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Last-Minute Reminders: Mortgage Interest & FBAR 04-14-2017

Update on Home Mortgage Interest Deductions

For 2016, the IRS Form 1098 – “Mortgage Interest Statement” – you received from your lender with information used to claim an itemized deduction for qualified residence interest should include additional information this year.

A qualified residence includes your principal residence and up to one additional personal residence. Qualified residence interest is defined as interest on up to $1 million of “acquisition debt” plus interest on up to $100,000 of “home equity debt.”

Acquisition debt is debt that is:

  • Incurred to acquire, construct, or substantially improve a qualified residence, and
  • Secured by a qualified residence

Home equity debt is debt (other than acquisition debt) that is:

  • secured by a qualified residence
  • used for any purpose
  • deductible under the alternative minimum tax (AMT) rules only to the extent the debt proceeds are used to acquire, construct or substantially improve a qualified residence

Important note: If you’re married and file separately from your spouse, you can deduct half of the eligible mortgage interest paid on your separate returns.

Additional information is required to be included in Form 1098 this year to allow the IRS to more easily identify taxpayers who attempt to deduct interest on loan balances above the combined $1.1 million limit for acquisition debt and home equity debt, as well as those taxpayers who attempt to claim mortgage interest deductions for more than two residences. That information is:

  • Mortgage origination date
  • Outstanding principal balance as of the beginning of the calendar year for which the Form 1098 is provided
  • Address of the property that secures the mortgage (or a description if the property doesn’t have an address)

Note: You also may raise a red flag if the amount of your qualified residence interest deduction differs from the combined mortgage interest reported on your Form(s) 1098. This sometimes legitimately happens if, for example, you have more than $1.1 million of combined acquisition debt or own more than two homes.

New FBAR Filing Deadline

If you have an interest in — or authority over — a foreign financial account, the IRS wants you to provide information about the account by filing a form called the “Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts” (FBAR).

The annual deadline for filing FBARs has been changed. It now coincides with the tax filing deadlines for individuals, under the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015. So, for accounts held in 2016, you must generally file FBARs by April 18, 2017. (Formerly, the deadline was June 30, excluding weekends and holidays.)

Important note: If you fail to meet the annual FBAR due date, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) will grant an automatic extension to October 15. Accordingly, specific requests for this extension aren’t required.

Reporting Requirements
FBARs are not filed with federal tax returns. Each year, citizens and resident aliens of the United States, as well as domestic partnerships, corporations, estates and trusts, must generally file an FBAR form electronically with the FinCEN if:

  1. They have a direct or indirect financial interest in — or signature authority over — one or more accounts in a foreign country. This includes bank accounts, brokerage accounts, mutual funds, trusts or other types of foreign financial accounts, and
  2. The total value of the foreign accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year.

Taxpayers also may be subject to FBAR compliance if they file an information return related to certain foreign corporations, foreign partnerships, foreign disregarded entities, or transactions with foreign trusts and receipt of certain foreign gifts.

Exceptions to the Rules
FBAR filing exceptions are available for the following U.S. taxpayers or foreign financial accounts:

  • Certain foreign financial accounts jointly owned by spouses
  • United States persons included in a consolidated FBAR
  • Correspondent/nostro accounts
  • Foreign financial accounts owned by a governmental entity
  • Foreign financial accounts owned by an international financial institution
  • IRA owners and beneficiaries
  • Participants in and beneficiaries of tax-qualified retirement plans
  • Certain individuals with signature authority over — but no financial interest in — a foreign financial account
  • Trust beneficiaries (but only if a U.S. person reports the account on an FBAR filed on behalf of the trust)
  • Foreign financial accounts maintained on a United States military banking facility
  • Important note: Filers living abroad may coordinate FBAR filing with their tax return deadline (June 15, 2017)

Penalties for Noncompliance
Take the FBAR requirement seriously. Failing to file an FBAR can result in the following penalties if assessed after August 1, 2016, and associated violations occurred after November 2, 2015:

  • An inflation-adjusted civil penalty of as much as $12,459 per violation, if the failure wasn’t willful. This penalty may be waived if income from the account was properly reported on the income tax return and there was reasonable cause for not reporting it.
  • A civil penalty equal to the greater of: 1) 50% of the account, or 2) $124,588 per violation, if the failure to report was willful.
  • Criminal penalties and time in prison.

For Assistance

Consult with a tax professional if you have questions about any of this. Your tax advisor can ensure you meet the requirements for reporting mortgage interest and foreign accounts and help avoid penalties for noncompliance.

 

Feel free to contact us for more information rsibley@abcpa.com, bbailey@abcpa.com, dchandler@abcpa.com, or cmozingo@abcpa.com.

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2017 Q2 tax calendar: Key deadlines for businesses and other employers 04-02-2017

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the second quarter of 2017. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

April 18

  • If a calendar-year C corporation, file a 2016 income tax return (Form 1120) or file for an automatic six-month extension (Form 7004), and pay any tax due. If the return isn’t extended, this is also the last day to make 2016 contributions to pension and profit-sharing plans.
  • If a calendar-year C corporation, pay the first installment of 2017 estimated income taxes.

May 1

  • Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for first quarter 2017 (Form 941), and pay any tax due. (See exception below.)

May 10

  • Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for first quarter 2017 (Form 941), if you deposited on time and in full all of the associated taxes due.

June 15

  • If a calendar-year C corporation, pay the second installment of 2017 estimated income taxes.

© 2017

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Self-Employed Individuals and Small Businesses Can Still Set Up Retirement Plans for 2016 03-23-2017

(SEPs) If you don’t already have a tax-favored retirement plan set up for your business, consider establishing a Simplified Employee Pensions (SEP). SEPs are stripped-down retirement plans intended for self-employed individuals and small businesses. Plus, if you act quickly enough, you can claim a deduction for your initial contribution on your 2016 tax return.

Putting SEPs to Work for You

Because SEPs are relatively easy to set up and can allow large annual deductible contributions, they’re often the preferred retirement plan option for self-employed individuals and small business owners — unless they have employees (See “Beware of Requirements to Cover Employees” section below).

The term “self-employed” generally refers to:

  • A sole proprietor
  • A member (owner) of a single-member limited liability company (LLC) that’s treated as a sole proprietorship for tax purposes
  • A member of a multimember LLC that’s treated as a partnership for tax purposes
  • A partner

If you’re in one of these categories, your annual deductible SEP contributions can be up to 20% of your self-employment income. For a sole proprietor or single-member LLC owner, self-employment income for purposes of calculating annual deductible SEP contributions equals the net profit shown on their Schedule C, less 50% of self-employment tax. For a member of a multi-member LLC or a partner, self-employment income equals the amount reported on their Schedule K-1, less 50% of self-employment tax claimed on their personal income tax return.

If you’re an employee of your own corporation, it can establish a SEP and make an annual deductible contribution of up to 25% of your salary. The contribution is a tax-free fringe benefit and is, therefore, excluded from your taxable income.

For 2016, the maximum contribution to a SEP account is $53,000. For 2017, the maximum contribution is $54,000. However, there’s no requirement to contribute anything for a particular year. So when cash is tight, a small amount can be contributed or nothing at all.

As with most other tax-advantaged retirement plans, assets in a SEP can grow tax-deferred, so there’s no tax liability until withdrawals are made. Early withdrawals (before age 59½) are generally subject to a 10% penalty, in addition to income tax, and certain minimum distributions are generally required beginning after age 70½.

Setting Up Your Plan

A SEP is fairly simple to set up, especially for a one-person business. Your advisors can help you complete the required paperwork in just a few minutes. A key benefit of SEPs is that you can establish your plan as late as the extended due date of the return for the year in which you claim a deduction for your initial SEP contribution.

For example, say your business is a sole proprietorship or a single-member LLC that’s treated as a sole proprietorship for tax purposes. If you establish a SEP and make your initial SEP contribution by April 18, 2017 — the deadline for filing your 2016 federal income tax return — you can deduct the contribution on your 2016 tax return.

Important note: If you extend your 2016 return, you have until October 16, 2017, to set up the plan and make a deductible 2016 contribution.

Beware of Requirements to Cover Employees

Establishing a SEP is more complicated if your business has employees. Specifically, contributions may be required for any employee who:

  1. Is age 21 or older
  2. Has worked for your business during at least three of the past five years, and
  3. Receives at least $600 of compensation.

Your business can deduct any contributions made for employees. Because SEP contributions made for employees vest immediately, a covered employee can leave your company at any time without losing any of his or her SEP money. For this reason, SEPs generally aren’t preferred by businesses with more than a few trusted employees.

Need Help?

SEPs can be a smart way for many small businesses to save tax. You still have time to retroactively set up a SEP for the 2016 tax year and make a contribution that can be deducted on your 2016 return. If you have questions or want more information about SEPs and other small-business retirement plan options, contact your tax or financial advisor.

Feel free to contact us for more information rsibley@abcpa.com, bbailey@abcpa.com, dchandler@abcpa.com, or cmozingo@abcpa.com.

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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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Do you need to file a 2016 gift tax return by April 18? 02-15-2017

Last year you may have made significant gifts to your children, grandchildren or other heirs as part of your estate planning strategy. Or perhaps you just wanted to provide loved ones with some helpful financial support. Regardless of the reason for making a gift, it’s important to know under what circumstances you’re required to file a gift tax return.

Some transfers require a return even if you don’t owe tax. And sometimes it’s desirable to file a return even if it isn’t required.

When filing is required

Generally, you’ll need to file a gift tax return for 2016 if, during the tax year, you made gifts:

  • That exceeded the $14,000-per-recipient gift tax annual exclusion (other than to your U.S. citizen spouse),
  • That exceeded the $148,000 annual exclusion for gifts to a noncitizen spouse,
  • That you wish to split with your spouse to take advantage of your combined $28,000 annual exclusions,
  • To a Section 529 college savings plan for your child, grandchild or other loved one and wish to accelerate up to five years’ worth of annual exclusions ($70,000) into 2016,
  • Of future interests — such as remainder interests in a trust — regardless of the amount, or
  • Of jointly held or community property.

When filing isn’t required

No return is required if your gifts for the year consist solely of annual exclusion gifts, present interest gifts to a U.S. citizen spouse, qualifying educational or medical expenses paid directly to a school or health care provider, and political or charitable contributions.

If you transferred hard-to-value property, such as artwork or interests in a family-owned business, consider filing a gift tax return even if you’re not required to. Adequate disclosure of the transfer in a return triggers the statute of limitations, generally preventing the IRS from challenging your valuation more than three years after you file.

Meeting the deadline

The gift tax return deadline is the same as the income tax filing deadline. For 2016 returns, it’s April 18, 2017 (or October 16 if you file for an extension). If you owe gift tax, the payment deadline is also April 18, regardless of whether you file for an extension.

Have questions about gift tax and the filing requirements? Contact us rsibley@abcpa.com, bbailey@abcpa.com, dchandler@abcpa.com, or cmozingo@abcpa.com to learn more.

© 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Small Business Tax Issues for 2017 02-09-2017

A new year is upon us and with it comes the time to get ready for tax filing. There have been several changes in tax laws that impact small businesses recently, and with a shift to a Republican-led government in all three branches, even more changes are possible in the coming years.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, the following are some key small business tax issues to be aware of before meeting with your CPA:

Deadline Changes
The most pressing thing for current small businesses are the various deadline changes for 2017 filing:

January 31

  • Businesses that paid someone who is not their employee, such as a freelancer, subcontractor, or attorney, $600 or more for their services will need to complete and file a Form 1099-MISC on or before January 31.
  • They will also need to provide that contractor with a copy on or before January 31. This is also the deadline for employer W-2 form filing.

March 15

  • Businesses who are filing as a Partnership (Form 1065) have had their deadline brought forward from April 15 to now a March 15 deadline.
  • Businesses filing as a C-Corporation have more leeway, as theirs is the only date given an increase in time to file, being pushed back from a March 15 deadline to April 15.

$2,500 De Minimis Safe Harbor Election
A very important and impactful small business tax change  this year is the increase of the de minimis safe harbor election from $500 per item to now $2,500 per item. Making the election enables business owners to expense instead of capitalize and depreciate assets that have either a useful life of less than a year or cost less than the given dollar amount.

For example, a medical office can purchase and immediately write new waiting room furniture that costs less than $2,500. It’s important to note that this is a limit on a per item basis. That means if the business purchases twenty chairs at $300 each, they can expense all of them this tax year and write off the entire $6,000 cost.

Retirement Savings
It is never too early to talk about retirement savings with your CPA. For small business owners who are comfortable with their profitability, now is also the time to consider the tax advantages of different retirement savings vehicles. While the amount will depend on current earnings, owners can potentially contribute as much as $53,000, or  $59,000 for those over the age of 50, into tax-advantaged accounts.

The Solo 401K plan, for example, is one of the most underutilized retirement vehicles and is ideal for sole proprietors without employees. It allows sizeable tax-free contributions, which can be a tremendous boost to your retirement planning.

While these three issues — deadline changes, increased de minimis safe harbor election, and retirement savings — should be a top tax priority for small business owners this year, they are not the only aspects requiring attention. Frequent problems we see with small businesses, particularly new businesses, include incorrectly-filed payroll taxes and miscalculated deductions — both of which attract the IRS’ unwanted attention.

For these reasons and more, it is vital for small business owners to schedule an appointment with an experienced CPA before filing taxes. Even if you have a reliable bookkeeper on staff, many recent changes in tax laws can go by unnoticed. Even a simple oversight frequently results in either lost savings or notices from the IRS.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to learn more: rsibley@abcpa.com, bbailey@abcpa.com, dchandler@abcpa.com, or cmozingo@abcpa.com!

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The Investment Interest Expense Deduction: Less Beneficial Than You Might Think 01-30-2017

Investment interest — interest on debt used to buy assets held for investment, such as margin debt used to buy securities — generally is deductible for both regular tax and alternative minimum tax purposes. But special rules apply that can make this itemized deduction less beneficial than you might think.

Limits on the deduction

First, you can’t deduct interest you incurred to produce tax-exempt income. For example, if you borrow money to invest in municipal bonds, which are exempt from federal income tax, you can’t deduct the interest.

Second, and perhaps more significant, your investment interest deduction is limited to your net investment income, which, for the purposes of this deduction, generally includes taxable interest, nonqualified dividends and net short-term capital gains, reduced by other investment expenses. In other words, long-term capital gains and qualified dividends aren’t included.

However, any disallowed interest is carried forward. You can then deduct the disallowed interest in a later year if you have excess net investment income.

Changing the tax treatment

You may elect to treat net long-term capital gains or qualified dividends as investment income in order to deduct more of your investment interest. But if you do, that portion of the long-term capital gain or dividend will be taxed at ordinary-income rates.

If you’re wondering whether you can claim the investment interest expense deduction on your 2016 return, please contact us – rsibley@abcpa.com, bbailey@abcpa.com, dchandler@abcpa.com, or cmozingo@abcpa.com . We can run the numbers to calculate your potential deduction or to determine whether you could benefit from treating gains or dividends differently to maximize your deduction.

© 2017

 

 

 

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Deduction for state and local sales tax benefits some, but not all, taxpayers 01-19-2017

The break allowing taxpayers to take an itemized deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes was made “permanent” a little over a year ago. This break can be valuable to those residing in states with no or low income taxes or who purchase major items, such as a car or boat.

Your 2016 tax return

How do you determine whether you can save more by deducting sales tax on your 2016 return? Compare your potential deduction for state and local income tax to your potential deduction for state and local sales tax.

Don’t worry — you don’t have to have receipts documenting all of the sales tax you actually paid during the year to take full advantage of the deduction. Your deduction can be determined by using an IRS sales tax calculator that will base the deduction on your income and the sales tax rates in your locale plus the tax you actually paid on certain major purchases (for which you will need substantiation).

2017 and beyond

If you’re considering making a large purchase in 2017, you shouldn’t necessarily count on the sales tax deduction being available on your 2017 return. When the PATH Act made the break “permanent” in late 2015, that just meant that there’s no scheduled expiration date for it. Congress could pass legislation to eliminate the break (or reduce its benefit) at any time.

Recent Republican proposals have included elimination of many itemized deductions, and the new President has proposed putting a cap on itemized deductions. Which proposals will make it into tax legislation in 2017 and when various provisions will be signed into law and go into effect is still uncertain.

Questions about the sales tax deduction or other breaks that might help you save taxes on your 2016 tax return? Or about the impact of possible tax law changes on your 2017 tax planning? Contact us – rsibley@abcpa.com, bbailey@abcpa.com, dchandler@abcpa.com, or cmozingo@abcpa.com — we can help you maximize your 2016 savings and effectively plan for 2017.

© 2017

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Help prevent tax identity theft by filing early 01-19-2017

If you’re like many Americans, you might not start thinking about filing your tax return until close to this year’s April 18 deadline. You might even want to file for an extension so you don’t have to send your return to the IRS until October 16.

But there’s another date you should keep in mind: January 23. That’s the date the IRS will begin accepting 2016 returns, and filing as close to that date as possible could protect you from tax identity theft.

Why early filing helps

In an increasingly common scam, thieves use victims’ personal information to file fraudulent tax returns electronically and claim bogus refunds. This is usually done early in the tax filing season. When the real taxpayers file, they’re notified that they’re attempting to file duplicate returns.

A victim typically discovers the fraud after he or she files a tax return and is informed by the IRS that the return has been rejected because one with the same Social Security number has already been filed for the same tax year. The IRS then must determine who the legitimate taxpayer is.

Tax identity theft can cause major headaches to straighten out and significantly delay legitimate refunds. But if you file first, it will be the tax return filed by a potential thief that will be rejected — not yours.

Another important date

Of course, in order to file your tax return, you’ll need to have your W-2s and 1099s. So another key date to be aware of is January 31 — the deadline for employers to issue 2016 W-2s to employees and, generally, for businesses to issue 1099s to recipients of any 2016 interest, dividend or reportable miscellaneous income payments.

Delays for some refunds

The IRS reminded taxpayers claiming the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit to expect a longer wait for their refunds. A law passed in 2015 requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming these credits until at least February 15.

An additional benefit

Let us know if you have questions about tax identity theft or would like help filing your 2016 return early. If you’ll be getting a refund, an added bonus of filing early is that you’ll be able to enjoy your refund sooner.  Contact us for additional information:  rsibley@abcpa.com, bbailey@abcpa.com, dchandler@abcpa.com, or cmozingo@abcpa.com.

© 2017

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2017 Q1 tax calendar: Key deadlines for businesses and other employers 01-19-2017

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the first quarter of 2017. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

January 31

  • File 2016 Forms W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement,” with the Social Security Administration and provide copies to your employees.
  • File 2016 Forms 1099-MISC, “Miscellaneous Income,” reporting nonemployee compensation payments in Box 7 with the IRS, and provide copies to recipients.
  • File Form 941, “Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return,” to report Medicare, Social Security and income taxes withheld in the fourth quarter of 2016. 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 that 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.”
  • File Form 940, “Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return,” for 2016. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it’s 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 2016 to report income tax withheld on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on accounts such as pensions, annuities and IRAs. 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.

February 28

File 2016 Forms 1099-MISC with the IRS and provide copies to recipients. (Note that Forms 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation in Box 7 must be filed by January 31, beginning with 2016 forms filed in 2017.)

March 15

If a calendar-year partnership or S corporation, file or extend your 2016 tax return. If the return isn’t extended, this is also the last day to make 2016 contributions to pension and profit-sharing plans.

© 2016

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