Still Time to Reduce any Tax Surprises!

Still Time to Reduce any Tax Surprises!

Consider conducting a final tax planning review now to see if you can still take actions to minimize your taxes this year. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Review your income. Begin by determining how your income this year will compare to last year. Since tax rates are the same, this is a good initial indicator of your potential tax obligation. However, if your income is rising, more of your income could be subject to a higher tax rate. This higher income could also trigger phaseouts that will prevent you from taking advantage of certain deductions or tax credits formerly available to you.
  • Examine life changes. Review any key events over the past year that may have potential tax implications. Here are some common examples:
    • Purchasing or selling a home
    • Refinancing or adding a new mortgage
    • Getting married or divorced
    • Incurring large medical expenses
    • Changing jobs
    • Welcoming a baby
  • Identify what tax changes may impact you. Some of the major changes this year include the lowering of the child tax credit and the lowering of dependent care credit for working couples. This year also marks the first year in the last two with no pandemic related payments. If you think this could impact your situation it may make sense to conduct a tax planning review.
  • Manage your retirement. One of the best ways to reduce your taxable income is to use tax beneficial retirement programs. So now is a good time to review your retirement account funding options. If you are not taking full advantage of the accounts available to you, there is still time to make adjustments.
  • Look into credits. There are a variety of tax credits available to most taxpayers. Spend some time reviewing the most common ones to ensure your tax plan takes advantage of them. Here are some worth reviewing:
    • Child Tax Credit
    • Earned Income Tax Credit
    • Premium Tax Credit
    • Adoption Credit
    • Elderly and Disabled Credit
    • Educational Credits (Lifetime Learning Credit and American Opportunity Tax Credit)
  • Avoid surprises. Your goal right now is to try and avoid any unwanted surprises when you file your tax return. It’s also better to identify the need for a review now versus at the end of the year when time is running out. And remember, you are not required to be a tax expert. Use the tips here to determine if a review of your situation is warranted.
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.

The IRS Announces Tax Scams

The IRS Announces Tax Scams

Compiled annually, the IRS lists a variety of common scams that taxpayers can encounter. This year’s list includes the following four categories.

  • Pandemic-related scams. Criminals are still using the COVID-19 pandemic to steal people’s money and identity with phishing emails, social media posts, phone calls, and text messages.

    All these efforts can lead to sensitive personal information being stolen, and scammers using this to try filing fraudulent tax returns. Some of the scams people should continue to be on the lookout for include Economic Impact Payment and tax refund scams, unemployment fraud leading to inaccurate taxpayer 1099-Gs, fake employment offers on social media, and fake charities that steal taxpayers’ money.
  • Offer-in-compromise mills. Offer-in-compromise (OIC) mills make outlandish claims about how they can settle a person’s tax debt for pennies on the dollar. Often, the reality is that taxpayers are required to pay a large fee up front to get the same deal they could have gotten on their own by working directly with the IRS. These services tend to be more visible right after the filing season ends while taxpayers are trying to pay their recent bill.
  • Suspicious communication. Every form of suspicious communication is designed to trick, surprise, or scare someone into responding before thinking. Criminals use a variety of communications to lure potential victims. The IRS warns taxpayers to be on the lookout for suspicious activity across four common forms of communication: email, social media, telephone, and text messages. Victims are tricked into providing sensitive personal financial information, money, or other information. This information can be used to file false tax returns and tap into financial accounts, among other schemes.
  • Spear phishing attacks. Criminals try to steal client data and tax preparers’ identities to file fraudulent tax returns for refunds. Spear phishing can be tailored to attack any type of business or organization, so everyone needs to be skeptical of emails requesting financial or personal information.

What you can do

If you discover that you’re a victim of identity theft, consider taking the following action:

  • Notify creditors and banks. Most credit card companies offer protections to cardholders affected by ID theft. Generally, you can avoid liability for unauthorized charges exceeding $50. But if your ATM or debit card is stolen, report the theft immediately to avoid dire consequences.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit report. To avoid long-lasting impact, contact any one of the three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian or TransUnion—to request a fraud alert. This covers all three of your credit files.
  • Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Visit identitytheft.gov or call 877-438-4338. The FTC will provide a recovery plan and offer updates if you set up an account on the website.
  • Please call if you suspect any tax-related identity theft. If any of the previously mentioned signs of tax-related identity theft have happened to you, please call to schedule an appointment to discuss next steps.
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.

Cryptocurrency: The IRS is Watching You!

Cryptocurrency: The IRS is Watching You!

Whether you own cryptocurrency or not, everyone should know the tax rules surrounding this type of property as it becomes more popular. If you have one take away regarding cryptocurrency, it should be this: Remember that Uncle Sam is watching you!

Here’s what you need to know about the IRS and cryptocurrency:

Background

The IRS generally considers cryptocurrency—also referred to as virtual currency or digital currency—to be property, just like stocks and bonds for federal income tax purposes.

Therefore, if you sell cryptocurrency at a gain, it is subject to capital gains tax. Similarly, you may claim a capital loss on the sale or other disposition of cryptocurrency. But that’s not all: Anytime you exchange cryptocurrency for actual currency, goods or services, the IRS says it’s a taxable event.

Say that you hold Bitcoin for longer than one year and then sell it at a gain. The gain is taxable up to 20%. High-income taxpayers may also need to pay a 3.8% surtax on the cryptocurrency gain. Accordingly, you can use a loss from a cryptocurrency sale to offset capital gains plus up to $3,000 of ordinary income. Any excess is carried over to the following tax year.

The IRS Is Watching You!

Cryptocurrency transactions often flew under the radar, but the IRS is now paying much closer attention. Here’s how the IRS is stepping up enforcement efforts:

  • Answer a Form 1040 question. The IRS is so concerned about cryptocurrency transactions being reported that they have a cryptocurrency question on Page 1 of your tax return, just below your name. Before filling out any part of your tax return, the IRS wants you to answer a question about whether you received, sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of any financial interest in any virtual currency.
  • Brokers must report transactions. After 7 years of gently prodding taxpayers to self-report cryptocurrency transactions, Congress has given the green light for the IRS to obtain cost basis and sales proceeds information for all crypto transactions directly from brokers (such as CoinBase, Electrum or Mycelium) or other individuals who regularly provide digital asset transfer services on behalf of other people. Similar to the reporting of stocks and bonds, taxpayers will receive a Form 1099-B from brokers that list all crypto transactions. These new reporting rules are effective beginning January 1, 2023.
  • Expanded $10,000 reporting requirement. Businesses that accept virtual currency as payment may be required to report transactions above $10,000 to the IRS beginning January 1, 2023. In an interesting twist, cryptocurrency and other digital assets would be considered cash for purposes of the $10,000 reporting requirement, while the IRS will continue to treat cryptocurrency as real property (and not cash) for tax compliance purposes.

What you need to do

Here are some suggestions for tracking and reporting your cryptocurrency transactions on your tax return:

  • Keep up-to-date records. Consider tracking each transaction as they occur throughout the year. You may also want to keep your own transaction ledger as a way to double-check the accuracy of your broker’s statements.
  • Set aside money to pay taxes. Consider saving a certain percentage of each cryptocurrency transaction you sell at a gain for taxes you may need to pay.
  • Be aware before you dive into cryptocurrency. As you can see, being involved in cryptocurrency may not be for everyone. Wild swings in valuation are common. Reporting requirements are complicated.

As Warren Buffet is quoted as saying,

If you have been playing poker for half an hour and still cannot tell who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.

Please call if you have questions about your cryptocurrency transactions.

I Owe Tax on That?

I Owe Tax on That?

5 Surprising Taxable Items

Wages and self-employment earnings are taxable, but what about the random cash or financial benefits you receive through other means? If something of value changes hands, you can bet the IRS considers a way to tax it. Here are five taxable items that might surprise you:

  1. Scholarships and financial aid. Applying for scholarships and financial aid are top priorities for parents of college-bound children. But be careful — if any part of the award your child receives goes toward anything except tuition, it might be taxable. This could include room, board, books, travel expenses or aid received in exchange for work (e.g., tutoring or research).
    Tip: When receiving an award, review the details to determine if any part of it is taxable. Don’t forget to review state rules as well. While most scholarships and aid are tax-free, no one needs a tax surprise.
  2. Gambling winnings. Hooray! You hit the trifecta for the Kentucky Derby. But guess what? Technically, all gambling winnings are taxable, including casino games, lottery tickets and sports betting. Thankfully, the IRS allows you to deduct your gambling losses (to the extent of winnings) as an itemized deduction, so keep good records.
    Tip: Know when the gambling establishment is required to report your winnings. It varies by type of betting. For instance, the filing threshold for winnings from fantasy sports betting and horse racing is $600, while slot machines and bingo are typically $1,200. But beware, the gambling facility and state requirements may lower the limit.
  3. Unemployment compensation. Congress gave taxpayers a one-year reprieve in 2021 from paying taxes on unemployment income. Unfortunately, this tax break did not get extended for the 2022 tax year. So unless Congress passes a law extending the 2021 tax break, unemployment will once again be taxable starting with your 2022 tax return.
    Tip: If you are collecting unemployment, you can either have taxes withheld and receive the net amount or make estimated payments to cover the tax liability.
  4. Social Security benefits. If your income is high enough after you retire, you could owe income taxes on up to 85% of Social Security benefits you receive.
    Tip: Consider if delaying when you start collecting Social Security benefits makes sense for you. Waiting to start benefits means you’ll avoid paying taxes on your Social Security benefits for now, plus you’ll get a bigger payment each month you delay until you reach age 70.
  5. Alimony. Prior to 2019, alimony was generally deductible by the person making alimony payments, with the recipient generally required to report alimony payments received as taxable income. Now the situation is flipped: For divorce and separation agreements executed since December 31, 2018, alimony is no longer deductible by the payer and alimony payments received are not reported as income.
    Tip: Alimony payments no longer need to be made in cash. Consider having the low-income earning spouse take more retirement assets such as 401(k)s and IRAs in exchange for reduced alimony payments. This arrangement would allow the higher-earning spouse to make alimony payments by transferring retirement funds without paying income taxes on it.

When in doubt, it’s a good idea to keep accurate records so your tax liability can be correctly calculated and you don’t get stuck paying more than what’s required.