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November 14, 2017 / Jessica Connell

Charitable Contributions of Property

If you contribute property to a qualified organization, the amount of your charitable contribution is generally the fair market value of the property at the time of the contribution. However, if the property fits into one of the categories discussed here, the amount of your deduction must be decreased. As with many aspects of tax law, the rules are quite complex. If you’re considering a charitable contribution of property, here’s what you need to know:

After discussing how to determine the fair market value of something you donate, we’ll discuss the following categories of charitable gifts of property:

  • Contributions subject to special rules
  • Property that has decreased in value;
  • Property that has increased in value;
  • Food Inventory.
  • Bargain Sales.

Determining Fair Market Value

Fair market value is the price at which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither having to buy or sell and both having reasonable knowledge of all of the relevant facts.

Used Clothing and Household Items.

The fair market value of used clothing and used household goods, such as furniture and furnishings, electronics, appliances, linens, and other similar items is typically the price that buyers of used items actually pay clothing stores, such as consignment or thrift shops. Be prepared to support your valuation of other household items, which must be in good used condition unless valued at more than $500 by a qualified appraisal, with photographs, canceled checks, receipts from your purchase of the items, or other evidence.

Cars, Boats, and Aircraft

The FMV of a donated car, boat, or airplane is generally the amount listed in a used vehicle pricing guide for a private party sale, not the dealer retail value, of a similar vehicle. The FMV may be less than that, however, if the vehicle has engine trouble, body damage, high mileage, or any type of excessive wear.

Except for inexpensive small boats, the valuation of boats should be based on an appraisal by a marine surveyor because the physical condition is so critical to the value.

If you donate a qualified vehicle to a qualified organization, and you claim a deduction of more than $500, you can deduct the smaller of the gross proceeds from the sale of the vehicle by the organization or the vehicle’s fair market value on the date of the contribution. If the vehicle’s fair market value was more than your cost or other basis, you might have to reduce the fair market value to figure the deductible amount.

Paintings, Antiques, and Other Objects of Art.

Deductions for contributions of paintings, antiques, and other objects of art should be supported by a written appraisal from a qualified and reputable source unless the deduction is $5,000 or less.

    1. Art valued at $20,000 or more. If you claim a deduction of $20,000 or more for donations of art, you must attach a complete copy of the signed appraisal to your return. For individual objects valued at $20,000 or more, a photograph of a size and quality fully showing the object, preferably an 8 x 10-inch color photograph or a color transparency no smaller than 4 x 5 inches, must be provided upon request.

 

  1. Art valued at $50,000 or more. If you donate an item of art that has been appraised at $50,000 or more, you can request a Statement of Value for that item from the IRS. You must request the statement before filing the tax return that reports the donation.

Contributions Subject to Special Rules

Special rules apply if you contribute:

  • Clothing or household items,
  • A car, boat, or airplane,
  • Taxidermy property,
  • Property subject to a debt,
  • A partial interest in property,
  • A fractional interest in tangible personal property,
  • A qualified conservation contribution,
  • A future interest in tangible personal property,
  • Inventory from your business, or
  • A patent or other intellectual property.

Donating Property That Has Decreased in Value

If you contribute property with a fair market value that is less than your basis in it (generally, less than what you paid for it), your deduction is limited to its fair market value. You cannot claim a deduction for the difference between the property’s basis and its fair market value. Common examples of property that decreases in value include clothing, furniture, appliances, and cars.

Donating Property That Has Increased in Value

If you contribute property with a fair market value that is more than your basis in it, you may have to reduce the fair market value by the amount of appreciation (increase in value) when you figure your deduction. Again, your basis in the property is generally what you paid for it. Different rules apply to figuring your deduction, depending on whether the property is Ordinary income property, Capital gain property, or Ordinary Income Property.

Ordinary Income Property

Property is ordinary income property if its sale at fair market value on the date it was contributed would have resulted in ordinary income or in short-term capital gain. Examples of ordinary income property are inventory, works of art created by the donor, manuscripts prepared by the donor, and capital assets held 1 year or less.

Equipment or other property used in a trade or business is considered ordinary income property to the extent of any gain that would have been treated as ordinary income under the tax law, had the property been sold at its fair market value at the time of contribution.

Capital Gain Property

Property is capital gain property if its sale at fair market value on the date of the contribution would have resulted in a long-term capital gain. Capital gain property includes capital assets held more than 1 year.

Capital assets. Capital assets include most items of property that you own and use for personal purposes or investment. Examples of capital assets are stocks, bonds, jewelry, coin or stamp collections, and cars or furniture used for personal purposes. For purposes of figuring your charitable contribution, capital assets also include certain real property and depreciable property used in your trade or business and, generally, held more than 1 year.

Real property. Real property is land and generally, anything that is built on, growing on, or attached to land.

Depreciable property. Depreciable property is property used in business or held for the production of income and for which a depreciation deduction is allowed.

Ordinary or capital gain income included in gross income. You do not reduce your charitable contribution if you include the ordinary or capital gain income in your gross income in the same year as the contribution. This may happen when you transfer installment or discount obligations or when you assign income to a charitable organization.

Food Inventory

Special rules apply to certain donations of food inventory to a qualified organization. Please call if you would like information about donations of food inventory.

Bargain Sales

A bargain sale of property to a qualified organization (a sale or exchange for less than the property’s fair market value) is partly a charitable contribution and partly a sale or exchange. The part of the bargain sale that is a sale or exchange may result in a taxable gain.

Seek advice from a tax professional.

Stiff penalties may be assessed by the IRS if you overstate the value or adjusted basis of donated property. If you’re considering a charitable contribution of property, don’t hesitate to call the office to speak with a qualified tax professional.

For more tips visit www.PlumCPAs.com

Copyright © 2017 CPA Site Solutions

This information is for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided “as is,” with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.

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November 9, 2017 / Jessica Connell

Year-End Tax Planning Strategies for Businesses

There are a number of end of year tax planning strategies that businesses can use to reduce their tax burden for 2017. Here are a few of them:

Deferring Income

Businesses using the cash method of accounting can defer income into 2018 by delaying end-of-year invoices, so payment is not received until 2018. Businesses using the accrual method can defer income by postponing delivery of goods or services until January 2018.

Purchase New Business Equipment

Section 179 Expensing. Business should take advantage of Section 179 expensing this year for a couple of reasons. First, is that in 2017 businesses can elect to expense (deduct immediately) the entire cost of most new equipment up to a maximum of $510,000 for the first $2,030,000 million of property placed in service by December 31, 2017. Keep in mind that the Section 179 deduction cannot exceed net taxable business income. The deduction is phased out dollar for dollar on amounts exceeding the $2.03 million threshold and eliminated above amounts exceeding $2.5 million.

Bonus Depreciation. Businesses are able to depreciate 50 percent of the cost of equipment acquired and placed in service during 2015, 2016 and 2017. However, the bonus depreciation is reduced to 40 percent in 2018 and 30 percent in 2019.

Qualified property is defined as property that you placed in service during the tax year and used predominantly (more than 50 percent) in your trade or business. Property that is placed in service and then disposed of in that same tax year does not qualify, nor does property converted to personal use in the same tax year it is acquired.

Note: Many states have not matched these amounts and, therefore, state tax may not allow for the maximum federal deduction. In this case, two sets of depreciation records will be needed to track the federal and state tax impact.

Please contact the office if you have any questions regarding qualified property.

Timing. If you plan to purchase business equipment this year, consider the timing. You might be able to increase your tax benefit if you buy equipment at the right time. Here’s a simplified explanation:

Conventions. The tax rules for depreciation include “conventions” or rules for figuring out how many months of depreciation you can claim. There are three types of conventions. To select the correct convention, you must know the type of property and when you placed the property in service.

    1. The half-year convention: This convention applies to all property except residential rental property, nonresidential real property, and railroad gradings and tunnel bores (see mid-month convention below) unless the mid-quarter convention applies. All property that you begin using during the year is treated as “placed in service” (or “disposed of”) at the midpoint of the year. This means that no matter when you begin using (or dispose of) the property, you treat it as if you began using it in the middle of the year.

Example: You buy a $40,000 piece of machinery on December 15. If the half-year convention applies, you get one-half year of depreciation on that machine.

    1. The mid-quarter convention: The mid-quarter convention must be used if the cost of equipment placed in service during the last three months of the tax year is more than 40 percent of the total cost of all property placed in service for the entire year. If the mid-quarter convention applies, the half-year rule does not apply, and you treat all equipment placed in service during the year as if it were placed in service at the midpoint of the quarter in which you began using it.
    2. The mid-month convention: This convention applies only to residential rental property, nonresidential real property, and railroad gradings and tunnel bores. It treats all property placed in service (or disposed of) during any month as placed in service (or disposed of) on the midpoint of that month.

If you’re planning on buying equipment for your business, call the office and speak with a tax professional who can help you figure out the best time to buy that equipment and take full advantage of these tax rules.

Other Year-End Moves to Take Advantage Of

Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. Small business employers with 25 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees (average annual wages of $52,400 in 2017) may qualify for a tax credit to help pay for employees’ health insurance. The credit is 50 percent (35 percent for non-profits).

Business Energy Investment Tax Credit. Business energy investment tax credits are still available for eligible systems placed in service on or before December 31, 2021, and businesses that want to take advantage of these tax credits can still do so.

Business energy credits include geothermal electric, large wind (expires in 2019), and solar energy systems used to generate electricity, to heat or cool (or to provide hot water for use in) a structure, or to provide solar process heat. Hybrid solar lighting systems, which use solar energy to illuminate the inside of a structure using fiber-optic distributed sunlight, are eligible; however, passive solar and solar pool-heating systems excluded are excluded. Utilities are allowed to use the credits as well.

Repair Regulations. Where possible, end of year repairs and expenses should be deducted immediately, rather than capitalized and depreciated. Small businesses lacking applicable financial statements (AFS) are able to take advantage of de minimis safe harbor by electing to deduct smaller purchases ($2,500 or less per purchase or per invoice). Businesses with applicable financial statements are able to deduct $5,000. Small business with gross receipts of $10 million or less can also take advantage of safe harbor for repairs, maintenance, and improvements to eligible buildings. Please call if you would like more information on this topic.

Partnership or S-Corporation Basis. Partners or S corporation shareholders in entities that have a loss for 2017 can deduct that loss only up to their basis in the entity. However, they can take steps to increase their basis to allow a larger deduction. Basis in the entity can be increased by lending the entity money or making a capital contribution by the end of the entity’s tax year.

Caution: Remember that by increasing basis, you’re putting more of your funds at risk. Consider whether the loss signals further troubles ahead.

Section 199 Deduction. Businesses with manufacturing activities could qualify for a Section 199 domestic production activities deduction. By accelerating salaries or bonuses attributable to domestic production gross receipts in the last quarter of 2017, businesses can increase the amount of this deduction. Please call to find out how your business can take advantage of Section 199.

Retirement Plans. Self-employed individuals who have not yet done so should set up self-employed retirement plans before the end of 2017. Call today if you need help setting up a retirement plan.

Dividend Planning. Reduce accumulated corporate profits and earnings by issuing corporate dividends to shareholders.

Budgets. Every business, whether small or large should have a budget. The need for a business budget may seem obvious, but many companies overlook this critical business planning tool.

A budget is extremely effective in making sure your business has adequate cash flow and in ensuring financial success. Once the budget has been created, then monthly actual revenue amounts can be compared to monthly budgeted amounts. If actual revenues fall short of budgeted revenues, expenses must generally be cut.

Tip: Year-end is the best time for business owners to meet with their accountants to budget revenues and expenses for the following year.

If you need help developing a budget for your business, don’t hesitate to call.

Call a Tax Professional First

These are just a few of the year-end planning tax moves that could make a substantial difference in your tax bill for 2017. If you’d like more information about tax planning for 2018, please call to schedule a consultation to discuss your specific tax and financial needs, and develop a plan that works for your business.

For more tips visit www.PlumCPAs.com

Copyright © 2017 CPA Site Solutions

This information is for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided “as is,” with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.

November 7, 2017 / Jessica Connell

Year-End Tax Planning Strategies for Individuals

Once again, tax planning for the year ahead presents a number of challenges, first and foremost being what tax reform measures (if any) will actually become legislation–and when they take effect (e.g. retroactive to January 1, 2017, or a future date). Furthermore, a number of tax extenders expired at the end of 2016, which may or may not be reauthorized by Congress and made retroactive to the beginning of the year. And then, of course, there are the normal variations in individual tax circumstances such as the sale of a home that could bump up income into another tax bracket.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the tax strategies you can use given the current uncertainties.

General tax planning strategies for individuals this year include postponing income and accelerating deductions, as well as careful consideration of timing related investments, charitable gifts, and retirement planning. For example, taxpayers might consider using one or more of the following:

  • Selling any investments on which you have a gain or loss this year. For more on this, see Investment Gains and Losses, below.
  • If you anticipate an increase in taxable income this year (2017) and are expecting a bonus at year-end, try to get it before December 31. Keep in mind, however, that contractual bonuses are different, in that they are typically not paid out until the first quarter of the following year. Therefore, any taxes owed on a contractual bonus would not be due until you file your 2018 tax return in 2019. Don’t hesitate to call the office if you have any questions about this.
  • Prepaying deductible expenses such as charitable contributions and medical expenses this year using a credit card. This strategy works because deductions may be taken based on when the expense was charged on the credit card, not when the bill was paid.

    For example, if you charge a medical expense in December but pay the bill in January, assuming it’s an eligible medical expense, it can be taken as a deduction on your 2017 tax return.

  • If your company grants stock options, you may want to exercise the option or sell stock acquired by exercise of an option this year if you think your tax bracket will be higher in 2018. Exercising this option is often but not always a taxable event; sale of the stock is almost always a taxable event.
  • If you’re self-employed, send invoices or bills to clients or customers this year to be paid in full by the end of December.

Caution: Keep an eye on the estimated tax requirements.

Accelerating Income and Deductions

Accelerating income into 2017 is an especially good idea for taxpayers who anticipate being in a higher tax bracket next year or whose earnings are close to threshold amounts ($200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married filing jointly) that make them liable for additional Medicare Tax or Net Investment Income Tax (see below).

In cases where tax benefits are phased out over a certain adjusted gross income (AGI) amount, a strategy of accelerating income and deductions might allow you to claim larger deductions, credits, and other tax breaks for 2017, depending on your situation.

The latter benefits include Roth IRA contributions, conversions of regular IRAs to Roth IRAs, child credits, higher education tax credits and deductions for student loan interest.

Caution: Taxpayers close to threshold amounts for the Net Investment Income Tax (3.8 percent of net investment income) should pay close attention to “one-time” income spikes such as those associated with Roth conversions, sale of a home or other large assets that may be subject to tax.

Tip: If you know you have a set amount of income coming in this year that is not covered by withholding taxes, increasing your withholding before year-end can avoid or reduce any estimated tax penalty that might otherwise be due.

Tip: On the other hand, the penalty could be avoided by covering the extra tax in your final estimated tax payment and computing the penalty using the annualized income method.

Here are several examples of what a taxpayer might do to accelerate deductions:

  • Pay a state estimated tax installment in December instead of at the January due date. However, make sure the payment is based on a reasonable estimate of your state tax.
  • Pay your entire property tax bill, including installments due in year 2018, by year-end. This does not apply to mortgage escrow accounts.
  • It may be beneficial to pay 2018 tuition in 2017 to take full advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, an above-the-line deduction worth up to $2,500 per student to cover the cost of tuition, fees and course materials paid during the taxable year. Forty percent of the credit (up to $1,000) is refundable, which means you can get it even if you owe no tax.
  • Try to bunch “threshold” expenses, such as medical and dental expenses–10 percent of AGI (adjusted gross income)–and miscellaneous itemized deductions. For example, you might pay medical bills and dues and subscriptions in whichever year they would do you the most tax good.

    Note: The temporary exemption of 7.5 percent for individuals age 65 and older and their spouses expired on December 31, 2016 and is no longer available.

    Threshold expenses are deductible only to the extent they exceed a certain percentage of adjusted gross income (AGI). By bunching these expenses into one year, rather than spreading them out over two years, you have a better chance of exceeding the thresholds, thereby maximizing your deduction.

Health Care Law

If you haven’t signed up for health insurance this year, do so now and avoid or reduce any penalty you might be subject to. Depending on your income, you may be able to claim the premium tax credit that reduces your premium payment or reduces your tax obligations, as long as you meet certain requirements. You can choose to get the credit immediately or receive it as a refund when you file your taxes next spring. Please contact the office if you need assistance with this.

Additional Medicare Tax

Taxpayers whose income exceeds certain threshold amounts ($200,000 single filers and $250,000 married filing jointly) are liable for an additional Medicare tax of 0.9 percent on their tax returns, but may request that their employers withhold additional income tax from their pay to be applied against their tax liability when filing their 2017 tax return next April.

High net worth individuals should consider contributing to Roth IRAs and 401(k) because distributions are not subject to the Medicare Tax.

If you’re a taxpayer close to the threshold for the Medicare Tax, it might make sense to switch Roth retirement contributions to a traditional IRA plan, thereby avoiding the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax as well (more about the NIIT below).

Alternate Minimum Tax

The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) exemption “patch,” which was made permanent by the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) of 2012, is indexed for inflation and it’s important not to overlook the effect of any year-end planning moves on the AMT for 2017 and 2018.

Items that may affect AMT include deductions for state property taxes and state income taxes, miscellaneous itemized deductions, and personal exemptions. Please call if you’re not sure whether AMT applies to you.

Note: AMT exemption amounts for 2017 are as follows:

  • $54,300 for single and head of household filers,
  • $84,500 for married people filing jointly and for qualifying widows or widowers,
  • $42,250 for married people filing separately.

Charitable Contributions

Property, as well as money, can be donated to a charity. You can generally take a deduction for the fair market value of the property; however, for certain property, the deduction is limited to your cost basis. While you can also donate your services to charity, you may not deduct the value of these services. You may also be able to deduct charity-related travel expenses and some out-of-pocket expenses, however.

Keep in mind that a written record of your charitable contributions–including travel expenses such as mileage–is required in order to qualify for a deduction. A donor may not claim a deduction for any contribution of cash, a check or other monetary gift unless the donor maintains a record of the contribution in the form of either a bank record (such as a cancelled check) or written communication from the charity (such as a receipt or a letter) showing the name of the charity, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.

Tip: Contributions of appreciated property (i.e. stock) provide an additional benefit because you avoid paying capital gains on any profit.

Investment Gains and Losses

This year, and in the coming years, investment decisions are likely to be more about managing capital gains than about minimizing taxes per se. For example, taxpayers below threshold amounts in 2017 might want to take gains; whereas taxpayers above threshold amounts might want to take losses.

Caution: In recent years, extreme fluctuations in the stock market have been commonplace. Don’t assume that a down market means investment losses. Your cost basis may be low if you’ve held the stock for a long time.

If your tax bracket is either 10 or 15 percent (married couples making less than $75,900 or single filers making less than $37,950), then you might want to take advantage of the zero percent tax rate on qualified dividends and long-term capital gains. If you fall into the highest tax bracket (39.6 percent), the maximum tax rate on long-term capital gains is capped at 20 percent for tax years starting in 2013.

Minimize taxes on investments by judicious matching of gains and losses. Where appropriate, try to avoid short-term capital gains, which are usually taxed at a much higher tax rate than long-term gains–up to 39.6 percent in 2017 for high-income earners ($418,400 single filers, $470,700 married filing jointly).

Where feasible, reduce all capital gains and generate short-term capital losses up to $3,000.As a general rule, if you have a large capital gain this year, consider selling an investment on which you have an accumulated loss. Capital losses up to the amount of your capital gains plus $3,000 per year ($1,500 if married filing separately) can be claimed as a deduction against income.

Wash Sale Rule.After selling a securities investment to generate a capital loss, you can repurchase it after 30 days. This is known as the “Wash Rule Sale.” If you buy it back within 30 days, the loss will be disallowed. Or you can immediately repurchase a similar (but not the same) investment, e.g., and ETF or another mutual fund with the same objectives as the one you sold.

Tip: If you have losses, you might consider selling securities at a gain and then immediately repurchasing them, since the 30-day rule does not apply to gains. That way, your gain will be tax-free; your original investment is restored, and you have a higher cost basis for your new investment (i.e., any future gain will be lower).

Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT)

The Net Investment Income Tax, which went into effect in 2013, is a 3.8 percent tax that is applied to investment income such as long-term capital gains for earners above certain threshold amounts ($200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly). Short-term capital gains are subject to ordinary income tax rates as well as the 3.8 percent NIIT. This information is something to think about as you plan your long-term investments. Business income is not considered subject to the NIIT provided the individual business owner materially participates in the business.

Please call if you need assistance with any of your long term tax planning goals.

Mutual Fund Investments

Before investing in a mutual fund, ask whether a dividend is paid at the end of the year or whether a dividend will be paid early in the next year but be deemed paid this year. The year-end dividend could make a substantial difference in the tax you pay.

Example: You invest $20,000 in a mutual fund in 2017. You opt for automatic reinvestment of dividends, and in late December of 2017, the fund pays a $1,000 dividend on the shares you bought. The $1,000 is automatically reinvested.

Result: You must pay tax on the $1,000 dividend. You will have to take funds from another source to pay that tax because of the automatic reinvestment feature. The mutual fund’s long-term capital gains pass through to you as capital gains dividends taxed at long-term rates, however long or short your holding period.

The mutual fund’s distributions to you of dividends it receives generally qualify for the same tax relief as long-term capital gains. If the mutual fund passes through its short-term capital gains, these will be reported to you as “ordinary dividends” that don’t qualify for relief.

Depending on your financial circumstances, it may or may not be a good idea to buy shares right before the fund goes ex-dividend. For instance, the distribution could be relatively small, with only minor tax consequences. Or the market could be moving up, with share prices expected to be higher after the ex-dividend date. To find out a fund’s ex-dividend date, call the fund directly.

Please call if you’d like more information on how dividends paid out by mutual funds affect your taxes this year and next.

Year-End Giving To Reduce Your Potential Estate Tax

The federal gift and estate tax exemption, which is currently set at $5.49 million, is set to increase to $5.60 million in 2018. ATRA set the maximum estate tax rate set at 40 percent.

Gift Tax. For many, sound estate planning begins with lifetime gifts to family members. In other words, gifts that reduce the donor’s assets subject to future estate tax. Such gifts are often made at year-end, during the holiday season, in ways that qualify for exemption from federal gift tax.

Gifts to a donee are exempt from the gift tax for amounts up to $14,000 a year per donee in 2017. Next year, in 2018, the gift tax exclusion increases to $15,000, however.

Caution: An unused annual exemption doesn’t carry over to later years. To make use of the exemption for 2017, you must make your gift by December 31.

Husband-wife joint gifts to any third person are exempt from gift tax for amounts up to $28,000 ($14,000 each). Though what’s given may come from either you or your spouse or both of you, both of you must consent to such “split gifts.”

Gifts of “future interests,” assets that the donee can only enjoy at some future time such as certain gifts in trust, generally don’t qualify for exemption; however, gifts for the benefit of a minor child can be made to qualify.

Tip: If you’re considering adopting a plan of lifetime giving to reduce future estate tax, don’t hesitate to call the office for assistance.

Cash or publicly traded securities raise the fewest problems. You may choose to give property you expect to increase substantially in value later. Shifting future appreciation to your heirs keeps that value out of your estate. But this can trigger IRS questions about the gift’s true value when given.

You may choose to give property that has already appreciated. The idea here is that the donee, not you, will realize and pay income tax on future earnings and built-in gain on sale.

Gift tax returns for 2017 are due the same date as your income tax return. Returns are required for gifts over $14,000 (including husband-wife split gifts totaling more than $14,000) and gifts of future interests. Though you are not required to file if your gifts do not exceed $14,000, you might consider filing anyway as a tactical move to block a future IRS challenge about gifts not “adequately disclosed.” Please call the office if you’re considering making a gift of property whose value isn’t unquestionably less than $14,000.

Income earned on investments you give to children or other family members are generally taxed to them, not to you. In the case of dividends paid on stock given to your children, they may qualify for the reduced child tax rate, generally 10 percent, where the first $1,050 in investment income is exempt from tax and the next $1,050 is subject to a child’s tax rate of 10 percent (0 percent tax rate on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends).

Caution: In 2017, investment income for a child (under age 18 at the end of the tax year or a full-time student under age 24) that is in excess of $2,100 is taxed at the parent’s tax rate.

Other Year-End Moves

Retirement Plan Contributions. Maximize your retirement plan contributions. If you own an incorporated or unincorporated business, consider setting up a retirement plan if you don’t already have one. It doesn’t actually need to be funded until you pay your taxes, but allowable contributions will be deductible on this year’s return.

If you are an employee and your employer has a 401(k), contribute the maximum amount ($18,000 for 2017), plus an additional catch-up contribution of $6,000 if age 50 or over, assuming the plan allows this and income restrictions don’t apply.

If you are employed or self-employed with no retirement plan, you can make a deductible contribution of up to $5,500 a year to a traditional IRA (deduction is sometimes allowed even if you have a plan). Further, there is also an additional catch-up contribution of $1,000 if age 50 or over.

Health Savings Accounts. Consider setting up a health savings account (HSA). You can deduct contributions to the account, investment earnings are tax-deferred until withdrawn, and amounts you withdraw are tax-free when used to pay medical bills.

In effect, medical expenses paid from the account are deductible from the first dollar (unlike the usual rule limiting such deductions to the amount of excess over 10 percent of AGI). For amounts withdrawn at age 65 or later that are not used for medical bills, the HSA functions much like an IRA.

To be eligible, you must have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), and only such insurance, subject to numerous exceptions, and must not be enrolled in Medicare. For 2017, to qualify for the HSA, your minimum deductible in your HDHP must be at least $1,300 for single coverage or $2,600 for a family.

Summary

These are just a few of the steps you might take. Please contact the office for assistance with implementing these and other year-end planning strategies that might be suitable to your particular situation.

For more tips visit www.PlumCPAs.com

Copyright © 2017 CPA Site Solutions

This information is for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided “as is,” with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.

November 3, 2017 / Jessica Connell

New e-Services Scam Affects Taxpayers, Tax Pros

As IRS e-Services begins its move later this month to Secure Access authentication and its two-factor protections, cybercriminals are likely to make last-ditch efforts to steal passwords and data prior to the transition.

IRS e-Services users should be aware of a new phishing scam that tries to trick tax professionals into “signing” a new e-Services user agreement.

The phishing scam seeks to steal passwords and data.These and other sophisticated schemes are adaptive in nature, and everyone should be cautious before clicking on a link or entering sensitive personal information.

How the e-Services Scam Works

The scam email claims to be from “e-Services Registration” and uses “Important Update about Your e-Services Account” in the subject line. It states, in part, “We are rolling out a new user agreement, and all registered users must accept its revised terms to have access to e-Services and its products.” It asks the individual to review and accept the agreement but takes them to a fake site instead.

What to do if you Clicked on a Link

For those who may have clicked on this link, perform a deep scan with security software, and then contact IT/cybersecurity personnel and the IRS e-Help Desk on IRS.gov.

Questions or Concerns?

Don’t hesitate to call the office if you have any questions about IRS e-Services or believe you may have been a victim of an IRS-related scam. To learn more about what the IRS is doing to protect accounts with Secure Access authentication, please visit the e-Services landing page on the IRS website.

For more tips visit www.PlumCPAs.com

Copyright © 2017 CPA Site Solutions

This information is for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided “as is,” with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.

November 1, 2017 / Jessica Connell

Tax Due Dates for November 2017

Anytime

Employers – Income Tax Withholding. Ask employees whose withholding allowances will be different in 2018 to fill out a new Form W-4. The 2018 revision of Form W-4 will be available on the IRS website by mid-December.

November 13

Employees who work for tips – If you received $20 or more in tips during October, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

Employers – Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the third quarter of 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.

November 15

Employers – Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in October.

Employers – Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in October.

For more tips visit www.PlumCPAs.com

Copyright © 2017 CPA Site Solutions

This information is for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided “as is,” with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.

October 26, 2017 / Jessica Connell

Using QuickBooks’ Income Tracker

You can get an enormous amount of useful information from QuickBooks’ reports, especially if you customize them to isolate the precise data you want. Reports included with the software range from the very simple, like Open Invoices, to output that’s exceptionally complex, like Trial Balance and Profit & Loss.

Warning: Standard financial reports like Trial Balance are easy to run in QuickBooks, but very difficult to understand and analyze. You should, though, be aware of what they’re telling you at least once a quarter – even once a month in some cases. Please call if you need help with this.

Sometimes, especially first thing in the morning as you’re planning your day, you just want to cut to the chase and get a quick overview of your company’s finances. That’s where QuickBooks’ Income Tracker comes in. It not only provides that overview, but it also contains links to related screens where you can do the work that’s needed there.

A Simple Layout

Click the Income Tracker link in the toolbar to open the tool’s main screen. If you’ve been using QuickBooks for a while, you’ll see a framework like this with your own company’s data already filled in.


Figure 1: QuickBooks Income Tracker displays both summaries of income types and the specific transactions that contribute to those totals.

Look first at the top of the screen. You’ll see six horizontal bars, each of which represents groups of transactions that either require immediate attention or will at some point in the future. Besides identifying the type of transaction, each block displays the number of transactions involved and their total dollar amount. They are:

  • Estimates – estimates that have been created and shared with customers, but haven’t yet turned into sales
  • Sales Orders – orders that have been entered but have been neither fulfilled nor converted to invoices
  • Time & Expenses – hours that have been recorded for customers but not yet invoiced
  • Open Invoices – invoices that have been created and sent to customers, but no payments have been received
  • Overdue – open invoices that have passed their due dates
  • Paid Last 30 Days – payments that have been received within the last 30 days

Modifying the View

Click on any of the colored bars, and the list of transactions below will change to include only those that meet that particular criteria. To get back to the default display of all transactions, click the Clear/Show All link in the upper right of the screen.

QuickBooks also lets you display a user-defined subset of the transactions. Click on one of the four drop-down lists above the transaction grid itself to change the view of:

  • Customer: Job – choose just one from the complete list
  • Type – Sales Orders, Invoices, Received Payments, etc.
  • Status – All, Open, Overdue, or Paid
  • Date – multiple ranges available

You can also modify the toolbar if your company doesn’t use all the sales forms/transaction types supported. To do so, click the gear icon in the far upper right of the screen and click in the boxes in front of Estimates, Sales Orders and/or Time & Expenses to remove them.

Taking Action

QuickBooks’ Income Tracker provides a great way to get a quick look at your finances. But it also serves as a launching pad for related activities.


Figure 2: Click the down arrow in the Action column to take care of tasks related to that transaction.

Highlight a transaction by clicking in the row, then click the down arrow at the end of the row in the Action column. The options that appear there depend on the type of transaction you selected. Choose a Sales Order, for example, and you can Convert to Invoice, Print Row, or Email Row. Options for an invoice are Receive Payment, Print Row, or Email Row.

As mentioned previously, QuickBooks offers numerous reports that can give you more insight about your accounts receivable. If you understand the software’s robust customization tools, you can create reports about your income that will answer questions you may have. If you’re unsure of what to do, please contact the office for assistance.

For more tips visit www.PlumCPAs.com

Copyright © 2017 CPA Site Solutions

This information is for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided “as is,” with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.

October 24, 2017 / Jessica Connell

Deducting Business-Related Car Expenses

Whether you’re self-employed or an employee, if you use a car for business, you get the benefit of tax deductions.

There are two choices for claiming deductions:

  1. Deduct the actual business-related costs of gas, oil, lubrication, repairs, tires, supplies, parking, tolls, drivers’ salaries, and depreciation.
  2. Use the standard mileage deduction in 2017 and simply multiply 53.5 cents by the number of business miles traveled during the year. Your actual parking fees and tolls are deducted separately under this method.

Which Method Is Better?

For some taxpayers, using the standard mileage rate produces a larger deduction. Others fare better tax-wise by deducting actual expenses.

Tip: The actual cost method allows you to claim accelerated depreciation on your car, subject to limits and restrictions not discussed here.

The standard mileage amount includes an allowance for depreciation. Opting for the standard mileage method allows you to bypass certain limits and restrictions and is simpler– but it’s often less advantageous in dollar terms.

Caution: The standard rate may understate your costs, especially if you use the car 100 percent for business, or close to that percentage.

Generally, the standard mileage method benefits taxpayers who have less expensive cars or who travel a large number of business miles.

Documentation

Keep careful records of your travel expenses and record your mileage. you can use a log book or if you’re tech savvy, an app on your phone or tablet. Keeping track of the number of miles driven and the total amount you spent on the car is essential because if you don’t, your tax advisor won’t be able to determine which of the two options is more advantageous for you at tax time.

Furthermore, the tax law requires that you keep travel expense records and that you show business versus personal use on your tax return. If you use the actual cost method for your auto deductions, you must keep receipts.

Tip: Consider using a separate credit card for business, to simplify your recordkeeping.

Tip: You can also deduct the interest you pay to finance a business-use car if you’re self-employed.

Note: Self-employed individuals and employees who use their cars for business can deduct auto expenses if they either (1) don’t get reimbursed, or (2) are reimbursed under an employer’s “non-accountable” reimbursement plan. In the case of employees, expenses are deductible to the extent that auto expenses (together with other “miscellaneous itemized deductions”) exceed two percent of adjusted gross income.

Apps for Tracking Business Mileage

There are a number of phone applications (apps) that could help you track those pesky business miles. Most of these apps are useful for tracking and reporting expenses, mileage and billable time. They use GPS to track mileage, allow you to track receipts, choose the mileage type (Business, Charitable, Medical, Moving, Personal), and produce formatted reports (IRS compliant HTML and CSV tax return reports) that are easy to generate and share with your CPA, EA, or tax advisor.

Here are three popular apps that help you track your business mileage:

1. TripLog – Mileage Log Tracker

Works with: Android and iPhone

What it does: Tracks vehicle mileage and locations using GPS

Useful Features:

  • Automatic start when plugged into power or connected to a Bluetooth device and driving more than five mph
  • Reads your vehicle’s odometer from OBD-II scan tools
  • Syncs data between the web service and multiple mobile devices
  • Supports commercial trucks including per diem allowance, state-by-state mileage for IFTA fuel tax reports, and DEF fuel purchases and gas mileage

2. Track My Mileage

Works with: Android and iPhone

What it does: Keeps track of mileage for business or personal use

Useful Features:

  • Provides mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating your automobile
  • Allows you to group your trips by client
  • Tracks multiple drivers and vehicles tracking
  • Localized and translated into more than 20 languages

3. BizXpenseTracker

Works with: iPhone and iPad

What it does: Tracks mileage, as well as expenses and billable time

Useful Features:

  • Allows you to choose which way you want to track your mileage
  • Remembers Frequent trips
  • Creates reports in PDF format or CSV for importing into Excel
  • Ability to email your reports and photo receipts

Questions?

Call today and find out which deduction method is best for your business-use car.

For more tips visit www.PlumCPAs.com

Copyright © 2017 CPA Site Solutions

This information is for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided “as is,” with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.