, you may make a state estimated tax payment before Dec. 31, so you can deduct it this year rather than next. Both cash- and accrual-basis taxpayers can charge expenses on a credit card and deduct them in the year charged, regardless of when the credit card bill is paid.

But if you think you’ll be in a higher tax bracket next year (or you expect tax rates to go up), consider taking the opposite approach instead — accelerating income and deferring deductible expenses. This will increase your tax bill this year but can save you tax over the two-year period.

These are only some of the nuances to consider. Please contact us to discuss what timing strategies will work to your tax advantage, based on your specific situation.

Returning home as an adult

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Are you thinking of returning to your childhood home to live with your parents? Although heading home after graduation or a divorce may feel like a setback, a temporary return to living with your parents can present opportunities to improve your financial situation.

 
For example, living with your parents means you can share the cost of rent, utilities, and food, resulting in reduced expenses. By establishing a realistic budget, you can make the most of these lower costs, and repay student loans or other debt more quickly. You can also build up savings for emergencies and long-term goals, such as buying a home of your own. A sound plan is to avoid additional debt while you’re working toward your financial independence. You also might consider paying expenses in cash to reduce your reliance on credit and help you stick to your budget.

 
For best results, establish clear expectations for both you and your parents before you move in together. Consider a written agreement that outlines the financial responsibilities of everyone in the household, and what the consequences will be for not living up to your promises. In addition, determine specific milestones you want to reach before you move out, and communicate them clearly. Goals could include accumulating $5,000 in savings, or reaching a six-month work anniversary at your job.

 
Contact us for suggestions about how to create an achievable financial plan.

 

 

Now’s the time to start thinking about “bunching” — miscellaneous itemized deductions, that is

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Many expenses that may qualify as miscellaneous itemized deductions are deductible only to the extent they exceed, in aggregate, 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Bunching these expenses into a single year may allow you to exceed this “floor.” So now is a good time to add up your potential deductions to date to see if bunching is a smart strategy for you this year.

 
Should you bunch into 2016?
If your miscellaneous itemized deductions are getting close to — or they already exceed — the 2% floor, consider incurring and paying additional expenses by Dec. 31, such as:
• Deductible investment expenses, including advisory fees, custodial fees and publications
• Professional fees, such as tax planning and preparation, accounting, and certain legal fees
• Unreimbursed employee business expenses, including vehicle costs, travel, and allowable meals and entertainment.
But beware …
These expenses aren’t deductible for alternative minimum tax (AMT) purposes. So don’t bunch them into 2016 if you might be subject to the AMT this year.
Also, if your AGI exceeds the applicable threshold, certain deductions — including miscellaneous itemized deductions — are reduced by 3% of the AGI amount that exceeds the threshold (not to exceed 80% of otherwise allowable deductions). For 2016, the thresholds are $259,400 (single), $285,350 (head of household), $311,300 (married filing jointly) and $155,650 (married filing separately).
If you’d like more information on miscellaneous itemized deductions, the AMT or the itemized deduction limit, let us know.

 

 

Are you looking for a way to give your employees a tax-free benefit that is also tax-deductible for your business?

accountable plans

Consider an accountable plan. These arrangements let you reimburse your employees for expenses incurred on behalf of your company, such as driving to the post office or office supply store. With a properly administered plan, you can deduct the reimbursements on your business tax return, yet the payments are not considered income to your employees.

How can you make sure your plan qualifies? Here are three requirements.

● The reimbursements must be for allowable business expenses. For instance, you can repay employees for hotel and other travel expenses when traveling to a trade convention.

● Your employees need to keep records of the expenses, and provide those records to you.

● If you pay or advance your employees more than the actual amounts spent on business items, the excess must be returned to you. Amounts not returned are income to your employee, and are subject to payroll taxes.

Contact us to discuss your policies for repaying employees’ business expenses. We’ll help you make your plan accountable.

Thinking of going green at home? You may be able to save energy and tax with this credit.

post-it-819682_640The 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.

 

What qualifies
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.

Looking for larger deductions? Throw a company picnic this summer.

 

watermelon

Many businesses host a picnic for employees in the summer. It’s a fun activity for your staff and you may be able to take a larger deduction for the cost than you would on other meal and entertainment expenses.

 
Deduction limits
Generally, businesses are limited to deducting 50% of allowable meal and entertainment expenses. But certain expenses are 100% deductible, including expenses:
• For recreational or social activities for employees, such as summer picnics and holiday parties,
• For food and beverages furnished at the workplace primarily for employees, and
• That are excludable from employees’ income as de minimis fringe benefits.
There is one caveat for a 100% deduction: The entire staff must be invited. Otherwise, expenses are deductible under the regular business entertainment rules.

 
Recordkeeping requirements
Whether you deduct 50% or 100% of allowable expenses, there are a number of requirements, including certain records you must keep to prove your expenses.
If your company has substantial meal and entertainment expenses, you can reduce your tax bill by separately accounting for and documenting expenses that are 100% deductible. If doing so would create an administrative burden, you may be able to use statistical sampling methods to estimate the portion of meal and entertainment expenses that are fully deductible.

 
For more information about deducting business meals and entertainment, including how to take advantage of the 100% deduction, please contact us.

Did you know that you can claim a federal income tax credit when you pay someone to care for your kids while you’re at work or school?

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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.

 
Contact us for more information.