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Tax Tip of the Week | Escaping Income Tax on Real Estate Gains is Entirely Possible January 16, 2019

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

Escaping Income Tax on Real Estate Gains is Entirely Possible

With the proper tax planning and foresight, use of Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 offers the opportunity of not paying any income tax on real estate property gains.

The “1031” tax break aka a “like kind” exchange is one of the most commonly overlooked tax breaks.

Using 1031 exchanges as explained below enable a taxpayer to escape paying income tax on a real estate gain by effectively trading their properties for more expensive ones. The gains are deferred through a basis reduction in the newly acquired property. However, if this property is held at death and the total estate value is below the current taxable threshold of roughly $11,000,000; then, your beneficiaries receive the real estate at its “fair market value” at date of death which becomes their new “stepped-up basis.” The difference between the basis (even after depreciation) and its fair market value at date of death remains untaxed.

However, there are some “mines in this minefield” that must be avoided. Further explanation is offered below by Robyn A. Friedman (WSJ, November 16, 2018).

-Mark Bradstreet, CPA

The tax overhaul enacted last year made a lot of changes, but one provision cherished by real-estate investors survived:  so-called 1031 exchanges.

It’s the name for a tax break that lets you defer capital-gains taxes on the sale of a property used for business or investment if you reinvest the proceeds in another business or investment property. It’s often used by large real-estate investment companies, but individual investors – even those who own a single rental-income property – can take advantage of it as well. The “1031” name refers to Section 1031 of the U.S. tax code.

“You don’t have to be a professional investor to use this tax break to your advantage,” says Andy Weiser, a real-estate agent with Better Homes and Gardens Florida 1st Real Estate in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “You just have to be a smart investor.”

One typical way small investors use the provision is by selling one rental property and buying another. Mr. Weiser recently represented an investor who did just that. The investor sold a two-bedroom rental property in San Antonio, for what would have been a $125,000 gain. If he had simply taken the cash, he would have paid capital-gains tax. But instead, under the 1031 rules, he was able to defer paying those taxes by using the proceeds to buy another rental property, a $395,000 two-bedroom waterfront condominium that he bought in Fort Lauderdale.

The provision only applies to properties held for business or investment; a personal residence is not eligible for the tax break. You also must complete certain steps at set times. You have 45 days from the date of the sale of the old property to identify potential replacement properties. And you must acquire the new property no later than 180 days after the sale.

Before the tax code overhaul this year, a variety of transactions – not just real estate – qualified for 1031 exchange treatment. These transactions also called “like-kind exchanges,” were allowed for any type of property used for business or held as an investment, including exchanges of personal or intangible property such as artwork or other collectibles. The new rules now limit exchanges to real estate only.

But many types of real estate qualify. An investor can exchange a single-family home held for investment in New York for a farm in Colorado or a small strip shopping center in Las Vegas, as long as all those properties are used for business or investment purposes.

Many investors engage in successive 1031 exchanges, effectively swapping each of their properties into bigger and better ones. Ultimately, when the investor dies, the heirs who inherit the last property receive a “stepped-up basis,” which means that the property is valued at the market value at the time of death. If the heirs sell it then, there’s likely no gain – and hence, no capital-gains taxes due – on the sale.

“You keep buying and selling and roll the profits from one to the next,” said David Goss, co-founder and managing principal of Interra Realty, a brokerage in Chicago. “And when you die, and your kids inherit them, they get a stepped-up basis so the capital gains are gone forever.”

•    Beware of the personal property. Personal property is excluded from like-kind exchanges. So, if you’re exchanging an apartment building and it has appliances, you need to determine how much of the value is attributable to the building and how much for the appliances. “That’s an area where you have to watch out,” Mr. Moskowitz says.

Robyn A. Friedman, WSJ, Friday, November 16, 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 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 | 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 | Should a Parent or Student Take Out the College Loan? October 10, 2018

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

Tax Tip of the Week
October 10, 2018 

Per Forbes (June 13, 2018) who quoted Make Lemonade, “there are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. alone.” These numbers equate to about one in every four American adults who are paying off student loan debt. Many of our clients are fighting this fight. I hope some of you find this article helpful.

“MANY FAMILIES plan to borrow money to pay for college. But some aren’t sure who should take out the loans – the parents or the student.

Considering that 42% of families borrowed money to help pay for college in the 2016-17 academic year, according to Sallie Mae’s “How America Pays for College 2017,” this is a decision that many people will face. More students take out loans than parents, but there is no set formula for making the determination. It is largely a personal choice, based on a family’s preferences and financial circumstances experts say, and the approach could change from year to year.

For those wrestling with the decision, here are a few things to consider:

1.    TAP FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS FIRST

Students generally should exhaust their federal student-loan eligibility before looking at other options, experts say. That’s because the interest rate on federal student loans is fixed regardless of a student’s credit history (or lack thereof), a cosigner isn’t required, and these loans are typically less expensive than a federal parent Plus loan or private student loans, says Debra Chromy, president of the Education Finance Council, a national trade association representing nonprofit and state-based higher-education finance organizations.

Federal student loans come with other benefits, such as the ability to apply for an income-driven repayment plan, in which loan payments are based on a percentage of the borrower’s discretionary income and family size. Some federal student loans may even be forgiven and discharged under certain circumstances. People who work for the government, at qualifying nonprofits or in teaching, for example, may qualify for loan forgiveness.

The problem is, students may not be able to cover the cost of college with federally backed student loans because there are limits on how much they can borrow annually and in total. (The limits depend on the student’s year in school and whether he or she is considered a dependent.)

If federal student loans won’t fully cover the cost of school (and a student has exhausted scholarship and grant opportunities), it may be appropriate to consider other types of loans. The first step is to decide how much responsibility a parent is willing – and able – to take on.

2.    EVALUATE PARENTAL EARNINGS POWER

Not all parents are in a position to take on debt for their children – even if they would ideally like to cover all of their student’s education expenses. And if parents can’t afford to take on college debt they shouldn’t experts say, especially if it is going to take away from their retirement savings. While students have many other ways to pay for college, the same isn’t true of parents trying to save for retirement. And if parents eat up all their retirement money on education costs, they may be forced into the uncomfortable position of having to rely on their children for financial help later on in life.

“If you’re taking the loan as a parent only, you have to feel comfortable that you are paying it off with your earning power,” says Joe DePaulo, co-founder and chief executive of College Ave Student Loans, a private student-loan provider.

For parents who are comfortable taking on debt for college, here are a few options:

Federal Direct Plus loan for parents. With this option, parents can borrow money from the U.S. Education Department to cover any costs not covered by the student’s financial-aid package, up to the full cost of attendance. Parents generally need to start making payments as soon as the loan is fully disbursed, but they may request a deferment while their child is in school and for an additional six months after the student graduates; interest still accrues during this time. A Direct Plus loan made to a parent cannot be transferred to a child. Also, the interest rate may be considerably higher than some private options and there is an origination fee that comes off the top; that fee is 4.248% for loans between Oct. 1, 2018 and Sept. 30, 2019. Under certain conditions, a parent may be eligible to have part of the loan forgiven or discharged.

Home equity.   Parents may be able to take out a secured loan, such as a home-equity line of credit or home-equity loan, to pay education costs. With a home-equity line of credit, borrowers withdraw money as they need it, up to a certain amount. These loans often have a floating interest rate, and borrowers generally have 10 to 20 years to pay the money back. A home-equity loan, by contrast, is a one-time lump-sum loan that often comes with a fixed interest rate. The interest rates on home loans may be more favorable than other types of loans, but parents need to consider factors such as their home’s value, how much they owe, how much they need and whether they are comfortable putting up their home as collateral before proceeding, experts say.

Private parent loans. Private lenders such as Sallie Mae and College Ave Student Loans offer private student loans for parents. Typically, these loans are available to people with strong credit histories. Borrowers may be able to choose between a variable or fixed rate and determine a repayment option that works for them. On the downside, these loans could be more expensive than other alternatives, says Charlie Javice, chief executive of Frank Financial Aid, a company that assists families in the financial-aid process.

3.    CONSIDER SHARING RESPONSIBILITY

Students also have the option of taking on private student loans, which may be offered by state-based agencies, public companies, marketplace lenders or banks. Students generally can borrow up to their cost of attendance.

These kinds of loans usually require a cosigner – often the parent – because most college-age students don’t have the necessary credit history to obtain a loan on their own. With a cosigned loan, payment history – good and bad – will affect the credit record of both people on the loan.

Parents who cosign a private student loan need to consider the possibility that the child could be delinquent or default, Ms. Javice says. This can be a long-term concern since borrowers typically have about 10 years or more to pay off these loans. Several years out of school a child could lose a job, become an addict, go through a divorce or be unable to pay for some other reason, and the parent will be on the hook, Ms. Javice says. In some cases, the loan could become a stain on the parents’ credit record, which might affect their ability to borrow money to buy a home or a car, she says.

For some parents, the desire to encourage fiscal independence and responsible financial behavior in their children outweighs the fear that they could end up on the hook for the child’s debt.

They want their child named on the loan in the belief it will motivate the student to do well in school, finish on time and even spend the money more responsibly, says Mr. DePaulo of College Ave Student Loans. There are also parents who plan to cover the debt on the student’s behalf, but prefer the loan be in their child’s name to start the child’s credit history out on the right foot, he says.

There’s no hard and fast rule about which type of private loan – parent or student – will be the least expensive or most beneficial. Different loans have different rates, perks and requirements, so families should shop around and compare how the various options stack up, says Ms. Chromy of the Education Finance Council.

Families “should explore all their options so that they can make an informed choice that best reflects their needs,” she says.”

Credit given to Cheryl Winokur Munk
Wall Street Journal
Monday, July 9, 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 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 | When to Ignore the Crowd and Shun a Roth IRA Conversion October 3, 2018

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Tax Tip of the Week
October 3, 2018

 

This is a great article! Laura Saunders is right on point! Many of these factors could also apply to any spike in taxable income in a particular year. Enjoy!

“Switching your traditional individual retirement account to a Roth IRA is often a terrific tax strategy – except when it’s a terrible one.

Congress first allowed owners of traditional IRAs to make full or partial conversions to Roth IRAs in 2010.

Since then, savers have done more than one million conversions and switched more than $75 billion from traditional IRAs to Roth accounts.

The benefits of a Roth conversion are manifold. A conversion gets retirement funds into an account that offers both tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals. In addition, the account owner doesn’t have to take payouts at a certain age.

While traditional IRAs can also grow tax-free, withdrawals are typically taxed at ordinary income rates. Account owners 70 ½ and older also must take payouts that deplete the account over time.

IRA specialist Ed Slott and Natalie Choate, an attorney in Boston, say that Roth IRAs also yield income that is “invisible” to the federal tax system. So Roth payouts don’t raise reported income in a way that reduces other tax breaks, raises Medicare premiums, or increases the 3.8% levy on net investment income.

Yet both Ms. Choate and Mr. Slott agree that despite their many benefits, Roth conversions aren’t always a good idea.

IRA owners who convert must pay tax on the transfer, and the danger is that savers will give up valuable tax deferral without reaping even more valuable tax-free benefits. For tax year 2018 and beyond, the law no longer allows IRA owners to undo Roth conversions.

Savers often flinch at writing checks for Roth conversions, and sometimes there are good reasons not to put pen to paper. Here are some of them.

Your tax rate is going down. In general, it doesn’t make sense to do full or partial Roth conversions if your tax rate will be lower when you make withdrawals.

This means it’s often best to convert in low-tax rate years when income dips. For example, a Roth conversion could work well for a young saver who has an IRA or 401(k) and then returns to school, or a worker who has retired but hasn’t started to take IRA payouts that will raise income later.

Those who will soon move to a state with lower income taxes should also consider waiting.

You can’t pay the taxes from “outside.” Mr. Slott advises IRA owners to forgo a Roth conversion if they don’t have funds outside the account to pay the tax bill. Paying the tax with account assets shrinks the amount that can grow tax-free.

You’re worried about losses. If assets lose value after a Roth conversion, the account owner will have paid higher taxes than necessary. Ms. Choate notes that losses in a traditional IRA are shared with Uncle Sam.

A conversion will raise “stealth” taxes. Converting to a Roth IRA raises income for that year. So, benefits that exist at lower income levels might lose value as your income increases. Examples include income tax breaks for college or the 20% deduction for a pass-through business.

Higher income in the year of a conversion could also help trigger the 3.8% tax on net investment income, although the conversion amount isn’t subject to this tax. The threshold for this levy is $200,000 for singles and $250,000 for married couples, filing jointly.

You’ll need the IRA assets sooner, not later. Roth conversions often provide their largest benefits when the account can grow untouched for years. If payouts will be taken soon, there’s less reason to convert.

You make IRA donations to charity. Owners of traditional IRAs who are 70 ½ and older can donate up to $100,000 of assets per year from their IRA to one or more charities and have the donations count toward their required payouts.

This is often a highly tax-efficient move. But Roth IRA owners don’t benefit from it, so that could be a reason to do a partial rather than full conversion.

Financial aid will be affected. Retirement accounts are often excluded from financial-aid calculations, but income isn’t. If the income spike from a Roth conversion would lower a financial-aid award, consider putting it on hold.

You’ll have high medical expenses. Under current law, unreimbursed medical expenses are tax deductible above a threshold. For someone who is in a nursing home or has other large medical costs, this write-off can reduce or even wipe out taxable income. If all funds are in a Roth IRA, the deduction is lost.

You think Congress will tax Roth IRAs. Many people worry about this, although specialists don’t tend to. They argue that Congress likes the up-front revenue that Roth IRAs and Roth conversions provide and is more likely to restrict the current deduction for traditional IRAs and 401(k)s- as was considered last year.

Other proposals to limit the size of IRAs and 401(k)s to about $3.4 million, to make non-spouse heirs of traditional IRAs withdraw the funds within five years, and to require payouts from Roth IRAs at age 70 ½ also haven’t gotten traction so far.”

Credit given to Laura Saunders, Wall Street Journal
Saturday/Sunday, August 18-19, 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 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 | Your Most Expensive Personal Asset to Liquidate is Your…. September 26, 2018

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Tax Tip of the Week
September 26, 2018

 

401(K)!

Please don’t get me wrong. There are times and reasons to cash in your 401(k) and/or other retirement plans. However, aside from the loss of your future investment, the tax hit of cashing in your retirement plan can be astronomical. Therefore, in times of a cash crunch, practically any other asset is better to turn to. Remember, the withdrawal of your tax deferred retirement plan is subject to federal, state and school district income tax (if applicable); and if you are under the age of 59 ½ you are also hit by a whopping 10% penalty (nondeductible)!

Caution:  Too many people treat their retirement plans like an ATM and not the long-term retirement savings vehicle it was designed for!

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.