Since we’re in the middle of income tax preparation season, I thought it was appropriate to share some of the tips that the IRS has put forth. Today’s tip is to take advantage of direct deposit for your tax refund. It can be very handy to have this option specified on your tax return, as you’ll see below. It’s faster, more secure, and much more convenient than the old paper check method. Below is the text of IRS’ Tax Tip 2015-23, which details some of the reasons that it makes sense to use direct deposit for your tax refund.
In case you forgot to take your required minimum distribution (RMD) for 2014 there’s still hope in order to avoid the 50% (yes, that’s FIFTY percent) penalty of the amount not withdrawn. If you missed taking the RMD for 2014 here’s what you can do. According to the IRS the penalty may be waived if you can establish that it was due to reasonable error that you didn’t take the RMD and that reasonable steps are being taken to remedy the error. That is, take the 2014 RMD right away (or as soon as you can let your custodian know) and it might not be a bad idea to take the RMD for 2015 as well (just to be on the safe side). Once that’s done you or your tax professional need to fill out Form 5329 as well as a letter explaining the reason for not taking the RMD. […]
For 2015 the IRS has given the new limits regarding retirement contributions as well as estate and gift tax exemptions. Regarding retirement contributions employees may now defer $18,000 annually to their employer sponsored plan including a 401k, 403b, and 457 plans. This is an increase from last year’s $17,500 amount. Additionally, employees age 50 or older can now make an age based catch-up contribution of $6,000 which is a $500 increase from last year’s $5,500 amount.
As the end of the year approaches many employers will pay and many employees will receive year-end bonuses. While often the icing on the cake for a productive year employee should be aware of the tax consequences of their bonus. Percent vs. Aggregate Method When it comes to taxing the bonus an employer may choose the percentage method versus the aggregate method. Under the aggregate or wage holding bracket method the employer will use the withholding tables generally used for the employee normal paycheck. Then, the supplemental wages are aggregated with the employee’s normal pay and taxes are withheld accordingly.
The end of the year, especially around the holidays, is a time when many folks’ thoughts turn to charitable giving. Many opportunities present themselves, from the gentleman with the bell and the red kettle to our local food and coat drives. With this in mind, the IRS recently published their Special Edition Tax Tip 2014-13 which details six tips for charitable giving. The actual text of the Tip is listed below. In addition to those tips, I’ll offer one more: if you are interested in utilizing the Qualified Charitable Distribution option from your IRA – presently this option has not been extended for tax year 2014. It’s possible that it might be extended yet this year, so check back here – we’ll keep you posted.
Even though there are only a few more weeks left in the calendar year, there are a few things that you can do to avoid some serious and consequential tax surprises come April next year. The IRS recently published their Special Edition Tax Tip 2014-21 which details some of the steps you could take now to avoid these surprises. Still Time to Act to Avoid Surprises at Tax-Time Even though only a few months remain in 2014, you still have time to act so you aren’t surprised at tax-time next year. You should take steps to avoid owing more taxes or getting a larger refund than you expect. Here are some actions you can take to bring the taxes you pay in advance closer to what you’ll owe when you file your tax return:
Sometimes you need access to a previous year tax return copy, and dadgummit you just pitched the box of tax copies from 2011, thinking you couldn’t possibly need it again! There are ways to get this information – some easier than others. First of all, if you prepared and filed your own return using one of the commercial programs, and you’ve maintained your access to the program over the years, you should be able to go back and re-print a copy of the return from that year. This is the quick and simple method. If you had a tax professional prepare and file the return for you, she should have a copy of your return – if not the fileable copy, then at least a client’s or preparer’s copy, which should be adequate for fulfilling most requirements. Many preparers retain these copies, with supporting documentation, for many years for just […]
This past week the US House of Representatives passed a bill (HR 4719, known as the America Gives More Act) which would re-instate the Qualified Charitable Distribution from IRAs and make the provision permanent. This provision expired at the end of 2013, as it has multiple times in the past, only to be re-instated temporarily time and again. A Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) is when a person who is at least age 70½ years of age and subject to Required Minimum Distributions from an IRA is allowed to make a distribution from the IRA and direct the distribution to a qualified charitable organization without having to recognize the income for taxable purposes. This has been a popular option for many taxpayers, especially since the QCD can also be recognized as the Required Minimum Distribution for the year from the IRA.
Starting a new job in the middle of the year? Use the part year withholding method to avoid excess tax withheld
When you file your W4 form with a new employer, this instructs the employer how much tax to withhold from your pay, based on a full year’s pay rate. There is a strategy you can employ that will reduce the amount of tax withheld from your pay – known as the part year withholding method. This method of tax withholding calculation takes into account that you are only working and earning for a part of the year, so your overall income will be less, and there would be less tax required. If you start working in the middle of the year (or worse, late in the year) the normal rate of withholding would result in significant over-payment of tax withheld. The standard tables used to calculate withholding make the assumption on each pay that you are earning at this rate over the entire period.
Now that most folks are recovering from tax time there may be some individuals that paid an excessive amount of tax to Uncle Sam and are looking for ways to reduce their tax liability for next year. This post will be short and sweet, but hopefully it will drive a few points home. The best way to explain this is through an example. Let’s say that Mary and her husband Paul both work and file their taxes jointly. Their tax liability for 2013 was $4,000 – meaning that’s the amount of the check they wrote to the IRS. Needless to say, they are both looking for a potential way to reduce that liability – at least in the here and now. In this case, their marginal tax rate is 25%. The quick trick in this example is to take their tax rate which is 25% and divide it into their […]
When converting from a 401(k), traditional IRA, 403(b), SIMPLE IRA, SEP or 457(b) to a Roth IRA there are some important tax considerations to keep in mind. First, converting from a tax deferred plan to a tax free plan it’s not always the best idea. Generally, it’s going to make sense to convert if the tax payer believes that he or she will be in a higher income tax bracket in retirement. For example, John, age 28 has a 401(k) and recently left his employer. He’s currently in the 15% bracket but expects to be in the 28% bracket or higher in retirement. It may make sense for John to convert his 401(k) to his Roth IRA. This makes sense for John because when he converts from a pre-tax, employer sponsored plan like the 401(k) it’s money that has not yet been taxed. If he converts while in the 15% […]
For most folks tomorrow marks the one week anniversary of filing their 2014 tax return. Not much needs to be done after they’ve filed except for deciding to have more withheld in 2014 for those folks who had to write a check to Uncle Sam or deciding what to do with the refund (hint: put it in an IRA) for those folks who got a refund. What happens when the return may have been submitted with mistakes or perhaps costly errors? Generally, if the error is minor the IRS will correct errors or accept returns without certain forms or schedules attached. For those returns that have a change in filing status, income, deductions, and credits then filing an amended return will most likely be appropriate. For those folks needing to file an amended return they are allowed to file using form 1040X. Form 1040X will allowing corrections to earlier filed […]
So – you’re considering your income tax return (or maybe you’ve already filed) and you’re wondering if there are things you need to know with regard to Obamacare. Fortunately, it’s not much (for most folks), for your 2013 return anyhow. Next year will be a different story. The IRS recently produced their Health Care Tax Tip HCTT-2014-10 which lists some tips about how the health care law impacts your 2013 tax return. The actual text of the Tip is below: What do I need to know about the Health Care Law for my 2013 Tax Return? For most people, the Affordable Care Act has no effect on their 2013 federal income tax return. For example, you will not report health care coverage under the individual shared responsibility provision or claim the premium tax credit until you file your 2014 return in 2015. However, for some people, a few provisions may […]
When filing your tax return you want to make sure that you don’t make mistakes. Mistakes can be costly in terms of additional tax and penalties, as well as the extra time and grief they can cause you. Most of the time using e-filing software can help you to avoid these mistakes, but you should check over the return anyhow to make certain you haven’t fat-fingered something or if something didn’t go wrong with the software. The IRS recently issued their Tax Tip 2014-46, which lists out 8 common mistakes that folks make on their tax return, and how to avoid them where possible. The actual text of the Tip follows below: Eight Common Tax Mistakes to Avoid We all make mistakes. But if you make a mistake on your tax return, the IRS may need to contact you to correct it. That will delay your refund. You can avoid […]
Beginning with your 2013 tax return you have a new option available for calculating the Home-Office deduction – based solely on the square footage of the dedicated space used for the home office. Instead of having to maintain records that are directly and indirectly associated with your home office, you can use the simplified method, which applies a flat $5 rate per square foot to the home office space, up to a maximum of $1,500. The record-keeping and tax preparation simplification is very beneficial: Form 8829 (the usual home-office deduction form) can cause a lot of headaches to prepare, especially if you have more than one home office and you itemize your home mortgage interest and real estate taxes. For a single home office your tax preparation software will do much of the work for you, but complications like a second home office (not that uncommon in these days of […]
You may not be aware of this, since income taxes are so complicated that not a lot of folks do much digging into the nuances, but there is another income tax rate that could affect you in certain circumstances. This other income tax is called the Alternative Minimum Tax, or AMT. This “alternative” tax applies when you have income above certain thresholds. Essentially it ensures that you pay a certain minimum amount of income tax if your deductions reduce your income so much that your ordinary income tax falls below the minimum applied by the AMT. It gets pretty complicated, but I’ll go over the high points below. Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) AMT has a separate set of rules for definitions of income and expenses, rules for accounting and timing, and exemptions and tax rates. AMT limits the tax benefit of certain types of income and deductions, otherwise available to […]
Yes, I am organizing this writing around Valentine’s Day as a clever way to introduce a benefit military service members and their families can take advantage of as well as tie it into the title itself. The Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act or HEART Act provides service members and their families with certain pension and tax benefits while living or in the event of the service member’s death. According to http://myarmybenefits.us.army.mil/ these are some of the benefits that can be taken advantage of due to the HEART ACT: Accelerated vesting in the retirement plan (but not any imputed additional benefit accruals for the period of military service) Additional life insurance benefits Other survivor’s benefits depending on the benefits of the employer Employers also have the choice of treating the disabled or deceased service member as if they had returned to work the day before the disability or death occurred. […]
A few weeks ago I was interviewed by a local business journal about our firm’s thoughts as to how the market would react in 2014 and how to best prepare for that reaction. Essentially, the journal was asking us to predict where the market would be in 2014. Most of our clients know the answer I am about to write, which was, “No one can predict the direction of the market with any degree of accuracy.” “If that were the case, (as I told the interviewer) neither she nor I would be having this interview.” In other words, we’d be clinking our glasses on our respective tropical beaches because we’d have gotten filthy rich predicting and timing the moves of the market. Markets are pretty efficient – meaning that the price of any particular stock in any particular sector, industry or country is generally priced based on all available information […]
This time of year many people find it in their hearts to give. They’ll give to friends, family, loved ones and charitable organizations that can help maximize the gift such as a church, charity, or foundation. Last week I had written about the law of reciprocity and giving, and this week I’d like to mention how you can make your giving work in favor when tax season rolls around. As of this writing there are about 11 days left in 2013. Some individuals will be looking to see how much they can give or how much more they can give in order to receive the biggest tax deduction they can for charitable giving. Of course, gifts to friends and family are not deductible, but there are times when gifts or donations are completely deductible and may be to the tax advantage of the person giving or donating the gift. According to […]