The recently announced tuition debt relief program will not add to the tax burden of individuals who are able to take advantage of the program, the White House said."Thanks to the American Rescue Plan...
A listing of the average annual effective interest rates on new loans under the Farm Credit System has been issued by the IRS. The rates are used in computing the special use value of farm real proper...
The Internal Revenue Service announced that it has unintentionally made certain data collected from Form 990-T available for bulk download through its Tax Exempt Organization Search tool.In a Septembe...
The IRS has clarified that qualified opportunity zone businesses should not file Form 8996. Form 8996 is filed only by qualified opportunity funds.The 2022 Instructions for Form 8996, Qualified Opport...
The IRS has supplemented the list of countries with which the U.S. has an agreement relating to the exchange of tax information. Turkey has been to the list of jurisdictions with which the Treasury an...
The District of Columbia has adopted an emergency act to clarify that the capital gains deduction for investing in a qualified opportunity fund will apply to an individual, estate, or trust. Act 246 (...
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Senate President Bill Ferguson, and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones have announced they have reached a bipartisan agreement to provide $1.86 billion in tax relief over five ...
A taxpayer’s administrative appeal regarding a Virginia sales and use tax assessment was barred by the statute of limitations because a complete administrative appeal was not filed within the 90-day...
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The IRS announced broad-based penalty relief for taxpayers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief applies to failure to file penalties and certain international information return (IIR) penalties with respect to tax returns for tax years (TY) 2019 and TY 2020, filed on or before September 30, 2022.
The IRS announced broad-based penalty relief for taxpayers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief applies to failure to file penalties and certain international information return (IIR) penalties with respect to tax returns for tax years (TY) 2019 and TY 2020, filed on or before September 30, 2022. Relief is also provided to banks, employers and other businesses from certain information return penalties with respect to TY 2019 returns filed on or before August 1, 2020, and with respect to TY 2020 returns that were filed on or before August 1, 2021.
The relief will also help the IRS focus resources on processing backlogged tax returns and tax correspondence.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS issued a series of notices and other guidance to provide relief to affected taxpayers, including:
- postponing the due date for certain Federal income tax payments ( Notice 2020-17, I.R.B. 2020-15, 590);
- expanded relief postponing the due date for filing Federal income tax returns originally due April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, among other things ( Notice 2020-18, I.R.B. 2020-15, 590); and
- postponing the due date for filing Federal income tax returns in the Form 1040 series and making certain Federal income tax payments that were originally due on April 15, 2021, due on May 17, 2021 ( Notice 2021-21, I.R.B. 2021-15, 986.
Waiver and Abatement of Certain Penalties
The IRS will not impose penalties with respect to specifically identified tax returns for TY 2019 and TY 2020, filed on or before September 30, 2022. The relief will be automatically applied-taxpayers do not have to request relief.
- Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and others in the series;
- Form 1041, U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts, and others in the series;
- Form 1120, U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return, and others in the series;
- Form 1066, U.S. Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit (REMIC) Income Tax Return; and
- Form 990-PF, Return of Private Foundation or Section 4947(a)(1) Trust Treated as Private Foundation and Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business income Tax Return (and Proxy Tax under Code Sec. 6033(e)).
Further, certain penalties will not be imposed under Code Secs. 6038, 6038A, 6038C, 6038F [ 6039F] and 6677 for failure to timely file several IIRs, such as Form 5471, Information Return of U.S. Persons With Respect to Certain Foreign Corporations.
In addition, the IRS will not impose the penalties under Code Sec. 6721(a)(2)(A) for failure to timely file any information return as defined under Code Sec. 6724(d)(1) that includes (1) 2019 returns that were filed on or before August 1, 2020, with an original due date of January 31, 2020, February 28, 2020 (if filed on paper) or March 31, 2020 (if filed electronically) or March 15, 2020; and (2) 2020 returns that were filed on or before August 1, 2021, with an original due date of January 31, 2021, February 28, 2021 (if filed on paper) or March 31, 2021 (if filed electronically) or March 15, 2021.
The penalty relief does not apply to any penalties not listed. Additionally the penalty relief does not apply to returns for which the penalty for fraudulent failure to file under Code Sec. 6651(f) or the penalty for fraud under Code Sec. 6663 apply. The penalty relief also does not apply to penalties in an accepted offer in compromise under Code Sec. 7122 or any penalty settled in a closing agreement under Code Sec. 7121 or finally determined in a judicial proceeding.
NTA Applauds IRS Move To Provide Late Filing Penalty Relief
National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins applauded the Internal Revenue Service’s decision to provide late-filing penalty relief to taxpayers who filed late tax returns for tax years 2019 and 2020.
"The IRS has taken a major step in providing broad, taxpayer-favorable relief from late-filing penalties for 2019 and 2020 tax years," Collins said in an August 24, 2022 blog post, adding that the agency " deserves substantial credit for its willingness to listen to Congress, stakeholders, and TAS [Taxpayer Advocate Service], and undertake a bold step requiring significant administrative effort and resources to benefit all taxpayers affected by the pandemic".
The IRS has issued guidance to taxpayers, who have inappropriately received forgiveness of their Paycheck Protection Program ('PPP') loan, and has encouraged them to take steps towards compliance, such as filing amended returns that include the forgiven loan amounts, as income.
The IRS has issued guidance to taxpayers, who have inappropriately received forgiveness of their Paycheck Protection Program ('PPP') loan, and has encouraged them to take steps towards compliance, such as filing amended returns that include the forgiven loan amounts, as income. The PPP loan program was established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to assist small US businesses that were adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in paying certain expenses and was further extended by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act. The IRS has discovered that, some recipients received forgiveness of their PPP loan through misrepresentation or omission and either did not qualify to receive a PPP loan or misused the loan proceeds. Under the terms of the PPP loan program, lenders could forgive the full amount of the loan, if the loan recipient meets three conditions, namely:
- Eligible Recipient: The loan recipient was eligible to receive the PPP loan if they were a small business concern, independent contractor, eligible self-employed individual, sole proprietor, business concern, or a certain type of tax-exempt entity, and was in business on or before February 15, 2020, and had employees or independent contractors who were paid for their services, or was a self-employed individual, sole proprietor or independent contractor.
- Eligible Expenses: The loan proceeds had to be used to pay eligible expenses, such as payroll costs, rent, interest on the business’ mortgage, and utilities.
- Application for loan forgiveness: The loan recipient had to apply for loan forgiveness, which requires a loan recipient to attest to eligibility, verify certain financial information, and meet other legal qualifications.
The IRS has stipulated that, if the above conditions are not met, then the amount of the loan proceeds that were forgiven, must be included in income and any additional income tax must be paid. The IRS has also informed that, reporting tax-related illegal activities relating to PPP loans, may be done through submission of Form 3949-A, Information Referral.
The IRS has reminded taxpayers to develop emergency preparedness plans due to the upcoming hurricane season and the ongoing threat of wildfires in some parts of the country.
The IRS has reminded taxpayers to develop emergency preparedness plans due to the upcoming hurricane season and the ongoing threat of wildfires in some parts of the country. September is declared as the National Preparedness Month. The IRS advised taxpayers to:
- secure critical documents such as tax returns, birth certificates, deeds, titles, and insurance policies inside waterproof containers in a secure space;
- duplicate and scan key documents for backup storage on electronic media that provide security and easy portability, such as a flash drive, a CD, or in the cloud;
- reconstruct records after a disaster for tax purposes, getting federal assistance or insurance reimbursement; and
- record all property, especially expensive and high value items—the IRS disaster-loss workbooks in Publication 584 and Publication 584-B can help individuals and businesses compile lists of belongings or business equipment.
In addition, the IRS recommends the following for employers:
- employers should create an Electronic Federal Tax Payment System account at EFTPS.gov to monitor their payroll tax deposits and receive email alerts; and
- employers who use payroll service providers should check the payroll service provider’s fiduciary bonds as they could protect the employer in the event of default by the provider.
Taxpayers who have lost some or all their records during a disaster can visit the IRS's Reconstructing Records webpage. In addition, taxpayers residing in a federally declared disaster can check for the available disaster tax relief on the IRS Tax Relief in Disaster Situations or Around the Nation webpages.
The IRS automatically identifies taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and applies filing and payment relief. Taxpayers affected by a disaster can contact the IRS at 866-562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues. Further, taxpayers affected by a disaster outside of a federally declared disaster area may qualify for disaster relief. This includes taxpayers who are not physically located in a disaster area but who have records essential for filing or payment deadlines postponed during the relief period that are located in a covered disaster area. In addition, a special rule allows both individuals and businesses to choose to deduct uninsured or unreimbursed disaster losses on either the tax return for the year the disaster occurred, or the return for the previous year.
The IRS has released information regarding the pre-screening and certification process for employers taking advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC).
The IRS has released information regarding the pre-screening and certification process for employers taking advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). The information relates to hiring designated categories of workers who face significant barriers to employment, including:
- Qualified IV-A Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients;
- Certain veterans, including unemployed or disabled veterans;
- Qualified long-term unemployment recipients; and
- Long-term family assistance recipients
The WOTC, which succeeded the Targeted Jobs Tax Credit (TJTC), included the requirement for employers to pre-screen job applicants. To pre-screen a job applicant, on or before the day a job offer is made, a pre-screening notice (Form 8850, Pre-Screening Notice and Certification Request for the Work Opportunity Credit) must be completed by the job applicant and the employer. After pre-screening a job applicant, the IRS requires the employers to make a request for certification by submitting Form 8850 to the appropriate state workforce agency, no later than 28 days after the employee begins work.
The Service also notified that, tax-exempt organizations can claim the WOTC against the employer’s share of social security tax for hiring qualified veterans, by filing Form 5884-C, Work Opportunity Credit for Qualified Tax-Exempt Organizations Hiring Qualified Veterans. Further information can be found in the Form 8850 instructions or on the WOTC page on IRS.gov.
Businesses are still waiting for pandemic relief made available to them during the COVID-19 outbreak amid ongoing processing delays at the Internal Revenue Service, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
Businesses are still waiting for pandemic relief made available to them during the COVID-19 outbreak amid ongoing processing delays at the Internal Revenue Service, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
According to an August 31, 2022, report posted to the TIGTA web site, the IRS "did not begin processing claims for qualified Sick and Family Leave Credits and the Employee Retention Credit for 12 months and claims for the Social Security Tax Deferral for 16 months after the pandemic relief legislation was enacted."
TIGTA attributed this delay to a "lack of updated programming and procedural guidance," as well as a "lack of training, erroneously suspended claims, and a lack of prioritization of claims" that contributed to the delays in processing claims.
Employers filing claims for these pandemic benefits would have filed a Form 941-X, which would have amended a previously filed Form 941 if they did not make the initial claim for these benefits on the Form 941 or if they needed to amend the amount of original claim on the already-filed Form 941.
"As of February 1, 2022, there were 447,435 Forms 941-X waiting to be processed," the report states. "Over 90 percent (402,814) of these Forms 941-X were over-aged, i.e. have not been processed within 45 calendar days. In addition, 60,885 (13.6 percent of the Forms 941-X were not processed within 180 calendar days."
TIGTA described the over-aged inventory as "an ongoing challenge for the IRS."
Additionally, the IRS watchdog found claims that should have been reviewed but were not resulted "in $45 million in potentially erroneous nonrefundable employer tax credits being allowed" when they otherwise might not have had proper reviews been conducted.
TIGTA recommends that IRS develop a plan to prioritize processing backlogged claims, update the examination referral process, and update training for IRS employees regarding referrals. IRS did not agree with the latter recommendations, but did all others stated in the report.
"Management stated they completed subsequent review of completed Form 941-X claims and determined no additional training was needed," the report states. "However, the IRS’s subsequent reviews do not address the concerns identified in our report. Accounts Management employees cited unclear guidance and training as to why 73 percent of claims were not referred when required."
The IRS has released a list of exceptions for the inclusion of a cancelled student loan debt in income. Generally, had a taxpayer's student loan been cancelled or repaid by someone else, the taxpayer was mandated to include the cancelled or repaid loan amount as part of their gross income, for tax purposes.
The IRS has released a list of exceptions for the inclusion of a cancelled student loan debt in income. Generally, had a taxpayer's student loan been cancelled or repaid by someone else, the taxpayer was mandated to include the cancelled or repaid loan amount as part of their gross income, for tax purposes. However, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 has modified the treatment of student loan forgiveness for discharges in 2021 through 2025, wherein the taxpayer may be able to exclude the repaid or cancelled loan amount from his gross income, if the loan could be categorized as one of the following:
- A loan for post-secondary educational expenses.
- A private education loan.
- A loan from an educational organization described in Code Sec. 170(b)(1)(A)(ii).
- A loan from an organization exempt from tax under Code Sec. 501(a) to refinance a student loan.
Taxpayers can find more information about the list of exceptions to canceled student loan debt in income https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/modified-treatment-of-student-loan-forgiveness-for-discharges-in-2021-through-2025.
Upgrading the Internal Revenue Service’s antiquated information technology infrastructure will help honest taxpayers, especially those making $400,000 or less, from being audited, Department of the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.
Upgrading the Internal Revenue Service’s antiquated information technology infrastructure will help honest taxpayers, especially those making $400,000 or less, from being audited, Department of the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.
Speaking September 15, 2022, at an IRS facility in New Carrollton, Md., Yellen reiterated that the $80 billion in additional funds allocated to the IRS in the recent Inflation Reduction Act would not be used to increase audits on lower earning taxpayers.
"I’ve directed that enforcement resources will not be used to raise audit rates for households making under $400,000 a year relative to historical levels," Yellen said, according to the prepared remarks posted on the Treasury Department website. "In fact, we expect audit rates for honest taxpayers to decline, once the IRS has the right technological infrastructure in place. This means a simpler tax filing season for taxpayers who are doing everything right."
The Treasury Department’s focus on getting high income individual taxpayers and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes has been a consistent message Sec. Yellen and other Treasury and IRS officials have been sending since the funding was approved.
"In 2019, the top one percent of Americans was estimated to owe over a fifth of unpaid taxes – totaling around $160 billion," Yellen said, "Data shows that less than half of all taxes from more complex sources of income are paid. Yet nearly all taxes due from wages and salaries – which are earned by ordinary Americans – are paid," adding that "working families are shouldering a disproportionate burden of investing in our roads, schools, military, and more."
She called that inequity "unacceptable," and said that the funding from the Inflation Reduction Act "will go toward auditing more high earners who have not paid their full bill. With it, we are estimated to raise hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue."
Sec. Yellen also suggested that tax filing could become simpler as the agency updates its IT infrastructure. She cited a statistic that it takes an average American 13 hours to file a tax return, while in Sweden, some can simply file with a text message.
"The Inflation Reduction Act finally provides the funding to transform the IRS into a 21st century agency," she said. "While all the improvements won’t be done overnight, taxpayers can expect to feel real differences during the next filing season."
The most immediate difference will be with those seeking assistance. Yellen said Tax Assistance Centers will be fully staffed for the next tax season, allowing for the IRS to help "at least 2.7 million Americans," up from 900,000 Americans helped in the previous year.
Similarly, the IRS is increasing staffing at its call centers and is targeting an 85 percent level of service (meaning between 8 and 9 of every 10 calls is answered) up from the current level of 10 to 15 percent during the most recent tax filing season. It is also targeting a reduction of wait times to less than 15 minutes from the near 30 minutes of wait time during the 2022 tax filing season.
Sec. Yellen also committed to the digitization of paper tax returns through some form of scanning and moving away from the current use of manual transcribing, something both tax professionals and the National Taxpayer Advocate have been calling for.
"For taxpayers, this means faster processing and faster refunds," she said. "The IRS will also build online capabilities to enable taxpayers to fully interact with the agency digitally. Currently, when taxpayers receive a notice from the IRS, they generally must respond via mail. During this coming filing season, millions of taxpayers will be able to receive and respond to notices online."
NTA Offers Suggestions on How New IRS Funding Should Be Allocated
National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins offered suggestions on how the Internal Revenue Service should spend the $80 billion in additional funding it received from Congress in the Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law earlier this year.
In the first of two blog posts on the subject posted September 14, 2022, Collins focused on the immediate needs of the agency.
She wrote that before the IRS moves forward in plans to improve its overall operations, "it is imperative that it fulfills its core filing season mission by eliminating the backlog of unprocessed original and amended paper-filed tax returns, pay all pending refunds, and work through its backlog of overaged correspondence."
To achieve this, she outlined the following recommendations:
- hire or re-assign employees to process the backlog of paper-filed tax returns and correspondence;
- hire enough employees to answer 85 percent of taxpayer phone calls and institute “customer callback” technology on all toll-free lines;
- improve services for taxpayer professionals;
- continue to suspend automated collection notices until the backlog is eliminated; and
- hire enough employees to fully staff Taxpayer Assistance Centers and extend walk-in capabilities.
The recommendations preceded remarks made by Department of the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on September 15, 2022, in which she highlighted a number of these recommendations as priorities for the IRS, including fully staffing Taxpayer Assistance Centers and improving call center service levels.
Longer Term Recommendations
In her second blog post on the subject, posted September 15, 2022, Collins focused more on long-term initiatives the IRS can embark on to improve the taxpayer experience.
The recommendations ranged from the basic, such as hiring more human resource employees and ensuring proper training for all IRS employees to updating antiquated information technology infrastructure, improving transparency and issuing clear notices and guidance.
On the IT side, Collins’ recommendation topics touched on some of the usual suspects, including improving online functionality and access to tax records and automating the scanning process for paper filings. She also called for implementing technology to allow taxpayers and tax professionals to upload documents for auditors, as well as improving the readability of transcripts, and enabling all taxpayers to have the ability to electronically file their tax returns.
Other technology recommendations include improving the voicebots and chatbots as well as overhauling the IRS website to make it more user friendly.
In the area of improving transparency, Collins noted that during the 2020 and 2021 filing seasons, the IRS "failed to provide weekly reports proving tax return processing timeframes so that taxpayers would know what to expect when they filed their returns or submitted correspondence. This lack of proactive transparency and timely information left taxpayers confused and frustrated, reaching for the phones, searching the Internet, and looking for tax professionals to help."
As for improving notices and guidance, Collins noted that despite improvements over the years, "some critical notices remain confusing and vague, and don’t provide taxpayers with adequate IRS contact information. In some cases, the IRS limits the number of characters and words in its notices."
She noted that under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights that taxpayers have the right to be informed. If the IRS knows something, "it needs to timely, accurately, and clearly say it," Collins wrote. "Failure to do so may well lead to more complications and problems for taxpayers, requiring additional time and resources by taxpayers, tax professionals, and the IRS to resolve them."
Finally, Collins called for an increase to the Taxpayer Advocate Service funding, noting that its "case advocacy operations are already stretched thin, and we will need to hire additional employees if the IRS ramps up its compliance activities, as that inevitably will lead to more TAS cases."
"IRS leaders often tell us they agree with our recommendations in concept, but they lack the resources to implement them," Collins wrote in the second blog post. "With the supplemental funding it has received, these initiatives can now be undertaken."
Three years ago, Congress enhanced small business expensing to encourage businesses to purchase equipment and other assets and help lift the economy out of a slow-down. This valuable tax break was set to expire after 2007. Congress has now extended it two more years as part of the recently enacted Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act. Taxpayers who fully qualify for the expensing deduction get what amounts to a significant up-front reduction in the out-of-pocket cost of business equipment.
Indexed for inflation
In lieu of depreciation, taxpayers can elect to deduct up to $100,000 of the cost of qualifying property placed in service for the tax year. The $100,000 amount is reduced, but not below zero, by the amount by which the cost of the qualifying property exceeds $400,000.
The $100,000 and $400,000 limitations are indexed for inflation. For 2006, they are $108,000 and $430,000 respectively.
If you want to take advantage of the small business expensing election, you must do so on your original tax return, on Form 4562 (Depreciation and Amortization) or on an amended return filed before the due date for your original return including any extensions. If you don't claim it, you cannot change your mind later by filing an amended tax return after the due date.
Tangible personal property
The property that you purchase must be tangible personal property that is actively used in your business and for which a depreciation deduction would be allowed. The property must be newly purchased new or used property rather than property that you previously owned but recently converted to business use. If you have any questions about the type of property you are purchasing, give our office a call and we'll help you determine if it qualifies for enhanced expensing.
Generally, land improvements, such as buildings, paved parking lots and fences do not qualify for expensing. However, property contained in or attached to a building that is not a structural component, such as refrigerators, testing equipment and signs, does qualify.
Property acquired by gift or inheritance does not qualify. Property you acquired from related persons, such as your spouse, child, parent, or other ancestor, or another business with common ownership also does not qualify.
There are special provisions for applying the expensing rules to partnerships and S corporations, controlled groups of corporations, married couples, and sport utility vehicles. We can explain these provisions in more detail if you call our office.
Qualifying property must be used more than 50 percent for business. If use falls below 50 percent, you may have to recapture (give back) part of the tax benefit you previously claimed.
The two-year extension opens the door to some important strategic tax planning opportunities. Our office can help you plan purchases so you get the maximum tax benefit. Give us a call today.
Starting in 2010, the $100,000 adjusted gross income cap for converting a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA is eliminated. All other rules continue to apply, which means that the amount converted to a Roth IRA still will be taxed as income at the individual's marginal tax rate. One exception for 2010 only: you will have a choice of recognizing the conversion income in 2010 or averaging it over 2011 and 2012.
The Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 eliminated the $100,000 adjusted gross income (AGI) ceiling for converting a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA. While this provision does not apply until 2010, now may be a good time to make plans to maximize this opportunity.
The Roth IRA has benefits that are especially useful to high-income taxpayers, yet as a group they have been denied those advantages up until now. Currently, you are allowed to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA only if your AGI does not exceed $100,000. A married taxpayer filing a separate return is prohibited from making a conversion. The amount converted is treated as distributed from the traditional IRA and, as a consequence, is included in the taxpayer's income, but the 10-percent additional tax for early withdrawals does not apply.
While recognizing income sooner rather than later is usually not smart tax planning, in the case of this new opportunity to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, the math encourages it. The difference is twofold:
- All future earnings on the account are tax free; and
- The account can continue to grow tax free longer than a traditional IRA without being forced to be distributed gradually after reaching age 70 ½.
These can work out to be huge advantages, especially valuable to individuals with a degree of accumulated wealth who probably won't need the money in the Roth IRA account to live on during retirement.
Example. Mary's AGI in 2010 is $200,000 and she has traditional IRA balances that will have grown to $300,000. Assuming a marginal federal and local income tax of about 40 percent on the $300,000 balance, the $180,000 remaining in the account can grow tax free thereafter, with distributions tax free. Further assume that Mary is 45 years of age with a 90 year life expectancy and money conservatively doubles every 15 years. She will die with an account of $1.44 million, income tax free to her heirs. If the Roth IRA is bequeathed to someone in a younger generation with a long life expectancy, even factoring in eventual required minimum distributions, the amount that can continue to accumulate tax free in the Roth IRA can be staggering, eventually likely to reach over $10 million.
Now is not too early to start planning to take advantage of the Roth IRA conversion opportunity starting in 2010. While planning to maximize the conversion will become more detailed as 2010 approaches and your assets and income for that year are more measurable, there are certain steps you can start taking now to maximize your savings.
Start a nondeductible IRA
The income limits on both kinds of IRAs have prevented higher income taxpayers from making deductible contributions to traditional IRAs or any contributions to Roth IRAs. They could always make nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA, but such contributions have a limited pay-off (no current deduction, tax on account income is deferred rather than eliminated, required minimum distributions).
While a taxpayer could avoid these problems by making nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA and then converting it to a Roth IRA, this option was not available for upper income taxpayers who would have the most to benefit from such a conversion. With the elimination of the income limit for tax years after December 31, 2009, higher income taxpayers can begin now to make nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA and then convert them to a Roth IRA in 2010. In all likelihood, there will be little to tax on the converted amount.
What's more, taxpayers with $100,000-plus AGIs should consider continue making nondeductible IRA contributions in the future and roll them over into a Roth IRA periodically. As a result, the elimination of the income limit for converting to a Roth IRA also effectively eliminates the income limit for contributing to a Roth IRA.
Example. John and Mary are a married couple with $300,000 in income. They are not eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA because their AGI exceeds the $160,000 Roth IRA eligibility limit. Beginning in 2006, the couple makes the maximum allowed nondeductible IRA contribution ($8,000 in 2006 and 2007, and $10,000 in 2008, 2009, and 2010). In 2010, their account is worth $60,000, with $46,000 of that amount representing nondeductible contributions that are not taxed upon conversion. The couple rolls over the $60,000 in their traditional IRA into a Roth IRA. They must include $14,000 in income (the amount representing their deductible contributions), which they can recognize either in 2010, or ratably in 2011 and 2012.
Assuming they have sufficient earned income each year thereafter (until reaching age 70 1/2), John and Mary can continue to make the maximum nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA and quickly roll over these funds into their Roth IRA, thereby avoiding significant taxable growth in the assets that would have to be recognized upon distribution from a traditional IRA.
Rollover 401(k) accounts
Contributions to a Section 401(k) plans cannot be rolled over directly into a Roth IRA. The lifting of the $100,000 AGI limit does not change this rule. However, they often can be rolled over into a traditional IRA and then, after 2009, converted into a Roth IRA.
Not everyone can just pull his or her balance out of a 401(k) plan. A plan amendment must permit it or, more likely, those who are changing jobs or are otherwise leaving employment can choose to roll over the balance into an IRA rather than elect to continue to have it managed in the 401(k) plan.
For money now being contributed to 401(k) plans by employees, an even better option would be for those contributions to be made to a Roth 401(k) plan. Starting in 2006, as long as the employer plan allows for it, Roth 401(k) accounts may receive employee contributions.
Gather those old IRA accounts
Many taxpayers opened IRA accounts when they were first starting out in the work world and their incomes were low enough to contribute. Over the years, many have seen those account balances grow. These accounts now may be converted into Roth IRAs starting in 2010, regardless of income.
Paying the tax
In spite of all the advantages of a Roth IRA, a conversion is advisable only if the taxpayer can readily pay the tax generated in the year of the conversion. If the tax is paid out of a distribution from the converted IRA, that amount is also taxed; and if the distribution counts as an early withdrawal, it is also subject to an additional 10-percent penalty. For those planning to convert who may not already have the funds available, saving now in a regular bank or brokerage account to cover the amount of the tax in 2010 can return an unusually high yield if it enables a Roth IRA conversion in 2010 that might not otherwise take place.
Careful planning is key
Transferring funds between retirement accounts can carry a high price tag if it is done incorrectly. For those who plan carefully, however, converting from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA can yield very substantial after-tax rates of return. Please feel free to call our offices if you have any questions about how the 2010 conversion opportunity should fit into your overall tax and wealth-building strategy.
No. Generally, payments that qualify as alimony are included in the recipient's gross income and are deducted from the payor's gross income. However, not all payments between spouses qualify as alimony.
Divorce or separation agreement
Payments do not qualify as alimony unless they are made under a written divorce or separation instrument. Any payment that exceeds the amount provided in the agreement, that is made before they are required by the agreement or that is made after they are no longer required by an agreement will not be considered alimony and will not be deductible as such.
The current rules apply to payments made under a post-1984 divorce or separation agreement. Covered under these rules are divorce or separation agreements executed after December 31, 1984, instruments executed before 1985 if a decree executed after December 31, 1984 changes the terms of the pre-1985 instrument, or pre-1985 instruments which are not treated as executed after December 31, 1984 but which have been modified after that date to expressly provide that the post-1984 rules are to apply.
Under the current rules, a divorce or separation agreement is defined as a divorce or separate maintenance decree or a written instrument incident to that decree, a written separation agreement, or a decree that is not a divorce decree or a separate maintenance decree but that requires a spouse to make payments for the support or maintenance of the other spouse.
To be deductible, alimony payments must meet all the strict statutory requirements. First, the payment must be in cash or an equivalent and must be received by or on behalf of a spouse under a divorce or separation agreement.
Additionally, the agreement must not designate the payment as not includable in gross income and not allowable as a deduction under Code Sec. 215, the spouses who are legally separated under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance cannot be members of the same household when the payment is made, there must be no liability to make any payment after the death of the payee spouse, and spouses must not file joint returns with each other.
Lastly, the payment must not be fixed as child support. Payments that do not meet these requirements will not be considered alimony and cannot be deducted.
Different rules apply to payments made under pre-1985 divorce or separation agreements. However, a pre-1985 agreement can be expressly modified to provide that the rules for post-1984 agreements will apply to subsequent payments.
Ordinarily, you can deduct the fair market value (FMV) of property contributed to charity. The FMV is the price in an arm's-length transaction between a willing buyer and seller. If the property's value is less than the price you paid for it, your deduction is limited to FMV. In some cases, you must submit an appraisal with your tax return.
Record-keeping requirements vary for noncash contributions, depending on the amount of the deduction. Similar items should be combined to determine the amount of the contribution:
- If the claimed deduction is less than $250, the charitable recipient must give you a receipt that identifies the recipient, the date of the contribution, and provides a detailed description of the property. You should keep a written record with a description of the property, its FMV, and how you determined the FMV, including a copy of any appraisals.
- If the property's value is between $250 and $500, the requirements are similar. In addition, the recipient must give you a written acknowledgment that describes and values any goods or services provided to you.
- If the value is between $500 and $5,000, your records must describe how the property was obtained, the date it was obtained or created, and the basis of the property.
If the value is between $5,000 and $500,000, you must obtain a qualified appraisal by a qualified appraiser, retain that appraisal in your records, and attach to your income tax return a completed Form 8283, Section B.
- If you donate property and claim a deduction of more than $500,000, or donated art and deducted $20,000 or more, you must submit a "qualified appraisal" with your tax return.
If total noncash contributions exceed $500, you must fill out Section A of Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions. If the contributions exceed $5,000, you must fill out Section B of the form. Publicly-traded securities must be listed on Section A, even if the value exceeds $5,000.
Form 8283 indicates that an appraisal generally must be submitted for amounts described in Section B. The IRS will deny the deduction if there is no appraisal, unless the failure to get an appraisal was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect. If the IRS asks you to file Form 8283, the taxpayer will have 90 days to submit a completed form.
For property over $5,000, the appraiser and the charitable recipient must sign Form 8283. The form advises the recipient to file Form 8282, Donee Information Return, with the IRS and to give a copy to the donor if the property is sold within two years. This is not required if the item (or group of similar items) has a value of $500 or less, or if the property is transferred for a charitable purpose.Qualified appraisal
You must obtain a "qualified appraisal" no earlier than 60 days before you contributed the property and before the due date of your return, including extensions. If you first report the contribution on an amended return, you must obtain an appraisal before you filed the amended return.
The appraisal must describe the property in detail so that it can be identified; give its condition; provide the date of contribution; describe any restrictions on the use of the property; and identify the appraiser. The appraisal also must provide the appraiser's qualifications; the date the property was valued; the FMV on the date of contribution; and the valuation method for determining value, including any comparable sales used.
A separate appraisal and a separate Form 8283 are required for each item or group of similar items. Only one appraisal is required for a group of similar items contributed in the same year. If similar items are contributed to more than one recipient and the items' value exceeds $5,000, a separate Form 8283 must be filed for each recipient.
Here's an example:
You donate $2,000 of books to College A, $2,500 of books to College B, and $1,000 of books to a public library. A separate Form 8283 must be submitted for each recipient.
Generally, a family member or a party who sold the property to the donor cannot be the appraiser. An appraiser who is regularly used by the donor or recipient must have performed the majority of his or her appraisals for other persons. Form 8283 requires that the appraiser either publicize his (or her) services or else perform appraisals on a regular basis. The appraisal fee cannot be based on a percentage of the appraised property value or of the deduction allowed by the IRS.
Fees that you pay for an appraisal are a miscellaneous itemized deduction and cannot be included in the charitable deduction.
Taxpayers who do not meet the requirements for the home sale exclusion may still qualify for a partial home sale exclusion if they are able to prove that the sale was a result of an unforeseen circumstance. Recent rulings indicate that the IRS is flexible in qualifying occurrences as unforeseen events and allowing a partial home sale exclusion.Home sale exclusion
Generally, single taxpayers may exclude from gross income up to $250,000 of gain on sale or exchange of a principal residence and married taxpayers filing jointly may exclude up to $500,000. The exclusion can only be used once every two years.
To qualify for this exclusion, taxpayers must own and use the property as their principal residence for periods totaling two out of five years before sale. The five-year period can be suspended for up to 10 years for absences due to service in the military or the foreign service.
Partial exclusions are available when the ownership and use test or two-year test is not met but the taxpayer sells due to change of employment, health or unforeseen circumstances. Without these mitigating circumstances, all gain on the sale of a residence before the two years are up is taxed.Unforeseen circumstances safe harbors
The IRS offers several "safe harbors," that is, events that will be considered to be unforeseen circumstances. These include the involuntary conversion of the taxpayer's residence, casualty to the residence caused by natural or man-made disasters or terrorism, death of a qualified individual, unemployment, divorce or legal separation, and multiple births from the same pregnancy.Facts and circumstances test
If a taxpayer does not qualify for any of the safe harbors, the IRS can determine if a sale is the result of unforeseen circumstances by applying a facts and circumstances test. Some of the factors looked at by the IRS are proximity in time of sale and claimed unforeseen event, suitability of the property as the taxpayer's principal residence materially changes, whether the taxpayer's financial ability to maintain the property is materially impaired, whether the taxpayer used the property as a personal residence and whether the unforeseen circumstances were foreseeable when the taxpayer bought and used the property as a personal residence.Events deemed as unforeseen circumstances
Recently, the IRS has decided that several non-safe harbor events were unforeseen circumstances. These include sales because of fear of criminal retaliation, the adoption of a child, a neighbor assaulting the homeowners and threatening their child, and a move to an assisted living facility followed by a move to a hospice.
If you think you may be eligible for a reduced home sale exclusion because of an unforeseen circumstance, give our office a call.
No, parking tickets are not deductible. Internal Revenue Code Sec. 162 (a) provides that no deduction is allowed for fines or penalties paid to a government (U.S. or foreign, federal or local). While many delivery businesses consider parking tickets as a cost of doing business and more akin to an occasional "rental" payment for a place to park, a parking ticket is a fine and, as such, it is not deductible. By definition, parking tickets are civil penalties imposed by state or local law. The Tax Court decided that parking tickets are not business deductions way back in 1975 in a case dealing with a taxpayer that was trying to deduct as a business expense some parking tickets, among other things. The court allowed the other deductions but did not allow the parking tickets, citing Code Sec. 162.
The AMT is difficult to apply and the exact computation is very complex. If you owed AMT last year and no unusual deduction or windfall had come your way that year, you're sufficiently at risk this year to apply a detailed set of computations to any AMT assessment. Ballpark estimates just won't work.
If you did not owe AMT last year, you still may be at risk. The IRS estimates that half million more individuals will be subject to the AMT in 2006 because of rising deductions and exemptions. If Congress doesn't extend the same AMT exclusion amount given in 2005, an estimated 3 million more taxpayers will pay AMT.
For a system that was intended originally to target only the very rich, the AMT now hits many middle to upper-middle class taxpayers as well. Obviously something has to be done, and will be, eventually, through proposed tax reform measures. In the meantime, expect AMT to be around for at least another year.
Basic calculations. Whether you will be liable for the AMT depends on your combination of income, adjustments and preferences. After all the computations, if your AMT liability exceeds your income tax liability, you will be liable for the AMT. Here are the basic steps to take to determine in evaluating whether you will owe the AMT:
- Step #1: Calculate your regular taxable income. If your regular tax were to be determined by reference to an amount other than taxable income, that amount would need to be determined and used in the next steps.
- Step #2: Calculate your alternative minimum taxable income (AMTI) by increasing or reducing your regular taxable income (or other relevant amount) by applying the AMT adjustments or preferences. These include business depreciation adjustments and preferences, loss, timing and personal itemized deductions adjustments, and tax-exempt or excluded income preferences. This is the step with potentially many sub-computations in determining increases and reductions in tax liability.
- Step #3: If your AMTI exceeds the applicable AMT exemption amount, pay AMT on the excess.
While no single factor will automatically trigger the AMT, the cumulative result of several targeted tax benefits considered in Step #2, above, can be fatal. Common items that can cause an "ordinary" taxpayer to be subject to AMT are:
- All personal exemptions (especially of concern to large families);
- Itemized deductions for state and local income taxes and real estate taxes;
- Itemized deductions on home equity loan interest (except on loans used for improvements);
- Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions;
- Accelerated depreciation;
- Income from incentive stock options; and
- Changes in some passive activity loss deductions.
You've waited until the last minute to fill out your income tax return. Instead of owing more taxes to the IRS, as you feared, you discover that you're entitled to a big refund. You breathe a sigh of relief.
What's wrong with this picture?
You're parking your money with the IRS; in effect, you have made an interest-free loan to the U.S. government. Wouldn't you rather have the money yourself, sooner?
It's true that you can't anticipate every facet of your tax return. You may have last-minute medical expenses. You may decide to increase your end-of-the year charitable giving. You may decide to sell off that investment that's a money-loser. Last-minute actions like these will all reduce your tax liability.
But if you're getting a sizeable refund, you may want to reduce your income tax withholding this year. You should consider reducing your withholding in the following circumstances:
- You got a big refund and your tax items will be about the same.
- Your income will remain the same but your adjustments, deductions and credits will increase significantly.
- You got a refund and you will qualify for one or more tax credits this year that you did not qualify for last year.
Any of the following common situations during a tax year also can lead to over-withholding:
- You and your spouse both withhold at the individual rate, when one of you could withhold at the lower married rate.
- You had child care expenses.
- You bought a home with a higher mortgage.
- You worked part-time but withheld at the higher annual rate as if you were working full-time.
- You bought a hybrid automobile and can claim a deduction or credit.
Of course, a larger-than-expected refund also can be the result of uncovering "hidden treasures" at tax preparation time -- unexpected deductions and other tax benefits that will lower the amount of income taxes that you thought you would have to pay. That's terrific; tax return time often does result in "finding" deductions and opportunities for post-year end tax planning as you pour over receipts and other paperwork. However, to what degree could many of these "hidden treasures" be discovered earlier and your tax withholding and estimated tax payments lowered earlier as a result?
Personal and financial factors also might change your tax liability: lifestyle changes, wage income, decreased income not subject to withholding; increased adjustments to income, and increased itemized deductions or tax credits.
If your circumstances change, or you want to make any changes to your withholding allowances, give your employer a new Form W-4. If you're starting a new job and are having trouble determining your withholding amount, you should still submit Form W-4. Otherwise, the employer must withhold at the highest rate.
Please contact this office if you need assistance in determining the right balance of wage withholding and estimated tax payments needed to cover your tax liability while not giving Uncle Sam an interest free loan. Remember, when you get a tax refund you are getting back money that you did not have to pay into the tax system in the first place.