Tag Archives: income tax

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

House Passes Child Tax Credit Improvement Bill

Michael Blitstein, CJBS

Michael Blitstein, CJBS

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA

Married couples with children would no longer face a tax penalty when claiming the child tax credit under a House bill passed on July 25, 2014. House lawmakers voted 237 to 173 to approve the Child Tax Credit Improvement Bill of 2014.  The bill would eliminate the marriage penalty in the child tax credit by increasing the income phase-out threshold for couples filing joint tax returns from $110,000 to $150,000 ($75,000 for individuals and married taxpayers filing separately).

The bill would also index for inflation the phase-out threshold for the $1,000 credit beginning in calendar year 2015. To combat fraud, taxpayers would be required to include their Social Security numbers on tax returns in order to receive the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), which is refundable.

Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp noted that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has reported that the number of filers for the ACTC without a Social Security number grew from 62,000 filers (claiming $62 million in benefits) in 2000 to 2.3-million filers (claiming $4.2 billion in benefits) in 2010. “This is a common-sense provision that will help safeguard taxpayer dollars from fraud, and put it in line with other refundable tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, which require a Social Security number,” he said.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions said Republicans are fighting to make sure that hardworking American families keep more of their paychecks. “That’s why today the House passed legislation to provide common-sense reforms to ensure that the child tax credit keeps up with the rising cost of living,”” he said.

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), eliminating the marriage penalty in the child tax credit and adding the inflation adjustment would cost $114 billion over the next decade. Part of that cost would be offset, in the amount of $24 billion, by requiring the use of Social Security numbers for the ACTC. In total, the JCT estimates that would cost $90.3 billion.

Under the bill, a married couple making $160,000 with two children would get an additional $2,200 in their 2018 tax refund, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).  The CBPP study estimates that a single mother of two making $14,500 would see her refund cut by $1,750 under the legislation.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it passes Congress. The measure would raise taxes for millions of struggling working families while enacting expensive new tax cuts without offsetting their costs, reflecting fundamentally misplaced priorities, the administration said. “If Republicans want to show they are serious about helping working families through the Child Tax Credit, they should start by extending current provisions past 2017,” the statement reads.

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

www.cjbs.com

My Perspective of Accountants and CPAs

Larry Goldsmith

by Larry Goldsmith, JD, CPA, MAFF, and Julieann Chaet, CPA, MAFF

I’ve always looked at accountants, CPAs or not, as instruments or tools to be used by the IRS or the banks, or buyers and sellers of businesses. What I mean by that is, accountants working in public accounting firms complete the tasks for the Internal Revenue Service to collect its taxes. We provide the measuring stick used by bankers to lend money. We are the instrument that verifies income and assets for the buyers and sellers of businesses. We are important because we produce the tax returns the IRS looks for and the financial statements the banks require. We provide the verification to business that the company is profitable.

To our clients, we become the trusted individuals they depend on to prepare their tax returns or to prepare their company’s financial statement. But all too many times clients will make financial decisions without asking for their accountant’s opinion. I have to say my favorite clients are the ones who call me up to say “Are you busy?” or “Do you have a minute?”  The truth is, I was busy, but that interruption when they ask for my opinion or ask me a question, can save them hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

It usually takes only minutes to answer a client’s question when they call or e-mail. It’s when clients don’t ask the questions, that it can cause problems that can cost more than money.

I prepared very few tax returns this tax season because I was thankfully busy with my forensics work. However, one of the tax returns that I did prepare was absolutely gut-wrenching. A month later, I still think about these particular clients who I’ve never personally met. As I was sorting through their data and inputting the numbers into our tax program, I became curious. I thought I must be missing something. I finished preparing the tax return. The couple owed what was for them a lot of money – thousands of dollars.

So I asked the partner whose name is on the return, “what’s the deal?” Apparently, this 62 year old couple was making over $100,000 a year for at least the last 5 years. Both husband and wife had their own careers. They owned a home. The husband had even gone back to school to further his professional degree while maintaining his career.

The problem started with a stroke – a stroke had debilitated the husband at the age of 59. The husband could no longer care for himself so a full-time nurse was brought in to care for him. After a couple years the wife could no longer afford the full-time nurse so she quit her job to care for her husband. They sold their house and moved into their daughter’s apartment.

By the time I was preparing the couple’s tax return, most of the couple’s savings including IRAs and proceeds from the house had been spent on living expenses and the husband’s medical care.

So what did I do?  I saw Larry Goldsmith, the head of CJBS’s Financial Group’s litigation, asset protection and tax practices team walking past my desk. “Larry, you need to do something!”, I said. I didn’t care that he was just walking in from the polar vortex that we were having outside, and that maybe he wanted to take off his hat and defrost. This woman was going to live probably for another decade or two. Her husband could live years in his current condition, and all their money was squandered on medical bills. Where would the money come from to pay the tax return?

Unfortunately, even with his vast experience and resources for this sort of thing, Larry wasn’t able to provide a solution. It was too late. The truth is the couple was financially bankrupt and didn’t know it. Their liabilities (the monies they owed) far exceeded the monies and assets they possessed. They spent their savings along with their IRA’s that she would one day need because she didn’t know that there were taxes to pay on the IRAs.

Thousands of dollars of her savings were spent caring for her husband that didn’t need to be. The wife did not know about different agencies that could’ve helped or the benefits of financial planning. She did not know that creditors cannot seize her IRAs from her.

You see she never asked the questions of her accountant so the accountant wasn’t aware of all that was happening.

We became aware the day we called her to try to make sense of the documents in front of me.  There is a solution, but it requires planning.

Julieann Chaet, CPA, MAFF

Julieann is the Manager of CJBS’ forensic accounting and litigation services practice.

Call Julieann at 847.580.5449, or e-mail: jc@cjbs.com

 

Larry Goldsmith, JD, CPA, MAFF

Call Larry at 847.580.5427, or e-mail: Larry@cjbs.com

Lawmakers Set Stage for Tax Reform Debate After April Recess

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA 

Democrats and Republicans have begun a two week recess with lawmakers returning home to promote very different visions of tax reform. Before recessing, the House passed a Republican budget blueprint calling for individual and business rate cuts, the Ways and Means Committee approved a GOP small business tax package, and the Senate prepared to debate the so-called “Buffett Rule.” Congress also approved a short-term extension of Federal transportation excise taxes and funding.

The small employer incentive in the Senate bill appears to be a good and targeted expansion of the employer credit in the HIRE Act, Adam Lambert, CPA, managing director, Employment Tax Services, Grant Thornton, LLP, New York, told CCH: “The proposed credit has less limitations and hurdles for small businesses to jump.”

GOP budget

The House voted to approve the GOP budget blueprint on March 29th. The GOP budget proposes to cut the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, reduce the individual tax rates to 10 and 25 percent and eliminate unspecified tax preferences.

Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, recently said that he is developing a bipartisan legislative proposal to overhaul corporate taxation and reduce the U.S. corporate tax rate to 25 percent. Portman said his proposal would be revenue-neutral by reducing tax preferences.

Buffett Rule

Democratic leaders have indicated that the Senate will vote on the Buffett Rule after the two week recess. The vote is expected to be on April 16th on the Paying a Fair Share Act, which would subject taxpayers earning over $2 million to a 30 percent minimum federal tax rate. The tax would be phased-in for taxpayers with incomes between $1 million and $2 million.

 Small Businesses

On March 28th, the Ways and Means Committee approved the Small Business Tax Cut Act along party lines. The GOP bill would allow a deduction for 20 percent of qualified domestic business income of the taxpayer for the tax year, or taxable income for the tax year, whichever is less. However, a taxpayer’s deduction for any tax year could not exceed 50 percent of certain W-2 wages of the qualified small business.

In the Senate, the Democratic bill would provide a 10 percent income tax credit on new payroll (through either hiring or increased wages) added in 2012. The maximum increase in eligible wages would be capped at $5 million per employer and the amount of the credit would be capped at $500,000. The bill would also extend 100 percent bonus depreciation through the end of 2012.

Transportation

Before recessing, the House and Senate approved an extension of Federal transportation excise taxes and funding, which President Obama signed on March 30th. The extension was necessary because Congress failed to pass a comprehensive transportation bill before the expiration of transportation tax authority and funding.

The Senate-passed transportation bill has become bogged down in the House. Some House members are opposed to its non-transportation tax provisions

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

www.cjbs.com