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IRA Updates and Rules

01/15/2016

Tax Extenders & The Deficit Dilemma

Though Congress has received some applause for reviving a set of more than 50 tax breaks, called “tax extenders,” there is as much dismay-driven head shaking over the fact that the bipartisan agreement and the now signed budget bill dig the federal deficit hole even deeper.

The new tax law, entitled the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, and the newly signed funding bill provide $1.1 trillion to cover spending for most government agencies to the end of fiscal year 2016, perhaps coincidentally past the upcoming presidential election. The defense sector, NASA, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health received a bit of a boost with most other agency funding remaining flat. ENews 2016 pic tax-credit3

IRS funding restrictions remain, so it’s expected that taxpayers will continue experiencing communication and customer service problems and an increase in computer-generated correspondence audits throughout 2016 and 2017. The new National Taxpayer Advocate Annual Report to Congress blasts the IRS for planning to “substantially reduce telephone and face-to-face interaction with taxpayers,” turning that job over to tax return preparers and tax software companies.

Meanwhile, the good news for taxpayers is that the PATH Act makes permanent several charitable tax provisions, indicating that lawmakers support using tax incentives to encourage charitable giving. For example, those 70 ½ or older may contribute up to $100,000 from an IRA directly to a charity with the contribution qualifying for their required minimum distribution (also known as Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) rules).

Other permanently renewed tax provisions include the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college expenses and the deduction for state and local sales taxes. The schoolteacher expense deduction has been enhanced and made permanent, as has the child tax credit.

The mortgage insurance premiums and qualified residence interest deductions have been extended for another year. Taxpayers who suffered losses from selling their home for less than the outstanding mortgage will also be able to avoid the tax consequences from debt cancellation under the Mortgage Debt Relief Act for another year.

Companies that utilize bonus depreciation like those involved in the telecommunications industry or who invest in capital-intensive projects will continue enjoying this helpful tax provision for a few more years. The tax law also makes permanent the research and development tax credit, which encourages important business R&D like that in the pharmaceutical and defense sectors.

The solar investment tax credit (ITC) and the wind production tax credit (PTC) are being phased out but will remain active through 2019 and 2021 respectively. The energy industry overall has received both tax incentives and funding resources, adding a boost of confidence to alternative energy producers.

Tax increases levied on individuals and businesses to pay for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) continue to be unpopular, and some were not enacted. Now it’s possible the two most controversial taxes may be repealed. These are the proposed tax on medical devices and the 40% excise “Cadillac” taxes on higher-priced employer-sponsored health plans that compete with government-sponsored plans.

The 2015 year-end budget battle, which starts our new tax year without delays, was a fistfight compared to the combative, destructive delay-causing 2014 debate. Yet, even as lawmakers are cooling to budget debates, the looming budget deficit has not disappeared and continues to grow. Our 2016 budget will add to the deficit, rather than reduce it. The Congressional Budget Office reports that overall US Treasury debt has grown to 74% of GDP that “could have serious negative consequences for the nation, including restraining economic growth in the long term ... and eventually increasing the risk of financial crisis.”

Overall, the bipartisan tax bill was passed with the understanding that Congress is committed to comprehensive tax reform that will simplify the tax code, eliminate temporary provisions and lower tax rates by broadening the tax base. Lawmakers who supported the PATH Act stated in a news release, “Americans deserve a simpler, fairer and flatter tax code that’s built for growth, and this bill will help make that possible.” The 2016 election year will likely determine how far that ship will sail.

If you have any questions about how the current tax law affects your individual and/or business tax obligation, please contact us now at McRuer CPAs for a tax planning session.

04/13/2015

Financial Transaction Tax and How It May Affect You

Washington lawmakers are watching the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) debate in Europe as Democrat party leaders have made enacting this kind of tax a central part of their economic proposals for 2015.  The effects of this debate could reach across international money markets into the pockets of common American taxpayers.

NYSEA FTT is a  monetary transactions tax usually associated with the financial sector as compared to consumption taxes that consumers pay on products and services.  Democrat Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota has introduced an even more specific “Inclusive Prosperity Act” which would tax the sale of stocks, bonds and derivatives.  It is part of the on-going party theme of supporting “Main Street over Wall Street.”  He claims the tax would reduce market speculation, discourage high-volume and high-speed trading, and slow down the proliferation of complex derivatives.

Republican FTT opponents argue these kinds of taxes would do little to harm Wall Street, even admitting they would raise badly needed revenue, but disagree about where the money would come from.  They claim FTTs would put financial stress on working Americans by increasing the costs of having individual, family and employee retirement accounts.  This would occur at a time when retirement plans operated by corporations are disappearing and Americans are already struggling with costs, both in time and money, associated with managing their own IRAs.  They say the new taxes would make it more difficult for common people to save and invest.

Financial transaction taxes in general are usually proposed at very small percentage rates, but they could affect all transactions, of which there may be dozens (or even hundreds depending upon the size and scope) per account every day.  Proponents believe the taxes would raise billions of dollars in new revenues.  While experts predict the debate will not lead to a specific action this year, the issue will remain on the burner ready to heat up in time for the 2016 Presidential race.

Worldwide, there are several types of financial transaction taxes being implemented by various organizations and regions.  Some are domestic meaning they are imposed only within one nation or financial region.  Others are multinational, and affect transactions made between countries.  Nearly 50 nations have some form of FTT today.

EU finance ministers have been fiercely debating the scope of the tax pushing for a wide tax base with low tax rates.  They have made a public commitment to start a EU FTT on January 1, 2016 with what’s called an “extra-territorial” reach across markets and nations.  Yet, the last meeting of the 28 Member States in February ended with little progress on key issues and they are not set to negotiate again until May.  Still to be worked out; who will collect the tax, the penalty for non-payment and who will be responsible for paying the penalty.

03/19/2015

April 1st Deadline - No Fooling!

IRA payThe IRS has issued a reminder to taxpayers who may have turned 70 1/2 years old in 2014.  April 1st is the deadline to begin receiving their retirement plan distributions from IRAs and work place related retirement plans.

Here is the actual release from the IRS with more information and with links to more information including videos and tax forms.  Please contact us online or call us at 816.741.7882 if you have any questions.

-------------IRS RELEASE March 19, 2015 -------------------

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers who turned 70½ during 2014 that in most cases they must start receiving required minimum distributions (RMDs) from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and workplace retirement plans by Wednesday, April 1, 2015.

The April 1 deadline applies to owners of traditional IRAs but not Roth IRAs. Normally, it also applies to participants in various workplace retirement plans, including 401(k), 403(b) and 457 plans.

The April 1 deadline only applies to the required distribution for the first year. For all subsequent years, the RMD must be made by Dec. 31. So, a taxpayer who turned 70½ in 2014 and receives the first required payment on April 1, 2015, for example, must still receive the second RMD by Dec. 31, 2015. 

Affected taxpayers who turned 70½ during 2014 must figure the RMD for the first year using the life expectancy as of their birthday in 2014 and their account balance on Dec. 31, 2013. The trustee reports the year-end account value to the IRA owner on Form 5498  in Box 5. Worksheets and life expectancy tables for making this computation can be found in the Appendices to Publication 590-B.

Most taxpayers use Table III  (Uniform Lifetime) to figure their RMD. For a taxpayer who reached age 70½ in 2014 and turned 71 before the end of the year, for example, the first required distribution would be based on a distribution period of 26.5 years. A separate table, Table II, applies to a taxpayer married to a spouse who is more than 10 years younger and is the taxpayer’s only beneficiary.

Though the April 1 deadline is mandatory for all owners of traditional IRAs and most participants in workplace retirement plans, some people with workplace plans can wait longer to receive their RMD. Usually, employees who are still working can, if their plan allows, wait until April 1 of the year after they retire to start receiving these distributions. See Tax on Excess Accumulation inPublication 575. Employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations with 403(b) plan accruals before 1987 should check with their employer, plan administrator or provider to see how to treat these accruals.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to begin planning now for any distributions required during 2015. An IRA trustee must either report the amount of the RMD to the IRA owner or offer to calculate it for the owner. Often, the trustee shows the RMD amount in Box 12b on Form 5498. For a 2015 RMD, this amount would be on the 2014 Form 5498 that is normally issued in January 2015.

More information on RMDs, including answers to frequently asked questions, can be found on IRS.gov.

03/18/2015

Divorce, Death, Benefits and Taxes

The emotional stress and damage of divorce can have even more lasting consequences if personal finances and assets are not updated to reflect your changed situation.

It’s particularly important to address what will happen after your death, when certain assets and benefits may unintentionally be passed to your former spouse or his or her family.

Divorce-money-fightFor example, a current New York court case involving the assets of a woman who died at age 43 has now reached that state’s appellate court.  The woman’s family is battling her former in-laws who stand to inherit her home that her family has owned for generations, all because she did not update her will.  New York divorce laws automatically prevent her ex-husband from inheriting the property, but her secondary beneficiaries remain her ex-in-laws; so they are fighting over the property now.

It may be emotionally difficult to address your financial assets in the midst of divorce, but if you are going through a divorce or have even been divorced several years, it will pay off in the long run for you and your family to review and update your financial documents.

Be sure you have updated your estate plans, check insurance and other beneficiary designations and beneficiary deeds.  Also provide your loved ones with copies of the updated documents, or let them know where to find them.  Divorcing couples should also consider individually seeking a new financial adviser to avoid any conflicts of interest. 

Make certain your will clearly states your intentions, and that your powers of attorney, health-care proxy, and beneficiary designations on IRAs, insurance policies, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and annuities name the people that you wish.  Remember, no matter what a will says, these financial accounts and policies will pass to the individuals named on them, so having updated directives for each account is extremely important.

As we have detailed in our blog IRAs Need Updated Beneficiary Forms, changes in beneficiaries for annuities and IRAs must be submitted in writing and require a signed and dated document be sent to the financial institution handling the account or policy.

For some accounts, the original financial agreements stipulate the ex-spouse cannot be removed as a beneficiary, so the beneficiary may want to take steps to clarify the arrangements to ensure his or her name remains on the account.

When a divorce is final, the final divorce decree may be sent to the plan administrator directing how money in IRA accounts should be divided and transferred into separate accounts.  Company-sponsored qualified retirement plans will need additional steps.  In those cases, the court must issue a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) properly apportioning retirement plan assets between the former spouses.

However you wish to change your beneficiary status or account information, it’s also a good idea to request a written confirmation notice from your insurance company, financial planner and/or banker confirming they have received and acted on your changes.  Then, keep all the updated documents in a secure location that can be found in the event that you may become incapacitated or die.

Divorce may also affect a person’s current and future income tax obligation, and may affect future taxes owed on assets and retirement accounts.  Receiving or paying alimony payments or child support may also have tax consequences.

Divorce is painful.  Planning your next steps both personally and financially can help ease concerns as time passes.

Consider meeting with a McRuer CPAs expert who will help you identify and act upon the best financial strategy to help you now and in the years ahead.  Contact us online or call 816.741.7882 for a consultation.

12/22/2014

Last Minute Tax Act Passes New Details - Act Now!

McRuer CPAs closely monitors federal and state tax laws affecting our clients and friends using the CPA industry’s best research materials and services.

We recently learned from our Bloomberg/Bureau of National Affairs Tax Management Staff (Bloomberg/BNA) that President Obama had signed into law the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014.  We have monitored the slow progress of this Act since the summer.  The final version has a number of provisions that could affect your tax return.  We have put together a shortened summary with the information that we believe will specifically affect our individual and business tax clients highlighted in yellow.  Click on the link below to download the printable document for more information.

Please note that most of these provisions are only effective for ten days – through December 31, 2014.  Click here to: Download McRuer CPAs Tax Act Information December 2014

The summary uses part of the Bloomberg/BNA’s review of the Act.  Those topics of particular interest include:

  • Internal Revenue Code 179 expense elections restored to $500,000 with certain limitations
  • Bonus depreciation restored
  • Research and development credit restored
  • Deduction for educational expenditures extended
  • Tax-free retirement plan distributions for charitable donations extended

There is also a new provision increasing late payment and underpayment penalties to be indexed with inflation.

If you have questions about the opportunities this Act may provide you, please contact us at: 816.741.7882 or www.kccpa.com/contact_us.html.

 

11/24/2014

McRuer CPAs Year-End Tax Planning Guide

Income tax and flag imageIt's time to review year-end tax strategies that may help reduce your tax bill or prevent you from paying more than you owe.  

The 2014 tax year has been marked by more questions and unresolved tax issues than in years past.  The current uncertainty especially about expiring "temporary" tax provisions, income tax deductions and IRA conversions leads us to send a precautionary "yellow" signal as we stay alert to react to any last minute updates.

Click here to download the McRuer CPAs 2014 Year-End Tax Planning Guide with tips and information that may help you.

Your window of opportunity to take action regarding your 2014 tax obligation is rapidly closing, but remember, this is also a very good time to consider choices about your individual and/or business tax strategies for the 2015 tax year.

If you haven't already scheduled your year-end tax planning strategy session, please contact us right away.  Call us for an appointment with one of our tax strategy experts who will explain details to help you choose the best plan for you: 816.741.7882.

 

02/18/2014

IRAs Need Updated Designated Beneficiary Forms

Individual Retirement Accounts have been around long enough now that many Americans are learning what happens when they inherit an IRA. It’s not always good news.  If the owner has not filed an up-to-date beneficiary form, the heir of the estate risks losing a major portion of the IRA value to taxes and fees. IRA-nest-egg

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) reports the average IRA value is close to $94,000. The EBRI also says there are nearly 15 million IRA accounts held by more than 11 million people.  With total assets of more than $1 trillion, it’s important to make certain that, should the owner die, the IRA doesn’t lose its value upon transfer to a new owner.

Advisors warn that many IRA owners mistakenly believe because they have a will, the person(s) they list as their heir(s) will automatically receive the IRA to use as a savings tool or turn into cash in whatever manner they wish.  Yet, without a specific and up-to-date IRA beneficiary designation form for each IRA, the beneficiary may be forced to empty the account right away risking taxes and penalties; and may even be bumped into a higher income tax bracket.   Some states require the accounts to go through probate court when there is no beneficiary form.

IRA owners should fill out what is a very simple beneficiary form separate from their will.  That way, when the owner dies, the designated beneficiary is able to determine the best distribution strategy over his or her lifetime.  A new beneficiary form is needed any time an IRA account is changed or updated, or the account is moved to a new custodian.

Typically, IRA beneficiaries must take distributions during their lifetime.  Inherited traditional IRAs require taxes to be paid on distributions.  Rollover, SEP, and SIMPLE IRAs are treated the same way. Beneficiaries are not required to pay taxes on distributions from an inherited Roth IRA.

Generally, surviving spouses have several choices including even disclaiming up to 100% of the IRA assets, which, besides avoiding extra taxable income, enables their children to inherit the IRA assets.  But, if the spouse decides to take a lump sum distribution, or begins distributions on a traditional IRA, taxes must be paid.

Non-spouse beneficiaries have fewer choices.  Among them, including taking the lump sum amount and paying a large share in federal taxes; disclaiming all or part of the assets for up to 9 months after the previous owner’s death; or begin taking taxable distributions from the account.

If you inherit an IRA, you cannot roll it over into your own IRA. You must also make certain it is re-titled as an inherited IRA.  If you move the IRA to a new custodian, make certain it is made as a “trustee-to-trustee” transfer or it will be considered as a taxable total distribution, thereby, ending the account as an IRA.  There are deadlines for your actions and you can even face the dreaded 50% penalty if you don’t make a required withdrawal in time.

To ensure you leave as much of your IRA asset as possible to whom you choose, or if you inherit an IRA, consult your financial advisor for the best steps to take to lessen the taxes and maximize the advantages of these retirement accounts.

If you have any questions about your financial savings plans, beneficiaries and the tax consequences of your choices, please contact us at McRuer CPAs.

04/14/2013

Last Minute Tax Saving Tips

Time running out graphic

With just a day remaining until the 2012 income tax filing deadline, there are still a few tax-cutting moves you may be able to make on or before April 15th.

Contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA. You may contribute up to $5,000, or, if you are 50 or older, up to $6,000.  Income limits apply.

Remember that traditional IRA contributions are often tax-deductible, but withdrawals are taxable.  Roth account contributions aren't deductible, but qualified withdrawals are tax-free and have other benefits for retirees.  For example, the Roth withdrawals don't raise Medicare premiums or taxes on Social Security benefits, nor do they help trigger the new 3.8% Medicare tax on other investment income.

Contribute to a SEP IRA or other tax-favored pension plan. Taxpayers with filing extensions can make deductible payments to these plans through October 15th. 

Contribute to a Health Savings Account. Taxpayers who already set up an HSA by the end of 2012 have through April 15th to make deductible payments if the accounts are linked to an approved high-deductible health plan.  They may contribute up to $6,250 per family or $3,100 for individuals.

If you have any questions, contact us at McRuer CPAs.

02/26/2013

Education Expense Relief

The new tax law package has some good news for families who are seeking tax relief for education expenses.

The American Opportunity Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit for undergraduate college expenses, has been expanded for another 5 years to 2017.  This credit provides up to $2,500 on the first $4,000 of qualified education expenses.

Holding booksCoverdell Education Savings Accounts (aka Education IRAs) have been made permanent and now allow higher contribution limits of $2,000 a year.  Money in these accounts grows tax-free and is tax-free when withdrawn if used for eligible education expenses. You can make 2012 contributions through April 15, 2013. 

The Lifetime Learning Credit is available for anyone who is taking a college course.  It allows a nonrefundable tax credit on eligible expenses even if you are only taking one class.  Parents or the student may be able to claim up to $2,000 of qualified expenses.  There is no limit on the number of years the credit can be claimed. 

01/28/2013

Tax-Free IRA Transfers

IRA owners age 70½ or older have just a few more days to make tax-free transfers to eligible charities and have them count for tax-year 2012. Give to Charities

The IRS reports eligible IRA owners have until Thursday, January 31st, to make a direct transfer, or alternatively, if they received IRA distributions during December 2012, to contribute, in cash, part or all of the amounts received to an eligible charity.

The recently approved American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 has extended for 2012 and 2013 the provision authorizing qualified charitable distributions (QCDs).  Each year, the IRA owner can exclude from gross income up to $100,000 of these QCDs.  First available in 2006, this provision had expired at the end of 2011, but now has been given two more tax years.

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