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Those Darn Kids- The risk of having kids file their own tax returns

If you have children younger than 19 years old (or 24 if a full-time student), you should coordinate the filing of their taxes with yours. HOW they file, though, is a matter of tax law.

The problem

Your child is away for college. You try to file your family tax return on April 14th after finally receiving all the required documentation. Unfortunately, your e-filed tax return is rejected because your college student filed their own tax return and received a nice refund. Now you have a mess on your hands. You must file an extension, file an amended tax return for your child, return a refund, and potentially paper file your tax return.

A matter of law

The dependency rules and kiddie tax laws are clear and must be followed. If you have a dependent child as determined by the tax code, you will need to conduct the tax calculations to determine what is taxed at your child’s tax rate and what will be taxed at your higher tax rate. The same is true for which tax return receives what level of standard deductions. This requires coordination of your tax filings with that of your dependent children.

Suggestions

  • Remind your independent-minded kids to hold off filing their tax return until consulting with you.
  • Claiming oneself as a dependent is not a choice, it is a matter of law. Remind your child there are rules that must be followed before making this tax decision.
  • Plan for a dependency shift. Sometimes arranging for a shift in dependent from a parent to a student makes financial sense. If you think this might be true, conduct a tax planning exercise prior to making the change.

Consider using the tax filing process to introduce your young adult to the benefits of tax planning. You never know, it could save you money as well as the hassle of undoing an improperly filed tax return.



How to Handle All Those Forms

Your mailbox has started filling up with tax forms over the last several weeks and there are likely more to come. Getting your forms organized makes your tax filing easier for everyone involved. Here are some tips on how to handle all the forms you get and to head off any potential problems.

Collect them all

Check last year’s tax records, and make a list of the forms you received. Add any new accounts, employers or vendors and check the forms off as you get them.

Gathering all your forms is important because the IRS gets copies of each form sent to them as well. Missing one can trigger an IRS correspondence audit, creating extra work and possibly delaying your refund.

Check for digital forms

More employers, banks and others are making their tax forms available to you electronically, so you may not get a paper form in the mail. Be sure to check your inbox for any missing forms before you file, and don’t forget to check your junk or spam email folders as well, just in case any tax information accidentally ends up there.

Fix errors

Double check to see if there are any errors on the forms you receive. If there are, contact the issuer via phone and in writing to get the problem fixed. If you can’t get a corrected form, still report everything on your forms to the IRS, but add a correction explaining the error when you file your return. That way you can still file without waiting for the issuer to send you a corrected form.

Commonly overlooked forms

While getting all your W-2 and 1099 forms is important, there are three forms worthy of special attention before you file:

  • 1095 – Proof of health insurance, required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Most taxpayers will no longer receive this form, unless you get your insurance through the Healthcare Marketplace. If you do, you may be entitled to a special premium tax credit. You will need this form to support this deduction.
  • 1098-T – Confirmation of tuition and fees paid to qualified educational institutions. If you’re taking an education deduction, you’ll need one of these forms from your accredited school.
  • 1099-K – Confirmation of payments you receive from a third party service like Ticketmaster, SeatGeek, Venmo or other digital/credit card payment systems. New rules required many more to receive this form, but the IRS recently delayed the expanded reporting requirement in late December 2022. Too late for many to stop sending out their forms…so look for them AND retain them if you get any of these forms.

As you watch for your forms to arrive, remember to reach out to schedule your tax filing appointment. An early appointment will help ensure you get all questions answered ahead of the April filing deadline.



Reasons to File Early- When it makes sense to file a tax return as soon as you can

The 2022 tax filing season officially begins when the IRS starts accepting tax returns in late January and early February. There are many reasons to consider filing your tax return as soon as the IRS begins accepting returns. Here are some of the most common:

To get your refund. There’s no reason to let the government hold onto your funds interest-free, so file early and get your refund as soon as possible. While legislation delays receiving refunds for tax returns claiming The Earned Income Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit until after February 15th, the sooner your tax return is in the queue, the sooner you will receive your refund.

To minimize your tax identity fraud risk. Once you file your tax return, the window of opportunity for tax identity thieves closes. Tax identity thieves work early during the tax filing season because your paycheck’s tax withholdings are still in the hands of the IRS. If they can file a tax return before you do, they may be able to steal these withholdings via a refund that should have gone to you!

To avoid a dependent dispute. One of the most common reasons an e-filed return is rejected is when you submit a dependent’s Social Security number that has already been used by someone else. If you think there is a chance an ex-spouse may do this, you should file as early as possible.

To deliver your return to someone who needs it. If you are planning to buy a house or anticipate any other transaction that will require proof of income, you may wish to file early. This is especially important if you are self-employed. You can then make your filed tax return available to your bank or other financial institution.

To beat the rush. As the tax filing deadline approaches, the ability to get help becomes more difficult. So get your documentation together and schedule a time to get your tax return filed as soon as you can. It can be a relief to have this annual task in the rear-view mirror.



2023 Mileage Rates are Here!- New mileage rates announced by the IRS

Mileage rates for travel are now set for 2023. The standard business mileage rate increases by 3 cents to 65.5 cents per mile. The medical and moving mileage rates stay at 22 cents per mile. Charitable mileage rates remain unchanged at 14 cents per mile.

2023 New Mileage Rates

Here are the 2022 mileage rates for your reference.

July 2022 through December 2022

January 2022 through June 2022

Remember to properly document your mileage to receive full credit for your miles driven.



Here They Go Again…- Late-breaking IRS change

In a last minute about face, the IRS is rolling back the requirement for third-party payment providers to issue 1099-Ks for anyone receiving payments over $600 in 2022. They are moving the reporting requirement back to $20,000 in activity and 200 or more transactions as they transition to the lower threshold in 2023.

Why the change

The bottom line? The IRS is not ready to figure out how to automate the auditing of those under-reporting their income from things like Ebay, Esty and Amazon sales or from sales of tickets and other goods through payment systems like Venmo and Ticketmaster.

What does not change

While this last-minute change may keep you from receiving a 1099-K this year, don’t count on it. Many providers are already geared up to send them out and will probably do so, since the IRS reprieve in reporting is temporary. So keep your eyes open for these forms throughout January and early February.

While the IRS informational return reporting is temporarily changing, what is not changing is your requirement to report this income. So if you have activities that provide income to you, including your side hustle buying and selling event tickets, that activity is reportable on your tax return.

Stay tuned

In further developments, Congress is up to their old tricks in changing the rules at the end of the year. Preliminary review, of the yet unsigned bill, indicates the major changes will impact 2023 and beyond. So stay tuned, future tax tips will lay out the basic tax law changes and how you can take advantage of them.



Taxes and Uncollectible Debt- Tax ramifications can be good or BAD!

There are few things as frustrating as not being paid what is owed to you. If it becomes clear the debt is not going to be paid, you might be able to recoup some of the lost money via a tax deduction. The IRS has two classifications for bad debt: business and non-business, each with its own deductibility rules.

Business bad debt

In order to be considered a deductible business bad debt, the IRS states that the debt must be closely related to your trade or business. To qualify as a deduction, both of the following must be true:

  • The amount is or has already been included as income or as an asset
  • The debt is considered to be partially or completely worthless

There are many ways to determine the worthlessness of a debt, but at a minimum, you should be able to produce a summary of your collection efforts. If you determine that the debt is indeed bad debt, you can deduct it as a business expense if the aforementioned statements are true.

Non-business bad debt

All bad debt not defined as business-related is classified as non-business. For a non-business bad debt deduction, the debt must be considered 100 percent worthless. There is no partial deduction available. In addition, you need to prove that the debt is a loan intended to be repaid and not a gift – especially if loaned to a friend or family member. The best way to prove this is with a signed agreement.

If you determine the bad debt is valid, you can report the amount as a short-term capital loss. The loss is subject to capital loss limitations and you need to submit a statement with your tax return that includes the following:

  • Description of the debt
  • Amount of the debt and when it became due
  • Name of the debtor
  • Business or family relationship between you and the debtor
  • Efforts you made to collect the debt
  • Why you decided the debt was worthless

The other side of the coin

If, on the other hand, you owe someone money and they write off the debt, the tax code generally requires you to record the forgiven debt as income on your tax return. There are cases, however, when this is not required. So if during the year you have forgiven debt, you should ask for a review of your tax situation. This is especially true if the forgiven debt is a discharge of:

  • A home mortgage
  • Student loans (especially for failed schools)
  • Pandemic-related debt forgiveness

While no one wants to be in a position to write off debt, it’s nice to know that you can at least benefit from a tax deduction. If you find yourself in this situation or are planning to loan funds in the future, call to set up a plan of action.



Fund Your Retirement or Your Child's College?

Towards the end of the year, many are undergoing an annual review of their retirement funds. It certainly was a tough year and one of the decisions many parents are grandparents are facing is the difficult decision to either save for retirement or use funds to pay for their children’s or grandchildren’s college education. Here are some thoughts on the matter:

Prioritize retirement over education

In most cases it is more important to put the financial needs of retirement ahead of college education. Here’s why:

  • Retirement funds will be used to cover your basic needs for daily life for as many as 20, 30 or even 40 years. While education for children is important – and expensive – it is secondary to your long-term well-being.
  • Financial aid and numerous other programs are available for your child to take advantage of to help them afford college. This includes current and future student loan forgiveness programs.
  • If necessary, your child can take out student loans. While it may take years for them to repay a student loan, they will have future income potential to do so. Your income will be lower or even stop upon retirement.

Ways to plan for both

There are plenty of opportunities to fund both retirement and college education in a tax-advantaged way. Consider funding basic retirement needs first, then look at educational savings accounts and related programs. Here are some suggestions:

  • Start saving early. Use time to help grow the value in your retirement and education savings accounts. Take advantage of employer-provided 401(k) or similar retirement programs, especially if there is an employer match. After that, look into Coverdell Education Savings Accounts and Section 529 plans to maximize your education savings potential.
  • Research and apply for grants and scholarships. Start researching early, as there are college scholarships available for children as young as 5 years old!
  • Consider in-state public colleges. They are generally less expensive than private or out-of-state colleges. If an out-of-state college is preferred, check to see if they have reciprocity agreements with your home state.
  • Look into work-study programs. Many schools provide part-time jobs for students to help them pay for school while keeping up with their studies. These programs vary based on a student’s financial needs.

Making financial decisions like this can be tough, but with proper planning and insight, a path that works for you can often be found. Call if you want to discuss your specific situation.



Consider Donating Appreciated Stock & Mutual Funds

One way to reduce your tax bill this year is to donate appreciated stock to a charity of your choice versus making a cash donation. While this will be a tough challenge in today’s market, it is still one of the best tax planning strategies available to you. This part of the tax code provides a tax benefit in two ways:

1. Higher deduction. Your charitable gift deduction is the higher fair market value of the appreciated stock on the date of your donation and not what you originally paid for it.

2. No capital gains tax. You do not have to pay tax on the profits you made after selling the stock. As long as you have owned the investment for more than one year, you can avoid paying long-term capital gains tax on the increased value of your stock.

A Sweet Example

Winnie and Christopher each own 100 shares of Honey, Inc. that they purchased three years ago for $1,000. Today the stock is worth $5,000 (after taking a bit of a sticky hit in the down market). Winnie sells the stock and donates the proceeds to “Save the Bees” while Christopher donates his stock directly to “Honey Overeaters: Finding a Cure”. Assuming a 15% long-term capital gains tax rate*, a 25% income tax bracket, and no other limitations:

Not only does Christopher see $750 in additional federal tax benefit by donating his appreciated stock, but Honey Overeaters has $600 in additional funds to use for their charitable program.

Other benefits

  • The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) does not impact charitable deductions as it does with other deductions.
  • Remember, this approach also provides more funds to your selected charity. By donating cash or check, those additional funds are instead paid as federal taxes.
  • This tax benefit could be worth even more if our honey lovers have more income. The maximum long-term capital gain tax rate can be as high as 20%, and also be hit by a potential 3.8% net investment income tax.
  • This benefit is for everyone who itemizes deductions that have qualified assets, not just the wealthy.

Things to consider

  • Remember this benefit only applies to qualified investments (typically stocks and mutual funds) held longer than one year.
  • Be careful as investments such as collectibles and inventory do not qualify.
  • Consider this a replacement for contributions you would normally make to qualified organizations.
  • Talk to your target charitable organization. They often have a preferred broker that can help receive the donation in a qualified manner.
  • Contribution limits as a percent of adjusted gross income may apply. Excess contributions can often be carried forward as deductions for up to five years.
  • How you conduct the transaction is very important. It must be clear to the IRS that the investment was donated directly to the charitable organization.

If you think this opportunity is right for you, please contact a trusted advisor to ensure you handle the donation correctly.

* The total tax rate on this type of investment can be as high as 23.8% (20% capital gains tax plus 3.8% net investment income tax) if you have qualified investment income above applicable threshold amounts.



Plan Your 2023 Retirement Contributions

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Triple Tax: aka The Lottery

Now that the dust has settled on the big lottery winnings, it is worthwhile to see how the tax math works. Seen in the light of day, it is a great way for federal and state governments to triple tax this income and get even the lowest income households to pay it. So as media outlets shine a light on the lucky winner, consider what the tax looks like.

The bottom line when seen from a wage stand point is that 74% or more of the income used to play the lottery does not end up in the hands of the winner. The true winner is the tax man. Just one more example of tax collection and ethics taking different roads.