Two tax-smart ideas for your tax refund

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If you have a tax refund coming, consider investing it in your future.

Are you looking forward to your tax refund? By now you know how much you’ll be getting and approximately when the cash will land in your bank account. The only question is, what’s the best way to put the money to work for you?
Here are two tax-smart ideas.

Fund your IRA. Depending on your income, making a contribution to a Traditional IRA could result in a deduction on next year’s tax return – and possibly a credit of as much as $2,000. For 2016, you can contribute a maximum of $5,500 to your IRA. Add another $1,000 for a total of $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older.

Invest in knowledge. Establish a qualified tuition plan, commonly called a Section 529 plan, or a Coverdell Education Savings Account. While contributions are not tax-deductible, the account earnings grow tax-free, and distributions used for educational expenses are also generally tax-free.

Do you need work-related training? Education required by your employer or courses that improve or maintain skills necessary for your present job, can qualify for a deduction.

You might not be used to thinking of your investments in terms of taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-free. Learn why you might want to.

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Diversifying your investments involves spreading your risks by investing in a variety of asset classes such as stocks, bonds, commodities, and real estate. But with a changing tax landscape, you might consider three more classes: taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-free.

 
Years ago, taxpayers often worked under the assumption that their tax bracket would be lower after they retire. Therefore, a common strategy was to defer as much taxable income as possible to the golden years. Now, however, with the possibility of higher tax rates in the future, it could be more efficient to pay those taxes today while rates remain lower. Since no one knows for sure what Washington will do, it might be time to hedge your tax risk and allocate your portfolio between accounts with differing tax consequences.

 
* Taxable accounts, such as savings or brokerage accounts, result in current taxation on earnings, but they also provide maximum flexibility. You can withdraw as much as you wish whenever you wish, with no IRS penalties. Keeping some of your nest egg in this type of account will provide immediate funds for major purchases, debt reduction, or emergencies.

 
* Tax-deferred accounts, such as IRAs or 401(k)s, only postpone the payment of taxes; eventually you will have to pay Uncle Sam when you withdraw the funds. But in the meantime, you generally receive a current-year tax deduction when you contribute, and the account can grow tax-deferred until you take it out at retirement.

 
* Tax-free accounts, such as Roth IRAs, are funded with after-tax dollars. What you put in, including any investment earnings, can be later withdrawn tax-free. The downside? You generally must wait until after age 59½ (and the account has to be open for five years) to make a tax-free withdrawal.

 
Diversifying your portfolio is only the first step. The next (and trickiest) step is properly investing in each tax class. For instance, your goal for a taxable account might be to generate growth while keeping taxable earnings to a minimum. This could be done by investing in tax-exempt municipal bonds or low-dividend yielding growth stocks.
In a tax-deferred account, investment income is not taxed until withdrawn, so earnings can come from any source without immediate tax implications. However, since you must start withdrawing funds from an IRA or 401(k) at age 70½, you might want to consider this in your planning.

 
Tax-free Roth IRAs offer the longest time horizon for investing since you are not required to make a withdrawal at any age.

 
In an era of high uncertainty and low-to-moderate economic growth forecasts, tax-efficient investing has never been more important. To review the tax implications of your investments, give our office a call today.

Is an automatic tax filing extension the right move for you?

question-mark-2010009__340Can’t finish your federal income tax return by the April 18 deadline? There’s still time to get an automatic six-month extension.

 
There are four ways to obtain an extension:

 
1. File a paper copy of Form 4868 with the IRS and enclose your payment of estimated tax due.
2. File for an extension electronically using the IRS e-file system on your computer.
3. Using IRS Direct Pay, you can pay all or part of your estimated income tax due and indicate the payment is for an extension.
4. Have your tax preparer e-file for an extension on your behalf.

 
Remember that even if you file for an extension, you are still required to pay any taxes you owe by the April 18 filing deadline. An extension gives you more time to file your tax return, but not more time to pay the taxes you owe. You will be charged interest on any taxes you owe and do not pay by the filing deadline. If you are unable to pay on time, contact the IRS to set up a payment agreement.

 
Special extension rules apply to members of the military serving in combat zones and to certain others who live outside the U.S. Give us a call so we can discuss whether or not an extension is right for your situation.

#TaxTip Tuesday-2017 Q2 tax calendar: 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 second 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.

April 18

  • If a calendar-year C corporation, file a 2016 income tax return (Form 1120) or file for an automatic six-month extension (Form 7004), and pay any tax due. If the return isn’t extended, this is also the last day to make 2016 contributions to pension and profit-sharing plans.
  • If a calendar-year C corporation, pay the first installment of 2017 estimated income taxes.

May 1

  • Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for first quarter 2017 (Form 941), and pay any tax due. (See exception below.)

May 10

  • Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for first quarter 2017 (Form 941), if you deposited on time and in full all of the associated taxes due.

June 15

If a calendar-year C corporation, pay the second installment of 2017 estimated income taxes

Apply for an extension if you can’t file by April 18

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Tax time can be stressful, but don’t panic if you can’t file your tax return on time. There’s still time to get an automatic six-month deadline extension.

 

 

 
There are four ways to obtain an extension:
1. File a paper copy of Form 4868 with the IRS and enclose your payment of estimated tax due.
2. File for an extension electronically using the IRS e-file system on your computer.
3. Using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, pay all or part of your estimated income tax due and indicate that the payment is for an extension.
4. Have your tax preparer e-file for an extension on your behalf.

 
Remember that even if you file for an extension, you are still required to pay any taxes you owe by the April 18 filing deadline. An extension gives you more time to file your tax return, but not more time to pay the taxes you owe. You will be charged interest on any taxes you owe and do not pay by the filing deadline. If you are unable to pay on time, contact the IRS to set up a payment agreement.

 
Special extension rules apply to members of the military serving in combat zones and to certain others who live outside the U.S. Give us a call so we can discuss whether or not an extension is right for your situation.

Do you need to make estimated payments?

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Estimated tax payments – Who needs to make them? When are they due?

 

 
April 18 is both the day individual income tax returns for 2016 are due and the due date for the first estimated tax payment for 2017. So, even as you finalize, file, and pay your 2016 federal income taxes, you might need to be thinking about how much you’ll owe for 2017. If you’re required to make estimated payments, missing the deadline could lead to penalties – even if your return shows a refund.

 

So what are estimated payments? Like the withholding deducted from your wages, estimated payments are prepayments of the tax you expect to owe for the current year. The difference is that you have to calculate the amount due and make the payment yourself, typically four times a year.

 
How do you know if you’re required to make estimated payments? Generally, you need to prepay at least 90% of the total tax you owe each year. You can do this by having tax withheld on income such as wages, pensions, or IRA distributions. But if you operate your own business, or receive alimony, investment, or other income that’s not subject to withholding, you may need to pay your tax through estimated payments.

 
There are exceptions to the general 90% rule. For instance, say you anticipate the balance due on your 2016 federal individual income tax return will be less than $1,000 after subtracting withholding and credits. In this case, you can skip the estimated payments and remit the final balance with your return next April.

 
Other exceptions may also apply, and state laws can differ from federal requirements. In addition, farmers and fishermen are subject to special rules.

 
If your 2017 income will be substantially higher than it was last year, give us a call. We’ll be happy to review the estimated tax rules with you and help you avoid underpayment penalties

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.

Don’t include the IRS on your gift list

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Suppose a relative gives you an expensive painting. Several years later, your relative dies and you decide to sell the painting. Your accountant says you’ll owe capital gain tax on the sale, and asks for your basis in order to reduce the amount on which you’ll pay tax. What’s your answer?

 
When you sell property received as a gift, the general rule is that your basis is the donor’s cost basis. If you sell at a loss, your basis is the lower of the donor’s basis or the fair market value on the date you received the gift. These numbers are adjusted in some cases. But without cost records, you have no way of proving the donor’s basis and no way of saving yourself tax dollars.

 
If asking for records of the cost when you receive a gift seems inappropriate, explain why you want to know to help make the conversation less awkward. No one likes to pay unnecessary taxes. Having the same conversation about the cost of valuable gifts you received in prior-years is also worthwhile.

 
If you’re the gift-giver, offer the additional gift of presenting the cost records to the recipient at the same time. Otherwise, you may end up giving an unintended gift to the IRS in the form of unnecessary taxes.

 

#TaxTipTuesday-Ensure your year-end donations will be deductible on your 2016 return

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Donations to qualified charities are generally fully deductible, and they may be the easiest deductible expense to time to your tax advantage. After all, you control exactly when and how much you give. To ensure your donations will be deductible on your 2016 return, you must make them by year end to qualified charities.

When’s the delivery date?

To be deductible on your 2016 return, a charitable donation must be made by Dec. 31, 2016. According to the IRS, a donation generally is “made” at the time of its “unconditional delivery.” But what does this mean? Is it the date you, for example, write a check or make an online gift via your credit card? Or is it the date the charity actually receives the funds — or perhaps the date of the charity’s acknowledgment of your gift?

The delivery date depends in part on what you donate and how you donate it. Here are a few examples for common donations:

Check. The date you mail it.

Credit card. The date you make the charge.

Pay-by-phone account. The date the financial institution pays the amount.

Stock certificate. The date you mail the properly endorsed stock certificate to the charity.

Is the organization “qualified”?

To be deductible, a donation also must be made to a “qualified charity” — one that’s eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.

The IRS’s online search tool, Exempt Organizations (EO) Select Check, can help you more easily find out whether an organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. You can access EO Select Check at http://apps.irs.gov/app/eos. Information about organizations eligible to receive deductible contributions is updated monthly.

Many additional rules apply to the charitable donation deduction, so please contact us if you have questions about the deductibility of a gift you’ve made or are considering making. But act soon — you don’t have much time left to make donations that will reduce your 2016 tax bill.