Tax Alerts
Tax Briefing(s)

In between preparing for the year-end holidays, school vacations, travel, work, and so on, tax planning should not be on the back burner. Although 2015 is quickly coming to a close, there is still time, with careful planning, to execute some last minute tax strategies. In many cases, these strategies can help minimize the tax burden. Of course, every individual’s situation is different, so please contact our office for specific details about a year-end tax planning strategy customized to you.

The new Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, signed into law by President Obama in November, makes some far-reaching changes to partnership audits along with repealing automatic enrollment in health plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The new law is a good preview of how Congress is looking to enhanced tax compliance as a revenue raiser. The tax compliance measures in the budget law, largely targeted to partnerships, are projected to generate more than $10 billion in revenue over 10 years.

Tucked into the pending highway and transportation spending bill is a provision authorizing the IRS to outsource some tax collection activities. If this sounds familiar, it is. Several times in the past 20 years, the IRS has contracted with private sector debt collection agencies for tax collection work. The results have been mixed, but as lawmakers scramble for money to pay for highway and transportation spending, the potential for significant revenue is attractive.

A business that has employees must withhold income taxes on payments to each employee. Each employee must first fill out Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, and provide it to the employer. On the form the employee can claim exemptions, such as the personal exemption or an exemption for a spouse or child, and determine the number of withholding allowances for the employee. Based on that information, the employer calculates the employee’s income tax withholding for the year.

An S corporation can own an interest in another business entity. It can also be a partner in a partnership or a member of a limited liability company (LLC). An S corporation can own 80 percent or more of the stock of a C corporation, which can elect to join in the filing of a consolidated return with its affiliated C corporations. However, an S corporation is ineligible to be a member of the affiliated group and to join in the election to file a consolidated return.

As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of December 2015.

The fate of many of the tax incentives taxpayers have grown accustomed to over recent years will likely remain up in the air until Congress and the Administration finally face off weeks before year-end 2012. While the results of Election Day will have bearing on the outcome, no crystal ball can predict how the ultimate short-term compromise will unfold. As a result, some year-end tax planning must be deferred and executed ”at the eleventh hour” only after Congress passes and the President signs what will likely result in a stopgap, temporary compromise for 2013. Tax rates for higher-bracket individuals and a long list of “extenders” provisions such as the child tax credit, the enhanced education credits and the optional deduction for state and local sales tax, hang in the balance. Real tax reform for 2014 and beyond, in any event, won’t be hammered out until 2013 is well underway.

The tax code provides for 50 percent first-year bonus depreciation for 2012. If property qualifies for bonus depreciation, the taxpayer can deduct 50 percent of the cost of the property in 2012. This can help a business bear the cost of investing in needed equipment, as well as facilitate cash flow and provide operating funds for the business. It is not too late to qualify for 50-percent bonus depreciation for 2012.

Although it is generally not considered prudent to withdraw funds from a retirement savings account until retirement, sometimes it may appear that life leaves no other option. However, borrowing from certain qualified retirement savings account rather than taking an outright distribution might prove the best solution to getting you through a difficult period. If borrowing from a 401(k) plan or other retirement savings plan becomes necessary, for example to pay emergency medical expenses or for a replacement vehicle essential to getting to work, you should be aware that there is a right way and a number of wrong ways to go about it.

Deductible investment expenses fall into three basic categories:

In recent years, the IRS has been cracking down on abuses of the tax deduction for donations to charity and contributions of used vehicles have been especially scrutinized. The charitable contribution rules, however, are far from being easy to understand. Many taxpayers genuinely are confused by the rules and unintentionally value their contributions to charity at amounts higher than appropriate.

As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of November 2012.

Hopes for a pre-election resolution to the fate of the Bush-era tax cuts, extenders and other tax incentives are quickly fading as summer approaches.  This year is increasingly looking like a replay of 2010, the last time the Bush-era tax cuts were facing imminent expiration.  The White House, the Democratic-controlled Senate and the GOP-controlled House all have different opinions on the fate of these tax incentives and negotiations, which have been few and far between, and have quickly bogged down.  One solution, which is being talked about more and more, is a temporary extension of the tax cuts.  While this would punt the issue to the next Congress, it does little to ease taxpayers’ concerns about tax planning in a climate of constant uncertainty.

As businesses weather challenging economic times, one boost can come from depreciation.  The term “depreciation” is often associated with complicated accounting and tax transactions but the fundamental concept is fairly simple. Depreciation should not be overlooked as a valuable tool.

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman unveiled his “real-time” tax system idea late in 2011. Since then, the IRS has had public meetings with stakeholders, including representatives of taxpayers, government officials, tax professional associations, and many others, to discuss moving the IRS away from its traditional “look-back” system to a “real-time” system. As explained by Shulman, the goal of a real-time system is to resolve problems with a taxpayer’s return before it is processed rather than wait until after it is processed.

A U.S. person with financial interests in or signature authority over foreign financial accounts generally must file Form TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) if, at any point during the calendar year, the aggregate value of the accounts exceeds $10,000. The FBAR form is due by June 30 of the calendar year following the calendar year being reported. Thus, FBARs for 2011 are due by June 30, 2012. An FBAR is not considered filed until it is received by the Treasury Department in Detroit, MI.

As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important, reoccurring tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of June 2012.

The just-released 2011 IRS Data Book provides statistical information on IRS examinations, collections and other activities for the most recent fiscal year ended in 2011. The 2011 Data Book statistics, when compared to the 2010 version, shows, among other things, a notable increase in the odds of being audited within several high-income categories.

Building on earlier steps to help taxpayers buffeted by the economic slowdown, the IRS recently enhanced its "Fresh Start" initiative. The IRS has announced penalty relief for unemployed individuals who cannot pay their taxes on time and has increased the threshold amount for streamlined installment agreements.

Everybody knows that tax deductions aren't allowed without proof in the form of documentation. What records are needed to "prove it" to the IRS vary depending upon the type of deduction that you may want to claim. Some documentation cannot be collected "after the fact," whether it takes place a few months after an expense is incurred or later, when you are audited by the IRS. This article reviews some of those deductions for which the IRS requires you to generate certain records either contemporaneously as the expense is being incurred, or at least no later than when you file your return. We also highlight several deductions for which contemporaneous documentation, although not strictly required, is extremely helpful in making your case before the IRS on an audit.

Sometimes in a rush to file your income tax return, you may unintentionally overlook some income that had to be reported, or a deduction that you should or should not have taken.  Now what?  The solution is usually straightforward: you should file what is called an amended return.

A disregarded entity refers to a business entity with one owner that is not recognized for tax purposes as an entity separate from its owner.  A single-member LLC ("SMLLC"), for example, is considered to be a disregarded entity. For federal and state tax purposes, the sole member of an SMLLC disregards the separate legal status of the SMLLC otherwise in force under state law.

As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of April 2012.

On February 22, President Obama signed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.  The new law extends the employee-side payroll tax holiday, giving wage earners and self-employed individuals 12 months of reduced payroll taxes in 2012.

Retired employees often start taking benefits by age 65 and, under the minimum distribution rules, must begin taking distributions from their retirement plans when they reach age 70 ½. According to Treasury, a 65-year old female has an even chance of living past age 86, while a 65-year old male has an even chance of living past age 84. The government has become concerned that taxpayers who normally retire at age 65 or even age 70 will outlive their retirement benefits.

A reduced corporate tax rate, elimination of many business tax preferences, a new minimum tax on overseas profits, and much more are all part of President Obama's recently released Framework for Business Tax Reform (the "Framework"). The much-anticipated blueprint of the administration's plans for corporate tax reform was unveiled on February 22, 2012, in Washington, D.C.

The number of tax return-related identity theft incidents has almost doubled in the past three years to well over half a million reported during 2011, according to a recent report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Identity theft in the context of tax administration generally involves the fraudulent use of someone else’s identity in order to claim a tax refund. In other cases an identity thief might steal a person’s information to obtain a job, and the thief’s employer may report income to the IRS using the legitimate taxpayer’s Social Security Number, thus making it appear that the taxpayer did not report all of his or her income.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) introduced many new requirements for individuals and employers. One of the new requirements is an employer shared responsibility assessable payment.  At this time, there is little guidance for employers other than the language of the PPACA and some requests for comments from government agencies. The IRS, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are developing guidance for employers.

As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of March 2012.

The new year brings a new tax filing season. Mid-April may seem like a long time away in January but it is important to start preparing now for filing your 2011 federal income tax return.  The IRS expects to receive and process more than 140 million returns during the 2012 filing season.  Early planning can help avoid any delays in the filing and processing of your return.

As 2012 gets underway, Congress has extended the employee-side payroll tax cut but a laundry list of tax incentives have expired and their renewal is in doubt.  The fate of these incentives, along with the Bush-era tax cuts, will dominate debate in Washington D.C. in 2012.  At the same time, tax planning in a time of uncertainty appears to have become the new normal.

Looking back over 2011, the IRS, Congress and the courts made many tax decisions impacting taxpayers of all types. Some tax developments were taxpayer-friendly; others imposed new requirements on taxpayers.  Here is a brief rundown of the top 10 federal tax developments of 2011.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), enacted in 2010, requires certain U.S. taxpayers to report their interests in specified foreign financial assets.  The reporting requirement may apply if the assets have an aggregate value exceeding certain thresholds. The IRS has released Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets, for this reporting requirement under FATCA.

Claiming a charitable deduction for a cash contribution is straightforward. The taxpayer claims the amount paid, whether by cash, check, credit card or some other method, if the proper records are maintained. For contributions of property, the rules can be more complex.

As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of January 2012.

Congress’ Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the so-called “super committee”) failed to reach an agreement by its November 23 deadline after weeks of sparring over the Bush-era tax cuts.  The Budget Control Act of 2011 created the bipartisan super committee in August and instructed it to develop proposals to reduce the federal budget deficit by November 23.  The super committee held many meetings and reportedly debated several proposals, all behind closed doors, to reform the Tax Code and entitlement programs. In the end, however, Democrats and the GOP remained far apart on taxes and entitlement programs and announced they could not agree on a final proposal.

On November 21, President Obama signed into law the 3% Withholding Repeal and Job Creation Act. The new law does much more than merely repeal withholding on government contractors. The new law enhances the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, expands the IRS’ continuous levy authority, and more.

As 2011 winds down, investors should consider several last-minute strategies to improve their bottom line tax liability. Many of these strategies follow traditional advice applicable to any year-end. Others, however, are unique to 2011, not only because of the continuing impact of the economy but also because of major tax changes that are threatening for 2013, which is just a little more than a year away.

The term "sick pay" can refer to a variety of payments. Some of these payments are nontaxable, while others are treated as taxable income. Some of the taxable payments are treated as compensation, subject to income tax withholding and employment taxes; others are exempt from some employment taxes. 

Depreciation is a reasonable allowance for wear and tear on property used in a trade or business or for the production of income. Property is depreciable if it has a useful life greater than one year and depreciates in value. Property that appreciates in value may also  depreciate if subject to wear and tear. Depreciation ends in the tax year that the asset is retired from service (by sale, exchange, abandonment or destruction) or that the asset is fully depreciated.

As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of December 2011.

The IRS recently announced that inflation is increasing many dollar amounts in the Tax Code for 2012.  For taxpayers, the inflation adjustments may help reduce their overall tax liability in 2012.

In light of the IRS’s new Voluntary Worker Classification Settlement Program (VCSP), which it announced this fall, the distinction between independent contractors and employees has become a “hot issue” for many businesses. The IRS has devoted considerable effort to rectifying worker misclassification in the past, and continues the trend with this new program.  It is available to employers that have misclassified employees as independent contractors and wish to voluntarily rectify the situation before the IRS or Department of Labor initiates an examination.

Charitable contributions traditionally peak at the end of the year-end. While tax savings may not be your prime motivator for making a gift to charity, your donation could help your tax bottom-line for 2015. As with many tax incentives, the rules for tax-deductible charitable contributions are complex, especially the rules for substantiating your donation. Also important to keep in mind are some enhanced charitable giving incentives scheduled to expire at the end of 2015.

Under a flexible spending arrangement (FSA), an amount is credited to an account that is used to reimburse an employee, generally, for health care or dependent care expenses. The employer must maintain the FSA. Amounts may be contributed to the account under an employee salary reduction agreement or through employer contributions.

Job-hunting expenses are generally deductible as long as you are not searching for a job in a new field. This tax benefit can be particularly useful in a tough job market. It does not matter whether your job hunt is successful, or whether you are employed or unemployed when you are looking.

The monthly compliance calendar for November 2011.

As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of September 2011.

Taxpayers can request a copy of their federal income tax return and all attachments from the IRS.  In lieu of a copy of your return (and to save the fee that the IRS charges for a copy of your tax return), you can request a tax transcript from the IRS at no charge. A tax transcript is a computer print-out of your return information.

Adoptive parents may be eligible for federal tax incentives. The Tax Code includes an adoption tax credit to help defray the costs of an adoption.  Recent changes to the adoption tax credit make it very valuable.

The start of the school year is a good time to consider the variety of tax benefits available for education. Congress has been generous in providing education benefits in the form of credits, deductions and exclusions from income. The following list describes the most often used of these benefits.

Congress has returned to work after its August recess under a tight deadline to reduce the federal budget deficit and also, possibly, extend some expiring tax incentives.  Between now and the end of the year, Congress could enact significant tax reform in a deficit reduction package; or it may take a piecemeal approach. All this Congressional activity contributes to uncertainty in tax planning.