The IRS extended all of the following deadlines to July 15th:
2019 return or extension filing;
Payment of 2019 taxes due;
Q1 2020 estimate payment; and
Q2 2020 estimate payment.
Most states have followed the same delayed dates (but not all). Let me know if you have a question on payment and filing.
So “tax season” will be over soon, yea!
Stimulus checks and other changes
Many people are asking about their stimulus checks and expanded unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Act also has other provisions including tax credits for self-employed affected by Covid-19, student loan payment delays, and relief on mortgage payments and rent.
Of the many posts regarding the stimulus checks and benefits, student loans and 401(k) distributions, here is a good summary from the NY Times.
And if you received a check for a deceased relative (over 1 million were sent!), you need to return it to the Treasury, sorry.
CARES Act includes benefits for small businesses: Payroll Protection Program loans; payroll deposit delays; and tax credits. The SBA funds for the PPP ran out initially, but Congress added more funding.
The key is to file so that the loan is forgiven, so that the funds become a grant. The forgiven loan is not treated as income.
If you need more information on these programs, let me know.
2020 tax law changes
The required minimum distributions or RMDs are suspended for 2020. This way, you do not need to sell funds at a low to withdraw and may even be able to redeposit funds that you already withdrew.
The CARES Act waives the 10% penalty for early withdrawals from qualified plans for up to $100,000 and any funds repaid to the plan within 3 years are treated as tax-free roll overs. You can also take out larger loan amounts.
For 2020, there is an above-the-line charitable donation deduction up to $300. This should help charities that are responding to those impacted helping them raise money now.
More Scams and Hackers
Be wary of messages asking for personal information because scams are on the rise. And be careful working from home, as there are more hacker attempts to gain access via the home connections to companies.
If you want help dealing with any, let me know.
Being cooped up is challenging, even if it is the best way to stay healthy. Make sure you practice self-care so you can handle this!
I hope you and your loved ones are all managing this as well as you can.
If you want to just talk, I would be glad to set up a time, just let me know!
Last year, we provided a three-part series explaining the impact of the new tax law. In our first part, we discussed the impact of the new law on personal taxes and in our second part, we discussed planning for small businesses. In this part, we update the third part posted last year, which is our guide for year-end moves to reduce total taxes between 2019 and 2020.
Can you act at
Each year we advise that you be practical, focusing on where
you can actually take action.
For many, the new $24,000 standard deduction for married
couples, $12,000 for single taxpayers, means you will not itemize (i.e., your
total for itemized deductions is less than the standard amount so you take the
higher, standard deduction). The
standard deduction goes up when you reach 65.
If you are not itemizing, you have fewer ways in which to
affect change in the taxes due in either year (but you can also stop collecting
receipts for those deductions!).
One technique for getting around the limit is to bunch
deductions from two or more years into one year. The one deduction that you can easily move is
for charitable donations. Your state,
local and real estate taxes are limited to a $10,000 maximum and you cannot
accelerate, or delay, significant amounts of mortgage interest.
If you do not want any one charity to receive the full
amount in a single year, you can still use this bunching strategy. Donate to a donor advised fund, from which
you may be able to designate donations to particular charities in future years.
IRA donations: If you are 70½ or older, you have the option of distributing up to $100,000 from your IRA or other qualified plan to an IRS-approved charity and having none of the distribution taxed.
Capital Gains: Review your portfolio. You may be able to “harvest losses” to offset capital gains realized on stock sales or mutual fund capital gains distributions. If you have substantial unrealized gains, consider donating to a charity. See below.
The tax planning
If you are able to itemize, determine what income and deductions you can move from 2019 to 2020 or vice versa. You want to minimize total taxes for both years. Make sure your planning includes the 3.8% Medicare tax on high income and review Roth conversions (Roth distributions are not taxed, so converting a traditional or roll-over IRA to a Roth could be beneficial, as long as the tax cost now is not too great). And business owners will want to review our post on planning under 199A for QBID.
Next, review the impact of moving income and expense to see what happens if you shift any of these amounts from one year to the other year.
But, watch for the Alternative Minimum Tax (“AMT”):
The exemption for the AMT and the threshold
above which that exemption gets phased out are now higher than before 2018, so fewer
taxpayers will owe the AMT.
Finally, if you have not maxed-out your 401(k) plan, IRA, Health Savings Account or flex plan account, consider doing so before the end of the year.
Your mutual funds may have large capital gains distributions. Christine Benz says, “Brace yourself: 2019 is apt to be another not-so-happy capital gains distribution season, with many growth-oriented mutual funds dishing out sizable payouts.”
your unrealized losses to see if you can “harvest” those losses to offset or “shelter”
realized gains, reducing your total taxable income. If you have more losses than gains, you can
take up to $3,000 of capital losses against other income.
you sell an asset that you would prefer to retain, in order to realize gains in
2019, make sure you do not run afoul of the wash-sale rule (any loss on an
asset that you repurchase in 30 days will be disallowed, so you have to either
wait 30 days or purchase a similar asset that fits your asset allocation while
not counting against the wash sale rule).
If you have significant unrealized gains, consider using
appreciated stock for charitable donations – that way you avoid the tax on the
gain while still getting the full fair market value for your charitable
Some reminders on itemized
As you may recall, mortgage interest on new home purchases is deductible only for loans of up to $750,000 used to purchase or improve your primary or secondary residence. Interest on home equity loans will not be deductible, except when the home equity indebtedness is used to purchase or improve the residence.
Also, all miscellaneous deductions were eliminated. This includes investment and tax preparation
fees, safe deposit box charges and unreimbursed employee business expenses. And moving expenses are no longer allowed
(except for military personnel in certain cases).
Check taxes paid
Make sure your total paid in withholdings and estimates
meets the safe harbor rules. If not, you
could owe interest for under-withholding.
Estate plan review
While you review your taxes, consider reviewing your estate plan and beneficiary designations. The federal exemption is just over $11 million in 2019, so fewer people will owe any federal estate tax. However, many states still impose estate taxes on smaller estates. If you have “excess wealth” and want to reduce your taxable estate by gifting assets to children or others, you can give $15,000 per person, per year. If your spouse joins you, that is $30,000 per person. This includes funding a 529 plan for education costs – expanded to provide for more than just college.
Note, however, that holding appreciated assets for the step up in basis at death may be better for your heirs than gifting.
Check on 2018
Check to see if you over-paid a penalty for
under-withholding. If you filed early,
the penalty calculation may have over-stated the total you owe, so you will
want to review your 2018 filing.
Carefully review any income and deductions that you can
still shift to see if moving will lessen the total taxes you pay for 2019 and 2020.
This tax update may give you reasons to amend your tax returns regarding the tax extenders, SALT workarounds, domicile audits and empowerment zones. Let me know if you need help.
Many tax returns were prepared assuming that Congress would pass a law for the “tax extenders” as it has in past years. However, the bill extending deductions and credits for 2018 and 2019 has not passed. Other matters have the attention of Congress.
The tax extenders include 26 tax breaks that expired at the end of 2017 and 2018. Some are for businesses, such as motor speedway depreciation, biodiesel credits, and disaster relief. Others are for individuals, such as retaining the 7.5% threshold instead of 10% for medical expenses, the private mortgage insurance (PMI) deduction, exclusion of up to $2 million from income from mortgage debt forgiveness on your home, and an above-the-line deduction college tuition and qualified expenses.
If you filed your 2018 returns relying on passage, and the extender bill does not pass, you could face an inquiry form the IRS. If you filed without relying on the extenders, and the bill does pass, you may be able to amend your 2018 filing to obtain a refund.
SALT and work around attempts by states
As you know from the first post in our series on the Tax Cut and Job Act (“TCJA”), the new tax law places a $10,000 cap on state and local taxes, or “SALT.” This includes state and city income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and excise taxes.
Some states, including New York and New Jersey, felt that TCJA targeted them and responded with workarounds. One such measure provides that certain payments of state income taxes would be treated as charitable contributions, so that the full amount would be allowed as part of your Schedule A deductions.
The IRS reacted by indicating that only the IRS determines what are allowable Schedule A deductions and this workaround was not one of them. As Christy Rakoczy Bieber wrote recently on creditkarma.com:
If you’re counting on a SALT cap workaround from your state to keep your federal taxes low, you may face an unpleasant surprise at tax time since the IRS has made clear it won’t allow you to take deductions for charitable donations if you received tax credits.
Trying to avoid the state taxes
Some people with homes in more than one state have taken another approach to SALT limits by claiming to be residents of the state imposing less income taxes. For example, if you have homes in Massachusetts and in Florida, you would clearly pick Florida because there is no state income tax.
If you do pick a no or low-income tax state, be careful. The state that is missing out on tax revenue may conduct a domicile audit. Having the documentation to prove your residency is key. While residency is based on your “state of mind,” an audit would focus on a list of facts, including where you spend more time, the state in which you have a driver’s license and vote, where you receive your mail, and where you worship. Be sure to take the necessary steps and retain proof.
Empowerment Zone rollovers and Qualified Small Business Stock Sales (QSBS)
There are provisions for favorable treatment of certain capital gains transactions. Here are two:
If you purchased stock in a qualified small business, you may be able to exclude gain on the sale. The exclusion is even higher for certain empowerment zones, and;
You can roll over gain from certain sales into investments in an empowerment zone, delaying or even reducing the tax on the gain. There are opportunity funds into which you can invest for this deferral. If you think you need to amend, or if you have any questions on this post or any other matter, let me know. I am here to help.
If you think you need to amend, or if you have any questions on this post or any other matter, let me know. I am here to help.
Before diving in to my Pan-Mass Challenge update, here is the recent Facebook post from on our pedal partner, Maddie Carlson, who survived cancer twice:
I just wanted to take a second to share the amazing things that have happened in the past year that have been so insane and i can’t help but feeling extremely blessed and grateful. This time last year my cancer was out of control, I was living at BCH, severely depressed and not even looking forward to the future. Fast forward to now and I can’t even believe how much my life has changed. Here’s a few things that have happened since I was severely hospitalized that have gave me a reason to not give up. First, I transferred to Emmanuel College in Boston which was without a doubt the best decision I could have ever made. I love this city and love my cute little school. Next, since I started school, I’ve made some of the greatest people who have become my family and teach me how to be a better person and have helped me grow (y’all know who you are). In high school I didn’t really get the opportunity to get involved so I started to take advantage of that since I’ve been here. The second month of school I started an on-campus job, joined a couple clubs AND recently found out that I received an RA position for next year!!! LASTLY AND THE BEST OF IT ALL, I recently found out I am 9 months cancer free!! Though I have my off days and have a lot to conquer with my health, I am happy. Cancer was a horrible thing that happened to me but I survived (twice) and am taking advantage of the amazing opportunities presented to me, since I couldn’t for so long and many others don’t have the chance to. Again, thank you to everyone that has followed my journey and those that continue to support me 💛💛
She was at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). I hope you never have to see those facilities. Or if you do, I hope it is from curiosity and not because you or a loved one is receiving treatment.
Although was a bit challenging to go, being a cancer survivor myself and not wanting to be reminded, we accepted an invitation to tour the DFCI in late January. The facilities are amazing.
So much attention is paid to how those with cancer are treated and what resources they can access. There are even places like the indoor gardens where they can experience nature that’s otherwise off limits due to their treatments. The tour guide even made mention of the unseen researchers and physicians working tirelessly to innovate new approaches for fighting cancer, to save lives, and to make a difference to all of us.
On the tour, we also felt the impact of the PMC, from donor plaques to the amazing PMC bridge, all of which brings home the message that cancer can be fought “one mile at a time.”
the past 40 years, 121,264
PMC riders (and 68,044 volunteers) have raised over $550 million to
fight cancer at DFCI and in 2019, over 6,000 riders will
aim to raise $58,000,000. With your
help, we can make a real difference, saving lives. We can stand up and do something about
this unrelenting and ever-changing affliction.
This will be my fifth year and I’m asking for your support. I am off to a good start, having raised over $3,900, but I need your help. Please support my ride so others won’t suffer as Maddie did in the past. Click on “why I ride” and donate. Remember, 100% of funds raised by the PMC go to Dana Farber for care, treatment and research.
The Tax Cut and Jobs Act brought the most significant changes to our income taxes in the last thirty years. We continue to assess its impact in this post, which provides updates and some strategies for items discussed at the end of 2018 in these three posts:
As a quick summary of the posts, in the first post, we discussed the impact of the new law on personal taxes; in the second post, we discussed planning for small businesses; and in our third post, we provided a practical guide for year-end action.
Itemized deduction strategies
As we noted in these tax planning posts, far fewer US Taxpayers will itemize because of the increased $24,000 standard deduction for married couples ($12,000 for individuals). One estimate is that the number will be about 6% of all taxpayers for 2018, down from over 30% in prior years.
Bunching your itemized deductions
into a single year is one way to push your total above the standard deduction amount,
and thus restore the tax deduction benefit for such items as charitable
donations. We discussed bunching and
giving to donor advised funds in our third
post. As we noted then,
charitable donations are the easiest Schedule A items to which to apply
Miscellaneous deductions are gone; Or are they?
Now that the miscellaneous
itemized deductions are gone, can you do anything with tax prep and investment
Take tax prep fees on other schedules
For the tax preparation fees, you can deduct those amounts on Schedule C, Schedule E (page 1), or Schedule F. And, if you have K-1s, input the fees as unreimbursed expenses so that the fees flow to Schedule E (page 2).
Capitalize investment fees
As for investment fees, there is support for capitalizing these costs, but the support is not dispositive. This interpretation of the Treasury regulations is that you can capitalize the cost of evaluating the value of stocks purchased and sold. You would need to elect to capitalize the related fee for each transaction, so this could be a great deal of work, depending on the amount of fees and number of stocks purchased or sold in a given year. Taking this approach seems fair, as the treatment parallels treatment of fees in mutual fund, where the advisory fees are netted out before capital gain and dividend distributions to shareholders.
Notes: First, that there is a Treasury memorandum that says you cannot add carrying costs to basis. Second, even if you could, capitalizing takes a great deal of work so it may not be worth the effort.
The first $1,050 of unearned income for children who are dependents is not taxed in 2018. Amounts above that level are taxed at the same rate as trusts and estates. Those brackets are quite compressed compared to individual brackets. Nonetheless, a child of a parent in the 37% tax bracket can still have $12,500 of income taxed at a lower rate. That could save taxes on college funds (but compare to sheltering in a 529 plan).
Child tax credit
The $2,000 child credit phases out at much higher adjusted income levels for 2018: over $400,000 for married couples, $200,000 for single taxpayers. If your child is age 17 or over, you lose the $2,000 credit, but you may qualify for the $500 dependent credit. This credit could not only applies to college students, it covers disabled children, elderly parents and other family that are your dependents.
QBID for rental real estate
The IRS regulations provide a
safe harbor for people who spend 250 or more hours a year on activities related
to their rental properties. You will
need to keep records of your time and maintain separate bank accounts for the
Enterprise Zone rollovers
You can roll over gain from stock or other capital assets to investments in an enterprise zone, delaying tax on the gain, and even eliminating tax on a portion. We will post more on this at a future date.
With the doubling of the federal gift and estate tax credit, few estates will be subject to federal estate tax. This means that gifting is not nearly as important as retaining low basis assets for the step at death. By this we mean that keeping assets in your name results in those assets are treated as having basis equal to the fair market value at death, so your heirs only pay tax on any gain that occurs after your death.
There have been many changes to our tax law, so if you are not sure how you are affected, contact me for some planning. Maybe we can help you save on taxes!