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Posts from the ‘Income Tax, etc.’ Category

22
Mar

2021 Federal Income Tax Returns are Due April 18, 2022 For Most Individuals

If you live in Maine or Massachusetts the due date is April 19, 2022.

You can extend the filing date.

You can  file for an extension by filing IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return by the April due date. The extension gives you an additional six months (until October 17, 2022) to file your federal income tax return. You can also file for an automatic six-month extension electronically (details on how to do so can be found in the Form 4868 instructions). There may be penalties for failing to file or for filing late.

Note: Special rules apply if you’re living outside the country, or serving in the military outside the country, on the regular due date of your federal income tax return.

Include a payment if possible.
File  the return, and pay as much as you can afford if you absolutely cannot pay what you owe. You’ll owe interest and possibly penalties on the unpaid tax. You will limit the penalties assessed by filing your return on time, and you may be able to work with the IRS to pay the unpaid balance (options available may include the ability to enter into an installment agreement).

It’s important to understand that filing for an automatic extension  to file your return does not provide any additional time to pay your tax. When you file for an extension, you must estimate the amount of tax you will owe. Paying the full amount by the April filing due date will reduce interest and penalties based on the amount not paid. IRS may void the extension if your estimate of taxes was not reasonable.

Tax refunds

The IRS encourages taxpayers seeking tax refunds to file their tax returns as soon as possible. The IRS anticipates most tax refunds being issued within 21 days of the IRS receiving a tax return if the return is filed electronically, the tax refund is delivered through direct deposit, and there are no issues with the tax return. To avoid delays in processing, the IRS encourages people to avoid paper tax returns whenever possible.

IRA contributions

Contributions to an individual retirement account (IRA) for 2021 can be made up to the April due date (without regard to extensions) for filing the 2021 federal income tax return.

11
Mar

Common Tax Scams to Watch For

Internal Revenue Service has issued numerous Tax Sam/Consumer Alerts (1). According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), tax scams tend to increase during tax season and/or times of crisis.(2). Following
are some of the scams to watch out for.

Phishing  and text message scams

Phishing and text message scams usually involve unsolicited emails or text messages that seem to come from legitimate IRS sites to convince you to provide personal or financial information. Once scam artists obtain this information, they use it to commit identity or financial theft. The IRS does not initiate contact    with taxpayers by email, text message, or any social media platform to request personal or financial information. The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service.

Phone scams

Phone scams typically involve a phone call from someone claiming that you owe money to the IRS, or you’re entitled to a large refund. The calls may show up as coming from the IRS on your Caller ID, be accompanied by fake emails that appear to be from the IRS, or involve follow-up calls from individuals saying they are from law enforcement. These scams often target more vulnerable populations, such as immigrants and senior citizens, and  will use scare tactics such as threatening arrest, license revocation, or deportation.

Tax-related identity theft

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to claim a fraudulent tax refund. You may not even realize you’ve been the victim of identity theft until you file your tax return and discover that a return has already been filed using your Social Security number. Or the IRS may send you a letter indicating it has identified a suspicious  return using your Social Security number. To help prevent tax-related identity theft, the IRS now offers the Identity Protection PIN Opt-In Program. The Identity Protection PIN is a six-digit code that is known only to you and the IRS, and it helps the IRS verify your identity when you file your tax return.

Tax preparer fraud

Scam artists will sometimes pose as legitimate tax preparers and try to take advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers by committing refund fraud or identity theft. Be wary of any tax preparer who  won’t sign your tax return (sometimes referred to as a “ghost preparer”), requires a cash-only payment, claims fake deductions/tax credits, directs refunds into his or her own account, or promises an unreasonably large or inflated refund. A legitimate tax preparer will generally ask for proof of your income and eligibility for credits and deductions, sign the return as the preparer, enter a valid preparer tax identification number, and provide you with a copy of your return. It’s important to choose a tax preparer carefully because  you are legally responsible for what’s on your return, even if it’s prepared by someone else.

False offer in compromise

An offer in compromise (OIC) is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that can help the taxpayer settle tax debt for less than the full amount that is owed. Unfortunately, some companies charge excessive fees and falsely advertise that they can help taxpayers obtain larger OIC settlements with the IRS. Taxpayers can contact the IRS directly or use the IRS  Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool at https://irs.treasury.gov/oic_pre_qualifier/ to see if they qualify for an OIC.

Unemployment insurance fraud

Typically, this scheme is perpetrated by  scam artists who try to use your personal information to claim unemployment benefits. If you receive an unexpected prepaid card for unemployment benefits, see an unexpected deposit from your state in your bank account, or receive IRS Form 1099-G for unemployment compensation that you did not apply for, report it to your state unemployment insurance office as soon as possible.

Fake charities

Charity scammers pose as legitimate charitable organizations to solicit donations from unsuspecting donors. These scam artists often take advantage of ongoing tragedies and/or disasters, such as a devastating tornado or the COVID-19 pandemic. Be wary of charities with names that are like more familiar or nationally known organizations. Before donating to a charity, make sure it is legitimate and never donate cash, gift cards, or funds by wire transfer. The IRS website has a tool to assist you in checking out the status of a charitable organization at https://www.irs.gov/charities-and-nonprofits.

Protecting yourself from scams

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help protect yourself from scams, including those that target taxpayers:

  • Don’t click on suspicious or unfamiliar links in emails, text messages, or instant messaging services — visit government websites directly for valuable information
  • Don’t answer a phone call if you don’t recognize the phone number — instead, let it go to voicemail and check later to verify the caller
  • Never download email attachments unless you can verify that the sender is legitimate
  • Keep device and security software up to date, maintain strong passwords, and use multi-factor authentication
  • Never share personal or financial information via email, text message, or over the phone

1)    https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts
2)   Internal Revenue Service,  2022

1
Feb

Federal Income Tax Filing Season Has Begun for 2021 Returns

The IRS announced that the starting date for when it would accept and process 2021 tax-year returns was Monday, January 24, 2022.

Tips for making filing easier

To speed refunds and help with tax filing, the IRS suggests the following:

•          Make sure you have received Form W-2 and other earnings information, such as Form 1099, from employers and payers. The dates for furnishing such information to recipients vary by form, but they are generally not required before February 1, 2022. You may need to allow additional time for mail delivery.

•          Go to irs.gov to find the federal individual income tax returns, Form 1040, and Form 1040-SR (available for seniors born before January 2, 1957), and their instructions.

•          File electronically and use direct deposit.

•          Check irs.gov for the latest tax information, including how to reconcile advance payments of the child tax credit or claim a recovery rebate credit for missing stimulus payments. Also, watch for letters from the IRS with essential information about those payments that may help you file an accurate return.

Key filing dates

Here are several important dates to keep in mind.

•          January 14. IRS Free File opened. Free File allows you to file your federal income tax return for free [if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is $73,000 or less] using tax preparation and filing software. You can use Free File Fillable Forms even if your AGI exceeds $73,000 (these forms were not available until January 24). You could file with an IRS Free File partner (tax returns could not be transmitted to the IRS before January 24). Tax software companies may have accepted tax filings in advance.

•          January 24. IRS began accepting and processing individual tax returns.

•          April 18. Deadline for filing 2021 tax returns (or requesting an extension) for most taxpayers.

•          April 19. Deadline for filing 2021 tax returns (or requesting an extension) for taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts.

•          October 17. Deadline to file for those who requested an extension on their 2021 tax returns.

Awaiting processing of previous tax return?

The IRS is attempting to reduce the inventory of prior-year income tax returns that have not been fully processed due to pandemic-related delays. Taxpayers do not need to wait for their 2020 return to be fully processed to file their 2021 return.

Tax refunds

The IRS encourages taxpayers seeking a tax refund to file their tax return as soon as possible. The IRS anticipates most tax refunds being issued within 21 days of the IRS receiving a tax return if the return is filed electronically, any tax refund is delivered through direct deposit, and there are no issues with the tax return. To avoid delays in processing, the IRS encourages people to avoid  paper tax returns whenever possible.

20
Dec

2022 Mileage Rates 1)

The optional standard mileage standard mileage rates for the use of a cars (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) for business, charitable, medical, or moving purposes beginning January 1, 2022, have been issued.

Cars (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) 58.5 cents per mile for business use.

Medical, or Moving expenses for qualified active-duty members of the Armed Forces is 18 cents per mile.

Miles driven in service of charitable organization is 14 cents per mile.

Keep in mind that unreimbursed employee travel expenses miscellaneous cannot be deducted as itemized deductions. Moving expenses are not deductible, unless they are members of the Armed Forces on active duty moving under orders to a permanent change of station.

Medical, or Moving expenses for qualified active-duty members of the Armed Forces is 18 cents per mile.

Use of the standard mileage rates are optional. The alternative is to claim actual expenses.

The optional standard rates must be used in the first year the vehicle is used in business.

Election of the standard mileage rate for lease vehicles must be used for the entire lease period including renewals.

A taxpayer using the standard mileage rates must comply with the requirements of Revenue Procedure 2019-46 2)

1) IR-2021-254, December 17, 2021
2) Notice 22-03

11
Dec

2021 Some Potential Year-end Tax Moves

Maybe possible before year-end

Accelerate or defer income
Depending on you anticipated tax position for this and next year you may have the opportunity to accelerate income into 2021 or defer some to 2022. Some possible sources of income are collection of compensation, sales of property, sale of investments, collection of rents, collection from an installment sale, receipt of required minimum distributions and conversion of any portion of your traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs.

Accelerate or defer deductions
If you itemize deductions, making payments for deductible expenses such as medical expenses, qualifying interest, and state taxes before the end of the year (instead of paying them in early 2022) could make a difference on your 2021 return. If you do not itemize you may be able to defer enough expenses to itemize in 2022.

Make deductible charitable contributions
If you itemize deductions on your federal income tax return, you can generally deduct charitable contributions, but the deduction is limited to 60%, 30%, or 20% of your adjusted gross income (AGI), depending on the type of property you give and the type of organization to which you contribute. (Excess amounts can be carried over for up to five years.)

For 2021 charitable gifts, the normal rules have been enhanced: The limit is increased to 100% of AGI for direct cash gifts to public charities. And even if you don’t itemize deductions, you can receive a $300 charitable deduction ($600 for joint returns) for direct cash gifts to public charities (in addition to the standard deduction).

Contribution of securities with long term gains can be advantageous. If you itemize deductions, you can deduct the value as of the date you made the contributions. Whether you itemize your deductions or not the gain is not taxable. Contact the charity for instructions. If you are transferring the securities from your financial institution to theirs you will need the name of their financial institution, account number and routing number.

Increase withheld tax
If your employer has the capacity to withhold tax before December 31, 2021, notify your employer. They may be able to increase the tax withholding by the amount you specify. Alternatively, you will need to submit a Form W-4 for the remainder of the year to cover the shortfall. There may not be enough time for employers to process a Form W-4 to change withholding before December 31, 2021. The biggest advantage in doing so is that withholding is considered as having been paid evenly throughout the year instead of when the dollars are taken from your paycheck. This strategy can be used to make up for low or missing quarterly estimated tax payments.

There are other alternatives that maybe available. Consider having tax withheld from a transfer of funds from your financial institution to another account or financial institution. You would not want to do this if would be subject to penalties if the funds are in retirement plans. This maybe applicable if you have not taken your 2021 Required Minimum Distributions.

Maximize retirement savings
Deductible contributions to a traditional IRA and pre-tax contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k) can reduce your 2021 taxable income. If you haven’t already contributed up to the maximum amount allowed, consider doing so. For 2021, you can contribute up to $19,500 to a 401(k) plan ($26,000 if you’re age 50 or older) and up to $6,000 to traditional and Roth IRAs combined ($7,000 if you’re age 50 or older). * The window to make 2021 contributions to an employer plan generally closes at the end of the year. The payment must generally be paid by April 15, 2022,

*Roth contributions are not deductible, but Roth qualified distributions are not taxable.

Take required minimum distributions
Required minimum distributions (RMDs) were waived for 2020. They are required for 2021. You must start withdrawing your RMD at age 701/2. If your 70th birthdate is July 1, 2019, or later you do not need to withdraw your first RMD until you are 72 years old. RMDs generally must be withdrawn from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans (special rules apply if you’re still working and participating in your employer’s retirement plan). You must make the withdrawals by the date required — the end of the year for most individuals. The penalty for failing to do so is substantial: 50% of the amount that wasn’t distributed on time.

Weigh year-end investment moves
Tax considerations should not drive your investment decisions. However, it’s worth considering the tax implications of any year-end investment moves. For example, if you have realized net capital gains from selling securities at a profit, you might avoid being taxed on some or all those gains by selling losing positions. A loss will not be recognized if the security is purchased within 30 days before or after the sale. Any losses over and above the amount of your gains can be used to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income ($1,500 if your filing status is married filing separately) or carried forward to reduce your taxes in future years.

The foregoing is provided for information purposes only. It is not intended or designed to provide legal, accounting, tax, investment, or other professional advice. The above is not a complete discussion of the requirements, limitations, or applicability. Such advice requires consideration of individual circumstances. Before any action is taken based upon this information, it is essential that competent, individual, professional advice be obtained. JAS Financial Services, LLC is not responsible for any modifications made to this material, or for the accuracy of information provided by other sources.

5
Dec

2021 RMDs

Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) for 2021 must be paid by December 31, 2021. The requirement for 2020 was waived. Check with the custodian(s) where your IRA(s) are held if you have not yet received your entire RMDs for 2021. Some custodians have indicated delays in completing time sensitive transactions by December 31, 2021.

Annual RMDs have been required to begin at age 70.5 before a recent change. This requirement still applies to anyone born by June 30, 1949. Anyone born on or after July 1, 1949, are now required to start at age 72.

An exception to the beginning date applies to employees of retirement plans sponsored by their employers unless they own 5% or more of their employer. The required beginning date is postponed until they retire.

The first RMD may be postponed till April 1 of the following year. Delaying the distribution will result in 2 distributions in the following year. Among the factors to consider is the tax impact of delaying the RMD to April 1 of the next year.

RMDs apply to defined contributions plans and Induvial Retirement Plans (IRA). The distribution rules appl to IRA, SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA, and Qualified Plans, such as Simplified Employee Plans, 401(k) Plans, are examples of Qualified Plans.

A 50% penalty applies if the RMDs are not paid by December 31 of the year required.

The above rules do not apply beneficiaries of inherited accounts. The rules for inherited is beyond the scope of this discussion.

RMDs are the minimum distribution. Larger distributions are permitted. This may apply when the applicable tax rate will be different in each year. Another factor is if you have a large or unexpected expenditures.

Your account balance is usually calculated as of December 31 of the year preceding the calendar year for which the distribution is required to be made. That balance is generally divided by the life expectancy factor determined by the IRS. You use your attained age in the distribution year by factor in the applicable IRS Uniform Lifetime Tables. The table assumes that you have designated a beneficiary who is exactly 10 years younger than you are. Every IRA owner’s and plan participant’s calculation is based on the same assumption.

Different calculations are used if the spouse is more than 10 years younger than you. the calculation of your RMDs may be based on the longer joint and survivor life expectancy of you and your spouse.

A new table will be used starting in 20222. The tables will reduce the annual RMD. The foregoing is provided for information purposes only. It is not intended or designed to provide legal, accounting, tax, investment, or other professional advice. Such advice requires consideration of individual circumstances. Before any action is taken based upon this information, it is essential that competent, individual, professional advice be obtained. JAS Financial Services, LLC is not responsible for any modifications made to this material, or for the accuracy of information provided by other source

Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) for 2021 must be paid by December 31, 2021. The requirement for 2020 was waived. Check with the custodian(s) where your IRA(s) are held if you have not yet received your entire RMDs for 2021. Some custodians have indicated delays in completing time sensitive transactions by December 31, 2021.

Annual RMDs have been required to begin at age 70.5 before a recent change. This requirement still applies to anyone born by June 30, 1949. Anyone born on or after July 1, 1949, are now required to start at age 72.

An exception to the beginning date applies to employees of retirement plans sponsored by their employers unless they own 5% or more of their employer. The required beginning date is postponed until they retire.

The first RMD may be postponed till April 1 of the following year. Delaying the distribution will result in 2 distributions in the following year. Among the factors to consider is the tax impact of delaying the RMD to April 1 of the next year.

RMDs apply to defined contributions plans and Induvial Retirement Plans (IRA). The distribution rules appl to IRA, SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA, and Qualified Plans, such as Simplified Employee Plans, 401(k) Plans, are examples of Qualified Plans.

A 50% penalty applies if the RMDs are not paid by December 31 of the year required.

The above rules do not apply beneficiaries of inherited accounts. The rules for inherited is beyond the scope of this discussion.

RMDs are the minimum distribution. Larger distributions are permitted. This may apply when the applicable tax rate will be different in each year. Another factor is if you have a large or unexpected expenditures.

Your account balance is usually calculated as of December 31 of the year preceding the calendar year for which the distribution is required to be made. That balance is generally divided by the life expectancy factor determined by the IRS. You use your attained age in the distribution year by factor in the applicable IRS Uniform Lifetime Tables. The table assumes that you have designated a beneficiary who is exactly 10 years younger than you are. Every IRA owner’s and plan participant’s calculation is based on the same assumption.

Different calculations are used if the spouse is more than 10 years younger than you. the calculation of your RMDs may be based on the longer joint and survivor life expectancy of you and your spouse.

A new table will be used starting in 20222. The tables will reduce the annual RMD.

The foregoing is provided for information purposes only. It is not intended or designed to provide legal, accounting, tax, investment, or other professional advice. Such advice requires consideration of individual circumstances. Before any action is taken based upon this information, it is essential that competent, individual, professional advice be obtained. JAS Financial Services, LLC is not responsible for any modifications made to this material, or for the accuracy of information provided by other source

11
Nov

Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) for 2021

Following are some of the developments to be consider before December 31,2021.

What Are RMDs?

Required annual distributions are required if you have a traditional IRA and most employer-sponsored retirement plans. RMDs are not required from an employer plan if you are still working at the company sponsoring the plan and you do not own more than 5% of the company. You can always take more than the required amount if you choose.

The portion of an RMD representing earnings and tax-deductible contributions is taxed as ordinary income, unless the RMD is a qualified distribution from a Roth account. Failing to take the full amount of an RMD could result in a penalty tax of 50% of the difference.

Everyone who reached 70½ (required beginning date) before January 1, 2020, was required to start making annual RMDs. Generally, RMDs must be taken by December 31 each year. You can delay your first RMD until April 1 following the year in which you reach RMD age; however, you will then need to take two RMDs in one year — the first by April 1 and the second by December 31. (If you reached age 72 in the first half of 2021, different rules apply; see below.)  You should weigh the decision to delay your first RMD carefully. Taking two distributions in one year might bump you into a higher income tax bracket for that year.

New RMD Age and a 2020 Waiver Add Complexity

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019 raised the minimum RMD age to 72 from 70½ beginning in 2020. That means if you reached age 70½ before 2020, you are currently required to take minimum distributions.

However, there was a pandemic-related rule change in 2020 that might have affected some retirement savers who reached age 70½ in 2019. To help individuals manage financial challenges brought on by the pandemic, RMDs were waived in 2020, including any postponed from 2019. In other words, some taxpayers could have benefited from waiving both their 2019 and 2020 RMDs.

Anyone who took advantage of the 2020 waiver should note that RMDs have resumed in 2021 and need to be taken by December 31. The option to delay to April 1, 2022, applies only to first RMDs for those who have reached or will reach age 72 on or after July 1, 2021.

New Life Expectancy Tables
The IRS publishes tables in Publication 590-B that are used to help calculate RMDs. To determine the amount of a required distribution, you would divide your account balance as of December 31 of the previous year by the appropriate age-related factor in one of three available tables.

Recognizing that life expediencies have increased, the IRS has issued new tables designed to help investors stretch their retirement savings over a longer period. These new tables will take effect for RMDs beginning in 2022. Investors may be pleased to learn that calculations will typically result in lower annual RMD amounts and potentially lower income tax obligations as a result. The old tables still apply to 2021 distributions, even if they’re postponed until 2022.

The New Fixed Distribution

The New Fixed Distribution Rule

The beneficiaries of an IRA, other than a spouses and certain other specified persons, are required to take the balance of the account within 10 years. The distributions do not have to be consist in each year if the entire balance is paid out within 10-years

Timing

Allow for delays in in processing and delivery of the distributions before December 31, 2021.

For more information on RMDs, consider speaking with your financial and tax professionals.

26
Oct

Employer Open Enrollment: Make Benefit Choices That Work for You

Open enrollment is the time when employers may change their benefit offerings for the upcoming plan year. If you’re employed, this is your once-a-year chance to make important decisions that will affect your health-care choices and your finances.

Even if you are satisfied with your current health plan, it may no longer be the most cost-effective option. Before you make any benefit elections, take plenty of time to review the information provided by your employer. You should also consider how your life has changed over the last year and any plans or potential developments for 2022.

Decipher Your Health Plan Options

The details matter when it comes to selecting a suitable health plan. One of your options could be a better fit for you (or your family) and might even help reduce your overall health-care costs. But you will have to look beyond the monthly premiums. Policies with lower premiums tend to have more restrictions or higher out-of-pocket costs (such as copays, coinsurance, and deductibles) when you do seek care for a health issue.

To help you weigh the tradeoffs, here is a comparison of the five main types of health plans. It should also help demystify some of the terminology and acronyms used so often across the health insurance landscape.

Health maintenance organization (HMO). Coverage is limited to care from physicians, other medical providers, and facilities within the HMO network (except in an emergency). You choose a primary-care physician (PCP) who will decide whether to approve or deny any request for a referral to a specialist.

Point of service (POS) plan. Out-of-network care is available, but you will pay more than you would for in-network services. As with an HMO, you must have a referral from a PCP to see a specialist. POS premiums tend to be a little bit higher than HMO premiums.

Exclusive provider organization (EPO). Services are covered only if you use medical providers and facilities in the plan’s network, but you do not need a referral to see a specialist. Premiums are typically higher than an HMO, but lower than a PPO.

Preferred provider organization (PPO). You have the freedom to see any health providers you choose without a referral, but there are financial incentives to seek care from PPO physicians and hospitals (a larger percentage of the cost will be covered by the plan). A PPO usually has a higher premium than an HMO, EPO, or POS plan and often has a deductible.

A deductible is the amount you must pay before insurance payments kick in. Preventive care (such as annual visits and recommended screenings) is typically covered free of charge, regardless of whether the deductible has been met.

High-deductible health plan (HDHP). In return for significantly lower premiums, you’ll pay more out-of-pocket for medical services until you reach the annual deductible. HDHP deductibles start at $1,400 for an individual and $2,800 for family coverage in 2022 and can be much higher. Care will be less expensive if you use providers in the plan’s network, and your upfront cost could be reduced through the insurer’s negotiated rate.

An HDHP is designed to be paired with a health savings account (HSA), to which your employer may contribute funds toward the deductible. You can also elect to contribute to your HSA through pre-tax payroll deductions or make tax-deductible contributions directly to the HSA provider, up to the annual limit ($3,650 for an individual or $7,300 for family coverage in 2022, plus $1,000 for those 55+).

HSA funds, including any earnings if the account has an investment option, can be withdrawn free of federal income tax and penalties if the money is spent on qualified health-care expenses. (Some states do not follow federal tax rules on HSAs.) Unspent balances can be retained in the account indefinitely and used to pay future medical expenses, whether you are enrolled in an HDHP or not. Be sure to save receipts if you decide to delay using the funds in the HAS in the future. Delaying using the funds allow the earnings and growth of the funds invested free of income tax. If you change employers or retire, the funds can be rolled over to a new HSA.

Three Steps to a Sound Decision

Start by adding up your total expenses (premiums, copays, coinsurance, deductibles) under each plan offered by your employer, based on last year’s usage. Your employer’s benefit materials may include an online calculator to help you compare plans by taking factors such as your chronic health conditions and regular medications into account.

If you are married, you may need to coordinate two sets of workplace benefits. Many companies apply a surcharge to encourage a worker’s spouse to use other available coverage, so look at the costs and benefits of having both of you on the same plan versus individual coverage from each employer. If you have children, compare what it would cost to cover them under each spouse’s plan.

Before enrolling in a plan, check to see if your preferred health-care providers are included in the network.

Tame Taxes with a Flexible Spending Account

If you elect to open an employer-provided health and/or dependent-care flexible spending account (FSA), the money you contribute via payroll deduction is not subject to federal income and Social Security taxes (nor generally to state and local income taxes). Using these tax-free dollars to pay for health-care costs not covered by insurance or for dependent-care expenses could save you about 30% or more, depending on your tax bracket.

The federal limit for contributions to a health FSA was $2,750 in 2021 and should be similar for 2022. Some employers set lower limits. (The official limit has not been announced by the IRS). You can use the funds for a broad range of qualified medical, dental, and vision expenses.

With a dependent-care FSA, you can set aside up to $5,000 a year (per household) to cover eligible child-care costs for qualifying children aged 12 or younger. The tax savings could help offset some of the costs paid for a nanny, babysitter, day care, preschool, or day camp, but only if the services are used so you (or a spouse) can work.

One drawback of health and dependent-care FSAs is that they are typically subject to the use-it-or-lose-it rule, which requires you to spend everything in your account by the end of the calendar year or risk losing the money. Some employers allow certain amounts (up to $550) to be carried over to the following plan year or offer a grace period up to 2½ months. Still, you must estimate your expenses in advance, and your predictions could turn out to be way off base.

Legislation passed during the pandemic allows workers to carry over any unused FSA funds from 2021 into 2022, if the employer opts into this temporary change. If you have leftover money in an FSA, you should consider your account balance and your employer’s carryover policies when deciding on your contribution election for 2022.

Take Advantage of Valuable Perks

A change in the tax code enacted at the end of 2020 made it possible for employers to offer student debt assistance as a tax-free employee benefit through 2025, spurring more companies to add it to their menu of benefit options. A 2021 survey found that 17% of employers now offer student debt assistance, and 31% are planning to do so in the future. Many employers target a student debt assistance benefit of $100 per month, which doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up.1 For example, an employee with $31,000 in student loans who is paying them off over 10 years at a 6% interest rate would save about $3,000 in interest and get out of debt 2½ years faster.

Many employers provide access to voluntary benefits such as dental coverage, vision coverage, disability insurance, life insurance, and long-term care insurance. Even if your employer doesn’t contribute toward the premium cost, you may be able to pay premiums conveniently through payroll deduction. Your employer may also offer discounts on health-related products and services, such as fitness equipment or gym memberships, and other wellness incentives, like a monetary reward for completing a health assessment.

1) CNBC, September 28, 2021

19
Oct

Is the Back-Door Roth IRA Going Away for Good?

Among the many provisions in the multi-trillion-dollar legislative package being debated in Congress is a provision that would eliminate a strategy that allows high-income investors to pursue tax-free retirement income: the so-called back-door Roth IRA. The next few months may present the last chance to take advantage of this opportunity.

Roth IRA Background
Since its introduction in 1997, the Roth IRA has become an attractive investment vehicle due to the potential to build a sizable, tax-free nest egg. Although contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible, any earnings in the account grow tax-free if future distributions are qualified. A qualified distribution is one made after the Roth account has been held for five years and after the account holder reaches age 59½, becomes disabled, dies, or uses the funds for the purchase of a first home ($10,000 lifetime limit).

Unlike other retirement savings accounts, original owners of Roth IRAs are not subject to required minimum distributions at age 72 — another potentially tax-beneficial benefit that makes Roth IRAs appealing in estate planning strategies. (Beneficiaries are subject to distribution rules.)

However, as initially passed, the 1997 legislation rendered it impossible for high-income taxpayers to enjoy Roth IRAs. Individuals and married taxpayers whose income exceeded certain thresholds could neither contribute to a Roth IRA nor convert traditional IRA assets to a Roth IRA.

A Loophole Emerges
Nearly 10 years after the Roth’s introduction, the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 ushered in a change that relaxed the conversion rules beginning in 2010; that is, as of that year, the income limits for a Roth conversion were eliminated, which meant that anyone could convert traditional IRA assets to a Roth IRA. (Of course, a conversion results in a tax obligation on deductible contributions and earnings that have previously accrued in the traditional IRA.)

One perhaps unintended consequence of this change was the emergence of a new strategy that has been utilized ever since: High-income individuals could make full, annual, nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA and convert those contribution dollars to a Roth. If the account holders had no other IRAs (see note below) and the conversion was executed quickly enough so that no earnings were able to accrue, the transaction could potentially be a tax-free way for otherwise ineligible taxpayers to fund a Roth IRA. This move became known as the back-door Roth IRA.

(Note: When calculating a tax obligation on a Roth conversion, investors must aggregate all their IRAs, including SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, before determining the amount. For example, say an investor has $100,000 in several different traditional IRAs, 80% of which is attributed to deductible contributions and earnings. If that investor chose to convert any traditional IRA assets — even recent after-tax contributions — to a Roth IRA, 80% of the converted funds would be taxable. This is known as the “pro-rata rule.”)

Current Roth IRA Income Limits
For 2021, you can generally contribute up to $6,000 to an IRA (traditional, Roth, or a combination of both); $7,000 if you’ll be age 50 or older by December 31. However, your ability to make contributions to a Roth IRA is limited or eliminated if your modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI, falls within or exceeds the parameters shown below.

If your federal filing status is:Your 2021 Roth IRA contribution is reduced if your MAGI is:You can’t contribute to a Roth IRA for 2021 if your MAGI is:
Single or head of householdMore than $125,000 but less than $140,000$140,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er)More than $198,000 but less than $208,000$208,000 or more
Married filing separatelyLess than $10,000$10,000 or more

Note that your contributions generally can’t exceed your earned income for the year (special rules apply to spousal Roth IRAs).

Now or Never … Maybe
While no one knows for sure what may come of the legislative debates, the current proposal would prohibit the conversion of nondeductible contributions from a traditional IRA after December 31, 2021. If you expect your MAGI to exceed this year’s thresholds and you’d like to fund a Roth IRA for 2021, the next few months may be your last chance to use the back-door strategy. Contact your financial and tax professionals for more information.

There is no assurance that working with a financial professional will improve investment results.

You can make 2021 IRA contributions up until April 15, 2022, but if the legislation is enacted, a Roth conversion involving nondeductible contributions would have to be conducted by December 31, 2021.

Keep in mind that a separate five-year rule applies to the principal amount of each Roth IRA conversion you make unless an exception applies.

28
Sep

Advancing Tax Proposals Put Corporations and High-Income Individuals in Spotlight

The House Budget Committee voted Saturday, September 25, 2021, to advance a $3.5 trillion spending package to the House floor for debate. Summaries of proposed tax changes intended to help fund the spending package was previously released by The House Ways and Means Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation. Many of these provisions focus specifically on businesses and high-income households. There is a high probability that changes will be made as the process continues.

Below are some highlights from the proposed provisions.

Corporate Income Tax Rate Increase

Corporations would be subject to a graduated tax rate structure, with a higher top rate.

Currently, a flat 21% rate applies to corporate taxable income. The proposed legislation would impose a top tax rate of 26.5% on corporate taxable income above $5 million. Specifically:

  • A 16% rate would apply to the first $400,000 of corporate taxable income
  • A 21% rate on remaining taxable income up to $5 million
  • The 26.5% rate would apply to taxable income over $5 million, and corporations making more than $10 million in taxable income would have the benefit of the lower tax rates phased out.

Personal service corporations would pay tax on their entire taxable income at 26.5%.

Tax Increases for High-Income Individuals

Top individual income tax rate. The proposed legislation would increase the existing top marginal income tax rate of 37% to 39.6% effective in tax years starting on or after January 1, 2022 and apply it to taxable income over $450,000 for married individuals filing jointly, $425,000 for heads of households, $400,000 for single taxpayers, and $225,000 for married individuals filing separate returns. (These income thresholds are lower than the current top rate thresholds.)

Top capital gains tax rate. The top long-term capital gains tax rate would be raised from 20% to 25% under the proposed legislation; this increased tax rate would generally be effective for sales after September 13, 2021. In addition, the taxable income thresholds for the 25% capital gains tax bracket would be made the same as for the 39.6% regular income tax bracket (see above) starting in 2022.

New 3% surtax on income. A new 3% surtax is proposed on modified adjusted gross income over $5 million ($2.5 million for a married individual filing separately).

3.8% net investment income tax expanded. Currently, there is a 3.8% net investment income tax on high-income individuals. This tax would be expanded to cover certain other income derived in the ordinary course of a trade or business for single taxpayers with taxable income greater than $400,000 ($500,000 for joint filers). This would generally affect certain income of S corporation shareholders, partners, and limited liability company (LLC) members that is currently not subject to the net investment income tax.

New qualified business income deduction limit. A deduction is currently available for up to 20% of qualified business income from a partnership, S corporation, or sole proprietorship, as well as 20% of aggregate qualified real estate investment trust dividends and qualified publicly traded partnership income. The proposed legislation would limit the maximum allowable deduction at $500,000 for a joint return, $400,000 for a single return, and $250,000 for a separate return.

Retirement Plans Provisions Affecting High-Income Individuals

New limit on contributions to Roth and traditional IRAs. The proposed legislation would prohibit those with total IRA and defined contribution retirement plan accounts exceeding $10 million from making any additional contributions to Roth and traditional IRAs. The limit would apply to single taxpayers and married taxpayers filing separately with taxable income over $400,000, $450,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, and $425,000 for heads of household.

New required minimum distributions for large aggregate retirement accounts.

  • These rules would apply to high-income individuals (same income limits as described above), regardless of age.
  • The proposed legislation would require that individuals with total retirement account balances (traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, employer-sponsored retirement plans) exceeding $20 million distribute funds from Roth accounts (100% of Roth retirement funds or, if less, by the amount total retirement account balances exceed $20 million).
  • To the extent that the combined balance in traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and defined contribution plans exceeds $10 million, distributions equal to 50% of the excess must be made.
  • The 10% early-distribution penalty tax would not apply to distributions required because of the $10 million or $20 million limits.

Roth conversions limited. In general, taxpayers can currently convert all or a portion of a non-Roth IRA or defined contribution plan account into a Roth IRA or account without regard to the amount of their taxable income. The proposed legislation would prohibit Roth conversions for single taxpayers and married taxpayers filing separately with taxable income over $400,000, $450,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, and $425,000 for heads of household. [It appears that this proposal would not be effective until 2032.]

Roth conversions not allowed for distributions that include nondeductible contributions. Taxpayers who are unable to make contributions to a Roth IRA can currently make “back-door” contributions by making nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA and then shortly afterward convert the nondeductible contribution from the traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. It is proposed that amounts held in a non-Roth IRA or defined contribution account cannot be converted to a Roth IRA or designated Roth account if any portion of the distribution being converted consists of after-tax or nondeductible contributions.

Estates and Trusts

  • For estate and gift taxes (and the generation-skipping transfer tax), the current basic exclusion amount (and GST tax exemption) of $11.7 million would be cut by about one-half under the proposal.
  • The proposal would generally include grantor trusts in the grantor’s estate for estate tax purposes; tax rules relating to the sale of appreciated property to a grantor trust would also be modified to provide for taxation of gain.
  • Current valuation rules that generally allow substantial discounts for transfer tax purposes for an interest in a closely held business entity, such as an interest in a family limited partnership, would be modified to disallow any such discount for transfers of nonbusiness assets.