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!
The 529 savings plan: A tax-smart way to fund college expenses
If you’re saving for college, consider a Section 529 plan. Although contributions aren’t deductible for federal purposes, plan assets can grow tax-deferred. (Some states do offer tax incentives for contributing.)
Distributions used to pay qualified expenses (such as tuition, mandatory fees, books, equipment, supplies and, generally, room and board) are income-tax-free for federal purposes and typically for state purposes as well, thus making the tax deferral a permanent savings.
529 plans offer other benefits as well:
- They usually offer high contribution limits, and there are no income limits for contributing.
- There’s generally no beneficiary age limit for contributions or distributions.
- You can control the account, even after the child is of legal age.
- You can make tax-free rollovers to another qualifying family member.
Finally, 529 plans provide estate planning benefits: A special break for 529 plans allows you to front-load five years’ worth of annual gift tax exclusions and make up to a $70,000 contribution (or $140,000 if you split the gift with your spouse).
The biggest downside may be that your investment options — and when you can change them — are limited. Please contact us for more information on 529 plans and other tax-smart strategies for funding education expenses.
Whether you should take social security retirement benefits at the earliest possible date or defer benefits until reaching normal retirement age (or even age 70), depends on several factors. For example, you’ll want to consider your overall health and life expectancy, your plans to earn income before reaching normal retirement age, anticipated returns on your other investments, and, surprisingly, your guess about the future of the social security program. As you can tell, the decision isn’t one-size-fits-all.
For instance, say your savings won’t cover ongoing expenses and you need to rely on social security income to make ends meet. In that case, deferring social security benefits may not be an option for you.
But if your financial circumstances offer more financial flexibility, deferring your benefits can be an advantage. For each year, you delay (up to age 70), the payouts increase. In addition, if you plan to earn significant income between age 62 and your normal retirement age (65-67, depending on the year you were born), putting off your social security benefits may make sense. That’s because any benefits in excess of specified limits ($15,720 in 2015) will be reduced. You’ll lose $1 of benefits for every $2 in earnings above the limits. Note that you won’t lose any social security benefits (regardless of earnings) once you reach full retirement age.
On the other hand, let’s say you’ve accumulated a healthy balance in your 401(k) and expect that account to generate a good annual return. Under this scenario, you might be better off leaving your retirement savings alone and taking your social security benefits early to cover living expenses.
Or perhaps your family has a history of health problems and you don’t realistically expect to live into your 80s. Again, taking social security benefits at age 62 might be a good choice.
For help with this important decision, please give us a call.
Did you convert all or part of a retirement account to a Roth during 2014? And do you now wish you hadn’t? Here’s some good news: You have until October 15, 2015, to change your mind, even if you already filed your federal income tax return.
The tax term for undoing the conversion and switching your funds back to a traditional IRA from a Roth is “recharacterization.” You can recharacterize any amount of your original conversion, no matter your income, and for any reason. When you recharacterize the entire conversion amount, you put yourself back in the position you were in originally.
Why would you want to recharacterize? Perhaps you’re now in a higher tax bracket than you expected and reconverting will reduce your income. Or maybe your investments didn’t do as well as you anticipated and the value in your account has declined. Leaving the money in the new Roth means you pay tax on the original amount you converted. Recharacterizing means you save tax dollars.
Here’s another beneficial recharacterization rule: You don’t need to worry about being locked out of future transfers. You can reconvert the same funds to a Roth after a waiting period.
If you’re considering undoing last year’s Roth conversion, please call for more information. We’re here to help you make the right decision.
There can be opportunity and profit in growth, but there can be perils and risks as well.
► BENEFITS. First, analyze the potential benefits of expanding your business.
- The business can often achieve attractive economies of scale from increased buying power and operational efficiency. This can often reduce your cost structure and improve your margins. Growing your margins at a faster rate than your sales growth can achieve remarkable financial results.
- Growing organizations can often attract more skilled employees who prefer larger organizations with more opportunities for promotion and development.
- Growing organizations generally have a greater opportunity to go public.
► RISKS. Next, take a look at the risks your business faces if you expand operations.
- Larger organizations typically require more elaborate systems and tend to be less personal than smaller companies. As it grows, the business will probably have a more rigid management structure.
- Increased complexity can result as operational issues tend to expand faster than anticipated. Operating remote locations can be very challenging.
- Loss of control may be a consequence of expanded operations. Growing companies face significant integration changes, and developing capable managers can be difficult.
For help in analyzing your company’s situation, please talk to us. We can help you weigh the benefits and risks of expanding your business.
Did you sign up for social security benefits last year? If so, you may have questions about how those payments are taxed on your federal income tax return.
The good news is the formula is the same as prior years. That’s also the bad news, because the thresholds for determining taxability are not indexed for inflation, and did not change either. Those thresholds, or “base amounts,” remain at $32,000 when you’re married and file a joint return, and $25,000 when you’re single.
How much of your social security benefit is taxable? To determine the answer, calculate your “provisional income.” That’s your adjusted gross income plus tax-exempt interest, certain other exclusions, and one-half of the social security benefits you received.
When you’re married filing jointly, your benefits are 50% taxable if your provisional income is between $32,000 and $44,000. If your provisional income is more than $44,000, up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable. For singles, the 50% taxability range is $25,000 to $34,000.
In some cases, diversifying the types of other retirement income you receive can reduce the tax burden on your social security benefits. Contact us if you want more information or planning assistance.