Understanding Tax Credits Versus Deductions

Understanding Tax Credits Versus Deductions

Tax credits are some of the most valuable tools around to help cut your tax bill. But figuring out how to use these credits on your tax return can get complicated very quickly. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding the difference

To help illustrate the difference between a credit and a deduction, here is an example of a single taxpayer making $50,000 in 2022.

  • Tax Deduction Example: Gee I. Johe earns $50,000 and owes $5,000 in taxes. If you add a $1,000 tax deduction, he’ll decrease his $50,000 income to $49,000, and owe about $4,800 in taxes.

    Result: A $1,000 tax deduction decreases Gee’s tax bill by $200, from $5,000 to $4,800.
  • Tax Credit Example: Now let’s assume G.I. Johe has a $1,000 tax credit versus a deduction. Mr. Johe’s tax bill decreases from $5,000 to $4,000, while his $50,000 income stays the same.

    Result: A $1,000 tax credit decreases your tax bill from $5,000 to $4,000.

In this example, your tax credit is five times as valuable as a tax deduction.

Too good to be true?

Credits are generally worth much more than deductions. However there are several hurdles you have to clear before being able to take advantage of a credit.

To illustrate, consider the popular child tax credit.

Hurdle #1: Meet basic qualifications

You can claim a $2,000 tax credit for each qualifying child you have on your 2022 tax return. The good news is that the IRS’s definition of qualifying child is fairly broad, but there are enough nuances to the definition that Hurdle #1 could get complicated. And then to make matters more complicated…

Hurdle #2: Meet income qualifications

If you make too much money, you can’t claim the credit. If you’re single, head of household or married filing separately, the child tax credit completely goes away if you exceed $240,000 of taxable income. If you’re married filing jointly, the credit disappears above $440,000 of income. And then to make matters more complicated…

Hurdle #3: Meet income tax qualifications

To claim the entire $2,000 child tax credit, you must owe at least $2,000 of income tax. For example, if you owe $3,000 in taxes and have one child that qualifies for the credit, you can claim the entire $2,000 credit. But if you only owe $1,000 in taxes, the maximum amount of the child tax credit you could claim is $1,400.

Take the tax credit…but get help!

The bottom line is that tax credits are usually more valuable than tax deductions. But tax credits also come with lots of rules that can be confusing. Please call to schedule a tax planning session to make sure you make the most of the available tax credits for your situation.

Shrinkflation is Upon Us!

Shrinkflation is Upon Us!

Be aware, be prepared

Inflation is upon us, and a hidden gem used by companies to combat price increases is often hidden from the unaware. It’s called shrinkflation. Here’s what you need to know about this hidden price hike and what you can do to cope with its effects.

Defining shrinkflation

Shrinkflation is the technique of downsizing a product or ingredients to lower costs. In many cases the retail price of something will not change, but the amount of product in the package is lowered. Common techniques include putting less in a package or changing the amount of a high-cost ingredient in the product.

And the changes are often subtle. Would you realize the amount in a box is lowered by 1/2-an-ounce if the box stays the same size? Or that your cereal has fewer raisins in it than a month ago?

Edgar Dworsky, a former assistant attorney general in Massachusetts, recently spoke with the Consumer Federation of America about changes he’s been tracking in grocery isles. Here are some recent examples of shrinkflation:

  • Kimberly-Clark’s Cottonelle Ultra Clean mega rolls of toilet paper are reduced from 340 sheets to 312
  • Keebler’s Chips Deluxe with M&Ms packages are now 9.75 ounces, down from 11.3 ounces
  • Gatorade’s 32-ounce bottles are now 28 ounces
  • Cadbury is reducing the size of its popular chocolate bar by 10%

Knowledge is key

While many manufacturers are transparent about these changes as they combat inflation, it is not as apparent to spot when you are shopping. Here some are suggestions to help you identify and combat shrinkflation.

  • Focus on unit cost. Instead of focusing on the price of the product, look for the unit cost of the item. Grocery stores can be very helpful in this area, as most tags will show a common unit of measure below the items for sale. If you shop at a store that doesn’t provide this information, you can still calculate the unit price using the information printed on the front of a product’s package.
  • Compare the packages. When you replenish your popular shopping items, spend a minute to compare the product with the last one you purchased. Make a mental note if the packaging or number of items in the package is changing.
  • Have alternatives. Perhaps it is time to try another toilet paper brand, or choose a different cookie. Many store brands are a great alternative to the market leaders.
  • Offset shrinkflation with deals. This includes reviewing featured items at different shopping locations, looking at a store’s weekly flyer for deals, loading up on favorite items when they are on sale, participating in a store’s loyalty program, and looking for coupons using online services.

Remember, inflation is here and everyone needs to cope with it, including manufacturers. But by being aware, you can retain some control to reduce inflation’s impact on you and your family.

Watch for These Tax Surprises

Watch for These Tax Surprises

Our tax code contains plenty of opportunities to cut your taxes. There are also plenty of places in the tax code that could create a surprising tax bill. Here are some of the more common traps.

  • Home office tax surprise. If you deduct home office expenses on your tax return, you could end up with a tax bill when you sell your home in the future. When you sell a home you’ve been living in for at least 2 of the past 5 years, you may qualify to exclude from your taxable income up to $250,000 of profit from the sale of your home if you’re single or $500,000 if you’re married. But if you have a home office, you may be required to pay taxes on a proportionate share of the gain.

    For example, let’s say you have a 100-square-foot home office located in a garage, cottage or guest house that’s on your property. Your main house is 2,000 square feet, making the size of your office 5% of your house’s overall area. When you sell your home, you may have to pay taxes on 5% of the gain. (TIP: If you move your office out of the detached structure and into your home the year you sell your home, you may not have to pay taxes on the gain associated with the home office.)

    Even worse, if you claim depreciation on your home office, this could add even more to your tax surprise. This depreciation surprise could happen to either a home office located in a separate structure on your property or in a home office located within your primary home. This added tax hit courtesy of depreciation surprises many unwary users of home offices.
  • Kids getting older tax surprise. Your children are a wonderful tax deduction if they meet certain qualifications. But as they get older, many child-related deductions fall off and create an unexpected tax bill. And it does not happen all at once.

    As an example, one of the largest tax deductions your children can provide you is via the child tax credit. If they are under age 17 on December 31st and meet several other qualifications, you could get up to $2,000 for that child on the following year’s tax return. But you’ll lose this deduction the year they turn 17. If their 17th birthday occurs in 2022, you can’t claim them for the child tax credit when you file your 2022 tax return in 2023, resulting in $2,000 more in taxes you’ll need to pay.
  • Limited losses tax surprise. If you sell stock, cryptocurrency or any other asset at a loss of $5,000, for example, you can match this up with another asset you sell at a $5,000 gain and – presto! You won’t have to pay taxes on that $5,000 gain because the $5,000 loss cancels it out. But what if you don’t have another asset that you sold at a gain? In this example, the most you can deduct on your tax return is $3,000 (the remaining loss can be carried forward to subsequent years).

    Herein lies the tax trap. If you have more than $3,000 in losses from selling assets, and you don’t have a corresponding amount of gains from selling assets, you’re limited to the $3,000 loss.

    So if you have a big loss from selling an asset in 2022, and no large gains from selling other assets to use as an offset, you can only deduct $3,000 of your loss on your 2022 tax return.
  • Planning next year’s tax obligation tax surprise. It’s always smart to start your tax planning for next year by looking at your prior year tax return. But you should then take into consideration any changes that have occurred in the current. Solely relying on last year’s tax return to plan next year’s tax obligation could lead to a tax surprise.

Please call to schedule a tax planning session so you can be prepared to navigate around any potential tax surprises you may encounter on your 2022 tax return.

Make Your Cash Worth More!

Make Your Cash Worth More!

Banking tips to help you cash in

Your cash is parked in a bank account. Do you know if it’s making or losing you money? Here are some ideas to help you make the most of your banked cash:

  • Understand your bank accounts. Not all bank accounts are created equal. Interest rates, monthly fees, minimum balances, direct deposit requirements, access to ATMs, other fees and customer service all vary from bank to bank and need to be considered. Start by digging into the details of your accounts. There may be some things you’ve been unnecessarily living with like ATM fees or monthly account charges. Once you have a handle on your current bank, conduct research on what other banks have to offer.
  • Know your interest rates. As a general rule, the more liquid an account, the lower the interest rate. Checking accounts offer the lowest rates, followed by savings accounts, which yield lower rates than Certificates of Deposits. Maximizing your earnings is as simple as keeping your cash in accounts with higher interest rates. The overall interest rate earned between all your accounts should usually be higher than the inflation rate, which is generally around 2 percent during normal times. But in the midst of high inflation like we are currently experiencing, your combined interest rate may have a difficult time beating the inflation rate.
  • Make smart moves. There are a couple of things to take into account when making transfers. First, federal law allows for only six transfers from savings and money market accounts per month. If you exceed this number, you’ll be hit with a penalty for each transaction that exceeds six transfers. Second, if you invest in longer-term investments like CDs or bonds, there are penalties for withdrawing funds before the maturity date. So make sure you can live without the funds for the duration of the term.
  • Stay diligent. Putting together a cash plan is just the start. The key to success is to be persistent. Besides losing out on potential earnings, mismanaging your cash can result in hefty overdraft fees. The more attention you devote to your cash, the more your money will grow.
Start Your Tax Planning NOW!

Start Your Tax Planning NOW!

Keeping your taxes as low as possible requires paying attention to your financial situation throughout the year. Here are some tips for getting a head start on tax planning for your 2022 return:

  • Check your paycheck withholdings. Now is a good time to check your tax withholdings to make sure you haven’t been paying too much or too little. The IRS has an online tool that will help you calculate how much your current withholdings match what your final tax bill will be. Visit https://apps.irs.gov/app/tax-withholding-estimator.

    Action step: To change how much is withheld from your paycheck in taxes, fill out a new Form W-4 and give it to your employer.

  • Defer earnings. You could potentially cut your tax liability by deferring your 2022 income to a future year via contributions to a retirement account. For 2022, the 401(k) contribution limit is $20,500 ($27,000 if 50 or older); $6,000 for both a traditional and Roth IRA ($7,000 if 50 and older); or $14,000 for a SIMPLE IRA ($17,000 if 50 and older).

    Action step: Consider an automatic transfer from either your paycheck or checking account to your retirement account so you won’t have to think about manually making a transfer each month.

  • Plan withdrawals from retirement accounts to be tax efficient. Your retirement accounts could span multiple account types, such as traditional retirement accounts, Roth accounts, and taxable accounts like brokerage or savings accounts. Because of this you should plan for your withdrawals to be as tax efficient as possible.

    Action step: One way to structure withdrawals is to pull from taxable accounts first, and leave Roth account withdrawals for last. Another approach would be to structure proportional withdrawals from all retirement accounts that would lead to a more predictable tax bill each year.

  • Net capital gains with capital losses. If you have appreciated investments you’re thinking about selling, take a look through the rest of your portfolio to see if you have other assets that you could sell for a loss and use to offset your gains. Using the tax strategy of tax-loss harvesting, you may be able to take advantage of stocks that have underperformed.

    Action step: Make an appointment with your investment advisor to look over your portfolio to see if there are any securities you may want to sell by the end of 2022.

Tax planning can potentially result in a lower bill from the IRS if you start taking action now. Please call if you have questions about your tax situation for 2022.

Your Business Mileage Deduction Just Became More Valuable

Your Business Mileage Deduction Just Became More Valuable

Your business mileage tax deduction just became more valuable for the rest of 2022 after a recent announcement by the IRS.

Starting July 1st, the IRS’s business mileage rate is increasing by 4 cents, to 62.5 cents per mile, while the medical and moving mileage is also increasing by 4 cents, to 22 cents per mile. The previous mileage rates still apply through June 30th.

Here are some tips to make the most of your business’s vehicle expense deduction.

  • Don’t slack on recordkeeping. You won’t be able to take advantage of the increased mileage rates without proper documentation. The IRS mandates that you track your vehicle expenses as they happen (this is called contemporaneous recordkeeping). You’re not allowed to wait until right before filing your tax return to compile all the necessary information needed to claim a vehicle deduction. Whether it’s a physical notebook you stick in your glove compartment or a mobile phone app, pick a method to track your mileage and actual expenses that’s most convenient for you.
  • Keep track of both mileage and actual expenses. The IRS generally lets you use one of two different methods to track vehicle expenses – the standard mileage rate method or the actual expense method. But even if you use the standard mileage method you can still deduct other expenses like parking and toll fees. So keep good records.
  • Consider using standard mileage the first year a vehicle is in service. If you use standard mileage the first year your car is placed in service, you can then choose which expense tracking method to use in subsequent years. If you initially use the actual expense method the first year your car is placed in service, you’re locked in to using actual expenses for the duration of using that car in your business. For a car you lease, you must use the standard mileage rate method for the entire lease period (including renewals) if you choose the standard mileage rate the first year.
  • Don’t forget about depreciation! Depreciation can significantly increase your deduction if you use the actual expense method. For heavy SUVs, trucks, and vans with a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating above 6,000 pounds, 100% bonus depreciation is available through the end of the 2022 tax year if the vehicle is used more than 50% for business purposes. Regular depreciation is available for vehicles under 6,000 pounds with annual limits applied.

Please call if you have any questions about maximizing your business’s vehicle expense deduction.