Once again, tax planning for the year ahead presents a number of challenges, first and foremost being what tax reform measures (if any) will actually become legislation–and when they take effect (e.g. retroactive to January 1, 2017, or a future date). Furthermore, a number of tax extenders expired at the end of 2016, which may or may not be reauthorized by Congress and made retroactive to the beginning of the year. And then, of course, there are the normal variations in individual tax circumstances such as the sale of a home that could bump up income into another tax bracket.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the tax strategies you can use given the current uncertainties.
General Tax Planning
General tax planning strategies for individuals this year include postponing income and accelerating deductions, as well as careful consideration of timing related investments, charitable gifts, and retirement planning. For example, taxpayers might consider using one or more of the following:
- Selling any investments on which you have a gain or loss this year. For more on this, see Investment Gains and Losses, below.
- If you anticipate an increase in taxable income this year (2017) and are expecting a bonus at year-end, try to get it before December 31. Keep in mind, however, that contractual bonuses are different, in that they are typically not paid out until the first quarter of the following year. Therefore, any taxes owed on a contractual bonus would not be due until you file your 2018 tax return in 2019. Don’t hesitate to call the office if you have any questions about this.
- Prepaying deductible expenses such as charitable contributions and medical expenses this year using a credit card. This strategy works because deductions may be taken based on when the expense was charged on the credit card, not when the bill was paid.
For example, if you charge a medical expense in December but pay the bill in January, assuming it’s an eligible medical expense, it can be taken as a deduction on your 2017 tax return.
- If your company grants stock options, you may want to exercise the option or sell stock acquired by exercise of an option this year if you think your tax bracket will be higher in 2018. Exercising this option is often but not always a taxable event; sale of the stock is almost always a taxable event.
- If you’re self-employed, send invoices or bills to clients or customers this year to be paid in full by the end of December.
Caution: Keep an eye on the estimated tax requirements.
There are a number of end of year tax planning strategies that businesses can use to reduce their tax burden for 2017. Here are a few of them:
Businesses using the cash method of accounting can defer income into 2018 by delaying end-of-year invoices, so payment is not received until 2018. Businesses using the accrual method can defer income by postponing delivery of goods or services until January 2018.
Purchase New Business Equipment
Section 179 Expensing. Business should take advantage of Section 179 expensing this year for a couple of reasons. First, is that in 2017 businesses can elect to expense (deduct immediately) the entire cost of most new equipment up to a maximum of $510,000 for the first $2,030,000 million of property placed in service by December 31, 2017. Keep in mind that the Section 179 deduction cannot exceed net taxable business income. The deduction is phased out dollar for dollar on amounts exceeding the $2.03 million threshold and eliminated above amounts exceeding $2.5 million.
Bonus Depreciation. Businesses are able to depreciate 50 percent of the cost of equipment acquired and placed in service during 2015, 2016 and 2017. However, the bonus depreciation is reduced to 40 percent in 2018 and 30 percent in 2019.
Qualified property is defined as property that you placed in service during the tax year and used predominantly (more than 50 percent) in your trade or business. Property that is placed in service and then disposed of in that same tax year does not qualify, nor does property converted to personal use in the same tax year it is acquired.
Note: Many states have not matched these amounts and, therefore, state tax may not allow for the maximum federal deduction. In this case, two sets of depreciation records will be needed to track the federal and state tax impact.
Please contact the office if you have any questions regarding qualified property. Continue reading
If you contribute property to a qualified organization, the amount of your charitable contribution is generally the fair market value of the property at the time of the contribution. However, if the property fits into one of the categories discussed here, the amount of your deduction must be decreased. As with many aspects of tax law, the rules are quite complex. If you’re considering a charitable contribution of property, here’s what you need to know:
After discussing how to determine the fair market value of something you donate, we’ll discuss the following categories of charitable gifts of property:
- Contributions subject to special rules
- Property that has decreased in value;
- Property that has increased in value;
- Food Inventory.
- Bargain Sales.
Tax breaks for charitable giving aren’t limited to individuals, your small business can benefit as well. If you own a small to medium size business and are committed to giving back to the community through charitable giving, here’s what you should know.
1. Verify that the Organization is a Qualified Charity.
Once you’ve identified a charity, you’ll need to make sure it is a qualified charitable organization under the IRS. Qualified organizations must meet specific requirements as well as IRS criteria and are often referred to as 501(c)(3) organizations. Note that not all tax-exempt organizations are 501(c)(3) status, however.
There are two ways to verify whether a charity is qualified: use the IRS online search tool or ask the charity to send you a copy of their IRS determination letter confirming their exempt status. Continue reading
As the end of year approaches and tax season right around the corner, taxpayers who are victims of a natural disaster might need to reconstruct records to prove their loss. Doing this may be essential for tax purposes, getting federal assistance, or insurance reimbursement. With that in mind, here are some tips will help individual taxpayers, as well as business owners, reconstruct their records after a disaster. Continue reading
Certain energy-efficient home improvements can cut your energy bills and save you money at tax time. While many of these tax credits expired at the end of 2016, tax credits for residential and non-business energy-efficient solar technologies do not expire until December 31, 2021. Here are some key facts that you should know about these tax credits: Continue reading
Businesses often need to hire workers on a seasonal or part-time basis. For example, some businesses may need seasonal help for holidays, harvest seasons, commercial fishing, or sporting events. Whether you are getting paid or paying someone else, questions often arise over whether these seasonal workers affect employers with regard to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
For the purposes of the Affordable Care Act the size of an employer is determined by the number of employees. As such, employer-offered benefits, opportunities, and requirements are dependent upon your organization’s size and the applicable rules. For instance, if you have at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, on average during the prior year, you are an ALE (Applicable Large Employer) for the current calendar year.
If you hire seasonal or holiday workers, you should know how these employees are counted under the health care law: Continue reading