Too often major life decisions have tax implications attached to them. For the unwary, this can create a fairly large and unexpected tax bill. Here are four examples of major life changes that can have complicated tax implications:
- Changing jobs. Whether it’s a new, exciting opportunity or a result of being laid off, a job change is going to affect your tax obligation. The termination of your previous job likely adds additional taxable income in the form of accrued vacation or a severance package. Review how your former employer handles tax withholdings, especially for big payouts. Your new job also brings new tax implications with a new salary, new benefits and possibly different taxing jurisdictions if you also move to a new location.
- Selling your house. When selling a house or other residential property, the first thing to determine is whether it’s your primary residence. If so, the IRS provides an exemption from tax for up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint couples) of the gain realized from the sale of your home as long as you lived in it for at least two of the previous five years. Any gain above the exemption is subject to capital gains tax. If the property you are selling is not your primary residence, capital gains tax applies, and you also have to deal with other more complicated tax code issues.
- Adding a second job. The extra money you earn when adding a second job or business also brings extra taxes. How much additional tax this second income creates depends on your situation. Employment status, type of business, and how it relates to your other tax activities need to be considered. The extra income alone can send you into a higher tax bracket.
- Deciding when to retire. Your retirement plans and timing of retirement plan distributions play a big role in how much tax you will pay on your retirement earnings. For example, with traditional IRAs, there are early withdrawal penalties before you reach age 59½ and required minimum distributions after reaching age 70½ years old. For Social Security, collecting benefits early means less in monthly benefits and potentially a higher tax obligation if you have additional earnings. Each source of retirement income has its own set of taxation rules which can create a very complicated tax environment.
When a big life decision is on the horizon, go in with your eyes open to the potential tax implications. Carefully weigh all your options and seek help before you act.
As the school year rolls into February, suddenly the realization sets in that high school seniors only have a few months left before graduation. Here are five things each graduate should understand before their big graduation day:
- Debt needs to be managed carefully. It is way too easy to burden oneself under a pile of debt. This is especially true with college loans and credit card debt. While college debt may be unavoidable, try to minimize the size of the loans as much as possible. Regarding credit cards, help your student find the one that best fits their circumstance. This card can be used to create a great credit score for future loans by paying off the whole balance every month. If they can’t, the card should only be used for emergencies. And they should never buy something they can’t afford.
- Students need to invest in themselves. As it stands right now, high school students consist of 18 years of experiences, nurturing and decision-making. Now they are faced with a big decision. “Should I pay for college or a trade school?” Just remind them, the more employable they are, the greater their life-long income potential. So while tempted to take another path, the best return on most young student’s investment is often one that is made to create a better employment future for themselves.
- Comfort is overrated. It is in our nature to be comfortable – to take the path of least resistance. The times where you step outside of your comfort zone are often the times you learn the most about yourself. These experiences often grow confidence to tackle more difficult challenges when they come along. So encourage your teen to work hard and gain the wisdom that comes with these early experiences.
- Life is expensive. Utilities, insurance, taxes, association dues and medical expenses are just some examples of typical “hidden” expenses. Before every big decision, teach your young graduate to research the costs and talk to people that have been in their shoes. In addition to recurring expenses, these new grads need to plan for unforeseen emergencies like dropping a phone in the sink or having unexpected car repairs. So teaching a student how to make a budget and save three to six months of expenses in an emergency account are two great habits to encourage.
- Enjoy the journey. Graduating from high school is an exciting time, but can also bring tremendous uncertainty. As your student moves on to their next phase, new emotions will arrive and others will fade away. Encourage your young adult to steal moments each day to reflect on where they’ve been and focus on the positive aspects of their current situation. Each phase of life brings its unique set of challenges to be experienced. Encourage them to enjoy their journey.
The benefits package offered by your business is extremely important to your employees. How important? A survey performed by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that benefits are directly tied to overall job satisfaction for 92 percent of employees. Even more importantly, 29 percent of employees cited the overall benefits package at their current employer as the top reason to look for new employment in the next 12 months.
Here are some tax-free benefit ideas to help beef up your benefits package and retain your employees:
- Health benefits. According to SHRM, health insurance still remains one of the most important employee benefits. Health insurance benefits come in all shapes and sizes, so you will need to constantly evaluate plans and costs. From a tax standpoint, employers can deduct this expense, and your employees do not report health insurance premiums or employer contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs) as additional income. This includes premiums paid for the employee and qualified family members. Even better, the employee portion of premiums can still be paid in pre-tax dollars.
- Dependent care benefits. Employers are able to provide employees with up to $5,000 per year in tax-free dependent care assistance under a qualified plan. There are a few ways to provide this benefit, but a common method is to set up a flexible spending account (FSA) that both the employer and employee can use to make contributions. The employer portion is tax-free and the employee portion reduces taxable income as long as the total benefit is $5,000 or less.
- Employee tuition reimbursement. By offering tuition reimbursement, you can add another quality benefit to your package while investing in your employee’s career. Up to $5,250 of tuition expenses can be reimbursed tax-free to your employee each year.
- Credit card points. This is a good benefit for outside sales and employees that travel frequently. If you have a corporate credit card program, consider passing the points on to the employee. If you reimburse employee expenses under an accountable plan, estimate the value of points your employee earns on reimbursed business purchases and include it in your annual benefits presentation. Generally the IRS considers credit card points as rebates and not taxable income.
- Group term life insurance. You can generally exclude the cost of up to $50,000 of group term life insurance from your employee’s wages.
- Other fringe benefits. Some examples of other nontaxable fringe benefits are employee wellness programs, onsite fitness gyms, adoption assistance, retirement planning services and employee discounts.
- Small gifts. The IRS calls these “de minimis” benefits. Small-valued benefits are not included in income and can include things like the use of the company copy machine, occasional meals, small gifts and tickets to a sporting event.
With historically low unemployment levels, employees have more options than normal to look around if they aren’t satisfied. Your business’s benefits package is an important tool to help you keep your valued employees. While each is an additional expense to the employer, the perceived benefit by employees may far outweigh these costs.