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Tax Tip of the Week | Students Get Help From Judges January 2, 2019

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

Students Get Help From Judges

To give you an idea of the pervasiveness of this issue, student loan debt “has eclipsed credit cards as the largest source of consumer debt after mortgages.”  Please read the write-up below for potential relief for some former students.

Mark Bradstreet, CPA

“More bankruptcy judges are throwing lifelines to people struggling to repay their student loans after decades of refusing to consider any sort of relief.

In interviews with the Wall Street Journal, more than 50 current and former bankruptcy judges, frustrated at seeing borrowers leave federal courtrooms with six-figure debts, say they or their colleagues are more open to chipping away at the decades-old guidelines that determine how such debt is treated.

“If the law’s not going to be improved by Congress, we have to help these young people who are drowning in student loan debt, said U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge John Waites in South Carolina.

Outright cancellations remain rare, but judges said they have other tools at their disposal, including asking lawyers to represent borrowers for nothing. The lawsuits can cost $3,000 to $10,000 and take years.

Other judges are embracing debt-relief techniques that don’t fully erase student loans but make repayment more affordable by, for instance, canceling future related tax bills. The popularity of these relief strategies could get a boost from a panel of professors, judges and advocates who are studying failures in consumer bankruptcy law and plan to release a report next year.

Hundreds of thousands carry student debt in the U.S. – the total has more than doubled over the past decade to $1.4 trillion – nearly all backed by the federal government. It has eclipsed credit cards as the largest source of consumer debt after mortgages. Almost every other type can be extinguished in bankruptcy, but standards made college debt untouchable. Borrowers typically must repay student loans over their lifetime, even those facing extreme financial hardship.

In March, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said he would be “at a loss to explain” why student loans can’t be cancelled like other debt. The Trump administration is considering whether to fight cancellation requests less aggressively.

Consumer bankruptcy lawyers are starting to notice that judges are being more flexible. One Las Vegas law firm recently filed the first cancellation request in its 14-year history after hearing a judge at a conference voice concern over student loans. Other lawyers said growing sympathy amounts to judges making lenders more willing to reach resolutions in court.

“I’m getting really good results with settlements these days,” said Chicago lawyer David Leibowitz. “I’m not the only one.”

Rules governing how student debt is handled in bankruptcy are made by Congress and by judges who issue influential rulings. Several bills in Congress that would erase student-loan debt in bankruptcy have stalled in recent years.

Last year in Philadelphia, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Eric Frank cancelled a single mother’s $30,000 in student loans. Opposing lawyers from the U.S. Department of Education said the borrower needed to prove her hardship would persist 25 years. Judge Frank ruled that the relevant window was five years.

An appeals court over-turned his ruling, but his decision inspired a Tacoma, Wash., judge in December to cancel a portion of another borrower’s loans.

Such rulings are rare because few troubled borrowers attempt to cancel their student loans, because of the historically slim chances of victory.

Some bankruptcy judges criticize colleagues for re-interpreting well-settled law on student loans. “My view is, if the law is clear, follow it,” said retired California judge Peter Bowie.

The push to rethink the legal standard on student-loan debt is bipartisan. Judges interviewed by the Wall Street Journal were appointed during both Republican and Democratic administrations, though bankruptcy judges are appointed by appeals court judges, not the president.

Before 1976, laws allowed borrowers to do away with student-loan debt in bankruptcy. Congress, out of concern that the new graduates would take too much advantage of that option, made a new rule: Borrowers could cancel student loan debt after only five years of payments. Judges could grant exceptions if borrowers showed that repaying would cause “undue hardship.”

Congress didn’t define “undue hardship” so the task of doing so fell to federal judges. When Marie Brunner, a 1982 graduate of a master’s program in social work tried to cancel her loans in bankruptcy, a New York judge in 1985 said she had to show three things: she struggled financially, her struggles would continue and that she had made a good faith effort to repay. She lost.

That list still serves as a baseline for hardship in circuit courts that control the rules in most states.  Some appeals courts set even higher bench-marks, with one, for instance, saying borrowers must face a “certainty of hopelessness.”

In 1998 Congress said any borrower trying to cancel any federal student loans must prove “undue hardship,” like Ms. Brunner. Congress gave private student loans the same protection in 2005.

Some of the country’s bankruptcy judges are starting to argue that the prevailing legal standard is unintentionally harsh and wasn’t meant for adults still on the hook for student-loan debt years after college.

Judge Frank Bailey in Boston made that argument in an April ruling wiping out $50,000 in student loans for a 39-year-old man whose health ailments prevent him from working.

Some judges, including U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Michael Keplan in Trenton, N.J., said they are looking for ways to be more forgiving after seeing their own adult children borrow heavily for their education. Other judges grew concerned after talking to their law clerks. The typical law-school student takes out $119,000 in loans.

Two judges said they regret their rulings against borrowers more than a decade ago.

Kansas judge Dale Somers said he worked particularly hard to justify the reasoning in a December 2016 ruling that cancelled more than $230,000 in interest that built up on a couple’s student loans from the 1980s. They left bankruptcy owing $78,000.

Alabama judge William Sawyer declared that student loans had become “a life sentence” in a 2015 decision cancelling a $112,000 student loan debt for high school science teacher Alexandra Conniff, a single mother of two teen boys whose yearly income is $59,400.”

Credit given to Katherine Stech (Wall Street Journal)

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. 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 C. Bradstreet, CPA

-until next week

Tax Tip of the Week | New Expensing and Bonus Depreciation Rules for Small Businesses December 19, 2018

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

New Expensing and Bonus Depreciation Rules for Small Businesses

As we approach the end of 2018, many businesses are reviewing their capital asset needs for this year and next and considering the tax benefits of buying these assets this year or next.

Some of the new rules are shown below as a refresher.

Remember Section 179 may be elected for part or all of the qualifying asset cost. However, use of Section 179 may not be fully deducted if it creates a loss and can not exceed certain thresholds as described below.

Section 168 is now available for new or used qualifying assets. It may create a loss but it must be taken on all purchased assets in a particular “asset class.”

-Mark Bradstreet, CPA

Isaac M. O’Bannon, Managing Editor on Nov 15, 2018 (CPA Practice Advisor)

“Some of the changes in the tax reform law mean small businesses can immediately expense more of the cost of certain business property. Many are now able to write off most depreciable assets in the year they are placed into service.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), passed in December 2017, made tax law changes that will affect virtually every business and individual in 2018 and the years ahead. Among those for business owners are tax rate changes for pass-through entities, changes to the cash accounting method for some, limits on certain deductions and more.

Section 179 expensing changes

A taxpayer may elect to expense all or part of the cost of any Section 179 property and deduct it in the year the property is placed in service. The new law increased the maximum deduction from $500,000 to $1 million. It also increased the phase-out threshold from $2 million to $2.5 million. These changes apply to property placed in service in taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017. For most businesses, this means the 2018 return they file next year.

Section 179 property includes business equipment and machinery, office equipment, livestock and, if elected, qualified real property. The TCJA also modifies the definition of qualified real property to allow the taxpayer to elect to include certain improvements made to nonresidential real property. See New rules and limitations for depreciation and expensing under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for more information.

New 100 percent, first-year ‘bonus’ depreciation

The 100 percent depreciation deduction generally applies to depreciable business assets with a recovery period of 20 years or less and certain other property. Machinery, equipment, computers, appliances and furniture generally qualify. The law also allows expensing for certain film, television, and live theatrical productions, and used qualified property with certain restrictions.

The deduction applies to business property acquired after Sept. 27, 2017, and placed in service after Sept. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2023.  In general, the bonus depreciation percentage is reduced for property placed in service after 2022. See the proposed regulations for more details.

Taxpayers may elect out of the additional first-year depreciation for the taxable year the property is placed in service. If the election is made, it applies to all qualified property that is in the same class of property and placed in service by the taxpayer in the same taxable year. The instructions for Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization, provide details.”

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. 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 C. Bradstreet, CPA

–until next week

Tax Tip of the Week | Pay Your Taxes Like a Billionaire: Carefully December 12, 2018

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

Pay Your Taxes Like a Billionaire:  Carefully


One of the more common comments I hear is that the “rich” don’t pay income taxes. That is simply not true. However, many of the “rich” own and operate a business, sometimes more than one. These businesses do offer some great planning opportunities not available to many non-entrepreneurs. Often, some of the major components of these tax saving strategies revolve around the use of accelerated depreciation methods for qualifying assets and some sophisticated retirement plans.
The following excerpts from Laura Sanders (WSJ, December 1-2, 2018) further explain some of the intricacies of extended planning for individuals and businesses under the new tax laws.

-Mark C. Bradstreet

“The richest Americans have long saved billions from multi-year tax planning. Now it makes sense for many others to do the same. Advisors to high earners have always done multiyear analyses of items like operating-loss carryforwards or stock options for their clients. But because of last year’s tax overhaul, filers earning less have an incentive to use this approach.

Individuals may decide to speed up or slow down their charitable donations, while business owners may want to spread out certain deductions instead of taking them all at once. The result could be a significantly lower tax bill over time.

One key driver of the change is the near doubling of the standard deduction, the amount taxpayers get if they don’t itemize write-offs like mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable donations on a Schedule A. This write-off is now $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for married couples.

This is where multiyear planning helps.

Say that John and Jane have paid off their mortgage, owe $15,000 in state and local taxes, and give $10,000 a year to charities.

For 2017, they deducted the $25,000 total on Schedule A because it was greater than their standard deduction of $12,700. But their 2018 state-tax write-off is capped at $10,000. Thus, their deductions total $20,000, less than their $24,000 standard deduction this year.

Now see what happens if they accelerate their $10,000 of 2019 donations into 2018. They can deduct $30,000 on Schedule A for 2018 and take the standard deduction for 2019, which is $24,400 after an inflation adjustment. By doing this, their write-offs over two years total $54,400 rather than $48,400.

“People should maximize charitable deductions, as it’s often the only Schedule A strategy left,” says David Lifson, a CPA with Crowe LLP in New York.

Multiyear planning is also newly important to owners of pass-through businesses like a proprietorship, partnerships and S corporations. They now get a 20% deduction, as long as their own taxable income doesn’t exceed $157,500 for single filers or $315,000 for married couples. Above that, the deduction can shrink or disappear.

Owners with income above the limits can use various strategies to get below it. Among them: investing in depreciable equipment; making charitable donations; and saving more in retirement plans with deductible contributions.

Say a married business owner has a taxable income of $330,000 and buys $100,000 of equipment. The law allows him to deduct 100% of the cost right away, which gets him far below the $315,000 income threshold – for one year.

Instead, says Mr. Porter [a CPA in Huntington, W. VA], the owner should consider spreading out these deductions, as is often allowed.  If he takes the $100,000 write-off over five years, perhaps he can lower his income so it’s below the threshold for that period, qualifying him for a full 20% write-off each year.

With year-end nearing, here are other tax moves.

•    Take capital gains and losses as needed.  Don’t let the tax tail wag the dog, but remember that capital losses can offset taxable capital gains from investments and reduce a filer’s bill. Up to $3,000 of excess capital losses can also be deducted against “ordinary” income like wages.

Investors who sell losing securities can’t repurchase them for 30 days before or after without running afoul of Internal Revenue Service rules. Winners can be rebought right away.

•    Beware of the 3.8% surtax. The 3.8% tax on investment income applies to most married couples with more than $250,000 of adjusted gross income and most singles with more than $200,000.

It’s levied on net investment income, such as interest, dividends, capital gains and royalties, above the thresholds.  Thus, if a single filer has $150,000 of income and a $75,000 capital gain, $25,000 would be subject to the 3.8% tax.

Some people can avoid this tax by planning, such as by selling part of an investment before year-end and the rest early in January.

•    Take required IRA payouts.  These are typically from traditional individual retirement accounts held by taxpayers 70½ and older.  The required payout is a percentage of total assets on the prior Dec. 31. Except for those taking their first such withdrawal, the payout must be taken by year-end.

IRA owners taking their first required payout have a later deadline:  April 1 of the year after they turn 70½.  But waiting means the IRA owner will owe tax on two IRA payouts in the second year, pushing some into a higher bracket, so it may make sense to take it before year-end.”

-Laura Saunders, WSJ

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. 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 C. Bradstreet, CPA

–until next week

Tax Tip of the Week | An IRA/Charitable Contribution (QCD) for Year-End Planning December 5, 2018

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

An IRA/Charitable Contribution (QCD) for Year-End Planning

Over the last few years we continue to see an uptick in charitable contributions made from an IRA. I continue to believe this tax strategy is very often overlooked or just simply ignored. So as this year winds down and many people are making charitable donations, please remember the new tax law has made the way to make charitable contributions even more worthwhile to consider.

-Mark C. Bradstreet, CPA

Bob Carlson Contributor (excerpts from an article titled “7 IRA Strategies For The End of 2018”)

“It’s time for IRA owners to be proactive by planning and implementing their strategies for the rest of the year. Consider these steps now and take those that are appropriate for you.

Caution: Don’t wait until the last few weeks of the year to consider your actions. IRA custodians are very busy then. Many won’t process requests for some types of transactions during the last couple of weeks of the year or won’t guarantee they’ll be completed by December 31.

Use QCDs to make charitable contributions. It’s one of the best ways to make charitable contributions, though it’s available only to owners of traditional IRAs who are age 70 ½ and older.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made the qualified charitable distribution (QCD) even more valuable. The law increased the standard deduction and reduced the itemized expenses that can be deducted.  The result is fewer taxpayers will be itemizing expenses and deducting charitable contributions.

In a QCD, you direct the IRA custodian to send a contribution directly to the charity of your choice. Or you can have the custodian send you a check made payable to the charity, which you deliver to the charity.

The distribution isn’t included in your gross income, yet it counts towards your required minimum distribution (RMD) for the year.”

Bob Carlson is the editor of Retirement Watch, a monthly newsletter and web site he founded in 1990. He researches and writes about all the financial issues of retirement and retirement planning, for both those planning retirement and already retired.

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. 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 C. Bradstreet, CPA

–until next week

Tax Tip of the Week | The New Kiddie Tax: How It Might Change Gift Giving November 21, 2018

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

The New Kiddie Tax: How It Might Change Gift Giving


The following article is about a tax that we seldom deal with, but one which can be significant when it comes into play – the so-called Kiddie Tax. The article was written by Bob Carlson and was taken directly from the Accountants’ Daily News (10-16-2018), and discusses changes to the tax and how it is computed.
-Norman S. Hicks, CPA

By Bob Carlson

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

“Beginning in 2018, youngsters who are subject to the Kiddie Tax will pay tax on their unearned income using the same tax tables as trusts. There will be no reference to the parents’ tax rate.

Take a good look at the new Kiddie Tax before making gifts to children and grandchildren.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act greatly simplified the Kiddie Tax. The tax was imposed in the Tax Reform Act of 1986 on unearned (investment) income of children. The idea was to end income splitting. That was the practice of high-income earners shifting some of their income to relatives in lower tax brackets, usually by giving investment assets to children directly or through trusts. Initially, only children under age 14 were subject to the tax. The scope was increased over the years.  Now, it applies to most children under 18 and full-time college students under 24 who don’t pay for more than half of their support.

The original Kiddie Tax had the children paying taxes on their investment income at their parents’ highest tax rate. It required a separate form and some complicated computations. It also required parents to share their tax information with their children.

Beginning in 2018, youngsters who are subject to the Kiddie Tax will pay tax on their unearned income using the same tax tables as trusts. There will be no reference to the parents’ tax rate. That greatly simplifies computation of the tax and means parents don’t have to share their data. But the new rules mean many who are subject to the Kiddie Tax will pay higher taxes than they would have under the old rules.

For example, the maximum 20% capital gains tax is imposed on trusts when taxable income reaches $12,700. Last year, that rate wasn’t imposed on an individual until taxable income exceeded $400,000. Throughout the tax tables, higher tax rates are imposed on trusts at much lower income levels than for individuals.

But some children will pay lower income taxes under the new rules.  When a child’s parents are in the top tax bracket and the child receives only a few thousand dollars of investment income, the income will be taxed at a lower rate under the new rules. The child won’t be in the top tax bracket.

The Kiddie Tax applies to all unearned income. That, of course, includes all types of investment income, but also includes distributions from traditional IRAs and 401(k)s and some Social Security survivor benefits.

A child subject to the Kiddie Tax receives a $1,050 standard deduction that makes that amount of unearned income tax free. The next $1,050 of unearned income is taxed at a lower rate, but tax advisors disagree on whether it is taxed at the child’s tax rate or using the trust tax tables. The rule is unclear until the IRS issues guidance.

This means the first $2,100 of unearned income earned by a child or grandchild is either untaxed or taxed at a low rate. Additional income will be taxed using the trust tax tables. So, parents and grandparents have to monitor a youngster’s unearned income sources carefully before giving additional income-producing investments or selling long-term capital assets held in the youngster’s name.

If you plan to leave assets to a youngster as part of your estate plan, you should consider leaving a child who might be subject to the Kiddie Tax a Roth IRA instead of a traditional IRA. There might be a family member in a lower tax bracket who should inherit the traditional IRA.

Another strategy for grandparents might be to give appreciated property to the parents instead of to the grandchildren. Suppose the grandparents are in the top tax bracket but the parents are in a lower bracket. The grandparents have an investment asset with a significant long-term capital gain. They want to sell the asset to help pay for the grandchild’s education or other needs.

The grandparents would owe the 20% capital gains rate if they sold the asset, and the grandchild also would owe the 20% rate if the amount of the gain plus other investment income put him or her in the top trust tax bracket. But the parents might owe only a 15% (or lower) rate if they were given the property and sold it.

The irony is that under the new rules, top-bracket parents or grandparents probably can transfer more money to youngsters before triggering a higher tax than lower-bracket adults can. The top tax rate of 37% begins at $600,000 of taxable income for married taxpayers filing jointly and at $12,500 for trusts. That means a top-bracket family can transfer up to $12,500 of gains or other unearned income to a child or grandchild before the 37% rate is triggered on the child. But an adult in a lower tax bracket has to transfer less than $12,500 before the child begins paying a higher rate than the adult would pay

The new Kiddie Tax makes computing the tax easier, but it can make planning more complicated for many families.”

Bob Carlson is a contributing editor of Forbes Media and is the editor of Retirement Watch, a monthly newsletter and web site he founded in 1990.

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. 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 – Norman S. Hicks, CPA

–until next week

Tax Tip of the Week | The Worst Investment Strategies You Can Make from a Tax Standpoint October 31, 2018

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Deductions, General, tax changes, Tax Tip, Taxes, Uncategorized , add a comment

The Worst Investment Strategies You Can Make from a Tax Standpoint

Needless to say, income taxes can be a big bite. On the other hand, the performance of your overall investment portfolio is obviously important. And, it may be good or bad. But, which is more important – saving income taxes or protecting the overall future of your portfolio by taking some chips off the table now. Do you cash-in your investment now knowing that income taxes may be as low as 0%, or as high as somewhere between 23.8% to 43%. Or, do you risk missing out on an investment gain by failing to cash in because you can’t bring yourself to write an “income tax” check? This answer varies by individual. Each person may have a VERY different tax situation in terms of other income and expenses, loss carryforwards, capital loss carryforwards, credit carryforwards, amount of estimated taxes paid, AMT, NIIT, additional Medicare tax, social security benefits – just to mention a few off the cuff. The other side of the coin is that individuals also have significantly different investment holdings. Both factors may be huge considerations – one cannot be simply ignored to the exclusion of the other.

The article that follows goes into greater depth and covers several examples of what may be considered poor tax planning.

1.     Selling stock too soon.  Capital gains on holdings of more than a year are taxed favorably at rates from zero for those in the lowest bracket to 23.8% for those in the highest individual rates. Efforts should be made, if possible, to retain stocks for at least one year to get the favorable rates.
2.    Not realizing losses when there are taxable gains.  In years that you have taxable gains, you should try to offset taxes as much as possible by realizing losses embedded in your portfolio and selling some of those shares.
3.    Having losses offset the wrong type of capital gains.  If there is a choice, it is better to offset short term gains with long term losses. This way, you will get the full benefit of the loss against income that would be taxed at regular rates. Offsetting long-term gains with short-term losses wipes out income that would have been taxed favorably. This strategy requires some advance calculations and planning.
4.    Not carrying forward capital losses.  Capital losses can offset capital gains with up to $3,000 of losses in excess of gains used to offset other income. Losses not deductible can be carried forward indefinitely until used up, at amounts of $3,000 per year.
5.    Thinking that a surviving spouse can utilize capital losses.  Carried-forward capital losses disappear at death and cannot be used by a surviving spouse who previously filed a joint return if those losses are not attributed to him/her.
6.    Not properly utilizing losses on options trades.  Those that trade in stock options and have losses can offset these against capital gains. If options are sold, income is not recognized until they are repurchased at a gain or expire. If the options are exercised, the amount received is added to the sale price of the shares. If you buy options and exercise them, their cost is added to the purchase price of the acquired shares.
7.    Unintentionally creating a wash sale.  People who trade and have losses and then reacquire shares in the same company within 30 days before or after selling them will have a “wash” sale and cannot recognize the loss. They need to be careful of falling into this trap. See point #8 below for a way to avoid the wash sale rules.
8.    Not harvesting losses.  People with tax losses can harvest these losses to be used currently or in future years without running afoul of the wash-sale rules. This is done by selling the loss shares and immediately buying shares in similar companies so that the market risk hasn’t changed. An example is to sell shares in a certain sector and buy the exchange traded fund (“ETF”) for that sector…hold it for 31 days…and then sell that and repurchase the prior shares that were sold. This puts your portfolio in the same position as before the first sale, but you have the losses to offset current or future capital gains. You can also do this with mutual funds and index funds, not just ETFs. Your risk is that the substituted funds or ETFs don’t perform similarly during that 31-day period as the individual stock you sold.
9.    Putting stocks in children’s names and then selling them.  People who put stocks in their children’s names will not get any tax benefit because, except for minimal amounts, the Kiddie tax will be at the same rates as the parents (As of 2018, Kiddie Tax is now taxed at the trust rates). But this can be done with other people you might be supporting, such as an elderly parent. Caution:  Watch for interactions on their returns that need to be factored in, such as triggering a tax on Social Security benefits.
10.    Owning publicly traded partnerships (“PTP”) in retirement accounts.  Certain types of income from PTPs are considered “unrelated business taxable income” and are subject to taxation even though they are in a tax-deferred or tax-advantaged account, such as an IRA, Roth IRA or 401(k). Also, owning PTPs in your own name can increase your tax preparation fee, since many of these entities issue multiple-page K-1s (up to 10 pages) rather than a single-page 1099.
11.    Buying tax-free government bonds when their earnings will result in higher tax payments. People who buy tax-free government bonds to avoid federal income tax can still be subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax if the bonds are for private activities…or returns from these bonds can trigger a tax on Social Security benefits. You have to run the numbers.
12.    Wrong asset location.  Many investors have stock in their tax-deferred accounts, and tax-exempt bonds in their own names. But income earned in a tax-deferred account, such as an IRA or 401(k), is taxed as ordinary income when distributed, regardless of the nature of the income in the IRA—this means capital gains and dividends would lose their beneficial rates. A better way is to have the tax-deferred account own corporate bonds and keep stock in your personal accounts. The overall yield will increase since corporate bonds pay higher interest than tax-exempt bonds, and the stock will provide capital gains and dividends that will be favorably taxed. Also, unrealized stock appreciation will never be taxed if owned at death.
13.    Not using retirement accounts for active trading.  Tax-deferred accounts should be used by active traders who generate extensive short-term gains or if they trade or sell options. Active traders who have IRAs or self-directed retirement accounts should not overlook doing this.
14.     Investing in mutual funds at the wrong time of the year.  Many mutual funds declare and pay their capital gains dividends for the year in December. Buying such shares in November or December could cause you to pay tax on money you are receiving back from what you just invested. You then pay tax on your own money rather than on earnings.

As I always say, taxes are complicated and need an understanding to not fall into traps or to have you engage in costly strategies. These strategies can help you avoid or minimize your taxes from investing transactions. It’s always wise to review your investment strategies with a tax adviser and not just your investment adviser.

Credit to Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, ABV, PFS (Money, September 15, 2017)

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. 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 C Bradstreet, CPA

–until next week

Tax Tip of the Week | Gifts to Charity: Six Facts About Written Acknowledgements September 19, 2018

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

Tax Tip of the Week
September 19, 2018

Throughout the year, many taxpayers contribute money or gifts to qualified organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. Taxpayers who plan to claim a charitable deduction on their tax return must do two things:

•    Have a bank record or written communication from a charity for any monetary contributions.
•    Get a written acknowledgment from the charity for any single donation of $250 or more.

Here are six things for taxpayers to remember about these donations and written acknowledgements:

1.    Taxpayers who make single donations of $250 or more to a charity must have one of the following:
o    A separate acknowledgment from the organization for each donation of $250 or more.
o    One acknowledgment from the organization listing the amount and date of each contribution of $250 or more.
2.    The $250 threshold doesn’t mean a taxpayer adds up separate contributions of less than $250 throughout the year.
o    For example, if someone gave a $25 offering to their church each week, they don’t need an acknowledgement from the church, even though their contributions for the year are more than $250.
3.    Contributions made by payroll deduction are treated as separate contributions for each pay period.
4.    If a taxpayer makes a payment that is partly for goods and services, their deductible contribution is the amount of the payment that is more than the value of those goods and services.
5.    A taxpayer must get the acknowledgement on or before the earlier of these two dates:
o    The date they file their return for the year in which they make the contribution.
o    The due date, including extensions, for filing the return.
6.    If the acknowledgment doesn’t show the date of the contribution, the taxpayers must also have a bank record or receipt that does show the date.

This article was provided by the Internal Revenue Service in Tax Tip 2017-59.  If you have any questions concerning charitable donations, let us know.  We can help.

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. 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 | Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions Are Now Gone September 5, 2018

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

Tax Tip of the Week
Sept 5, 2018 
 

Keep the Common Misconceptions coming, we have had wonderful feedback, thank you!  Let us know via email, what are common business misconceptions that you have come across; markb@bradstreetcpas.com?   

As discussed before, the new tax law has nixed miscellaneous itemized deductions. They are no longer a part of your itemized deductions on Schedule A. These include your unreimbursed employee business expenses such as mileage, meals, travel, uniforms and other expenses such as tax prep fees, brokerage fees, etc. Some of the aforementioned expenses are still deductible as business expenses – that hasn’t changed.

Many people are upset about the loss of these tax deductions. Before deciding if a person has the right to be upset, some questions must first be answered. First, how much income tax did you save as a result of these deductions? Well, if you were ineligible to itemize your deductions, you didn’t miss out on anything – nada. And, even if you were able to itemize, the total miscellaneous deductions must exceed 2% of adjusted gross income (AGI) before any benefit is realized. Lastly, even If you cleared these first two hurdles, you may still flunk because of additional Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) being created.

So, let’s walk through a real-life example – your AGI is $150,000 and itemizing your deductions is to your benefit.  More good news – you are not subject to AMT. The grand total of your miscellaneous tax deductions is $4,000. Now, remember that only the portion that exceeds 2% of the $150,000 AGI or a $3,000 floor is of any value at all. Yes, in this case, we have a $1,000 additional deduction or tax savings of roughly $275. Better than nothing – but not worth writing home about. Also, no benefit exists on either the Ohio or School District returns. Sometimes, the unreimbursed employee business expenses are deductible to a taxing city but they almost always generate tax correspondence which takes away most of that fun.

So, at the end of the day, the press is making a big to do about taking away something most people never had anyway!

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. 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 | No. 472 | The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act August 8, 2018

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Deductions, General, tax changes, Tax Tip, Taxes, Uncategorized , add a comment

Tax Tip of the Week | Aug 8, 2018 | No. 472 | The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

We have shared information on various aspects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in several previous tax tips. The following is a nice refresher brought to us by our Western CPE sponsors which we wanted to share this week.

Tax Reform and What it Means for Your Personal Taxes 

President Trump, when he was on the campaign trail, promised that he would push for tax reform legislation. On Dec, 22, 2017, he signed The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law, the first major tax reform in 31 years. The new law makes many changes to the tax code. Every taxpayer is impacted. A highlight of the changes follows:

Tax rates.  Tax rates are reduced. The top rate is reduced from 39.6% to 37%. Lower rates are also reduced.

Exemptions and the child tax credit.  The deduction for personal exemptions is eliminated. An expanded child tax credit will help make up for the loss of personal exemptions for some families. The credit is increased to $2,000 (from $1,000) for qualifying children under 17. For children 17 and older and for other dependents, the credit is $500.

Standard deduction.  The new tax reform law doubles the standard deduction. The higher standard deduction ($12,000 for singles, $18,000 for heads of household, and $24,000 for married filing joint) means that fewer taxpayers will benefit from itemizing deductions.

Itemized deductions.  Itemized deductions for all state and local taxes, including property taxes, are capped at $10,000. The limit on mortgage debt for purposes of the mortgage interest deduction is reduced from $1,000,000 to $750,000 for loans made after Dec. 15, 2017. Loans made before Dec. 15, 2017 are grandfathered at the $1,000,000 debt limit. The interest on home equity borrowing is no longer deductible in most cases. The threshold for medical expense deductions is lowered to 7.5% of adjusted gross income (from 10%) for tax years 2017 and 2018. Miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% of AGI limitation are not allowed. Miscellaneous itemized deductions lost because of the new law include employee business expenses, investment adviser fees, union dues, and tax preparation fees. Personal casualty losses are not allowed unless the losses were suffered in a federally declared disaster area.

Alimony.  The new tax reform law eliminates the alimony deduction for agreements signed after Dec. 31, 2018. Alimony income is not taxable for agreements signed after Dec. 31. 2018. There is no change to the law for agreements signed before Jan. 1, 2019.

Moving expenses.  The new tax reform law eliminates the moving expense deduction and makes employer reimbursement of moving expenses taxable to the employee beginning in 2018.

AMT.  The new tax reform law temporarily increases the alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption for tax years 2018 through 2025. The increase in the exemption, as well as the elimination of major tax preferences (exemptions, state taxes above $10,000 and miscellaneous itemized deductions) means that fewer people will be subject to AMT under the new law.

Education.  The new tax reform law modifies qualified tuition programs – §529 plans. Funds in the 529 plan can now be used to pay for grades K to 12 private school tuition. The above-the-line deduction for college tuition expenses was renewed in later legislation, but only for 2017. The American Opportunity and the Lifetime Learning credits continue to be available.

Roth IRA conversions.  The new tax reform law repeals the special rule permitting recharacterization of Roth IRA conversions. A conversion of a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA may still be advisable, but once the conversion is completed, it can’t be undone.

These are just a few of the changes included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Your 2018 taxes will be affected. That’s guaranteed by the scope of the changes. The degree of impact depends on your personal situation.

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We may be reached in Dayton at 937-436-3133 and in Xenia at 937-372-3504. Or visit our website.

This week’s author – Norman S. Hicks, CPA

–until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | No. 468 | New Tax Laws and Buying Your Dream Vacation Home July 12, 2018

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

Tax Tip of the Week | July 11, 2018 | No. 468 | New Tax Laws and Buying Your Dream Vacation Home

Vacation-home buyers are impacted by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, passed by Congress in December of last year. Aside from a few exceptions the new laws are effective on January 1, 2018. The new laws that impact vacation homes generally revolve around the deductibility of mortgage interest and property taxes. This tax tip will not delve into any tax aspects of a second home rental.

Let’s chat first about the property taxes on your dream vacation home.
These property taxes are still deductible. But, like the property taxes on your personal residence there are now more hoops to jump through and they are higher. Being able to itemize now is more difficult since all of your taxes, a part of your itemized deductions, may not exceed $10,000.

Moving on to the deductibility of mortgage interest whether it be from home-equity loans, home-equity lines of credit (HELOCS) or second mortgages have also been adversely affected by the new tax laws.

Generally, mortgage interest is no longer deductible unless the loan proceeds are used to purchase, construct or significantly improve the home that secures the loan. Often, in the past, prior to the passage of the new tax laws – vacation-home buyers of ski chalets and oceanfront homes were using mortgages on their primary residence to purchase the second home. IRS now says that this interest is no longer deductible since the mortgage is on another home. However, it is okay to use a first mortgage on your vacation home for its purchase. But you must keep in mind that you can only deduct the interest on a grand total of $750,000 in mortgage loans. Any “excess” interest is not deductible.

First mortgages on your vacation home or on your primary residence will typically bear similar interest rates. However, unlike a HELOC on your primary residence used for the purchase of a vacation home, lending institutions will ask for at least a 15% down payment for mortgages placed on your vacation home. Be sure to factor this possibility into your cash planning forecast.

Of course, the best work around for managing the mortgage interest deduction on your dream home is not to have any debt. PAY CASH! NOW THAT WOULD BE A DREAM!

Credit given to Robyn A. Friedman, Wall Street Journal, Friday, May, 11, 2018

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We may be reached in Dayton at 937-436-3133 and in Xenia at 937-372-3504. Or visit our website.

This week’s author – Mark Bradstreet, CPA

–until next week.