Tax Rules & Laws

2018 Tax Reform

What the Tax Reform Act Means for You

Congress has passed a tax reform act that will take effect in 2018, ushering in some of the most significant tax changes in three decades. There are a lot of changes in the new act, which was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2017.

You can use this memo as a high-level overview of some of the most significant items in the new act. Because major tax reform like this happens so seldom, we recommend you schedule a tax-planning consultation to ensure you reap the most tax savings possible during 2018. 

Key changes for individuals:

Here are some of the key items in the tax reform act that affect individuals:

  • Reduces income tax brackets: The act retains seven brackets, but at reduced rates, with the highest tax bracket dropping to 37 percent from 39.6 percent. The individual income brackets are also expanded to expose more income to lower rates (see charts below).
  • Doubles standard deductions: The standard deduction nearly doubles to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for married filing jointly. To help cover the cost, personal exemptions and most additional standard deductions are suspended.
  • Limits itemized deductions: Many itemized deductions are no longer available, or are now limited. Here are some of the major examples:
    • Caps state and local tax deductions: State and local tax deductions are limited to $10,000 total for all property, income and sales taxes.
    • Caps mortgage interest deductions: For new acquisition indebtedness, mortgage interest will be deductible on indebtedness of no more than $750,000. Existing mortgages are unaffected by the new cap as the new limits go into place for acquisition indebtedness after Dec. 14, 2017. The act also suspends the deductibility of interest on home equity debt.
    • No more 2 percent miscellaneous deductions: Most miscellaneous deductions subject to the 2 percent of adjusted gross income threshold are now gone.

Tip: If you’re used to itemizing your return, that may change in coming years as the doubled standard deduction and reduced deductions make itemizing less attractive. To the extent you can, make any remaining itemizable expenditures before the end of 2017.

  • Cuts some above-the-line deductions: Moving expense deductions get eliminated except for active-duty military personnel, along with alimony deductions beginning in 2019.
  • Weakens the alternative minimum tax (AMT): The act retains the alternative minimum tax but changes the exemption to $109,400 for joint filers and increases the phaseout threshold to $1 million. The changes mean the AMT will affect far fewer people than before.
  • Bumps up child tax credit, adds family tax credit: The child tax credit increases to $2,000 from $1,000, with $1,400 of it being refundable even if no tax is owed. The phaseout threshold increases sharply to $400,000 from $110,000 for joint filers, making it available to more taxpayers. Also, dependents ineligible for the child tax credit can qualify for a new $500-per-person family tax credit.
  • Doubles estate tax exemption: Estate taxes will apply to even fewer people, with the exemption doubled to $11.2 million ($22.4 million for married couples).

What stays the same for individuals:

  • Itemized charitable deductions: Remain largely the same.
  • Itemized medical expense deductions: Remain largely the same. The deduction threshold drops back to 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income for 2017 and 2018, but reverts to 10 percent in the following years.
  • Some above-the-line deductions: Remain the same, including $250 of educator expenses and $2,500 of qualified student loan interest.
  • Gift tax deduction: Remains and increases to $15,000 from $14,000 for 2018.

Farewell to the healthcare individual mandate penalty

One of the changes in the tax act is the suspension of the individual mandate penalty in the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”). The penalty is set to zero starting in 2019, but remains in place for 2018 and prior years.

Tip: Retain your Form 1095s, which will provide evidence of your healthcare coverage. Without it, you may have to pay the individual mandate penalty, which is the higher of $695 or 2.5 percent of income. Beginning in 2019, this penalty is set to zero.

NOTICE: The IRS recently granted employers and health care providers a 30-day filing extension for Forms 1095-B and 1095-C, to March 2, 2018. The IRS clarified that taxpayers are not required to wait until receipt of these forms to file their taxes.

 

New 2018 tax bracket structures for individuals

Single taxpayer

Taxable income over But not over Is taxed at
$0 $9,525 10%
$9,525 $38,700 12%
$38,700 $82,500 22%
$82,500 $157,500 24%
$157,500 $200,000 32%
$200,000 $500,000 35%
$500,000   37%

Head of household

Taxable income over But not over Is taxed at
$0 $13,600 10%
$13,600 $51,800 12%
$51,800 $82,500 22%
$82,500 $157,500 24%
$157,500 $200,000 32%
$200,000 $500,000 35%
$500,000   37%

 

Married filing jointly

Taxable income over But not over Is taxed at
$0 $19,050 10%
$19,050 $77,400 12%
$77,400 $165,000 22%
$165,000 $315,000 24%
$315,000 $400,000 32%
$400,000 $600,000 35%
$600,000   37%

 

Married filing separately

Taxable income over But not over Is taxed at
$0 $9,525 10%
$9,525 $38,700 12%
$38,700 $82,500 22%
$82,500 $157,500 24%
$157,500 $200,000 32%
$200,000 $300,000 35%
$300,000   37%

 

Estates and trusts

Taxable income over But not over Is taxed at
$0 $2,550 10%
$2,550 $9,150 24%
$9,150 $12,500 35%
$12,500   37%

This brief summary of the tax reform act is provided for your information. Any major financial decisions or tax-planning activities in light of this new legislation should be considered with the advice of a tax professional. Call if you have questions regarding your particular situation. Feel free to share this memo with those you think may benefit from it.

Information from Knutte & Associates, Tax Reform Newsletter 12-28-17 was used in this blog post.

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Should I File a Tax Return?

Should I File a Tax Return?

Most people file a tax return because they have to. Even if a taxpayer doesn’t have to file, there are times they should. They may be eligible for a tax refund and not know it.

Here are five tips on whether to file a tax return:

  1. General Filing Rules.  In most cases, income, filing status and age determine if a taxpayer must file a tax return. Other rules may apply if the taxpayer is self-employed or a dependent of another person. For example, if a taxpayer is single and under age 65, they must file if their income was at least $10,350 (for 2016). There are other instances when a taxpayer must file. Contact one of the professionals at Fox Peterson for more information.
  2. Tax Withheld or Paid.  Did the taxpayer’s employer withhold federal income tax from their pay? Did the taxpayer make estimated tax payments? Did they overpay last year and have it applied to this year’s tax? If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, they could be due a refund. They have to file a tax return to get it.
  3. Earned Income Tax Credit.  A taxpayer who worked and earned less than $53,505 last year could receive the EITC as a tax refund. They must qualify and may do so with or without a qualifying child. They may be eligible for up to $6,269. The professionals at Fox Peterson can help determine eligibility, or the IRS’ 2016 EITC Assistant tool on IRS.gov can also help. Taxpayers need to file a tax return to claim the EITC.
  4. Additional Child Tax Credit.  Did the taxpayer have at least one child that qualifies for the Child Tax Credit? If they do not qualify for the full credit amount, they may be eligible for the Additional Child Tax Credit. Beginning in January 2017, by law, the IRS must hold refunds for any tax return claiming either the EITC or the Additional Child Tax Credit until Feb. 15. This means the entire refund, not just the part related to either credit.
  5. American Opportunity Tax Credit.  To claim the AOTC, the taxpayer, their spouse or their dependent must have been a student enrolled at least half time for one academic period to qualify. The credit is available for four years of post-secondary education. It can be worth up to $2,500 per eligible student. Even if the taxpayer doesn’t owe any taxes, they may still qualify. Complete Form 8863, Education Credits, and file it with the tax return. Learn more by visiting the Education Credits web page.

The professionals at Fox Peterson can help with questions on any of these points. Information from IRS Tax Tip 2017-02 was used in this blog post.

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Debt Cancellation May be Taxable

Debt Cancellation May be Taxable

If a lender cancels part or all of a debt, a taxpayer must generally consider this as income. However, the law allows an exclusion that may apply to homeowners who had their mortgage debt canceled in 2016.

Here are 10 tips about debt cancellation:

  1. Main Home. If the canceled debt was a loan on a taxpayer’s main home, they may be able to exclude the canceled amount from their income. They must have used the loan to buy, build or substantially improve their main home to qualify. Their main home must also secure the mortgage.
  2. Loan Modification. If a taxpayer’s lender canceled or reduced part of their mortgage balance through a loan modification or ‘workout,’ the taxpayer may be able to exclude that amount from their income. They may also be able to exclude debt discharged as part of the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP. The exclusion may also apply to the amount of debt canceled in a foreclosure.
  3. Refinanced Mortgage. The exclusion may apply to amounts canceled on a refinanced mortgage. This applies only if the taxpayer used proceeds from the refinancing to buy, build or substantially improve their main home and only up to the amount of the old mortgage principal just before refinancing. Amounts used for other purposes do not qualify.
  4. Other Canceled Debt. Other types of canceled debt such as second homes, rental and business property, credit card debt or car loans do not qualify for this special exclusion. On the other hand, there are other rules that may allow those types of canceled debts to be nontaxable.
  5. Form 1099-C. If a lender reduced or canceled at least $600 of a taxpayer’s debt, the taxpayer should receive Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, by Feb. 1. This form shows the amount of canceled debt and other information.
  6. Form 982. If a taxpayer qualifies, report the excluded debt on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness. They should file the form with their income tax return.
  7. Exclusion Extended. The law that authorized the exclusion of cancelled debt from income was extended through Dec. 31, 2016.

 

Information from IRS Tax Tip 2017-23 was used in this blog post

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The Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act

THE FAIR WAGES AND HEALTHY FAMILIES ACT

Earned Paid Sick Time

 Employers: click here to download a pdf of the AZ Earned Paid Sick Time Poster 2017

EXEMPTIONS: The Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act (the “Act”) does not apply to any person who is employed by a parent or a sibling; any person who is employed performing babysitting services in the employer’s home on a casual basis; or any person employed by the State of Arizona or the United States government.

ENTITLEMENT AND AMOUNT:

Beginning July 1, 2017, employees are entitled to earned paid sick time and accrue a minimum of one hour of earned paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, subject to the following limitations:

  • Employees whose employers have less than 15 employees may only accrue or use 24 hours of earned paid sick time per year.
  • Employees whose employers have 15 or more employees may only accrue or use 40 hours of earned paid sick time per year.

Employers are permitted to select higher accrual and use limits.

TERMS OF USE: Earned paid sick time may be used for the following purposes: (1) medical care or mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or (2) a public health emergency; and (3) absence due to domestic violence, sexual violence, abuse, or stalking. Employees may use earned paid sick time for themselves or for family members. See Arizona Revised Statutes § 23-373 for more information.

RETALIATION & DISCRIMINATION PROHIBITED:

Employers are prohibited from discriminating against or subjecting any person to retaliation for: (1) asserting any claim or right under the Act, including requesting or using earned paid sick time; (2) assisting any person in doing so; or (3) informing any person of their rights under the Act.

ENFORCEMENT: Each employee has the right to file a complaint with the Industrial

Commission’s Labor Department alleging that an employer has violated the Act. Certain time limits apply. A civil action may also be filed as provided in the Act. Violations of the Act may result in penalties.

INFORMATION: For additional information regarding the Act, you may refer to the Industrial Commission’s website at www.azica.gov or contact the Industrial Commission’s Labor Department: 800 W. Washington, Phoenix, Arizona 85007-2022; (602) 542-4515.

The State of Arizona is requesting that THIS POSTER be conspicuously posted in a place that is accessible to employees.

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Late Filing and Late Payment Tips

Late Filing and Late Payment Tips

April 18 was this year’s deadline for most people to file their federal tax return and pay any tax they owe. If you are due a refund there is no penalty if you file a late tax return. If you owe tax, and you failed to file and pay on time, you will most likely owe interest and penalties on the tax you pay late. To keep interest and penalties to a minimum, you should file your tax return and pay the tax as soon as possible. Here are some facts that you should know.

Late Filing and Late Payment Tips

1. Two penalties may apply. One penalty is for filing late (5%) and one is for paying late (.5%). They can add up fast. Interest accrues on top of the penalties. The interest rate as of April 2017 is 4%.

2. Penalty for late filing. If you file your 2015 tax return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is $205 or, if you owe less than $205, 100 percent of the unpaid tax. Otherwise, the penalty can be as much as five percent of your unpaid taxes each month up to a maximum of 25 percent.

3. Penalty for late payment. The penalty is generally 0.5 percent of your unpaid taxes per month. It can build up to as much as 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.

4. Combined penalty per month. If both the late filing and late payment penalties apply, the maximum amount charged for the two penalties is 5 percent per month.

5. File even if you can’t pay. Filing on time and paying as much as you can will keep your interest and penalties to a minimum. If you can’t pay in full, getting a loan or paying by debit or credit card may be less expensive than owing the IRS. If you do owe the IRS, the sooner you pay your bill the less you will owe.

6. Payment Options. Explore your payment options on our website at IRS.gov/payments. For individuals, IRS Direct Pay is a fast and free way to pay directly from your checking or savings account. The IRS will work with you to help you resolve your tax debt. Most people can set up a payment plan using the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov.

7. Late payment penalty may not apply. If you requested an extension of time to file your income tax return by the tax due date and paid at least 90 percent of the taxes you owe, you may not face a failure-to-pay penalty. However, you must pay the remaining balance by the extended due date. You will owe interest on any taxes you pay after the April 18 due date.

Information from IRS Tax Tip 2016-66 was used in this blog post. Contact the professionals at Fox Peterson to help you determine your best option for filing your taxes and minimizing your penalties and interest.

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Facts about the Child Tax Credit

Facts about the Child Tax Credit  

The Child Tax Credit is an important tax credit that may save you up to $1,000 for each eligible qualifying child. Be sure you qualify before you claim it. Here are five useful facts from the IRS on the Child Tax Credit:

  1. Qualifications. For the Child Tax Credit, a qualifying child must pass several tests:
  • Age. The child must have been under age 17 at the end of 2015.
  • Relationship. The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, Child Tax Creditstepsister, half brother, or half sister. The child may be a descendant of any of these individuals. A qualifying child could also include your grandchild, niece or nephew. You would always treat an adopted child as your own child. An adopted child includes a child lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.
  • Support. The child must have not provided more than half of their own support for the year.
  • Dependent. The child must be a dependent that you claim on your federal tax return.
  • Joint return. The child cannot file a joint return for the year, unless the only reason they are filing is to claim a refund.
  • Citizenship. The child must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or a U.S. resident alien.
  • Residence. In most cases, the child must have lived with you for more than half of 2015.

 

  1. Limitations. The Child Tax Credit is subject to income limitations. The limits may reduce or eliminate your credit depending on your filing status and income.
  2. Additional Child Tax Credit. If you qualify and get less than the full Child Tax Credit, you could receive a refund even if you owe no tax with the Additional Child Tax Credit.
  3. Schedule 8812. If you qualify to claim the Child Tax Credit, make sure to check if you must complete and attach Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, with your tax return. For example, if you claim a credit for a child with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, you must complete Part I of Schedule 8812. If you qualify to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit, you must complete and attach Schedule 8812. You can visit IRS.gov to view, download or print IRS tax forms anytime.

Information from IRS Tax Tip 2016-27 was used in this blog post.

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Do I Need To File a Tax Return?

Do I Need To File a Tax Return?

Most people file a tax return because they have to, but even if you don’t, there are times when you should. You may be eligible for a tax refund and not know it. Here are six tips to help you find out if you should file a tax return:

  1. General Filing Rules. Whether you need to file a tax return depends on a few factors. In most cases, the amount of your income, your filing status and your age determine if you must file a tax return. For example, if you’re single and under age 65 you must file if your income was at least $10,300. Other rules may apply if you’re self-employed or if you’re a dependent of another person. There are also other cases when you must file. If you have specific question feel free to ask one of our tax professionals.
  2. Premium Tax Credit. If you enrolled in health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2015, you may be eligible for the premium tax credit. You will need to file a return to claim the credit. If you chose to have advance payments of the premium tax credit sent directly to your insurer during 2015 you must file a federal tax return. You will reconcile any advance payments with the allowable premium tax credit. You should receive Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, by early February. The form will have information that will help you file your tax return
  3. Tax Withheld or Paid. Did your employer withhold federal income tax from your pay? Did you make estTax Time Post Itimated tax payments? Did you overpay last year and have it applied to this year’s tax? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you could be due a refund. But you have to file a tax return to get it.
  4. Earned Income Tax Credit. Did you work and earn less than $53,267 last year? You could receive EITC as a tax refund, if you qualify, with or without a qualifying child. You may be eligible for up to $6,242. Use the 2015 EITC Assistant tool on IRS.gov to find out if you qualify. If you do, file a tax return to claim it.
  5. Additional Child Tax Credit. Do you have at least one child that qualifies for the Child Tax Credit? If you don’t get the full credit amount, you may qualify for the Additional Child Tax Credit.
  6. American Opportunity Tax Credit. The AOTC is available for four years of post secondary education and can be up to $2,500 per eligible student. You, your spouse or your dependent must have been a student enrolled at least half time for at least one academic period. Even if you don’t owe any taxes, you still may qualify. You must complete Form 8863, Education Credits, and file it with your return to claim the credit. Use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov to see if you can claim the credit. Learn more by visiting the IRS’ Education Credits Web page.

Information from IRS Tax Tip 2016-03 was used in this blog post. As always, the tax professionals at Fox Peterson are available to answer any questions.

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Reasonable Compensation

What is Reasonable Compensation for a shareholder-employee of an S Corporation?

The IRS requires that S corporations “pay reasonable compensation to a shareholder-employee in return for services that the employee provides to the corporation before non-wage distributions may be made to the shareholder-employee.” Fox Peterson can help you determine what your compensation should be in accordance with IRS guidelines. On the IRS website under the heading of “S Corporation Compensation and Medical Issues”, the IRS states “The key to establishing reasonable compensation is determining what the shareholder-employee did for the S Corporation”.

So what factors determine what “reasonable compensation” is for a shareholder-employee? First we look at the source of the S Corporation’s gross receipts. Gross receipts are typically broken into the following three major sources:

  1. Services of shareholderReasonable Compensation Shake
  2. Services of non-shareholder employees
  3. Capital and equipment

If most of the income and profits are from the personal services of the shareholder, then most of the profit distribution should be allocated as compensation. If the majority of gross receipts and profits come from non-shareholder employees or capital and equipment, then a lower amount of the profit distribution can be allocated as compensation.

IRS auditors are also instructed that the “shareholder employee should also be compensated for administrative work performed for the other income producing employees or assets.” For example, a manager may not directly produce gross receipts, but he assists the other employees or assets which are producing the day-to-day gross receipts.

Some factors in determining reasonable compensation:

  1. Training and experienceReasonable Compensation Training
  2. Duties and responsibilities
  3. Time and effort devoted to the business
  4. Dividend history
  5. Payments to non-shareholder employees
  6. Timing and manner of paying bonuses to key people
  7. What comparable businesses pay for similar services
  8. Compensation agreements
  9. The use of a formula to determine compensation.

Lastly, the total of reasonable compensation cannot exceed the amount received by the shareholder either directly or indirectly. Accordingly, if the taxpayer only receives $10,000 from the S Corp during the year, the maximum “reasonable compensation” issue is limited to $10,000.

Contact the professionals at Fox Peterson for help in determining what reasonable compensation is for your S Corporation.

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October Due Dates

October Due Dates

October is traditionally chock-full of scary activities such as horror-fests of books and movies, Halloween — and various tax due dates. Though it’s still September, those due dates are creeping up faster than you think. Fortunately, acting now can save the day. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Individual income tax returns. The automatic six-month extension of time to file your 2014 federal income tax return ends on October 15.
  • IRA NestRetirement plans. The deadline for setting up a Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) for your business is October 1. SIMPLEs are easy to establish and maintain, and you may be eligible for a credit of up to $500 to offset the cost of filing the paperwork and getting your employees enrolled.The maximum contribution for SIMPLE plans in 2015 is $12,500, plus an extra $3,000 when you’re over age 50.Prefer a different retirement plan? Consider a Simplified Employee Pension plan (SEP). If you’re a sole proprietor and you requested an extension of time to file your tax return, the last day to establish and fund a SEP is October 15. For 2015, the maximum contribution is $53,000.
  • IRAs. October 15 is the deadline for recharacterizing your 2014 Roth conversion.You may want to consider “undoing” a Roth conversion if you made a mistake by converting last year, or if the value of your account is lower than when you originally made the conversion.October 15 is also the last date to withdraw excess contributions from your IRAs and certain other retirement accounts. Putting too much money into these plans can result in an excise tax of 6%, assessed each year on the excess amount.

Do approaching deadlines leave you uneasy? We’re here to help you stay ahead of them. Give us a call.

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Sale of Principal Residence

Sale of Principal Residence

In most cases, gains from sales are taxable. But did you know that if you sell your home, you may not have to pay taxes? Here are ten facts to keep in mind if you sell your home this year.

  1. Exclusion of Gain.  You may be able to exclude part or all of the gain from the sale of your home. This rule may apply if you meet the eligibility test. Parts of the test involve your ownership and use of the home. You must have owned and used it as your main home for at least two out of the five years before the date of sale.
  2. Exceptions May Apply.  There are exceptions to the ownership, use and other rules. One exception applies to persons with a disability. Another applies to certain members of the military. That rule includes certain government and Peace Corps workers. For more on this topic, see Publication 523, Selling Your Home.
  3. Exclusion Limit.  The most gain you can exclude from tax is $250,000. This limit is $500,000 for joint returns. The Net Investment Income Tax will not apply to the excluded gain.
  4. May Not Need to Report Sale.  If the gain is not taxable, you may not need to report the sale to the IRS on your tax return.
  5. When You Must Report the Sale.  You must report F8949 picturethe sale on your tax return if you can’t exclude all or part of the gain. You must report the sale if you choose not to claim the exclusion. That’s also true if you get Form 1099-S, Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions.
  6. Exclusion Frequency Limit.  Generally, you may exclude the gain from the sale of your main home only once every two years. Some exceptions may apply to this rule.
  7. Only a Main Home Qualifies.  If you own more than one home, you may only exclude the gain on the sale of your main home. Your main home usually is the home that you live in most of the time.
  8. First-time Homebuyer Credit.  If you claimed the first-time homebuyer credit when you bought the home, special rules apply to the sale. For more on those rules, see Publication 523.
  9. Home Sold at a Loss.  If you sell your main home at a loss, you can’t deduct the loss on your tax return.
  10. Report Your Address Change.  After you sell your home and move, update your address with the IRS. To do this, file Form 8822, Change of Address. You can find the address to send it to in the form’s instructions on page two. If you purchase health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you should also notify the Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace plan.

Information from IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2015-13 was used in this blog post.

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