Newsletters
Tax Alerts
Tax Briefing(s)

Small business taxation, corporate tax rates, and changes to popular deductions are just some of the many complex changes to the Tax Code being debated in Congress. At the time this article was posted, the Senate is expected to approve, along party-lines, a sweeping overhaul of the Tax Code written by Senate Republicans. The House has already approved its tax bill, also along party-lines. If the Senate passes a tax bill, House and Senate conferees will seek to resolve differences between the two bills. Conferees will likely aim to reach an agreement quickly to send a bill to the White House before year-end.


As an economic incentive for individuals to save and invest, gains from the sale of capital assets held for at least one year unless offset by losses, as well qualified dividends received during the year, may be taxed at rates lower than ordinary income tax rates. The tax rate on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends for individuals is 20 percent, 15, percent, or 0 percent depending on their income tax bracket.


Information reporting has become a growing part of IRS’s enforcement and compliance strategy. Data matching, or even the inference that the IRS has the data to do so, statistically has increased overall income reporting nine-fold. Use of information returns, either in the form of Forms W-2, 1098s or 1099s, is here to stay, and growing.


Life insurance proceeds are received tax-free. However, any interest earned on life insurance proceeds, usually referred to as its cash value, is subject to tax. Special rules apply to transfers of ownership in a life insurance policy, accelerated death benefits, and viatical settlements.


The method and systems by which a taxpayer calculates the amount of income, gains, losses, deductions, and credits and determines when these items must be reported, constitute the taxpayer's method of tax accounting. Although the Tax Code and the regulations authorize the use of several accounting methods, and permit certain combinations of methods, a taxpayer must use the accounting method on the basis of which the taxpayer regularly computes book income. Further, the method must be used consistently and must clearly reflect income.


As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important federal tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of December 2017.


A taxpayer's expenses incurred due to travel outside of the United States for business activities are deductible, but under a stricter set of rules than domestic travel. Foreign travel expenses may be subject to special allocation rules if a taxpayer engages in personal activities while traveling on business. Expenses subject to allocation include travel fares, meals, lodging, and other expenses incident to travel.

If you own a vacation home, you may be considering whether renting the property for some of the time could come with big tax breaks. More and more vacation homeowners are renting their property. But while renting your vacation home can help defray costs and provide certain tax benefits, it also may raise some complex tax issues.

Although you may want your traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs) to keep accumulating tax-free well into your old age, the IRS sets certain deadlines. The price for getting an upfront deduction when contributing to a traditional IRA (or having a rollover IRA) is that Uncle Sam eventually starts taxing it once you reach 70½. The required minimum distribution (RMD) rules under the Internal Revenue Code accomplish that.

Businesses benefit from many tax breaks. If you are in business with the objective of making a profit, you can generally claim all your business deductions. If your deductions exceed your income for the year, you can claim a loss for the year, up to the amount of your income from other activities. Remaining losses can be carried over into other years.

If someone told you that you could exchange an apartment house for a store building without recognizing a taxable gain or loss, you might not believe him or her. You might already know about a very valuable business planning and tax tool: a like-kind exchange. In some cases, if you trade business property for other business property of the same asset class, you do not need to recognize a taxable gain or loss.

Every year, Americans donate billions of dollars to charity. Many donations are in cash. Others take the form of clothing and household items. With all this money involved, it's inevitable that some abuses occur. The new Pension Protection Act cracks down on abuses by requiring that all donations of clothing and household items be in "good used condition or better.

Q. A promising investment opportunity proved too good to be true and I have incurred some stock losses. I still have faith in the company and don't want to abandon it but can I use some of these losses to offset gains from other stocks? If I sell these shares at a loss and immediately buy them back, what would the tax consequences be?

Given a choice between recognizing income now or in a later year, most people want to be paid now and be taxed in a later year. As a practical matter, however, an employee cannot defer compensation after performing services and becoming entitled to payment. Routine compensation earned over a prescribed pay period -- a week, two weeks, or a month, for example - usually is paid or made available in the same year it was earned. Recognition of the income cannot be put off to a later year.

One of the easiest ways for a business to limit liability is to use independent contractors instead of employees. Of course, merely calling employees "independent contractors" will not make those individuals independent contractors.

Many people are surprised to learn that some "luxury" items can be deductible business expenses. Of course, moderation is key. Excessive spending is sure to attract the IRS's attention. As some recent high-profile court cases have shown, the government isn't timid in its crackdown on business owners using company funds for personal travel and entertainment.

Whether a parent who employs his or her child in a family business must withhold FICA and pay FUTA taxes will depend on the age of the teenager, the amount of income the teenager earns and the type of business.

Owning a vacation home is a common dream that many people share...a special place to get away from the weekday routine, relax and maybe, after you retire, a new place to call home.

For U.S. taxpayers, owning assets held in foreign countries may have a variety of benefits, from ease of use for frequent travelers or those employed abroad to diversification of an investment portfolio. There are, however, additional rules and requirements to follow in connection with the payment of taxes. Some of these rules are very different from those for similar types of domestic income, and more than a few are quite complex.

If you pay for domestic-type services in your home, you may be considered a "domestic employer" for purposes of employment taxes. As a domestic employer, you in turn may be required to report, withhold, and pay employment taxes on a calendar-year basis. The reporting rules apply to both FICA and FUTA taxes, as well as to income taxes that domestic employees elect to have withheld from their wages. The FICA tax rate, applied separately to the employer's share and the employee's share, is 7.65 percent.

This is a simple question, but the question does not have a simple answer. Generally speaking the answer is no, closing costs are not deductible when refinancing. However, the answer depends on what you mean by "closing costs" and what is done with the money obtained in the refinancing.

Most homeowners have found that over the past five to ten years, real estate -especially the home in which they live-- has proven to be a great investment. When the 1997 Tax Law passed, most homeowners assumed that the eventual sale of their home would be tax free. At that time, Congress exempted from tax at least $250,000 of gain on the sale of a principal residence; $500,000 if a joint return was filed. Now, those exemption amounts, which are not adjusted for inflation, don't seem too generous for many homeowners.

Saving money, whether for retirement, education, travel, or any reason, requires a lot of self-discipline. If you're like most people, the thought of saving money conjures up visions of endless budgeting. All those hours of budgeting take away from scarce free time. One method of saving is relatively painless...at least, once you have the money to save. It's often described as the magic of compound interest.

The general rule on business expenses is that you must prove everything in detail to be entitled to a deduction. Logs, preferably made contemporaneously to the business transaction, must show date, amount, and business purpose and you must produce receipts. Fortunately, the tax law has a practical side. Congress, the IRS and the courts each have applied their own brand of practicality in allowing certain exceptions to be made to the business substantiation rule.

Just because you're married doesn't mean you have to file a joint return. This is a common misconception along with thinking that "married filing separately" applies to couples who are separated or seeking a divorce. As a married couple, you have two choices: file a joint return or file separate returns. Naturally, there are benefits and detriments to each and your tax advisor can chart the best course of action for you.

The IRS has some good news for you. Under new rules, you may be able to gain a partial tax break on the full $250,000 capital gain exclusion ($500,000 if you file jointly with your spouse), even if you haven't satisfied the normal "two out of five year test" necessary to gain that tax benefit. You may qualify for an exception.


As a business owner you have likely heard about the tax advantages of setting up a retirement plan for you and your employees. Many small business owners, however, have also heard some of the horror stories and administrative nightmares that can go along with plan sponsorship. Through marketing information that you receive, you may have learned that a simplified employer plan (SEP) is a retirement plan you can sponsor without the administrative hassle associated with establishing other company plans, including Keoghs.


Q. Since our children are grown and now out on their own, my husband and I are considering selling our large home and purchasing a small townhouse. We have owned our home for years and have quite a lot of equity built up. How do we figure out how much our potential capital gain would be? Will we pay more in taxes because we are moving to a less expensive home?


Fringe benefits to employees often provide the "sizzle" to keep them aboard during times of high employment. One increasingly popular benefit -- from the perspective of both employees and employers alike -- comes in the form of "qualified transportation fringe benefits." Set up properly, this fringe benefit arrangement can fund a substantial portion of an employee's commuting expenses with either pre-tax dollars or tax-free employer-provided benefits.


A number of charities use the Internet to solicit funds, allowing potential donors to make contributions online. You can even create an account in a special type of planned giving instrument: a donor-advised fund. What are these funds, and are they right for you?


Q. I am reviewing my portfolio and considering selling some of my stock. How do I determine what tax basis I have in the publicly-traded shares that I own for purposes of determining my gain or loss if I buy and sell multiple shares at different times? Does keeping track of basis really matter?


If you use your home computer for business purposes, knowing that you can deduct some or all of its costs can help ease the pain of the large initial and ongoing cash outlays. However, there are some tricky IRS rules that you should consider before taking - or forgoing - a deduction for home computer costs.


If you are considering selling business property that has substantially appreciated in value, you owe it to your business to explore the possibility of a like-kind exchange. Done properly, a like-kind exchange will allow you to transfer your appreciated business property without incurring a current tax liability. However, since the related tax rules can be complex, careful planning is needed to properly structure the transaction.


Incentive stock options (ISOs) give employees a "piece of the action" while allowing employers to attract workers at relatively inexpensive costs. However, before you accept that job offer, there are some intricate rules regarding the taxation of ISOs that you should understand.


Starting your own small business can be hectic - yet fun and personally fulfilling. As you work towards opening the doors, don't let the onerous task of keeping the books rain on your parade. With a little planning upfront and a promise to "keep it simple", you can get an effective system up and running in no time.


Business travel expenses are not created equal - some special rules apply to certain types of expenditures. Before you pack your bags for your next business trip, make sure that you have planned ahead to optimize your business travel deductions.


For homeowners, the exclusion of all or a portion of the gain on the sale of their principal residence is an important tax break.


Q. The recent upturn in home values has left me with quite a bit of equity in my home. I would like to tap into this equity to pay off my credit cards and make some major home improvements. If I get a home equity loan, will the interest I pay be fully deductible on my tax return?


Q. My wife and I are both retired and are what you might call "social gamblers". We like to play bingo and buy lottery tickets, and take an occasional trip to Las Vegas to play the slot machines. Are we required to report all of our winnings on our tax return? Can we deduct our losses?


In today's tight job market, small business owners are finding it increasingly difficult to keep good employees on board and content. A much overlooked employee benefit - employee achievement awards - can allow you to reward your best employees with tax-free income.


Q. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine borrowed some money from me to start a small business. The business didn't survive and has left my friend without the ability to pay me back. Since I'm sure I'll never see any of the money again, can I at least get a tax write-off?


Probably one of the more difficult decisions you will have to make as a consumer is whether to buy or lease your auto. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of buying vs. leasing a new car or truck before you get to the car dealership can ease the decision-making process and may alleviate unpleasant surprises later.


Q. Last year I underwent a number of elective surgical procedures and would like to deduct the cost of these expensive procedures on my personal tax return. What are the criteria for medical expenses to be deductible? Do they have to exceed a certain dollar amount?


In addition to decisions that affect the day to day operations of the company, the new business owner will also be faced with accounting and tax related decisions. Whether to use the cash or accrual method of accounting, for example, although not always a matter of choice, is an important decision that must be considered carefully.


Q. I've seen a lot of advertisements lately that tout the benefits of donating your car to charity. I have an old car that is sitting in my driveway and I haven't had time to try to sell it. Would I just be better off contributing it and getting a big write-off on my tax return?


Talking about money with your aging parents can be awkward but is a necessary step to make sure that their needs will be met during their lifetime. Taking a few minutes to talk with your parents about their finances can give all of you more peace of mind.


Q. I've just started my own business and am having a hard time deciding whether I should buy or lease the equipment I need before I open my doors. What are some of the things I should consider when making this decision?


Q. My company recently downsized its workforce and eliminated my position. I thought this would be a good opportunity to start my own consulting business in the same industry. What are some of the things I should consider before my last day on the job?


The rise of paperless processing and remote access to computer systems has made increased computer security imperative. Establishing an effective password system can help keep your data secure while allowing you greater control over the access to your company's vital information.


What do amounts paid for new swimming pools, Lamaze classes, lunches with friends, massages, and America Online fees have in common? All of these costs have been found to be legitimate tax deductions under certain circumstances. As you gather your information for the preparation of your tax return, it may pay to take a closer look at the items you spent money on during the year.


The Internet has taken investing to a whole different level: inexpensive online trading and real-time stock market data have made many of us 'armchair investors'. As you actively manage your investments, you will no doubt incur additional expenses. Many of these expenses are deductible investment expenses.

Below is a list of questions and answers to some of the basic topics you come across when reporting the sale of stock. Stock basis, holding periods, wash sale rules and sales of mutual funds are just a few of the items clarified.

The decision to start your own business comes with many other important decisions. One of the first tasks you will encounter is choosing the legal form of your new business. There are quite a few choices of legal entities, each with their own advantages and disadvantages that must be taken into consideration along with your own personal tax situation.