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Deduct all of the mileage you’re entitled to — but not more 03-09-2017

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. But you might also be able to deduct miles driven for other purposes, including medical, moving and charitable purposes.

What are the deduction rates?

The rates vary depending on the purpose and the year:

Business: 54 cents (2016), 53.5 cents (2017)

Medical: 19 cents (2016), 17 cents (2017)

Moving: 19 cents (2016), 17 cents (2017)

Charitable: 14 cents (2016 and 2017)

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

In addition to deductions based on the standard mileage rate, you may deduct related parking fees and tolls.

What other limits apply?

The rules surrounding the various mileage deductions are complex. Some are subject to floors and some require you to meet specific tests in order to qualify.

For example, miles driven for health-care-related purposes are deductible as part of the medical expense deduction. But medical expenses generally are deductible only to the extent they exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income. (For 2016, the deduction threshold is 7.5% for qualifying seniors.)

And while miles driven related to moving can be deductible, the move must be work-related. In addition, among other requirements, the distance from your old residence to the new job must be at least 50 miles more than the distance from your old residence to your old job.

Other considerations

There are also substantiation requirements, which include tracking miles driven. And, in some cases, you might be better off deducting actual expenses rather than using the mileage rates.

So contact us to help ensure you deduct all the mileage you’re entitled to on your 2016 tax return — but not more. You don’t want to risk back taxes and penalties later.

And if you drove potentially eligible miles in 2016 but can’t deduct them because you didn’t track them, start tracking your miles now so you can potentially take advantage of the deduction when you file your 2017 return next year.  Feel free to contact us for more information rsibley@abcpa.com, bbailey@abcpa.com, dchandler@abcpa.com, or cmozingo@abcpa.com.

© 2017

 

 

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All income investments aren’t alike when it comes to taxes 09-02-2015

The tax treatment of investment income varies, and not just based on whether the income is in the form of dividends or interest. Qualified dividends are taxed at the favorable long-term capital gains tax rate (generally 15% or 20%) rather than at the applicable ordinary-income tax rate (which might be as high as 39.6%). Interest income generally is taxed at ordinary-income rates. So stocks that pay qualified dividends may be more attractive tax-wise than other income investments, such as CDs and taxable bonds.

But there are exceptions. For example, some dividends aren’t qualified and therefore are subject to ordinary-income rates, such as certain dividends from:

  • Real estate investment trusts (REITs),
  • Regulated investment companies (RICs),
  • Money market mutual funds, and
  • Certain foreign investments.

Also, the tax treatment of bond income varies. For example:

  • Interest on U.S. government bonds is taxable on federal returns but exempt on state and local returns.
  • Interest on state and local government bonds is excludable on federal returns. If the bonds were issued in your home state, interest also might be excludable on your state return.
  • Corporate bond interest is fully taxable for federal and state purposes.

While tax treatment shouldn’t drive investment decisions, it’s one factor to consider — especially when it comes to income investments. For help factoring taxes into your investment strategy, contact us.  Feel free to contact Bonnee Bailey (bbailey@abcpa.com), Callis Blake (cblake@abcpa.com), David Chandler (dchandler@abcpa.com), Rena Minton (rminton@abcpa.com), Cathy Mozingo (cmozingo@abcpa.com), Rhonda Sibley (rsibley@abcpa.com) or any of our other excellent CPAs on staff.

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Tax Savings Opportunity for Exporters and Others 08-25-2015

Exporters and others: Save taxes with an IC-DISC

If your business exports American-made goods or performs architectural or engineering services for foreign construction projects, an interest-charge domestic international sales corporation (IC-DISC) can help slash your tax bill.

An IC-DISC is a “paper” corporation you set up to receive commissions on export sales, up to the greater of 50% of net income or 4% of gross receipts from qualified exports. Your business deducts the commission payments, while distributions received from the IC-DISC are treated as qualified dividends, not capital gains.

Essentially, an IC-DISC allows you to convert ordinary income taxed at rates as high as 39.6% into dividends taxed at 15% or 20%. An IC-DISC also allows you to defer taxes on up to $10 million in commissions held by the IC-DISC by paying a modest interest charge to the IRS.

Think an IC-DISC might be right for you? Contact us for more information.

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What You Need to Know Before Donating Collectibles 08-18-2015

If you’re a collector, donating from your collection instead of your bank account or investment portfolio can be tax-smart. When you donate appreciated property rather than selling it, you avoid the capital gains tax you would have incurred on a sale. And long-term gains on collectibles are subject to a higher maximum rate (28%) than long-term gains on most long-term property (15% or 20%, depending on your tax bracket) — so you can save even more taxes.

But choose the charity wisely. For you to receive a deduction equal to fair market value rather than your basis in the collectible, the item must be consistent with the charity’s purpose, such as an antique to a historical society.

Properly substantiating the donation is also critical, and this may include an appraisal. If you donate works of art with a collective value of $5,000 or more, you’ll need a qualified appraisal, and if the collective value is $20,000 or more, a copy of the appraisal must be attached to your tax return. If an individual item is valued at $20,000 or more, you may also be required to provide a photograph of that item.

If you’re considering a donation of artwork or other collectibles, contact us for help ensuring you can maximize your tax deduction.

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Tread carefully when determining compensation for S corp. shareholder-employees 08-02-2015

By distributing profits in the form of dividends rather than salary, an S corporation and its owners can avoid payroll taxes on these amounts. Because of the additional 0.9% Medicare tax on wages in excess of $200,000 ($250,000 for joint filers and $125,000 for married filing separately), the potential tax savings may be even greater than it once would have been. (S corporation dividends paid to shareholder-employees generally won’t be subject to the 3.8% net investment income tax.)

But paying little or no salary to S corporation shareholder-employees is risky. The IRS has targeted S corporations, assessing unpaid payroll taxes, penalties and interest against companies whose owners’ salaries are unreasonably low. To avoid such a result, S corporations should establish and document reasonable salaries for each position using compensation surveys, company financial data and other evidence.

Do you have questions about compensating S corporation shareholder-employees? Contact us — we can help you determine the mix of salary and dividends that can keep tax liability as low as possible while standing up to IRS scrutiny.

© 2015

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How to begin collecting your 2015 tax refund now 08-02-2015

If you usually receive a large federal income tax refund, you’re essentially making an interest-free loan to the IRS. Rather than wait until you file your 2015 tax return in 2016, why not begin enjoying your “refund” now by reducing your withholdings or estimated tax payments for the remainder of 2015?

It’s particularly important to review your withholdings, and adjust them if necessary, when you experience a major life event, such as marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child, or a layoff suffered by you or your spouse.

If you’d like help determining what your withholding or estimated tax payments should be for the second half of the year, please contact us.

© 2015

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Tax impact of the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision 08-02-2015

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. For federal tax purposes, same-sex married couples were already considered married, under the Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor and subsequent IRS guidance — even if their state of residence didn’t recognize their marriage.

From a tax planning perspective, the latest ruling means that, in states where same-sex marriage hadn’t been recognized, same-sex married couples no longer will need to deal with the complications of being treated as married for federal tax purposes but not married for state tax purposes. So their tax and estate planning will be simplified and they can take advantage of state-level tax benefits for married couples. But in some cases, these couples will also be subject to some tax burdens, such as the “marriage penalty.”

Same-sex married couples should review their tax planning strategies and estate plans to determine what new opportunities may be available to them and whether there are any new burdens they should plan for. Employers will need to keep a close eye on how these developments will affect their tax obligations in relation to employees who have same-sex spouses. Please contact us if you have questions.

© 2015

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Large employers: Time to start planning for ACA information reporting 08-02-2015

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 25 decision upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) yet again, employers subject to the act’s information reporting provision can no longer afford to put off planning in the hope that the requirements might go away.

Beginning in 2016, “large” employers as defined by the act (generally employers with 50 or more full-time employees or the equivalent) must file Forms 1094 and 1095 to provide information to the IRS and plan participants about health coverage provided in the previous year (2015).

Fortunately, recent IRS guidance helps clarify the reporting requirements. And a new IRS Q&A document addresses more specific issues that may arise while completing the forms.

Keep in mind that, while some “midsize” employers (generally employers with 50 to 99 full-time employees or the equivalent) can qualify for an exemption from the play-or-pay provision in 2015 if they meet certain requirements, these employers still will be subject to the information reporting requirements.

If your organization is among those required to file Forms 1094 and 1095 and you need help complying with the requirements, please contact us.

© 2015

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Tax treatment of NQSOs differs from that of their better-known counterpart 07-24-2015

With nonqualified stock options (NQSOs), if the stock appreciates beyond your exercise price, you can buy shares at a price below what they’re trading for. This is the same as for the perhaps better-known incentive stock options (ISOs).

The tax treatment of NQSOs, however, differs from that of ISOs: NQSOs create compensation income — taxed at ordinary-income rates — on the “bargain element” (the difference between the stock’s fair market value and the exercise price) when exercised. This is regardless of whether the stock is held or sold immediately. Also, NQSO exercises don’t create an alternative minimum tax (AMT) preference item that can trigger AMT liability.

When you exercise NQSOs, you may need to make estimated tax payments or increase withholding to fully cover the tax. Keep in mind that an exercise could trigger or increase exposure to top tax rates, the additional 0.9% Medicare tax and the 3.8% net investment income tax.

 

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Tax Deduction Rules for Business Start-Up Expenses 06-10-2015

If you have started a new business this year or are planning on starting a new business there are some important rules related to the deductibility of certain start-up expenses.  Many taxpayers struggle with the question of when to deduct costs related to starting a business. A recent U.S Tax Court case demonstrates how it can be difficult to differentiate between Section 162 expenses that are deductible in the current year and Section 195 start-up costs that are deductible after the start-up commences business operations. Here's some guidance on deducting start-up expenses with confidence. Continue reading