MEDIA/PRESS

TAX TALK: The Chances of IRS Audits are Down But You Should Still be Prepared

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

The IRS just released its audit statistics for the 2018 fiscal year, and fewer taxpayers had their returns examined as compared with prior years. However, even though a small percentage of tax returns are being chosen for audit these days that will be little consolation if yours is one of them.

Latest Statistics

Overall, just 0.59% of individual tax returns were audited in 2018, as compared with 0.62% in 2017. This was the lowest percentage of audits conducted since 2002.

However, as in the past, those with very high incomes face greater odds. For example, in 2018, 2.21% of taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) of between $1 million and $5 million were audited (down from 3.52% in 2017).

The richest taxpayers, those with AGIs of $10 million and more, experienced a steep decline in audits. In 2018, 6.66% of their returns were audited, compared with 14.52% in 2017.

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Topics: TAX TALK

TAX TALK: Hire Your Children This Summer: Everyone Wins

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on May 28, 2019 9:20:00 AM

If you’re a business owner and you hire your children (or grandchildren) this summer, you can obtain tax breaks and other nontax benefits. The kids can gain on-the-job experience, save for college and learn how to manage money. And you may be able to:

  • Shift your high-taxed income into tax-free or low-taxed income,
  • Realize payroll tax savings (depending on the child’s age and how your business is organized), and
  • Enable retirement plan contributions for the children.

It Must Be a Real Job

When you hire your child, you get a business tax deduction for employee wage expenses. In turn, the deduction reduces your federal income tax bill, your self-employment tax bill (if applicable), and your state income tax bill (if applicable). However, in order for your business to deduct the wages as a business expense, the work performed by the child must be legitimate and the child’s salary must be reasonable.

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Topics: TAX TALK

TAX TALK: Tax Considerations When Selling Your Home

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

Spring and summer are the optimum seasons for selling a home. And interest rates are currently attractive, so buyers may be out in full force in your area. Freddie Mac reports that the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 4.14% during the week of May 2, 2019, while the 15-year mortgage rate was 3.6%. This is down 0.41 and 0.43%, respectively, from a year earlier.

But before you contact a realtor to sell your home, you should review the tax considerations.

Sellers Can Exclude Some Gain

If you’re selling your principal residence, and you meet certain requirements, you can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) of gain. Gain that qualifies for the exclusion is also excluded from the 3.8% net investment income tax.

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Topics: TAX TALK

TAX TALK: Plug into Tax Savings for Electric Vehicles

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on May 6, 2019 9:17:00 AM

While the number of plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) is still small compared with other cars on the road, it’s growing — especially in certain parts of the country. If you’re interested in purchasing an electric or hybrid vehicle, you may be eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. (Depending on where you live, there may also be state tax breaks and other incentives.)

However, the federal tax credit is subject to a complex phaseout rule that may reduce or eliminate the tax break based on how many sales are made by a given manufacturer. The vehicles of two manufacturers have already begun to be phased out, which means they now qualify for only a partial tax credit.

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Topics: TAX TALK

T&E TALK: Single Parent? Estate Planning Requires Special Considerations

Posted by Scott T. Ditman, CPA/PFS on May 6, 2019 7:00:00 AM

Here’s a fast fact: The percentage of U.S. children who live with an unmarried parent has jumped from 13% in 1968 to 32% in 2017, according to Pew Research Center’s most recent poll.

While estate planning for single parents is similar to estate planning for families with two parents, when only one parent is involved, certain aspects demand your special attention.

5 Important Questions

Of course, parents want to provide for their children’s care and financial needs after they’re gone. If you’re a single parent, here are five questions you should ask:

  1. Have I selected an appropriate guardian? If the other parent is unavailable to take custody of your children should you become incapacitated or unexpectedly die, your estate plan must designate a suitable, willing guardian to care for them.
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Topics: TAX TALK

TAX TALK: Entrepreneurs: How to Treat Expenses on your Tax Returns

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

Have you recently started a new business? Or are you contemplating starting one? Launching a new venture is a hectic, exciting time. And as you know, before you even open the doors, you generally have to spend a lot of money. You may have to train workers and pay for rent, utilities, marketing and more.

Entrepreneurs are often unaware that many expenses incurred by start-ups can’t be deducted right away. You should be aware that the way you handle some of your initial expenses can make a large difference in your tax bill.

Key Points on How Expenses are Handled

When starting or planning a new enterprise, keep these factors in mind:

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Topics: TAX TALK

TAX TALK: Three Questions to Consider after You’ve Filed Your Return

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on Apr 23, 2019 9:55:00 AM

Once your 2018 tax return has been successfully filed with the IRS, you may still have some questions. Here are brief answers to three questions that we’re frequently asked at this time of year.

Question #1: What tax records can I throw away now?

At a minimum, keep tax records related to your return for as long as the IRS can audit your return or assess additional taxes. In general, the statute of limitations is three years after you file your return. So you can generally get rid of most records related to tax returns for 2015 and earlier years. (If you filed an extension for your 2015 return, hold on to your records until at least three years from when you filed the extended return.)

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Topics: TAX TALK

TAX TALK: Seniors: Medicare Premiums Could Lower Your Tax Bill

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on Apr 15, 2019 9:20:00 AM

Americans who are 65 and older qualify for basic Medicare insurance, and they may need to pay additional premiums to get the level of coverage they desire. The premiums can be expensive, especially if you’re married and both you and your spouse are paying them. But one aspect of paying premiums might be positive: If you qualify, they may help lower your tax bill.

Medicare Premium Tax Deductions

Premiums for Medicare health insurance can be combined with other qualifying health care expenses for purposes of claiming an itemized deduction for medical expenses on your individual tax return. This includes amounts for “Medigap” insurance and Medicare Advantage plans. Some people buy Medigap policies because Medicare Parts A and B don’t cover all their health care expenses. Coverage gaps include co-payments, co-insurance, deductibles and other costs. Medigap is private supplemental insurance that’s intended to cover some or all gaps.

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Topics: TAX TALK

TAX TALK: Make a Deductible IRA Contribution for 2018. It’s Not Too Late!

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

Do you want to save more for retirement on a tax-favored basis? If so, and if you qualify, you can make a deductible traditional IRA contribution for the 2018 tax year between now and the tax filing deadline and claim the write-off on your 2018 return. Or you can contribute to a Roth IRA and avoid paying taxes on future withdrawals.

You can potentially make a contribution of up to $5,500 (or $6,500 if you were age 50 or older as of December 31, 2018). If you’re married, your spouse can potentially do the same, thereby doubling your tax benefits.

The deadline for 2018 traditional and Roth contributions for most taxpayers is April 15, 2019 (April 17 for those in Maine and Massachusetts).

There are some ground rules. You must have enough 2018 earned income (from jobs, self-employment or alimony) to equal or exceed your IRA contributions for the tax year. If you’re married, either spouse can provide the necessary earned income. And you can’t make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA if you were 70½ or older as of December 31, 2018. (But you can make one to a Roth IRA after that age.)

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Topics: TAX TALK

TAX TALK: Still Working at 70½? You May Not Have to Begin 401(k) Withdrawals

Posted by Hal Zemel, CPA, J.D., LL.M. on Apr 1, 2019 9:20:00 AM

If you participate in a qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k), you must generally begin taking required withdrawals from the plan no later than April 1 of the year after which you turn age 70½. However, there’s an exception that applies to certain plan participants who are still working for the entire year in which they turn 70½.

The Basics of RMDs

Required minimum distributions (RMDs) are the amounts you’re legally required to withdraw from your qualified retirement plans and traditional IRAs after reaching age 70½. Essentially, the tax law requires you to tap into your retirement assets — and begin paying taxes on them — whether you want to or not.

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Topics: TAX TALK

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