Category Archives: Taxes

Congress Passes Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was passed in both houses of Congress earlier this week, was signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. The majority of the provisions contained in the sweeping reform legislation go into effect as of January 1, 2018. Read on for a few recommendations on actions to be taken before the end of 2017 followed by an overview of items included in the act.

Initial Recommendations:

For Individuals

  • Pay state income taxes due before December 31, 2017.
  • Accelerate your charitable contributions into 2017 since all brackets will benefit.
  • If you make charitable contributions to the athletic department of your favorite university in order to be entitled to purchase tickets to athletic events, definitely make those contributions before December 31, 2017.
  • Prepay 2% itemized deductions due (such as investment advisory fees, tax preparation fees, professional licenses, etc.) before December 31, 2017.
  • Prepare for additional estate gifting beginning January 1, 2018.

For Businesses

  • Consider a change of accounting methods for business below $25MM to a cash basis method or completed contract accounting (as opposed to percentage of completion)
  • Consider accelerating equipment purchases for immediate write-offs.
  • Close 1031 exchanges on personal property before 12-31-17
  • Pay for business entertainment in 2017
  • Pay for R&D expenditures in 2017
  • Consider timing of terminated partnerships—technical termination rules go away in 2018
  • Consider choice of business entity.

Items Affecting Individuals:

Tax Rates – The act keeps the seven tax brackets but reduces the rates for five of them. The new bracket rates are 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. The maximum rate is for income above $600,000 married filing jointly and $300,000 for singles.

Standard Deduction and Personal Exemptions – The standard deduction is increased to $24,000 for married filing jointly and $12,000 for singles. Personal exemptions are repealed.

Mortgage Interest – The mortgage interest deduction is capped at interest on $750,000 of mortgage debt each for a principal residence and a second home. The deduction for interest on home equity lines of credit is repealed.

Taxes – The act puts a $10,000 cap on deductions in connection with state and local income, property, and sales taxes. It also provides that no deduction will be allowed in 2017 for prepayment of tax for years beginning after December 31, 2017.

Medical Expenses – The threshold for deducting medical expenses is temporarily reduced from 10% to 7.5% (for the 2017 and 2018 tax years only).

Child Tax Credit – The per-child tax credit is doubled, rising from $1,000 to $2,000 per qualifying child. The phase out threshold is increased to $400,000 for married filing jointly and $200,000 for those filing singly.

Credit for Non-Child Dependents – The act temporarily allows parents to take a $500 credit for each non-child dependent whom they support, such as a child 17 or older, an ailing elderly parent, or an adult child with a disability.

Pass-Through Income – The act includes a 20% deduction on Qualified Business Income from sole proprietors, S-Corporations, LLCS, and partnerships (subject to limitations).

Alternative Minimum Tax – The act reduces the number of filers who would be hit by this tax by raising the income exemption levels to $70,300 for singles and $109,400 for married filing jointly.

Affordable Care Act Individual Mandate – The individual mandate is repealed as of 2019.

College Athletic Fund Contributions – These contributions, made in exchange for preferential seating, are no longer deductible.

Alimony Deduction – This is repealed after 2018.

Estate Tax – This tax remains at 40% but the exemption is doubled to $10.98 million per individual.

Miscellaneous Tax Breaks – The act preserves some smaller, but popular, tax breaks, including deductions for student loan interest and classroom supplies bought with a teacher’s own money. It also keeps the tax-free status of tuition waivers for graduate students.

Items Affecting Businesses:

Corporate Tax Rate – The corporate tax rate is reduced from a top graduated rate of 35% to a flat 21%.

Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax – The act repeals this tax.

Full Expensing for Certain Business Assets – The bill provides 100% expensing of qualified property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017 and before January 1, 2023. It also increases (tenfold) the Sec. 179 expensing limitation ceiling and phase out threshold to $5 million and $20 million, respectively, both indexed for inflation.

Interest Expense – For tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, every business, regardless of its form, is generally subject to a disallowance of a deduction for net interest expense in excess of 30% of the business’s adjusted taxable income. Farming businesses can elect out of these rules if they use ADS to depreciate any property used in the farming business with a recovery period of ten years or more.

Net Operating Losses (NOL) – For NOLS arising in tax years ending after December 31, 2017, the two-year carryback and the special carryback provisions are repealed, so losses can only be carried forward. However, a two-year carryback applies in the case of certain losses incurred in the trade or business of farming.

Foreign Provisions – The act includes several international tax changes including a repatriation provision—US shareholders owning at least 10% of a foreign subsidiary will include in income the share of the post-1986 historical earnings and profits (E&P) of the foreign subsidiary, to the extent that E&P have not been previously subject to US tax. The portion of E&P attributable to cash or cash equivalents would be taxes at a 12% rate and the remainder would be taxed at a 5% rate.

Farms Property – For property placed in service after December 31, 2017, in tax years ending after that date, the cost recovery period is shortened from seven years to five years for any machinery or equipment (other than any grain bin, cotton ginning asset, fence, or other land improvement) used in a farming business, the original use of which commences with the taxpayer. Additionally, the required use of the 150% declining balance depreciation method for property used in a farming business (i.e., for 3-, 5-, 7-, and 10-year property) is repealed. The 150% declining balance method continues to apply to any 15-year or 20-year property used in the farming business to which the straight-line method does not apply, and to property for which the taxpayer elects the use of the 150% declining balance method.

Cash Method of Accounting – The act increases the cash accounting method applicability threshold for most business up to $25 million in revenue, including businesses with inventory.

Percentage of Completion Requirements – The act increases the percentage-of-completion method applicability threshold to business with average revenue of $25 million or more.

Deduction for Entertainment – This deduction is repealed; previously entertainment was 50% deductible.

Research and Development Expenses – Must be capitalized and amortized over five years.

Technical Termination of Partnership Rules – The act repeals these.

Death Warrant in the Tax Proposal?

photo of Larry Goldsmith

Larry Goldsmith

The Senate and Congressional income tax bills propose to eliminate itemized medical deductions.  For the elderly, who depend on pensions and social security income, and who require nursing homes and private caregivers, this deduction is essential. Nursing home expenses and caregiver costs can easily exceed $100,000 annually. If an elderly individual with an annual income of $80,000 is forced to pay taxes on the $80,000, this individual will not have the financial resources for necessary living expenses.

Larry Goldsmith is a partner and director of litigation services at CJBS, LLC. Mr. Goldsmith is regularly engaged to be a financial forensic expert witness in matters of divorce and business litigation.

Questions or comments? E-mail Larry Goldsmith at larry@cjbs.com if you have any questions about this posting or if he can be of assistance in any way.

Can You Discharge Those Unpaid 1040 Taxes in Bankruptcy?

by Larry Goldsmith, CPA, JD, CFF, MAFF

Last week, I reviewed a new client’s IRS transcript. The client apparently filed his individual income tax returns late and wanted to file bankruptcy to discharge his 1040 tax obligations. I subsequently learned that the IRS filed substitute individual income tax returns on the client’s behalf and issued an income tax deficiency before the income tax returns were filed.

 The question was: if the Internal Revenue Service files a substitute tax return on behalf of the debtor/ taxpayer, before the taxpayer files their own income tax returns would that late tax return be considered eligible for a bankruptcy discharge under Section 523 tax return?

I have to admit that it was my belief at the time that if the late filed tax returns increased the income tax assessment, the late filed tax returns would be dischargeable if the tax returns qualified under the various timing constraints. However, after further research, examining several court cases, I have concluded that if the income tax returns were filed after the IRS had issued a substitute tax return, or issued a deficiency, a bankruptcy discharge is not attainable, even where the debtor subsequently filed an income tax return.

It appears that the bankruptcy courts have not consistently held on issues of discharge where the debtor filed a late tax return prior to the IRS issuing a notice of deficiency. From the Appellate court statements I doubt if the courts would favor the discharge of the late filed income tax returns.

Here are a couple of cases exemplifying the court’s consistency in this matter:

IN RE PAYNE 431 F.3D 1055 (7TH CIR 2005)

The taxpayer failed to file a 1986 tax return, and the IRS subsequently filed a substitute tax return for the debtor. In 1992 the taxpayer filed an offer in compromise that was rejected. The taxpayer filed a Chapter 7 in 1997. The bankruptcy court discharged the 1986 tax debt.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals stated that, the substitute tax return and an offer in compromise do not constitute a tax return and therefore the income taxes were not dischargeable.

MALLO V. INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE

A married couple filing jointly, the Mallos filed their individual income taxes several years after the IRS issued notices of deficiency. Two years after filing the income tax returns the Mallos filed bankruptcy seeking to discharge the income tax obligations.

The Mallo bankruptcy court held that post assessment filings do not constitute tax returns and are therefore excepted from discharge under 523(a)(1).

The Court of Appeals held that tax debt was not dischargeable because, “the filing of a return after an assessment negates an honest and reasonable attempt to comply with tax law”.

The Court of Appeals held that, “if a Form 1040 is filed late, the tax debt is non-dischargeable under 523(a)(1)(b)(i). The court reasoned that a late tax return is not a return as defined by Section 523(a); it does not satisfy applicable filing requirements.

The Court observed that the definition of a filed tax return differs from the IRS’s definition.

The U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged the different interpretations and stated that further review was not warranted, thereby upholding the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit findings.

My advice after researching this matter? Always file your tax returns in a timely manner.

Questions or comments? E-mail me at larry@cjbs.com if you have any questions about this posting or if I may be of assistance in any way.

Larry Goldsmith is an experienced Financial Forensic expert and CPA who investigates and verifies financial income and assets in matrimonial matters. CJBS, LLC is a Chicago based firm that assists its clients with a wide range of accounting and financial issues, protecting and expanding the value of mid-size companies. 

IRS Issues 2015 Inflation-Adjusted Vehicle Depreciation Dollar Limits

Michael Blitstein, CJBS

Michael Blitstein, CJBS

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA

The IRS has released the inflation-adjusted limitations on depreciation deductions for business use passenger automobiles, light trucks, and vans first placed in service during calendar year 2015. The IRS also modified the 2014 limitations to reflect passage of the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 late last year.

At the end of 2014, Congress extended bonus depreciation to the 2014 tax year in the case of passenger vehicles. Congress has not, however, done the same for passenger vehicles placed in service during 2015. This means that although several of the 2015 limits have been adjusted upward for inflation, the total amount a taxpayer may deduct for a vehicle placed in service during 2015 will be effectively $8,000 lower than for a vehicle placed in service during 2014, unless Congress again provides retroactive relief this year.

Depreciation limits

The Internal Revenue Code imposes dollar limitations on the depreciation deduction for the year the taxpayer places the vehicle in service in its business, and for each succeeding year.  The IRS adjusts for inflation the amounts allowable for depreciation deductions.

Passenger automobiles

The maximum depreciation limits for passenger automobiles first placed in service during the 2015 calendar year are:

  • $3,160 for the first tax year;
  • $5,100 for the second tax year;
  • $3,050 for the third tax year; and
  • $1,875 for each succeeding tax year.

Trucks and vans

The maximum depreciation limits under for trucks and vans first placed in service during the 2015 calendar year are:

  • $3,460 for the first tax year;
  • $5,600 for the second tax year;
  • $3,350 for the third tax year; and
  • $1,975 for each succeeding tax year.

Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) in excess of 6,000 pounds continue to be exempt from the luxury vehicle depreciation caps based on a loophole in the operative definition.

Michael W. Blitstein, CPA is a partner with the firm of CJBS, LLC, in Northbrook, Illinois. Michael advises his clients on tax, business and retirement planning, developing short and long-term strategic plans designed to achieve success for business owners and their businesses.

He can be reached at michael@cjbs.com

www.cjbs.com

Top Tax Developments of 2014 with Impact on 2015

Michael Blitstein, CJBS

Michael Blitstein, CJBS

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA

2014 was a notable year for tax developments on a number of fronts. Selecting the top tax developments for 2014 requires judgment calls based upon uniqueness, taxpayers affected, and forward looking impact on 2015 and beyond. With respect to David Letterman, the following list of 2014 tax developments reflects this prioritization in no particular order.

Passage of the Extenders Package
2014 was not a year for major tax legislation in Congress. In fact, Congress even failed to pass its usual two-year extenders package, instead settling on a one-year retroactive extension to January 1, 2014. As one senator put it, “This tax bill doesn’t have the shelf life of a carton of eggs,” referring to the fact that the 50-plus extenders provisions expired again on January 1, 2015. Instead, it has been left to the 114th Congress to debate the extension of these tax breaks in 2015 and beyond, and for taxpayers to guess what expenses in 2015 will again be entitled to a tax break.

Affordable Care Act
In many ways, 2014 was a transition year for the Affordable Care Act. One of the most far reaching requirements, known as the “individual mandate”, took effect on January 1, 2014. Unless exempt, individuals who fail to carry minimum essential health coverage will make a shared responsibility payment in 2015. Another key provision, the “employer mandate”, was further delayed to 2015. Employer reporting for 2014 is voluntary. The IRS also developed new forms for reporting many new requirements.

Repair Regulations
In 2014, the IRS finished issuing the necessary guidance on the treatment of costs for tangible property under the sweeping “repair” regulations. The most important development was the issuance of final regulations on the treatment of dispositions of tangible property, including the identification of assets, the treatment of dispositions, and the computation of gain and loss. The complexity of the repair regulations has not gone unnoticed by many tax professionals, who have asked the IRS to simplify some of the provisions.

IRS Operations
IRS predicted a complex and challenging 2015 filing season due to cuts in the Service’s funding. This dictates the Service having to do more with less because of budget cuts. The IRS is funded $1.5 billion below the amount requested. IRS could face another round of budget cuts under the new Republican controlled Congress for 2016.

Net Investment Income Tax
Many higher income individuals were surprised to learn the full impact of the net investment income tax (“NII”) on their overall tax liability during the 2014 filing season when their 2013 returns were filed. Starting in 2013, taxpayers with qualifying income have been liable for the 3.8 percent net investment income tax. Recent run ups in the financial markets, combined with the fact that the thresholds are not adjusted for inflation, have increased the need to implement strategies that can avoid or minimize the NII tax.

Retirement Planning
A number of changes were made during 2014 affecting IRAs and other qualified plans, which cumulatively rise to the level of a “top tax development” for 2014:

  • Distributions from a qualified retirement plan account are now able to have the taxable and non-taxable portions of the distribution directed to separate accounts.
  • 401(k) plans can now offer deferred annuities through target date funds.
  • A Tax Court ruling held that a taxpayer is limited to one 60-day rollover per year for all IRA accounts rather than one 60-day rollover per year for each IRA account. The IRS stated that the new interpretation of the rollover rules would be applied to rollover distributions received on or after January 1, 2015.
  • A 2014 Supreme Court decision found that inherited IRA accounts were not retirement assets and therefore not subject to creditor protection under the Bankruptcy Code.
  • The IRS announced the 2015 cost-of-living adjustments for qualified plans. Many retirement plan contribution and benefit limits increase slightly in 2015.

Identity Theft
Although clearly not confined to the area of Federal tax, identity theft has been a major issue for both the IRS and taxpayers. In 2014, the IRS put new filters in place and took other measures to curb tax related identity theft. The agency also worked with software developers, financial institutions and the prepaid debit card industry to combat identity theft.

Tax Reform
Although 2014 was clearly not the year for tax reform, the foundations for serious tax reform discussions were laid in 2013 and 2014. Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond, it is possible that Congress will complete some form of tax reform in 2015 or 2016.  The major difference of opinion, however, surrounds whether or not the reform would only address corporate tax provisions or also include individual provisions. Many leaders have called for tackling comprehensive tax reform on both the business and individual side. The Senate Finance Committee expects to hold tax reform hearings in 2015.

Conclusion
So what does this all mean? To continue the theme from the last few years, the tax world is ever evolving with increased complexity. Both current and long term planning is as essential as ever. Other 2014 developments may prove more significant to your particular situation.  Be sure to seek advice from a dental specific tax accountant to discuss your unique circumstances.

Michael W. Blitstein, CPA is a partner with the firm of CJBS, LLC, in Northbrook, Illinois. For more than 30 years, Michael has worked closely with the dental community and is intimately familiar with the unique professional and regulatory challenges of creating, running and maintaining a successful dental practice. Michael advises his clients on tax, business and retirement planning, developing short and long-term strategic plans designed to achieve success for dental practice principals and their businesses.

He can be reached at michael@cjbs.com

www.cjbs.com

House Bill Would Expand 529 College Savings Plans

Michael Blitstein, CJBS

Michael Blitstein, CJBS

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA

Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas), and Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin), introduced legislation that would expand and strengthen tax-free Section 529 college savings plans. The bipartisan measure stands in stark contrast to President Obama’s proposal to end the program, which the administration outlined earlier and was referred to in the president’s State of the Union Address.  However, in a late-breaking development, the president, after pressure from Republicans and Democratic leaders, indicated that he would drop his proposal to end the tax break for Section 529 college savings plans.

The decision was made shortly after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), appealed to the president to drop the proposal in his budget, due out on February 2nd. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D-California), and House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), also asked the president not to include the proposal in his budget.

The bill would clarify that computers are a qualified expense for Section 529 account funds and remove all distribution aggregation requirements. The current rules were designed for when earnings were taxed to the beneficiary at distribution. However, since 2001, the tax treatment changed and Jenkins said there is no policy need for such aggregation. This would also eliminate a paperwork burden for Section 529  plan administrators.

In addition, the bill would permit refunds to be re-deposited without taxes or penalties within 60 days of the student withdrawing from the college due to illness or other reason. Currently, the refund would be subject to income tax on the earnings and a 10% penalty.

“This bill would expand Section 529 plans to further promote college access and eliminate barriers for middle class families to save and plan ahead,” said Jenkins. “This bipartisan, sensible legislation strengthens an extremely popular savings plan for middle-class families so that all Americans have the opportunity to send their children to the college institution of their choice.”

Since the creation of Section 529 in 1996, the savings plan has grown to nearly 12 million accounts and resulted in college savings of more than $225 billion, according to figures released by Jenkins’ staff.

Michael W. Blitstein, CPA is a partner with the firm of CJBS, LLC, in Northbrook, Illinois. For more than 30 years, Michael has worked closely with the dental community and is intimately familiar with the unique professional and regulatory challenges of creating, running and maintaining a successful dental practice. Michael advises his clients on tax, business and retirement planning, developing short and long-term strategic plans designed to achieve success for dental practice principals and their businesses.

He can be reached at michael@cjbs.com

www.cjbs.com

Navigating the Tax Obstacles of Investing in 2014

Michael Blitstein, CJBS

Michael Blitstein, CJBS

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA

It’s never been easy to navigate the various tax consequences of buying and selling securities and investments. Among the many obstacles investors need to consider in 2014 is the relatively new net investment income tax (“NIIT”). This 3.8% tax may apply to your net investment income if your income exceeds certain levels. And the tax can show up when you least expect it – for example, passive activity and qualified dividend income are subject to the tax. Some other tax issues related to investing should also be considered.

Capital Gains Tax and Timing
Although time, not timing, is generally the key to long-term investment success, timing can have a dramatic impact on the tax consequences of investment activities. Your long-term capital gains rate might be as much as 20 percentage points lower than your ordinary income rate. The long-term gains rate applies to investments held for more than 12 months. The applicable rate depends on your income level and the type of asset sold. Holding on to an investment until you’ve owned it more than a year may help substantially cut tax on any gain.

Remember, appreciating investments that don’t generate current income aren’t taxed until sold. Deferring tax and perhaps allowing you to time the sale to your advantage can help, such as in a year when you have capital losses to absorb the capital gain. If you’ve already recognized some gains during the year and want to reduce your 2014 tax liability, consider selling unrealized loss positions before the end of the year.

Loss Carryovers
If net losses exceed net gains, you can deduct only $3,000 ($1,500 for married filing separately) of the net losses per year against ordinary income. You can carry forward excess losses indefinitely. Loss carryovers can be a powerful tax-saving tool in future years if you have an investment portfolio, real estate holdings or a practice that might generate future capital gains. Also remember that capital gain distributions from mutual funds can absorb capital losses.

Income Investments
Qualified dividends are taxed at the favorable long-term capital gains tax rate rather than the higher, ordinary income tax rate. Qualified dividends are, however, included in investment income under the 3.8% NIIT.

Interest income generally is taxed at ordinary income rates, which are now as high as 39.6%. Stocks that pay qualified dividends may be more attractive tax wise than other income investments, such as CD’s, money market accounts and bonds. Note some dividends are subject to ordinary income rates.

Keep in mind that state and municipal bonds usually pay a lower interest rate, but their rate of return may be higher than the after tax rate of return for a taxable investment, depending on your tax rate. Be aware certain tax-exempt interest can trigger or increase alternative minimum tax.

Mutual Funds
Investing in mutual funds is an easy way to diversify your portfolio. But beware of the tax ramifications. First, mutual funds with high turnover rates can create income that’s taxed at ordinary income rates. Choosing funds that provide primarily long-term capital gains can save you more tax dollars.

Second, earnings on mutual funds are typically reinvested, and unless you keep track of these additions and increase your basis accordingly, you may report more gain than required when you sell the fund.

Additionally, buying equity mutual fund shares later in the year can be costly tax wise.  Such funds often declare a large capital gains distribution at year-end. If you own shares on the distribution record date, you’ll be taxed on the full distribution amount even if it includes significant gains realized by the fund before you owned the shares. And you’ll pay tax on those gains in the current year, even if you reinvest the distribution.

Paying Attention to Details
If you don’t pay attention to details, the tax consequences of a sale may be different from what you expect. For example, the trade date, not the settlement date, of publicly traded securities determines the year in which you recognize the gain or loss. And if you bought the same security at different times and prices and want to sell the high tax basis shares to reduce gain or increase a loss to offset other gains, be sure to specifically identify which block of shares is being sold.

Passive Activities
If you’ve invested in a trade or business in which you don’t materially participate, remember the passive activity rules. Why? Passive activity income may be subject to the 3.8% NIIT, and passive activity losses generally are deductible only against income from other passive activities. Disallowed losses can be carried forward to future years, subject to the same limitations.

The Internal Revenue tax code is ever evolving and recent tax law changes have provided increased complexity. Tax obstacles related to investing is just one reason why it’s important to plan ahead and consider taking advantage of strategies available to you. You should always consult with your tax adviser to determine the best course of action.

Michael W. Blitstein, CPA is a partner with the firm of CJBS, LLC, in Northbrook, Illinois. For more than 30 years, Michael has worked closely with the dental community and is intimately familiar with the unique professional and regulatory challenges of creating, running and maintaining a successful dental practice. Michael advises his clients on tax, business and retirement planning, developing short and long-term strategic plans designed to achieve success for dental practice principals and their businesses.

He can be reached at michael@cjbs.com

www.cjbs.com