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Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M.

Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M.
Hal Zemel, a Tax Principal at Berdon LLP, has more than 20 years in public accounting and advises businesses in the real estate, service, and manufacturing sectors.
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TAX TALK: 2019 Q4 Tax Deadlines for Businesses and Other Employers

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on Sep 16, 2019 9:20:00 AM

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the fourth quarter of 2019. 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.

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TAX TALK: Next Estimated Tax Deadline is 9.16: Do You Have to Make a Payment?

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on Sep 9, 2019 9:20:00 AM

If you’re self-employed and don’t have withholding from paychecks, you probably have to make estimated tax payments. These payments must be sent to the IRS on a quarterly basis. The third 2019 estimated tax payment deadline for individuals is Monday, September 16. Even if you do have some withholding from paychecks or payments you receive, you may still have to make estimated payments if you receive other types of income such as Social Security, prizes, rent, interest, and dividends.

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TAX TALK: Expenses That Teachers Can and Can’t Deduct

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on Sep 3, 2019 9:20:00 AM

As teachers head back for a new school year, they often pay for various expenses for which they don’t receive reimbursement. Fortunately, they may be able to deduct them on their tax returns. However, there are limits on this special deduction, and some expenses can’t be written off.

For 2019, qualifying educators can deduct some of their unreimbursed out-of-pocket classroom costs under the educator expense deduction. This is an “above-the-line” deduction, which means you don’t have to itemize your deductions in order to claim it.

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TAX TALK: Taking Distributions from a Traditional IRA

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on Aug 26, 2019 9:20:00 AM

If you’ve worked hard to accumulate a large nest egg in your traditional IRA (including a SEP-IRA), it is critical to carefully plan for withdrawals from these retirement-savings vehicles. Knowing the fine points of the IRA distribution rules can make a significant difference in how much you and your family will get to keep after taxes. Here are three IRA areas to understand:

Taking Early Distributions. If you need to take money out of your traditional IRA before age 59½, any distribution to you will be generally taxable (unless nondeductible contributions were made, in which case part of each payout will be tax-free). In addition, distributions before age 59½ may be subject to a 10% penalty tax.

However, there are several ways that the penalty tax (but not the regular income tax) can be avoided. These exceptions include paying for unreimbursed medical expenses, paying for qualified educational expenses and buying a first home (up to $10,000).

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TAX TALK: Tax implications of Gambling Winnings

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on Aug 19, 2019 9:20:00 AM

If you’re lucky enough to be a winner at gambling or the lottery, congratulations! After you celebrate, be ready to deal with the tax consequences of your good fortune.

Winnings are Taxable Income

Whether you win at the casino, a bingo hall, or elsewhere, you must report 100% of your winnings as taxable income. They’re reported on the “Other income” line on Schedule 1 of your 1040 tax return. To measure your winnings on a particular wager, use the net gain. For example, if a $30 bet at the race track turns into a $110 win, you’ve won $80, not $110.

You must separately keep track of losses. They’re deductible, but only as itemized deductions. Therefore, if you don’t itemize and take the standard deduction, you can’t deduct gambling losses. In addition, gambling losses are only deductible up to the amount of gambling winnings. So you can use losses to “wipe out” gambling income but you can’t show a gambling tax loss.

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TAX TALK: Kiddie Tax Hurting Families More than Ever

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on Aug 12, 2019 9:20:00 AM

Years ago, Congress enacted the “kiddie tax” rules to prevent parents and grandparents in high tax brackets from shifting income (especially from investments) to children in lower tax brackets. And while the tax caused some families pain in the past, it has gotten worse today. That’s because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) made changes to the kiddie tax by revising the tax rate structure.

History of the Tax

The kiddie tax used to apply only to children under age 14 — which provided families with plenty of opportunity to enjoy significant tax savings from income shifting. In 2006, the tax was expanded to children under age 18. And since 2008, the kiddie tax has generally applied to children under age 19 and to full-time students under age 24 (unless the students provide more than half of their own support from earned income).

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TAX TALK: The Nanny Tax Covers More Than Just Nannies

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on Aug 5, 2019 9:20:00 AM

You may have heard of the “nanny tax.” But even if you don’t employ a nanny, it may apply to you. Hiring a housekeeper, gardener, or other household employee (who isn’t an independent contractor) may make you liable for federal income and other taxes. You may also have state tax obligations.

If you employ a household worker, you aren’t required to withhold federal income taxes from pay. But you may choose to withhold if the worker requests it. In that case, ask the worker to fill out a Form W-4. However, you may be required to withhold Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes and to pay federal unemployment (FUTA) tax.

FICA and FUTA Tax

In 2019, you must withhold and pay FICA taxes if your household worker earns cash wages of $2,100 or more (excluding the value of food and lodging). If you reach the threshold, all the wages (not just the excess) are subject to FICA.

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TAX TALK: Now May be the Time to Buy Business Equipment and Other Depreciable Property

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on Jul 29, 2019 9:20:00 AM

There’s good news about the Section 179 depreciation deduction for business property. The election has long provided a tax windfall to businesses, enabling them to claim immediate deductions for qualified assets, instead of taking depreciation deductions over time. And it was increased and expanded by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

Even better, the Sec. 179 deduction isn’t the only avenue for immediate tax write-offs for qualified assets. Under the 100% bonus depreciation tax break provided by the TCJA, the entire cost of eligible assets placed in service in 2019 can be written off this year.

Sec. 179 Basics

The Sec. 179 deduction applies to tangible personal property such as machinery and equipment purchased for use in a trade or business, and, if the taxpayer elects, qualified real property. It’s generally available on a tax year basis and is subject to a dollar limit.

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TAX TALK: If You Volunteer for Charity You May Get a Tax Break

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on Jul 22, 2019 9:20:00 AM

If you’re a volunteer who works for charity, you may be entitled to some tax breaks if you itemize deductions on your tax return. Unfortunately, they may not amount to as much as you think your generosity is worth.

Because donations to charity of cash or property generally are tax deductible for itemizers, it may seem like donations of something more valuable for many people — their time — would also be deductible. However, no tax deduction is allowed for the value of time you spend volunteering or the services you perform for a charitable organization.

It doesn’t matter if the services you provide require significant skills and experience, such as construction, which a charity would have to pay dearly for if it went out and obtained itself. You still don’t get to deduct the value of your time.

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TAX TALK: You May have to Pay Tax on Social Security Benefits

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on Jul 8, 2019 9:20:00 AM

During your working days, you pay Social Security tax in the form of withholding from your salary or self-employment tax. And when you start receiving Social Security benefits, you may be surprised to learn that some of the payments may be taxed.

If you’re getting close to retirement age, you may be wondering if your benefits are going to be taxed. And if so, how much will you have to pay? The answer depends on your other income. If you are taxed, between 50% and 85% of your payments will be hit with federal income tax. (There could also be state tax.)

Important: This doesn’t mean you pay 50% to 85% of your benefits back to the government in taxes. It means that you have to include 50% to 85% of them in your income subject to your regular tax rates.

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