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TAX UPDATE
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The 2018 filing season for 2017 tax-year returns officially launched on January 27. On the other end of the filing season, taxpayers have two additional days to file their 2017 returns: the traditional April 15 filing deadline moves to April 17 this year. Some early filers, however, may find their refunds delayed if they are claiming the additional child tax credit (ACTC) and/or the earned income tax credit (EITC).


Much-anticipated withholding tables for 2018 have been posted by the IRS. While the new withholding tables are designed to work with existing Forms W-4, the agency encouraged taxpayers to use its online withholding calculator to make adjustments if necessary. New Forms W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, will be released for 2019 withholding; withholding for 2018 will adapt to existing Forms W-4 already submitted by employees. Based upon the specific impact of the new tax law on their situations, some employees may wish to file a revised Form W-4 to supplement revisions to the withholding tables already being made by the IRS.


President Trump signed legislation on January 22 to delay the medical device excise tax, the health insurance provider fee and the excise tax on high-dollar health plans. All three taxes were delayed in a temporary funding bill.


The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did not directly change the tax rate on capital gains: they remain at 0, 10, 15 and 20 percent, respectively (with the 25- and 28-percent rates also reserved for the same special situations). However, changes within the new law impact both when the favorable rates are applied and the level to which to may be enjoyed.


The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increases bonus depreciation rate to 100 percent for property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023. The rate phases down thereafter. Used property, films, television shows, and theatrical productions are eligible for bonus depreciation. Property used by rate-regulated utilities, and property of certain motor vehicle, boat, and farm machinery retail and lease businesses that use floor financing indebtedness, is excluded from bonus depreciation.


As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important federal tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of February 2018.


The Affordable Care Act set January 1, 2014 as the start date for many of its new rules, most notably, the employer shared responsibility provisions (known as the "employer mandate") and the individual shared responsibility provisions (known as the "individual mandate").  One - the employer mandate - has been delayed to 2015; the other - the individual mandate - has not been delayed.


A business can deduct only ordinary and necessary expenses. Further, the amount allowable as a deduction for business meal and entertainment expenses, whether incurred in-town or out-of-town is generally limited to 50 percent of the expenses. (A special exception that raises the level to 80 percent applies to workers who are away from home while working under Department of Transportation regulations.)


Beginning January 1, 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requires individuals to carry comprehensive health insurance (referred to as minimum essential coverage or MEC). Individuals without coverage must make a shared responsibility payment to the IRS, unless they qualify for an exemption. This requirement is known as the individual mandate. The individual mandate also applies to children and other dependents.


Facilitated by the speed, ubiquity, and anonymity of the Internet, criminals are able to easily steal valuable information such as Social Security numbers and use it for a variety of nefarious purposes, including filing false tax returns to generate refunds from the IRS. The victims are often unable to detect the crime until it is too late, generally after the IRS receives the legitimate tax return from the actual taxpayer. By that time the first return has often been long accepted and the refund processed. Because of the ease, speed, and difficulty involved in policing cybercrime, identity theft has grown rapidly. One estimate from the National Taxpayer Advocate Service has calculated that individual identity theft case receipts have increased by more than 666 percent from fiscal year (FY) 2008 to FY 2012.


Vacation homes offer owners tax breaks similar-but not identical-to those for primary residences. Vacation homes also offer owners the opportunity to earn tax-advantaged and even tax-free income. This combination of current income and tax breaks, combined with the potential for long-term appreciation, can make a second home an attractive investment.


The government continues to push out guidance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Several major provisions of the law take effect January 1, 2014, including the employer mandate, the individual mandate, the premium assistance tax credit, and the operation of health insurance exchanges. The three agencies responsible for administering PPACA - the IRS, the Department of Labor (DOL), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - are under pressure to provide needed guidance, and they are responding with regulations, notices, and frequently asked questions.


Vacation homes offer owners many tax breaks similar to those for primary residences. Vacation homes also offer owners the opportunity to earn tax-advantaged and even tax-free income from a certain level of rental income. The value of vacation homes are also on the rise again, offering an investment side to ownership that can ultimately be realized at a beneficial long-term capital gains rate.


Questions over the operation of the new 3.8 percent Medicare tax on net investment income (the NII Tax) continue to be placed on the IRS's doorstep as it tries to better explain the operation of the new tax.  Proposed "reliance regulations" issued at the end in 2012 (NPRM REG-130507-11) "are insufficient in many respects," tax experts complain, as the IRS struggles to turn its earlier guidance into final rules.


When starting a business or changing an existing one there are several types of business entities to choose from, each of which offers its own advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the size of your business, one form may be more suitable than another. For example, a software firm consisting of one principal founder and several part time contractors and employees would be more suited to a sole proprietorship than a corporate or partnership form. But where there are multiple business members, the decision can become more complicated. One form of business that has become increasingly popular is called a limited liability company, or LLC.


Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are popular retirement savings vehicles that enable taxpayers to build their nest egg slowly over the years and enjoy tax benefits as well. But what happens to that nest egg when the IRA owner passes away?


Americans donate hundreds of millions of dollars every year to charity. It is important that every donation be used as the donors intended and that the charity is legitimate. The IRS oversees the activities of charitable organizations. This is a huge job because of the number and diversity of tax-exempt organizations and one that the IRS takes very seriously.

Depreciation on a business asset is calculated using an applicable method, period, and convention. To compute the deduction for the year the property is placed in service and the year the property is disposed of or retired, the tax code use averaging conventions to establish deemed placed-in-service and retirement dates. Depreciation is allowed for the portion of the tax year that the property is placed in service under the applicable convention.

With school almost out for the summer, parents who work are starting to look for activities for their children to keep them occupied and supervised. The possibilities include sending a child to day camp or overnight camp. Parents faced with figuring out how to afford the price tag of these activities may wonder whether some or part of these costs may be tax deductible. At least two possible tax breaks should be considered: the dependent care credit in most cases, and the deduction for medical expenses in certain special situations.

As gasoline prices have climbed in 2011, many taxpayers who use a vehicle for business purposes are looking for the IRS to make a mid-year adjustment to the standard mileage rate. In the meantime, taxpayers should review the benefits of using the actual expense method to calculate their deduction. The actual expense method, while requiring careful recordkeeping, may help offset the cost of high gas prices if the IRS does not make a mid-year change to the standard mileage rate. Even if it does, you might still find yourself better off using the actual expense method, especially if your vehicle also qualifies for bonus depreciation.

The IRS's streamlined offer-in-compromise (OIC) program is intended to speed up the processing of OICs for qualified taxpayers. Having started in 2010, the streamlined OIC program is relatively new. The IRS recently issued instructions to its examiners, urging them to process streamlined OICs as expeditiously as possible. One recent survey estimates that one in 15 taxpayers is now in arrears on tax payments to the IRS to at least some degree.  Because of continuing fallout from the economic downturn, however, the IRS has tried to speed up its compromise process to the advantage of both hard-pressed taxpayers and its collection numbers.

As a result of recent changes in the law, many brokerage customers will begin seeing something new when they gaze upon their 1099-B forms early next year.  In the past, of course, brokers were required to report to their clients, and the IRS, those amounts reflecting the gross proceeds of any securities sales taking place during the preceding calendar year.

Many more retirees and others wanting guarantee income are looking into annuities, especially given the recent experience of the economic downturn. While the basic concept of an annuity is fairly simple, complex rules usually apply to the taxation of amounts received under certain annuity and life insurance contracts.

Most people are familiar with tax withholding, which most commonly takes place when an employer deducts and withholds income and other taxes from an employee's wages. However, many taxpayers are unaware that the IRS also requires payors to withhold income tax from certain reportable payments, such as interest and dividends, when a payee's taxpayer identification number (TIN) is missing or incorrect. This is known as "backup withholding."

Information reporting continues to expand as Congress seeks to close the tax gap: the estimated $350 billion difference between what taxpayers owe and what they pay. Despite the recent rollback of expanded information reporting for business payments and rental property expense payments, the trend is for more - not less - information reporting of various transactions to the IRS.

Taxpayers that place new business assets other than real property in service through 2012 may claim a "bonus" depreciation deduction. Although the bonus depreciation deduction is generally equal to 50 percent of the cost of qualified property, the rate has been increased by recent legislation to 100 percent for new business assets acquired after September 8, 2010 and placed in service before January 1, 2012. Thus, the entire cost of such 100 percent rate property is deducted in a single tax year rather than over the three- to 20-year depreciation period that is normally assigned to the property based on its type or the business activity in which it is used.

A limited liability company (LLC) is a business entity created under state law. Every state and the District of Columbia have LLC statutes that govern the formation and operation of LLCs.

A business with a significant amount of receivables should evaluate whether some of them may be written off as business bad debts. A business taxpayer may deduct business bad debts if the receivable becomes partially or completely worthless during the tax year.

Estimated tax is used to pay tax on income that is not subject to withholding or if not enough tax is being withheld from a person's salary, pension or other income. Income not subject to withholding can include dividends, capital gains, prizes, awards, interest, self-employment income, and alimony, among other income items. Generally, individuals who do not pay at least 90 percent of their tax through withholding must estimate their income tax liability and make equal quarterly payments of the "required annual payment" liability during the year.


In-plan Roth IRA rollovers are a relatively new creation, and as a result many individuals are not aware of the rules. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 made it possible for participants in 401(k) plans and 403(b) plans to roll over eligible distributions made after September 27, 2010 from such accounts, or other non-Roth accounts, into a designated Roth IRA in the same plan. Beginning in 2011, this option became available to 457(b) governmental plans as well. These "in-plan" rollovers and the rules for making them, which may be tricky, are discussed below.


Often, timing is everything or so the adage goes. From medicine to sports and cooking, timing can make all the difference in the outcome. What about with taxes? What are your chances of being audited? Does timing play a factor in raising or decreasing your risk of being audited by the IRS? For example, does the time when you file your income tax return affect the IRS's decision to audit you? Some individuals think filing early will decrease their risk of an audit, while others file at the very-last minute, believing this will reduce their chance of being audited. And some taxpayers don't think timing matters at all.


In exchange for voluntary disclosure of unreported foreign assets, the IRS is offering taxpayers a second opportunity for reduced penalties. A special offshore voluntary disclosure initiative was announced on February 8, 2011. The initiative is temporary and runs through August 31, 2011.


Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) enacted in March 2010, small employers may be eligible to claim a tax credit of 35 percent of qualified health insurance premium costs paid by a taxable employer (25 percent for tax-exempt employers). The credit is designed to encourage small employers to offer health-insurance to their employees.


The tax rules surrounding the dependency exemption deduction on a federal income tax return can be complicated, with many requirements involving who qualifies for the deduction and who qualifies to take the deduction. The deduction can be a very beneficial tax break for taxpayers who qualify to claim dependent children or other qualifying dependent family members on their return. Therefore, it is important to understand the nuances of claiming dependents on your tax return, as the April 18 tax filing deadline is just around the corner.


Have you already mailed (on paper or electronically) your Form 1040 for the 2010 tax year but only now noticed you made an error when preparing the return? If you need to correct a mistake on your federal income tax return that you’ve already filed with the IRS, it’s not too late to correct the mistake by filing an amended return, Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. The IRS considers an amended return filed on or before the due date of a return to be the taxpayer’s return for the period.


Taxpayers may elect to deduct state and local general sales and use taxes in lieu of deducting state and local income taxes for 2010 and 2011. Before Congress passed the 2010 Tax Relief Act (Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010), the sales tax deduction was not available for the 2010 tax year. However, the 2010 Tax Relief Act retroactively extends the sales tax deduction for 2010 and also makes it available for the 2011 tax year.