Monthly Archives: July 2012

Healthcare Reform The Truth About The Rumors

Lately we have heard a lot of rumors circulating around making statements about the approaching additions to Medicare Taxes. These tax increases are supposed finance the cost of Health Care Reform. To set the record straight these are some of the issues we think clients should know about.

Rumor: Every American will experience a .9% rise in their Medicare tax starting in 2013

The truth: The employer’s share of Medicare is not changed. The tax stays constant at 1.45%. The employee’s 1.45% share of Medicare taxes may go up .9%. The additional tax for employees starts when compensation is more than $200,000 ($250,000 if married).

Rumor: Gains on the sale of your primary residence owe an additional 3.8% in Medicare Taxes.

The truth: There is an additional 3.8% Medicare tax on earnings from investments when modified gross income is higher than $200,000 ($250,000 if married) starting in 2013. Earnings on investments includes, rent, dividends, capital gains, royalties, and interest. When you sell your primary residence at a gain, the 3.8% Medicare tax may apply only to the taxable portion of the gain. To calculate the gain from the primary residence, add up all of the costs to acquire and improve the home. Then add the fees to sell the home to the purchase price. The fees to sell the house would include real estate broker and filing fees. That will calculate the gain on the sales of the residence. The third step is to apply the home sale gain exclusion to the transaction ($250,000 single or $500,000 married). Should there still be a taxable gain after the home sale exclusion, this gain maybe subject to the Medicare tax increase.

Rumor: Sell your business in 2012 since 4.7% of the business sale will be a Medicare Tax.

The truth: This is partially untrue. The law provides a literal prohibition to the supplementary 3.8% Medicare tax on gains from on the sales assets used in your business. Although, part of the sale maybe considered ordinary income, due to depreciation recapture. This ordinary income may activate the .9% Medicare tax. This extra income may cause you to be subject the additional tax on investment income mentioned above.

Rumor: There is a huge marriage penalty regarding Medicare taxes.

The truth: This Rumor is true. This legislation creates a higher tax burden for married couples. Two singles are exempt from the tax on income up to $400,000 ($200,000 each). Married couples are responsible for this tax when “aggregate” income exceeds $250,000.

We hope this clarifies some of the rumors that have been floating around. The preceding information is not intended to replace the services of a professional. Consult a CPA or an Attorney who can better understand your particular circumstances. Please contact us.

CPA Firm South Florida

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Healthcare Reform, Tax Planning

Avoiding the 10% Early Withdrawal Penalty – What every Traditional IRA owner should know

  1. Medical Insurance Premiums if Unemployed. If you have been receiving federal or state unemployment for 12 or more consecutive weeks, you may pay for medical insurance premiums from your Traditional IRA without paying the 10% early withdrawal penalty. The premiums may cover yourself, your spouse, and your dependents’ medical insurance premium.
  2. Qualified Higher Education Expenses. You may pay for tuition, books, fees, supplies, and equipment at a qualified post-secondary institution for yourself, your spouse, your child or grandchild from your Traditional IRA without paying the 10% penalty.
  3. Medical Expenses. If you need to withdraw from your IRA to fund medical expenses in excess of 7.5% of your Adjusted Gross Income you may do so penalty-free.
  4. First-Time Homebuyer Expenses. IRA distributions of up to $10,000 to help pay for the qualified acquisition costs of a first-time home avoid the early withdrawal penalty too. This is a lifetime limit per individual. A first-time homebuyer is defined by the IRS as not having an ownership interest in a principal residence for two years prior to your new home acquisition date. Even better, to qualify the home can be for you, your spouse, your child, your grandchild, your parent or even other ancestors.
  5. Conversions of Traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs. Want to convert your Traditional IRA into a Roth IRA to avoid paying taxes on future account earnings? No problem, this too is considered a qualified event to avoid the 10% penalty.
  6. You’re the Beneficiary. If you are the beneficiary of someone else’s IRA and they die, there is usually an opportunity to withdraw funds without the penalty. Plenty of caution is required in this case, because if treated incorrectly the penalty might apply.
  7. Qualified Reservist. If you were called to active duty after 9/11/2001 for more than 179 days, amounts withdrawn from your IRA during your active duty can also avoid the 10% penalty.

Annuity Distributions. There is also a way to avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty if the distributions “are part of a series of substantially equal payments over your life (or your life expectancy)”. This option is complicated and must use an IRS-approved distribution method to qualify.

Some Final Thoughts.

  • Remember, the above ideas help you avoid an early withdrawal penalty for funds taken out of your Traditional IRA prior to reaching the age of 59 ½. After this age, there is no early-withdrawal penalty. The penalty is also waived if you become permanently or totally disabled or use the funds to pay an IRS tax levy.
  • While the above events allow you to avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty you will still need to pay the income tax due on the withdrawn funds.
  • While generally the same, the 10% early withdrawal penalty rules are slightly different for defined contribution plans like 401(k)s and other types of IRAs.
  • Before taking any action, call to have your situation reviewed. It is almost always better to keep funding your Traditional IRA until you retire.

The preceding information is not intended to replace the services of a professional. Consult a CPA or an Attorney who can better understand your particular circumstances. Please contact us.

South Florida CPA Firm

Leave a comment

Filed under Retirement Planning, South Florida CPA

Summer “Tax School” is in Session. Concepts for Parents of Children Getting a Job This Summer

Summer break is here and there are no more classes. The kids still have one more class, Tax Education. Now you can play teacher and educate your children that taxes are deducted from their paychecks.

Here are a few tips.

· Government regulations require employees that start a new job to complete a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. Employers use the W-4 form to calculate the amount of Federal Tax to deduct from an employee’s salary. Generally, if the child is your dependent and expects to earn less than $3,700 this year there will be no Federal Tax Liability only Social Security should be deducted. To be exempt from having Federal Taxes deducted there are two conditions. First there was no tax due last year and all Federal Tax was refunded. Second this year the child expects a full refund of all federal income tax withheld because they expect to have no tax liability.

· The work may be as a valet, waitress, or a bellhop. Tip income is taxable for Social Security and Federal Taxes.

· Some young people take work doing errands, lawn cutting, babysitting, and etc. The IRS considers this Self Employment. When someone works for themselves, and no taxes are deducted by the employer they are considered the employer and employee for Social Security purposes. The tax term is Self-Employed. This form of income can cause higher than expected tax bills.

· The employment taxes from being self employed start when the net profit is more than $400, which is a very low number. Self-employment taxes are currently 13.3% of profits.

For example your child earns $3,700 doing paper delivery.

End of year Federal Tax – $0 – Self-Employment Tax – $492

Form 1040, Schedule SE, is the form the Self-Employment Tax is calculated on.

There are unique rules for children under 18 who deliver newspapers. Newspaper delivery is automatically considered self-employed by the IRS not considering age; if the following conditions are present:

You are in the business of delivering newspapers.

Compensation is associated to sales different from the number of hours worked.

There is a written contract that has language the worker is not considered an employee for taxes.

Children under 18 that deliver newspapers are generally exempt from Self Employment Taxes.

The preceding information is not intended to replace the services of a professional. Consult a CPA or an Attorney who can better understand your particular circumstances. Please contact us.

South Florida CPA Firm

Leave a comment

Filed under Child Tax Credit, Education Tax Credit, Tax Planning

Pension Plans-Some Basic Selections for Smaller Companies

Starting and managing a company has its difficulties, plus in spite of the fact you are devoted to the company, the business cannot run indefinitely.Ultimately, every owner stops working; your employees will stop working and retire too. As a company owner here are some basic options to help plan for the golden years.

§401(k) – Most owners consider a §401(k) plan an option for larger companies, however this kind of retirement plan can be set up for a one owner/employee business. This is known as a Solo §401(k). A lot of clients think the company has to match employee contributions, this is not true. Matching is typical however the plan’s founders can arrange the plan to not match employee contributions. The companies that have enough money to match employee contributions usually see employee morale go higher. Participants usually elect to have a set percentage or dollar amount deducted from their paycheck. The employee limits on contributions to a retirement plan for 2012 is $17,000 for those under 50 years, and $22,500 for those over 50. §401(k)s are available in Traditional and Roth versions. A Roth or Traditional plan version permits the employee to choose between, paying taxes in the beginning or paying taxes when money is withdrawn from the account. Roth §401(k) account owners pay taxes in the beginning. Traditional §401(k) account owners pay taxes when money is withdrawn. 401(k) regulations also permit loans if the plan is setup with that option.

SEP- SEP (Simplified Employee Pensions) IRAs are an easy option for many small companies. These plans are comparatively undemanding to administrate. Participants generally cannot defer salary to the account. The company makes contributions based on a percentage of salary. Some participants in a SEP-IRA plan start additional IRAs to plan for the future. One major benefit to this plan is that a SEP-IRA can be set up after the tax year is closed. The employer contribution can be made as late as the due date (including extensions) of the company’s tax return for that year. IRS regulations do not permit loans, early withdrawals, or catch up contributions.

SIMPLE IRA – means for Savings Incentive Match for Employees. Relative to other kinds of pension plans the name “simple” is true. One downside is that the company is obligated to match employee contributions. Another thing to consider is the max contribution allowed to this type of plan is $11,500. The reporting requirements for this kind of plan are minimal.

The preceding information is not intended to replace the services of a professional. Consult a CPA or an Attorney who can better understand your particular circumstances. Please contact us.

CPA Firm

Leave a comment

Filed under Deductions, Payroll, Retirement Planning, Tax Planning

Remember the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit When Making Summer Plans

During the summer many parents may be planning the time between school years for their children while they work or look for work. Safe Harbor Accounting wants to remind taxpayers that are considering their summer agenda to keep in mind a tax credit that can help them offset some day camp expenses.

  • Your child or dependent must meet certain qualifications,
  • Your daycare provider must meet certain qualifications,
  • You must have earned income,
  • The care provided must enable you to work or to look for work, and
  • You must reduce your eligible daycare expenses by any amounts provided by a dependent care benefits plan through your employer.

The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit is available for expenses incurred during the summer and throughout the rest of the year. Here are some facts the we want you to know about the credit:

1. Children must be under age 13 in order to qualify.

2. Taxpayers may qualify for the credit, whether the childcare provider is a sitter at home or a daycare facility outside the home.

3. You may use up to $3,000 of the unreimbursed expenses paid in a year for one qualifying individual or $6,000 for two or more qualifying individuals to figure the credit.

4. The credit is on a sliding scale in accordance with wages. The child and dependent care tax credit is worth 20% to 35% of your day care expenses. The credit is phased out to 20% as income goes higher.

5. Expenses for overnight camps or summer school/tutoring do not qualify.

6. Save receipts and paperwork as a reminder when filing your 2012 tax return. Remember to note the Employee Identification Number (EIN) of the camp as well as its location and the dates attended.

7. The cost of sending your child to an overnight camp is not considered a work-related expense.

8. A daycare program can include a wide variety of activities geared to children’s needs and interests. The cost of sending your child to a day camp may be a work-related expense, even if the camp specializes in a particular activity, such as computers or soccer.

The preceding information is not intended to replace the services of a professional. Consult a CPA or an Attorney who can better understand your particular circumstances. Please contact us CPA Firm

Leave a comment

Filed under Child Tax Credit, Tax Planning

Understanding Gift Taxes

Understanding the Gift Giving Tax

Excess gift giving could cause a tax surprise

In an effort to keep taxpayers from transferring wealth from one generation to the next tax-free, there are specific limits to the amount of gifts one may give to any one person each year. Amounts in excess of this limit are subject to a potential gift tax and require filing an annual gift tax form. For most of us, this is not something we need to worry about, but if handled incorrectly it can create quite a surprise when the tax bill is due.

The Gift Giving Rule:

You may give up to $13,000 to any individual (donee) within the calendar year 2012 and avoid any gift tax filing requirements. If married you and your spouse may transfer up to $26,000 per donee. If you provide a gift to your spouse who is not a U.S. citizen, the annual exclusion amount is $139,000.

Gift Tax Reporting:

Amounts given in excess of this annual amount are subject to potential gift tax. The amount of tax is currently unified with estate taxes with a maximum rate of 35%. The donor of the gift is responsible for paying any associated tax. When you exceed the annual gift giving amount, this triggers the need to file a gift tax form with your individual tax return. It does not necessarily trigger a taxable event in the year the gift is given. The excess gift amounts are netted against your lifetime unified credit. If your lifetime gifts do not exceed the credit you may not have additional taxes owed.

When might a gift tax problem occur:

  • Gifts for college. Grandparents like to help out with the tremendous expense of funding a college degree and amounts donated can quickly surpass the annual gift threshold. To avoid the gift tax problem consider making payments directly to the college as this form of payment can be excluded from the annual gift giving limit AS LONG AS the funds are not used to pay for books, room or board on behalf of the donee.
  • Be careful with 529 plan funding. If your children are anticipating going to college,  many consider creating a 529 college savings plan. You may then fund the savings plan (or have someone else fund it) on behalf of your child. However, remember the deposits into 529 accounts are considered a gift and are subject to the annual gift giving limits.
  • Gifts to cover medical expenses. It is very easy to mount up a large medical bill. While you may want to step in and help out by giving money to the individual with the medical bills, you may be creating a gift tax obligation. Better: make payments directly to health care providers for medical services on behalf of the patient to avoid gift tax exposure.
  • Gifts to help make a down payment. It is becoming more common to have family members help their kids with the down payment on a first home. This can be tricky. Lenders will look for recent deposits in bank accounts and ask the prospective buyers to substantiate the source of funds. Providing the funds as a loan may disqualify the couple for taking on the mortgage. Even worse, if the purchasing couple claims the funds are a gift, this action may create a gift tax obligation to the person providing the funds. Care must be taken to provide the correct audit trail to prove the gift does not exceed the annual amounts.
  • Gift of real estate.  If you give property to a relative for little or nothing in return, this generates the need to file a gift tax form as well.  Recent IRS studies suggest over 50% of taxpayers fail to declare property transfers as gifts.

Other things to consider:

  • You may provide gifts to or receive gifts from ANYONE. There are no limits or restrictions on who you may give a gift to or who may provide a gift to you. Creative gift giving can be a useful tool to help someone in need without creating a tax obligation.
  • Do not give a lump sum gift for the maximum amount. If you provide a gift for the maximum allowable to an individual, you may not provide any other gifts to this person during the year or the event would be deemed excess gift giving and require filing a gift tax form. For example, a grandparent gives $13,000 to her granddaughter for college. She also pays for a vacation trip to send the family to Disney World and provides a wonderful birthday gift. Technically, the additional gifts are in excess of the annual limit and would present a gift tax event.

What you need to know:

Understanding when to file the gift tax form each year is the most important thing to remember.  The IRS is paying attention to the massive non-compliance in the timely filing of the annual gift tax form.  So much so, that it is actively researching property transfers in key states to ensure the gift tax filing is taking place.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gifting, Tax Planning

Paying Taxes on Stock Gains in 2012

Prospective changes in the capital gains tax rate after 2012 may motivate investors to sell holdings that have appreciated. Capital gains rates are set to go up 33% in 2013, and a proactive capital gains strategy may save you some money.

There is a generally accepted principal that is regarded as standard advice in taxation, “Postpone paying taxes for as long as possible.” On offshoot of this principal is holding onto stocks and letting them appreciate to postpone payment of capital gains taxes.

Consider this, speeding up the payment of capital gains to the government this year. Why? Bush Tax cuts expire, and there may be higher capital gains rates down the road.

The Bush tax cuts are set to expire at the end of this year. The current rate on capital gains is 15%. The rate may rise to 20% in 2013, barring an extension. Most people in the industry do not expect a capital-gains tax cut any time in the near future.

The rush to pay taxes is not right for everyone. This generally applies to investors who have held investments longer than one year.

Older investors can avoid taxes by passing these stocks to their heirs with a stepped up tax free basis. Also, investors with strict investment methodologies should not make trades based on taxes.

Some investors are considering their long-time holdings and selling some of them— recognizing the gains — and paying taxes on stock gains at the current rate, rather than the future one.

This plan is not right for everyone; however there are circumstances when investors have made significant gains in a stock. They want to remain long term investors, and they can guarantee one of the lowest gains rate they are probably going to get.

Tax Bill

Typical long term investor buys Ebay Inc. 10 years ago and has a gain of more than 100%, rushing the tax bill could save money.

For example you put $50,000 into Ebay 10 years ago, and it’s worth $105,000 today.

Sell now —gain of $55,000 — makes a tax bill of $8,250 at today’s 15% capital-gains tax rate.

Say the capital gains rate becomes 20%, the tax bill on that same gain would be $11,000, a difference of $2,750.

An investor can decrease their tax bill 33% on certain items. This is something to mull over as you analyze and work on your portfolio. There is still a lot of time left this year; run the numbers and make the calculations. The 15% capital gains rate may not be extended, creating value in accelerating gains this year. The greater the tax increase, the greater the savings by doing it this year.

The preceding information is not intended to replace the services of a professional. Consult a CPA or an Attorney who can better understand your particular circumstances. Please contact us.

Tax Prep Deerfield Beach

Leave a comment

Filed under Capital Gains, Tax Planning