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Tax Services Information
At our firm, our tax professionals will thoroughly explain your tax return and take the time to uncover all possible deductions and credits to reduce your tax liability and increase your refund. We feel that if we show and explain your return, not only will you have a better understanding about your tax situation, but together we can save you money. It’s all about getting more from your taxes by showing you how to get the best value for your tax preparation dollar.
Nowadays choosing the right tax accountant or advisor can be very challenging and somewhat confusing for various reasons. It is worthwhile to do a little research before engaging with anyone. Competency is as important as privacy and the safety of your personal and business information. At a time where fraudulent activities are rampant, it is crucial to deal with a trustworthy professional.
We always advise our customers to gather every and all of their tax related documents before getting ready for their income tax return preparation. The IRS link is one useful tool that can teach and prepare you when it comes to your personal and/or business/corporate income tax preparation.
Evidence and proof are keys to avoid doubt and unnecessary and dreaded audits. Whether your status is single, head of household, married filing jointly/separately, widow/er, it is crucial to pile of all your forms and evidence in order to obtain the appropriate and allowed credit for the tax year in question.
Having small children and/or qualified dependents? You, as taxpayer(s), MUST always consult with the IRS or with us to determine whether you are QUALIFIED for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and/or Child Tax Credit (CTC) among other refundable and non-refundable credits that will have an impact on your tax refund or liability.
It is important to note that tax laws change nearly each and every year. That is to say, your tax return from a prior year may NOT be the same as the current and subsequent years. Some of the credits that might have been available for a current tax year may not be similar to another year. In fact, a particular credit may completely be removed or not available because of the changes in tax laws. Each income tax return is unique and different. For instance, your neighbor's tax return will almost be certain to be different even though your income and filing status may be the same. There are number of factors that can impact your income tax return.
Contact us today to find out more about our tax preparation services. Call us at our toll free number 1-800-676-1804 or at our local number 954-572-1452.
TAXATION ON THE SALE OF A HOME
For most of us, our home represents our largest asset. Over time, the management of this asset can make a big difference in our overall financial outlook. One of the largest planning opportunities home ownership brings is the favorable tax treatment afforded the sale of a primary residence.
HOME SALE AS CAPITAL GAIN
The gain on the sale of a home is considered a gain on the sale of a capital asset. Any taxable profit you make is subject to a maximum long-term capital gain rate of 15% (5% for gains in the 10% to 15% federal income tax brackets) if you owned the house for more than 12 months. Gain on the sale of a home may only be taxable to the extent it exceeds $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) if certain conditions discussed below are met.
To determine your profit (gain), you subtract your basis from the sale price minus all costs and commissions. For instance, if you sell a house for $250,000, and must pay your broker 6% of the sale price -- or $15,000 -- your sale price for determining capital gain tax is $235,000 ($250,000 minus $15,000).
Say you bought that house 20 years ago, for $35,000. You have since redone the kitchen and bathrooms, put in new windows, added a bedroom, and a new roof. Your basis in the house is $35,000 plus the cost of all of the capital improvements you have made, providing you have paperwork to verify the costs. Let's assume the total cost of those improvements over the 20 years you owned the home is $40,000. In such a case, your basis would be $75,000. Your capital gain would be $235,000 minus $75,000, or $160,000. If you are in the 28% federal tax bracket or higher, your capital gain tax on your home sale would be $32,000 unless you use the principal residence exclusion.
THE PRIMARY RESIDENCE EXCLUSION
A $250,000 exclusion for single filers ($500,000 for joint filers) is now available to all taxpayers. You can claim the exclusion once every 2 years. To be eligible, you must have owned the residence and occupied it as a principal residence for at least 2 of the 5 years before the sale or exchange. If you fail to meet these requirements by reason of a change in place of employment, health, or other unforeseen circumstances you can exclude the fraction of the $250,000 ($500,000 if married filing a joint return) equal to the fraction of 2 years that these requirements are met.
TAX ASPECTS OF WORKING AT HOME
How much of their home office expenses can be deducted is one of the most misjudged tax questions faced by home workers. The reality of home office expense deductibility is much more complex than the common perception.
WHEN CAN HOME OFFICE EXPENSES BE DEDUCTED?
The costs associated with maintaining a home office can be deducted only if strict IRS guidelines are met -- generally that the office is used exclusively for business purposes.
The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 has eased the requirements for determining if the costs associated with a home office can be deducted. The new law states that a home office qualifies as a "principal place of business" if (1) the taxpayer uses the office to conduct administrative or management activities of a trade or business and (2) there is no other fixed location of the trade or business where the taxpayer conducts substantial administrative or management activities of the trade or business.
Deductions will continue to be allowed for a home office meeting the above two-part test only if the taxpayer uses the office exclusively on a regular basis as a place of business and, in the case of an employee, only if such exclusive use is for the employer's convenience.
HOME OFFICE DEDUCTION LIMITS
The home office deduction is limited to the gross income from the activity, reduced by expenses that would otherwise be deductible (such as mortgage interest and taxes) and all other expenses related to the activities that are not house-related. A deduction isn't allowed to the extent that it creates or increases a net loss from the activity. Any disallowed deduction may be carried over to future years.
YOUR PERSONAL FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
Personal financial statements are the roadmap that guides us from where we are today, to where we want to be tomorrow. They also provide fixed points of reference from which we can measure our progress over time.
PERSONAL FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
There are two basic personal financial statements that everyone should prepare, or have a financial advisor prepare, at least once each year; the cash flow statement and the balance sheet.
This process is a critical first step in financial planning. Tracking your financial position and progress gives you a great feeling of control -- you know where you are going financially. It helps you to make wise decisions about financial matters.
CASH FLOW STATEMENT
"Cash Flow" is how you spend your money. A cash flow statement is an ongoing financial document which tracks sources of income, uses of income, and the difference between the two (surplus funds which should be invested towards future financial objectives.)
If you keep a budget, you are, in essence, keeping a running cash flow statement. By tracking your cash flow on a monthly basis you will be better prepared to meet your financial needs:
- short term expenses - your day to day expenses and standard of living items such as food, transportation, childcare, etc.
- recurring expenses - periodic payments for items such as periodic insurance premiums, tax payments, medical and dental expenses, etc.
- financial emergencies - an emergency fund of six months salary will provide cash for emergencies instead of going into debt.
- intermediate and long term goals - systematic planning and saving will help you meet the financial objectives that others cannot.
Your balance sheet is a snapshot of your personal net worth.
Total Assets less Total Liabilities equals Your Net Worth
Total Assets: A list of current estimated value of your assets might include the following: cash in banks and money market accounts, cash surrender value of life insurance policies, IRA & Keogh accounts, pension and 401(k) accounts, real estate, and personal property. Add them up and you'll have a figure that represents your Total Assets at the moment.
Total Liabilities: Next, make a list of your liabilities, which might include the following: mortgage, bank loans, car loans, charge accounts, taxes owed, college loans, etc. Add these up and you'll have a list of your Total Liabilities. Hopefully, it's less than your assets!
Your Net Worth: Your personal net worth is the difference between your total assets and your total liabilities.
As the control you gain through cash flow management turns into increased savings, your success is reflected in an increasing net worth. The process of preparing personal financial statements will bring you closer to controlling your personal finances and accumulating sufficient assets to meet your objectives.
YEAR END FINANCIAL PLANNING
The best financial decisions are made with the benefit of time, thoughtful consideration and trusted professional advice. As tax time once again approaches, there are many things you can do to give you the flexibility to make the best long term financial decisions and prepare to minimize expenses, taxes and the headache of organizing your finances at the last minute.
ORGANIZE YOUR TAX RECORDS EARLY
In preparing for this year’s tax filing you should begin to organize tax records including year end investment statements, capital gains and losses from asset sales, transaction records from real estate transactions, interest and dividend records for the year (1099s), payroll and withholding statements (W-2s), records corresponding with deductible expenses such as property taxes and insurance, business income and expense records, etc.
REVIEW YOUR INSURANCE COVERAGES
At least once each year you should gather your insurance records together and review the adequacy of your coverages. Be sure to evaluate all coverages including life insurance, disability insurance, homeowners insurance, auto insurance, liability insurance, renters insurance, etc.
STORE YOUR DOCUMENTS
All your difficult to replace legal and financial documents should be stored in a safe and fireproof location. Consider renting a safe-deposit box at your local bank or credit union, or purchase a fireproof lockbox from your local office supplies outlet. Documents you should store include wills, trusts, powers of attorney, titles of ownership (your home, cars, etc.), Social Security cards, birth certificates, photographic negatives, list of personal possessions, etc.
REVIEW YOUR ESTATE PLANS
Does your will still fairly reflect your personal wishes for the distribution of your assets? Have the personal or financial circumstances or your beneficiaries significantly changed over the past year? Have you considered a gifting program to move assets from your estate to those you wish to enrich? Have you reviewed your estate plan in light of changing estate tax laws or changes in your personal financial position?
PREPARE TO MINIMIZE YOUR INCOME TAX LIABILITY
Consider estimating your federal and state income tax liabilities periodically to ensure proper withholding levels and quarterly estimated tax payments. This will prove especially important if you sell significant assets during the year or experience large swings in your income level. Consider maximizing your deductible expenses and savings such as qualified retirement plans, charitable giving, deductible expenses, etc. Be careful to meet all IRS dates and deadlines for withholdings and filings.
REVIEW AND IMPROVE YOUR BALANCE SHEET
Consider increasing your long-term saving and decreasing your debt. If you are not maximizing your tax-deductible employer sponsored retirement plans and your individual tax-advantaged saving plans you should evaluate your monthly cash flows with a focus on increasing your monthly saving. The other side of your balance sheet, the liabilities side, is equally important in maintaining a healthy personal financial position. Every effort should be made to completely eliminate the need for short-term debt (credit cards and debit balances) and to efficiently manager your long-term debt (mortgages).
SIMPLIFY YOUR FINANCIAL HOLDINGS
Simplifying your financial holdings can eliminate much of the drudgery of financial record keeping. If you have credit cards you do not use, cancel them and eliminate the extra statements. Consider consolidating your credit lines to the greatest extent possible. Review your investment holdings for non-performing assets or redundant accounts and consolidate your investments.
Although you may be able to think of more exciting ways to spend your time, organizing your financial records and planning your financial future will pay huge dividends in the long run. Do what you can on your own and seek professional advice from a trusted advisor where additional work needs to be done.
GIFT TAX FUNDAMENTALS
The federal government imposes a substantial tax on gifts of money or property above certain levels. Without such a tax someone with a sizable estate could give away a large portion of their property before death and escape death taxes altogether. For this reason, the gift tax acts more or less as a backstop to the estate tax. And yet, few people actually pay a gift tax during their lifetime. A gift program can substantially reduce overall transfer taxes; however, it requires good planning and a commitment to proceed with the gifts.
ADVANTAGES OF GIFT GIVING
You may have many reasons for making gifts -- for some gift giving has personal motives, or others, tax planning motives. Most often you will want your gift giving program to accomplish both personal and tax motives. A few reasons for considering a gift giving plan include:
- Assist someone in immediate financial need
- Provide financial security for the recipient
- Give the recipient experience in handling money
- See the recipient enjoy the property
- Take advantage of annual exclusion
- Paying gift tax to reduce overall taxes
- Giving tax advantages gifts to minors
GIFT TAX ANNUAL EXCLUSION
Probably the easiest way to reduce the size of your taxable estate is to make regular use of the gift tax annual exclusion. You may give up to $13,000 each year to as many persons as you want without incurring any gift tax. If your spouse joins in making the gift (by consenting on a gift tax return), you may (as a couple) give $26,000 to each person annually without any gift tax liability.
UNLIMITED GIFT TAX EXCLUSION
In addition to the $13,000 exclusion, there is an unlimited gift tax exclusion available to pay someone's medical or educational expenses. The beneficiary does not have to be your dependent or even related to you, although payment of a grandchild's expenses is perhaps the most common use of the exclusion. You must make the payment directly to the institution providing the service -- the beneficiary himself or herself must not receive the payment.
GIFT PROGRAMS AND YOUR ESTATE
Use of the gift tax exclusion in a single year may not affect your estate tax situation significantly, but you can reduce your taxable estate substantially through a planned annual program of $13,000 (or $26,000 if you are married) gifts. All gifts within the exclusion limits are protected from federal estate taxes.
In addition to reducing the size of your estate, another major tax advantage of making a gift is the removal of future appreciation in the property's value from your estate. Suppose that you give stocks worth $50,000 to your children now. If you die in 10 years and the stock is worth $130,000, your estate will escape tax on the $80,000 appreciation
TRADITIONAL AND ROTH IRAS - WHICH IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
There is a wide variety of tax-advantaged ways for individuals to save for retirement. Because of their income tax benefits and because IRAs are so easily established, they have become one of the most often used retirement savings vehicles available today. Recent tax laws, however, have created three very unique types of IRAs the Traditional IRA, the Non-Deductible IRA and the newer Roth IRA.
Traditional IRA - Individual Retirement Account, is a tax-deferred investment and savings account that acts as a personal retirement fund for people with employment income. The maximum contribution is $5,500 annually in 2013 and 2014 with an additional $1000 if over 50 years old. There are two primary types of IRAs: Regular and Spousal. Regular IRAs are designed for individuals with earned income, while Spousal IRAs are designed for married couples in which only one of the spouses has earned income. You have the option of investing in a wide variety of investments. ( See IRS Publication 590).
For Regular and Spousal IRAs:
Your contribution is fully tax-deductible if:
- Neither you nor your spouse participated in a company-sponsored retirement plan.
- You contributed to a company-sponsored retirement plan: are single and earned less than $59,000 in 2013 or married and filing jointly and had a joint income of less than $95,000 in 2013.
Your contribution is partially tax-deductible if:
- You contributed to a company-sponsored retirement plan: are single and earned $59,000 but less than $69,000 in 2013 or married and filing jointly and had a joint income of $95,000-$115,000 in 2013.
Your contribution is not tax-deductible if:
- You contributed to a company-sponsored retirement plan: either single and earned more than $69,000 in 2013 or married and filing jointly and had a joint income of more than $115,000 in 2013.
Similar to the Traditional IRA, the Non-Deductible IRA allows a working individual under the age of 70 ½ to contribute up to $5,000 of compensation each year. Unlike the Traditional IRA, the Non-Deductible IRA contribution is made with after-tax dollars, the income tax deduction allowed with the Traditional IRA is not available to the Non-Deductible IRA. For the most part, the Non-Deductible IRA is utilized by those who do not qualify for the Traditional IRA, but can benefit from the “tax deferral” of earnings allowed with the Non-Deductible IRA.
Roth IRA - is an individual retirement account with a maximum contribution of:
TO HELP DECIDE WHICH IRA IS BEST FOR YOU...
Many factors must be considered, such as current and future income tax rates, investment returns, what the money will be used for and when, income, marital status, and the availability of a retirement plan at work. We can assist you in examining your personal situation to help you tailor your retirement plan to your individual needs.
TAKING THE MYSTERY OUT OF CAPITAL GAINS
Under the recently enacted Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, generating long term capital gains or acquiring dividend income could be two of your big opportunities to save on taxes. Be aware that the Act of 2003 created “sunset provisions”, however, meaning that the tax rates on both capital gains and dividends may go up again unless congress acts to extend the rates. The lower rates are currently only legislated through 2010.
TAXATION OF LONG-TERM CAPITAL GAINS
The maximum tax rate on net capital gain is 15% for most taxpayers, and 5% for taxpayers in the 10% and 15% tax rate brackets for property sold or otherwise disposed of after May 5, 2003 (and installment sale payments received after that date). The reduced rate applies for both the regular tax and the alternative minimum tax.
(Note: The higher rates that apply to unrecaptured section 1250 gain, collectibles gain, and section 1202 gain have not changed.)
TAX TREATMENT OF CAPITAL LOSSES
If you incur losses from the sale of a capital asset, you can deduct those losses to the extent they equal capital gains from the sale of other assets. If your losses exceed your gains, you can only deduct up to $3,000 ($1,500 if you are married and filing separately) of capital losses in a tax year against other income on Form 1040. You can carry losses forward and continue to deduct $3,000 ($1,500 if filing separately) annually against other income until your losses are used up.
AN INTRODUCTION TO BUDGETING
Budgeting is the systematic allocation of one's limited resources (income) to a potentially unlimited number of needs and wants (expenses.) Budgeting your income, though oftentimes tedious and difficult to maintain, can help you better control how your income is being spent.
Some form of budgeting is a necessity if you hope to meet long-term financial goals. One’s ability to control debt is often a good measure of the success of their budgeting methods. For some, a budget is a detailed process of tracking each source and use of their money. For others, it is as simple as setting aside their savings first, then using the remainder for day-to-day living expenses.
IF I JUST HAD ANOTHER 10 PERCENT!
For years, studies have been undertaken by all manner of institutions to find out if people feel like they are able to live within their means. Virtually every study has shown that in our society we not only are not comfortable living within our means, but that the vast majority of us feels that we would need just 10% more income to do so. If we just had that extra 10% we would save for our children's college, we would save for retirement, we would prepare for tomorrow. Perhaps the most interesting revelation from these studies is that how much money we make does not impact the results of the surveys. The person earning $10,000 per year feels they need just 10% more, the person earning $100,000 feels they need just 10% more. The key is not in how much we earn, it is in how we use it.
DEFINING THE TARGET
Our money is like arrows that we can shoot at targets. We pick the targets we shoot at, then decide afterwards whether or not we picked the right targets. Hopefully, over time, we begin to get a good feel for which targets we would like to hit with our arrows. The sooner that we learn that we have a limited number of arrows, the better we learn to select meaningful and lasting targets. Short term targets like expensive clothes, cars and vacations must be balanced against long term targets like college funding for our kids, an emergency fund, and retirement saving.
As our stage in life changes, our targets should change as well. No one can tell you which targets are right for you, but there are several principles that should be followed by every wise individual. Principles like:
- Preparing for a rainy day by establishing and funding an emergency fund.
- Preparing for an emergency by securing appropriate and adequate insurances.
- Paying yourself first by setting aside a portion of your income every month for long term objectives.
REASONS PEOPLE MISS THE MARK
Everyone knows what it feels like to spend unwisely. Our feelings of regret are strangely absent when we first make the unwise purchase, or the investment we don’t understand. But we soon know with a certainty that our hard earned resources would have been so much better used elsewhere.
DISCLAIMER: Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, or investment advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, please note that individual situations can vary therefore, the information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.