Tag: tax planning

Form W-4: What Changed and Why it Matters

Form W-4 was revised after the 2017 Tax Reform Act. Here’s what you need to know to complete it accurately.

Form W-4 is completed by employees to advise their employers of the amount of federal income tax to withhold from their paycheck. Your employer will then remit the money withheld to the IRS along with your name and social security number. The tax withheld will be applied against your total income tax liability when you file your tax return in April.Form W-4: What Changed and Why it Matters

In the past this has been a relatively simple and straightforward form to complete. However, the Form W-4 has been changed as a result of the passing of the TCJA back in late 2017.

Revised W-4 adds more detail

The major factor here is that the passing of the TCJA has gotten rid of all personal and dependent exemptions which affects the necessary and required amount of tax that needs to be withheld from your paycheck.

The revised Form W-4 issued by the IRS was intended to assist employees in making a more accurate determination of their income tax withholding needs based on the tax law changes. This new form is more detailed and includes various sections of specific withholding related information to help guide employees in accurately calculating the proper withholding amount.

Page one of this form includes questions relating to the various sources of income you may have, dependents you can claim, and other income affecting adjustments. Step One involves providing general personal information as seen on the previous form. You will list your name, address, social security number, and filing status. The following steps two through four should only be completed if they apply to you.

Form W-4 Step One
Step Two is for persons who work multiple jobs and have working spouses. There are three different methods to accurately calculate what the proper withholding should be based on your situation. You will need to calculate the correct amount of withholding based on the income earned from all jobs.

Form W-4 Step Two
Step three accounts for certain tax credits associated with claiming dependents. Step four allows you to use your discretion to make any other adjustments to your withholding based on other income, deductions, and extra withholding that you may need to consider.

Form W-4 Step ThreeThese form changes have been implemented as a response to the withholding issues that arose during the first year of the new tax law changes.

We’ve got your back

Tax season is getting underway. Are you ready? Trust KRS CPAs to help you with your tax strategy and preparation. Contact me at [email protected]cpas.com or 201.655.7411 to learn more.

Sources:

https://www.cicplus.com/w-4-changes-for-2020/
https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-dft/fw4–dft.pdf
https://www.staffone.com/resources/w-4-forms/

Determining Basis of a Principal Residence

Selling your home? Understand ‘basis’ to save tax dollars.

Determining Basis of a Principal Residence
You are probably aware you may be able to claim itemized deductions on your income tax return for real estate taxes and home mortgage interest. Most other home ownership costs are not currently deductible. However, many of these costs will increase your “basis” in the home.

For instance, if part of the home qualifies as a home office or if you rent out a portion of the house, a higher basis translates into a larger annual depreciation deduction. A higher basis can also save tax dollars when you sell the home.

Gain Exclusion

The tax law allows an exclusion from income for the part of the gain realized on the sale of one’s home. The exclusion is $250,000 for single and $500,000 for most married taxpayers.

Some practitioners feel the amount of the exclusion makes keeping track of the basis in the home relatively unimportant. I disagree, as more homes are being sold for greater than $500,000, and more are being sold for gains approaching that amount.

Costs That Are Basis and Additions to Basis

To be able to prove the amount of your basis, you must keep accurate records of your purchase price, closing costs and other purchase expenses, and any later expenses that increase your basis.

Save receipts and other records for all improvements and additions made to your home. Since this is likely to continue for a long period, you should keep these documents together in a folder or binder with a summary list from which you can easily determine your basis at any time. When you eventually sell your home, your basis will establish the amount of your gain. The supporting documentation should be kept for at least three years after you file your return for the sale year.

The principal element in the basis of your home is its purchase price. If you contract to have your house built on land you own, the basis is the cost of the land plus the amount it cost you to complete the house. This includes the cost of labor and materials, or the amounts paid to the contractor, and any architect’s fees, building permit charges, utility meter and connection charges, and legal fees directly connected with building the home.

If you build all or part of the house yourself, basis includes the total amount it cost you to complete it. Basis will not include the value of your own labor, or any labor you didn’t pay for.

Costs That Don’t Add to Basis

Amounts spent on the home that do not add to either the value of the life of the property, but rather keep the property in good condition, are considered repairs, not improvements, and cannot be added to the basis of the property. Repairs include:

  • interior or exterior repainting,
  • fixing gutters or floors,
  • repairing leaks or plastering, and
  • replacing broken window panes.

However, an entire job is considered an improvement if items that would otherwise be considered repairs are done as part of extensive remodeling or restoration of the home.

The cost of appliances purchased for the home generally don’t add to basis unless the appliance is considered attached to the house. Thus, the cost of a built-in oven or range would increase basis. However, an appliance that can easily be removed, such as a television set or home entertainment center, would not.

Need Help Determining Your Home’s Tax Basis?

Put the Real Estate Tax Guy on your team. For additional information on the basis of your home, contact me at [email protected] or (201) 655-7411.

Adjusting Your Income Tax Withholding

Adjusting Your Income Tax WithholdingWhen should you revise your tax withholding?

If you receive a large refund from the IRS when filing your income tax return, or owe the IRS a substantial amount when filing, you should consider adjusting your income tax withholding.

Your income tax withholding is based on the number of allowances you claim on your Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. This form is typically filled out when you first start a job with your employer. This determines the amount of income tax that comes out of your paycheck each pay period.

If your withholding is too high, you are, in effect, giving the IRS an interest free loan. Although the overpaid tax will be refunded when you file your return, it would have been better for you to have access to these funds throughout the year. In this case, you should reduce the amount your employer withholds to increase your pay in your paycheck.

Do you owe the IRS too much?

On the other end, there are taxpayers who owe the IRS large balances when filing their taxes. Yes, they have access to their money all year long, but they will have to pay this back on April 15th. Most of the time, this repayment comes with tacked-on interest and penalties from the IRS.

It is your responsibility to change your withholding with your employer. At any time, you can provide them with an updated Form W-4 and adjust your withholding.

When to review your withholding

You should check your withholding anytime there is a significant financial change in your life, including the following:

– You getting married, divorced, or having children.
– Increase or decrease in working wages.
– You or your spouse start or stop working, start a second job.
– Changes in deductions such as: buying house, paying for child care, medical expenses.

It is never too late to change your withholding for the current year. If you believe that you may be substantially over or under withheld, you can make the necessary adjustments to correct that. This is one of the more complex issues that a taxpayer faces.

We’ve got your back.

If you think your situation calls for a withholding adjustment, please contact us today. Contact KRS manager Lance Aligo, CPA, MAS at [email protected] or 201-655-7411.

What to Know About the Qualified Business Income Deduction

Does your business qualify as a pass-through for tax purposes?

If you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve heard other business owners talking about the qualified business income deduction (also called Section 199A), you’re probably asking yourself, “Should I incorporate to help save on taxes?” and “What entity should I select?”

Qualified Business Income DeductionLots of business folks want to form an LLC because it can save you money on taxes, but there’s a caveat. The new tax law’s 20% deduction on qualified business income is subject to limitations that keep it from being just a giveaway for anyone who runs a business.

To qualify for the full deduction, your taxable income must be below $157,500, or $315,000 if you’re married and you and your spouse file jointly. If your income is below the threshold, you may take the deduction no matter what business you’re in. But if your income is higher, there are limits on who can take the break.

Some fine print about qualified businesses

  • What exactly is a qualified business? The IRS notes this break is for sole proprietorships, partnerships, S corporations, and some trusts and estates. C corporations are specifically excluded.
  • There are special rules and limits for “specified service trades or businesses.” The IRS defines these as businesses such as health, law, accounting, among others, “where the principal asset is the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees or owners.”
  • The deduction doesn’t lower your adjusted gross income, and you don’t have to itemize on your taxes to take it.
  • If you qualify, the 20% break will apply to the lesser of your qualified business income or your taxable income minus capital gains.
  • There’s a wage and capital limitation: it is the greater of 50% of W-2 wages or 25% of W-2 wages plus 2.5% of unadjusted basis of all qualified property. There is a 20% deduction of REIT dividends and distributions from publicly traded partnerships.
  • In counting qualified business income, the deductible part of self-employment tax, self-employed health insurance, and deductions for contributions to qualified retirement plans like SEPs, SIMPLEs and qualified plan deductions are included.
  • You have to decide how you should set up your business. As noted above, multiple entities are eligible for the pass-through treatment, but there are other implications you need to consider, such as how Social Security taxes will be paid.
  • Finally, don’t assume that the creation of a pass-through entity automatically creates a windfall. You’ll want to weigh how much you’ll save on taxes versus how much you’ll pay to set up an eligible entity.

How can you optimize the deduction?

Here are a few ways:

  • Consider operating as a PTP, or publicly traded partnership, which is not subject to the W-2 wage limit or the qualified property cap.
  • Consider multiplying the $157,500 per person threshold by gifting business ownership interest to children or non-grantor trusts.
  • For partners, consider switching from guaranteed payments, which don’t qualify, to preferred returns, which do.

This is just an introduction to a complex topic. Also, new guidance from the IRS may change some of the details, which means many provisions are not etched in stone. For example, the IRS issued in late September Revenue Procedure 2019-38, which offers a safe harbor allowing certain interests in rental real estate, including interests in mixed-use property, to be treated as a trade or business for purposes of the QBI deduction, under Section 199A.

KRS has your back on understanding pass-through entities

Be sure to get professional advice to make sure you’re making the right decisions about your pass-through entity. KRS CPAs offers unbiased financial and tax guidance to help you with this complicated subject. Contact us today for a complimentary initial consultation.

KRSCPAS.com is accessible from your mobile device and is loaded with tax guides, blogs, and other resources to help you succeed. Check it out today!

How to Decode Box 1 of Form W-2

Here’s help for understanding how your compensation is handled on Form W-2

Box 1 of Form W-2 shows the employee’s total compensation that is subject to taxation for the year. Per an article published by Forbes, “This tends to be the number most taxpayers care about the most.” Consequently, there’s no room for error.How to Decode Box 1 of Form W-2

Below are inclusions and exclusions for Box 1 plus a brief explanation of the differences among Box 1, Box 3 and Box 5.

Learning these differences can help you decode your W-2 more easily.

What goes in Box 1?

All taxable wages, tips and other compensation should go in Box 1. This includes:

  • Hourly earnings, including overtime and premium pay, and salaries.
  • Vacation, sick, PTO and holiday pay.
  • Bonuses, commissions, prizes and awards.
  • Noncash payments, such as taxable fringe benefits.
  • Tips the employee reported to the employer.
  • Business expense reimbursements made under a non-accountable plan.
  • Accident and health insurance premiums for 2%-or-more shareholder employees if the company is an S corporation.
  • Taxable cash benefits under a Section 125, or cafeteria, plan.
  • Employer and employee contributions to an Archer Medical Savings Account.
  • Employer contributions for qualified long-term care if coverage is provided through a flexible spending arrangement.
  • Group-term life insurance that exceeds $50,000.
  • Taxable education assistance payments.
  • Any amounts you paid toward the employee’s portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  • Designated Roth 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) contributions.
  • Payments to statutory employees who are excluded from federal income tax withholding but not from Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  • Insurance protection cost under a compensatory split-dollar life insurance arrangement.
  • Taxable employer and employee health savings account contributions.
  • Taxable amounts paid to a nonqualified deferred compensation plan.
  • Taxable moving expenses and expense reimbursements.
  • Compensation made to former employees who are on active military duty.
  • All other forms of taxable compensation, such as fellowship grants and scholarships.

What’s not in Box 1?

Box 1 should not contain:

  • Expense reimbursements — such as for transportation, lodging and meals — made under an accountable plan.
  • De minimis fringe benefits. These are occasional benefits with a value no more than $100.
  • Pretax contributions made to a retirement plan.
  • Pretax benefits, such as health insurance, flexible spending account and HSA offered under a Section 125 plan.
  • Other nontaxable wages and pretax benefits.

What are the differences among Box 1, Box 3 and Box 5?

  • Box 1 = Total taxable wages for the year.
  • Box 2 = Total federal income tax withheld from Box 1.
  • Box 3 = Total wages subject to Social Security tax.
  • Box 4 = Total Social Security tax withheld from Box 3.
  • Box 5 = Total wages subject to Medicare tax.
  • Box 6 = Total Medicare tax withheld from Box 5.

The total wages for Box 3 and Box 5 may differ from the amount in Box 1 because not all taxable wages are subject to the same taxes. For example, some wages are subject to federal income tax but not to Social Security and Medicare taxes, and vice versa. To accurately compute Box 1, Box 3 and Box 5, you must know which federal taxes should be withheld from the taxable wage in question.

We’ve got your back on taxes and compensation

If you’re interested in learning more about what you can and cannot deduct, or other ways to manage your taxescontact KRS today for a complimentary initial consultation.

 

Estate Planning for Those Under 40

The earlier you start planning, the more choices you’ll have

Get started on estate planning while you're young saves hassles laterWe all live as if we have decades ahead of us, dealing with the present — we can’t know the future. And that’s why now is a great time to get a jump on estate planning.

Do your family and loved ones know what accounts you have, where your financial information is and what your wishes are? Now is the time to tell them. If you start now, your plan will help keep your loved ones from becoming stressed if you suddenly become disabled or pass away.

Learning about estate planning

You can begin to educate yourself about estate planning. For instance, what should you be looking for in an estate planning attorney? You can interview several to see whom you feel most comfortable with. You can also explore estate planning strategies: Some organizations have free small-group events to share an understanding of the basics of estate planning.

You can start formulating how you’d want to be memorialized — how about creating a recording to share with your loved ones to help them by making the tough decisions in advance?

Getting started on your plan

Estate planning isn’t just for wealthy people — you don’t have to wait until you build up more savings. You may have a child or spouse who is financially dependent on you, so you don’t want to ignore your estate plan. Take these steps to be proactive:

  • Designate beneficiaries.
  • Designate a health care proxy to make medical decisions for you if you can’t.
  • Review asset titling — titling assets jointly with rights of survivorship is an easy way to ensure that your property passes to your heirs without delay.
  • Consider establishing a trust — in many ways these can be even more effective tools than wills.
  • Do some tax planning — although the federal estate tax affects only the wealthiest people, there are other tax issues, including state estate taxes.
  • Select guardians to care for minor children.
  • Plan ahead — an accident can result in an inability to make legal decisions; a durable power of attorney will name someone to act in your place if you are incapacitated.

Documents for your plan

Among the documents that are part of an estate plan, consider a will, life insurance, and a power of attorney. You can think of a will as a road map outlining how your property will be distributed if you’re disabled or die. Meet with an attorney and tell her or him what your assets are, who you want to leave them to, and that you want it all to be simple.

In crafting a will, name a trusted friend or family member as the executor to help shepherd your estate through any court-supervised process, such as probate. You may want to consider life insurance, particularly because you haven’t accumulated lots of money yet. You’d want your family to have assets to live on. You can choose a less expensive option such as a term policy for a set number of years.

We’ve got your back on estate planning

It’s never too early to start thinking about estate planning. KRS CPAs offers unbiased financial and tax guidance to help you realize your specific goals and vision. Contact KRS managing partner Maria Rollins at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 to discuss your situation.

IRAs to Charity: A Useful Estate Planning Technique

Make your favorite charity a beneficiary of your IRAsSave taxes with this smart estate planning strategy

If you’re like many people, you have a great deal of your wealth tied up in traditional IRA accounts. Why? The tax-free benefits have motivated you. But there’s going to come a time when you—or your heirs—will have to pay taxes on this money. Instead of worrying about what you’re going to do about that, you can follow a tax-saving strategy that considers designating your favorite charity or charities as beneficiaries of all or a portion of your IRAs. Then you can leave other assets to family members and other heirs.

IRAs and estate taxes

Your IRAs are considered part of your estate when you die, which means they are subject to estate taxes. Although very few people are subject to the federal estate tax, some states have lower thresholds for estate taxes. Also, your heirs will have to eventually withdraw the funds, and typically will pay income tax. This could be substantial, if your heirs are already in a high bracket.

Fortunately, there’s a tax-smart solution: leave some or all of your IRA to charitable beneficiaries while leaving other assets to heirs of your choice. Leaving money directly to charities by designating them as account beneficiaries is very tax-efficient. First, it avoids estate tax, since the IRA is removed from your estate. Second, there’s no federal income tax due on IRA money. (You may get a state tax break too.) No income taxes are due when your favorite tax-exempt charities make withdrawals from the IRAs.

This strategy allows you to leave more to your favorite charities and more to your loved ones while keeping as much as possible from the IRS.

Leave Roth IRAs to your loved ones

One final word, however. This strategy generally applies to traditional IRAs. Naming a charity as the beneficiary of your Roth IRA is generally inadvisable. Leave Roth balances to your loved ones by designating them as account beneficiaries. Why? As long as your Roth IRA has been open for more than five years before withdrawals are taken, all withdrawals will be federal income tax-free since the money went in after taxes. But if you leave Roth IRA money to charity, this tax break is wasted. (Roth IRA inheritance rules differ from the rules for traditional IRAs in several key ways.)

Looking at the Big Picture

Of course, this is just part of your estate plan, and there are lots of complexities. A giving strategy that makes sense for one family may not be appropriate for another. Also, the new tax law has changed the scenario for many.  Finally, there are various limits and provisions you should be aware of before you proceed.

The bottom line? Talk to a qualified financial professional about your charitable goals and any traditional or Roth IRAs you have in order to take care of both your family and your designated nonprofits in as efficient a way as possible.

We’ve got your back on estate planning

It’s never too early to start thinking about estate planning. KRS CPAs offers unbiased financial and tax guidance to help you realize your specific goals and vision. Contact KRS managing partner Maria Rollins at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 to discuss your situation.

What Is Tax-Efficient Investing?

Keep taxes in mind when investing

Tax Efficient InvestingAvoiding taxation should not be the only goal, or even the main goal, of your investment strategy.

Still, you always have to keep taxes in mind to make sure you’re not unnecessarily sending too much of your money to the government.

Managing Your Investments

Keep on top of your tax losses. No one likes to see their investments fail, but there are hidden tax savings there. Tax-harvesting strategies take advantage of losses for tax benefits when you rebalance your portfolio if you comply with IRS rules on the tax treatment of gains and losses.

Note that losses can offset up to $3,000 in taxable income in realized investment gains annually. If losses exceed deduction limits in the year they occur, you may be able to carry them forward to offset gains in future years.

Also watch out for capital gains. Securities held for more than 12 months and sold at a profit are taxed as long-term gains, with a top federal rate of 23.8%. For short-term gains, the tax rate can hit 40.8%. Timing can be everything.

Consider tax-exempt securities. Municipal bonds typically are exempt from federal taxes and may receive preferential state tax treatment. However, choose carefully before jumping into them. If you have a low tax rate in retirement, for example, it may not be necessary or even wise to concentrate so heavily on avoiding taxes.

Managing Your Taxes

Sometimes it’s better to pay taxes later rather than now. For example, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs, and tax-deferred annuities let you postpone your taxes until you are retired and thus likely in a lower bracket. Contributions you make may reduce your taxable income if you meet income eligibility requirements, and typically, investment growth is tax-deferred.

On the other side of the coin are Roth IRAs, which don’t give you an immediate tax break, since you use after-tax dollars. But this can help you later. For example, you may be in a low tax bracket now, so you put money into a Roth IRA. Investment gains are tax-deferred. When you withdraw the money, you don’t have to pay taxes at what could be a higher rate.

Reduce Taxes through Charity

If you itemize, you can deduct the value of your charitable gift from taxable income, but be aware that limits apply. Consider contributing appreciated stock, which may help you avoid capital gains taxes. Also try a donor-advised fund in a high-income year. These funds let you make a donation, take an immediate deduction and spread the giving over a period of time.

Of course, this is just an introduction to a complex topic — there are limits and exceptions to these strategies. Tax law is detailed, especially when it comes to investments, and a slight miscalculation on your end can lead to an unexpected tax bill down the line.

We’ve got your back on tax efficient investing

Taxes are a key part, but not the only part, of an investment strategy and you need to work with tax and financial professionals to make sure your strategies are aligned with your goals.Contact KRS managing partner Maria Rollins at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 to discuss your situation.

What Changes With the New Taxpayer First Act?

The Taxpayer First Act of 2019 is redesigning how the IRS works with taxpayers, even though it may take a while for many of the provisions to take effect.What Changes With the New Taxpayer First Act?

Some experts have highlighted the following aspects of the bill as especially important:

An independent appeals process. Taxpayers and small businesses will be able to challenge the IRS’ position without undertaking the cost and expenses of court. IRS Appeals will be an independent unit that grants taxpayers access to case files. Taxpayers will be able to protest if denied an appeal.

Innocent spouse treatment. The new law requires the U.S. Tax Court to take a fresh look at innocent spouse cases without taking previous decisions into account.

Modification of procedures for issuance of third-party summons. This is an important protection for taxpayers, especially small-business owners. It discourages the IRS from bypassing the taxpayer and contacting third parties — such as financial institutions — instead for information. The IRS should give taxpayers a meaningful opportunity to provide the information it is seeking prior to its contacting third parties. In practice, the IRS should provide the taxpayer with an understanding of what the issue is, what information is being requested and how the requested information relates to the issue.

Office of the National Taxpayer Advocate. The Taxpayer First Act has taken a strong approach with the Advocate’s issuance of Taxpayer Advocate Directives, which focus on systemic problems taxpayers deal with. Once they are issued by the Advocate, the IRS should comply within 90 days. The Advocate Annual Report will identify any TAD that is not honored by the IRS.

Credit card payments. The IRS is now allowed to directly accept credit and debit card payments for taxes; the taxpayer must pay any processing fees. The Act also requires the IRS to try to minimize processing fees when entering into contracts with the credit card companies.

Whistle blower reforms. The Act provides protections from retaliation and allows for better communication with whistle blowers about the status of their claims.

Cyber-security and identity protection. The IRS will now have to let taxpayers know whether it suspects there is evidence of identity theft. The Agency will explain to taxpayers how to file a report with police and how to protect themselves against additional harm resulting from the identity theft.

Taxpayer Act levels the playing field

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, was quoted as saying the Act “levels the playing field to ensure taxpayers have the same information as the agency, better protects our taxpayers’ information, and reins in past IRS abuses to guarantee families and local businesses never have to fear having their accounts and property seized without fair and due process.”

As with many new laws, it will take some time to see what specifically the effects are. The legal provisions are complex and will require interpretation over time. We’ll be keeping an eye on the developments.

We’ve got your back

The new tax code is complex and every taxpayer’s situation is different – so don’t go it alone! Contact KRS managing partner Maria Rollins at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 to discuss your situation.

Tax Rules for Vacation Home Rentals

Tax Rules for Vacation Home RentalsGet the most from your vacation home rental property by knowing the tax rules

Summer is the time of family vacations, sun, sand and beaches. It’s also the time when a vacation home may be used to generate additional cash flow through rental.

Part-time landlords need to remember that, in many cases, the Internal Revenue Service expects them to report the extra income.

Short-Term Rentals

In general, if a taxpayer rents their vacation home for fewer than 14 days out of the year, the income is tax free and the property is considered a personal residence.  Under this scenario, taxpayers are not required to report any rental income on their tax return.  However, expenses attributable to the rental cannot be deducted, such as cleaning fees or rental commissions.

More than 14 Rental Days

If a taxpayer’s rental days are above the 14-day threshold, the income is required to be reported. Under this scenario, a taxpayer can also deduct a variety of direct rental expenses such as licenses, advertising and rental commissions.

Other expenses such as repairs, mortgage interest, property taxes and utilities are deductible on a prorated basis based upon the number of days a taxpayer rented the home out.

Claiming Expenses on Rental Property

When filing taxes on a rental property, an individual will use IRS Schedule E: Supplemental Income and Loss. The IRS provides an extensive listing of deductions in Publication 527, however common expenses include:

  • Real Estate/Property Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Cleaning
  • Repairs and Maintenance
  • Depreciation
  • Legal and Professional Fees
  • Advertising
  • Utilities
  • Commissions

We’ve got your back

For additional information on the taxability of your vacation home rental, contact Simon Filip, the Real Estate Tax Guy, at [email protected] or (201) 655-7411.