Year-end Tax Planning 2022-2023 and Inflation

Why year-end planning?

We are told to act before year end because it is our last chance to have an impact on our 2022 taxes.  Planning throughout the year could be even better, if you recognize when to act, but most of us are pulled in so many directions that it is hard to organize and act until there is an external pressure, such as the looming end to the calendar year.  So, when you are ready to take stock of your situation, you can make the planning effort even more productive by reviewing your investments, estate plan, and finances, not just your taxes – consider it a “financial checkup.” 

Overview

This year, there are changes that occurred due to inflation as well as legislation.  While we had expected tax increases, none materialized (there may still be tax law changes, but legislation such as the “SECURE Act 2.0,” child credit and tax extenders all remain in flux).  We review the changes that did occur before turning to actual year-end tax planning strategies. 

Impact of inflation

Is there ever a good side to inflation?  Perhaps the IRS adjustments to several tax-related thresholds that change for 2023 count, such as these:

The standard deduction MFJ             $27,700                       up from $25,900

The gift and estate tax credit              $12.92 million             from just over $12 million

The annual gift tax exclusion             $17,000                       up from $16,000

401(k) maximum contribution             $22,500                       plus $7,500 (for over 50)

IRA max.                                            $6,500                         plus $1,000

SEP-IRA max.                                    $66,000

The tax brackets at which rates increase have also gone up, so more is taxed at lower the brackets.

Inflation Reduction Act

The Inflation Reduction Act passed this summer and included changes to tax laws regarding energy saving credits.  The Act also contained other provisions, such as the 15% AMT for C corporations and 1% stock buyback tax.  It’s unfortunate that the abbreviation for the act is IRA, as we already have that in our tax lexicon. 

Beginning in 2023, this new law changes conditions for obtaining the $7,500 credit for new electric vehicles (EVs) and adds a $4,000 credit for used EVs (EVs that are 2 or more years old).  The Act also expanded the reporting requirements for the credits on your tax returns.  Finally, EV buyers can monetize the credit at purchase to reduce the sale price, rather than wait for their tax filing.  Remember there is also a credit for installing a home charger.

To obtain a credit for new EVs, the battery’s minerals must be extracted or processed in the US or a free-trade partner.  The battery must also be manufactured or assembled in North America.  Final assembly of the EV must be in North America.  There are price ceilings on EVs and income limits on claiming taxpayers. 

The Act extend and expanded home energy credits but also expanded the reporting requirements.

Tax planning

Start with this goal: to lessen the total tax due in 2022 and 2023 combined.  Usually that means delaying income to 2023 and accelerating deductions to 2022.  For 2022-2023, the jump in the standard deduction could mean losing itemized deductions in 2023, so pay special attention to what you can shift to 2022.  As we pointed out our post for 2021 year-end planning, if you are concerned about future tax rate increases, you can use a Roth Conversions to bring future income into 2022.

Now to the planning:  Can you act at all? 

Each year, we advise that you be practical, focusing on where you can actually make moves.  For many, the high standard deduction (which is even more for over age 65 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).  And, if you are not itemizing, you have fewer ways in which to affect change in the taxes due in either year.  If you can itemize, you have more tools for planning. 

Tools – income

You can reduce taxable income by maximizing your retirement contributions with your employer via 401(k) or 403(b) plans and IRA contributions if you are below the thresholds.  If you are self-employed, you can contribute to your own qualified plan such as a SEP-IRA. 

You may also be able to contribute to a health savings or flex account.  Be sure to see to use any flex account balances before they expire. 

Review your investments to see if you can take losses to reduce capital gains and up to $3,000 of ordinary income.  ax loss harvesting reduces net taxable capital gains, but be sure not to run afoul of the wash-sale rule.

Tools – deductions

Review your unreimbursed medical expenses, which you can deduct if the total is over 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. 

State and local taxes are capped at $10,000, so you may not be able to shift much between years.  And it is difficult to accelerate mortgage interest on first and second homes.  

Often, the place for the most change is in charitable deductions, where you can bunch two- or three-years’ worth into a single year so you can itemize.  You can use a donor advised fund (“DAF”) to bunch, by contributing all in one year, then having the DAF send annual amounts.  Also, you can transfer up to $100,000 from a traditional IRA directly to charity if you are over 70½.  Note that Congress has not extended the $300 above the line charitable deduction. 

Before you finish, check withholdings and estimates paid

Especially if you increase income in 2022, review your total paid to the IRS and state via withholdings and estimates make sure that you meet the safe harbor rules.  If not, you could owe interest for under-withholding.

And remember your estate plan review

As noted above, the federal gift and estate tax credit  is close to $12 million for 2022 and increases to $12.92 million in 2023.  If you have excess wealth, you may want to gift while you can, especially if you want to use certain trusts, like a GRAT or QPRT.  For more on estate planning updates, see our estate planning checkup post

  • If you do review your estate plan documents, also review beneficiary designations and asset ownership to make sure everything is current and flows correctly. 

Summary

As you review your 2022-2023 tax planning, determine what you can shift and project the impact.  Then follow through on the details. 

Let us know if you have any questions. 

Good luck and best wishes for happy and healthy holidays!

We address the impact of inflation on tax thresholds for 2022 and 2023 that affect your year-end tax planning.  We also review the Inflation Reduction Act and EV credits.  As in the recent years, many taxpayers will not be itemizing because of higher standard deduction (rising to $27,700 for married couples in 2023), unless they bunch charitable deductions from two or more years into one year.

Estate planning checkup: why you don’t, why you should

Why you don’t:

We have written previously stressing the need to have an estate plan, so you do not leave a mess, and why you may need life insurance to protect others.  Few people will disagree with the need to have a current plan and to provide for survivors, but not everyone acts.  

So, why is it that people fail to take action?  Rick Kahler wrote recently about Overcoming Client Procrastination with Financial Planning.  In his post, he lists factors that cause people to put off action that agree is important to address: 

  1. Avoidance.  Feelings of self-doubt, fear of pain or anxiety around the task, depression, fear of asking for help, lack of trust.
  2. Perfectionism.  Fear of failure, fear of being criticized (both externally by others and – often more powerfully – internally by parts of yourself).
  3. Ambiguity.  Lack of clarity about the task, feeling overwhelmed, difficulty prioritizing in the absence of a crises, being focused on immediate tasks.
  4. Narcissism.  Over-confidence in getting it done at the last minute. Needing chaos or pressure to provide adrenaline, the ability to focus to the exclusion of everything else, and a feeling of being fully alive.
  5. Physical Issues.  Fatigue, illness.
  6. Lack of knowledge.  Not knowing what you don’t know, unsure how to get needed help and information.
  7. Financial.  Not having the funds to take the necessary action.   

Do any of these apply to you?  If so, we can help so please contact us. 

Why you should:

One reason to review your estate plan is that the Biden administration may seek changes to the estate and income tax laws; you want to make sure your documents have the flexibility to address these changes.  The current federal gift and estate tax credit is close to $12 million.  However, it is scheduled to drop to between $5.5 and $6 million in 2025 and the administration may push for a lower credit to be imposed sooner.  Also, the administration may try to eliminate the step-up in basis at death.  We will continue to monitor any proposed law changes and post updates. 

There are other tax law changes to address, such as the elimination of the “stretch IRA.”  You may need to revise your beneficiaries.  Also, you will want your executor or personal representative to elect portability of your federal credit to minimize taxes and may want your documents to address the generation skipping transfer tax credit.

Another reason to act is to provide for your digital assets, something old documents may not address.  For example, you can give your attorney-in-fact under your durable power of attorney access to your digital assets and you can assign your digital assets to your revocable trust so your trustee has access.  Digital assets include e-mail and text messages, photographs, videos and other files on your computer, on-line accounts such as your investments and social media, or even intellectual property and patent rights.  You may also have collectibles that need to be addressed,

Another reason to act is to ensure that someone knows how to access all your passwords if something happens to you.  Create your own “Rosetta Stone,” a document telling them how to access your digital life, with IDs and passwords, and then make sure an immediate family member or close friend knows where to find it.  This way, they can locate all your important documents, find assets and insurance, and handle your social media if something happens.  You may also want to provide a memorandum to your personal representatives and trustees detailing your wishes, including thoughts on when to distribute to children, protecting from creditors, and even burial or cremation.

If you to take the time now to review and update your plan, be sure:

  • that you have documents that are in order,
  • that the documents are correctly executed,
  • that you provided adequate resources for survivors, including life insurance, and
  • that your beneficiary designations and asset ownership all coordinate with your documents.

When you do, you will have improved matters for you and your family! 

Contact our office if you have any questions or comments. And be well!

Will you leave a mess or a legacy? Don’t die without a plan

“where did they leave it?”

Estate planning is not fun.  You have to face what the world will be like after you leave it.  You want to leave a legacy so your survivors are happy.  However, less than one in five of you have taken the steps needed. 

If you completely ignore creating a post-death plan, then you will leave a chaos and confusion for others to sort out at a time when they will be grieving from your loss.  They will have to find where you put everything and sort out where you wanted everything to go. 

If people depend on you financially, not providing enough on which they can survive will mean major lifestyle changes for them.  Not something you want. 

You want survivors to focus on cherished memories, not on probate courts.  Take action! 

Now, what do you do?

First, leave enough so survivors can survive

Make sure you have provided for those who depend on you.  Usually, that means purchasing some form of life insurance.  You want to replace your earning power from now until the time that they are independent, either when a spouse or partner retires or when your children become gainfully employed. 

If you have been saving for retirement, those accounts may be enough so you don’t need to purchase life insurance.  Reviewing your potential estate with an advisor is wise to make sure survivors have enough. 

Second, sign the documents

Execute documents that ensure that your estate goes to the people who you want to benefit.  This usually means signing beneficiary designations for retirement plan accounts and executing a will.  You may even need a trust for young survivors.  We wrote this post detailing the steps a few years back.  If that’s too technical, ask me questions. 

You may want to consult an advisor to get all the proper documents in place.  Here is a good checklist to review.

Third, have the conversations

Talk to your spouse, to your adult children and to the people you name in your documents.  Make sure they understand your wishes.  Do you want to be buried or do you want to be cremated?  Do you want donations made to charities? 

What if you have a catastrophe the doesn’t kill you, but leaves you hooked up to machines forever?  Have a conversation so your loved ones know your wishes.  And, make sure you sign a health care proxy or medical directive, living will and even a “do not resuscitate” or DNR order. 

Fourth, leave a trail

Make sure the key people know how to find everything.  One way is to write a memorandum listing your passwords, where to find the safe deposit box key, and where you stored the life insurance policies.  Give copes to key people, such as the personal representative named in you will or the trustee of your trust. 

Finally, leave a legacy

When you take care of all you can, in advance, your survivors don’t have to suppress feelings while they clean up a mess:

“WE WERE WORRIED ABOUT MY MOM after my dad died, but he had everything in order. It allowed us to focus on our grief instead of being bogged down in financial paperwork and family bickering.” That’s one of the candid responses Merrill Lynch and Age Wave received when they interviewed more than 3,000 Americans 55 and older for a comprehensive look at attitudes and practices surrounding legacy planning.  From How do you want to be remembered…

planning and taking action

You will need to review and update your plan over time.  But, just knowing you took all these steps should improve matters for you and your family now!  Contact our office if you have questions so you can “don’t worry, be happy!”

7 things to do when starting a business to avoid nasty surprises

(also seen online at IRIS.xyz)

The only thing that hurts more than paying an income tax is not having to pay an income tax. Thomas Dewar

When you decide to start a business, taxes may be the last thing you think about. However, not realizing that you owe the self-employment tax as well as income taxes can lead to a nasty surprise when you file your taxes. This post is aimed at avoiding that costly surprise.

But, before we discuss the self-employment tax, there are other important steps to take when you become self-employed. Here are the 7 things to do after you start your own business to avoid nasty surprises:

Avoid nasty surprises – set up bookkeeping, form your entity, get licensed, buy insurance, and pay taxes

Bookkeeping – set up bookkeeping using software like QuickBooks (either online or on your laptop). You don’t want to be scrambling to find receipts at tax time or not be able to tell somebody if you are making money or not.

You can save time by downloading from your bank and credit card companies. If you set up things well, all income and every expense will be properly categorized for your profit and loss statement, or P&L. The P&L and balance sheet help you monitor your business to see how well you are doing and are essential for preparing your tax returns. The balance sheet will also come in handy if you need to apply for financing.

For all these steps, you may want to hire an accountant or speak to an attorney.

Entity – for many small businesses, being a sole proprietor is appropriate. You avoid paying corporate excise taxes and filing annual reports. However, if you have partners, you may want to form a partnership, corporation or LLC (details on choosing are beyond the scope of this post).

If your business involves risks that could lead to law suits, form a corporation or LLC to shelter your personal assets from liabilities of the business that insurance may not cover. Make sure that any actions you take for the business are in your capacity as an officer or manager – i.e., never sign personally.

Remember, you may want to consult with an attorney.

Get licenses, file annual reports and pay local taxes – certain businesses require a license to operate. Most entities are required to file annual reports. And, your city may impose taxes on the personal property in your business. Be sure to find out so you don’t owe penalties for failing to file and pay.

Buy health and other insurance – in addition to liability insurance, you will want to obtain health insurance if you are no longer working for another employer. You may get favorable treatment for this expense on your income taxes. You can also purchase insurance to cover damage to equipment, loss of data, identity theft and so on.

File payroll taxes – if you hire people to work for you and pay them over $600 per quarter in any year, you need to report the compensation. If they are independent contractors, you file a form 1099 with the IRS. If they are employees, you file a W-2 with the Social Security Administration. You also provide these forms to your people for the income tax filings.

You may need to withhold and remit FICA and Medicare taxes. Also, your employees may request that you withhold and remit federal and state income taxes (unless you live in a state that does not impose income taxes). Failure to withhold and pay to the IRS and state can lead to serious penalties.

Pay your income tax – one big shock for many who start a business is how much they owe in taxes. When you received a paycheck, you probably did not focus much on the fact that your employer withholds federal and state income taxes and FICA and Medicare taxes. And, you never had a chance to spend what was withheld.

However, when you run your own business, you have full access to the pre-tax income, so you must diligently allocate funds ahead of time so that you don’t come up short at text time. To avoid owing interest on the taxes due, you make estimated tax payments each quarter to the IRS and state.

Pay the self-employment tax – when you were an employee, your employer withheld FICA and Medicare taxes from your paychecks. The employer also contributed FICA and Medicare taxes on your behalf

When you become self-employed, you are responsible for both the employee and employer amounts. This tax is based on your net self-employment income

A lot to remember, right?

Maybe, but knowing and planning is far better than trying to scrape together money in April to cover taxes you did not expect.

Good luck with your new business!

In future posts, we will examine partnering with others, assessing your profitability, rules on deducting expenses, and entry into the real estate market.

Okay then, what is a financial plan?

You may hear some argue that robo-planners will not replace individual, human planners. I call them the “There’s no app for that” group.

We do believe that “There is an app for that.”
workshop-1280264_1920

Well, that is not what I had in mind.

But exactly what is “a financial plan”? Finding a good, workable definition is a challenge.

Wikipedia says:

Textbooks used in colleges offering financial planning-related courses also generally do not define the term “financial plan.” For example, Sid Mittra, Anandi P. Sahu, and Robert A Crane, authors of Practicing Financial Planning for Professionals[8] do not define what a financial plan is, but merely defer to the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards’ definition of ‘financial planning’.

Can’t we define “financial plan”?

Yes. Investopedia offers this broad definition:

While there is no specific template for a financial plan, most licensed professionals will include knowledge and considerations of the client’s future life goals, future wealth transfer plans and future expense levels. Extrapolated asset values will determine whether the client has sufficient funds to meet future needs.

And Wikipedia gives more detail:

In general usage, a financial plan is a comprehensive evaluation of an individual’s current pay and future financial state by using current known variables to predict future income, asset values and withdrawal plans. This often includes a budget which organizes an individual’s finances and sometimes includes a series of steps or specific goals for spending and saving in the future.

So you need to project where your assets can take you to be sure you meet your future in good shape. Makes sense

And what is my definition?

A to do list or “action plan” that tells you what you need to change now so you optimize the use of all your resources to achieve your major, long term goals in the future.         

So what does a financial plan look like?

If you paid to have a financial plan prepared, and have a complicated situation, you may get a glossy, bound book filled with projections, charts and graphs, plus text. While much of it may be boilerplate, it will tell you where you are going from now until you die, how your money will follow if you invest according to the plan, and what you need to change on taxes, insurance, and your estate plan.

At the other extreme, you can glean the essential steps and write them all on a PostIt note, which you then place in a spot you see often enough to remind you what to do:

  • Maximize my 401(k) contributions,
  • Set up and contribute to a Roth IRA,
  • Review my investment allocation, use ETFs,
  • Steer clear of any major credit card debt,
  • Review my beneficiary designations,
  • Sign an medical directive, and
  • Save enough for a fun (not too expensive) vacation next summer!

In the end, it doesn’t matter how many pages or what the plan looks like; what matters is that you learn from reviewing your finances and change how you manage your resources so that improve your finances.

So, yes, a simple to do list could be enough, if you follow it!