Bonus checks

Please be advised that bonus checks to your employees are like payroll checks and payroll taxes should be deducted and paid. So before writing the bonus checks please email us the gross or net amount of bonus checks and we will provide you with the copy of bonus checks.

Please call us at (310)820-1080 if you have any questions or email us @ info@onts9.com

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Make a Wise Choice when Selecting a Tax Preparer

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While there is still time before the next tax filing season, choosing a return preparer now allows more time for taxpayers to consider appropriate options and to find and talk with prospective tax preparers rather than during tax season when they’re most busy.

Furthermore, it enables taxpayers to do some wise tax planning for the rest of the year. If a taxpayer prefers to pay someone to prepare their return, the Internal Revenue Service encourages them to choose that person wisely as the taxpayer is legally responsible for all the information included on the return.

Below are some tips taxpayers can keep in mind when selecting a tax professional:

  • Select an ethical preparer. Taxpayers entrust some of their most vital personal data with the person preparing their tax return, including income, investments and Social Security numbers.
  • Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund or those who say they can get larger refunds than others. Taxpayers need to ensure that any refund due is sent to them or deposited into their bank account, not into a preparer’s account.
  • Be sure to use a preparer with a preparer tax identification number (PTIN). Paid tax return preparers must have a current PTIN to prepare a tax return. It is also a good idea to ask the preparer if they belong to a professional organization and attend continuing education classes.
  • Research the preparer’s history. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer has a questionable history. For the status of an enrolled agent’s license, check with the IRS Office of Enrollment (enrolled agents are licensed by the IRS and are specifically trained in federal tax planning, preparation and representation). For certified public accountants, verify with the state board of accountancy; for attorneys, check with the state bar association.
  • Ask for e-file. Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients generally must file the returns electronically.
  • Provide tax records. A good preparer will ask to see records and receipts. Do not use a preparer who is willing to e-file a return using the latest pay stub instead of the Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.
  • Make sure the preparer is available after the filing due date. This may be helpful if questions come up about the tax return. Taxpayers can designate their paid tax return preparer or another third party to speak to the IRS concerning the preparation of their return, payment/refund issues and mathematical errors. The third party authorization check box on Form 1040, Form 1040A and Form 1040EZ gives the designated party the authority to receive and inspect returns and return information for one year from the original due date of the return (without regard to extensions).
  • Review the tax return and ask questions before signing. Taxpayers are legally responsible for what’s on their return, regardless of whether someone else prepared it. Make sure it’s accurate before signing it.
  • Never sign a blank tax return. If a taxpayer signs a blank return the preparer could then put anything they want on the return — even their own bank account number for the tax refund.
  • Preparers must sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give the taxpayer a copy of the return.

As always our doors are open for Consultation please share this content if you find it valuable.

Tax Implications of Retiring Overseas

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Are you approaching retirement age and wondering where you can retire to make your retirement nest egg last longer? Retiring abroad may be the answer. But first, it’s important to look at the tax implications because not all retirement country destinations are created equal. Here’s what you need to know.

Taxes on Worldwide Income

Leaving the United States does not exempt U.S. citizens from their U.S. tax obligations. While some retirees may not owe any U.S. income tax while living abroad, they must still file a return annually with the IRS. This would be the case even if all of their assets were moved to a foreign country. The bottom line is that you may still be taxed on income regardless of where it is earned.

Unlike most countries, the United States taxes individuals based on citizenship and not residency. As such, every U.S. citizens (and resident alien) must file a tax return reporting worldwide income (including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts) in any given taxable year that exceeds threshold limits for filing.

The filing requirement generally applies even if a taxpayer qualifies for tax benefits, such as the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign tax credit, that substantially reduce or eliminate U.S. tax liability.

Note: These tax benefits are not automatic and are only available if an eligible taxpayer files a U.S. income tax return.

Any income received or deductible expenses paid in foreign currency must be reported on a U.S. return in U.S. dollars. Likewise, any tax payments must be made in U.S. dollars.

In addition, taxpayers who are retired may have to file tax forms in the foreign country in which they reside. You may, however, be able to take a tax credit or a deduction for income taxes you paid to a foreign country. These benefits can reduce your taxes if both countries tax the same income.

Nonresident aliens who receive income from U.S. sources must determine whether they have a U.S. tax obligation. The filing deadline for nonresident aliens is April 15 or June 15 depending on sources of income.

Income from Social Security or Pensions

If Social Security is your only income, then your benefits may not be taxable and you may not need to file a federal income tax return. If you receive Social Security you should receive a Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, showing the amount of your benefits. Likewise, if you have pension or annuity income, you should receive a Form 1099-R for each distribution plan.

Retirement income is generally not taxed by other countries. As a U.S. citizen retiring abroad who receives Social Security, for instance, you may owe U.S. taxes on that income, but may not be liable for tax in the country where you’re spending your retirement years.

However, if you receive income from other sources (either U.S. or country of retirement) as well, from a part-time job or self-employment, for example, you may have to pay U.S. taxes on some of your benefits. You may also be required to report and pay taxes on any income earned in the country where you retired.

Each country is different, so consult a local tax professional or one who specializes in expat tax services.

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

If you’ve retired overseas, but take on a full-or part-time job or earn income from self-employment, the IRS allows qualifying individuals to exclude all, or part, of their incomes from U.S. income tax by using the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE). In 2015, this amount is $100,800. This means that if you qualify, you won’t pay tax on up to $100,800 of your wages and other foreign earned income in 2015.

Note: Income earned overseas is exempt from taxation only if certain criteria are met such as residing outside of the country for at least 330 days over a 12-month period, or an entire calendar year.

Tax Treaties

The United States has income tax treaties with a number of foreign countries, but these treaties generally don’t exempt residents from their obligation to file a tax return.

Under these treaties, residents (not necessarily citizens) of foreign countries are taxed at a reduced rate, or are exempt from U.S. income taxes on certain items of income they receive from sources within the United States. These reduced rates and exemptions vary among countries and specific items of income.

Treaty provisions are generally reciprocal; that is they apply to both treaty countries. Therefore, a U.S. citizen or resident who receives income from a treaty country and who is subject to taxes imposed by foreign countries may be entitled to certain credits, deductions, exemptions, and reductions in the rate of taxes of those foreign countries.

Affordable Care Act

Starting in 2014, the individual shared responsibility provision calls for each individual to have minimum essential coverage (MEC) for each month, qualify for an exemption, or make a payment when filing his or her federal income tax return.

All U.S. citizens are subject to the individual shared responsibility provision. If you are not yet eligible for Medicare, U.S. citizens living abroad are generally subject to the same individual shared responsibility provision as U.S. citizens living in the United States.

However, U.S. citizens or residents living abroad for at least 330 days within a 12 month period are treated as having MEC during those 12 months and thus will not owe a shared responsibility payment for any of those 12 months. Also, U.S. citizens who qualify as a bona fide resident of a foreign country for an entire taxable year are treated as having MEC for that year.

State Taxes

Many states tax resident income as well, so even if you retire abroad, you may still owe state taxes–unless you established residency in a no-tax state before you moved overseas.

Some states honor the provisions of U.S. tax treaties; however, some states do not, therefore it is prudent to consult a tax professional.

Relinquishing U.S. Citizenship

Taxpayers who relinquish their U.S. citizenship or cease to be lawful permanent residents of the United States during any tax year must file a dual-status alien return and attach Form 8854, Initial and Annual Expatriation Statement. A copy of the Form 8854 must also be filed with Internal Revenue Service (Philadelphia, PA 19255-0049), by the due date of the tax return (including extensions).

Note: Giving up your U.S. citizenship doesn’t mean giving up your right to receive social security, pensions, annuities or other retirement income. However, the U.S. Internal Revenue Code (IRC) requires the Social Security Administration (SSA) to withhold nonresident alien tax from certain Social Security monthly benefits. If you are a nonresident alien receiving social security retirement income, then SSA will withhold a 30 percent flat tax from 85 percent of those benefits unless you qualify for a tax treaty benefit. This results in a withholding of 25.5 percent of your monthly benefit amount.

Before You Retire Consult a Tax Professional

Don’t wait until you’re ready to retire to consult a tax professional. Call the office today and find out what your options are.

Recordkeeping for Charitable Contributions

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Record keeping for Charitable Contributions

 

You must keep records to prove the amount of any cash and non cash contributions you make during the year. Which records you must keep depends on the amount you contribute and whether they are cash or property contributions. New record keeping requirements were established for all contributions made after January 1, 2007. You cannot deduct a cash contribution, regardless of the amount, unless you keep as a record of the contribution, bank records (such as a cancelled check or bank statement containing the name of the charity, date and the amount) or a written communication from the charity.

 

This article discusses which records you must keep.

 

Cash Contributions

 

Cash contributions include those paid by cash, check, electronic funds transfer, debit card, credit card, or payroll deduction. You cannot deduct a cash contribution, regardless of the amount, unless it is substantiated by one of the following:

 

  1. A bank record that shows the name of the qualified organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution. Bank records may include: a canceled check, a bank or credit union statement or a credit card statement.
  2. A receipt (or letter or other written communication) from the qualified organization showing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.
  3. Payroll deduction records. The payroll records must include a pay stub, Form W-2 or other document furnished by the employer that shows the date and the amount of the contribution, and a pledge card or other document prepared by or for the qualified organization that shows the name of the organization.

 

Cash Contributions of $250 or More: You can claim a deduction for a contribution of $250 or more only if you have an acknowledgement of your contribution from the qualified organization or certain payroll deduction records. If you made more than one contribution of $250 or more, you must have either a separate acknowledgment for each or one acknowledgment that lists each contribution and the date of each contribution and shows your total contributions.

 

To determine whether a contribution is $250 or more, do not combine separate contributions. For example, if you gave to the church $25 each week, your weekly payments do not need to be combined. Each payment is a separate contribution. The acknowledgment must be written and state whether you received any goods or services in return. If something was received in return, a description and good faith estimate of the value of the goods or services must be included.

 

For payroll deductions, the payroll records must include a pay stub, Form W-2 or other document furnished by the employer that shows the date and the amount of the contribution, and a pledge card or other document prepared by or for the qualified organization that shows the name of the organization. If the pay stub, Form W-2, pledge card, or other document does not show the date of the contribution, you must also have another document that does show the date of the contribution.

 

Non cash Contributions

 

For a contribution not made in cash, these general rules apply:

 

The records you must keep depends on whether your deduction for the contribution is:

 

  1. Less Than $250
  2. At least $250 but not more than $500,
  3. Over $500 but not more than $5,000, or
  4. Over $5,000.

 

Amount of contribution. In figuring whether your contribution is $500 or more, combine separate contributions of similar items during the year. If you received goods or services in return, reduce your contribution by the value of those goods or services. If you figure your deduction by reducing the fair market value of the donated property by its appreciation, your contribution is the reduced amount.

 

Deductions of Less Than $250

 

If you make any non cash contribution, you must get and keep a receipt from the charitable organization showing:

 

  1. The name of the charitable organization,
  2. The date and location of the charitable contribution, and
  3. A reasonably detailed description of the property.

 

A letter or other written communication from the charitable organization acknowledging receipt of the contribution and containing the information in (1), (2), and (3) will serve as a receipt. You are not required to have a receipt where it is impractical to get one (for example if you leave property at a charity’s unattended drop site).

 

Additional records. You must also keep reliable written records for each item of donated property. Your written records must include the following information.

 

  1. The name and address of the organization to which you contributed.
  2. The date and location of the contribution.
  3. A description of the property in detail reasonable under the circumstances. For a security, keep the name of the issuer, the type of security, and whether it is regularly traded on a stock exchange or in an over-the-counter market.
  4. The fair market value of the property at the time of the contribution and how you figured the fair market value. If it was determined by appraisal, you should also keep a signed copy of the appraisal.
  5. The cost or other basis of the property if you must reduce its fair market value by appreciation.
  6. The amount you claim as a deduction for the tax year as a result of the contribution, if you contribute less than your entire interest in the property during the tax year. Your records must include the amount you claimed as a deduction in any earlier years for contributions of other interests in this property. They must also include the name and address of each organization to which you contributed the other interests, the place where any such tangible property is located or kept, and the name of any person in possession of the property, other than the organization to which you contributed.
  7. Any conditions attached to the gift of property.

 

Deductions of At Least $250 But Not More Than $500

 

If you claim a deduction of at least $250 but not more than $500 for a non cash charitable contribution, you must get and keep an acknowledgement of your contribution from the qualified organization. If you made more than one contribution of $250 or more, you can have either a separate acknowledgement for each or one acknowledgement that shows your total contributions.

 

The acknowledgement must contain the information in items (1) through (3) listed under Deductions of Less Than $250, earlier, and your written records must include the information listed in that discussion under Additional Records.

 

1. It must be written.

 

2. It must include:

 

  • A description (but not necessarily the value) of any property you contributed,
  • Whether the qualified organization gave you any goods or services as a result of your contribution (other than certain token items and membership benefits), and
  • A description and good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services described above. If the only benefit you received was an intangible religious benefit (such as admission to a religious ceremony) that generally is not sold in a commercial transaction outside the donation context, the acknowledgement must say so and does not need to describe or estimate the value of the benefit.

 

3. You must get the acknowledgement on or before the earlier of:

 

  • the date you file your return for the year you make the contribution, or
  • The due date, including extensions, for filing the return.

 

Deductions Over $500 But Not Over $5,000

 

If you claim a deduction over $500 but not over $5,000 for a non cash charitable contribution, you must have the acknowledgement and written records described under Deductions of At Least $250 But Not More Than $500. Your records must also include:

 

  1. How you got the property, for example, by purchase, gift, bequest, inheritance, or exchange.
  2. The approximate date you got the property or, if created, produced, or manufactured by or for you, the approximate date the property was substantially completed.
  3. The cost or other basis, and any adjustments to the basis, of property held less than 12 months and, if available, the cost or other basis of property held 12 months or more. This requirement, however, does not apply to publicly traded securities.

 

If you are not able to provide information on either the date you got the property or the cost basis of the property and you have a reasonable cause for not being able to provide this information, attach a statement of explanation to your return.

 

Deductions Over $5,000

 

If you claim a deduction of over $5,000 for a charitable contribution of one property item or a group of similar property items, you must have the acknowledgement and the written records described under Deductions Over $500 But Not Over $5,000. In figuring whether your deduction is over $5,000, combine your claimed deductions for all similar items donated to any charitable organization during the year.

 

Generally, you must also obtain a qualified written appraisal of the donated property from a qualified appraiser.

 

Qualified conservation contribution. If the gift was a “qualified conservation contribution,” your records must also include the fair market value of the underlying property before and after the gift and the conservation purpose furthered by the gift.

 

Out of Pocket Expenses

 

If you render services to a qualified organization and have unreimbursed out of pocket expenses related to those services, the following three rules apply.

 

  1. You must have adequate records to prove the amount of the expenses.
  2. You must get an acknowledgment from the qualified organization that contains a description of the services you provided and a statement of whether or not the organization provided you any goods and services to reimburse you for the expenses incurred. If so, the statement must include a description and good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services (other than intangible religious benefits). If the only benefit you received was an intangible religious benefit, you must receive a statement stating this; however, the acknowledgment does not need to describe or estimate the value of an intangible religious benefit.
  3. You must get the acknowledgment on or before the earlier of: (a) The date you file your return for the year you make the contribution, or the due date, including extensions, for filing your return.

 

Car Expenses. If you claim expenses directly related to use of your car in giving services to a qualified organization, you must keep reliable written records of your expenses. Whether your records are considered reliable depends on all the facts and circumstances. Generally, they are reliable if you made them regularly and at the time you incurred the expense.

 

Your records must show the name of the organization you were serving and the date each time you used your car for a charitable purpose. If you use the standard mileage rate of 14 cents a mile for 2015, your records must show the miles you drove. If you use actual expenses to complete the deduction, your records must show the costs of operating the car for charitable purposes only.

 

Questions about record keeping requirements for charitable contributions?

Help is just a phone call away. @(877)305-1040

 

 

Leaving a Business: Which Exit Plan is Best?

Selecting your business successor is a fundamental objective of planning an exit strategy and requires a careful assessment of what you want from the sale of your business and who can best give it to you.

There are four ways to leave your business: transfer ownership to family members, Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP), sale to a third party, and liquidation. The more you understand about each one, the better the chance is that you will leave your business on your terms and under the conditions you want. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about each one.

1. Transfer Ownership to your Children

Transferring a business within the family fulfills many people’s personal goals of keeping their business and family together, but while most business owners want to transfer their business to their children, few end up doing so for various reasons. As such, it’s necessary to develop a contingency plan to convey your business to another type of buyer.

Transferring your business to your children can provide financial well-being for younger family members unable to earn comparable income from outside employment, as well as allow you to stay actively involved in the business with your children until you choose your departure date.

It also affords you the luxury of selling the business for whatever amount of money you need to live on, even if the value of the business does not justify that sum of money.

On the other hand, this option also holds the potential to increase family friction, discord, and feelings of unequal treatment among siblings. Parents often feel the need to treat all of their children equally. In reality, this is difficult to achieve. In most cases, one child will probably run or own the business at the perceived expense of the others.

At the same time, financial security also may be diminished, rather than enhanced, and the very existence of the business is at risk if it’s transferred to a family member who can’t or won’t run it properly. In addition, family dynamics, in general, may also significantly diminish your control over the business and its operations.

2. Employee Stock Option Plans (ESOP)

If your children have no interest or are unable to take over your business, there is another option to ensure the continued success of your business: the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

ESOPs are qualified retirement plans subject to the regulatory requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). There’s one important difference, however; the majority (more than half) of their investment must be derived from their own company stock.

Whether it’s due to lack of interest from your children, an economic downturn or a high asking price that no one is willing to pay, what an ESOP does is create a third-party buyer (your employees) where none previously existed. After all, who more than your employees has a vested interest in your company?

ESOPs are set up as a trust (complete with trustees) into which either cash to buy company stock or newly issued stock is placed. Contributions the company makes to the trust are generally tax deductible, subject to certain limitations and because transactions are considered stock sales, the owner who is selling (you) can avoid paying capital gains. Shares are then distributed to employees (typically based on compensation levels) and grow tax-free until distribution.

If your company is a stable, well-established one with steady, consistent earnings, then an ESOP might be just the ticket to creating a winning exit plan from your business.

If you have any questions about setting up an ESOP for your business, give the office a call today.

3. Sale to a Third Party

In a retirement situation, a sale to a third party too often becomes a bargain sale–and the only alternative to liquidation. But if the business is well prepared for sale this option just might be your best way to cash out. In fact, you may find that this so-called “last resort” strategy just happens to land you at the resort of your choice.

Although many owners don’t realize it, most or all of your money should come from the business at closing. Therefore, the fundamental advantage of a third party sale is immediate cash or at least a substantial upfront portion of the selling price. This ensures that you obtain your fundamental objectives of financial security and, perhaps, avoid risk as well.

If you do not receive the bulk of the purchase price in cash, at closing, however, your risk will suddenly become immense. You will place a substantial amount of the money you counted on receiving in the unpredictable hands of fate. The best way to avoid this risk is to get all of the money you are going to need at closing. This way any outstanding balance payable to you is “icing on the cake.”

4. Liquidation

If there is no one to buy your business, you shut it down. In liquidation, the owners sell off their assets, collect outstanding accounts receivable, pay off their bills, and keep what’s left, if anything, for themselves.

The primary reason liquidation is considered as an exit plan is that a business lacks sufficient income-producing capacity apart from the owner’s direct efforts and apart from the value of the assets themselves. For example, if the business can produce only $75,000 per year and the assets themselves are worth $1 million, no one would pay more for the business than the value of the assets.

Service businesses, in particular, are thought to have little value when the owner leaves the business. Since most service businesses have little “hard value” other than accounts receivable, liquidation produces the smallest return for the owner’s lifelong commitment to the business. Smart owners guard against this. They plan ahead to ensure that they do not have to rely on this last ditch method to fund their retirement.

If you need assistance figuring out which exit strategy is best for you and your business, please don’t hesitate to call. The sooner you start planning, the easier it will be.

Tax Planning for Small Business Owners

Tax planning is the process of looking at various tax options to determine when, whether, and how to conduct business and personal transactions to reduce or eliminate tax liability.

Many small business owners ignore tax planning. They don’t even think about their taxes until it’s time to meet with their accountants, but tax planning is an ongoing process and good tax advice is a valuable commodity. It is to your benefit to review your income and expenses monthly and meet with your CPA or tax advisor quarterly to analyze how you can take full advantage of the provisions, credits and deductions that are legally available to you.

Although tax avoidance planning is legal, tax evasion – the reduction of tax through deceit, subterfuge, or concealment – is not. Frequently what sets tax evasion apart from tax avoidance is the IRS’s finding that there was fraudulent intent on the part of the business owner. The following are four of the areas the IRS examiners commonly focus on as pointing to possible fraud:

  1. Failure to report substantial amounts of income such as a shareholder’s failure to report dividends or a store owner’s failure to report a portion of the daily business receipts.
  2. Claims for fictitious or improper deductions on a return such as a sales representative’s substantial overstatement of travel expenses or a taxpayer’s claim of a large deduction for charitable contributions when no verification exists.
  3. Accounting irregularities such as a business’s failure to keep adequate records or a discrepancy between amounts reported on a corporation’s return and amounts reported on its financial statements.
  4. Improper allocation of income to a related taxpayer who is in a lower tax bracket such as where a corporation makes distributions to the controlling shareholder’s children.

Tax Planning Strategies

Countless tax planning strategies are available to small business owners. Some are aimed at the owner’s individual tax situation and some at the business itself, but regardless of how simple or how complex a tax strategy is, it will be based on structuring the strategy to accomplish one or more of these often overlapping goals:

  • Reducing the amount of taxable income
  • Lowering your tax rate
  • Controlling the time when the tax must be paid
  • Claiming any available tax credits
  • Controlling the effects of the Alternative Minimum Tax
  • Avoiding the most common tax planning mistakes

In order to plan effectively, you’ll need to estimate your personal and business income for the next few years. This is necessary because many tax planning strategies will save tax dollars at one income level, but will create a larger tax bill at other income levels. You will want to avoid having the “right” tax plan made “wrong” by erroneous income projections. Once you know what your approximate income will be, you can take the next step: estimating your tax bracket.

The effort to come up with crystal-ball estimates may be difficult and by its very nature will be inexact. On the other hand, you should already be projecting your sales revenues, income, and cash flow for general business planning purposes. The better your estimates are, the better the odds that your tax planning efforts will succeed.

Maximizing Business Entertainment Expenses

Entertainment expenses are legitimate deductions that can lower your tax bill and save you money, provided you follow certain guidelines.

In order to qualify as a deduction, business must be discussed before, during, or after the meal and the surroundings must be conducive to a business discussion. For instance, a small, quiet restaurant would be an ideal location for a business dinner. A nightclub would not. Be careful of locations that include ongoing floor shows or other distracting events that inhibit business discussions. Prime distractions are theater locations, ski trips, golf courses, sports events, and hunting trips.

The IRS allows up to a 50 percent deduction on entertainment expenses, but you must keep good records and the business meal must be arranged with the purpose of conducting specific business. Bon appetite!

Important Business Automobile Deductions

If you use your car for business such as visiting clients or going to business meetings away from your regular workplace you may be able to take certain deductions for the cost of operating and maintaining your vehicle. You can deduct car expenses by taking either the standard mileage rate or using actual expenses.

The mileage reimbursement rates for 2015 are 57.5 cents per business mile (56 cents per mile in 2014), 14 cents per charitable mile (unchanged from 2014) and 23 cents for moving and medical miles (down from 23.5 cents per mile in 2014).

If you own two cars, another way to increase deductions is to include both cars in your deductions. This works because business miles driven is determined by business use. To figure business use, divide the business miles driven by the total miles driven. This strategy can result in significant deductions.

Whichever method you decide to use to take the deduction, always be sure to keep accurate records such as a mileage log and receipts. If you need assistance figuring out which method is best for your business, don’t hesitate to contact the office.

Increase Your Bottom Line When You Work At Home

The home office deduction is quite possibly one of the most difficult deductions ever to come around the block. Yet, there are so many tax advantages it becomes worth the navigational trouble. Here are a few common tips for home office deductions that can make tax season significantly less traumatic for those of you with a home office.

Try prominently displaying your home business phone number and address on business cards, have business guests sign a guest log book when they visit your office, deduct long-distance phone charges, keep a time and work activity log, retain receipts and paid invoices. Keeping these receipts makes it so much easier to determine percentages of deductions later on in the year.

Section 179 expensing for tax year 2015 allows you to immediately deduct, rather than depreciate over time, up to $25,000, with a cap of $200,000 (down from $500,000 and $2,000,000, respectively, in 2014) worth of qualified business property that you purchase during the year. The key word is “purchase”. Equipment can be new or used and includes certain software. All home office depreciable equipment meets the qualification.

Some deductions can be taken whether or not you qualify for the home office deduction itself. It’s never too early to meet with a tax professional to learn more about home office deductions. Call today to schedule a consultation.

Changing Jobs? Don’t Forget your 401(k)

One of the most important questions you face when changing job is what to do with the money in your 401(k). Making the wrong move could cost you thousands of dollars or more in taxes and lower returns.

Let’s say you put in five years at your current job. For most of those years, you’ve had the company take a set percentage of your pre-tax salary and put it into your 401(k) plan.

Now that you’re leaving, what should you do? The first rule of thumb is to leave it alone because you have 60 days to decide whether to roll it over or leave it in the account.

Resist the temptation to cash out. The worst thing an employee can do when leaving a job is to withdraw the money from their 401(k) plans and put it in his or her bank account. Here’s why:

If you decide to have your distribution paid to you, the plan administrator will withhold 20 percent of your total for federal income taxes, so if you had $100,000 in your account and you wanted to cash it out, you’re already down to $80,000.

Furthermore, if you’re younger than 59 1/2, you’ll face a 10 percent penalty for early withdrawal come tax time. Now you’re down another 10 percent from the original amount of $100,000 to $70,000.

Also, because distributions are taxed as ordinary income, at the end of the year, you’ll have to pay the difference between your tax bracket and the 20 percent already taken out. For example, if you’re in the 33 percent tax bracket, you’ll still owe 13 percent, or $13,000. This lowers the amount of your cash distribution to $57,000.

But that’s not all. You might also have to pay state and local taxes. Between taxes and penalties, you could end up with little over half of what you had saved up, short-changing your retirement savings significantly.

What are the Alternatives?

If your new job offers a retirement plan, then the easiest course of action is to roll your account into the new plan before the 60-day period ends. Referred to as a “rollover” it is relatively painless to do. The 401(k) plan administrator at your previous job should have all of the forms you need.

A word of caution: Many employers require that you work a minimum period of time (e.g. three months) before you can participate in a 401(k). If that is the case, one solution is to keep your money in your former employer’s 401(k) plan until the new one is available. Then you can roll it over into the new plan. Most plans let former employees leave their assets in the old plan for several months.

The best way to roll funds over from an old 401(k) plan to a new one is to use a direct transfer. With the direct transfer, you never receive a check, and you avoid all of the taxes and penalties mentioned above, and your savings will continue to grow tax-deferred until you retire.

60-Day Rollover Period

If you have your former employer make the distribution check out to you, the Internal Revenue Service considers this a cash distribution. The check you get will have 20 percent taken out automatically from your vested amount for federal income tax.

But don’t panic. You have 60 days to roll over the lump sum (including the 20 percent) to your new employer’s plan or into a rollover individual retirement account (IRA). Then you won’t owe the additional taxes or the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty.

Note: If you’re not happy with the fund choices your new employer offers, you might opt for a rollover IRA instead of your company’s plan. You can then choose from hundreds of funds and have more control over your money. But again, to avoid the withholding hassle, use direct rollovers.

Note: Prior to 2015, the IRS allowed a one-per-year limit on rollovers on an IRA-by-IRA basis; however, starting in 2015, the limit will apply to aggregating all of an individual’s IRAs, effectively treating them as if they were a single IRA for the purposes of applying the limit.

Leave It Alone

If your vested account balance in your 401(k) is more than $5,000, you can usually leave it with your former employer’s retirement plan. Your lump sum will keep growing tax-deferred until you retire.

However, if you can’t leave the money in your former employer’s 401(k) and your new job doesn’t have a 401(k), your best bet is a direct rollover into an IRA. The same applies if you’ve decided to go into business for yourself.

Once you turn 59 1/2, you can begin withdrawals from your 401(k) plan or IRA without penalty and your withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income.

You don’t have to start taking withdrawals from your 401(k) unless you retire after age 70 1/2. With an IRA you must begin a schedule of taxable withdrawals based on your life expectancy when you reach 70 1/2, whether you’re working or not.

Don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions about IRA rollovers.

710,000 Affordable Care Act Tax Credit Recipients Didn’t File Tax Returns

Approximately 710,000 taxpayers who received the Advanced Premium Tax Credit for buying health insurance last year have not filed their tax returns or filed for an extension.

In a letter to Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, IRS commissioner John Koskinen said the IRS is contacting the taxpayers to remind them of their obligation.

“Approximately 710,000 of the taxpayers with APTC have not yet filed a tax return and have not filed an extension, as required,” he wrote last Friday. “As one part of our post-compliance strategy, we are sending letters to taxpayers who had APTC paid on their behalf who have not yet reconciled and who did not file an extension to remind them of their obligation to file a tax return. Under regulations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, taxpayers must meet this obligation in order to maintain their eligibility for APTC to help pay for Marketplace coverage in 2016. We are urging these taxpayers to file an electronic tax return to reconcile their APTC within 30 days. We will follow up with these taxpayers as appropriate.”

In response to the letter, Hatch called on the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, J. Russell George, to examine the use of the tax credits, noting that the 710,000 people had probably received more than $2.4 billion in Advanced Premium Tax Credit payments.

In a letter to Inspector General George, Hatch reiterated his ongoing concern regarding the integrity of APTC payments and outlined his request for an examination of a large sample of individuals who received a government subsidy and failed to submit a tax return.

“A critical element in safeguarding the integrity of insurance subsidies is the reconciliation process that occurs when taxpayers file their tax returns and reconcile subsidies received versus the amount they were in fact due,” Hatch wrote Monday in a letter to George. “While it is likely that not all of these are fraudulent, because of the Marketplace’s lax integrity controls there is reason to believe that a significant portion could be.”

Hatch’s letter comes on the heels of a Senate Finance Committee hearing that included testimony from an official with the Government Accountability Office who found as part of an undercover investigation that the federal exchange approved 11 out of 12 telephone and online applications for fictitious applicants (see Fake Applicants Received Tax Credits for Health Insurance). As a result, the federal government paid $2,500 per month, or $30,000 per year, in credits for insurance policies for these fictitious individuals.

The Facts: Medical and Dental Expenses

If you, your spouse or dependents had significant medical or dental costs in 2015, you may be able to deduct those expenses when you file your tax return. Here are eight things you should know about medical and dental expenses and other benefits.

1. You must itemize. You can only claim medical expenses that you paid for in 2015, and only if you itemize on Schedule A on Form 1040. If you take the standard deduction, you can’t claim these expenses.

2. Deduction is limited. You can deduct all the qualified medical costs that you paid for during the year. However, you can only deduct the amount that is more than 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. The AGI threshold is still 7.5 percent of your AGI if you or your spouse is age 65 or older. This exception will apply through December 31, 2016.

3. Expenses must have been paid in 2015. You can include medical and dental expenses you paid during the year, regardless of when the services were provided. Be sure to save your receipts and keep good records to substantiate your expenses.

4. You can’t deduct reimbursed expenses. Your total medical expenses for the year must be reduced by any reimbursement. Costs reimbursed by insurance or other sources do not qualify for a deduction. Normally, it makes no difference if you receive the reimbursement or if it is paid directly to the doctor or hospital.

5. Whose expenses qualify. You may include qualified medical expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse and your dependents. Some exceptions and special rules apply to divorced or separated parents, taxpayers with a multiple support agreement, or those with a qualifying relative who is not your child.

6. Types of expenses that qualify. You can deduct expenses primarily paid for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease, or treatment affecting any structure or function of the body. For drugs, you can only deduct prescription medication and insulin. You can also include premiums for medical, dental and certain long-term care insurance in your expenses. And, you can also include lactation supplies.

7. Transportation costs may qualify. You may deduct transportation costs primarily for and essential to medical care that qualifies as a medical expense, including fares for a taxi, bus, train, plane or ambulance as well as tolls and parking fees. If you use your car for medical transportation, you can deduct actual out-of-pocket expenses such as gas and oil, or you can deduct the standard mileage rate for medical expenses, which is 23 cents per mile for 2015.

8. No double benefit. You can’t claim a tax deduction for medical and dental expenses you paid for with funds from your Health Savings Accounts (HAS) or Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSA). Amounts paid with funds from those plans are usually tax-free. This rule prevents two tax benefits for the same expense.

Please call if you need help figuring out what qualifies as a medical or dental expense.

Changes Affecting your 2015 Premium Tax Credit

If you have enrolled for health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace and receive advance payments of the premium tax credit in 2015, it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your Marketplace.

Advance payments of the premium tax credit provide financial assistance to help you pay for the insurance you buy through the Marketplace. Having at least some of your credit paid in advance directly to your insurance company will reduce the out-of-pocket cost of the health insurance premiums you’ll pay each month.

However, it is important to notify the Marketplace about changes in circumstances to allow the Marketplace to adjust your advance payment amount. This adjustment will decrease the likelihood of a significant difference between your advance credit payments and your actual premium tax credit. Changes in circumstances that you should report to the Marketplace include, but are not limited to:

  • An increase or decrease in your income
  • Marriage or divorce
  • The birth or adoption of a child
  • Starting a job with health insurance
  • Gaining or losing your eligibility for other health care coverage
  • Changing your residence

For the full list of changes you should report, visit HealthCare.gov or call the office. If you report changes in your income or family size to the Marketplace when they happen in 2015, the advance payments will more closely match the credit amount on your 2015 federal tax return. This will help you avoid getting a smaller refund than you expected or even owing money that you did not expect to owe.

Please contact the office if you have any questions about how the healthcare premium affects you and your taxes.