tax deductions

What Constitutes a Charitable Gift?

4 key tests

Key Takeaways:

  • Regardless of its size or its benefit to a charity, any transfer that does not meet the definition of a charitable gift for tax purposes will generate no charitable deduction.

  • Giving money to a specific person—no matter how badly he or she needs it—is not considered a charitable gift for tax purposes.

  • For tax planning purposes, make sure you know the difference between the date a check is written for a charitable gift, the date the check is sent and the date it is actually received.

 

Understanding what a charitable gift is--and when a charitable gift is made--seems obvious. However, this simple concept can become quite complex. Charitable gifts can generate income tax deductions. Applying that knowledge requires knowing what constitutes a charitable gift for tax purposes. Regardless of its size or its benefit to a charity, any transfer that does not meet the definition of a charitable gift for tax purposes will generate no charitable deduction.

So let’s begin by looking at what a charitable gift is for tax purposes and then consider examples of transfers that are not charitable gifts for tax purposes.

A deductible charitable gift occurs when the donor delivers money or valuable property to a charity or agent of the charity. That’s it. There is nothing particularly complicated about the definition (except perhaps the phrase “agent of the charity,” which simply means a representative of the charity). How then could things possibly become complicated when starting with such a simple definition?

Examples of gifts that don’t qualify for tax deductions:

  1. The first example of an action that is not a charitable gift for income tax purposes is a promise to deliver money or valuable property in the future. A promise is not a gift. Even if the promise is a legally enforceable written contract, it is still just a promise. So, it is not a gift—at least not yet. Once the promise is fulfilled and the donor actually delivers money or valuable property to the charity (or agent of the charity), then—and only then—the definition of a gift is met.

  2. Another example of an action that is not a completed gift is when a donor gives money or valuable property to the donor’s agent (i.e., the donor’s representative) with instructions to deliver the gift to a charity or an agent of the charity. Because the money or valuable property is still in the hands of the donor’s representative, it has not yet become a completed gift. Once the money or valuable property is given to the charity (or the charity’s representative/agent), then—and only then—is there a deductible charitable gift.

  3. Another example that does not qualify as a charitable gift for tax purposes is when the donor delivers money or valuable property to the charity but still retains prohibited control over the money, even after the transfer to the charity. This retained control prevents the gift from being deductible until such time as the retained interests expire or are also given to the charity. This area is a bit more complicated because there are specific retained interests that are permitted by the tax code. Nevertheless, the general rule is that if a donor retains rights to control the money or get the money back, such a transfer is not (or at least not yet) a charitable gift.

  4. The last example of a transfer that is not a deductible gift is when a donor delivers money or valuable property to a charity for delivery to a specific person. A person is not a charity. Any person, even a person in serious financial or medical need, is not a charity. Giving money to a specific person is not a charitable gift for tax purposes. This fundamental rule cannot be avoided by simply giving money to a charity with the requirement that the money must then be delivered to a specific person. Such a transfer is treated as if it were a direct transfer to the person. Since a person is not a charity, the transfer is not a deductible charitable gift.


Conclusion

As with so many things in life, timing is everything when it comes to tax-efficient charitable giving. If you or someone close to you has concerns about the tax implications of their planned giving, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m happy to help.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

How Traveling by Cruise Ship Can Increase Your Business Deductions

Understanding the subtle intricacies of business travel deduction rules can help you save thousands of dollars. Tax the quiz.


Key Takeaways:

  • The money you spend on business travel is deductible as long as it’s used to carry out a business activity.

  • Money spent during business travel on personal activities, by contrast, is not deductible.

  • However, the normal allocation of business travel costs between business and personal expenses is not required for business travel on a cruise ship, that’s outside the 50 states for seven days or less.

  • Result: Turning a jet business trip into a cruise may not only be more relaxing, but may also make your entire trip deductible.

 

NOTE: All rules and deductions discussed in this article are accurate as spring 2019. However, always consult your tax advisor when planning to take deductions for business travel.

Situation

All the effort that your client, Ty Tannick, has spent chasing prospective billionaire client Lou Sitania is about to pay off. But before signing on the dotted line, Lou wants Ty to pay him a visit at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s a long way from home. But doggone it, if landing a big client means leaving chilly Boston to travel to the Caribbean in mid-February, it’s a price Ty is willing to pay. So Ty books a five-day cruise to St. Thomas and brings his wife. Upon arriving in St. Thomas, Ty stays in a hotel for two days while holding meetings with Lou.

In preparing his tax return, Ty allocates the time he spent on the trip as 30 percent business, 70 percent personal.

Question

What, if anything, can Ty deduct for business travel costs?

  1. 100 percent of his total costs.

  2. 30 percent of his transportation costs and 30 percent of his costs for food and lodging.

  3. 100 percent of his transportation costs and 30 percent of his costs for food and lodging.

  4. Zero percent since the trip isn’t deductible business travel.

Answer

  1. Ty can claim deductions for 100 percent of his total costs (subject to the daily deduction limits for cruises).

Explanation

There are two kinds of deductible costs you incur when you travel on business:

  1. Business-day costs: the costs of sustaining life during a business day, including meals, snacks, drinks, cab rides and lodging; and

  2. Transportation costs: the costs of traveling to and from a business destination.

You normally have to allocate expenses between business and personal activity and can deduct only the former. But this scenario illustrates an important exception: Deductions for business travel expenses are not subject to the normal allocation between business and personal activity when you:

  • Travel to a destination outside the 50 states and the District of Columbia;

  • Travel for seven days or less (not counting the day of departure); and

  • Goes via a cruise ship.

Ty’s trip meets all three of these conditions. He could (and should) have deducted 100 percent of his total travel costs; therefore, A is the right answer.

Why the Wrong Answers (above) Are Wrong

If you answered B above—30 percent of his transportation costs and 30 percent of his costs for food and lodging—then you are wrong. That’s because deductibility of business transportation costs varies depending on two factors:

Factor 1. U.S. vs. Foreign Travel. IRS regulations distinguish between two kinds of business travel for purposes of deductible transportation costs:

  • Travel inside the 50 United States; and

  • Travel outside the 50 United States.

Ty’s trip to St. Thomas clearly qualifies as travel outside the U.S.

Factor 2. Length of Trip. For business travel outside the U.S., you must look at how long the trip lasted to determine deductibility. The key question: Did you work at least one day and travel for seven days or less, not counting the day of departure?

  • Seven days or less foreign travel: If the answer is YES, you can deduct 100 percent of the cost of your direct route transportation costs of getting to and from the business destination.

  • Seven days or more foreign travel: If the answer is NO, then you only qualify for a 100 percent deduction if you pass the 76/24 test; that is, if you spent more than 75 percent of the days on business, not excluding the day of departure.

Ty did, in fact, work at least one day and travel for seven days or less. So his direct route transportation costs are 100 percent deductible.

If you answered C to the question at the beginning of this article—100 percent of his transportation costs and 30 percent for food and lodging—then you are wrong as well. That’s because Ty’s food and lodging costs are also 100 percent deductible. As we explained earlier, Ty’s transportation costs (i.e., the costs of the cruise) are 100 percent deductible. But we also said earlier that food, lodging and the other costs of sustaining life during a business day must be allocated between personal and business purposes. So what gives?

If Ty had traveled to St. Thomas by airplane, he’d have to allocate his food, lodging and other life-sustaining expenses 70/30 and deduct only 30 percent. The reason he can deduct these costs at 100 percent is because he traveled by cruise ship.

Think about it. When you pay for a cruise, your costs include not only the transport, but meals, lodging and other costs of sustaining life (assuming, of course, these items aren’t broken out as part of the cruise’s cost). In essence, these costs become part of the costs of transportation. So if transportation is 100 percent deductible, then so are the meals, lodging and other life-sustaining costs associated with it!

The moral: In addition to being more pleasurable than flying—at least for many people—traveling to a business destination by cruise ship can significantly increase your business travel deductions.

If you answered D to the question at the beginning of this articleZero percent since the trip isn’t deductible business travelthen you are wrong again. That’s because the mode of transportation doesn’t determine deductibility. In other words, you can claim business travel deductions regardless of whether you travel to and from your business destination by car, plane, train or boat.

However, deductions for business travel by cruise ship are subject to luxury water-travel daily deductions limits.

Conclusion

The costs of business travel are deductible. But the rules are complicated and significant limitations apply—like the requirement that you allocate certain costs between business and personal use. So it’s essential that you and your financial advisors know the rules about business travel deductions.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

This Powerful New Tax Strategy Is a TRIP

Key Takeaways

  • Total Return Pooled Income Funds (TRPIFs) can be powerful tools for gifting, estate planning and minimizing taxes.

  • TRPIFs allow you to make gifts of cash, publicly traded stock, closely held C Corps, unleveraged real estate, tangible personal property like art, cars, antiques and even LLC interests.

  • TRPIFs have many similarities to charitable remainder trusts, but it’s important to understand the differences. Always consult with your financial advisors before signing on the dotted line.

Now that your tax returns are hopefully completed I thought I’d share with you one of the best kept secrets in estate planning and tax mitigation. It’s been around since 1969, but most successful taxpayers and their advisors still don’t know about it.

How about a strategy that completely eliminates capital gains tax, provides a gigantic income tax deduction, distributes all its income (maybe for three generations) and is completely legal? Sounds too good to be true. Well it’s not. Here’s why:

The Pooled Income Fund (PIF), created in code section §642(c)(5) in 1969, and long the red headed step child of planned giving tools, has gone “beast mode.” Thanks to a perfect storm of low interest rates, technology and charities now understanding the need to be responsive to CPAs and other professional advisors (and donors) has ushered in a new type of PIF called the Total Return Pooled Income Fund (TRPIF). This vehicle is one of the most flexible, powerful and thought-provoking planning tools you can deploy.

Yet not many advisors and philanthropically-minded individuals know about them.

With a TRPIF, you may make gifts of cash, publicly traded stock, closely held C Corps, unleveraged real estate, tangible personal property like art, cars, antiques and even LLC interests. Income can be paid for one, two or three generations of income beneficiaries if they’re alive at the time of the gift. Competitive TRPIFs pay out all rents, royalties, dividends and interest as well as all short-term gains and up to 50 percent of post-gift realized long term gains.

Charitable beneficiaries are decided on by the donor, not by the TRPIF trustee. That means the donation goes to any charities the family feels are worthy.

If you know a little bit about CRTs you’ll find that TRPIFs are similar. However, you and your advisor should be aware of some important differences. For instance, a donor can’t be the trustee of his or TRPIF as they can with their CRT. That may be a drawback. However, young donors (couples in their 40s), for instance, can’t even qualify for a CRT as they won’t meet the 10 percent remainder test. With a TRPIF, there is no such test. That means an income beneficiary can be any age. The charitable income tax deductions of a TRPIF can be greater than a CRT’s by a magnitude of four or five times. The methodology by which a new TRPIF (less than three years old) calculates its income tax deduction is governed by a complicated formula based on the ages of the beneficiaries and the assigned discount rate (1.4% for 2018). This is what produces the large deductions.

Conclusion

From a planning standpoint, TRPIFs can allow you much more planning flexibility than many other trusts. When selling a low basis security, for instance, it may be possible to leave more shares in the seller’s hands and still pay no tax because of the larger income tax deduction. And, low-basis assets are only one of the many opportunities that you may applicable to the TRPIF strategy. There are only a small handful of charities offering this new, competitive, Pooled Income Fund. Therefore, it’s important that you ask a lot of pointed questions to the charity.

 

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily express the views of our firm and should not be construed as professional tax advice.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

 

 

 

Am I eligible for a Qualified Business Income (QBI) Deduction?

Due to recent tax law changes effective 2018, many are left in a state of confusion about what tax credits or deductions their business may qualify for.  For business owners, the Qualified Business Income deduction is one of the most advantageous new deductions available to them.  It allows for qualified businesses to deduct up to 20% of their income, reducing their tax bill by a considerable margin.  What makes a business a “Qualified Business?”

There are a several requirements to qualify for the QBI deduction.  Could your business be qualified for these tax deductions?  Read on to find out:

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

Staying Organized and Financial Planning Are Keys to Success

11 tactics to make this your best year ever

Key Takeaways:

  • The beginning of a new year is a particularly good time for you and your family to review finances and to update financial plans.

  • Staying organized and planning finances are lifelong processes, and the keys to reaching and maintaining financial success.

  • Sensible financial management is more than budgeting and saving for retirement. It’s about being ready to handle a lifetime of financial challenges, needs and changes.

Happy New Year to you and your family!

The beginning of a new year is a good time to review your finances and update financial strategies and plans. This year is especially important as financially challenging times continue for many individuals and businesses, rich and poor, big and small.

Even if the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) had not been passed, most would say that managing their personal finances is more complicated and more important than ever before. We’re living longer, but saving proportionately less. Many of us feel less secure in our jobs and homes than we did in the past. We see our money being drained by the high cost of housing, taxes, education and health care. We worry about the future, or unfortunately, in too many cases, we simply try not to think about it.

More than simply budgeting and saving

Sensible financial management means much more than budgeting and putting money away for retirement. It means being equipped to handle a lifetime of financial challenges, needs and changes; figuring out how to build assets and staying ahead of inflation; taking advantage of deflation; and choosing wisely from a constantly widening field of savings, investment and insurance options. When it comes to finances, you are faced with more pressures and more possibilities than ever before.

The good news is that as complex as today’s financial world is, there’s no real mystery to sound personal money management. What you need is a solid foundation of organization and decision-making, plus the willingness to put those two things into action. I’ll talk about those core principles in just a minute.

Effective financial management involves certain procedures that you don’t usually learn from your parents or friends—and unfortunately they aren’t currently taught in our schools. It’s more than just a matter of gathering enough information and then making a logical decision. In fact, for many people, the constant barrage of economic news, fragmented financial information and investment product advertisements is part of the problem. Information overload can be a major obstacle to sorting out choices and making wise decisions.

The Financial Awareness Foundation, a California-based not-for-profit organization developed a simple personal financial management system that’s designed to help you save time and money, while providing a systematic approach to help you better manage finances. The key is to stay organized, remain aware of money issues, and make deliberate choices about ways to spend, save, insure and invest your assets. That’s so much smarter than simply following your emotions or “going with the flow.”

Getting organized

1. Paperwork. Everyone has primary financial documents—birth certificates, marriage certificates, current year net-worth statement, retirement plan beneficiary statements, deeds of trust, certificates of vehicle title, last three tax returns, gift tax returns, insurance policies, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, passwords, digital paperwork, etc. Organize this information and keep it in a safe central location that ties into your paper and digital filing systems.

2. Net Worth. Know where you stand by inventorying what you own and what you owe. The beginning of a new year is an excellent time to do this, but you can do it any time. Just be sure to do this personal inventory at least once a year.

3. Cash Flow. Gain control of cash flow by spending according to a plan, not spending impulsively.

4. Employment Benefits. Make sure you fully understand employee benefits (the “hidden paycheck”) at your company. Maximize any dollar amounts that your employer contributes toward health insurance, life insurance, retirement plans and other benefits.

Financial planning

5. Goal Setting. Before you begin the financial planning process, ask yourself what’s really important to you financially and personally. These are key elements of planning for your future; they affect your options, strategies and implementation decisions.

6. Financial Independence and Retirement Planning. A comfortable retirement, perhaps at an early age, is one of the most common reasons people become interested in financial planning. Determine how much money is a reasonable nest egg to reach and maintain your financial independence. Then work with your advisors to determine the right strategy to make that goal a reality.

7. Major Expenditures Planning. A home, a car, and a child’s or grandchild’s college education—these are all big-ticket items that are best planned for in advance. Develop sound financial strategies early on for effectively achieving the funding you need for those big bills down the road.

8. Investments Planning. For most of us, wise investing is the key to achieving and maintaining our financial independence as well as our other financial goals. Establish and refresh investment goals, risk tolerance and asset allocation models that best fit your situation.

9. Tax Planning. Your financial planning should include tax considerations, regardless of your level of wealth. Proactively take advantage of opportunities for minimizing tax obligations.

10. Insurance Planning. Decide what to self-insure and which risks to pass off to insurance companies—and at what price you’re willing to do so.

11. Estate Planning. Develop or update your estate plan. If you get sick or die without an up-to-date estate plan, the management and distribution of assets can become a time-consuming and costly financial challenge for loved ones and survivors.

It is estimated that over 120 million Americans do not have up-to-date estate plans to protect themselves and their families. This makes estate planning one of the most overlooked areas of personal financial management. Estate and financial planning is not just for the wealthy; it is an important process for everyone. With advance planning, issues such as guardianship of children, management of bill-paying and assets—including businesses and practices—care of a child with special needs or a parent, long-term care needs, wealth preservation, and distribution of retirement assets can all be handled with sensitivity and care and at a reasonable cost.

Conclusion

Staying organized and planning wisely are the keys to financial success. Short of winning the lottery or inheriting millions, few people can attain and maintain financial security without some forethought, strategy and ongoing management. The beginning of a new year is an excellent time for you and your family to review finances and update financial plans.


Let’s have a great 2019!

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

 

1031 and Done: The Collector’s Curse

Key Takeaways

  • Changes in the rules for personal property under §1031 will limit many collectors, but those changes don’t mean all sellers now have to realize tax on their sales.

  • The Federal long-term capital gains tax rate for real property is 20 percent, but it’s 28 percent for tangible personal property.

  • Add state income tax and the loss of itemized deductions for most tax payers, selling collectibles just got much more onerous….but you still have options.

 

The landmark 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act contains sweeping changes to the entire tax system. Corporate, personal and estate taxes have been revamped entirely. Taxpayers and their CPAs are scrambling to adapt to the new rules. Simply understanding the changes and working through the variations of scenarios as they play out is a monumental chore. One important change that’s not attracting much attention, despite its potentially significant impact, are the revisions to §1031. This code section refers to “like kind” exchanges of property.

Essentially, a properly executed §1031 exchange allowed a property owner to defer the recognition of a gain until the property that it was exchanged for was ultimately sold. For many investors, like kind exchanges have been a very smart method for swapping their way to significant gains by delaying the taxes the owe. In the past, like kind included both real property and personal property. While the majority of the value of §1031 exchanges were in real property, those who collect valuable assets such as fine art, collector automobiles and antiques also utilized the §1031 exchange to enhance their collections. And, while the Federal long-term capital gains tax rate for real property is 20 percent, for tangible personal property it is 28 percent. Add state income tax and the loss of itemized deductions for most tax payers, selling collectibles just got much more onerous.

What can collectors do?

Certainly, collectors are passionate about their collections and often buy or sell in the heat of the moment. While this may be necessary at times, there are still planning considerations that can be implemented, especially before a planned sale. First, there are several charitable techniques that could be considered. One option is a Flip Charitable Remainder Unitrust (Flip CRT). With this technique, the owner creates a special trust and transfers his or her collectible to the trust prior to any sales transaction taking place. The trust then sells the asset and receives cash from the sale. At the time of the sale the donor will receive a charitable income tax deduction based on a number of factors: The donor’s age, the payout rate of the trust, the cost basis of the asset transferred and several other technical factors.

Note, with personal property donated to these types of trusts the income tax charitable deduction is limited by what the owner paid for the item (cost basis) [  }not its fair market value (what it sells for). Further, the deduction for personal property is limited to 30 percent of the donor’s Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) in any given year. However, any unused deduction is available to be carried over for five additional years until it is fully utilized. In this transfer, there is no capital gains tax realized at the time of the sale. However, the donor no longer has access to the cash or the asset but rather will receive and income stream for life based on the what the property sold for and how the trust payout is structured.

Yet another opportunity for tax savings is the “young” Pooled Income Fund (PIF). Similar to the aforementioned Flip CRT, a PIF is a vehicle for avoiding the capital gains tax on the sale of personal property while creating a charitable income tax deduction. Unlike the Flip CRT, the PIF must be established and maintained by a public charity recognized under §501(c )(3). So, it is important to identify the charity that will cooperate with this complexity. One of the major advantages of the PIF strategy is the size of the charitable income tax deduction, which in most cases is many times larger than can be accomplished via a CRT.

The reasons for this are many and unnecessary to explain here. Just know that since the deduction is likely to be much larger, there is more planning flexibility. Consider, for example, that it might be possible to contribute only 50 percent of the asset or less, and still receive enough deduction to make it worthy of consideration. Indeed, with good planning, it may be possible to leave an income stream for the next generation after the donor is deceased--all while avoiding the long term capital gains tax completely.

Ultimately, money left in the CRT or the PIF will transfer to charity, so make sure you and your advisor do some analysis before entering into either of these arrangements. An additional, non-charitable strategy is the monetized installment sale. While not widely known, a monetized installment sale allows the seller to sell and defer taxes for 30 years while receiving more than 90 percent of the sales proceeds. Unlike the aforementioned charitable strategies, the monetized installment sale can take place even after an agreement to sell has been negotiated and agreed to--something that’s prohibited with charitable planning. And while there is no income tax deduction available, the seller does retain the funds for personal use.


Conclusion

While changes in the rules for personal property under §1031 will limit many collectors, they don’t mean that all sellers will now have to realize tax on sales. For those who own their collectibles for more than a year, the long term capital gains tax can be deferred or eliminated. To do so simply requires different planning and well informed advisors.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

 

Optimizing Your Capital Gain Treatment Part 2

It’s a new world. When it comes to carried interest, real estate and collectibles, carefully document your purpose for holding these assets

Key Takeaways:

  • Long-term capital gains associated with assets held over one year are generally taxed at a maximum federal rate of 20 percent — not the top ordinary rate of 37 percent.

  • Just be careful if you are planning to sell collectibles, gold futures or foreign currency. The tax rate is generally higher.

  • The more you can document your purpose for holding your assets (at the time of purchase and disposition), the better your chances of a favorable tax result.

  • The deductibility of net capital losses in excess of $3,000 is generally deferred to future years.

There’s no shortage of confusion about the current tax landscape—both short-term and long term—but here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from paying a higher tax rate than necessary as we march into a new normal world.

 

Carried Interest

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lengthens the long-term holding period with respect to partnership interests received in connection with the performance of services. Profit interests held for three years or less at the time of disposition will generate short-term capital gain, taxed at ordinary income rates, regardless of whether or not a section 83(b) election was made. Prior law required a holding period greater than one-year to secure the beneficial maximum (20%) federal long-term capital gain tax rate.

Real estate

Real estate case law is too technical for the purposes of this article. Let’s just say the courts look at the following factors when trying to determine a personal real-estate owner’s intent:

  • Number and frequency of sales.

  • Extent of improvements.

  • Sales efforts, including through an agent.

  • Purpose for acquiring, holding and selling.

  • Manner in which property is acquired.

  • Length of holding period.

  • Investment of taxpayer’s time and effort, compared to time and effort devoted to other activities.

Unfortunately, the cases do not lay out a consistent weighting of these general factors. Always check with your legal and tax advisors before engaging in any type of real-estate transaction.


Collectibles

Works of art, rare vehicles, antiques, gems, stamps, coins, etc., may be purchased for personal enjoyment, but gains or losses from their sale are generally taxed as capital gains and losses. But, here’s the rub: Collectibles are a special class of capital asset to which a capital gain rate of 28 percent (not 20%) applies if the collectible items are sold after being held for more than one year (i.e. long-term).

Note that recently popular investments in gold and silver, whether in the form of coins, bullion or held through an exchange-traded fund, are generally treated as “collectibles” subject to the higher 28 percent rate. However, gold mining stocks are subject to the general capital gains rate applicable to other securities. Gold futures, foreign currency and other commodities are generally subject to a blended rate of capital gains tax (60 percent long-term, 40 percent short-term).

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are treated as “property” rather than currency and will trigger long-term or short-term capital gains when the funds are sold, traded or spent. Cryptocurrencies are NOT classified as collectibles.

The difficulties arise if you get to the point that you are considered a dealer rather than a collector, or if you are a legitimate dealer but start selling items from your personal collection. In most cases, the following factors in determining whether sales of collectibles result in capital gain or ordinary income:

  • Extent of time and effort devoted to enhancing the collectible items

  • Extent of advertising, versus unsolicited offers

  • Holding period and frequency of sales from personal collection

  • Sales of collectibles as sole or primary source of taxpayer’s income

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, will end any further discussion about whether gain on the sale of collectibles can be deferred through the use of a like-kind exchange. The tax bill limits the application of section 1031 to real property disposed of after December 31, 2017.

Recommended steps to preserve capital gain treatment:

  • Clearly identify assets held for investment in books and records, segregating them from assets held for sale or development.

  • In the case of collectibles, physically segregate and document the personal collection from inventory held for sale.

  • Memorialize the reason(s) for a change in intent for holding: e.g., death or divorce of principals, legal entanglements, economic changes or new alternate opportunities presented.

  • If a property acquired with the intent to rent is sold prematurely, then retain documentation that supports the decision to sell: e.g., unsuccessful marketing and advertising, failed leases, news clippings of an adverse event or sluggish rental market.

  • If a property is rented out after making substantial improvements, then document all efforts to rent, and list or advertise it for sale only after a reasonable period of rental.

  • Consider selling appreciated/unimproved property to a separate entity before undertaking development. This would necessitate early gain recognition, but may preserve the capital gain treatment on the appreciation that’s realized during the predevelopment period.

  • Consider the application of Section 1237, a limited safe harbor, permitting certain non-C Corporation investors to divide unimproved land into parcels or lots before sale, without resulting in a conversion to dealer status.

Conclusion

Characterizing an asset as ordinary or capital can result in a significant tax rate differential. It can also affect your ability to net gains and losses against other taxable activities. So you must spend the time and effort needed to document the intent of the acquisition of an asset, as well as any facts that might change the character of the asset, during the holding period.

Sure, we’re all busy. But, in today’s new regulatory and tax landscape, don’t you think it’s worth taking the time to do so in order to potentially cut your future tax rate in half?

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

 

Maximizing Small-Business Tax Deductions

Maximizing small-business tax deductions

How small-business owners can take advantage of Section 199A

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed in December 2017 offers a wealth of opportunities to small-business owners. Among the most notable provisions is Section 199A, which provides for qualified business income (QBI) deductions. These deductions are available to taxpayers who are not corporations, including S corporations, partnerships, sole proprietorships and rental properties.

While Section 199A provides a huge tax break for small-business owners, determining who is qualified can be complicated. In addition to eligibility requirements, there are income thresholds after which deductions are phased out. Here’s a look at who is eligible to use Section 199A, as well as strategies business owners above phase-out thresholds can use to recapture QBI deductions. 

Are you eligible?           

In general, small-business owners may qualify for QBI deductions if they meet one of the following criteria:

  •  No matter the type of business, if a business owner’s taxable income falls below $157,500 for single filers or $315,000 for joint filers, that business owner is eligible for a QBI deduction. That deduction is equal to the smaller of 20% of their qualified business income or 20% or their taxable income.

  • Businesses that offer specified service—such as lawyers, accountants, athletes, financial services, consultants, doctors, performing artists, and others with jobs based on reputation or skill—may have deductions phased out if they make too much money. If your income is above $207,500 for single filers or $415,000 for joint filers, you can no longer claim the QBI deduction.

  • If you own a business that is not a service business or a specialized trade, the QBI deduction is partially phased out if your taxable income is above $157,500 for single filers or $315,000 for joint filers. The deduction is limited to the lesser of either 20% of qualified business income or the greater of the following: 50% of W-2 wages paid, or the sum of 25% of W-2 wages paid by the business generating the income plus 2.5% times the cost of depreciable assets

The retirement solution

If your income is above the phase-out limits, you can preserve your full deduction by making smart use of retirement plans. Here’s a look at a few examples of ways to strategically employ retirement plans to reduce your income and recapture a QBI deduction:

Example 1: A couple, age 50, with a specified service business

A couple, each 50 years old, has a specific service business in the form of an S corp that pays W-2 wages of $146,000 and pass-through income of $254,000, for a total income of $400,000. The couple claims the standard deduction of $24,000, making their adjusted gross income $376,000. Because of their high earnings, the couple’s QBI deduction is only $19,812 due to QBI phase-outs. Their total income is  $356,188.

The couple can capture their full QBI deduction by setting up and funding a 401(k) plan. They can set up an individual 401(k) plan, deferring $24,500 as an employee contribution and contributing 25% of salary, or $36,500, as a profit sharing contribution. The deferral and profit sharing max out their individual 401(k) plan with a total contribution of $61,000. In this way, their W-2 wages are reduced to $121,500, and their pass-through income is reduced to $217,500 after the profit sharing contribution. Their total income after the standard deduction is $315,000.

As a result, the couple can claim their full QBI deduction of $43,500 (20% of 217,500), and their income is now $271,500. With a $61,000 contribution to a 401(k), the couple was able to effectively reduce their income by $84,688. In other words, this couple was able to get 1.39 times the income reduction for every dollar they contributed to a retirement plan. 

Example 2: A couple, age 55, with a higher-income specified service business,

Business owners who earn higher income may need to deploy additional retirement plans to capture their QBI deduction. Consider an S corp that pays W-2 wages of $146,000 to the couple, and pass-through income of $317,500 for a total income of $463,500. They claim the standard deduction of $24,000 and their adjusted gross income becomes $439,500. The couple does not receive a QBI deduction because their high income results in a complete phase-out. Their total income therefore remains $439,500.

However, this couple can still take advantage of a QBI deduction by setting up an individual 401(k) plan and deferring $24,500 as an employee contribution. They also can add a defined benefit (DB) plan or a cash balance (CB) plan and contribute even more to a retirement plan. Suppose they set up a DB or a CB plan and the actuaries calculated they could contribute $100,000 to the plan for a total combined contribution of $124,500. In this case, their W-2 wages are reduced to $121,500 and their pass thru income is $217,500.

The couple’s total income after the standard deduction is $315,000. Their QBI deduction is $43,500 (20% of $217,500) and their income is now $271,500. With $124,500 in contributions to their individual 401(k) plan and DB or CB plan the couple received a $168,000 income reduction. This couple was able to get 1.35 times of income reduction for every dollar they contributed to a retirement plan.  

This material is for educational purposes and is not intended to provide tax advice. Talk to your tax professional to find out how QBI deductions may apply to your financial situation.

To learn more about how to maximize your QBI deduction, please email us at rpyle@diversifiedassetmanagement.com or call (303) 440-2906.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice

Diversified Asset Management, Inc. - 2018 3rd Quarter Newsletter

New Ways To Influence The Next Generation

The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act of 2018 (TCJA) gives you more good reasons to help you children, grandchildren, great nieces and nephews. Any amount you give to a 529 account that's used to pay for qualified expenses for college as well as private or religious schooling before college is deductible. With tax reform eliminating all or a large chunk of state income-tax deductions for many individuals in 2018, giving to a 529 lightens your state income-tax load while perhaps changing a life of a family member or friend and influencing their values.

Are You “Rich” Or Not? New Survey Hits The High Points

Do you consider yourself rich? If you own a couple of mansions, a fleet of luxury cars, and financial accounts reaching high into the millions, it may be easy to answer that question. But other well-to-do people might struggle with the issue of whether they are "rich" or not. 

New Deduction Rules For Business Owners

If you are a small business owner, Washington, D.C. has changed tax rules to lower your burden but the new rules are fairly complex. Many small businesses, and some that aren't so small, are "pass-through companies," tax-jargon that means the entity's net income isn't taxed at the corporate level but flows straight to their owners' personal returns. That income is taxed at personal income tax rates, as opposed to corporate rates that are generally lower.

Five Retirement Questions To Answer

How much money do you need to save to live comfortably in retirement? Some experts base estimates on multiple of your current salary or income, while others focus on a flat amount such as a million dollars. Either way, the task can be daunting.

A Guide To The New Rules On Tax Deductions In 2018

Uncle Sam giveth, and Uncle Sam taketh away. New federal tax code, which went into effect in 2018 and affects the return you'll file in spring 2019, lowers taxes by expanding some deductions, but restricts or outright eliminates others.

Giving More To Loved Ones – Tax-Free

While it may be better to give than to receive, as the adage contends, both givers and receivers should be happy with the new tax law. The annual amount you can give someone tax-free has been raised to $15,000, from $14,000 in 2017.

To read the newsletter click on the link below:

Diversified Asset Management, Inc. - 2018 3rd Quarter Newsletter

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

The 23 Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions

Here is a nice article provided by Kevin McCormally of Kiplinger:

 

Years ago, the fellow running the IRS told Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine that he figured millions of taxpayers overpaid their taxes every year by overlooking just one of the money-saving tax breaks listed here.

We’ve updated all the key details in this popular guide to the common tax deductions many filers miss to ensure that your 2016 return is a money-saving masterpiece. Cut your tax bill to the bone by claiming all the tax write-offs you deserve.

1.  State Sales Taxes

After years of uncertainty, in 2015 Congress finally made this break “permanent.” This is particularly important to you if you live in a state that does not impose a state income tax. Congress offers itemizers the choice between deducting the state income taxes or state sales taxes they paid. You choose whichever saves you the most money. So if your state doesn't have an income tax, the sales tax write-off is clearly the way to go.

In some cases, even filers who pay state income taxes can come out ahead with the sales tax choice. And, you don’t need a wheelbarrow full of receipts. The IRS has tables that show how much residents of various states can deduct, based on their income and state and local sales tax rates. But the tables aren't the last word. If you purchased a vehicle, boat or airplane, you may add the sales tax you paid on that big-ticket item to the amount shown in the IRS table for your state. The IRS even has a calculator that shows how much residents of various states can deduct, based on their income and state and local sales tax rates.

We put those quotations marks around permanent above because, as Congress takes up tax reform in 2017, one possibility is the elimination of both the sales tax and the state income tax deductions. But you’re still sure to have the choice for your 2016 return.

2.  Reinvested Dividends

This isn't a tax deduction, but it is an important subtraction that can save you a bundle. And this is the one that former IRS commissioner Fred Goldberg told Kiplinger millions of taxpayers miss . . . costing them millions in overpaid taxes.

If, like most investors, you have mutual fund dividends automatically reinvested to buy extra shares, remember that each new purchase increases your tax basis in the fund. That, in turn, reduces the taxable capital gain (or increases the tax-saving loss) when you redeem shares. Forgetting to include reinvested dividends in your basis results in double taxation of the dividends—once in the year when they were paid out and immediately reinvested and later when they're included in the proceeds of the sale.

Don't make that costly mistake.

If you're not sure what your basis is, ask the fund for help. Funds often report to investors the tax basis of shares redeemed during the year. I n fact, for the sale of shares purchased in 2012 and later years, funds must report the basis to investors and to the IRS.

3.  Out-of-Pocket Charitable Deductions

It's hard to overlook the big charitable gifts you made during the year, by check or payroll deduction (check your December pay stub).

But little things add up, too, and you can write off out-of-pocket costs incurred while doing work for a charity. For example, ingredients for casseroles you prepare for a nonprofit organization's soup kitchen and stamps you buy for a school's fund-raising mailing count as charitable contributions. Keep your receipts. If your contribution totals more than $250, you'll also need an acknowledgement from the charity documenting the support you provided. If you drove your car for charity in 2016, remember to deduct 14 cents per mile, plus parking and tolls paid, in your philanthropic journeys.

4.  Student-Loan Interest Paid by Mom and Dad

Gen erally, you can deduct interest only if you are legally required to repay the debt. But if parents pay back a child's student loans, the IRS treats the transactions as if the money were given to the child, who then paid the debt. So as long as the child is no longer claimed as a dependent, he or she can deduct up to $2,500 of student-loan interest paid by Mom and Dad each year. And he or she doesn't have to itemize to use this money-saver. (Mom and Dad can't claim the interest deduction even though they actually foot the bill because they are not liable for the debt.)

5.  Job-Hunting Costs

If you're among the millions of unemployed Americans who were looking for a job in 2016, we hope you were successful . . . and that you kept track of your job-search expenses or can reconstruct them. If you were looking for a position in the same line of work as your current or most recent job, you can deduct job-hunting costs as miscellaneous expenses if you itemize. Qu alifying expenses can be written off even if you didn't land a new job. But such expenses can be deducted only to the extent that your total miscellaneous expenses exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income. (Job-hunting expenses incurred while looking for your first job don't qualify.) Deductible costs include, but aren't limited to:

Transportation expenses incurred as part of the job search, including 54 cents a mile for driving your own car plus parking and tolls. (The rate falls to 53.5 cents a mile for driving in 2017.)

Food and lodging expenses if your search takes you away from home overnight

Cab fares

Employment agency fees

Costs of printing resumes, business cards, postage, and advertising.

6.  Moving Expenses to Take Your First Job

Although job-hunting expenses are not deductible when looking for your first job, moving expenses to get to that job are. And you get this write-off even if you don't itemize. To qualify for the deduction, your first job must be at least 50 miles away from your old home. If you qualify, you can deduct the cost of getting yourself and your household goods to the new area. If you drove your own car on a 2016 move, deduct 19 cents a mile, plus what you paid for parking and tolls. (The rate falls to 17 cents a mile for 2017 moves.) For a full list of deductible moving expenses, check out IRS Publication 521.

7.  Military Reservists' Travel Expenses

Members of the National Guard or military reserve may write off the cost of travel to drills or meetings. To qualify, you must travel more than 100 miles from home and be away from home overnight. If you qualify, you can deduct the cost of lodging and half the cost of your meals, plus an allowance for driving your own car to get to and from drills.

For 2016 travel, the rate is 54 cents a mile, plus what you paid for parking fees and tolls. You may claim this deduction even if you use the sta ndard deduction rather than itemizing. (The rate falls to 53.5 cents a mile for 2017 travel.)

8.  Deduction of Medicare Premiums for the Self-Employed

Folks who continue to run their own businesses after qualifying for Medicare can deduct the premiums they pay for Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D, plus the cost of supplemental Medicare (medigap) policies or the cost of a Medicare Advantage plan.

This deduction is available whether or not you itemize and is not subject to the 7.5% of AGI test that applies to itemized medical expenses for those age 65 and older. One caveat: You can't claim this deduction if you are eligible to be covered under an employer-subsidized health plan offered by either your employer (if you have a job as well as your business) or your spouse's employer (if he or she has a job that offers family medical coverage).

9.  Child-Care Credit

A credit is so much better than a deduction; it reduces your tax bill dollar for dollar. So missing one is even more painful than missing a deduction that simply reduces the amount of income that's subject to tax. In the 25% bracket, each dollar of deductions is worth a quarter; each dollar of credits is worth a greenback.

You can qualify for a tax credit worth between 20% and 35% of what you pay for child care while you work. But if your boss offers a child care reimbursement account—which allows you to pay for the child care with pretax dollars—that’s likely to be an even better deal. If you qualify for a 20% credit but are in the 25% tax bracket, for example, the reimbursement plan is the way to go. Not only does money run through a reimbursement account avoid federal income taxes, it also is protected from the 7.65% Social Security tax. (In any case, only amounts paid for the care of children younger than age 13 count.)

You can't double dip. Expenses paid through a plan can't also be used to generate the tax credit. Bu t get this: Although only $5,000 in expenses can be paid through a tax-favored reimbursement account, up to $6,000 for the care of two or more children can qualify for the credit. So if you run the maximum through a plan at work but spend even more for work-related child care, you can claim the credit on as much as $1,000 of additional expenses. That would cut your tax bill by at least $200.

10.  Estate Tax on Income in Respect of a Decedent

This sounds complicated, but it can save you a lot of money if you inherited an IRA from someone whose estate was big enough to be subject to the federal estate tax.

Basically, you get an income-tax deduction for the amount of estate tax paid on the IRA assets you received. Let's say you inherited a $100,000 IRA, and the fact that the money was included in your benefactor's estate added $40,000 to the estate-tax bill. You get to deduct that $40,000 on your tax returns as you withdraw the money from the IRA. If y ou withdraw $50,000 in one year, for example, you get to claim a $20,000 itemized deduction on Schedule A. That would save you $5,600 in the 28% bracket.

11.  State Tax Paid Last Spring

Did you owe tax when you filed your 2015 state income tax return in the spring of 2016? Then, for goodness' sake, remember to include that amount in your state-tax deduction on your 2016 federal return, along with state income taxes withheld from your paychecks or paid via quarterly estimated payments during the year.

12.  Refinancing Points

When you buy a house, you get to deduct in one fell swoop the points paid to get your mortgage. When you refinance, though, you have to deduct the points on the new loan over the life of that loan. That means you can deduct 1/30th of the points a year if it's a 30-year mortgage. That's $33 a year for each $1,000 of points you paid—not much, maybe, but don't throw it away.

Even more important, in the year you pay off the loan—because you sell the house or refinance again—you get to deduct all as-yet-undeducted points. There's one exception to this sweet rule: If you refinance a refinanced loan with the same lender, you add the points paid on the latest deal to the leftovers from the previous refinancing, then deduct that amount gradually over the life of the new loan. A pain? Yes, but at least you'll be compensated for the hassle.

13.  Jury Pay Paid to Employer

Many employers continue to pay employees' full salary while they serve on jury duty, and some impose a quid pro quo: The employees have to turn over their jury pay to the company coffers. The only problem is that the IRS demands that you report those jury fees as taxable income. To even things out, you get to deduct the amount you give to your employer.

But how do you do it? There's no line on the Form 1040 labeled “jury fees.” Instead, the write-off goes on line 36, which purports to be f or simply totaling up deductions that get their own lines. Include your jury fees with your other write-offs and write "jury pay" on the dotted line.

14.  American Opportunity Credit

Unlike the Hope Credit that this one replaced, the American Opportunity Credit is good for all four years of college, not just the first two. Don't shortchange yourself by missing this critical difference. This tax credit is based on 100% of the first $2,000 spent on qualifying college expenses and 25% of the next $2,000 ... for a maximum annual credit per student of $2,500. The full credit is available to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less ($160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return). The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above those levels.

If the credit exceeds your tax liability, it can trigger a refund. (Most credits are “nonrefundable,” meaning they can reduce your tax to $0, but not get you a chec k from the IRS.)

15.  A College Credit for Those Long Out of College

College credits aren’t just for youngsters, nor are they limited to just the first four years of college. The Lifetime Learning credit can be claimed for any number of years and can be used to offset the cost of higher education for yourself or your spouse . . . not just for your children.

The credit is worth up to $2,000 a year, based on 20% of up to $10,000 you spend for post-high-school courses that lead to new or improved job skills. Classes you take even in retirement at a vocational school or community college can count. If you brushed up on skills in 2016, this credit can help pay the bills. The right to claim this tax-saver phases out as income rises from $55,000 to $65,000 on an individual return and from $110,000 to $130,000 for couples filing jointly.

16.  Those Blasted Baggage Fees

Airlines seem to revel in driving travelers batty with extra fees fo r baggage, online booking and for changing travel plans. Such fees add up to billions of dollars each year. If you get burned, maybe Uncle Sam will help ease the pain. If you're self-employed and traveling on business, be sure to add those costs to your deductible travel expenses.

17.  Credits for Energy-Saving Home Improvements

Your 2016 return is the last chance to claim a tax credit for installing energy-efficient windows or making similar energy-saving home improvements. You can claim up to $500 in total tax credits for eligible improvements, based on 10% of the purchase cost (not installation) of certain insulation, windows, doors and skylights. The credit is subject to a lifetime cap, so if you’ve already pocketed the max, you’re out of luck. But there’s no such limit on the much more powerful incentive for those who install qualified residential alternative energy equipment, such as solar hot water heaters, geothermal heat pumps and wind turbi nes in 2016. Your credit can be 30% of the total cost (including labor) of such systems.

18.  Bonus Depreciation ... And Beefed-Up Expensing

Business owners—including those who run businesses out of their homes—have to stay on their toes to capture tax breaks for buying new equipment. The rules seem to be constantly shifting as Congress writes incentives into the law and then allows them to expire or to be cut back to save money. Take “bonus depreciation” as an example. Back in 2011, rather than write off the cost of new equipment over many years, a business could use 100% bonus depreciation to deduct the full cost in the year the equipment was put into service. For 2013, the bonus depreciation rate was 50%. The break expired at the end of 2013 and stayed expired until the end of 2014 . . . when Congress reinstated it retroactively to cover 2014 purchases. Then, the provision expired again . . . but near the end of 2015, Congress revived the break. The 50% bonus applies for property purchased in 2016 and 2017, too; the bonus drops to 40% in 2018 and 30% in 2019.

Perhaps even more valuable, though, is another break: supercharged "expensing," which basically lets you write off the full cost of qualifying assets in the year you put them into service. This break, too, has a habit of coming and going. But as part of the 2015 tax law, Congress made the expansion of expensing permanent. For 2016 and future years, businesses can expense up to $500,000 worth of assets. The half-million-dollar cap phases out dollar for dollar for firms that put more than $2 million worth of assets into service in a single year.

19.  Social Security Taxes You Pay

This doesn’t work for employees. You can’t deduct the 7.65% of pay that’s siphoned off for Social Security and Medicare. But if you’re self-employed and have to pay the full 15.3% tax yourself (instead of splitting it 50-50 with an employer), you do get to write off half of what you pay. That deduction comes on the face of Form 1040, so you don’t have to itemize to take advantage of it.

20.  Waiver of Penalty for the Newly Retired

This isn’t a deduction, but it can save you money if it protects you from a penalty. Because our tax system operates on a pay-as-you earn basis, taxpayers typically must pay 90% of what they owe during the year via withholding or estimated tax payments. If you don’t, and you owe more than $1,000 when you file your return, you can be hit with a penalty for underpayment of taxes. The penalty works like interest on a loan—as though you borrowed from the IRS the money you didn’t pay. The current rate is 3%.

There are several exceptions to the penalty, including a little-known one that can protect taxpayers age 62 and older in the year they retire and the following year. You can request a waiver of the penalty—using Form 2210—if you have reasonable cause, such a s not realizing you had to shift to estimated tax payments after a lifetime of meeting your obligation via withholding from your paychecks.

21.  Amortizing Bond Premiums

If you purchased a taxable bond for more than its face value—as you might have to capture a yield higher than current market rates deliver—Uncle Sam will effectively help you pay that premium. That’s only fair, since the IRS is also going to get to tax the extra interest that the higher yield produces.

You have two choices about how to handle the premium.

You can amortize it over the life of the bond by taking each year’s share of the premium and subtracting it from the amount of taxable interest from the bond you report on your tax return. Each year you also reduce your tax basis for the bond by the amount of that year’s amortization.

Or, you can ignore the premium until you sell or redeem the bond. At that time, the full premium will be included in your tax basis so it will reduce the taxable gain or increase the taxable loss dollar for dollar.

The amortization route can be a pain, since it’s up to you to both figure how each year’s share and keep track of the declining basis. But it could be more valuable, since the interest you don’t report will avoid being taxed in your top tax bracket for the year—as high as 43.4%, while the capital gain you reduce by waiting until you sell or redeem the bond would only be taxed at 0%, 15% or 20%.

If you buy a tax-free municipal bond at a premium, you must use the amortization method and reduce your basis each year . . . but you don’t get to deduct the amount amortized. After all, the IRS doesn’t get to tax the interest.

22.  Legal Fees Paid to Secure Alimony

Although legal fees and court costs involved in a divorce are generally nondeductible personal expenses, you may be able to deduct the part of your attorney’s bill.

Since alimony i s taxable income, you can deduct the part of the lawyer’s fee that is attributable to setting the amount. You can also deduct the portion of the fee that is attributable to tax advice. You must itemize to get any tax savings here, and these costs fall into the category of miscellaneous expenses that are deductible only to the extent that the total exceeds 2% of your adjusted gross income. Still, be sure your attorney provides a detailed statement that breaks down his fee so you can tell how much of it may qualify for a tax-saving deduction.

23.  Don’t Unnecessarily Report a State Income Tax Refund

There’s a line on the tax form for reporting a state income tax refund, but most people who get refunds can simply ignore it even though the state sent the IRS a copy of the 1099-G you got reporting the refund. If, like most taxpayers, you didn’t itemize deductions on your previous federal return, the state tax refund is tax-free.

Even if you did i temize, part of it might be tax-free. It’s taxable only to the extent that your deduction of state income taxes the previous year actually saved you money. If you would have itemized (rather than taking the standard deduction) even without your state tax deduction, then 100% of your refund is taxable—since 100% of your write-off reduced your taxable income. But, if part of the state tax write-off is what pushed you over the standard deduction threshold, then part of the refund is tax-free. Don’t report any more than you have to.

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up o r individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

9 IRS Audit Red Flags for Retirees

Here is a nice article provided by Joy Taylor of Kiplinger: 


In 2015, the Internal Revenue Service audited only 0.84% of all individual tax returns. So the odds are generally pretty low that your return will be picked for review.

That said, your chances of being audited or otherwise hearing from the IRS escalate depending on various factors. Math errors may draw an IRS inquiry, but they’ll rarely lead to a full-blown exam. Whether you're filing your 2015 return in October after getting an extension or looking ahead to filing your 2016 return early next year, check out these red flags that could increase the chances that the IRS will give the return of a retired taxpayer special, and probably unwelcome, attention.

1.  Making a Lot of Money

Although the overall individual audit rate is only about one in 119, the odds increase dramatically as your income goes up, as it might if you sell a valuable piece of property or get a big payout from a retirement plan.

IRS statistics show that people with incomes of $200,000 or higher had an audit rate of 2.61%, or one out of every 38 returns. Report $1 million or more of income? There's a one-in-13 chance your return will be audited. The audit rate drops significantly for filers reporting less than $200,000: Only 0.76% (one out of 132) of such returns were audited, and the vast majority of these exams were conducted by mail.

We're not saying you should try to make less money—everyone wants to be a millionaire. Just understand that the more income shown on your return, the more likely it is that you'll be hearing from the IRS.

2.  Failing to Report All Taxable Income

The IRS gets copies of all 1099s and W-2s you receive. This includes the 1099-R (reporting payouts from retirement plans, such as pensions, 401(k)s and IRAs) and 1099-SSA (reporting Social Security benefits).

Make sure you report all required income on your return. IRS computers are pretty good at matching the numbers on the forms with the income shown on your return. A mismatch sends up a red flag and causes the IRS computers to spit out a bill. If you receive a tax form showing income that isn't yours or listing incorrect income, get the issuer to file a correct form with the IRS.

3.  Taking Higher-Than-Average Deductions

If deductions on your return are disproportionately large compared with your income, the IRS may pull your return for review. A large medical expense could send up a red flag, for example. But if you have the proper documentation for your deduction, don't be afraid to claim it. There's no reason to ever pay the IRS more tax than you actually owe.

4.  Claiming Large Charitable Deductions

We all know that charitable contributions are a great write-off and help you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. However, if your charitable deductions are disproportionately large compared with your income, it raises a red flag.

That's because the IRS knows what the average charitable donation is for folks at your income level. Also, if you don't get an appraisal for donations of valuable property, or if you fail to file Form 8283 for non-cash donations over $500, you become an even bigger audit target. And if you've donated a conservation or facade easement to a charity, chances are good that you'll hear from the IRS.


Be sure to keep all your supporting documents, including receipts for cash and property contributions made during the year.

5.  Not Taking Required Minimum Distributions

The IRS wants to be sure that owners of IRAs and participants in 401(k)s and other workplace retirement plans are properly taking and reporting required minimum distributions. The agency knows that some folks age 70½ and older aren’t taking their annual RMDs, and it’s looking at this closely.

Those who fail to take the proper amount can be hit with a penalty equal to 50% of the shortfall. Also on the IRS’s radar are early retirees or others who take payouts before reaching age 59½ and who don’t qualify for an exception to the 10% penalty on these early distributions.

Individuals age 70½ and older must take RMDs from their retirement accounts by the end of each year. However, there’s a grace period for the year in which you turn 70½: You can delay the payout until April 1 of the following year. A special rule applies to those still employed at age 70½ or older: You can delay taking RMDs from your current employer’s 401(k) until after you retire (this rule doesn’t apply to IRAs). The amount you have to take each year is based on the balance in each of your accounts as of December 31 of a prior year and a life-expectancy factor found in IRS Publication 590-B.

6.  Claiming Rental Losses

Claiming a large rental loss can command the IRS’s attention. Normally, the passive loss rules prevent the deduction of rental real estate losses. But there are two important exceptions. If you actively participate in the renting of your property, you can deduct up to $25,000 of loss against your other income. This $25,000 allowance phases out at higher income levels. A second exception applies to real estate professionals who spend more than 50% of their working hours and more than 750 hours each year materially participating in real estate as developers, brokers, landlords or the like. They can write off losses without limitation.

The IRS is actively scrutinizing rental real estate losses. If you’re managing properties in your retirement, you may qualify under the second exception. Or, if you sell a rental property that produced suspended passive losses, the sale opens the door for you to deduct the losses. Just be ready to explain things if a big rental loss prompts questions from the IRS.

7.  Failing to Report Gambling Winnings or Claiming Big Losses

Whether you’re playing the slots or betting on the horses, one sure thing you can count on is that Uncle Sam wants his cut. Recreational gamblers must report winnings as other income on the front page of the 1040 form. Professional gamblers show their winnings on Schedule C. Failure to report gambling winnings can draw IRS attention, especially because the casino or other venue likely reported the amounts on Form W-2G.

Claiming large gambling losses can also be risky. You can deduct these only to the extent that you report gambling winnings. And the costs of lodging, meals and other gambling-related expenses can only be written off by professional gamblers. Writing off gambling losses but not reporting gambling income is sure to invite scrutiny. Also, taxpayers who report large losses from their gambling-related activity on Schedule C get an extra look from IRS examiners, who want to make sure that these folks really are gaming for a living.

8.  Writing Off a Loss for a Hobby

Your chances of "winning" the audit lottery increase if you file a Schedule C with large losses from an activity that might be a hobby—dog breeding, jewelry making, coin and stamp collecting, and the like. Agents are specially trained to sniff out those who improperly deduct hobby losses. So be careful if your retirement pursuits include trying to convert a hobby into a moneymaking venture.

You must report any income from a hobby, and you can deduct expenses up to the level of that income. But the law bans writing off losses from a hobby.

To be eligible to deduct a loss, you must be running the activity in a business-like manner and have a reasonable expectation of making a profit. If your activity generates profit three out of every five years (or two out of seven years for horse breeding), the law presumes that you're in business to make a profit, unless the IRS establishes otherwise. If you're audited, the IRS is going to make you prove you have a legitimate business and not a hobby. Be sure to keep supporting documents for all expenses.

9.  Neglecting to Report a Foreign Bank Account

Just because you may be traveling more in retirement, be careful about sending your money abroad. The IRS is intensely interested in people with money stashed outside the U.S., and U.S. authorities have had lots of success getting foreign banks to disclose account information. The IRS also uses voluntary compliance programs to encourage folks with undisclosed foreign accounts to come clean—in exchange for reduced penalties. The IRS has learned a lot from these amnesty programs and has been collecting a boatload of money (we’re talking billions of dollars). It’s scrutinizing information from amnesty seekers and is targeting the banks that they used to get names of even more U.S. owners of foreign accounts.

Failure to report a foreign bank account can lead to severe penalties. Make sure that if you have any such accounts, you properly report them.


Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.