While you’re gathering information to prepare your 2015 tax return, set aside time for a financial review. Here are steps to get started.
Compile a year-end list of your assets and debts and compare the list to last year. Are you gaining or losing ground? What actions can you take to improve your financial situation in 2016?
Review your insurance. Do you have disability insurance to replace take-home pay if you become incapacitated? What about life insurance – will the benefit provide enough cash to pay your family’s expenses in the event something happens to you or your spouse? Is your home protected with replacement value property insurance? What about insurance for automobile accidents or lawsuits?
Update your will and estate plan. What changed during 2015? Did you marry? Divorce? Have a child? Move to a new state? Receive an inheritance? All of these events can affect your planning. This year, you can leave up to $5,450,000 to your heirs with no federal estate tax liability. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore estate planning, which includes expressing your wishes for who will make decisions for you in times of emergencies as well as who will receive your assets.
For more suggestions, call us. We’re here to help.
In mid-December, Congress renewed a long list of tax breaks known as “extenders” that have been expiring on an annual basis. This year many of the rules are retroactive to the beginning of 2015, and you can benefit from them as you prepare your 2015 federal income tax return.
In addition, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, which was signed into law on December 18, 2015, makes some of the rules effective through December 31, 2016. Others are effective through 2019, and some are effective permanently. Provisions in the Act also make changes to existing tax rules that were not part of the extenders. All of these changes will affect your tax planning for 2016 and future years. Here’s an overview of selected provisions.
● When you’re age 70½ and over, you can make a tax-free distribution of up to $100,000 from your IRA to a charity. This provision was reinstated for 2015 and is now permanent.
● The deduction for up to $250 of out-of-pocket eligible educator expenses is available for your 2015 return. It’s now permanent and will be indexed for inflation beginning with 2016 tax returns.
● You can choose to claim the itemized deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of deducting state and local income taxes on your 2015 return. This break is now permanent.
● The tuition and fees above-the-line deduction for qualified higher education expenses is available for 2015 and 2016.
● If you’re a homeowner, you can exclude mortgage debt cancellation or forgiveness of up to $2 million in 2015 and 2016. Discharges of qualified mortgage debt can also be excluded after January 1, 2017, if you have a binding written agreement in effect before that date. This tax break is only available for your principal residence.
● The maximum Section 179 deduction for qualified business property, including off-the-shelf software, is available for 2015 and is now permanently set at $500,000 (subject to a taxable income limitation). The deduction is phased out above a $2 million threshold. Both thresholds will be indexed for inflation beginning in 2016.
● The additional first-year depreciation deduction, known as “bonus depreciation,” is available for 2015 when you buy qualified business property. The deduction is extended through 2019.
● You can claim the work opportunity tax credit for 2015 if you hired eligible individuals last year. This credit is extended for five years (through 2019).
Because the Act was passed so late in the year, you’ll have to review your 2015 transactions to take advantage of applicable breaks and claim them on your 2015 federal income tax return. Also, with the rules now extended through 2016 (and in some cases beyond), you can begin to update your current tax plan with some measure of certainty.
Give us a call for more information and for help in determining which changes affect you.