Pay Now

Newsletters

Don’t assume it’s correct, just because it’s the IRS

Quotes from actual IRS correspondence received by clients:

“Our records show we received a 1040X…for the tax year listed above. We’re sorry but we cannot find it.”

“Our records show you owe a balance due of $0.00. If we do not receive it within 30 days, appropriate collection steps will be taken.”

“Payment is due on your account. Please submit payments on or before June 31 to avoid late payment penalties and interest.”

It’s pretty tough to pay a balance due of $0.00 or submit a payment on June 31 when June has only 30 days. The message should be clear. If you receive a notice from the IRS, don’t automatically assume it is correct and then submit a payment to make it go away. The same is true for errors in any state tax agency notices. They are often in error. So what should you do?

Stay calm. Try not to overreact to the correspondence. This is easier said than done, but remember, the IRS sends out millions of notices each year. The vast majority of these notices attempt to correct simple oversights or common filing errors.

Open the envelope. You’d be surprised how often clients are so stressed by receiving a letter from the IRS that they cannot bear to open the envelope. If you fall into this category, try to remember that the first step in making the problem go away is to open the correspondence.

Review the letter. Make sure you understand exactly what the IRS thinks needs to be changed and determine whether or not you agree with their findings. Unfortunately, the IRS rarely sends correspondence to correct an oversight in your favor, but it sometimes happens.

Respond in a timely manner. The correspondence received should be very clear about what action the IRS believes you should take and within what timeframe. Ignore this information at your own risk. Delays in responses could generate penalties and additional interest payments.

Get help. You are not alone. Getting assistance from someone who deals with this all the time makes going through the process much smoother.

Correct the IRS error. Once the problem is understood, a clearly written response with copies of documentation will cure most IRS correspondence errors. Often the error is due to the inability of the IRS computers to conduct a simple reporting match. Pointing the information out on your tax return might be all it takes to solve the problem.

Certified mail is your friend. Send any response to the IRS via certified mail. This will provide proof of your timely correspondence. Lost mail can lead to delays, penalties, and additional interest on your tax bill.

Don’t assume it will go away. Until you receive definitive confirmation that the problem has been resolved, assume the IRS still thinks you owe the money. If you don’t receive correspondence confirming the correction, send a written follow-up.



Check your 2017 withholding

Withholding too much tax from your wages isn’t wise in the long run. Try to match withholding as closely as possible to your actual tax liability for the year. Invest the extra money in yourself, not the IRS.



College or retirement – Which should you fund first?

Saving for your children’s education or your own retirement – how do you decide which is more important? A typical retirement will generally last longer and cost more than your child’s education. If you cannot adequately fund both, maximize your retirement savings first. There are far more options for your child to finance his or her college education than there are for you to fund your retirement.



The importance of maintaining good tax records

Keeping your tax records organized year-round is a good practice and will keep you from hastily assembling your documents for your annual tax preparation appointment. If you are diligent about maintaining your tax records, you won’t have to worry about losing a valuable deduction because you forgot to list expenses on your return, or having unsubstantiated items disallowed in the event of an audit.

Generally, your tax returns can be audited up to three years after filing. However, if income is underreported more than 25%, the IRS can collect underpaid taxes up to six years later. So, keeping good records means you’ll always be able to verify what you report on your tax return. Hang on to your tax records for seven years.



New job? Four choices for your existing 401(k)

Changing jobs and companies can be an exciting opportunity, but you have a choice to make. What will you do with the retirement savings you have accrued in your 401(k)? Consider these four choices:

  1. Withdraw the money and don’t reinvest it. This is usually the worst choice you can make. Generally, you’ll owe taxes on the distribution at ordinary income rates. (Special rules may apply if you own company stock in the plan.) Unless you’re over age 59½, you’ll pay a 10 percent penalty tax, too. More importantly, you’ll lose the opportunity for future tax-deferred growth of your retirement savings. And once you have the funds readily available, it’s all too easy to spend the money instead of saving for your retirement.
  2. Roll the money into an IRA. You can avoid immediate taxes and preserve the tax-favored status of your savings by rolling the money into an IRA. This option also gives you full control over how you invest the balances in the future. You have a 60-day window to complete the rollover from the time you close out your 401(k). However, you should always ask for a “trustee-to-trustee” rollover to avoid potential problems.
  3. Roll the balance into your new employer’s plan. If your new employer allows it, you can roll the balance into your new plan and invest it according to your new investment choices. However, there may be a waiting period before you can join your new plan.
  4. Leave the money in your old employer’s plan. You may be able to leave the balance in your old plan, at least temporarily. Then you can do a rollover to an IRA or a new plan later. Check with your employer to see if this is an option.

Call if you need help making the right choice for your particular circumstances.



Tax filing responsibilities of estate executors

Your role as an executor or personal administrator of an estate involves a number of responsibilities. Did you know that part of your responsibility involves making sure the necessary tax returns are filed? And there might be more of those than you expect.

Here’s an overview:

  • Personal income tax. You may need to file a federal income tax return for the decedent for the prior year as well as the year of death. Both are due by April 15 of the following year, even if the amount of time covered is less than a full year. You can request a six-month extension if you need additional time to gather information.
  • Gift tax. If the individual whose estate you’re administering made gifts in excess of the annual exclusion ($14,000 per person for 2017), a gift tax payment may be required. Form 709, United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, is due April 15 of the year following the gift. The filing date can be extended six months.
  • Estate income tax. Income earned after death, such as interest on estate assets, is reported on Form 1041, Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts. You’ll generally need to file if the estate’s gross income is $600 or more, or if any beneficiary is a nonresident alien. For estates with a December 31 year-end, Form 1041 is due April 15 of the following year.
  • Estate tax. An estate tax return, Form 706, United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, is required when the fair market value of all estate assets exceeds $5,490,000 (in 2017). One thing to watch for: Spouses can transfer unused portions of the $5,490,000 exemption to each other. This is called the “portability” election. To benefit, you will need to file Form 706 when the total value of the estate is lower than the exemption.
  • Form 706 is due nine months after the date of death. You can request a six-month extension of time to file.

Give us a call if you need more information about administering an estate. We’re here to help make your task less stressful.



Get to know these tax-saving terms

As you begin to think about scheduling your midyear tax planning appointment, refresh your memory on the meanings of terms that can save you money. Here are three.

  • Exclusion. Exclusions are items that would generally be included on your return, but are specifically excluded by a tax law provision. For example, gifts and inheritances you receive are excluded from your income – you simply don’t report them on your federal tax return.
  • Deduction. By definition, a deduction means an amount is subtracted from your income. Tax deductions fit into four general categories.

Above the line deductions, such as alimony paid, can be claimed even if you don’t itemize.

Itemized deductions are a specific group of expenses, including amounts you pay for certain taxes, medical costs, charitable donations, mortgage interest, and disaster losses.

The standard deduction is a simplified substitute for itemized deductions. It’s a flat amount you can use to reduce your gross income instead of itemizing each allowable expense.

Business deductions are the ordinary and necessary expenses required for carrying on your trade or business.

  • Credit. Income tax credits are subtracted from the tax you owe. Note the difference from the definition of deductions, which reduce your income and indirectly reduce your final tax bill.

Tax credits can be refundable, meaning you’ll get money back if the credit exceeds the amount of tax you owe. Nonrefundable credits can only reduce your tax to zero.

These terms can be confusing. Call if you have questions about these tax-savers and how including them in your midyear planning can benefit you.



A tax credit is available for adoption

If you are preparing to adopt a child, you know your life will change for the better. And, you may have also experienced the financial commitment adoption requires. However, take note, because as an adoptive parent, you may qualify for a special break on your income tax return.

As you know, tax credits save you money by reducing the amount you owe dollar-for-dollar. In the case of the adoption credit, you may be able to save up to $13,570 per child on your 2017 federal income tax return for expenses you pay during the process of adopting a child.

Be aware the credit is subject to a phase-out – that is, the amount you can claim is reduced once your 2017 modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) reaches $203,540. No credit is available when your MAGI is $243,540 or more.

In general, the credit is based on total out-of-pocket expenses including adoption fees, amounts you paid your attorney, court costs, and your meals and lodging while away from home. However, when you adopt a special needs child and qualify for the credit, you can claim the full $13,570, regardless of how much you spent during the adoption process. In addition, you may also be able to exclude from income certain adoption benefits provided by your employer.

The credit is typically available for both foreign and U.S. adoptions. For domestic adoptions, you can claim it even if your attempt to adopt was unsuccessful.

Other tax breaks are available for new parents. Please call us if you would like details.



Five reasons to incorporate your business

Most new businesses start with no thought about legal structure. In the eyes of the IRS, the default structure is a “sole proprietor,” in which your business profits are taxed on your personal tax return. This can serve you well to start, but there are several reasons you may want to consider incorporating as your business grows.

  1. To protect your personal assets from creditors. When you operate your business within a corporation, creditors are often limited to corporate assets to satisfy a debt. Your home, savings, and retirement accounts are no longer fair game.
  2. To provide a personal liability firewall. The corporate form can help protect you against claims made by others for injuries or losses arising from actions of your business.
  3. To issue shares of stock. You can help build your business by issuing shares to new investors, or by offering stock options to key employees as a form of compensation.
  4. To gain tax flexibility. A corporation can provide you with more tax flexibility. Deliberate planning can help optimize the taxable division between corporate income, dividends, and your personal wages.
  5. To enhance your business presence. Being incorporated sends a signal that your business is a serious enterprise, and it could open doors to opportunities not offered to sole proprietors. Consumers, vendors, and other businesses often prefer to do business with incorporated companies.

If you are still going over the pros and cons of incorporating your business, give our office a call. Together, we can complete a thorough tax review that will help shed light on the impact such a move will have on your business situation.



2018 HSA limits announced

The IRS recently announced the 2018 inflation-adjusted limits for health savings accounts. For 2018, taxpayers can contribute up to $3,450 (up from $3,400 in 2017) for single coverage, or up to $6,900 (up from $6,750 in 2017) for family coverage.

The maximum out-of-pocket figures are: $6,650 for single coverage (up from $6,550 in 2017) and $13,300 for family coverage (up from $13,100 in 2017).