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Your Age-by-Age Checklist to Prepare for Retirement Conversations June 24, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : General, Retirement, Tax Tip, Taxes , add a comment

June 24, 2020

The question isn’t at what age I want to retire, it’s at what income.                      -George Foreman

Never have times been so interesting. Never has change occurred so fast.  We all know that time moves faster as we grow older.  However, it may not make sense to bend over backwards in an effort to fund your retirement at a young age.  But neither may it be ignored completely either.  
                           -Mark Bradstreet

What should you and your loved ones be doing to prepare for a retirement when and how you want? While the answer partially depends on whether your own personal finish line is just around the corner or decades away, there’s one thing that everyone should be doing, no matter your age: talking.

It’s important to have conversations about retirement planning early and often, but not everyone knows what to talk about or how to get started. These age-based guidelines can serve as discussion points with your loved ones to make sure you’re on track for the retirement you want.

Preparing for retirement in your 30’s

• Don’t let student loans prevent you from saving for retirement. It’s usually a mistake to think that student loan debt should be fully paid off before putting aside money for retirement. Your retirement savings need time to grow so you can achieve your goals, and investing early will pay off in the long run — even if you can’t save as much as you’d like.  The right balance will likely include payments toward both goals, with the exact amounts depending on factors like interest rates and expected returns. 

• Make sure you’re maxing out your company’s 401(k) matching contributions. Employers often match up to a certain amount of your contributions; it’s essentially free money that you could be taking advantage of! 

• Don’t leave your job without taking vesting into consideration. Many companies tie their retirement contributions to a requirement that you stay with the company for a minimum amount of time, known as the vesting period. If you leave before the allotted period of time, be aware of the financial repercussions. 

• Revisit your 401(k) contributions each time you get a raise or promotion. If you’ve set up automatic contributions, it’s important that you don’t fall into the trap of sticking to those levels indefinitely.

• Understand the power of compounding returns. The earlier you begin investing, the more time your money will have to grow. Don’t delay. 

Preparing for your retirement in your 40’s

• Prioritize paying down your high-interest debt. Whether you have credit card debt, a car loan or a home mortgage, paying interest can eat away at your ability to save money for retirement. Prioritize your highest interest debt first and work your way down until you’re debt free. 

• Don’t fall behind. Your 40’s can be a stressful time financially. Many people in today’s “sandwich generation” are squeezed by the needs of children getting ready for college and elderly parents with dwindling reserves. Try to at least keep pace with your previous level of retirement savings. 

• Start running the numbers. Making some quick calculations can help show you where different savings scenarios are likely to lead you. If you’re not sure where to start, try Lincoln Financial’s retirement calculators.

• Talk to a financial advisor to make sure you’re on the right track. “Meeting with a financial advisor can help alleviate some of the stress surrounding retirement by helping savers create a plan,” said Jamie Ohl, Executive Vice President, President, Retirement Plan Services, Lincoln Financial Group. “People who have a plan are more confident and better prepared for retirement.”

Preparing for retirement in your 50’s

• Don’t let your spending get out of control. People often find that their disposable income increases in their 50’s as they become empty nesters and their salaries peak. Instead of letting your spending increase in tandem, increase the amount of money you put into your retirement accounts and practice frugality — getting accustomed to a more luxurious lifestyle can make it more difficult to retire.

• Ask your employer about catch-up contributions. Most companies allow workers who are age 50 and above to contribute an extra $6,000 annually to their 401(k) on top of the regular contribution limits. 

• Don’t count on an “average” lifespan. “People are living longer than ever before, and they may not factor that into their retirement planning,” said Will Fuller, Executive Vice President, President, Annuities, Lincoln Financial Distributors and Lincoln Financial Network. “That makes outliving your savings a real concern for the millions of households in America that do not have any kind of income protection in place.”

• Consider purchasing an annuity to protect against uncertainty. Annuities provide you with a guaranteed income for life, safeguarding you against longevity risk and stock market risk. 

• Get your financial advisor to align with your expected retirement age. You may have an ideal retirement age in mind, but your financial advisor is best situated to help you determine whether it’s realistic and what you need to do to get there. 

Tips like these will make sure that you’re heading in the right direction, but there’s no substitute for talking through your own personal circumstances with a financial advisor every step of the way. You’re never too young or too old to get help from a professional — and if you’ve already followed the steps above, it will be easy for them to take you across the finish line.

Today’s author – Mark Bradstreet

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

– until next week.

IRS Faces Next Challenge: Reopening June 17, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : General, Taxes , add a comment

June 17, 2020

    WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service cranked out $267 billion in stimulus payments in about two months, faster than many analysts expected. But challenging work lies ahead, such as opening 10 million pieces of piled-up mail and resuming a semblance of normal taxpayer service.                

    The agency, already struggling with budget cuts and reduced staff before the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, was given the monumental task of sending stimulus payments worth $1,200 for most adults and $500 per child to help Americans ride out the economic slump. Despite some hitches—like payments to dead people and debit-card envelopes that looked to some like junk mail—those payments are largely complete, the government said this week. “The IRS has taken on nearly impossible challenges and performed many of them very well,” said Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee.

    Now the agency is trying to slowly reopen dozens of offices around the country and recall thousands of workers as the July 15 tax filing deadline approaches.“It gets tougher from here,” said Mark Everson, a former IRS commissioner.

    Some major operations centers remain closed, and open ones aren’t running at full strength. Refunds are being processed more slowly than usual, agency data indicate. Some telephone assistance is available, but IRS officials say phone lines remain unusually busy and they are directing people to the agency’s website whenever possible. Catching up will take time.

    “If you mailed us something, especially in February, it’s gonna be a while,” said Chad Hooper, an IRS worker in Philadelphia and president of the Professional Managers Association, which represents the agency’s supervisors.

    Meanwhile, the regular tax filing season continues, postponed from the usual April 15 deadline to July 15 as part of the coronavirus relief effort. As of May 29, the IRS had received 6.5% fewer returns than it did last year and processed 13% percent fewer. That suggests many people are waiting longer than usual for refunds. Sometimes the agency’s automated filters block refunds for suspected fraud, requiring a person to check before payments are made, even on electronically filed returns that normally yield fast refunds.

    Michael Whiteley, an unemployed chef in Rochester, N.H., said he filed his tax return in March, expecting a refund of more than $4,000. Instead, he got a notice from the IRS requesting documentation to prove that his son with a different last name was his own. Mr. Whiteley, who had already spent about $500 at H&R Block for tax preparation, said he spent $40 on expedited mail delivery to send follow-up documentation to the IRS in Fresno, Calif.—an office that isn’t set to reopen until the end of June. “I’m still sitting here to this day, waiting,” he said.

    Getting back to normal will be tricky. More than half of agency employees have been working remotely, according to the House Ways and Means Committee. But about 30% have been on paid leave because of the pandemic, and those who staff phone lines generally can’t work from home. The IRS had been trying to make more employees eligible for remote work but didn’t finish doing so before the pandemic started, Mr. Hooper said.

    “Having more modern systems would have been a great thing to have prepared for prior to a thing like this,” said Andrew Moylan, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, a nonprofit research group affiliated with a conservative organization. “Expect less timeliness, less ability to contact people, less ability to get your questions answered, more problems that people have to sort out.”

    Reopening will be uneven for an agency with offices scattered across the country. Major offices in Utah, Texas and Kentucky reopened this week for employees who can’t work from home. Next come eight states and Puerto Rico, including campuses in Atlanta and Fresno, and that phase could bring back as many as 12,500 workers who aren’t eligible to work remotely. Offices in places with tighter restrictions—including Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., New York and Maryland—aren’t yet scheduled to reopen.

    Different campuses do different types of work. Many employees have very specialized skills handling certain types of tax returns, creating a complicated management challenge to restore full service. “This is not a McDonald’s where you can move a person from the register to the to-go window,” said Mr. Everson, now vice chairman of Alliantgroup LP.

  The IRS hasn’t restarted services that require face-to-face meetings with the public, such as taxpayer assistance centers and some audit and collections operations. That is a safety concern for taxpayers and the government. Years of hiring freezes and the security of public-sector jobs mean the IRS has an aging workforce that is more susceptible to Covid-19. Employees remain anxious about the risks posed by taking public transportation, being in enclosed facilities with hundreds of co-workers and whether their work stations will be consistently and properly cleaned and disinfected,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents front-line IRS workers.

    IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, in a memo to employees, said their health and safety was the agency’s priority. In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Rettig said employees worked around the clock in challenging circumstances to provide more than 159 million payments. “As we continue a phased-in reopening, we will do everything possible to accelerate our operations and enhance taxpayer services and processing of refunds,” he said.

    There are other challenges. In March, the IRS announced its “People First Initiative,” suspending some enforcement and collection through July 15 to help taxpayers struggling with unemployment and disruption. At some point, the agency will shift back toward enforcement.

    When will that happen? “It’s going to be a judgment call,” said Diana Erbsen, a lawyer at DLA Piper in New York who is chairwoman of the agency’s advisory council. “It’s not going to be an on-off switch.”

This week’s Author – Mark Bradstreet

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

– until next week

Tax Tip of the Week | New Tough Tax Rules for Business Losses March 4, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : 2019 Taxes, Business consulting, Deductions, General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Tax Rules, Tax Tip, Taxes, Uncategorized , add a comment

March 4, 2020

Some businesses are very profitable, others are not – many businesses exist somewhere in the middle. Until recently, a Net Operating Loss (NOL) could be carried back two (2) years and the remainder forward for twenty (20) years (all within various limitations). Things have changed. For the vast majority of businesses, NOLs may only be carried forward without a sunset provision. BUT and there always is a BUT with the tax law – NOLs may not exceed certain amounts and percentages.  This is explained in greater detail below:
                                -Mark Bradstreet

Okay, you’re not in business to lose money but it can happen from time to time. The tax law has new rules in store for you when it comes to writing off business losses in 2018 and beyond. These rules make it more difficult to use losses to save taxes.

Net operating loss

Essentially, a net operating loss arises when the amount of a current business loss is greater than what can be used in the current year (i.e., greater than taxable income), and it becomes a net operating loss (NOL). (Technical rules apply to make an NOL more complicated than this.)

When and how the NOL is used has been changed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

•    NOLs arising prior to 2018. Generally these NOLs can be carried back for 2 years (there are some special rules for certain situations and an option to waive the carry-back) and forward for up to 20 years. The NOLs can offset up to 100% of taxable income.
•    NOLs arising in 2018 and beyond. No carry-back is allowed (other than for certain farming losses and losses of property and casualty insurance companies), but there’s an unlimited carry-forward. However, the NOL can only offset up to 80% of taxable income.

Record-keeping. If you have a carry-forward of a pre-2018 NOL, be sure to keep track of it separately from newer ones so you can use it as a 100% offset going forward. NOLs are taken into account in the order in which they are generated, so that old NOLs are used before newer ones. This rule hasn’t changed.

Non-corporate excess business losses

If you own a pass-through entity—sole proprietorship, partnership, S corporation, or limited liability company—the rules for writing off your losses have changed dramatically. Until now, if you had $1 million in revenue and $1.6 million in expenses, the $600,000 loss passed through to you would be deductible on your return (limited by your basis in the business).

Now there’s an important change in the treatment of losses. Instead of being currently deductible, excess business losses are characterized as net operating losses that must be carried forward.

What is a non-corporate excess business loss?This is the excess of business deductions for the year over the sum of (1) gross income or gain from the business, plus (2) $250,000 for singles or $500,000 for joint filers (with these dollar amounts adjusted for inflation after 2018).

So continuing the example I started earlier, under the new loss limit, instead deducting $600,000 in 2018, assuming you’re single, you’d only be able to write off $350,000 ($1.6 million – [$1 million + $250,000]). The balance of the loss–$250,000—is treated as a net operating loss that becomes deductible in 2019 to the extent permissible (explained earlier).

For owners of partnerships and S corporations, the limit is applied at the owner level, based on the owner’s distributive share of business income and expenses.

The excess business loss limit applies after applying the passive activity loss limit. The excess business loss limit is effective from 2018 through 2025.

Conclusion

To sum it up, when you’re doing well, the government is your partner by sharing in your good fortune via taxes. But when you aren’t doing well, the government doesn’t want to know you anymore. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act rewards profitable businesses by lowering the taxes to be paid on profits. But this same law essentially penalizes unprofitable businesses by imposing limits on utilizing losses. In the past, for example, if you had an NOL, you could carry it back to generate an immediate cash refund that could be ploughed into the business. In effect, a loss could be turned into a gain. No longer.

Perhaps the lesson here is: Be profitable. Take the steps you need to ensure this—cut expenses, raise prices, etc. And work with your tax advisor to see what other measures can be used to keep you in the black.

Credit given to – Barbara Weltman

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

Today’s author – Mark Bradstreet

– until next week.

Unraveling Conflicting Tax Rules for Active vs. Passive Income February 26, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : 2019 Taxes, Business consulting, General, Tax Rules, Tax Tip, Taxes, Taxes, Uncategorized , add a comment

February 26, 2020

Few topics in the office cause more arguments than the tax definition of active versus passive.  The answer affects your income taxes vastly more than one would ever guess.  And, not in just one area of tax but often involving a multitude of seemingly unrelated areas.  At times, both parties in our office scuffles will have written evidence to support each of their opposing views.  Taxes have many shades of gray.

                            -Mark Bradstreet

It is commonly accepted wisdom that tax rules are complicated. This belief is well supported by the conflicting tax rules that apply to business owners, depending on their participation in the business. Let me try to make some sense of these conflicting rules.

Overview

Business owners may be active in their business. This means they are hands-on and are involved in day-to-day activities. Other business owners may be mere investors, adding their capital but not their labor. The following are various rules that take into account whether owners do or do not work in their businesses.

Qualified business income deduction

The 20% deduction for qualified business income (QBI) applies to owners of pass-through entities. There is no requirement that they do or do not participate in the daily operations of the business in order to claim this personal deduction based on their share of business income. If they participate (e.g., they are an S corporation shareholder who receives a salary), this factors into the QBI determination. For example, salary to an S corporation shareholder is not an item allowed in determining QBI, but the salary does count as wages for purposes of W-2 wages used in the formula for the QBI deduction.

Net investment income deduction

The 3.8% net investment income (NII) tax depends entirely on an owner’s participation in the business. Only income from a business in which the taxpayer does not materially participate is treated as investment income and potentially subject to the NII tax. The determination of material participation is made using the passive activity loss rules (below).

Passive activity loss rules

Under the passive activity loss rules, losses from a business activity in which an owner does not materially participate, and has no passive income, are not currently deductible (sorry for the double negative but it’s the best way to explain this limitation). Suspended losses can be carried forward and used to offset passive activity income in the future.

The determination of whether an owner is passive or active is based on 7 tests. An owner is treated as materially participating (i.e., active) and is exempt from the passive activity loss rules if he or she meets any of these tests:

1.    The owner participated in the activity for more than 500 hours.
2.    The owner’s participation was substantially all the participation in the activity of all individuals for the tax year, including the participation of individuals who didn’t own any interest in the activity.
3.    The owner participated in the activity for more than 100 hours during the tax year, and he or she participated at least as much as any other individual (including individuals who didn’t own any interest in the activity) for the year.
4.    The activity is a significant participation activity, and the owner participated in all significant participation activities for more than 500 hours (i.e., participation for more than 100 hours during the year and in which the owner didn’t materially participate under any of the material participation tests).
5.    The owner materially participated in the activity (other than by meeting this fifth test) for any 5 (whether or not consecutive) of the 10 immediately preceding tax years.
6.    The activity is a personal service activity in which you materially participated for any 3 (whether or not consecutive) preceding tax years. An activity is a personal service activity if it involves the performance of personal services in the fields of health (including veterinary services), law, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, or any other trade or business in which capital isn’t a material income-producing factor.
7.    Based on all the facts and circumstances, the owner participated in the activity on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis during the year.

Note: When it comes to rental real estate activities and the passive activity loss rules, an owner’s participation doesn’t entitle him or her to claim losses. Owners of rental real estate activities can escape the passive activity loss rules only by demonstrating that they are real estate professionals (part of the definition of a real estate professional is based on material participation).

Self-employment tax

Sole proprietors pay self-employment tax on their net self-employment income. This is so whether they run their business or are totally in the background, relying on a full-time manager to handle the business.

General partners are subject to self-employment tax on their distributive share of self-employment income, plus any guaranteed payments. In contrast, limited partners are exempt from self-employment tax (other than for any guaranteed payments they receive for personal services rendered for the partnership).

Members in limited liability companies may or may not be subject to self-employment tax. There is no firm IRS guidance on this matter. However, tax professionals have argued that where members are mere investors (i.e., they act like limited partners), they should be treated like limited partners who are exempt from self-employment tax on their distributive shares.

Bottom line

Whether you sweat each day in your endeavors or are an investor who watches the books determines the tax rules that apply to you. Discuss your status with your CPA or other tax advisor.

Credit given to:Barbara Weltman

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

Today’s author – Mark Bradstreet

–until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | How is Hobby Income Taxed? February 12, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : 2019 Taxes, General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Tax Tip, Taxes, Taxes , add a comment

February 12, 2020

The hobby world has been turned upside down. In the past, hobby expenses were deducted to the extent of hobby income. Starting with 2019 and moving forward, hobby expenses are no longer deductible but your hobby income is fully taxable. Why? I have no idea. Hobbyists should be making whatever efforts necessary to convert their hobby to a business. Unlike hobby expenses, business expenses are deductible.  

                                -Mark Bradstreet

If you earn money from a hobby, you must report it as income on your federal income tax return. But if your hobby turns into a business, you may be eligible to take business deductions as well.

If you’re like most people, you probably have at least one hobby.

Unless your hobby’s mining for cryptocurrencies, you may not profit much from it. But you could still have at least a little hobby income coming in. If you do, you’re probably wondering: How is hobby income taxed?

The answer: You must pay taxes on any money your hobby makes, even if it’s just a few dollars. The good news is, if you incurred hobby expenses, you might be able to deduct them. It’s important to know how to declare hobby income, how to deduct hobby expenses and how to know if your hobby’s a business. You can find out about the rules right here.

Is it a hobby, or is it a business?

First things first — are you pursuing a hobby or running a business? Generally, if you’re doing something with the intention of making a profit, that’s a business, according to the IRS. A hobby is something you do for sport or recreation, and not for the objective of making a profit.

Some additional factors the IRS considers when defining a hobby versus a business include:

•    Do you depend on the income from your hobby?
•    Do you conduct your hobby like a business, maintaining meticulous records?
•    Have you taken steps to make your hobby more profitable?
•    Do you (or anyone who’s advising you) have the knowledge you would need to conduct your hobby as an actual business?
•    Can you expect to turn a profit from appreciation of assets you use in your hobby?

Maybe you answered “no” to all of the questions above. Sometimes, however, your hobby isn’t just for fun and you decide to try to make a living doing what you love. If your hobby becomes a business in the eyes of the IRS, the rules change. Check out the IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center if you find that your hobby has turned into a business.

You must declare hobby income

The IRS wants you to declare all your hobby income, even if it’s a small amount of money.

“If your hobby or side business has a net profit, you have to pay income taxes on that net profit, even with the new tax law,” says Irene Wachsler, a CPA at Tobolsky & Wachsler CPAs LLC in Canton, Massachusetts.

If you file your taxes using Form 1040, you’ll typically report your hobby income on Line 21, labeled “Other income.” While this is the simplest approach for most situations, there’s an alternative if you’re a collector.

If your hobby income comes from selling collectibles at a profit, you may report income from sales, including stock sales, on Schedule D. Reporting profits on a Schedule D means you could be taxed at capital gains rates instead of ordinary income tax rates.

Hobby expenses

Most hobbies — even those that earn you income — also cost money. Prior to the 2018 tax year, you could deduct hobby expenses equal to your hobby income. For tax years after 2018, this deduction is no longer available.

Since tax reform has significantly increased the standard deduction for 2018, you may be thinking you’ll likely lose the ability to deduct hobby expenses if it no longer makes sense for you to itemize. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether you do or don’t itemize — you’ve lost the deduction for hobby expenses in 2018 anyway because tax reform removed the miscellaneous deduction.

“Under the new tax reform bill, there is no place to deduct the expenses, so income will be recognized but the expense will not, starting in 2018,” says Alan Pinck, an enrolled agent and founder of A. Pinck & Associates, San Jose, California.

When does your hobby become a business, and why does it matter?

If your hobby becomes a business, you’re subject to a whole different set of tax rules.

First, you’ll typically have to declare income on Schedule C and pay both income tax and self-employment taxes (self-employment taxes include taxes for Social Security and Medicare, which an employer normally pays half of when you earn wage income). You can also deduct losses from a business, even if those losses exceed income the business earns, which differs from hobby losses.

It may seem tempting to classify your hobby as a business so you can deduct all your expenses, but proceed with caution — as mentioned earlier, the IRS uses specific criteria to differentiate a hobby from a business.

“If the activity makes a profit during at least three out of the last five years, the IRS will generally consider it a business,” Pinck explains, noting that the rules change if horses are involved.

Still, if you decide you do want to turn your hobby into a business and reap the tax benefits of business deductions, Wachsler recommends you keep a log showing your attempts to participate materially in the business.

Your log could include details on your efforts, including advertising, meetings, trying to obtain income or sell services, mileage logs and work logs. Of course even if you make an effort, the IRS may still decide your “business” isn’t really a business at all if you suffer persistent losses year after year.

Bottom line

Now that you know how hobby income is taxed, it’s up to you to decide if making money doing something for fun is worth the potential tax ramifications. While declaring income earned from your hobby may seem like a hassle — especially since you can’t deduct expenses after 2017 — you don’t want to get in trouble with the IRS for not reporting all your income.

Be sure to follow the rules for paying taxes on any money your hobby earns, and be sure you understand the differences between a hobby and a business. If the IRS decides you incorrectly classified your hobby as a business or vice versa, you could face additional taxes, penalties and interest.

Credit Given to: Christy Rakoczy Bieber

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

Today’s author – Mark Bradstreet

–until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | How to do 1031 Exchanges to Defer Taxes February 5, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : 2019 Taxes, General, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Tax Tip, Taxes, Taxes , add a comment

Like-kind tax free exchanges aka Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 are one of the most valuable yet underutilized sections of the IRC (the last major tax law change eliminated 1031 exchanges for anything but real estate).  We have prepared thousands of individual income tax returns and only a very small fraction of those with commercial and residential real estate sales use Section 1031.  Why?  I speculate lack of 1031 education is the primary culprit.  Also, the people that are aware simply don’t wish to tackle its complexities.  Its rules are unforgiving and the deadlines are engraved in stone as the accompanying article discusses.  However, it benefits may be significant.

                                    -Mark Bradstreet 

The Definition of Like-Kind Properties Has Changed Over the Years

The time-worn saying “Nothing is certain but death and taxes” is only half true for a savvy American taxpayer who is planning the sale of an investment or business property. Since capital gains tax on your profits could run as high as 15 percent to 30 percent when state and federal taxes are combined, why not take the necessary steps to avoid this loss? A big tax bite could wipe out money you could use for future investments.

Enter the 1031 tax-deferred exchange. To many taxpayers, this is like money dropping from the skies.

1031 Exchanges Defer Taxes

The 1031 Exchange has been cited as the most powerful wealth-building tool still available to taxpayers. It has been a major part of the success strategy of countless financial wizards and real estate gurus. Taking its name from Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, a tax-deferred exchange allows a taxpayer to sell income, investment or business property and replace it with a like-kind property.

Capital gains on the sale of this property are deferred or postponed as long as the IRS rules are meticulously followed. It is a wise tax and investment strategy as well as an estate planning tool. In theory, an investor could continue deferring capital gains on investment property until death, potentially avoiding them all together.

1984 Legislation Changed Some Aspects

In the early days of “like-kind exchanges,” the term was taken quite literally and often posed difficulties. For instance, if you owned a three-story brick apartment building that you wanted to sell through a 1031 exchange, you would have to find another three-story brick apartment building whose owner wanted to swap. Then the two of you would meet, and the exchange would take place.

3 Saving Habits to Steal and 3 to Skip

In the past, there were no time constraints on the exchange. The IRS demanded stricter controls on the process, which resulted in Congress passing in 1984 Section 1031(a). This legislation limited deferred exchanges, further defined “like-kind” property and established a timetable for completing the exchange.

Qualifying

Real estate property held for business use or investment qualifies for a 1031 Exchange. A personal residence does not qualify and, generally, a fix-and-flip property also doesn’t qualify because it fits into the category of property being held for sale. Vacation or second homes, which are not held as rentals do not qualify for 1031 treatment; however, there is a usage test under Paragraph 280 of the tax code that may apply to those properties. A tax expert should be consulted in this case.

Land, which is under development, and property purchased for resale do not qualify for tax-deferred treatment. Stocks, bonds, notes, inventory property, and a beneficial interest in a partnership are not considered “like-kind” property for exchange purposes.

To qualify as a 1031 exchange today, the transaction must take the form of an “exchange” rather than just a sale of one property with the subsequent purchase of another. First, the property being sold and the new replacement property must both be held for investment purposes or for productive use in a trade or a business. They must be “like-kind” properties.

The following types of real estate swaps fit the requirement for a qualified exchange of “like-kind” property:

•    An office in exchange for a shopping center
•    A shopping center in exchange for land
•    Land in exchange for an industrial building
•    An apartment building in exchange for an industrial building
•    A single family rental in exchange for a tenants in common (TIC) property

Today, you could exchange that brick apartment building for raw land, a warehouse, or a small office building. However, there are strict time constraints which must be met, or the 1031 Exchange will not be allowed, and tax consequences will be imposed.

Prior to 1984, virtually all exchanges were done simultaneously with the closing and transfer of the sold property (Relinquished Property), and the purchase of the new real estate (Replacement Property). In addition to the problems encountered when trying to finding a suitable property, there were difficulties with the simultaneous transfer of titles as well as funds. Not so today.

The delayed 1031 Exchange avoids those pre-1984 problems, but stricter deadlines are now imposed. A taxpayer who wants to complete an exchange, lists and markets property in the usual manner. When a buyer steps forward, and the purchase contract is executed, the seller enters into an exchange agreement with a qualified intermediary who, in turn, become the substitute seller. The exchange agreement usually calls for an assignment of the seller’s contract to the Intermediary. The closing takes place and, because the seller cannot touch the money, the Intermediary receives the proceeds due to the seller.

Exchanges Carry Time Restrictions

At that point, the first timing restriction, the 45-day rule for Identification, begins. The taxpayer must either close on or identify in writing a potential Replacement Property within 45 days from the closing and transfer of the original property. The time period is not negotiable, includes weekends and holidays, and the IRS will not make exceptions. If you exceed the time limit, your entire exchange can be disqualified, and taxes are sure to follow.

Types of Replacement Properties to Identify:

1.    Three properties without regard to their fair market value.
2.    Any number of properties as long as their aggregate fair market value at the end of the identification period does not exceed 200 percent of the aggregate fair market value of the relinquished property as of the transfer date.
3.    If the three-property rule and the 200 percent rule is exceeded, the exchange will not fail if the taxpayer purchases 95 percent of the aggregate fair market value of all identified properties.

What Is Boot?

Realistically, most investors follow the three-property rule so they can complete due diligence and select the one that works best for them that will close. Generally, the goal is to trade up to avoid the transfer of “boot” and keep the exchange tax-free.

“Boot” is the money or fair market value of any additional property received by the taxpayer through the exchange. Money includes all cash equivalents, debts, liabilities to which the exchanged property is subject. It is “non-like-kind” property, and the rules governing it during the exchange are complex. Suffice it to say, without expert advice, receiving “boot” can result in taxes.

Subject to the 180-Day Rule

Once a replacement property is selected, the taxpayer has 180 days from the date the Relinquished Property was transferred to the buyer to close on the new Replacement Property. However, if the due date on the investor’s tax return, with any extensions, for the tax year in which the Relinquished Property was sold is earlier than the 180-day period, then the exchange must be completed by that earlier date. Remember, a portion of this period has already been used during the Identification Period. There are no extensions and no exceptions to this rule, so it is advisable to schedule the closing prior to the deadline.

Since the law requires that the taxpayer not touch the proceeds from the first transaction, the Qualified Intermediary acquires the Replacement Property from the seller at closing and after the transaction is completed, then transfers it to the taxpayer.

Are Not for Do-It-Yourself Investors

It is a basic description of how a successful 1031 Exchange works. Depending upon the taxpayer’s situation, the type of property relinquished, and the characteristics of the Replacement Property, other aspects of the Exchange may be involved. Its completion may become complex, and experts should always be consulted. This is no task for a “do it yourself” investor.

Using the power of the 1031 Exchange to build and preserve wealth and assets, generate cash flow from investments, restructure, diversify and consolidate real estate holdings is the right of every owner of investment property in the United States. American taxpayers should never have to pay capital gains taxes on the sale of their investment property if they intend to reinvest those proceeds in more investment property.

Today’s author – Elizabeth Weintraub

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

–until next week.

Ohio Income Tax Updates January 29, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : 2019 Taxes, General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Tip, Taxes, Taxes , add a comment

A filing season approaches, we are often focused on the federal changes to tax law, but one shouldn’t fail to keep their eyes and ears open to the state changes.  For those of us in Ohio, the 2019 tax law changes were fairly mild.  Below are a few of the key changes to Ohio tax law for the 2019 tax year.

Change in Tax Brackets:

Following the example of the Federal government, Ohio has decreased the number of tax brackets and overall tax rates which are applicable to the 2019 tax year.  The change in rates are displayed below:

Ohio Earned Income Credit:

The Ohio Earned Income Credit (EIC) was also expanded and simplified for 2019.  Historically, the credit was calculated utilizing 10% of the Federal EIC, and possibly subject to limitations based on income.  For the 2019 tax year, the credit is simply 30% of the Federal EIC.

Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI):

The 2019 tax law introduces a new term for purposes of means testing.  Means testing is applied to determine exemption amounts and qualifications for certain credits.  Historically, Ohio Adjusted Gross Income (OAGI) was used in means testing.  The primary difference with this new metric is that income which would have been excluded under Ohio’s generous Business Income Deduction is now included for means testing.  Note, that this doesn’t mean that the business income is now taxable.  It simply means that this income will be considered when determining exemptions and credit qualifications.

In the ever-changing world of taxes, the changes take place not only on the Federal level, but on the state, and even local as well.  We strive to stay abreast of these changes, and help you make the best tax-conscious decisions. 

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

This week’s author – Josh Campbell

Tax Tip of the Week | 12 Essential Pieces of Small Business Advice January 22, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Business consulting, General, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Taxes , add a comment

Seems like a great time to reflect on some business pointers from some very wise people. Always fun to ponder on where we have been, where we are, where we are going, how will we get there and who will be on the bus with us. Rarely, do I get out of the pounding surf long enough to think through these questions. Regardless, this line of thinking should drive the events of 2020 and beyond.

Some brief gems of business advice follow – just maybe one of them will open a new door for you and your company.

                                -Mark Bradstreet 

At Dreamforce 2018, the Salesforce small business team asked attendees to share their most essential advice for small business owners. Over the course of four days, we collected more than 1,000 pearls of wisdom.

To celebrate National Small Business Week, we’ve distilled those 1,000+ suggestions down to 12 bits of small biz advice. And for fun, we’ve included some runner-ups that expressed similar ideas in different words.

Here we go:

1. “Every journey starts with one step – make sure you have the right shoes to go far.”

Launching a small business involves many important decisions, both big and small. The choices you make today can affect your business for years to come, so it’s critical to get off to a strong start and put your business on the path to success.

Runner-ups:

2. “Don’t boil the ocean — think small and fast.” 

Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by complexity or paralyzed by the quest for perfection — keep things simple when and where you can.

Runner-ups:

3. “Trust your instinct — you may just know the next industry trend!”

Running a small business is daunting, but you’ve got this. You’re the captain of the ship, so trust yourself to steer the right course.

Runner-up:

4. “Dream big, but remember to scale for the future. Planning is your best tool to ensure continued success!”

It’s great to have a vision of where you want your company to go. But it’s even more important to plan ahead so that the decisions you make today don’t box you in tomorrow.

Runner-ups:

5. “Be open to the journey without being too rigid on the outcome.” 

Running a small business is an unpredictable adventure. Flexibility is one of the entrepreneur’s best tools for overcoming unexpected adversity.

Runner-ups:

6. “One great employee is better than 10 bad employees.”

Employees are your biggest asset. Hiring (and then listening to and trusting) the right people is one of the most important steps to success.

Runner-ups:

7. “Listen. Listen. Listen. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that ratio.”

Details (and good communication) matter.

Runner-ups:

8. “Know your numbers, but know your customers better!”

Customers are the lifeblood of any business, but especially for small businesses. Treating them right and giving them a reason to come back is critical.

Runner-ups:

9. “Whether you think it’s possible or not, you are right!”

Elvis sang it best – “Only the strong survive.” When the going gets tough, successful small business entrepreneurs get going.

Runner-ups:

10. “Work for a company you’re proud of.”

Once you’ve hired great employees you need to treat them right so they stick around. The churn and expense of replacing good workers can debilitate even the strongest small business.

Runner-ups:

11. “Do what you say you’ll do!”

What does your company stand for? If it doesn’t stand for much it likely won’t be around for long.

Runner-ups:

12. “You have one life. What is important to you?”

There’s only one you! It’s impossible to create and run a successful company if you aren’t functioning at 100%. Be good to yourself, so that you’re around to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Runner-ups:

Many thanks to our great Dreamforce attendees for taking the time to pass along so many thoughtful and helpful suggestions.

Credit Given to:  Daniel Krewson. 

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

This week’s author – Mark Bradstreet, CPA

–until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | Great News from the IRS for Retirement Savers January 15, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Tax Tip, Taxes , add a comment

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gave retirement savers an early holiday gift this year in the form of higher contribution limits for 2020. According to its November 6th announcement, workplace retirement plan contribution limits would be increased in 2020. Likewise, the income limits for Traditional IRAs and ROTH IRAs will also rise in 2020.

Larger contributions to retirement accounts will allow you to further minimize your current tax bills. Additionally, higher retirement account contribution limits can be great for those who are playing catch up for retirement and/or who are making good incomes.

2020 Contribution Limits for Workplace Retirement Plans

The employee contribution limit will be increasing from $19,000 to $19,500 for the following types of retirement accounts in 2020:
•    401(k) plans
•    403(b) plans
•    Most 457 plans
•    Thrift Savings Plans
•    Profit-Sharing Plans
•    Cash Balance Pension Plans

For those of you with a SIMPLE IRA at work, the contribution limit will be increasing from $13,000 to $13,500. If your employer offers a SIMPLE IRA it may be time to ask them to upgrade your retirement plan to a 401(k), or something similar, that offers larger contribution limits.

Larger Catch-Up Contributions for Workers Who are 50+

Workers, at least 50 years old, are allowed to contribute even more to workplace retirement accounts. In 2019, the maximum catch-up contribution to a 401(k) was $6,000. For 2020, that amount will increase to $6,500.

That means workers who are at least 50-years-old will be allowed to contribute a combined total of $1,000 more than they could have in 2019. For example, a worker who is 55 years old in 2020, with a workplace retirement plan, will be able to contribute up to $19,500 to his 401(k) plus a maximum catch-up contribution of $6,500. If he makes the maximum contributions, they will equate to an investment of $26,000 into his retirement account. That’s $1,000 more than the maximum amount he could have invested in 2019.

Catch-Up Contributions are Typically Allowed on the Following Retirement Plans
•    401(k)
•    403(b)
•    Most 457 plans
•    Thrift Savings Plan

Sadly, catch-up contributions are not allowed on SEP IRAs.

Solo 401(k) Contribution Limits for 2020

With a Solo 401(k), small business owners can contribute as both the employee and the employer. That could lead to some pretty nice tax savings for those who max out the plans. As the employee, you can contribute the aforementioned $19,500 for 2020, plus the catch-up contribution if you are at least 50 years old. Total contribution limits as both the employee and employer have increased by $1,000 to $57,000 for 2020. That number does not include the potential $6,500 catch-up contribution. That means small business owners who are at least 50 years old have the option to contribute the maximum contribution limit of $65,500 for a Solo 401(k) plan.

Defined Benefit Pension Plan Benefits Increase In 2020

Small business owners who are maxing out their 401(k) or profit-sharing plan, and who want to save more on taxes, should check out a Cash Balance Pension. This defined benefit plan will allow even larger pre-tax retirement plan contributions when combined with a 401(k) profit-sharing plan. 

Effective January 1, 2020, the limitation on the annual benefit of a Pension plan will be increasing from $225,000 to $230,000. While this may not seem like a big deal, it will allow for a larger contribution, each year, to the pension plan. Your potential contributions will depend on how the plan is designed, your age, and your income. I work with many business owners who are stashing away hundreds of thousands of dollars each, pre-tax, into a Defined Benefit Pension Plan every year.

No Increase to IRA Contribution Limits

Bad news plus some good news for IRA or ROTH IRA lovers. The maximum contribution limits for individual retirement accounts are remaining the same. Also remaining the same are catch-up contributions for individual retirement accounts. For 2020, the catch-up contribution will be just $1,000 for an IRA and ROTH IRA. It should be noted that cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for IRAs are not indexed to inflation. 

The good news is that the income limits to fully contribute to a ROTH IRA, or to fully deduct contributions to a Traditional IRA, have increased for 2020.

The income limits for both types of IRAs, ROTH or Traditional, will vary depending on your federal income tax-filing status and, of course, your income. For specifics, check out the IRS announcement. Knowing those thresholds will help making the choice of going with a ROTH IRA or Traditional IRA easier.

What Should You Do Now?

Whether you are maxing out your contributions, or not, take them up a notch for 2020. If you already maximize your tax-saving by contributing the maximum amount allowed for your retirement plan, adjust your contributions in 2020 so that you stay at the maximum. 

If you are unsure about your investment choices or about how much to save for retirement, talk with an independent fee-only financial planner who can help make the process smoother and easier for you. While it is never too late to improve your retirement outlook, the more you procrastinate, the harder it will be to reach financial freedom.

Credit given to: David Rae, a Certified Financial Planner and Accredited Investment Fiduciary. This article was published by Forbes on Nov 20, 2019.

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

–until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | Rental Property Deduction Checklist for Landlords January 8, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Business Consulting, Deductions, Depreciation options, General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Tax Tip, Taxes , 1 comment so far

A business tax deduction is typically of more value than a personal tax deduction. Personal tax deductions are commonly in the form of itemized deductions. These may be of no value though if the standard deduction exceeds the so-called long form (itemized) deductions.

The following article by G. Brian Davis discusses business tax deductions specific to rentals. As an addition to his article, I will add that rental losses, if deductible on your federal income tax return, are also deductible on the State of Ohio and School District income tax returns. Within income limitations, rental income is not taxed to Ohio but is taxed by municipalities and school districts.

One lofty goal in the tax world is converting what otherwise was a nondeductible personal expense into a tax deduction. The world of rentals provides such opportunities.

                                            -Mark Bradstreet

The billionaires of the world are not doctors or lawyers, they’re entrepreneurs. Specifically, they are people who started their own businesses, whether those businesses are online, brick and mortar, or real estate empires.

Starting and owning a business provides a long list of tax advantages, and real estate investments provide all the usual tax advantages plus some extras unique to real property. Every expense associated with rental properties – plus some just-on-paper expenses – are tax deductible.

However, tax laws change fast and that means it is imperative for all those who invest in real estate must educate themselves. So, before you jump into the rental property deductions checklist, make sure you’re up to speed on how the new tax law affects landlords’ tax returns.

The changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) impacted homeowners, real estate investors and landlords alike. Here’s an outline of what you need to know as a real estate owner, and when in doubt, hire a professional who knows accounting with a real estate investing focus. Ideally one who invests in real estate themselves.

Lower Income Tax Rates

From 2018 through 2025, rental property investors will benefit from generally lower income tax rates and other favorable changes to the tax brackets. The TCJA retains seven tax rate brackets, although six of the brackets’ rates are lower than before. In addition, the new tax law retains the existing tax rates for long-term capital gains.

No Self-Employment Taxes for Landlords

In many ways, landlords get the best of both worlds: the tax benefits of owning a business, without the downside of self-employment taxes.

Real estate flippers can sometimes fall under the “dealer” category, and find themselves subject to double FICA taxes. FICA taxes fund Social Security and Medicare, and cost both employees and employers 7.65% of all income paid. Self-employed people end up having to pay both sides of FICA taxes, at 15.3% of total income.

But the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 ended up leaving landlords and their rental income free from any FICA taxes.

New Passive Income Loss Rule

If you have losses from “passive activities” such as owning rental properties, typically you can only deduct those losses to offset other passive income sources, such as other rental properties. For example, if you earn $10,000 from one rental property and have an $8,000 loss on another, you can offset your $10,000 income with the $8,000 loss, for a net taxable rental income of $2,000.

But if you have a net loss, that can’t be used as a deduction against your active income from your 9-5 job. You can carry it forward however, to offset future passive income earnings and rents.

Here’s how the TCJA changes matters: there’s a new $250,000 cap for single filers, $500,000 cap for married filers, for passive losses. Any passive losses that you’re allowed, in excess of those caps, must be carried forward to the next tax year.

It won’t affect most landlords, but it’s something to be aware of.

20 Tax Deductions for Landlords

Here are 20 rental property expenses you can deduct on your tax return, to keep more of your money in your pocket where it belongs. It’s not 100% exhaustive, as there are a few obscure tax deductions that only apply to a few landlords, but think of this as a rental property deductions checklist for the average landlord.

IMPORTANT: These rental property tax deductions are “above the line” deductions, meaning they come directly off your taxable income for rental properties. That means you can deduct these expenses, and still take the standard deduction.

1. Losses from Theft or Casualty
The TCJA suspended the itemized deduction for personal casualty and theft losses for 2018 through 2025. Before 2018 deductions of this kind were permitted when they exceeded $100. But landlords can still deduct losses from theft or damage to their rental properties, as business expenses.

2. Property Depreciation
This is a handy “paper expense.” Much of the cost of buying your property can be written off as a tax deduction, although it must be spread over 27.5 years (don’t ask me where that number came from). Buildings lose value as they age (at least theoretically), so the IRS lets you deduct 1/27.5 of the property’s cost each year.

Major property upgrades and “capital improvements” must be depreciated as well, rather than deducted in the year you make them. For example, a new roof is a capital improvement that must be depreciated, rather than deducted all at once.

But the patching of a roof leak? That’s a repair.

3. Repairs & Maintenance
Basic repairs and maintenance such as new paint and new carpets are deductible for your rental properties. That’s not the case for your primary residence, in which repairs are not deductible. Remember, if it’s a large improvement or replacement (like the roof example), it may count as a “capital improvement,” in which case you’ll have to spread the deduction over multiple years, in the form of depreciation.

The line isn’t always crystal clear however, like the roof example above. Here’s an example of how it gets blurry: if you replace all your windows to modernize and improve your energy efficiency, it’s a capital improvement. If a baseball goes through one window, which you replace, it’s a repair. But what if you replaced a few windows last year, but not all? Talk to an accountant, and build a defensible argument for any repairs you deduct.

4. Segmented Depreciation
Some improvements, such as landscaping and “personal property” inside the rental/investment property (e.g. refrigerators) can be depreciated faster than the building itself. It’s more paperwork, to segment the depreciation of certain improvements as separate from the building’s depreciation, but it means a lower tax bill right now, not in the far distant, unknowable future.

5. Utilities
Do you pay for gas, heating, trash removal, sewer or any other utility for your rental? They are tax deductible.

Take heed however, if your tenant reimburses you for a utility, that would be considered income. So, you have to declare both the income and the expense, even though they offset each other.

6. Home Office
This is a popular deduction, but it’s also one you need to be careful about, as it can trigger audits. You have to set aside a percentage of your home for only doing work/business/real estate investing-related activities, and that percentage of your housing bill can be deducted. And 2018 may see this deduction scrutinized even more.

One new downer: no more home office deduction for those who work for others in the comfort of their home. But as a real estate investor, you’re a business owner, so you can still claim it if you use the space exclusively for “business.”

Make sure and talk to an accountant about this, and keep the percentage realistic.

7. Real Estate-Related Travel
Another popular-but-dangerous deduction, you can deduct travel expenses if your travel was for your real estate investing business… and you can prove it. Many people get cute with this one, and when they go on vacation, they’ll go see one or two “potential investment” properties and then write the entire trip off as a business expense.

Whenever you plan on deducting travel expenses, put together as much documentation as you possibly can so that you can make a strong case that it was an actual business trip. For example, meet with a real estate agent in the area, and keep all of your email correspondence with them. Keep all listing information and investment calculations for any properties you visit. Track your mileage for all driving done to and from rental properties.

C-Y-A!

8. Closing Costs
Many closing costs are tax deductible, and others can be depreciated over time as part of your acquisition cost. Use an accountant with a deep knowledge of real estate investments, and send them the HUD-1 (settlement statement) for each property you bought last year.

9. Mortgage Insurance (PMI/MIP)
No one likes mortgage insurance (other than banks). At least you can deduct the cost from your taxable rental property income.

10. Property Management Fees
Paid a property manager to handle the headaches for you and field those dreaded 3 AM phone calls from tenants? You can write off their management fees, including both monthly fees and tenant placement fees.

11. Rental Property Insurance/Landlord Insurance
Like homeowner’s insurance for your primary residence, your landlord insurance premium for each property is also tax deductible.

12. Mortgage Interest
All interest you pay to your mortgage lender on rental property loans remains tax deductible. As mentioned above, it’s an “above the line” deduction that simply comes off of your taxable rental property income.

But for your primary residence, 2018 limits the deductibility of mortgage interest only up to $750,000 of home mortgage debt.

13. Accounting, Legal & Other Professional Fees
All professional fees associated with your rental properties are tax deductible. Bookkeeping, accounting, attorney, real estate agent and any other fees you pay out for professional services can be deducted from your taxable income. Don’t forget the cost of any bookkeeping or landlord software (ahem!) you use.

One wrinkle introduced by the TCJA however is that personal tax preparation expenses are no longer deductible from 2018 onward. But business accounting – such as for your real estate LLC or S-corp – is still deductible as a rental business expense for landlords. Talk to your accountant about shifting as many of your tax preparation expenses as possible to the “business” side of the books!

14. Tenant Screening
If you paid for tenant credit reports, criminal background checks, identity verifications, eviction history reports, employment and income verification or housing history verification, those fees are deductible.

Even better, have the applicant pay directly for tenant screening report costs. Which, I might add, our landlord software allows you to do!

15. Legal Forms
Bought a state-specific lease agreement this year? Eviction notices? Property management contracts? The cost of legal forms is also deductible.

16. Property Taxes
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, landlords can still deduct rental property taxes as an expense.

But it’s a little more complicated for homeowners, and even though this is a list of landlord tax deductions, let’s take a moment to review the changes for homeowners, shall we?

In 2018, you can no longer deduct for state and local taxes in excess of $10,000. These state taxes include things like: state and local income tax, sales taxes, personal property tax, and… property taxes.

What does this mean for high-tax states like New York, New Jersey or Connecticut? Well, it could mean that more people may relocate to lower-tax states like Florida, and may even spark lower property values in states such as New Jersey. Only time will tell.

17. Phones, Tablets, Computers, Phone Service, Internet
Bought a new phone this year? Maybe a new laptop or tablet? If you use it for work, you can probably persuade your accountant (and the IRS) that the costs should be deducted from your taxable income. Likewise, for internet bills, phone service charges and the like, with the caveat that you need to be able to document that it was for business purposes. Printer toner, computer paper, pens, and the like; keep those receipts.

18. Licensing Fees
Licensing and registration fees are sometimes a local requirement for rental properties. For instance, in the city of Philadelphia, a rental license fee is required along with an inspection of the property.

So, if you’ve had to purchase or renew a landlord or rental license for the property, that cost is deductible.

Furthermore, some localities will require a vacation rental license for short term rentals such as seasonal, AirBnB and the like. These licensing costs are deductible as well.

19. Occupancy Tax
There are states that assess an occupancy tax on collected rental amounts, comparable to paying sales tax. This is more of a common practice in states where short-term rentals are common. Florida, Arizona and New Jersey are examples of states that charge an occupancy or tourist tax.

If you own rental property in an area that charges an occupancy-like tax, then the amount is tax deductible. Remember, however, that the tax will not only differ from state to state but also from local jurisdictions like cities and counties.

20. Business Entity Pass-Through Deduction
There are significant changes in 2018 tax regulations on how legal entities (e.g. LLCs) and pass-throughs and the like are going to be treated. Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, and Corporate Entities are now entitled to a “pass-through” deduction as long as the rental activities meet the requirements for business tax purposes.

The short version is that landlords can deduct 20% of their rental business income from their taxable business income amount. For example, if you own a rental property that netted you $10,000 last year, the pass-through deduction reduces your taxable rental business income from $10,000 to $8,000. Pretty sweet, eh?

There are restrictions, of course. The deduction phases out for single tax payers with adjusted gross incomes over $157,500, and married taxpayers earning over $315,000. Although under some conditions, higher-earning landlords can still take advantage of the pass-through deduction – definitely discuss with your accountant.

One more reason, beyond asset protection, to own rental properties under a legal entity!

Final Word

It’s hard to get ahead if 50% of your income is going to taxes (which it probably is, if you add up everything you pay in sales tax, property tax, federal income tax, state income tax, local income tax and FICA taxes). But by being savvier with your documentation and deductions, landlords and real estate investors can pay less in taxes than other people, and truly realize the advantages of entrepreneurship.

Remember to always document every expense you plan to deduct. That means keeping receipts, invoices and bills throughout the year as expenses pop up; to help with this, keep a separate checking account for your real estate expenses if you don’t already. Never swipe that debit card or write a check from that account without first getting documentation!

Credit Given to:  G. Brian Davis

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

This week’s author – Mark Bradstreet, CPA

–until next week.