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Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (TIPA) & Direct Deposit

Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (TIPA)

The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (TIPA) was signed into law on December 19, 2014. Thankfully, TIPA retroactively extends most of the federal income tax breaks that would have affected many individuals and businesses through 2014. So, these provisions may have a positive impact on your 2014 returns. Unfortunately, these extended provisions expired again on December 31, 2014. So, unless Congress takes action again, these favorable provisions won’t be available for 2015.

In this article, we will discuss some of the extended provisions impacting individual taxpayers.

Tax breaks for individuals extended through 2014

Qualified tuition deduction. This write-off, which can be as much as $4,000 for married taxpayers with adjusted gross income up to $130,000 ($65,000 if unmarried) or $2,000 for married taxpayers with adjusted gross income up to $160,000 ($80,000 if unmarried), expired at the end of 2013. TIPA retroactively restored it for 2014.

Tax-free treatment for forgiven principal residence mortgage debt. For federal income tax purposes, a forgiven debt generally counts as taxable Cancellation of Debt (COD) income. However, a temporary exception applied to COD income from canceled mortgage debt that was used to acquire a principal residence. Under the temporary rule, up to $2 million of COD income from principal residence acquisition debt that was canceled in 2007–2013 was treated as a tax-free item. TIPA retroactively extended this break to cover eligible debt cancellations that occurred in 2014.

$500 Energy-efficient Home Improvement Credit. In past years, taxpayers could claim a tax credit of up to $500 for certain energy-saving improvements to a principal residence. The credit equals 10% of eligible costs for energy-efficient insulation, windows, doors and roof, plus 100% of eligible costs for energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment, subject to a $500 lifetime cap. This break expired at the end of 2013, but TIPA retroactively restored it for 2014.

Mortgage insurance premium deduction. Premiums for qualified mortgage insurance on debt to acquire, construct or improve a first or second residence can potentially be treated as deductible qualified residence interest. The deduction is phased out for higher-income taxpayers. Before TIPA, this break wasn’t available for premiums paid after 2013. TIPA retroactively restored the break for premiums paid in 2014.

Option to deduct state and local sales taxes. In past years, individuals who paid little or no state income taxes had the option of claiming an itemized deduction for state and local general sales taxes. The option expired at the end of 2013, but TIPA retroactively restored it for 2014.

IRA Qualified Charitable Contributions (QCDs). For 2006–2013, IRA owners who had reached age 70½ were allowed to make tax-free charitable contributions of up to $100,000 directly out of their IRAs. These contributions counted as IRA Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). Thus, charitably inclined seniors could reduce their income tax by arranging for tax-free QCDs to take the place of taxable RMDs. This break expired at the end of 2013, but TIPA retroactively restored it for 2014, so that it was available for qualifying distributions made before 2015.

$250 deduction for K-12 educators. For the last few years, teachers and other eligible personnel at K-12 schools could deduct up to $250 of school-related expenses paid out of their own pockets — whether they itemized or not. This break expired at the end of 2013. TIPA retroactively restored it for 2014.

What about 2015?

Unfortunately, as we said at the beginning of this article, none of these favorable provisions will be available for 2015, unless Congress takes further action. This is entirely possible, but far from certain. We’ll keep you posted as the year progresses.

4 good reasons to direct deposit your refund

If you are getting a refund this year, here are four good reasons to choose direct deposit:

1. Convenience. With direct deposit, your refund goes directly into your bank account. There’s no need to make a trip to the bank to deposit a check.

2. Security. Since your refund goes directly into your account, there’s no risk of your refund check being stolen or lost in the mail.

3. Ease. Choosing direct deposit is easy. You just need to provide us your bank account and routing number and we’ll take care of it.

4. Options. You can split your refund among up to three financial accounts. Checking, savings, and certain retirement, health and education accounts may qualify.

You can have your refund deposited into accounts that are in your own name, your spouse’s name, or both, but not to accounts owned by others. Some banks require both spouses’ names on the account to deposit a tax refund from a joint return. Check with your bank for its direct deposit requirements.

2015 Mileage Rates & Employer Health Insurance Reimbursements

Standard Mileage Rates for 2015

Rather than keeping track of the actual cost of operating a vehicle, employees and self-employed taxpayers can use a standard mileage rate to compute their deduction related to using a vehicle for business. Likewise, standard mileage rates are available for computing the deduction when a vehicle is used for charitable, medical or moving purposes.

The 2015 standard mileage rates for use of a vehicle are 57.5 cents per mile for business miles (up from 56 cents per mile in 2014), 23 cents per mile for medical or moving purposes, and 14 cents per mile for rendering gratuitous services to a charitable organization.

The business standard mileage rate is considerably higher than the charitable and medical/moving rates because it contains a depreciation component. No depreciation is allowed for the charitable or medical/moving use of a vehicle.

In addition to deductions based on the business standard mileage rate, taxpayers may deduct the parking fees and tolls attributable to the business use of an automobile, as well as interest expense relating to the purchase of the automobile and state and local personal property taxes. However, employees using a vehicle to perform services as an employee cannot deduct interest expense related to that vehicle. Also, if the vehicle is operated less than 100% for business purposes, the taxpayer must allocate the business and non-business portion of the allowable taxes and interest deduction.

Employer Reimbursements of Individual Health Insurance Policies

For plan years beginning after 2013, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) institutes so-called market reform provisions that place a whole host of new restrictions on group health plans. The penalty for violating the market reform restrictions is a punitive $100-per-day, per-employee penalty; or $36,500 per employee, per year. With a limited exception, these new market reform provisions significantly restrict an employer’s ability to reimburse employees for premiums paid on individual health insurance policies, referred to as employer payment arrangements.

Employer payment arrangements

Under employer payment arrangements, the employer reimburses employees for premiums they pay on their individual health insurance policies (or the employer sometimes pays the premium on behalf of the employee). As long as the employer (1) makes the reimbursement under a qualified medical reimbursement plan and (2) verifies that the reimbursement was spent only for insurance coverage, the premium reimbursement is excludable from the employee’s taxable income. These arrangements have long been popular with small employers who want to offer health insurance but are unwilling or unable to purchase group health coverage.

Unfortunately, according to the IRS and Department of Labor (DOL), group health plans can’t be integrated with individual market policies to meet the new market reform provisions. Furthermore, according to the DOL, an employer that reimburses employees for individual policies (on a pretax or after-tax basis) has established a group health plan because the arrangement’s purpose is to provide medical care to its employees. Therefore, reimbursing employees for premiums paid on individual policies violates the market reform provisions, potentially subjecting the employer to a $100 per-day, per-employee ($36,500 per year, per employee) penalty.

Limited exception for one-employee plans. The market reform provisions do not apply to group health plans that have only one participating employee. Therefore, it is still allowable to provide an employer payment arrangement that covers only one employee. Note, however, that nondiscrimination rules require that essentially all full-time employees must participate in the plan

Bottom line. While still technically allowed under the tax code, employer payment arrangements, other than arrangements covering only one employee, are no longer a viable alternative.

What should you do if you still have an employer payment plan?

First of all, don’t panic. You are not alone. The impact of the market reform provisions to these plans has come as a great surprise to many small business employers, not to mention the tax practitioner community, and we believe there is reasonable cause to keep the penalty from applying for earlier payments. However, it is important to discontinue making payments under the plan and rescind any written documents. Also, any reimbursements made after 2013 should be classified as taxable wages.

Acceptable alternatives

Because of the ACA market reform requirements, employers are basically precluded from subsidizing or reimbursing employees for individual health insurance policies if there is more than one employee participating in the plan. Employers can, however, continue to do any of the following:

· Provide a tax-free fringe benefit by purchasing an ACA-approved employer-sponsored group health plan. Small employers with 50 or fewer employees can provide a group health plan through the Small Business Health Options Plan (SHOP) Marketplace. A cafeteria plan can be set up for pretax funding of the employee portion of the premium.

· Increase the employee’s taxable wages to provide funds that the employee may use to pay for individual insurance policies. However, the employer cannot require that the funds be used to pay for insurance — it must be the employee’s decision to do so (or not). The employer can claim a deduction for the wages paid. The wages are taxable to the employee, but the employee can claim the premiums as an itemized deduction subject to the 10%-of-AGI limit (7.5% if age 65 or older).

If you have any questions, please give us a call.

Tax Calendar Q1 2015 & Social Security and Medicare Amounts

Tax Calendar Q1 2015

January 15

• Individual taxpayers’ final 2014 estimated tax payment is due unless Form 1040 is filed by February 2, 2015, and any tax due is paid with the return.

February 2

• Most employers must file Form 941 (“Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return”) to report Medicare, Social Security, and income taxes withheld in the fourth quarter of 2014. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.

• Employers who have an estimated annual employment tax liability of $1,000 or less may be eligible to file Form 944 (“Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return”).

• Give your employees their copies of Form W-2 for 2014. If an employee agreed to receive Form W-2 electronically, have it posted on the website and notify the employee.

• Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2014. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return. Form 1099 can be filed electronically with the consent of the recipient.

• File Form 940 (“Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return”) for 2014. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.

• File Form 945 (“Annual Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax”) for 2014 to report income tax withheld on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on pensions, annuities, IRAs, etc. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 11 to file the return.

• File Form 943 (“Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return for Agricultural Employees”) to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.

March 2

• The government’s copy of Form 1099 series returns (along with the appropriate transmittal form) should be sent in by today. However, if these forms will be filed electronically, the due date is extended to March 31.

• The government’s copy of Form W-2 series returns (along with the appropriate transmittal Form W-3) should be sent in by today. However, if these forms will be filed electronically, the due date is extended to March 31.

March 16

• 2014 income tax returns must be filed or extended for calendar-year corporations. If the return is not extended, this is also the last day for calendar-year corporations to make 2014 contributions to pension and profit-sharing plans.

Social Security and Medicare Amounts for 2015

The annual inflation adjustments have also impacted the various Social Security amounts and thresholds for 2015.

The Social Security wage base, for computing the Social Security tax (OASDI only), increases to $118,500 in 2015, up from $117,000 for 2014. There is no taxable earnings limit for Medicare (HI only) contributions. However, there is a 0.9% Medicare surtax that is imposed on wages and self-employment (SE) income in excess of the modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) threshold amounts of $250,000 for joint filers, $125,000 for married separate filers, and $200,000 for all other taxpayers. The MAGI thresholds are not adjusted for inflation. The surtax does not apply to the employer portion of the tax.

For Social Security beneficiaries under the full retirement age, the annual exempt amount increases to $15,720 in 2015, up from $15,480 in 2014. These beneficiaries will be subject to a $1 reduction in benefits for each $2 they earn in excess of $15,720 in 2015. However, in the year beneficiaries reach their full retirement age (FRA), earnings above a different annual exemption amount ($41,880 in 2015, up from $41,400 in 2014) are subject to $1 reduction in benefits for each $3 earned over this exempt amount. Social Security benefits are not reduced by earned income beginning with the month the beneficiary reaches FRA. But remember, Social Security benefits received may be subject to federal income tax.

The Social Security Administration estimates the average retired worker will receive $1,328 monthly in 2015. The average monthly benefit for an aged couple where both are receiving monthly benefits is $2,176. These amounts reflect a 1.7% cost of living adjustment (COLA). The maximum 2015 Social Security benefit for a worker retiring at FRA is $2,663 per month, up from $2,642 in 2014.

Seniors age 70 1/2+ & Supersizing your charitable contribution deductions

Seniors age 70 1/2+: Take your required retirement distribution

The tax laws generally require individuals with retirement accounts to take annual withdrawals based on the size of their account and their age beginning with the year they reach age 70½. Failure to take a required withdrawal can result in a penalty of 50% of the amount not withdrawn.

If you turned age 70½ in 2014, you can delay your 2014 required distribution to 2015. Think twice before doing so, though, as this will result in two distributions in 2015 — the amount required for 2014 plus the amount required for 2015, which might throw you into a higher tax bracket or trigger the 3.8% net investment income tax. On the other hand, it could be beneficial to take both distributions in 2015 if you expect to be in a substantially lower tax bracket in 2015.


Supersizing your charitable contribution deductions

You might want to consider three charitable giving strategies that can help boost your 2014 charitable contribution deduction.

1. Use your credit card. Donations charged to a credit card are deductible in the year charged, not when payment is made on the card. Thus, charging donations to your credit card before year end enables you to increase your 2014 charitable donation deduction even if you’re temporarily short on cash or just want to put off payment until later.

2. Donate a life insurance policy. A number of charities are asking their donors to consider donating life insurance policies rather than (or in addition to) cash in order to make substantially larger gifts than would otherwise be possible. The advantage to donors is that they can make a sizable gift with relatively little up-front cash (or even no cash, if an existing policy is donated). The fact that a charity may have to wait many years before receiving a payoff from the gift is typically not a problem because charities normally earmark such gifts for their endowment or long-term building funds.

If handled correctly, a life insurance policy donation can net the donor a charitable deduction for the value of the policy. A charitable deduction is also available for any cash contributed in future years to continue paying the premiums on a policy that was not fully paid up at the time it was donated. However, if handled incorrectly, no deduction is allowed. For this reason, we encourage you to contact us if you are considering the donation of a life insurance policy. We can help ensure that you receive the expected income or transfer tax deduction and that the contribution works as planned.

3. Take advantage of a donor-advised fund. Another charitable giving approach you might want to consider is the donor-advised fund. These funds essentially allow you to obtain an immediate tax deduction for setting aside funds that will be used for future charitable donations.

With donor-advised funds, which are available through a number of major mutual fund companies, as well as universities and community foundations, you contribute money or securities to an account established in your name. You then choose among investment options and, on your own timetable, recommend grants to charities of your choice.

The minimum for establishing a donor-advised fund is often $10,000 or more, but these funds can make sense if you want to obtain a tax deduction now but take your time in determining or making payments to the recipient charity or charities. These funds can also be a way to establish a family philanthropic legacy without incurring the administrative costs and headaches of establishing a private foundation.

Individual Year End Tax Planning Ideas & Eight Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions

Individual Year End Tax Planning Ideas

As we approach year end, it’s time again to focus on last-minute moves you can make to save taxes — both on your 2014 return and in future years. Here are a few ideas.

Maximize the benefit of the standard deduction. For 2014, the standard deduction is $12,400 for married taxpayers filing joint returns. For single taxpayers, the amount is $6,200. Currently, it looks like these amounts will be about the same for 2015. If your total itemized deductions each year are normally close to these amounts, you may be able to leverage the benefit of your deductions by bunching deductions in every other year. This allows you to time your itemized deductions so they are high in one year and low in the next. For instance, you might consider moving charitable donations you normally would make in early 2015 to the end of 2014. If you’re temporarily short on cash, charge the contribution to a credit card — it is deductible in the year charged, not when payment is made on the card. You can also accelerate payments of your real estate taxes or state income taxes otherwise due in early 2015. But, watch out for the alternative minimum tax (AMT), as these taxes are not deductible for AMT purposes.

Consider deferring income. It may be beneficial to defer some taxable income from this year into next year, especially if you expect to be in a lower tax bracket in 2015 or affected by unfavorable phase out rules that reduce or eliminate various tax breaks (child tax credit, education tax credits, and so forth) in 2014. By deferring income every other year, you may be able to take more advantage of these breaks every other year. For example, if you’re in business for yourself and a cash-method taxpayer, you can postpone taxable income by waiting until late in the year to send out some client invoices. That way, you won’t receive payment for them until early 2015. You can also postpone taxable income by accelerating some deductible business expenditures into this year. Both moves will defer taxable income from this year until next year.

Secure a deduction for nearly worthless securities. If you own any securities that are all but worthless with little hope of recovery, you might consider selling them before the end of the year so you can capitalize on the loss this year. You can deduct a loss on worthless securities only if you can prove the investment is completely worthless. Thus, a deduction is not available, as long as you own the security and it has any value at all. Total worthlessness can be very difficult to establish with any certainty. To avoid the issue, it may be easier just to sell the security if it has any marketable value. As long as the sale is not to a family member, this allows you to claim a loss for the difference between your tax basis and the proceeds (subject to the normal rules for capital losses and the wash sale rules restricting the recognition of loss if the security is repurchased within 30 days before or after the sale).

Invest in tax-free securities. The most obvious source of tax-free income is tax-exempt securities, either owned outright or through a mutual fund. Whether these provide a better return than the after-tax return on taxable investments depends on your tax bracket and the market interest rates for tax-exempt investments. With the additional layer of net investment income taxes on higher income taxpayers, this year might be a good time to compare the return on taxable and tax-exempt investments. In some cases, it may be as simple as transferring assets from a taxable to a tax-exempt fund.

Again, these are just a few suggestions to get you thinking. Please call us if you’d like to know more about them or want to discuss other ideas.

 


 

Eight Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions

If you are looking for a tax deduction, giving to charity can be a “win-win” situation. It’s good for them and good for you. Here are eight things you should know about deducting your contributions to charity:

1. You must donate to a qualified charity if you want to deduct the contribution. You can’t deduct contributions to individuals, political organizations, or candidates.

2. To deduct your contributions, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions.

3. If you get a benefit in return for your contribution, your deduction is limited. You can only deduct the amount of your contribution that’s more than the value of what you received in return. Examples of such benefits include merchandise, meals, tickets to an event, or other goods and services.

4. If you give property instead of cash, the deduction is usually that item’s fair market value. Fair market value is generally the price you would get if you sold the property on the open market.

5. Used clothing and household items generally must be in good condition to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.

6. You must file Form 8283, “Noncash Charitable Contributions,” if your deduction for all noncash contributions is more than $500 for the year.

7. You must keep records to prove the amount of the contributions you make during the year. The kind of records you must keep depends on the amount and type of your donation. For example, you must have a written record of any cash you donate, regardless of the amount, to claim a deduction. It can be a canceled check, a letter from the organization, or a bank or payroll statement. It should include the name of the charity, the date, and the amount donated. A cell phone bill meets this requirement for text donations if it shows this same information.

8. To claim a deduction for donated cash or property of $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the organization. It must show the amount of the donation and a description of any property given. It must also say whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the contribution.

Tax Calendar & Simple Tax Savings Techniques

Tax Calendar

October 15

  • Personal returns that received an automatic six-month extension must be filed today and any tax, interest and penalties due must be paid.
  • Electing large partnerships that received an additional six-month extension must file their Forms 1065-B today.
  • If the monthly deposit rule applies, employers must deposit the tax for payments in September for Social Security, Medicare, withheld income tax, and nonpayroll withholding.

October 31

  • The third quarter Form 941 (“Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return”) is due today and any undeposited tax must be deposited. (If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return.) If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until November 10 to file the return.
  • If you have employees, a federal unemployment tax (FUTA) deposit is due if the FUTA liability through September exceeds $500.

November 17

  • If the monthly deposit rule applies, employers must deposit the tax for payments in October for Social Security, Medicare, withheld income tax, and nonpayroll withholding.

December 15

  • Calendar-year corporations must deposit the fourth installment of estimated income tax for 2014.
  • If the monthly deposit rule applies, employers must deposit the tax for payments in November for Social Security, Medicare, withheld income tax, and nonpayroll withholding.

 


 

Simple Tax Savings Techniques for Security Gains

The market swings over the last several years may have you wondering whether it’s time to capitalize on some market gains. While taxes should not be the main consideration in this decision, they certainly need to be considered, as they can make a significant impact on your investment return.

With that in mind, here are a couple of tax-smart strategies to consider as you analyze your investment opportunities and decide what to do about recent gains.

Should you wait to sell until the stock qualifies for long-term capital gains treatment?

If the stock sale qualifies for long-term capital gains treatment, it will be taxed at a maximum tax rate of 23.8%. Otherwise it will be taxed at your ordinary-income tax rate, which can be as high as 43.4%.

Clearly, you’ll pay less taxes (and keep more of your gains) if the stock sale qualifies for long-term capital gains treatment. The amount of taxes you’ll save depends on your ordinary-income tax bracket.

To qualify for the preferential long-term capital gains rates, you must hold the stock for more than 12 months. The holding period generally begins the day after you purchase the stock and runs through (and includes) the date you sell it. These rules must be followed exactly, because missing the required holding period by even one day prevents you from using the preferential rates.

The question then becomes: “Are the tax savings that would be realized by holding the asset for the long-term period worth the investment risk that the asset’s value will fall during the same time period? ” If you think the value will fall significantly, liquidating quickly- regardless of tax consequences- may be the better option. Otherwise, the potential risk of holding an asset should be weighed against the tax benefit of qualifying for a reduced tax rate.

Comparing the risk of a price decline to the potential tax benefit of holding an investment for a certain time is not an exact science. We’d be glad to help you weigh your options.

Use “specific ID method” to minimize taxes

If you are considering selling less than your entire interest in a security that you purchased at various times for various prices, you have a couple of options for identifying the particular shares sold:

(1) The first-in, first-out (FIFO) method and

(2) The specific ID method.

FIFO is used if you do not (or cannot) specifically identify which shares of stock are sold, so the oldest securities are assumed to be sold first. Alternatively, you can use the specific ID method to select the particular shares you wish to sell. This is typically the preferred method, as it allows you at least some level of control over the amount and character of the gain (or loss) realized on the sale, which can lead to tax-savings opportunities.

The specific ID method requires that you adequately identify the specific stock to be sold. This can be accomplished by delivering the specific shares to be sold to the broker selling the stock. Alternatively, if the securities are held by your broker, IRS regulations say you should notify your broker regarding which shares you want to sell and the broker should then issue you a written confirmation of your instructions.

Weddings Mean Tax Changes & Small Business Resources

Weddings Mean Tax Changes

It may not be as high on the wedding plan checklist as the venue, invitations and attire, but there are important tax issues created by a marriage that warrant some prompt attention following the wedding.

Name change. Anytime names are changed, it should be reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA). The name associated with an individual’s Social Security Number (SSN) should match the name on the tax return. To change a name with the SSA, file Form SS-5, “Application for a Social Security Card.” The form is available from www.ssa.gov, by calling (800) 772-1213, or from the local SSA office.

Address change. Let the IRS know about an address change by filing Form 8822, “Change of Address.” Also notify the U.S. Postal Service at www.usps.com to forward mail. You may also report the change at your local post office.

Change tax withholding. A change in marital status requires that a new Form W-4, “Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate,” be furnished to the employer(s). Combined incomes may move the taxpayers into a higher tax bracket. Search www.irs.gov for the IRS Withholding Calculator tool for help completing the new Form W-4.

Change in filing status. Marital status is determined as of December 31 each year. Spouses can choose to file jointly or separately each year. We can help you make that determination by calculating your tax liability both ways.

Change in circumstances. Taxpayers receiving an advance payment of the health care premium tax credit in 2014 should report changes in circumstances, such as a change in income or family size, to the Health Insurance Marketplace. Also, the Marketplace should be notified when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace to ensure you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance.

 


 

Small Business Resources

If you are a small business owner, here is a list of organizations that may have tools, information, and other resources to help your business grow.

Business USA The mission of Business USA is to be a centralized, one-stop platform for businesses to access government services to help them grow and hire. Business USA uses technology to connect businesses to the services and information relevant to them, regardless of where the information is located or which government agency’s website, call center, or office they go to for help.

Department of Agriculture, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) The mission of the OSDBU is to provide maximum opportunities for small businesses to participate in USDA contracting activities by establishing and attaining small disadvantaged business program goals.

Department of Commerce The Commerce Department’s mission is to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity by promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, competitiveness, and stewardship.

Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) OSHA’s mission is to assure the safety and health of America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health.

GobiernoUSA.gov The U.S. government’s official Spanish language web portal.

Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) SCORE is a nonprofit organization that is federally supported to provide free business mentoring and low-cost training to aspiring and existing business owners.

Small Business Administration (SBA) The mission of the SBA is to maintain and strengthen the nation’s economy by enabling the establishment and viability of small businesses and by assisting in the economic recovery of communities after disasters.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) SBDCs, which are located across the U.S., are hosted by leading universities and state economic development agencies. SBDC advisors provide free business consulting and low-cost training services including business plan development, financial packaging and lending assistance, exporting and importing support, procurement and contracting aid, and health care guidance.

Social Security Administration The Social Security Administration is the nation’s primary income security agency. It pays retirement, disability, and survivors benefits to workers and their families; administers the Supplemental Security Income program; and issues Social Security numbers.

State and Local Contacts The State and Local Government on the Net directory provides convenient one-stop access to the websites of thousands of state agencies and city and county governments.

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) The DOL administers a variety of federal labor laws, including those that guarantee workers’ rights to safe and healthful working conditions, a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay, freedom from employment discrimination, unemployment insurance, and other income support.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) The mission of the EEOC is to eradicate employment discrimination at the workplace.

USA.gov The U.S. government’s official Web portal.

Required Health Insurance for 2014 & 2015 HSA Amounts

What you need to know about required health insurance coverage for 2014

Beginning in 2014, the individual shared responsibility provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires you and each member of your family to have qualifying health insurance (called minimum essential coverage), have an exemption, or pay a shared responsibility penalty with your 2014 individual income tax return, Form 1040. Many people already have minimum essential coverage and don’t need to do anything more than maintain that coverage.

Do I have minimum essential coverage? You have minimum essential coverage if you have employer-sponsored coverage, coverage obtained through a Health Insurance Marketplace, or coverage through a government-sponsored program. Coverage under certain other plans will qualify as well. You must maintain this coverage for each month of the calendar year.

Am I eligible for an exemption? You may be exempt from the requirement to maintain minimum essential coverage if you’re a member of certain religious sects, a federally recognized Indian tribe, or a health care sharing ministry. You may also be eligible if you are suffering a hardship, meet certain income criteria, or are uninsured for less than three consecutive months of the year.

Will I have to pay a penalty? If you or any of your dependents don’t have minimum essential coverage or an exemption, you will have to pay an individual shared responsibility penalty with your tax return.

For 2014, the annual shared responsibility penalty is the greater of:

  • 1% of your household income that is above your tax return filing threshold, or
  • Your family’s flat dollar amount, which is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, limited to a family maximum of $285 for 2014.

However, the maximum amount cannot be more than the cost of the national average premium for a bronze level health plan available through the Marketplace in 2014.

 


 

2015 HSA amounts

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) were created as a tax-favored framework to provide health care benefits mainly for small business owners, the self-employed, and employees of small to medium-size companies who do not have access to health insurance.

The tax benefits of HSAs are quite substantial. Eligible individuals can make tax-deductible (as an adjustment to AGI) contributions into HSA accounts. The funds in the account may be invested (somewhat like an IRA), so there is an opportunity for growth. The earnings inside the HSA are free from federal income tax, and funds withdrawn to pay eligible health care costs are tax-free.

An HSA is a tax-exempt trust or custodial account established exclusively for the purpose of paying qualified medical expenses of the participant who, for the months for which contributions are made to an HSA, is covered under a high-deductible health plan. Consequently, an HSA is not insurance; it is an account, which must be opened with a bank, brokerage firm, or other provider (i.e., insurance company). It is therefore different from a Flexible Spending Account in that it involves an outside provider serving as a custodian or trustee.

The recently released 2015 inflation-adjusted contribution limit for individual self-only coverage under a high-deductible plan is $3,350, while the comparable amount for family coverage is $6,650. For 2015, a high-deductible health plan is defined as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,300 for self-only coverage and $2,600 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (including deductibles and copayments, but not premiums) must not exceed $6,450 for self-only coverage or $12,900 for family coverage.

Federal Income Tax Withholding Adjustment & Tax Calendar

Do you need to adjust your federal income tax withholding amount?

With over half the year already gone, now is a good time to check to see if you are on track to have about the right amount of federal income tax withheld from your paychecks for 2014. The problem with not having the correct amount of taxes withheld for the year is that:

  • If your taxes are significantly underwithheld for the year, you risk being hit with a nondeductible IRS interest rate penalty.
  • If your taxes are significantly overwithheld for the year, you are basically making an interest-free loan to the government when you could be putting that money to work for you.

Neither situation is good. The simplest way to correct your withholding is by turning in a new Form W-4 (“Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate”) to your employer. Taking this action now will adjust the amount of federal income tax that is withheld from your paychecks for the rest of 2014.

Specifically, you can adjust your withholding by increasing or decreasing the number of allowances claimed on your Form W-4. The more allowances claimed, the lower the withholding from each paycheck; the fewer allowances claimed, the greater the withholding. If claiming zero allowances for the rest of the year would still not result in enough extra withholding, you can ask your employer to withhold an additional amount of federal income tax from each paycheck.

While filling out a new Form W-4 seems like something that should be quick and easy, it’s not necessarily so – because the tax rules are neither quick nor easy. Fortunately, there is an online Form W-4 calculator on the IRS website at www.irs.govthat can help to make the job simpler. From the IRS home page, click on the “More …” link under “Tools.” Then click on the “IRS withholding calculator” link. You will see the entry point for the online calculator. It’s pretty easy to use once you assemble information about your expected 2014 income and expenses, plus your most recent pay stub and tax return.

Please understand that the IRS calculator is not perfect. (Remember, it’s free, and to some extent, you always get what you pay for.) However, using the calculator to make withholding allowance changes on a new Form W-4 filed with your employer is probably better than doing nothing, especially if you believe you are likely to be significantly underwithheld or overwithheld for this year.

Of course, if you want more precise results, we would be happy to put together a 2014 tax projection for you. At the same time, we can probably recommend some planning strategies to lower this year’s tax bill. Contact us for details.

 


 

Tax Calendar

July 15

  • If the monthly deposit rule applies, employers must deposit the tax for payments in June for Social Security, Medicare, withheld income tax, and nonpayroll withholding.

July 31

  • If you have employees, a federal unemployment tax (FUTA) deposit is due if the FUTA liability through June exceeds $500.
  • The second quarter Form 941 (“Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return”) is also due today. (If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return.) If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until August 11 to file the return.

August 15

  • If the monthly deposit rule applies, employers must deposit the tax for payments in July for Social Security, Medicare, withheld income tax, and nonpayroll withholding.

September 15

  • Third quarter estimated tax payments are due for individuals, trusts, and calendar-year corporations.
  • If a five-month extension was obtained, partnerships should file their 2013 Form 1065 by this date.
  • If a six-month extension was obtained, calendar-year corporations should file their 2013 income tax returns by this date.
  • If the monthly deposit rule applies, employers must deposit the tax for payments in August for Social Security, Medicare, withheld income tax, and nonpayroll withholding.

Midyear Tax Planning Ideas & IRS Warns Taxpayers to Beware of Phishing

Midyear Tax Planning Ideas

Tax planning is a year-round process, so now is a good time to think about the following:

Are you considering making a cash gift to a relative? If so, consider making the gift in conjunction with the overall revamping of your stocks and mutual funds held in taxable brokerage accounts to achieve better tax results. Don’t gift loser shares (currently worth less than you paid for them). Instead, sell these shares, recognize the capital loss on your tax return, and then gift the cash proceeds to a relative. However, do gift winner shares to lower tax bracket relatives (unless they are under age 24 and subject to the Kiddie Tax). The 2014 annual gift tax exclusion is $14,000.

Are you considering making a contribution to a favorite charity? The previous strategies will also work well for contributions to qualified charities. Sell loser shares, recognize the loss on your tax return, and then give the cash proceeds to the charity and claim the resulting charitable contribution (if you itemize). Donate winner shares to the charity and deduct the full current fair market value at the time of the gift (without being taxed on the capital gain). The tax-exempt organization can sell your donated shares without owing tax.

Are you self-employed? Consider employing your child in the business (but pay a reasonable wage for their age and work skills). This practice can shift income (which is not subject to the Kiddie Tax) to the child who is normally in a lower tax bracket, decrease payroll taxes, and enable the child to contribute to an IRA.

Is your estate plan current? If you already have an estate plan, it may need updating to reflect the current estate and gift tax rules. For 2014, the unified federal gift and estate tax exemption is a generous $5.34 million, and the rate is 40%. Furthermore, the impact of the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision and resulting IRS changes in the federal definition of marriage mean that legally married same-sex couples need to revise their estate plan. Plus, there may be nontax reasons to update your estate plan.

Please contact us to discuss any tax planning strategies you are interested in implementing.

 


 

IRS Warns Taxpayers to Beware of Phishing Scams

Phishing is a scam typically carried out by unsolicited e-mail and/or bogus websites posing as legitimate sites luring unsuspecting victims to provide personal and financial information. The IRS has recently warned consumers to watch for e-mails appearing to be from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) that include a bogus case number. The e-mail may include the following message: “Your reported 2013 income is flagged for review due to a document processing error. Your case has been forwarded to the Taxpayer Advocate Service for resolution assistance. To avoid delays processing your 2013 filing contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service for resolution assistance.” The e-mail may contain links appearing to provide information about the “advocate” assigned to the recipient’s case but actually lead to Web pages soliciting personal information.

If you receive an e-mail claiming to be from the IRS that contains a request for personal information, do not reply to the e-mail, open any attachments, or click on any links. Instead, forward the e-mail to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. After forwarding the e-mail to the IRS, delete the original e-mail you received.

Remember, the IRS, including the TAS, does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail, text, or any social media.

If you receive a phone call from an individual claiming to be from the IRS but you suspect they are not an IRS employee: (1) Ask for a call-back number and employee badge number, and (2) contact the IRS to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you. If you determine it is a legitimate call, then call the IRS employee back or call us to handle it for you. If you receive a notice or letter via paper mail, contact us to help you determine if it is a legitimate IRS letter. If it is a legitimate IRS letter, we can help you reply if needed. For information on how to contact the IRS, see http://www.irs.gov/uac/How-to-Contact-the-IRS-1. If either the caller or letter is not legitimate, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report.shtml.