Tag: taxes

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.

Home Office Expense Deduction for a Self-Employed Taxpayer

Home office expense deduction for a self-employed taxpayerDoes your home office qualify for a tax deduction?

If you’re self-employed and work out of an office in your home and you satisfy certain strict rules, you will be entitled to favorable “home office” deductions. These deductions against your business income include the following:

  • Direct expenses of the home office – for example, the costs of painting or repairing the home office, depreciation deductions for furniture and fixtures used in the home office, etc.; and
  • Indirect expenses of maintaining the office – for example, the properly allocable share of utility costs, depreciation, insurance, etc., for your home, as well as an allocable share of mortgage interest and real estate taxes.

In addition, if this office is your “principal place of business” under the rules discussed below, the costs of traveling between it and other work locations in your business are deductible transportation expenses, rather than nondeductible commuting costs.

Tests to determine home office deductibility

You may deduct your home office expenses if you meet any of the three tests described below: (1) the principal place of business test, (2) the place for meeting patients, clients, or customers test, or (3) the separate structure test. You may also deduct the expenses of certain storage space if you qualify under the rules described further below.

  1. Principal place of business

You’re entitled to home office deductions if you use your home office, exclusively and on a regular basis, as your principal place of business. Your home office is your principal place of business if it satisfies either a “management or administrative activities” test, or a “relative importance” test. You satisfy the management or administrative activities test if you use your home office for administrative or management activities of your business, and if you meet certain other requirements. You meet the relative importance test if your home office is the most important place where you conduct your business, in comparison with all the other locations where you conduct that business.

  1. Home office used for meeting patients, clients, or customers

You’re entitled to home office deductions if you use this office, exclusively and on a regular basis, to meet or deal with patients, clients, or customers. The patients, clients or customers must be physically present in the office.

  1. Separate structures

You’re entitled to deductions for a home office, used exclusively and on a regular basis for business, if it is located in a separate unattached structure on the same property as your home – for instance, an unattached garage, artist’s studio, workshop, or office building.

Space for storing inventory or product samples

If you’re in the business of selling products at retail or wholesale, and if your home is your sole fixed business location, you can deduct home expenses allocable to space that you use regularly (but not necessarily exclusively) to store inventory or product samples.

How much can you deduct?

The amount of your home office deduction is based on the amount of square footage allocated to your office space. There are two methods to choose from; Simplified Method and Regular Method.

Simplified Method

The simplified method for determining this deduction is straightforward: You receive a deduction of $5 per square foot, up to 300 square feet (the deduction can’t exceed $1,500).

Regular Method

You determine the deduction by figuring out the percentage of your home used for business. Then apply the resulting percentage to the total direct & indirect expenses discussed above.

To demonstrate, if your home is 2,000 square feet and your home office is 500 square feet, you use 25% of your home for business. You’re allowed to deduct 25% of the above-mentioned expenses against your income. The remaining 75% of qualified expenses carry over to Schedule A, if you itemize. These costs include property taxes and mortgage interest.

Someone with a larger office and higher expenses might benefit from the regular method of determining the home office deduction compared to the standard method.

We’ve got your back

At KRS, our CPAs can help you utilize the home office deduction to maximize potential tax savings. Give us a call at 201.655.7411 or email me at [email protected]

What You Need to Know to Deduct Medical Expenses

What You Need to Know to Deduct Medical ExpensesDeducting expenses for medical and dental care is easier when you know the rules

If you itemize your deductions for a taxable year on Form 1040, Schedule A Itemized Deductions, you may be able to deduct unreimbursed expenses you paid that year for medical and dental care for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents. You may deduct only the amount of your total medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income in 2018 and 10% beginning in 2019.

What qualifies as a medical expense?

Qualifying costs, which include many items other than hospital and doctor bills, often amount to much larger figures than expected. Below are some items you should take into account in determining your medical expenses:

Health insurance premiums

The cost of health insurance is a medical expense. This item, by itself, can total thousands of dollars a year. Even if your employer provides you with health coverage, you can deduct the portion of the premiums that you pay. Long-term care insurance premiums are also included in medical expenses, subject to specific dollar limits based on age. However, pre-tax insurance premiums paid by an individual are not deductible medical expenses.

Transportation

The cost of getting to and from medical treatment is a deductible medical expense. This includes taxi fares, public transportation, or the cost of using your own car. Car costs can be calculated at 20¢ a mile for miles driven in 2019 (18¢ a mile for miles driven in 2018), plus tolls and parking. Alternatively, you can deduct your actual costs, such as for gas and oil (but not your general costs such as insurance, depreciation, or maintenance).

Therapists, nurses, etc.

The services of individuals other than doctors can qualify as long as the services relate to a medical condition and aren’t for general health. For example, costs of physical therapy after knee surgery would qualify, but not costs of a fitness counselor to tone you up. Amounts paid for certain long-term care services required by a chronically ill individual also qualify as deductible medical expenses.

Eyeglasses, hearing aids, dental work, psychotherapy, prescription drugs

Deductible medical expenses include the cost of glasses, hearing aids, dental work, psychiatric counseling, and other ongoing expenses in connection with medical needs. Purely cosmetic expenses (e.g., a “nose job”) don’t qualify. Prescription drugs (including insulin) qualify, but over the counter items such as aspirin and vitamins don’t. Neither do amounts paid for operations or treatments that are illegal under federal law (such as marijuana), even if state or local law permits the procedure or drug.

Smoking-cessation programs

Amounts paid for participation in a smoking-cessation program and for prescribed drugs designed to alleviate nicotine withdrawal are deductible medical expenses. However, non-prescription nicotine gum and certain nicotine patches aren’t deductible.

Weight-loss programs

A weight-loss program is a deductible medical expense if undertaken as treatment for a disease diagnosed by a physician. The disease can be obesity itself or another disease, such as hypertension or heart disease, for which the doctor directs you to lose weight. It’s a good idea to get a written diagnosis before starting the program. Deductible expenses include fees paid to join the program and to attend periodic meetings. However, the cost of low-calorie food that you eat in place of your regular diet isn’t deductible.

Dependents and others

You can deduct the medical costs paid on behalf of dependents, such as your children. Additionally, you may be able to deduct medical costs you pay for an individual, such as an elderly parent or grandparent, who would qualify as your dependent except that he has too much gross income or files jointly. In most cases, the medical costs of a child of divorced parents can be claimed by the parent who pays them, regardless of who gets the dependency exemption.

We’ve got your back

At KRS, our CPAs can help you identify deductible medical expenses to maximize potential tax savings. Give us a call at 201.655.7411 or email me at [email protected]

SALT Workarounds Squashed

$10k Limit on SALT Deductions Stands

On Tuesday the Treasury Department issued final regulations that officially prohibit high-tax states like SALT Workarounds SquashedNew Jersey, New York, and Connecticut from utilizing workarounds to evade the new $10,000 limit on state and local tax (“SALT”) deductions.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act capped at $10,000 the amount of state and local tax payments that taxpayers could deduct from their federal returns.  In response, a number of state governments enacted or proposed workarounds to find a way to remove the economic pain of the cap.

In the workaround, a state resident could, instead of paying state property taxes, choose to donate to a state-created charitable fund, for example, $40,000. The resident would then get to write off the $40,000 as a charitable donation on his or her federal taxes and receive a state tax credit for some of that donation, easing the burden of the lower write-off for their SALT levy.

The regulations will allow taxpayers to receive a tax write-off equal to the difference between the state tax credits they receive and their charitable donations. That means the taxpayer who makes a $40,000 charitable donation to pay property taxes and receives a $25,000 state tax credit would only be entitled to a charitable write off of $15,000 on his or her federal tax bill.

The Treasury indicated it would continue to evaluate the issue and release further guidance if necessary.

We’ve got your back

With Simon Filip, the Real Estate Tax Guy, on your side, you can focus on your real estate investments while he and his team take care of your accounting and keep you up to speed on the latest tax developments. Contact him at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 today.

Real Estate in Your IRA: A Good Idea?

Real estate can be a great investment, and many people don’t know they can also put the property into their IRAs.

real estate and your iraHowever, they have to be careful: one small mistake and an IRA’s tax advantages disappear.

So what are the rules to follow to have a qualified real estate purchase?

  • You can’t mortgage the property.
  • You can’t work on the property yourself — you’ve got to pay an independent party to do any repairs.
  • You don’t get the tax breaks if the property operates at a loss. You can’t claim depreciation either.
  • All costs associated with the property must be paid out of your IRA and all income deposited into the IRA. You can find yourself in a bind if there isn’t enough cash in the IRA to deal with a major property expense.
  • You can’t receive any personal benefit from the property — you can’t live in it or use it in any way. It has to be strictly for investment purposes. So that vacation property you’re considering buying or a house to rent to your kids — not allowable.

More rules for real estate in IRAs

Any investment made by your IRA must be considered an arm’s-length transaction: You can’t use money in your IRA to buy or sell real estate to or from yourself or family members. You can’t receive any indirect benefit either — you can’t pay yourself or a family member to be the property manager.

For a traditional IRA, you must take required minimum distributions at 70 1/2 and that applies with real estate as well. It can be awfully hard to sell real estate off in portions, so then how do you cover the required distributions without cash? These are problems you need to solve before you start your retirement investing. However, you can roll over money from the sale of one property to the purchase of another without any tax consequences, inside the IRA.

Three more points to weigh when thinking about investing in real estate IRAs:

  • Your IRA cannot purchase a property that you currently own. IRS regulations don’t allow transactions that are considered self-dealing. They don’t allow your self-directed IRA to buy property from or sell property to any disqualified person — including yourself.
  • A real estate investment needs to be titled in the name of your IRA, not to you personally. All documents related to the investment must be titled correctly to avoid delays.
  • Real estate in an IRA can be purchased without 100 percent funding from your IRA. You can use undivided interest and partnering with others.

For more, see my post, “Using a Self-Directed IRA to Buy Real Estate.”

We’ve got your back

There are a lot of working parts to keep in mind if you want to hold real estate in your IRA, and it might not be right for everyone. With Simon Filip, the Real Estate Tax Guy, on your side, you can focus on your real estate investments while he and his team take care of your accounting and taxes. Contact him at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 today.

Use the Increased Federal Estate and Gift Tax Exemption to Transfer Business Ownership Interests

Take advantage of this window of opportunity for tax-free wealth transfer

Use the Increased Federal Estate and Gift Tax Exemption to Transfer Business Ownership InterestsThe Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 expanded the federal estate and gift tax exemption to $11.2 million per person, or $22.4 million for a married couple.

Under the Act, these higher limits are applicable through December 31, 2025.  On January 1, 2026 the limits return to $5 million per person, adjusted for inflation.

These changes present a significant but temporary opportunity for tax-free wealth transfer, including gifts of ownership interests in the family business.  Also, in certain circumstances valuation discounts may further reduce the value of the gifted business interest, which would facilitate larger gifts while remaining within the exemption amount.  These gifts will also qualify for the annual exclusion, which currently stands at $14,000 per recipient and may also be split with your spouse, resulting in $28,000 per recipient annual gifts that do not reduce your lifetime exemption.

Gifting strategies

Business owners are often reluctant to gift business ownership interests because they are concerned about losing control of the business, or do not want to make gifts to minor children.   There are many ways to overcome this problem.  The most common solutions are to gift only non-voting shares and include restrictions on their sale or transfer, or to gift the shares to a trust of which you or your spouse are trustee.

Conventional gifting strategy is to transfer assets that are likely to appreciate in the future.  That way, the asset is transferred at a low value and appreciates in the hands of the recipient.  The first step in this process is to identify the assets to be transferred and determine their value.  If you are considering transfer of an ownership interest in a business, it would be prudent to have that business valued by a qualified business appraiser.

We’ve got your back

Although 2025 seems like a long way off, you never know what changes may occur.  Although it is unlikely that tax laws will change after the mid-term election, you never know what the tax law changes will be after the 2020 presidential election.  This is great opportunity to transfer assets at little or no estate and gift tax cost.  If this is interesting to you, there is no reason to delay.  Contact your attorney or CPA and start the process now, before this opportunity is gone.

Capital Gains and Losses: How Do They Work?

Selling a capital asset results in a gain or loss and impacts your income taxes.

How do capital gains and losses work?A capital gain is a profit made when you as an individual or business sell a capital asset — investments or real estate, for instance — for a higher cost than its purchase price. A capital loss is incurred when there’s a decrease in the capital asset value compared with its purchase price. Almost everything you own and use for personal or investment purposes is a capital asset: a home, personal-use items like furnishings, and collectibles.

A capital gain may be short term (one year or less) or long term (more than a year). The capital gain must be claimed on income taxes. While capital gains are generally associated with stocks and mutual funds due to their volatility, a capital gain can occur on any security sold for a higher price than the price that was paid for it. Unrealized gains and losses, sometimes referred to as paper gains and losses, reflect an increase or decrease in an investment’s value but haven’t yet triggered a taxable event.

The profit you realize when you sell a capital asset at a profit is your gain over basis paid. Basis is often defined as the original price plus any related transaction costs; basis also may refer to capital improvements and cost of sale. Capital losses are used to offset capital gains of the same type: short-term losses are deducted against short-term gains, for example.

Capital gains and losses for businesses

A business may gain or lose money in two ways: It can make a profit on its sales activities or lose money by spending more than it brings in from sales. And, of course, it can gain or lose money based on its investments or sales of assets — items of value that the business owns.

Each type is taxed differently. Profits are taxed as ordinary income and at regular business or personal tax rates. Gains or losses on investments or the sale of assets are taxed as capital gains or losses, but it can depend on the type of business. When expensive equipment is involved, businesses have to consider depreciation, which takes into account the equipment’s declining value over its useful lifetime.

Capital gains and losses can come into play when a business writes off an asset, taking it off its balance sheet. That might be the case with accounts receivable when a debt is owed to the business but is unlikely ever to be paid.

Individual shareholders or business owners who sell their capital shares or owner’s equity in a business also incur capital gains or losses from those sales. Note the following distinction: Operating profits and losses result from the ongoing operations of the business; sometimes called net operating losses for tax purposes, they result from day-to-day operations.

We’ve got your back

Whether you’re buying or selling as an individual or as a business, be sure to keep track of your sales and discuss them with a qualified financial professional. The experts at KRS can help you determine whether you have a gain on loss and its tax implications. Contact managing partner Maria Rollins at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 for a complimentary initial consultation.

Does Your Rental Real Estate Activity Qualify for the QBI Deduction?

Knowing the requirements for Qualified Business Income (QBI) deductions can help you save taxes on your rental real estate

Does Your Rental Real Estate Activity Qualify for the QBI Deduction?The IRS recently issued guidance on the 20% tax deduction for Qualified Business Income (QBI) and rental real estate activity. Here’s what you need to know:

If all the general requirements (which vary based on your level of taxable income) are met, the deduction can be claimed for a rental real estate activity – but only if the activity rises to the level of being a trade or business. An activity is generally considered to be a trade or business if it is regular, continuous, and considerable.

The IRS safe harbor

Because determining whether a rental real estate enterprise meets those criteria can be difficult, the IRS has provided a safe harbor under which such an enterprise will be treated as a trade or business for purposes of the QBI deduction (IRS Notice 2019-7). For this purpose, a rental real estate enterprise is defined as an interest in real property held for the production of rents and may consist of an interest in multiple properties. Commercial and residential real estate may not be part of the same enterprise.

Under the safe harbor, a rental real estate enterprise will be treated as a trade or business if the following requirements are satisfied during the tax year for a rental real estate enterprise:

  • Separate books and records are maintained to reflect income and expenses for each rental real estate enterprise.
  • 250 or more hours of rental services are performed annually with respect to the rental enterprise. Note that these hours of service do not have to be performed by you personally.
  • The taxpayer maintains contemporaneous records, including time reports, logs, or similar documents, for: (i) hours of all services performed; (ii) description of all services performed; (iii) dates on which such services were performed; and (iv) who performed the services. Such records are to be made available for inspection at the request of the IRS. The contemporaneous records requirement does not apply to the 2018 tax year.

Rental services defined

For purposes of the safe harbor, rental services include:

  • Advertising to rent or lease the real estate
  • Negotiating and executing leases
  • Verifying information contained in prospective tenant applications
  • Collection of rent
  • Daily operation, maintenance, and repair of the property
  • Management of the real estate
  • Purchase of materials
  • Supervision of employees and independent contractors

Real estate not eligible for safe harbor

Some types of rental real estate are not eligible for the safe harbor. Real estate used by the taxpayer (including an owner or beneficiary of passthrough entity) as a residence for any part of the year is generally not eligible for the safe harbor, nor is real estate rented or leased under a triple net lease.

To qualify for the real estate safe harbor in 2019, it is important for you to maintain contemporaneous records starting with the 2019 tax year. I have listed above the information which needs to be tracked as part of the 250 hours of rental services above.

We’ve got your back

As the real estate tax guy, I’m here to assist you in all your real estate accounting matters. If you have questions about the QBI deduction as it applies to your rental real estate, you can reach me at [email protected] or 201.655.7411.

Put Your Children on Your Payroll and Reduce Taxes

One tax reduction strategy that most business owners do not take advantage of is putting their childrenPutting Your Children on Your Payroll on payroll.

This can help reduce the overall family tax bill and transfer assets to children without introducing gift tax implications.

As a business owner, you can deduct wages paid to children, while the child can offset those wages with their own standard deduction.  In addition to the standard deduction, you could setup pre-tax retirement accounts that would allow taxpayers to deduct more, while the child saves for retirement.

For partnerships and disregarded entities, if your child is under 18, the company does not have to pay employment taxes such as Social Security, Medicare and Workers’ Compensation Insurance. You can also avoid Unemployment taxes until the child turns 21. But for S-Corps and C-Corps, Social Security and Medicare taxes are paid regardless of age. These payroll taxes amount to 15.3% of wages earned, your share and child’s share.

Potential tax savings

With that in mind, let’s review a sample of potential tax savings. Starting in 2019, the standard deduction is $12,000 for single filers. The maximum contribution to a traditional IRA is $6,000 (if modified adjusted gross income is less than $64,000 for single filers in 2019). Additionally, taxpayers can draft a 401(k) plan that includes no age limitations, which will allow younger children to contribute $19,000 of pre-tax dollars to their 401(k). The example below illustrates the potential tax savings if the taxpayer’s entity is an S-Corporation.

Save taxes by putting your children on your payrollIf the entity is an LLC instead of an S-Corp, and your child is under 18, add back the payroll taxes of $5,585 to get your tax saving potential.

One other benefit you could produce is a safe harbor 401(k) plan or profit sharing/matching system that could increase your child’s retirement account and provides a deduction for your business. This strategy has plenty of scenarios to take into consideration which provide an opportunity to save even more money in taxes.

There are some rules you need to be aware of when using this strategy:

  • Keeping detailed employment records, including timely tracking of weekly hours and wages that correspond to services provided
  • Issuing paychecks as you would a normal employee (e.g., bi-weekly)
  • Documenting that the services are legitimate and considered ordinary and necessary for the business
  • Ensuring the services provided do not include typical household chores

If your child is not treated like any other employee in a similar position, the IRS could potentially deem their wages as not ordinary and necessary, and disallow them as a deductible expense.

We’ve got your back

At KRS, our CPAs can help you strategize setting your children up on payroll to maximize potential tax savings. Give us a call at 201.655.7411 or email me at [email protected]