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tax

Your Year-End Bonus

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.

Social Security Wage Base Projected for 2015

Update 10/22/2014: The wage base has been set for 2015. See the article Social Security Wage Base Set for 2015. According to the Social Security Administration trustees, the Social Security wage base for 2015 is projected to be $119,100.  This represents an increase of $2,100 from the 2014 wage base of $117,000. This is an increase of 1.79% – and won’t be finalized until October when the other increases for Social Security amounts are announced. This is a relatively small increase when compared to recent annual increases we’ve seen.  The previous 3 years’ increases have averaged 3.09%. This is different from the COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment), which has increased an average of 2.27% in the past three years. The 2014 COLA (applicable to 2015 benefits and other figures) will be released later in the year, typically in October.

A Quick Trick to Reduce Your Tax Liability

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 […]

Tax Time is Over. Maybe.

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 […]

Charitable Donations

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 […]

Getting a Transcript From the IRS

Often when dealing with an issue regarding a prior year’s tax return it is necessary to get a copy of the information that the IRS has on record for your return as filed.  Of course, you should always keep a copy of your original return, but in the absence of an original, the IRS’s record, known as a “transcript”, stands as the only way for you to have access to the filed information.  A couple of months ago the IRS sent around their Summertime Tax Tip 2012-18 which details how you can request and receive a transcript for a prior year’s return. The actual text of IRS Summertime Tax Tap 2012-18 follows: How to Get a Transcript or Copy of a Prior Year’s Tax Return from the IRS Taxpayers should keep copies of their tax returns, but if they cannot be located or have been destroyed during natural disasters or […]

After The Storm: Tax Breaks to Minimize Devastation of Superstorm Sandy

When Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, it is doubtful that many of the residents there, or in the other New England states, were thinking about taxes. It is in the aftermath of a major storm with the devastation clear that those in need start searching for tax breaks. Sandy left a death toll in the double digits and estimated damage to public, residential and commercial property in the billions. Included in the statistics are hundreds of homes lost, and thousands without power. The impact is in line with other historical storms such as Ivan and Katrina. As things start to settle and the worst hit areas begin the long, tedious rebuilding process, residents will be looking to government tax breaks for help. Immediate Relief on Tax Payments Immediately after the disaster, the IRS made the decision to defer the individual income tax payment deadline. Those owing payments initially […]

Penalties for Failure to File or Pay

When you don’t file your tax return or if you don’t pay the tax owed on time, the IRS has specific penalties that are applied to your account.  Recently the IRS issued their Tax Tip 2012-74, which lists eight facts about these penalties.  The actual text of the Tax Tip is listed below: Failure to File of Pay Penalties: Eight Facts The number of electronic filing and payment options increases every year, which helps reduce your burden and also improves the timeliness and accuracy of tax returns.  When it comes to filing your tax return, however, the law provides that the IRS can assess a penalty if you fail to file, fail to pay, or both. Here are eight important points about the two different penalties you may face if you file or pay late. If you do not file by the deadline, you might face a failure-to-file penalty.  If […]

Roth Conversion/Recharacterization Strategy

Image via Wikipedia If you have an IRA you probably know about the concept of a Roth IRA conversion – where you take distribution of a portion of your IRA and directly transfer that money into your a Roth IRA, paying tax as you go.  Then the Roth IRA can continue to grow tax-free (as Roth IRAs do) and you’ll never owe tax on your qualified distributions from the Roth IRA. In addition, if the investments you’ve made in the Roth IRA have lost money, before October 15 of the following year you have the opportunity to recharacterize your Roth conversion.  If you didn’t recharacterize, you’d be paying tax on a conversion amount that is much lower now if there was a downturn in the investments, so your average tax rate is much higher than you’d hoped.  By recharacterizing, you can undo the conversion or a part of it. I […]

What Can Be Done to Save Social Security?

Image by Lady_Helena via Flickr This is, of course, one of the most volatile questions on the political landscape these days.  We have some constituencies claiming that the whole plan is a Ponzi scheme and we should get rid of it altogether – and many others aiming to make radical tax increases in the system to improve solvency, or pushing back the age(s) for receiving benefits to reduce drag on the system. True, the system is in dire straits – not bankrupt, but needing attention.  Current projections indicate that at current pace, funds allocated to the system will run out sometime around 2036 unless something changes. Increasing taxes is never popular, and current political winds have shown just how far the dream of no increases in taxes will be pushed.  In addition, extending the age limits during a time when unemployment is at record highs only exacerbates that issue – […]

2 Good Reasons to Use Direct Rollover From a 401(k) Plan

If you have a 401(k) plan (or any Qualified Retirement Plan (QRP) such as a 403(b) plan), when you leave employment at that job you can rollover the plan funds to an IRA or another QRP at a new job.  Listed below are 2 very good reasons that you should use a Direct rollover (also known as a trustee-to-trustee transfer) instead of the 60-day rollover. Image by aloucha via Flickr A 60-day rollover is where the former plan distributes the funds from your account to you, and in order to make the rollover complete you must deposit the entire distributed amount into the new plan or IRA within 60 days. Reasons to Use a Direct Rollover You must complete the rollover to the new account or IRA within 60 days.  There is little if any leeway on this 60-day period – and though it seems as if this is a […]

The “Tax on Sale of Your Home” Email Myth

Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr If you have an email address (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), you’ve likely received this email.  In case you haven’t received it, there’s an email that is being forwarded around the internet about a new tax on selling your home – I get at least one of these a month it seems. I’ve copied the text of one of the emails below. This article is to help you understand why the email is a misguided myth, partly grounded in truth but not applicable for most folks. The email is usually forwarded at least a half-dozen times by the time you receive it, making it difficult to know where it started from.  In addition, the text of the email is often in large, bold, red font in places, such that you can almost feel the spittle coming off the page at you. Here’s the […]

UBTI in an IRA

Image via Wikipedia I’ve mentioned before about various types of transactions that are not allowed in your IRA, but we’ve not actually covered the topic of Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBTI) in your IRA.  UBTI isn’t prohibited within an IRA, but it does pose problems and adds a great deal of complexity to your account. Unrelated Business Taxable Income So, what is UBTI anyway?  The concept of UBTI pre-dates IRAs – it was originally developed in relation to charitable organizations, trusts, and other tax-exempt entities.  The IRS developed this concept to ensure that tax-exempt organizations didn’t have a competitive advantage over taxable organizations, such as for-profit corporations.  The way that income is determined to be “unrelated” is by checking these two tests: Is the income from a trade or business that is regularly carried on? Is the trade or business unrelated to the tax-exempt entity’s exercise of the entity’s tax-exempt […]

Caregiver Costs Qualify as Medical Expenses

Image by The Library of Virginia via Flickr It’s a little known fact that certain costs for caregivers, licensed or unlicensed, may qualify as medical expenses for tax deductions.  Maintenance and personal care service costs can be considered qualified medical expenses in cases where the patient receiving the care has been certified by a health-care professional as unable to perform two or more of the six activities of daily living: Bathing, Eating, Dressing, Toiletting, Continence, and Transferring (moving from bed to chair, for example). Note: An easy way to remember these six activities is to use the first characters in the order I presented them above – B E D To C – this gives us the first five, and the entire mnemonic provides the sixth, Transferring from BED To Chair. The health-care professional who certifies the patient as incapable of these activities can be a doctor, a nurse, or […]

Do You Need a Friend at the IRS?

Image by StephenZacharias via Flickr As taxpayers, many of us have faced difficulties in dealing with the IRS – and it can be a daunting position to be in.  One way to deal with these issues is to hire a CPA or Enrolled Agent to help you through the process.  Another way is to deal with it yourself.  The problem is that dealing with the IRS by yourself can be a very difficult thing to do. The good news is that you have a friend at the IRS:  The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS).  The purpose of the TAS is to help taxpayers whose problems with the IRS are causing financial difficulties; who have tried but have not been able to resolve their problems with the IRS; and those who believe an IRS system or procedure is not working as it should. In the IRS Tax Tip 2011-75, the IRS listed […]

Required Minimum Distributions for IRAs and 401(k)s

This is one of those subjects that can be a bit confusing – and it’s based on the rules that apply to the different kinds of plans.  You are aware that you’re required* to begin taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) once you reach age 70½ – but did you know that specifically which account you take the RMD from has some flexibility?  Well – not just flexibility, also some rigidity… Image by -RejiK via Flickr There is a Difference Between IRA and 401(k) Starting off, we need to understand that, in the IRS’s eyes, there is a big difference between an IRA and a 401(k).  For brevity, we’re referring to all sorts of Qualified Retirement Plans, such as 403(b) or 457 plans, as 401(k) plans. You may consider the two things to be more or less equal, but if you think about it, there are considerable differences between the two […]

A Restriction on the Home Buyer Credit

Here is a case where, even though the IRS documentation did not state it directly, the real rule of the law makes an explicit statement, and therefore the Code is where the final rules are taken from. In this particular case, there is a situation where the home buyer credit is not available: if the home is purchased from a parent or another close relative (and vice versa). And the taxpayer who relied only on an IRS publication found out the hard way that the Internal Revenue Code is the final word on the subject. There was a recent Tax Court case (Nievinski, TC Summary Opinion 2011-10) that challenged the limitation, and the Tax Court ruled in favor of the Service.  The argument was that, in a particular document, IRS Publication 4819 “Important Information About the First-Time Homebuyer Credit”, there was no express explanation of this limitation. Image via The […]

Proposed Social Security Wage Base Increases

October 19, 2011 update: the expected wage base increase has been confirmed as $110,100 for 2012.  For more information, see this article. The Social Security Administration has released the proposed figures for the increase in the wage base for taxation for 2012 and projected some figures for the years up to 2015.  This is the limited amount of income against which Social Security withholding tax is applied. For 2009 through 2011, the wage base has been static – at $106,800 for each year.  The amount did not increase for these years since the average wage index (AWI) actually decreased from 2008 to 2009, and the modest increase in the index from 2009 to 2010 did not make up for the decrease in the prior year.  For 2011, the AWI is expected to increase once again, by 3.08%.  This sets the projected wage base for 2012 at $110,100, up a total of […]

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