Category Archives: Taxes

New 2015 Tax Law Changes Tax and FBAR Filing Deadlines & Other Noteworthy Compliance Provisions: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

2015 Tax Law Changes

On Friday, July 31, 2015, President Barack Obama signed HR 3236, the “Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015” (the “Act”). Not sure how this name relates to taxes but in any event the following tax law changes and provisions became law under this Act:

  • Changes to the due dates for various returns. The Act sets new due dates for partnership returns, C corporation returns.
  • Foreign Bank Account Reporting:  New due dates for the important and often overlooked foreign bank account reporting (FBAR) forms, known as FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts have been implemented.
  • Changing the six year statute of limitations to apply to understatements of income that resulted from taxpayers overstating tax basis when calculating sales.  This change overturns the Home Concrete case where the Supreme Court ruled that understatements of income as a result of basis miscalculations would not trigger the extended six-year statute of limitations applicable to understatements of income.
  • Requiring consistent basis reporting for estates and estate beneficiaries.
  • Requiring additional information to be included in mortgage information statements.
  • Other Information Returns:  The new act imposes new filing requirements for several other IRS information returns.

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The City of Philadelphia Department of Revenue Announces Wage Tax Reduction for July 1, 2015.

Philadelphia-Wage-Taxes-2015

Philadelphia business owners and those that withhold taxes on employees that live in Philadelphia should take notice that the City of Philadelphia has reduced the City Wage Tax rate effective July 1, 2015.

• The new Wage Tax rate for residents of Philadelphia is 3.9102% (.039102).

• The new Wage Tax rate for non-residents of Philadelphia who are subject to the Philadelphia City Wage Tax is 3.4828% (.034828).

What does this mean to you as an employer of Philadelphia employees?

Any paycheck that you issue with a pay date after June 30, 2015 must have Philadelphia City Wage Tax withheld at the new rate that applies to your employee.

If you have any questions about the new Philadelphia City Wage Tax, please call us at 215-735-2336. We will gladly assist you.

2014 Year-End Tax Planning Guide For Businesses: Discover 9 Proven Tax Planning Strategies

Year-End Tax Planning For Business

Business Year-End Tax Planning

The arrival of year-end presents special opportunities for most small businesses to take steps in lowering their tax liability. The starting point is to run projections to determine the income and tax bracket for this year and what it may be next year.  Once this is known, decisions can be made as to whether any of the following planning tools should be employed to cut taxes before the tax year closes.

Last second tax law changes also must be considered.  It is also important to know that on December 19, 2014, the President passed the Tax Increase Prevention Act that extended many expired tax provisions some of which are discussed in more detail below.  Note that these tax breaks are only available through the end of  2014.  If any of these tax breaks are available to you, it would be prudent to take advantage of them before they expire.

Also keep in mind ordinary income tax rates for individuals can be as high as 35% to 39.6%  so members of flow through entities such as partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs) and S Corporations need to recognize this and other tax changes and plan accordingly.

The following presents some year-end tax strategies that may prove helpful to  businesses of all shapes and sizes:

1. Accelerating or Deferring Income and Deductions as Part of a Year-end Tax Strategy

A good part of year-end tax planning involves techniques to accelerate or postpone income or deductions, as your tax situation dictates. The idea is to keep income even from year to year. Having spikes in taxable income in any one tax year puts you in a higher average tax bracket than you would be in if you had evened out the amount of taxable income between current and later year(s).  (Historical note:  For those of you old enough to remember, there was an income averaging rule built into the tax code that actually corrected for the inequity that can result in big shifts in income from year to year.  That provision has long been abolished.)

So every year, businesses can take advantage of the traditional planning technique that involves alternatively deferring income or accelerating deductions. For example, business taxpayers such as pass-through entities (limited liability companies, partnerships, S corporations, sole proprietorship) should consider accelerating business income into the current year and deferring deductions until 2015 (and perhaps beyond) if they expect income to rise next year. Continue reading

2014 Year End Tax Planning Tips: Instantly Discover What You Can Do Now To Start Saving Taxes Before Year End With Proven Tax Attorney Strategies

Year End Tax Planning

As the year-end quickly approaches, there is still time to do year-end tax planning to generate significant tax savings.  As many of you know, changes to the tax laws in 2013 made many tax rates (subject to cost of living adjustments) and certain tax breaks permanent.  But some tax breaks expired in 2013 (discussed in more detail below) and Congress has not as yet revived them making year-end planning more complicated and frustrating.  The President and Congress have reinstated expired tax breaks for only the 2014 tax year, as discussed in more detail below.

Overview:

This 2014 tax year will again be challenging as taxpayers will have to deal with the following recent tax law changes:

  • Higher marginal income tax rates
  • Higher capital gain tax rates
  • Restoration of the phase out of itemized deductions and exemptions: If your adjusted gross income exceeds applicable thresholds, certain itemized deductions are reduced.  The applicable thresholds for 2014 are $254,200 for singles, $279,650 for head of household and $305,050 for joint filers
  • The new 3.8 % Medicare tax on unearned income, including interest, dividends and capital gains. etc.  For more details please read 2013 Sneaky New Tax – Not Too Early to Plan for 3.8 % Medicare Tax on Investment Income
  • The new 0.9% tax on earned income in excess of $200,000 for single taxpayers and $250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly
  • Same Sex Couples:  The recent Supreme Court decision in Windsor may result in same-sex couples with dual income paying more income taxes filing jointly than if they were still able to file singly. For more details on the tax implications for same-sex couples please read Same-Sex Marriage Tax Guide: 16 Essential Tax Rules and Tips

It is important to know that this year-end tax guide only provides an overview of various tax strategies and some of the more important tax provisions and by no means covers all tax minimization techniques.  Each taxpayer situation is unique and as a result tax strategies and projections should be developed for each client for the greatest results.

Where To Begin:

As a starting point, it is essential to know the customary year-end planning techniques that can cut income taxes.  It all starts with a tax projection of whether you will be in a higher or lower tax bracket next year. In some cases it is imperative to project income and expenses for multiple years to smooth income out over time to avoid higher tax brackets over an extended period.  This type of planning is beyond the scope of this discussion and should be explored directly with tax counsel.

Once your tax bracket for this year and next year are known, there are two basic income tax planning considerations:

  • Should income be accelerated or deferred?
  • Should deductions and credits be accelerated or deferred?

However, life is never that simple.  Tax laws always make for some real guesswork.  As discussed below, when it comes to certain deductions that have Continue reading

College Tuition: Discover How Grandparents Can Help Their Grandchildren and Save Taxes Too

College-Tuition-Tax-Breaks

With college tuition coming due, families should consider tax efficient ways to pay for these expenses. Grandparents who wish to help their children with tuition costs can take advantage of some special gift tax breaks.

Grandparents have the usual annual present interest gift tax exclusion (now $14,000) and a lifetime exclusion (now $5,340,000). When a spouse joins in the gift (the called “spousal joinder”), these amounts double .

But these are not the only tax breaks available to a grandparent who wants to help the family. In addition, grandparents have an unlimited gift tax exemption for amounts paid for tuition. By using this special educational exclusion, such payments do not count against the annual gift tax or lifetime exclusions.

Here are the basic rules to qualifying these gifts for such unlimited educational exemption:

Unlimited Exclusion For Tuition Only

This exclusion from the gift tax for gifts of tuition is unlimited in amount. However, the scope of the exclusion applies to tuition only.

Books, Supplies and Other Items Not Covered

There is no exclusion for amounts paid for the following:

  • Board or other similar expenses that are not direct tuition costs.
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Laboratory fees
  • Dormitory fees

See Treasury Regulations 25.2503-6(b)(2) for more details.

While Only Tuition Qualifies, This Educational Exemption Can Be For Part-Time or Full-Time Tuition

The gift tax is not imposed on amounts paid as tuition for a student to a qualifying domestic or foreign educational organization for the education or training of such person. See Code Section 2503(e)(1) and (2)(A).

Tuition payments for the student qualify where enrollment is part-time or full-time.

Qualifying Educational Organization

A qualifying educational organization is one which:

  • Normally maintains a regular faculty and curriculum and
  • Normally has a regularly enrolled body of students in attendance at the place where its educational activities are regularly carried on.

See Code Section 170(b)(1)(A)(ii) and Treasury Regulation 25.2503-6(b)(2).

Direct Payment of Tuition to Educational Organization

The tuition payment must be made directly to the educational organization to qualify for this exclusion.

Critical Point:

Neither a payment to the student for delivery to the organization nor a payment Continue reading

Weddings: Quick and Easy Tax Guide For Those Getting Married and Newlyweds

My Loving In-Laws-RITA AND JOE circa 1950

Rita and Joe, My Wonderful In-Laws, On Their Wedding Day, June 23,1950

The excitement, joy and anticipation of getting married can be almost overwhelming.  With the planning that goes into the wedding it is easy to overlook the tax implications of marriage.  Although taxes are probably not high on your summer wedding plan checklist, it is important to be aware of the tax changes that come along with marriage. Here are some basic tips that can help keep those issues under control.

Name Change:

The names and Social Security numbers on your tax return must match your Social Security Administration (SSA) records. If you change your name, it is imperative to report it to the SSA.

Change Income Tax Withholding:

A change in your marital status means you must give your employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate.

If you and your spouse both work, your combined incomes may move you into a higher tax bracket. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator tool at IRS.gov to help you complete a new Form W-4. See Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, for more information.

To avoid problems and to get specific advice speak with your tax adviser.

Changes In Circumstances:

Marriage can have an impact on insurance. It is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your health insurance company (or Health Insurance Marketplace).  You should also notify your insurance company when you move out of the area covered by your current insurance plan.

Address Change:

Let the IRS know if your address changes.

You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service. You can ask them online at USPS.com to forward your mail. You may also report the change at your local post office.

Change In Filing Status:

If you’re married as of December 31, that’s your marital status for the entire year for tax purposes. You and your spouse can choose to file your federal income tax return either jointly or separately each year.

Note: Once married, neither of you can file using single status.

Generally and in most cases, married filing jointly results in a lower amount of taxes due.  However, you may want to figure the tax both ways to find out which status results in the lowest tax.

Filing Status For Same-Sex Couples:

If you are legally married in a state or country that recognizes same-sex marriage, you generally must file as married on your federal tax return. This is true even if you and your spouse later live in a state or country that does not recognize same-sex marriage. See Same-Sex Marriage Tax Guide: 16 Essential Tax Rules and Tips for a more detailed discussion. Continue reading

Philip Seymour Hoffman: Estate Planning Lessons For Us and Especially Women

Estate Planning For Philip Seymour Hoffman

Attribution: Josh Jensen      CC-By-SA-2.0

The sad and tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman at age 46 last month is yet another reminder of the importance of estate planning. Most of us go along each day not thinking or worrying about what would happen to our loved ones if we suddenly died.  Some, in an attempt to be conscientious, draft an estate plan but fail to keep such plan up to date.  But most people die without ever doing any estate planning leaving state laws and the courts to decide who should get their estate. When these matters are neglected, surviving family members can be left with momentous legal, tax and financial problems resulting in uncertainty and expensive attorney fees to sort it all out.

Background

Although Mr. Hoffman drafted his will in 2004, he failed to update it after having two children and even after some significant estate tax law changes.  Such changes and ten years usually triggers a meeting with your estate planning attorney. For more on a checklist of events that should result in a meeting with your estate planning attorney please explore Estate Planning Triggers.

Mr. Hoffman’s 2004 will leaves everything to the mother of his children, Marianne O’Donnell.  He was not married to her and this is where the problems start, at least from an estate tax perspective.

Federal and State Estate Taxes

It is estimated that Mr. Hoffman’s estate was around $35,000,000.  Currently, $5,340,000 is exempt from federal taxes (the so-called unified credit) with amounts above that amount being subject to a federal estate tax rate of 40%.  It would appear then that roughly $30,000,000 of his estate would be subject to estate tax at a 40% rate.  This would generate a whopping $12,000,000 in federal estate taxes!

New York also has an estate tax with an exemption of $1,000,000. This New York estate tax has graduated tax rate that goes as high as 16%.  It is estimated that roughly another $3,000,000 in will be paid in New York estate taxes.

Combined estate taxes: $15,000,000.

(Liquidity Side Bar:  Be aware that estate taxes are due nine (9) months after the date of death so hopefully Mr. Hoffman’s estate has enough liquid assets to avoid a forced sale of assets to meet his tax obligations.  Estate Planning Point:  It is not known if Mr. Hoffman had life insurance but having life insurance to provide for liquidity is sometimes essential.  In certain cases, the use of an irrevocable life insurance trust would allow for excluding the life insurance proceeds from being subject to estate tax.)

The point is that even though a meeting in 2004 may have explored marriage as a simple way to save estate taxes, Mr. Hoffman may, for whatever reason, not wanted to be married at that time.  It also could have been that his wealth was not that great in 2004.

But here is the object lesson:  Things change and so should one’s estate plan.

  • A later meeting to review his estate plan would have explored the huge estate tax benefit to being married.  No one is suggesting that people should get married only for tax reasons, however, under federal estate tax rules, inheritances to a surviving spouse are not subject to estate tax.
  • Double Estate Taxation:  Since they were not married, the amounts Ms. O’Donnell receives will be taxed twice.  First, the amount she receives above the unified credit will be taxed at Mr. Hoffman’s death.  When she dies the balance in her estate above her unified credit will be taxed a second time.  Marriage eliminates this double estate tax.
  • Marriage would have provided possible social security, retirement plan, income tax and other financial benefits.
  • If Mr. Hoffman wanted to get married but did not want his wife to have absolute control of his assets, a qualified terminable interest trust (a QTIP trust) could have been used to obtain the estate tax savings while providing income and principal to her during her lifetime.  The assets in this trust would pass to his children at her death.  This would have been the best of both worlds: saving estate taxes but still providing for his wife and children.
  • Sidebar:  A QTIP trust is often used in second marriages where there are children from a prior marriage.

One Strategy To Eliminate Estate Tax At His Death

In a perfect world, Mr. Hoffman could have created a so-called marital deduction trust and a unified credit or by-pass trust by funding each trust based on a formula clause tied to the unified credit applicable in the year of his death.  (Or he could have used the disclaimer trust discussed below to achieve this same result if he was married.) If he had implemented this estate planning strategy his 35,000,000 would have been split between Continue reading