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Tax Tip of the Week |Offshore Tax Cheats – The IRS is Still Coming for You March 6, 2019

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

Having an offshore account is not illegal, provided the accounts are in compliance with U.S. tax laws which include appropriate disclosure. And, yes, you can get into serious trouble for failing to attach the appropriate forms to your income tax return. So, please be certain to advise your tax preparer of any foreign assets you may have. But, where things get really dicey, is the situation of using these “secret” accounts to hide your money and not paying any income tax (offshore tax evasions is a criminal act). More details from Laura Saunders follow.

  • Mark Bradstreet

“Hiding money from the U.S. government is a lot harder than it used to be.  

On Sept. 28, the Internal Revenue Service will end (now ended) its program allowing American tax cheats with secret offshore accounts to confess them and avoid prison. In a statement, the IRS said it’s closing the program because of declining demand.

But the agency vowed to keep pursuing the people hiding money offshore and said it will offer them another route to compliance.

What a difference a decade makes.

Before 2008, an American citizen could often walk into a Swiss bank, deposit millions of dollars, and walk out confident that the funds were safe and hidden from Uncle Sam, says Mark Matthews, a lawyer with Caplin & Drysdale who formerly helped the IRS’ criminal division.

Now he says, “Americans hiding money abroad have to go to small islands with sketchy advisers and less reliable financial systems.”

The reason:  a historic crackdown on the longstanding problem of U.S. taxpayers hiding money offshore, U.S. officials ramped it up after a whistleblower revealed that some Swiss banks saw U.S. tax evasions as a profit center and were sending bankers onto U.S. soil to hunt for clients.

The defining moment came in 2008, when Justice Department prosecutors took Swiss banking giant UBS AG to court and managed to pierce the veil of Swiss bank secrecy. In 2009, UBS agreed to pay $780 million and turn over information on hundreds of U.S. customers to avoid criminal prosecution.

The Justice Department repeated the UBS strategy, with variations, for scores of other banks and financial firms in Switzerland, Israel, Liechtenstein and the Caribbean. So far, institutions have paid about $6 billion and turned over once-sacrosanct customer information. More major settlements are still to come.

Prosecutors also successfully pursued more than 150 individuals hiding money abroad. Some defendants earned jail time, and many paid dearly – a total of more than $500 million so far. Dan Horsky, a retired business professor and a startup investor, appears to have handed over the largest amount: $125 million for hiding more than $220 million offshore.  

In many cases, a taxpayer can owe a penalty of half a foreign account’s value, if it’s greater than $10,000 and it’s not reported to the Treasury Department. Ty Warner, the billionaire creator of Beanie Babies plush toys, paid $53.6 million for hiding an account with more than $100 million.

The IRS capitalized on tax cheats’ fears of detection with its Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, the limited amnesty that’s ending. It hit confessors with large penalties in exchange for no prosecution. Since 2009, more than 56,000 U.S. taxpayers in the program have paid $11.1 billion to resolve their issues.

To be sure, the U.S. crackdown hasn’t reached everywhere – notably Asia.

Edward Robbins, a criminal tax lawyer in Los Angeles formerly with the IRS and Justice Department, attributes the enforcement gap to the widespread use of human beings, rather than structures like trusts, to shield account ownership in Asia.

“In the Far East, individuals often use other individuals who use other individuals to hold assets. Finding the true owner is a tough nut to crack, unlike in the West,” he says.

The crackdown also had drawbacks, making financial life difficult for many of the roughly 4 million U.S. citizens living abroad. Unlike most countries, the U.S. taxes citizens on income earned both at home and abroad. Often expatriates were stunned to find they could be considered tax cheats under the expansive U.S. Law and that compliance would be onerous.

In reaction, more than 25,000 expats have given up U.S. citizenship since 2008, with some paying a stiff exit tax. Others are working to get Congress to change the taxation of nonresidents.

For expats and others, the IRS now offers a compliance program with lesser penalties, or none, for offshore-account holders who didn’t willfully cheat. About 65,000 taxpayers have entered the program and the IRS says it will remain open for now.

Current and would-be tax cheats should take seriously the IRS’s vow to keep pursuing secret offshore accounts, says Bryan Skarlatos, a criminal tax lawyer with Kostelanetz & Fink who has handled more than 1,500 offshore disclosures to the IRS.

Although the IRS’s staffing is way down, he says, the agency and the Justice Department have far better tools for detecting and combating evasion than 10 years ago.

Among these agencies’ tools are the Fatca law, which requires foreign firms to report information on American account holders.This law is providing the IRS with streams of useful information it’s using in prosecutions.This week brought the first guilty plea for a violation of Fatca rules by a former executive of a bank in Hungary and the Caribbean.

The IRS is also mining data from foreign bank settlements and whistleblower information. The payment of $104 million to UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfield, apparently the largest ever, has inspired other informers.

To detect clusters of cheats, U.S. officials now can use a “John Doe summons” to force firms to release information on a class of customers suspected of evading taxes – even if their identities aren’t known, and even if the information isn’t in the U.S.

This strategy has been so successful that the IRS has broadened its use to identify possible tax cheats using cryptocurrencies.

“More than ever, there’s no place to hide,” say Mr. Skarlatos.”

Credit given to Tax Report, Laura Saunders, WSJ, September 15-16, 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 | Sales Tax (Where You Have No Physical Presence) February 13, 2019

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

Sales Tax ( Where You Have No Physical Presence)

I would rather have an IRS audit than a sales tax audit for a multitude of reasons that I won’t bore you with. Just take my word for it! Too many taxpayers are more diligent with meeting their IRS tax compliance than with their sales tax requirements.  You better be diligent with both of these taxes or you have a lot to lose!

Excerpts from an article follows on South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., U.S. (2018).  As businesses increasingly use internet to sell, their sales tax compliance has become even more cumbersome and complex.

I have spared you a lot of history in this article and just shown the author’s FAST FACTS.  You may also go directly to the online article if you are interested in more details.

-Mark Bradstreet

Credit to Rich Molina, CPA, CPA Voice, The Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountant, Sep/Oct 2018

FAST FACTS:

1.    “Reversing precedent, the U.S. Supreme Court finally upheld a requirement that retailers withhold and remit sales taxes for purchases made by customers in states in which the retailers have no physical presence.
2.    South Dakota, like other states, experienced a substantial decline in tax revenues as more and more of its residents purchased goods and services online from out-of-state retailers.
3.    On a national level, states were losing $8-33 billion of tax revenue per year in uncollected sales taxes by out-of-state sellers. In addition, at the time the Supreme Court rendered the Quill decision in 1992, less than 2% of Americans had internet access while that number is 89% today.
4.    The court’s holding has evolved along with modern day commerce just as the court is finding itself having to adapt to new areas in other parts of the law, including privacy in the digital age.”

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 | Stop Helping Cybercriminals Steal Your Info January 9, 2019

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : General, Tax Tip, Taxes, Taxes, Uncategorized , 1 comment so far

Stop Helping Cybercriminals Steal Your Info

We all face computer security threats on a daily basis. Some attempts by cybercriminals are outright obvious! But, others, admittedly are ingenious, sneaky (see (2) below – that is a new one for me) and can literally put you out of business. An IT instructor I had a few weeks ago said he could hack our hotel’s Wi-Fi and be on our cell phones in 2-3 minutes. He said if he was really good it could be done in 30 seconds. Ouch! Also, too many people use passwords that are simply too short and too easy to guess. Please read on…

-Mark C Bradstreet, CPA

“When you take a moment to think about the various data breaches and identity theft scams that have occurred over the past few years – from Equifax to WannaCry – there tends to be a common theme:  These wounds are self-inflicted.

Because we face data security threats every day, it helps to know the most common tactics cybercriminals use and how to prevent falling victim to them.

(1) Spear phishing
Phishing scams are one of the most common and successful methods of data theft, which makes sense. They target the single most vulnerable part of the security apparatus:  People. And there’s one subset of phishing that is particularly effective.

“Spear phishing” specifically targets individuals by using personal information to convince the victim that the criminals are a familiar entity – an employer, family member, or favorite retailer – to gather private data: bank accounts, credit card information, and Social Security numbers are common requests. Luckily, there are usually a few clues that the communication isn’t legit and knowing how to spot them can protect you from being a victim.

First, businesses will not request your bank account number or Social Security number in an email. If someone on the phone is claiming to be from a collection agency, you can perform a few quick Google searches to verify their identity. Second, a legitimate agency will never ask for payment via cryptocurrency or gift cards. Third, email and letter phishing scams tend to feature glaring spelling and grammar issues.

The other, most obvious way to avoid email phishing scams is to avoid opening unsolicited emails and, on those occasions when you do open them, never clicking links or downloading attachments. If you’re worried about not being able to receive files from customers or coworkers, secure client portals and shared folders are viable options.

(2) Evil Twins
Evil twin attacks are when cybercriminals create a fake wireless access point that impersonates a real Wi-Fi- network, enabling cybercriminals to directly monitor victims’ traffic or redirect victims to websites containing malware. Criminals usually set up shop in high-foot-traffic areas that advertise free Wi-Fi, like airports, coffee shops and shopping malls. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know which “hotel Wi-Fi” is legit.

If you don’t want to self-regulate what you do while connected to public Wi-Fi, one solution is a virtual private network (VPN) service. When you use a VPN, your device’s traffic is encrypted, which – while not impenetrable – places a barrier between your data and would-be cybercriminals.

(3) Ransonware
Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

You’re working late on a project that’s due tomorrow morning, but a Windows notification asking to download and install an operating system update stops you dead in your tracks. Rather than taking a break that could last an hour or more, you click “Remind Me Later” and keep working on that deadline. Six months later, the update is waiting patiently for you to find the time. It’s essential for us to find the time to update our operating systems because such updates often include security patches that can help prevent attacks that compromise our cybersecurity.

Ramsonware holds your computer’s data hostage until you make a payment to the cybercriminals responsible for the attack. Generally, if you don’t make a payment by a specific date, all your data is deleted. But even if you pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your data back – and since most of these scams ask for payment in Bitcoin, it’s not possible to simply reverse the charges.

The May 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack succeeded because people failed to update their Windows operating system. Before installing the update, Windows users were vulnerable to an exploit that didn’t even require they actively download malware to their system – even worse, if one computer on a network became infected, it was likely that WannaCry would spread to others. Here’s the rub:  Microsoft issued a fix for supported versions of Windows two months before the attack took place.

(4) Wrapping things up
What else can you do to protect your data?

Aside from installing security software like antivirus and antispyware programs, you probably need to address your password hygiene.The problem with passwords is if they’re easy to remember, they’re usually not very secure. Since every account needs a strong unique password, a password manager can be a relatively easy solution.

Password managers randomly generate and store passwords associated with your accounts, and some will even auto fill website forms with all of your login information. In the event of an account compromise, you just generate a new password. When you use a password manager, you only need to remember the password that logs you into that service.

Criminals have many ways to get their hands on your private information. Let’s stop making their job easier.”

Credit to Ryan Norton, CPA Voice The Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants  – September/October 2018. Ryan is a GruntWorx contributor. This originally appeared on the Boomer Consulting, Inc. blog on June 14, 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 | No. 470 | The Offer In Compromise – IRS Debt Relief For Those Who Are Eligible July 25, 2018

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Tax Tip of the Week | July 25, 2018 | No. 470 | The Offer In Compromise – IRS Debt Relief For Those Who Are Eligible

Do you owe a huge tax bill to the IRS? If you meet certain conditions, you might be eligible to file for an Offer in Compromise (OIC), and if successful, to eliminate thousands of dollars in tax, penalties and interest – permanently! An OIC is not a payment plan, although there will undoubtedly be some payments involved. Some OIC’s will require payments for 24 months, others for 5 or 6 months, and some will require only one or two payments, depending on the “offered” terms, and / or the “accepted” terms.

There is a multitude of paperwork involved in applying for an OIC. Forms that will have to be submitted will include Collection Information Statements and the Offer in Compromise packet itself. These are not easy forms to fill out. They require information on all of your assets, liabilities, and income and expenses. You will also have to provide at least three months of bank statements, any mortgage statements, pay stubs and other personal information. If you want to see if you qualify for an OIC before filling out all of the paperwork, you can go to IRS.gov and use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool.

An OIC is an agreement between the taxpayer and the IRS that settles a tax debt for less than the full amount owed. It can provide the taxpayer with a fresh start for tax purposes. In order to get an offer accepted, the offer must be appropriate based on what the IRS considers your true ability to pay, but there are conditions. For example, you must have filed all tax returns legally required to be filed. You must also be receiving notices from the IRS for your tax debts. And you cannot be in an open bankruptcy proceeding. Generally, the IRS will not accept an offer if they believe you can pay your tax debt in full, either currently with cash or equity in assets, or through an installment agreement.

The IRS will look at your situation extensively before accepting your OIC. They will only agree to proceed if they believe one of the following situations exists: there is Doubt as to Collectibility, Doubt as to Liability, or it will help with Effective Tax Administration. Doubt as to Collectibility is the reason used most often.

In the application for an Offer in Compromise, you have to name the terms of the offer you are submitting, and 24 months is the default time span for payments. For example, you might offer to pay $100 per month for 24 months on a $50,000 debt, thereby saving over $47,000. And there is generally an application fee of $186. So there will be a payment due with the submission of the OIC of the application fee plus the first payment as offered in your application. Both of these payments can be waived if you meet the Low-Income Certification.

As you might suspect, submitting an Offer in Compromise can be a very long and drawn out process. After submission of the application and any payments due, it might take a few months for the IRS to get back with you. And undoubtedly, they will want more information. However, the end result can be very rewarding if the offer is accepted. Rules continue to apply though, even after acceptance. You must stay current on your tax returns and any taxes due after acceptance, and any refunds on returns filed while the offer is being considered or while it runs its course are applied toward your tax debt, and are not considered payments toward your offer. Other rules might also apply and remember, this is a negotiation, so you should probably have a professional on your side.

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. 469 | Medicare Costs Set to Rise for the Wealthy (ANOTHER Sneak Attack) July 18, 2018

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Tax Tip of the Week | July 18, 2018 | No. 469 | Medicare Costs Set to Rise for the Wealthy (ANOTHER Sneak Attack)

The federal government is becoming sneakier and sneakier about getting the wealthy to pay an even greater share of Medicare costs. Many of these “sneaky” taxes already exist on your income tax return. These include phase-outs of this and that, various floors and ceilings, tax bracket triggers, the alternative minimum tax, the net investment income tax, the additional Medicare tax, and so forth and so on.

Beginning in 2019, individuals with incomes of $500,000 or more and couples with earnings of more than $750,000 will be required to pay 85% of the costs of Medicare Parts B and D – up from 80% now. This increase in premium is called the income-related monthly adjustment amount. In contrast, Medicare beneficiaries with incomes of less than $85,000 and less than $170,000 for couples – pay only 25% of the costs.

Some of our clients (and their accountants) have been surprised by this extra Medicare tax which may be triggered by increased income levels from events such as selling their business and/or farm, etc. This extra tax is not on your income tax return but appears as additional Medicare withholding from your social security benefits. If your social security benefits are less than the Medicare tax deductions, you have the luxury of sending a check to the Social Security Administration each month and helping to reduce their current deficit.

Certain appeal rights are available if a spike in your income has resulted from a “once in a lifetime” event. If such an event has occurred in your life, there is an actual form titled “Medicare Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount – Life Changing Event” that can be filed to help reduce your premium costs.This form may also be filed to report a decrease in your income.

In addition, because the Social Security Administration bases their computations on your modified adjusted gross income, if you file an amended return that lowers your income, you should provide a copy to the SSA along with your acknowledgment receipt from the IRS, as this may help to reduce your premiums.

One final option, if you disagree with the income-related monthly adjustment amount, is to file an appeal. You may file online, or in writing by completing a Request for Reconsideration, or contact your local Social Security office.

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 & Norman S. Hicks, CPA

–until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | No. 462 | The 10 Worst Corporate Accounting Scandals of all Time May 30, 2018

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Tax Tip of the Week | May 30, 2018 | No. 462 | The 10 Worst Corporate Accounting Scandals of all Time

Let’s take a break from the new tax law this week. Instead, let’s go back into the past and revisit some of the HUGE accounting scandals. For those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

I have focused for the most part on only three facets of these scandals – 1) How they did it, (2) How they got caught, and 3) Fun facts. Not sure what the author defines as “Fun” fits my definition. The word ”Interesting” at least in my humble opinion may have been a better choice. I will let you be the final judge. The top 10 accounting scandals of the last twenty or so years follow:

Waste Management Scandal (1998)

•    How they did it:  The company allegedly falsely increased the depreciation time length for their property, plant and equipment on the balance sheets.
•    How they got caught: A new CEO and management team went through the books.
•    Fun fact:  After the scandal, new CEO A. Maurice Meyers set up an anonymous company hot-line where employees could report dishonest or improper behavior.

Enron Scandal (2001)

•    How they did it:  Kept huge debts off balance sheets.
•    How they got caught:  Turned in by internal whistle-blower Sherron Watkins; high stock prices fueled external suspicions.
•    Fun fact:  Fortune Magazine named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” 6 years in a row prior to the scandal.  (That is funny!)

WorldCom Scandal (2002)

•    How he did it:  Under-reported line costs by capitalizing rather than expensing and inflated revenues with fake accounting entries.
•    How he got caught:  WorldCom’s internal auditing department uncovered $3.8 billion of fraud.
•    Fun Fact:  Within weeks of the scandal, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, introducing the most sweeping set of new business regulations since the 1930s.

Tyco Scandal (2002)

•    How they did it:  Siphoned money through unapproved loans and fraudulent stock sales.  Money was smuggled out of company disguised as executive bonuses or benefits.
•    How they got caught:  SEC and Manhattan D.A. investigations uncovered questionable accounting practices, including large loans made to Kozlowski that were then forgiven.
•    Fun fact:  At the height of the scandal Kozlowski threw a $2 million birthday party for his wife on a Mediterranean island, complete with a Jimmy Buffet performance.

HealthSouth Scandal (2003)

•    How he did it:  Allegedly told underlings to make up numbers and transactions from 1996-2003.
•    How he got caught:  Sold $75 million in stock a day before the company posted a huge loss, triggering SEC suspicions.
•    Fun fact:  Scrushy now works as a motivational speaker and maintains his innocence.

Freddie Mac (2003)

•    How they did it:  Intentionally misstated and understated earnings on the books.
•    How they got caught:  An SEC investigation
•    Fun fact:  1 year later, the other federally backed mortgage financing company, Fannie Mae, was caught in an equally stunning accounting scandal.

American International Group (AIG) Scandal (2005)

•    How he did it:  Allegedly booked loans as revenue, steered clients to insurers with whom AIG had payoff agreements and told traders to inflate AIG stock price.
•    How he got caught:  SEC regulator investigations, possibly tipped off by a whistle-blower.
•    Fun fact:  After posting the largest quarterly corporate loss in history in 2008 ($61.7 billion) and getting bailed out with taxpayer dollars, AIG execs rewarded themselves with over $165 million in bonuses.

Lehman Brothers Scandal (2008)

•    How they did it:  Allegedly sold toxic assets to Cayman Island banks with the understanding that they would be bought back eventually. Created the impression Lehman had $50 billion more cash and $50 billion less in toxic assets than it really did.
•    How they got caught:  Went bankrupt.
•    Fun fact:  In 2007, Lehman Brothers was ranked the #1 “Most Admired Securities Firm” by Fortune Magazine.

Bernie Madoff Scandal (2008)

•    How they did it:  Investors were paid returns out of their own money or that of other investors rather than from profits.
•    How they got caught:  Madoff told his sons about his scheme and they reported him to the SEC.  He was arrested the next day. Penalties:  150 years in prison for Madoff + $170 billion restitution. Prison time for Friehling and DiPascalli.
•    Fun fact:  Madoff’s fraud was revealed just months after the 2008 U.S. financial collapse.

Satyam (2009)

•    How he did it:  Falsified revenues, margins and cash balances to the tune of 50 billion rupees.
•    How he got caught:  Admitted the fraud in a letter to the company’s board of directors.
•    Fun fact:  In 2011, Ramalinga Raju’s wife published a book of his existentialist, free-verse poetry. Raju and his brother charged with breach of trust, conspiracy, cheating and falsification of records. Released after the Central Bureau of Investigation failed to file charges on time.

Credit to CPAGold Newsletter/Blog by Richard Jorgesen May, 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.

Tax Tip of the Week | No. 431 | Miscellaneous Tax Facts November 1, 2017

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Tax Tip of the Week | Nov 1, 2017 | No. 431 | Miscellaneous Tax Facts

1.    The easiest IRS tax form, Form 1040 needs more than 100 pages of explanation. When the IRS first introduced Form 1040, it had only 4 pages including the instructions.

2.    Close to one-half of American homes pay zero federal income tax.

3.    The top 1% of Americans pay 43% of all federal tax collected.

4.    Today’s richest Americans pay 39.6% on each $1.00 earned. That may seem high. However, in 1945 the top rate peaked at 94%. Amazingly, in 1913, the tax rate was 1%.

5.    The Internal Revenue Code is more than 10 million words long. It has grown an average of 144,500 words per year since 1955.

6.    The typical American receives about $3,000 for their IRS refund.

7.    The average effective income tax rate is 13.5%. That is most likely much lower than your top tax bracket.

8.    The sale of your home may be the most generous and unused tax exemption. Generally, if you have lived in your home for two out of the last five years and you are married, you may exclude up to $500,000 of your gain, $250,000 if single.

9.    The IRS is the world’s largest financial institution.

10.   In 2014, 35% of calls made to the IRS went unanswered.

11.   The original deadline for paying income taxes was March 1st.

12.   In 2014, for every $100 collected by the IRS, it spent $0.38.

13.   The IRS is active on social media using their accounts to educate the public.

14.   Around 15% of U.S. taxpayers are delinquent on their taxes.

Credit to The Motley Fool and FactRetriever.com

You can contact us in Dayton at 937-436-3133 and in Xenia at 937-372-3504. Or visit our website.

…until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | No. 426 | Birth Dates You Need to Know September 27, 2017

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Tax Tip of the Week | Sept 27, 2017 | No. 426 | Birth Dates You Need to Know

Many of the tax rules for individual taxpayers depend on age.  Attaining a birthday may entitle an individual to a special tax break or end entitlement to another. It should be noted that some apply on the date of the birthday, some rules apply when the birthday is achieved at the end of the year, and some apply with respect to a half-year birthday. Following are some of the major birthdays you need to know:

1 day:  If a child is born on December 31, the child is considered a dependent of his or her parents for the entire year.

If you are legally married on December 31, you are considered married for the entire year.  Likewise, if you are divorced on December 31, you are considered single for the entire year.

Age 13:  The dependent care credit (Daycare credit) can be claimed until the child reaches his or her 13th birthday.

Age 17:  A tax credit up to $1,000 can be claimed for a child under age 17.  You lose the credit the year the child turns 17—the credit is not prorated.

Ages 19 and 24:   A child is considered a “qualified child” and can be claimed as a dependent on the parent’s return until the child turns 19, or turns 24 if he or she is a full-time college student.

However, a parent can still claim a dependency exemption for a child as a “qualified relative” after age 19 or 24 if certain conditions are met.  For example, if a parent supports a child who is 32 years old and lives in the parent’s home and earns less than $4,050 (in 2017), then the parent can claim the dependency exemption.  Certain other factors must also be considered.

If a child has unearned income (investment income) the “Kiddie Tax” rules also apply under ages 19 or 24.

Age 26:  Under the Affordable Care Act, a child can remain on his or her parent’s health insurance policy until the age of 26.  This is true even if the child cannot be claimed as a dependent or even lives with the parent.

Age 50:  When you turn 50 you can make “catch-up” contributions to qualified retirement plans such as 401(k)s, SIMPLE IRAs and Traditional and Roth IRAs.  For 2017, the additional contributions are $6,000 for 401(k)s, $3,000 for SIMPLE IRAs and $1,000 for IRAs.

Age 55:  The 10% early distribution penalty on distributions from qualified retirement plans and IRAs prior to age 59.5 do not apply if the distributions are made because of a separation of service from the employer.

You can also make a $1,000 additional “catch-up” contribution to an HSA account once you reach age 55.

Age 59.5:  The 10% early distribution penalty on withdrawals from qualified retirement plans and IRAs do not apply after attaining age 59.5.

Age 65:  Taxpayers who use the standard deduction vs. itemized deductions can claim additional deductions the year they turn 65.  For 2017, the additional standard deduction is $1,550 for single filers and $1,250 for each spouse at age 65 on joint returns.

Age 65 is also the age when distributions from HSAs can be taken without penalty for non-medical expenses.  However, such non-medical distributions are still subject to income tax.

Age 70.5:  The year you turn age 70.5 is when you must start taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from qualified retirement plans and IRAs.  (A full discussion of RMD rules goes beyond the scope of this Tax Tip)

Please Note:  This is a very simplified discussion of age-based tax rules and should not be relied upon without consulting with our office.

Happy Birthday!

You can contact us in Dayton at 937-436-3133 and in Xenia at 937-372-3504. Or visit our website.

Rick Prewitt – the guy behind TTW

…until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | No. 420 | Where Ohio Ranks for Taxes August 16, 2017

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

Tax Tip of the Week | Aug 16, 2017 | No. 420 | Where Ohio Ranks for Taxes

The following is a summary of a report recently issued by the Buckeye Institute:

About a dime out of every dollar Ohioans earn, on average, is taken by local and state taxes.

How does that compare to other states? 

The Buckeye Institute in Columbus and the Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C., partnered to produce a report that attempts to answer that question and provides other interesting facts and tidbits.

The Tax Foundation is a think tank that does research and analysis of tax policies. The foundation describes itself as independent, but often advocates conservative policies.

The Buckeye Institute is a conservative-leaning think tank that advocates for “free-market public policy in the states.”

But what’s good from one political viewpoint might be bad from another.

For example, the Buckeye Institute said in releasing the report that “Ohio’s growing tax burden has resulted in slower economic growth for the state over the past several decades.”

Combined taxes; Ohio ranks 19th highest

Adding up state and local taxes, Ohio ranks 19th highest in the country. Ohioans pay nearly a dime in taxes out of every $1 earned.

Ohio’s rate of 9.8 percent for state and local taxes on average is close to the rates in the neighboring states – Michigan (9.4 percent), Indiana (9.5 percent), Kentucky (9.5 percent), West Virginia (9.8 percent) and Pennsylvania (10.2 percent).

Credit given for city income taxes paid where people work

Most Ohio cities and villages don’t impose their income taxes on residents who pay equal or more income taxes to the city where they work, instead granting the residents a 100 percent “credit.”

For example, the city of Centerville has a 2.25 percent income tax, but collects nothing from residents who work in Oakwood and pay Oakwood’s 2.5 percent income tax.

But some cities in the area such as Xenia and Springboro, give only partial credit. So, workers end up paying income taxes to the communities where they work and taxes to the communities where they live.

Ohio’s sales tax is nearly double original rate

Ohio’s sales tax was established in 1935 and went unchanged at 3 percent for 32 years, then increased to 4 percent in 1967. The rate most recently increased in 2013, to 5.75 percent.

Each county also tacks on additional sales taxes. Once the county and state taxes are combined, rates range from 6.75 percent from Greene and Warren counties, to 7.25 percent from Montgomery County, to a high of 8 percent in Cuyahoga County.

Ohio and U.S. local and state revenue sources

The sources of Ohio and local tax revenue is similar to the national trends. The biggest chunk is from sales taxes. In Ohio, 36 percent of the money is raised through sales taxes. That compares to a national average of 35 percent.

Ohio collects a little more through income taxes than most places – 27 percent versus the U.S. average of 23 percent. And Ohio collects a little less from property taxes – 29 percent versus 31 percent nationally.

Average property tax rates by county

The study rated Ohio ninth highest in the country with property taxes amounting to 1.57 percent of the home values on average. The highest property tax rates are in the state’s two largest counties – 2.13 percent in Cuyahoga County and 2.04 percent in Franklin County.

Sales taxes by state

Combining state and county sales taxes, the average rate in Ohio is 7.14 percent.

The 7.14 percent average rate ranks Ohio near the middle nationally, 19th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Two of the states that impose no state income taxes have some of the highest sales tax rates – Washington at 8.92 percent and Texas at 8.19 percent.

A handful of states have no sales tax – Alaska, Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana and Oregon.

State, local tax collections in Ohio above national average

State and local tax collections per capita in Ohio have been above the national average since the mid-1980s, though the gap has closed in recent years.

Ohio and local governments collected $1,138 per capita in 2014, up from an inflation-adjusted total of $210 in 1974.

Ranking Ohio’s business taxes

The Tax Foundation and the Buckeye Institute created a ranking for various types of taxes on businesses and concluded that Ohio ranks low for unemployment insurance taxes (fourth lowest) and property taxes (11th), but high for individual income taxes (47th) and corporate taxes (45th).

Note: included for corporate taxes was Ohio’s commercial activities tax.

Other findings

The Tax Foundation and the Buckeye Institute included in its report a profile of Ohio on a variety of other topics. Some highlights are below.

Ohio is a cheap place to live, according to the report. In comparison to other states, $100 in Ohio is really worth $112. Just six states were identified as better bargains – Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota and West Virginia.

On the flip side, $100 is only worth $86.43 of spending power in New York State.

You can contact us in Dayton at 937-436-3133 and in Xenia at 937-372-3504. Or visit our website.

Rick Prewitt – the guy behind TTW

…until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | No. 413 | Learning From Prince’s $250 Million Mistake June 28, 2017

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

Tax Tip of the Week | June 28, 2017 | No. 413 | Learning From Prince’s $250 Million Mistake

Finally, over a year after the date of his death, a judge confirmed Prince’s six siblings to be his rightful heirs – after more than 45 people had come forward claiming to be his wife, children, siblings or other relatives.

Last year, the legendary musician passed away, leaving behind not only a legacy of unparalleled music, but also a $250 million fortune – with no will or estate plan to be found. With the long-anticipated announcement that his siblings will inherit his fortune, we’re reminded again of the importance of planning ahead and hiring trusted experts to carry out your wishes.

Whether you have people clamoring after your money or not, it’s important to consider hiring an expert to sort through the, at times, very complicated process of estate planning. There are DIY websites and software packages that may seem attractive (and cheap!), but more often than not, you get what you pay for. More complicated life situations, such as children from a prior marriage, children with special needs, or capital gains from property appreciation, require the hands-on insight of an expert.

It is important to have an unbiased third party look over your documents. Even U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who died in 1995, should have relied on estate planning experts to prepare his estate plan – but instead he took it upon himself, and his family paid over $450,000 in taxes because of his errors.

To be better prepared than Prince and Chief Justice Burger, seek out the assistance of an attorney or a CPA to draft a will and do estate planning, respectively. An attorney will help you navigate a will, and a CPA is best positioned to help with more complicated estate planning.

You can contact us in Dayton at 937-436-3133 and in Xenia at 937-372-3504.  Or visit our website.
Rick Prewitt – the guy behind TTW

…until next week.