As the school year draws to a close, it’s a good time to think about Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) — especially if you have young children.One major advantage of ESAs over another popular education saving tool, the Section 529 plan, is that tax-free ESA distributions aren’t limited to college expenses; they also can fund elementary and secondary school costs. That means you can use ESA funds to pay for such qualified expenses as tutoring and private school tuition.
Here are some other key ESA benefits:
- Although contributions aren’t deductible, plan assets can grow tax-deferred.
- You remain in control of the account — even after the child is of legal age.
- You can make rollovers to another qualifying family member.
The annual contribution limit is $2,000 per beneficiary. However, the ability to contribute is phased out based on income.
Would you like more information about ESAs or other tax-advantaged ways to fund your child’s — or grandchild’s — education expenses? Contact us!
Income and losses from investment real estate or rental property are passive by definition — unless you’re a real estate professional. Why is this important? Passive income may be subject to the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT), and passive losses are deductible only against passive income, with the excess being carried forward. To qualify as a real estate professional, you must annually perform:
- More than 50% of your personal services in real property trades or businesses in which you materially participate, and
- More than 750 hours of service in these businesses during the year.
Each year stands on its own, and there are other nuances. If you’re concerned you’ll fail either test and be subject to the 3.8% NIIT or stuck with passive losses, consider increasing your hours so you’ll meet the test. (Special rules for spouses may help.) Also be aware that the IRS has successfully challenged claims of real estate professional status in instances where the taxpayer didn’t keep adequate records of time spent.
If you’re not sure whether you qualify as a real estate professional, please contact us. We can help you make this determination and guide you on how to properly document your hours.
Generally, businesses are limited to deducting 50% of allowable meal and entertainment (M&E) expenses. But certain expenses are 100% deductible, including expenses:
- For food and beverages furnished at the workplace primarily for employees,
- Treated as employee compensation,
- That are excludable from employees’ income as de minimis fringe benefits,
- For recreational or social activities for employees, such as holiday parties, or
- Paid or incurred under a reimbursement or similar arrangement in connection with the performance of services.
If your company has substantial M&E expenses, you can reduce your tax bill by separately accounting for and documenting expenses that are 100% deductible. If doing so would create an administrative burden, you may be able to use statistical sampling methods to estimate the portion of M&E expenses that are fully deductible. For more information on how to take advantage of the 100% deduction, please contact us.
When a company’s deductible expenses exceed its income, generally a net operating loss (NOL) occurs (though of course the specific rules are more complex). If when filing your 2014 income tax return you’ve found that your business had an NOL, there is an upside: tax benefits.When a business incurs a qualifying NOL, the loss can be carried back up to two years, and then any remaining amount can be carried forward up to 20 years. The carryback can generate an immediate tax refund, boosting cash flow.
However, there is an alternative: The business can elect instead to carry the entire loss forward. If cash flow is fairly strong, carrying the loss forward may be more beneficial, such as if the business’s income increases substantially, pushing it into a higher tax bracket — or if tax rates increase. In both scenarios, the carryforward can save more taxes than the carryback because deductions are more powerful when higher tax rates apply.
In the case of flow-through entities, owners might be able to reap individual tax benefits from the NOL.
Please contact us if you’d like more information on the NOL rules and how you can maximize the tax benefit of an NOL.
Whether you filed your 2014 income tax return by the April 15 deadline or filed for an extension, you may think that it’s a good time to take a break from thinking about taxes. But doing so could be costly. Now is actually the time you should begin your 2015 tax planning — if you haven’t already.
A tremendous number of variables affect your overall tax liability for the year, and starting to look at these variables early in the year can give you more opportunities to reduce your 2015 tax bill. For example, the timing of income and deductible expenses can affect both the rate you pay and when you pay. By regularly reviewing your year-to-date income, expenses and potential tax, you may be able to time income and expenses in a way that reduces, or at least defers, your tax liability.
In other words, tax planning shouldn’t be just a year end activity. To get started on your 2015 tax planning, contact us. We can discuss what strategies you should be implementing now and throughout the year to minimize your tax liability.
The additional 0.9% Medicare tax applies to FICA wages and self-employment income exceeding $200,000 per year ($250,000 for married filing jointly and $125,000 for married filing separately). Unfortunately, the withholding rules have been tripping up some taxpayers, causing them to face an unexpected tax bill — plus interest and penalties — when they file their returns. Employers must withhold the additional tax beginning in the pay period when wages exceed $200,000 for the calendar year — without regard to an employee’s filing status or income from other sources. So if your wages don’t exceed $200,000, your employer won’t withhold the tax — even if you’re liable for it. This might occur because you and your spouse’s combined wages exceed the $250,000 threshold for joint filers or because you have wages from a second job or have self-employment income.If you expect to be in the same situation in 2015, consider filing a W-4 form to request additional income tax withholding, which can be used to cover the shortfall and avoid interest and penalties. Or you can make estimated tax payments. If you have questions about the additional 0.9% Medicare tax, please contact us.
The deadline for 2014 IRA contributions is April 15, 2015. The limit for total contributions to all IRAs generally is $5,500 ($6,500 if you were age 50 or older on Dec. 31, 2014).If you haven’t already maxed out your 2014 limit, consider making one of these types of contributions by April 15:
1. Deductible traditional. If you and your spouse don’t participate in an employer-sponsored plan such as a 401(k) — or you do but your income doesn’t exceed certain limits — the contribution is fully deductible on your 2014 tax return. Account growth is tax-deferred; distributions are subject to income tax.
2. Roth. The contribution isn’t deductible, but qualified distributions — including growth — are tax-free. Income-based limits may reduce or eliminate your ability to contribute, however.
3. Nondeductible traditional. If your income is too high for you to fully benefit from a deductible traditional or a Roth contribution, you may benefit from a nondeductible contribution to a traditional IRA. The account can still grow tax-deferred, and when you take qualified distributions you’ll be taxed only on the growth. Alternatively, shortly after contributing, you may be able to convert the account to a Roth IRA with minimal tax liability.
Want to know which option best fits your situation? Contact us.
If your business has made repairs to tangible property, such as buildings, machinery, equipment and vehicles, you may be eligible for a deduction on your 2014 income tax return. But you must make sure they were truly “repairs,” and not actually “improvements.”
Why? Costs incurred to improve tangible property must be depreciated over a period of years. But costs incurred on incidental repairs and maintenance can be expensed and immediately deducted. Distinguishing between repairs and improvements can be difficult, but a couple of IRS safe harbors can help:
Routine maintenance safe harbor. Recurring activities dedicated to keeping property in efficient operating condition can be expensed. These are activities that your business reasonably expects to perform more than once during the property’s “class life,” as defined by the IRS.
Small business safe harbor. For buildings that initially cost $1 million or less, qualified small businesses may elect to deduct the lesser of $10,000 or 2% of the unadjusted basis of the property for repairs, maintenance, improvements and similar activities each year. (A qualified small business is generally one with gross receipts of $10 million or less.) Contact us to ensure that you’re taking all of the repair and maintenance deductions you’re entitled to.
Should you forgo a personal exemption so your child can take the American Opportunity credit?
If you have a child in college, you may not qualify for the American Opportunity credit on your 2014 income tax return because your income is too high (modified adjusted gross income phaseout range of $80,000–$90,000; $160,000–$180,000 for joint filers), but your child might. The maximum credit, per student, is $2,500 per year for the first four years of postsecondary education.There’s one potential downside: If your dependent child claims the credit, you must forgo your dependency exemption for him or her — and the child can’t take the exemption.
But because of the exemption phaseout, you might lose the benefit of your exemption anyway. The 2014 adjusted gross income thresholds for the exemption phaseout are $254,200 (singles), $279,650 (heads of households), $305,050 (married filing jointly) and $152,525 (married filing separately).
If your exemption is fully phased out, there likely is no downside to your child taking the credit. If your exemption isn’t fully phased out, compare the tax savings your child would receive from the credit with the savings you’d receive from the exemption to determine which break will provide the greater overall savings for your family.
We can help you run the numbers and can provide more information about qualifying for the American Opportunity credit.
The manufacturers’ deduction, also called the “Section 199” or “domestic production activities” deduction, is 9% of the lesser of qualified production activities income or taxable income. The deduction is also limited to 50% of W-2 wages paid by the taxpayer that are allocable to domestic production gross receipts.
Yes, the deduction is available to traditional manufacturers. But businesses engaged in activities such as construction, engineering, architecture, computer software production and agricultural processing also may be eligible.
The deduction isn’t allowed in determining net self-employment earnings and generally can’t reduce net income below zero. But it can be used against the alternative minimum tax. Contact us to learn whether this potentially powerful deduction could reduce your business’s tax liability when you file your 2014 return.