Avoid a Penalty and Tax Surprise when Withdrawing from Retirement Accounts

Avoid a Penalty and Tax Surprise when Withdrawing from Retirement Accounts

Retirement accounts that provide tax breaks have very specific rules that must be followed if you want to enjoy the financial rewards of those tax breaks.

One of these rules defines WHEN you’re allowed to pull money from your retirement accounts. If you pull money too soon, you’re at risk of being levied with a penalty by the IRS. There are several exceptions to this rule, such as paying for qualified higher education expenses or paying for expenses if you become permanently disabled. In general, though, if you withdraw retirement funds before you reach age 59½, you’ll be hit with a 10% penalty in addition to regular income taxes. In the April 2023 court case Magdy A. Ghaly and Laila Ryad v. Commissioner, the taxpayers learned this rule the hard way.

The Facts

In 2018, Mr. Ghaly took two distributions from his retirement account.

Distribution #1: Withdrawal

Mr. Ghaly was laid off from his job, and in 2018, he withdrew money from his retirement account to provide for his family. He requested and received a withdrawal of $71,147 from his retirement account. His retirement company provided him with a Form 1099-R indicating the withdrawal was taxable.

Distribution #2: Deemed Distribution

In 2015, Mr. Ghaly took a loan from his retirement account. Because the loan followed certain IRS-approved guidelines, it was not considered a taxable distribution from his account that year. However, when Mr. Ghaly failed to repay that loan when it came due in 2018, it became a taxable distribution. His retirement company provided him with a 1099-R tax form for the deemed distribution.

Mr. Ghaly had not yet reached age 59½ before either amount was distributed.

The Findings

In an attempt to restore those distributions to his account to avoid both the tax on the distributions and the early withdrawal penalty, he opened two retirement accounts in 2020 and made the maximum contributions allowed for each account.

The Tax Court ruled against the taxpayers, stating that the contributions Mr. Ghaly made in 2020 were irrelevant when determining if his 2018 distributions were taxable. Mr. Ghaly was required to pay income taxes on the amounts withdrawn (to the extent those distributions were taxable) and was assessed an additional 10% early withdrawal penalty.

The Lesson

If you are planning an early withdrawal from a retirement account, understand before making the withdrawal whether the 10% penalty applies to you. In Mr. Ghaly’s case, he could have explored the substantially equal periodic payment exception or withdrawn money penalty free if used as hardship to pay for his health insurance while unemployed. The lesson: please call if you have questions about an early withdrawal you may be planning before you make it!

Watch Out For These Unexpected Tax Surprises!

Watch Out For These Unexpected Tax Surprises!

No one likes surprises from the IRS, but they do occasionally happen. Here are some examples of tax situations you could find yourself in and what to do about them.

  • 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 doesn’t 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 that year’s tax return. But you’ll lose this deduction the year they turn 17. If their 17th birthday occurs in 2023, you can’t claim them for the child tax credit when you file your 2023 tax return in 2024, 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 surprise. 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 2023, and no large gains from selling other assets to use as an offset, you can only deduct $3,000 of your loss on your 2023 tax return.
  • Getting a letter from the IRS surprise. Official tax forms such as W-2s and 1099s are mailed to both you and the IRS. If the figures on your income tax return do not match those in the hands of the IRS, you will get a letter from the IRS saying that you’re being audited. These audits are now done by mail and are commonly known as correspondence audits.
    Assuming you already know you received all your 1099s and W-2s and confirmed their accuracy, verify the information in the IRS letter with your records. Believe it or not, the IRS sometimes makes mistakes! It is always best to ask for help in how to correspond and make your payments in a timely fashion, if they are justified.

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 2023 tax return.

Year-End Tax Planning Tips for Your Business

Year-End Tax Planning Tips for Your Business

As 2023 winds down, here are some ideas to help you prepare for filing your upcoming tax return:

  • Informational returns. Identify all vendors who require a 1099-MISC and a 1099-NEC. Obtain tax identification numbers (TINs) for each of these vendors if you have not already done so.
  • Shifting income and expenses. Consider accelerating income, or deferring earnings, based on profit projections.
  • Be prepared to receive a Form 1099-K. You may receive a Form 1099-K from each payment processor from whom you receive $600 or more in payments. In addition to credit card companies and banks, payment processors can include Amazon, Etsy, PayPal, Venmo and Apple Pay. You’ll need to include the 1099-K on your tax return.
  • Categorize income and expenses. The best way to prepare for receiving a 1099-K is to organize your records by major categories of income, expenses and fixed asset purchases. If your accounting records are accurate, then any tax form, including a 1099-K, should be easy to tie out to your books.
  • Separation of expenses. Review business accounts to ensure personal expenses are not present. Reimburse the business for any expenses discovered during this review.
  • Create expense reports. Having expense reports with supporting invoices and business credit card statements with corresponding invoices will help substantiate your deductions in the event of an audit.
  • Fixed asset planning. Section 179 or bonus depreciation expensing versus traditional depreciation is a great planning tool. If using Section 179, the qualified assets must be placed in service prior to year-end.
  • Leveraging business meals. Business meals with clients or customers are 50% deductible. Retain the necessary receipts and documentation that note when the meal took place, who attended and the business purpose on each receipt.
  • Charitable opportunities. Consider any last-minute deductible charitable giving including long-term capital gain stocks.
  • Cell phone record review. Review your telephone records for qualified business use. While expensing a single landline out of a home office can be difficult to deduct, cell phone use can be documented and deducted for business purposes.
  • Inventory review. Review your inventory for proper counts and remove obsolete or worthless products. Keep track of the obsolete and worthless amounts for a potential deduction.
  • Review your receivables. Focus on collection activities and review your uncollectible accounts for possible write-offs.
  • Review your estimated tax payments. Recap your year-to-date estimated tax payments and compare them to your forecast of full year earnings. Then make your 2023 4th quarter estimated tax payment by January 16, 2024.
Year-End Tax Planning Tips for Your Business

Year-End Tax Planning Tips for Your Business

As 2023 winds down, here are some ideas to help you prepare for filing your upcoming tax return:

  • Informational returns. Identify all vendors who require a 1099-MISC and a 1099-NEC. Obtain tax identification numbers (TINs) for each of these vendors if you have not already done so.
  • Shifting income and expenses. Consider accelerating income, or deferring earnings, based on profit projections.
  • Be prepared to receive a Form 1099-K. You may receive a Form 1099-K from each payment processor from whom you receive $600 or more in payments. In addition to credit card companies and banks, payment processors can include Amazon, Etsy, PayPal, Venmo and Apple Pay. You’ll need to include the 1099-K on your tax return.
  • Categorize income and expenses. The best way to prepare for receiving a 1099-K is to organize your records by major categories of income, expenses and fixed asset purchases. If your accounting records are accurate, then any tax form, including a 1099-K, should be easy to tie out to your books.
  • Separation of expenses. Review business accounts to ensure personal expenses are not present. Reimburse the business for any expenses discovered during this review.
  • Create expense reports. Having expense reports with supporting invoices and business credit card statements with corresponding invoices will help substantiate your deductions in the event of an audit.
  • Fixed asset planning. Section 179 or bonus depreciation expensing versus traditional depreciation is a great planning tool. If using Section 179, the qualified assets must be placed in service prior to year-end.
  • Leveraging business meals. Business meals with clients or customers are 50% deductible. Retain the necessary receipts and documentation that note when the meal took place, who attended and the business purpose on each receipt.
  • Charitable opportunities. Consider any last-minute deductible charitable giving including long-term capital gain stocks.
  • Cell phone record review. Review your telephone records for qualified business use. While expensing a single landline out of a home office can be difficult to deduct, cell phone use can be documented and deducted for business purposes.
  • Inventory review. Review your inventory for proper counts and remove obsolete or worthless products. Keep track of the obsolete and worthless amounts for a potential deduction.
  • Review your receivables. Focus on collection activities and review your uncollectible accounts for possible write-offs.
  • Review your estimated tax payments. Recap your year-to-date estimated tax payments and compare them to your forecast of full year earnings. Then make your 2023 4th quarter estimated tax payment by January 16, 2024.
Year-End Tax Cutting Moves to Consider

Year-End Tax Cutting Moves to Consider

Here are moves you can make to reduce your taxable income. But the year is quickly coming to a close, so plan accordingly.

  • Max out pre-tax retirement savings. The deadline to contribute to a 401(k) plan to get a 2023 taxable income reduction is December 31st. So if your employer’s plan allows it, consider making a last-minute lump sum contribution. For 2023, you can contribute up to $22,500 to a 401(k), plus another $7,500 if you’re age 50 or older. Even better, you have until April 15, 2024, to contribute up to $6,500 into a traditional IRA. And as long as your income does not exceed phaseout limits, you can reduce your taxable income on your 2023 tax return.
  • Convert to a Roth IRA. Consider converting some or all of your traditional IRA, SEP IRA, or SIMPLE IRA into a Roth IRA. Although you pay income tax on the amount of the Roth conversion the year it is made, subsequent growth is tax-free in a Roth IRA, and withdrawals from the account are 100% tax-free after five years from the date of the conversion.
  • Tax loss harvesting. If you own stock outside a tax-deferred retirement plan, you can sell your under-performing stocks by December 31st and use these losses to reduce any taxable capital gains. If your net capital losses exceed your gains, you can net up to $3,000 against other income such as wages. Losses over $3,000 can be used in future years.
  • Selling appreciated assets. Consider selling appreciated assets in the tax year that helps you the most. While this strategy may be hard to accomplish this late in the year, it is still worthy of consideration. To do this, estimate your current year’s taxable income and compare it to next year’s projected income. Then sell the appreciated asset in the year that will yield the lowest tax. Remember to account for the 3.8% net investment income tax in your estimates.
  • Review health spending accounts. If you participate in a Health Savings Account (HSA), try to maximize your annual contribution to reduce your taxable income. Remember, these funds allow you to pay for qualified health expenses with pre-tax dollars. More importantly, unlike Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), you can carry over all unused funds into future years. If you do have an FSA, you can carry forward a maximum of $610 from 2023 into 2024 if your plan allows this. The deadline for contributing to your Health Savings Account (HSA) and still getting a deduction for the 2023 tax year is April 15, 2024. The maximum contribution for 2023 is $3,850 if single and $7,750 for married couples. If you’re age 55 or older, you can add $1,000 to your HSA contribution.

While the year is quickly coming to an end, there is still time to reduce your 2023 tax liability, but only if you act now.

Taxes: Knowing the Basics is Key

Taxes: Knowing the Basics is Key

It’s the starting point to saving money

Understanding how our tax system works can be tricky for anyone. Whether you’re an adult who never paid much attention to the taxes being withheld from your paycheck or a kid who just got his or her first job, the starting point to reducing your tax is knowing when to ask a question. But that means having a basic understanding of what might be taxed.

Here are some pointers to help you or someone you know navigate our tax maze.

There are many types of taxes

When you think of taxes, the income tax usually comes to mind. This is a tax on personal and business income you earn from performing a job, or providing a product or service. But there are also other types of taxes besides income taxes. Here are some of the most common.

  • Payroll taxes. While income taxes can be used to pay for pretty much anything the government needs money for, payroll taxes are earmarked to pay for Social Security and Medicare benefits. This is 15.3% of most employee’s paycheck, but half of it is paid by your employer.
  • Property taxes. These are taxes levied on property you own. The most common example is the property tax on a home or vacation property.
  • Sales tax. These are taxes on goods and services you purchase. While most of this tax is applied at the state and local levels, there are also federal sales taxes on items like gasoline.
  • Capital gains taxes. If you sell an investment or an asset for a profit, you may owe capital gains taxes. The most common example of this is when you sell stock for a gain. Capital gains taxes could also come into play with other assets, such as selling your home or a rental property you sell for a profit.
  • Estate taxes. This tax is applied to assets in your estate after you pass away.

Not all income is subject to tax

Most, but not all, of your income is subject to tax.

  • While your paycheck is subject to taxes, interest earned from certain municipal bonds is not. And the government often excludes things like certain life insurance benefits.
  • Capital gains taxes have exclusions for gains on the sale of your home and donated stock.
  • Estate taxes have an exclusion, so only estates in excess of this exclusion amount are taxed.
  • Many employee benefits such as health care, Health Savings Account contributions, commuting benefits and small gifts from your employer are tax free.

The rules around these different types of taxes is complex. Having someone in your corner to help you navigate your tax obligation is often an essential element in minimizing how much tax you do have to pay. It is also helpful, though, for you to understand the basics so you know when to ask a question.

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