Tag Archives: tax planning

Effective Tax Planning Starts Now!

With summertime activities in full swing, tax planning is probably not on the top of your to-do list. But putting it off creates a problem at the end of the year when there’s little time for changes to take effect. If you take the time to plan now, you’ll have six months for your actions to make a difference on your 2019 tax return. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Know your upcoming tax breaks. Pull out your 2018 tax return and take a look at your income, deductions and credits. Ask yourself whether all these breaks will be available again this year. For example:

  • Are you expecting more income that will bump you to a higher tax rate?
  • Will increased income cause a benefit to phase out?
  • Will any of your children outgrow a tax credit?

Any changes to your tax situation will make planning now much more important.

Make tax-wise investment decisions. Have some loser stocks you were hoping would rebound? If the prospects for revival aren’t great, and you’ve owned them for less than one year (short-term), selling them now before they change to long-term stocks can offset up to $3,000 in ordinary income this year. Conversely, appreciated stocks held longer than one year may be candidates for potential charitable contributions or possible choices to optimize your taxes with proper planning.

Adjust your retirement plan contributions. Are you still making contributions based on last year’s limits? Maximum savings amounts increase for retirement plans in 2019. You can contribute up to $13,000 to a SIMPLE IRA, up to $19,000 to a 401(k) and up to $6,000 to a traditional or Roth IRA. Remember to add catch-up contributions if you’ll be 50 by the end of December!

Plan for upcoming college expenses. With the school year around the corner, understanding the various tax breaks for college expenses before you start doling out your cash for post-secondary education will ensure the maximum tax savings. There are two tax credits available, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit. Plus there are tax benefits for student loan interest and Coverdell Savings accounts. Add 529 college savings plans, and you quickly realize an educational tax strategy is best established early in the year.

Add some business to your summer vacation. If you own a business, you might be able to deduct some of your travel expenses as a business expense. To qualify, the primary reason for your trip must be business-related. Keep detailed records of where and when you work, plus get receipts for all ordinary and necessary expenses!

Great tax planning is a year-round process, but it’s especially effective at midyear. Making time now not only helps reduce your taxes, it puts you in control of your entire financial situation.

Tax Planning Time

Now is the ideal time to schedule a tax planning session. Your 2017 tax return outcome is still fresh, and it’s early enough in the year to take advantage of the numerous tax law changes taking place in 2018. Here’s a brief overview of some of the new tax issues that you need to plan for now.

Income – Tax rates for both individuals and small businesses have changed substantially. Income tax deductions have also changed drastically, including a nearly doubling of the standard deduction and elimination of personal exemptions and miscellaneous itemized deductions.

It’s important to review your income tax withholding schedule to see where you fall in the new income tax bracket structure. Small adjustments here could save you hundreds.

Bunching – Because of the changes to the deductions structure, using itemized deductions may now require bunching two or even three years of expenses into one tax year. Things like donations to charity and medical expenses that you may have spread across several years are now better bunched into a single year to maximize your tax savings.

If you typically take care of medical expenses or charitable donations at a regular time every year, hold off this year until you have a new tax-efficient plan.

SALT (State and local taxes) – There’s now a $10,000 combined total cap on deductions of state and local income, sales and property taxes, which is going to impact a lot of people, especially in high-tax states. This may be a big factor to account for if you’ve relied on this deduction in the past.

Get an analysis done to see how much larger your tax bill is going to be because of the cap on SALT taxes. There may not be much you can do about it, other than changing where you live and own property, but you’ll need to have a clear picture of how it will impact your tax return in 2018.

Mortgage interest changes – There are several new rules changing how mortgage interest is deducted. You can no longer deduct the interest on mortgage indebtedness greater than $750,000. And you can no longer deduct interest on mortgage indebtedness that wasn’t spent directly on buying, building or substantially improving your home.

If you have previously claimed a home equity loan interest deduction, you’ll need to review how this will affect your itemized deductions.

These are just a few examples of things that you’ll need to review in the wake of the largest tax law change in more than 30 years. Take some time this summer to make sure you have a plan in place.

Seven Ideas to Create a Satisfying Retirement

You’ve done your retirement homework. Your assets are reviewed, you have planned your financial needs, and your retirement tax plan is in place. Are you ready to enjoy retirement? Probably, but not without a plan to address what happens to many people after they retire – boredom.

Here are some ideas to make sure your retirement is everything it should be:

Go to school – Many colleges and communities offer classes for retired students. Pick topics of interest and take advantage of this cost effective way to stay alert through learning. Many classes can have built in activities. Examples could be local history classes with field trips, photography classes, writing, and gardening. As an added benefit, you will meet others with your shared interest while you continue learning.

Pick up part-time work – If you are outgoing, why not pick up a few hours at a local retail establishment?

Volunteer – Many retirees volunteer at libraries, museums, and parks. Others volunteer at their local church, deliver meals, and help young people with literacy. The possibilities are endless.

Schedule physical activity – Staying physically active will keep your body and mind in shape. Create a weekly routine that keeps you moving. Volunteer to take the grand kids to swimming lessons while their parents are working. Bike or walk to do everyday chores.

Look for combinations – With a little creativity you can combine some of these ideas. For example, if you coached your kids in soccer why not consider refereeing kids’ games? You might earn a little pay, stay connected with kids, and get some physical activity.

Get Connected – When you retire, many of your social connections will change. This is especially true for work connections and availability of friends that are still working. Look for other ways to make new connections. Use some of the ideas here to actively get connected with others that share your interests.

Blend in your dreams – If you’ve always dreamed of moving to a new place in retirement, you may want to test-drive it first. A dream move may turn out to be different than you anticipated. You may miss your kids and friends. Services and connections you take for granted may become a problem. By renting a place and staying in the new location prior to committing, you will be prepared with a fall back if it does not work.

Year-End Tax Planning Ideas – Part 2

As the end of the year approaches, it is a good time to think of planning moves that will help lower your tax bill for this year and possibly the next.  We have compiled a checklist of actions that may help you save tax dollars if you act before year-end. Not all actions will apply in your particular situation, but you (or a family member) will likely benefit from many of them.

Below is part two of a two-part series – this second is aimed at ideas for businesses.

Year-End Tax-Planning Moves for Businesses & Business Owners

Businesses should consider making expenditures that qualify for the business property expensing option. For tax years beginning in 2016, the expensing limit is $500,000 and the investment ceiling limit is $2,010,000. Expensing is generally available for most depreciable property (other than buildings), off-the-shelf computer software, and qualified real property—qualified leasehold improvement property, qualified restaurant property, and qualified retail improvement property. The generous dollar ceilings that apply this year mean that many small and medium sized businesses that make purchases before the end of 2016 will be able to currently deduct most if not all their outlays for machinery and equipment. What’s more, the expensing deduction is not prorated for the time that the asset is in service during the year. This opens up significant year-end planning opportunities.

Businesses also should consider making expenditures that qualify for 50% bonus first year depreciation if bought and placed in service this year. The bonus depreciation deduction is permitted without any proration based on the length of time that an asset is in service during the tax year. As a result, the full 50% first-year bonus write-off is available even if qualifying assets are in service for only a few days in 2016.

  • Businesses may be able to take advantage of the “de minimis safe harbor election” (also known as the book-tax conformity election) to expense the costs of lower-cost assets and materials and supplies, assuming the costs don’t have to be capitalized under the Code Sec. 263A uniform capitalization (UNICAP) rules. To qualify for the election, the cost of a unit of property can’t exceed $2,500.
  • A corporation should consider accelerating income from 2017 to 2016 if it will be in a higher bracket next year. Conversely, it should consider deferring income until 2017 if it will be in a higher bracket this year.
  • A corporation (other than a “large” corporation) that anticipates a small net operating loss (NOL) for 2016 (and substantial net income in 2017) may find it worthwhile to accelerate just enough of its 2017 income (or to defer just enough of its 2016 deductions) to create a small amount of net income for 2016. This will permit the corporation to base its 2017 estimated tax installments on the relatively small amount of income shown on its 2016 return, rather than having to pay estimated taxes based on 100% of its much larger 2017 taxable income.
  • To reduce 2016 taxable income, consider deferring a debt-cancellation event until 2017.
  • To reduce 2016 taxable income, consider disposing of a passive activity in 2016 if doing so will allow you to deduct suspended passive activity losses.
  • If you own an interest in a partnership or S corporation, consider whether you need to increase your basis in the entity so you can deduct a loss from it for this year.

Year-End Tax Planning Ideas – Part 1

As the end of the year approaches, it is a good time to think of planning moves that will help lower your tax bill for this year and possibly the next.  We have compiled a checklist of actions that may help you save tax dollars if you act before year-end. Not all actions will apply in your particular situation, but you (or a family member) will likely benefit from many of them.

Below is part one of a two-part series – this first is aimed at ideas for individuals.

Year-End Tax Planning Moves for Individuals

  • Realize losses on stock while substantially preserving your investment position. There are several ways this can be done. For example, you can sell the original holding, and then buy back the same securities at least 31 days later.
  • Postpone income until 2017 and accelerate deductions into 2016 to lower your 2016 tax bill. This strategy may enable you to claim larger deductions, credits, and other tax breaks for 2016 that are phased out over varying levels of adjusted gross income (AGI). These include child tax credits, higher education tax credits, and deductions for student loan interest. Postponing income also is desirable for those taxpayers who anticipate being in a lower tax bracket next year due to changed financial circumstances. Note, however, that in some cases, it may pay to actually accelerate income into 2016. For example, this may be the case where a person’s marginal tax rate is much lower this year than it will be next year or where lower income in 2017 will result in a higher 2017 tax credit for an individual who plans to purchase health insurance on a health exchange and is eligible for a premium assistance credit.
  • It may be advantageous to try to arrange with your employer to defer, until early 2017, a bonus that may be coming your way.
  • Consider using a credit card to pay deductible expenses before the end of the year. Doing so will increase your 2016 deductions even if you don’t pay your credit card bill until after the end of the year.
  • If you expect to owe state and local income taxes when you file your return next year, consider asking your employer to increase withholding of state and local taxes (or pay estimated tax payments of state and local taxes) before year-end to pull the deduction of those taxes into 2016 if you won’t be subject to alternative minimum tax (AMT) in 2016.
  • Estimate the effect of any year-end planning moves on the AMT for 2016, keeping in mind that many tax breaks allowed for purposes of calculating regular taxes are disallowed for AMT purposes. These include the deduction for state and local property taxes on your residence, state income taxes, miscellaneous itemized deductions, and personal exemption deductions. Other deductions, such as for medical expenses of a taxpayer who is at least age 65 or whose spouse is at least 65 as of the close of the tax year, are calculated in a more restrictive way for AMT purposes than for regular tax purposes. If you are subject to the AMT for 2016, or suspect you might be, these types of deductions should not be accelerated.
  • You may be able to save taxes this year and next by applying a bunching strategy to “miscellaneous” itemized deductions, medical expenses and other itemized deductions.
  • Increase the amount you set aside for next year in your employer’s health flexible spending account (FSA) if you set aside too little for this year.
  • If you become eligible in or before December of 2016 to make health savings account (HSA) contributions, you can make a full year’s worth of deductible HSA contributions for 2016.
  • Consider increasing charitable deductions by the end of the year.
  • If you are thinking of installing energy saving improvements to your home, such as certain high-efficiency insulation materials, do so before the close of 2016. You may qualify for a “nonbusiness energy property credit” that won’t be available after this year, unless Congress reinstates it.
  • Make gifts sheltered by the annual gift tax exclusion before the end of the year and thereby save gift and/or estate taxes. The exclusion applies to gifts of up to $14,000 made in 2016 and 2017 to each of an unlimited number of individuals. You can’t carry over unused exclusions from one year to the next. The transfers also may save family income taxes where income-earning property is given to family members in lower income tax brackets who are not subject to the kiddie tax.
  • Maximize retirement deferrals such as 401K, Simple Plan, catch-up contributions if you are over 50, DB plan, etc.

Tis the Season…for Review

As 2016 winds to a close, there are a number of tasks that should be reviewed. To help you plan accordingly, here are some things to consider.

Employee benefits – Most employer benefit plans have enrollment periods that coincide with the calendar. Please review your benefit options with your employer and make any necessary changes. Common areas of review include employer-provided health insurance, dental benefits, childcare benefits, Health Spending Account contributions, Flex Spending Account contributions, disability insurance and employer retirement account contributions.

Beneficiary review – Make it a practice to review beneficiary assignments on all your key accounts. This is especially important for your retirement accounts as the beneficiary assignment within the account can supersede a will.

Retirement plan contributions – Review and adjust your contributions to your retirement plans. At minimum, try to contribute enough to take advantage of any employer matching funds in your work sponsored plan.

Insurance review – Consider an annual review of your insurance policies. This includes health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, home insurance and potential umbrella policies. Are the beneficiaries up to date? Are you happy with the coverage?

Automatic billing – Review your checking account’s automated billing transactions. This is a good time to identify what automatic monthly expenses should be reviewed, reduced or eliminated. You may also discover billing for services you thought were cancelled.

Withholdings – Sometime in December or early January you may wish to review your payroll withholdings. Many of us do this after our tax return is filed. However, if you file close to April 15th, you are losing four plus months of proper withholdings.

Develop your own list – The review suggestions mentioned here impact most of us. However, everyone’s situation is not the same. Use this time to develop a list of your own annual review items. It might include reviewing College Savings Accounts or having an annual sit down to go through an aging parent’s financial accounts.

Cut Your Tax Season Stress in Half

Make things easier on yourself with a few quick steps you can take now to help cut down on tax season stress.  Here are a few suggestions:

Plan to organize early.  Set aside a folder to collect what you’ll need:

  • W-2’s from your employer
  • 1099’s for other income earned
  • Bank and other financial statements
  • Receipts for things like medical bills and charitable donations
  • Childcare information and your dependents’ income
  • If you’ve refinanced or bought a new home – we need those docs, too!

A tax meeting is not necessary if there have been no major changes within the last year.  However, if you feel you do need a tax meeting, please contact our office early to schedule an appointment.  My schedule fills up fast!

A Little Planning Now – A Lot of Savings Later

“I have lots of time to prepare before tax season is here” – is that what you’re thinking? True, you don’t need to worry about your tax prep just yet. However, now is the perfect time to begin planning so you can take advantage of all the opportunities to minimize the taxes you will owe. That starts with making sure you’ve taken ALL the deductions that can help reduce your taxable income.

For example:

• Have you maxed out your retirement plan contributions?
• Have you set aside money for 529 college savings plans or health savings accounts?
• Have you considered which charitable donations you want to make before year’s end?

These are only a few of the several ways you can lower the income you report this upcoming tax season.