|Any accounting, business or tax advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended as a thorough, in-depth analysis of specific issues, nor a substitute for a formal opinion, nor is it sufficient to avoid tax-related penalties. If desired, we would be pleased to perform the requisite research and provide you with a detailed written analysis. Such an engagement may be the subject of a separate engagement letter that would define the scope and limits of the desired consultation services.|
|Are your Social Security Benefits Taxable?|
Social security benefits include monthly retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. If you received Social security benefits in 2015, you should receive a Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, showing the amount.
Note: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are not taxable.
If Social Security was your only source of income in 2015 your benefits might not be taxable. You also may not need to file a federal income tax return this year; however, if you receive income from other sources, then you may have to pay taxes on some of your benefits.
Your income and filing status affect whether you must pay taxes on your Social Security. An easy method of determining whether any of your benefits might be taxable is to add one-half of your Social Security benefits to all of your other income, including any tax-exempt interest.
Next, compare this total to the base amounts below. If your total is more than the base amount for your filing status, then some of your benefits may be taxable. In 2015, the three base amounts are:
Your taxable benefits and modified adjusted gross income are figured on a worksheet in the Form 1040A or Form 1040 Instruction booklet. Please call if you need assistance figuring this out.
Retirement income is generally not taxed by other countries. As a U.S. citizen retiring abroad who receives Social Security, for instance, you may owe U.S. taxes on that income, but may not be liable for tax in the country where you're spending your retirement years.
If Social Security is your only income, then your benefits may not be taxable, and you may not need to file a federal income tax return. If you receive Social Security, you should receive a Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, showing the amount of your benefits.
However, if you receive income from other sources as well, from a part-time job or self-employment (either U.S. or the country you've retired to), you may have to pay U.S. taxes on some of your benefits.
You may also be required to report and pay taxes on any income earned in the country where you retired. Each country is different, so consult a local tax professional or one who specializes in expat tax services.
Some states tax social security income as well: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia.
Note: Even if you retire abroad, you may still owe state taxes--unless you established residency in a no-tax state before you moved overseas. Also, some states honor the provisions of U.S. tax treaties; however, some states do not, therefore it is prudent to consult a tax professional.
Questions about income related to Social Security? Don't hesitate to call.
|Five Ways to Improve Your Financial Situation|
If you are having trouble paying your debts, it is important to take action sooner rather than later. Doing nothing leads to much larger problems in the future, whether it's a bad credit record or bankruptcy resulting in the loss of assets and even your home. If you're in financial trouble, then here are some steps to take to avoid financial ruin in the future.
If you've accumulated a large amount of debt and are having difficulty paying your bills each month, now is the time to take action--before the bill collectors start calling.
1. Review each debt. Make sure that the debt creditors claim you owe is really what you owe and that the amount is correct. If you dispute a debt, first contact the creditor directly to resolve your questions. If you still have questions about the debt, contact your state or local consumer protection office or, in cases of serious creditor abuse, your state Attorney General.
2. Contact your creditors. Let your creditors know you are having difficulty making your payments. Tell them why you are having trouble, perhaps it is because you recently lost your job or have unexpected medical bills. Try to work out an acceptable payment schedule with your creditors. Most are willing to work with you and will appreciate your honesty and forthrightness.
3. Budget your expenses. Create a spending plan that allows you to reduce your debts. Itemize your necessary expenses (such as housing and healthcare) and optional expenses (such as entertainment and vacation travel). Stick to the plan.
4. Try to reduce your expenses. Cut out any unnecessary spending such as eating out and purchasing expensive entertainment. Consider taking public transportation or using a car sharing service rather than owning a car. Clip coupons, purchase generic products at the supermarket and avoid impulse purchases. Above all, stop incurring new debt. Leave your credit cards at home. Pay for all purchases in cash or use a debit card instead of a credit card.
5. Pay down and consolidate your debts. Withdrawing savings from low-interest accounts to settle high-rate loans or credit card debt usually makes sense. In addition, there are a number of ways to pay off high-interest loans, such as credit cards, by getting a refinancing or consolidation loan, such as a second mortgage.
You can regain financial health if you act responsibly. But don't wait until bankruptcy court is your only option. If you're having financial troubles, don't hesitate to call.
|Roth IRAs: The Basics|
A Roth IRA is an individual retirement plan that with certain exceptions, is similar to a traditional IRA and subject to the rules that apply to a traditional IRA. For example, to be considered a Roth IRA, the account or annuity must be designated as a Roth IRA when it is opened. A deemed IRA can be a Roth IRA, but neither a SEP IRA nor a SIMPLE IRA can be designated as a Roth IRA.
Roth IRAs differ from other tax-favored retirement plans such as traditional IRAs in that you cannot deduct contributions to a Roth IRA. With most tax-favored retirement plans, the contribution to (i.e., investment in) the plan is deductible, the investment compounds tax-free until distributed, and distributions are taxable as received.
With a Roth IRA, there's never an up-front deduction for contributions. Funds contributed compound tax-free until distributed (standard for all tax-favored plans) and distributions are completely exempt from income tax--as long as those distributions are considered qualified in the eyes of the IRS. In addition, contributions can be made to your Roth IRA after you reach age 70 1/2, and you can leave amounts in your Roth IRA as long as you live. There are other important differences as well, and many tax rules governing their use.
How Contributions Are Treated
The 2016 annual contribution limit to a Roth IRA is $5,500 (same as 2015). An additional "catch-up" contribution of $1,000 (same as 2015) is allowed for people age 50 or over bringing the contribution total to $6,500 for certain taxpayers. To make the full contribution, you must earn at least $5,500 in 2016 from personal services and have income (modified adjusted gross income or MAGI) below $117,000 if single or $184,000 on a joint return in 2016. The $5,500 limit in 2016 phases out on incomes between $117,000 and $132,000 (single filers) and $184,000 and $194,000 (joint filers). Also, the $5,500 limit is reduced for contributions to traditional IRAs though not SEP or SIMPLE IRAs.
You can contribute to a Roth IRA for your spouse, subject to the income limits above. So assuming earnings (your own or combined with your spouse) of at least $11,000, up to $11,000 ($5,500 each) can go into the couple's Roth IRAs. As with traditional IRAs, there's a 6 percent penalty on excess contributions. The rule continues that the dollar limits are reduced by contributions to traditional IRAs.
How Withdrawals Are Treated
You may withdraw money from a Roth IRA at any time; however, taxes and penalty could apply depending on timing of contributions and withdrawals.
Since all your investments in a Roth IRA are after-tax, your withdrawals, whenever you make them, are often tax-free. But the best kind of withdrawal, which allows earnings as well as contributions and conversion amounts to come out completely tax-free, are qualified distributions. These are withdrawals meeting the following conditions:
To discourage the use of pension funds for purposes other than normal retirement, the law imposes an additional 10 percent tax on certain early distributions from Roth IRAs unless an exception applies. Generally, early distributions are those you receive from an IRA before reaching age 59 1/2.
Exceptions. You may not have to pay the 10 percent additional tax in the following situations:
Part of any distribution that is not a qualified distribution may be taxable as ordinary income and subject to the additional 10 percent tax on early distributions. Distributions of conversion contributions within a 5-year period following a conversion may be subject to the 10 percent early distribution tax, even if the contributions have been included as income in an earlier year.
Ordering Rules for Distributions
If you receive a distribution from your Roth IRA, that is not a qualified distribution, part of it may be taxable. There is a set order in which contributions (including conversion contributions) and earnings are considered to be distributed from your Roth IRA. Order the distributions as follows.
Disregard rollover contributions from other Roth IRAs for this purpose.
Aggregation (grouping and adding) rules.
Determine the taxable amounts distributed (withdrawn), distributions, and contributions by grouping and adding them together as follows.
Add any recharacterized contributions that end up in a Roth IRA to the appropriate contribution group for the year that the original contribution would have been taken into account if it had been made directly to the Roth IRA.
Disregard any recharacterized contribution that ends up in an IRA other than a Roth IRA for the purpose of grouping (aggregating) both contributions and distributions. Also, disregard any amount withdrawn to correct an excess contribution (including the earnings withdrawn) for this purpose.
Distributions after Owner's Death
Qualified distributions after the owner's death are tax-free to heirs. Nonqualified distributions after death, which are distributions where the 5-year holding period wasn't met, are taxable income to heirs as they would be to the owner (the earnings are taxed), except there's no penalty tax on early withdrawal. However, an owner's surviving spouse can convert an inherited Roth IRA into his or her own Roth IRA. This way, distribution can be postponed, so that nonqualified amounts can become qualified, and the tax shelter prolonged.
Roth IRA assets left at death are subject to federal estate tax, just as traditional IRA assets are.
Converting from a Traditional IRA or Other Eligible Retirement Plan to a Roth IRA
The conversion of your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA was the feature that caused most excitement about Roth IRAs. Conversion means that what would be a taxable traditional IRA distribution can be made into a tax-exempt Roth IRA distribution. Starting in 2008, further conversion or rollover opportunities from other eligible retirement plans were made available to taxpayers.
You can convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The conversion is treated as a rollover, regardless of the conversion method used.
You can convert amounts from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA in any of the following three ways.
Prior to 2008, you could only roll over (convert) amounts from either a traditional, SEP, or SIMPLE IRA into a Roth IRA. You can now roll over amounts from the following plans into a Roth IRA.
Any amount rolled over is subject to the same rules for converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Also, the rollover contribution must meet the rollover requirements that apply to the specific type of retirement plan.
There is a cost to the rollover. The amount converted is fully taxable in the year converted, except for the portion of after-tax investment in the traditional IRA. So you must pay tax now (though there's no early withdrawal penalty) for the opportunity to withdraw tax-free later, an opportunity that can extend to your heirs.
Starting in 2010, conversion is now allowed to all taxpayers. The prior income restriction allowing conversion only for taxpayers of income (again, MAGI) of $100,000 or less in the conversion year has been terminated. All taxpayers are able to convert a regular IRA to a Roth IRA starting in 2010. The conversion is a taxable distribution, which can be included as income during the conversion year or averaged over the next two years. The conversion is not subject to the 10 percent early distribution penalty.
Undoing a Conversion to a Roth IRA
Since everyone recognizes that conversion is a high-risk exercise, the law, and liberal IRS rules provide an escape hatch: You can undo a Roth IRA conversion by what IRS calls a "re-characterization." This move, by which you move your conversion assets from a Roth IRA back to a traditional IRA, makes what would have been a taxable conversion into a tax-free rollover between traditional IRAs. Re-characterization can be done any time until the due date for the return for the year of conversion.
Can you undo one Roth IRA conversion and then make another one a reconversion? Yes, but only one time and subject to the following requirements: Reconversion must take place in the tax year following the original conversion to Roth IRA, and the reconversion date must also be more than 30 days after the previous recharacterization transfer from the Roth IRA back to the traditional IRA.
You are not required to take distributions from your Roth IRA once you reach a particular age. The minimum distribution rules that apply to traditional IRAs do not apply to Roth IRAs while the owner is alive. However, after the death of a Roth IRA owner, certain of the minimum distribution rules that apply to traditional IRAs also apply to Roth IRAs
Also, unlike traditional IRAs (but like other tax-favored retirement plans), a Roth IRA owner who continues working may continue to contribute to the Roth IRA.
Tax rules regarding Roth IRA plans and Roth IRA conversions can be complex. Please call if you have any questions.
|Three Most Common Budgeting Errors|
When it comes to creating a budget, it's essential to estimate your spending as realistically as possible. Here are three budget-related errors commonly made by small businesses and some tips for avoiding them.
Call the office if you want to discuss setting up a budget to meet your business financial goals.
|Missing Your Form W-2?|
You should receive a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, from each of your employers for use in preparing your federal tax return. Employers must furnish this record of 2015 earnings and withheld taxes no later than February 1, 2016 (if mailed, allow a few days for delivery).
If you do not receive your Form W-2, contact your employer to find out if and when the W-2 was mailed. If it was mailed, it may have been returned to your employer because of an incorrect address. After contacting your employer, allow a reasonable amount of time for your employer to resend or to issue the W-2.
If you still do not receive your W-2 by February 15th, contact the IRS for assistance at 1-800-829-1040. When you call, have the following information handy:
If you misplaced your W-2, contact your employer. Your employer can replace the lost form with a "reissued statement." Be aware that your employer is allowed to charge you a fee for providing you with a new W-2.
You still must file your tax return on time even if you do not receive your Form W-2. If you cannot get a W-2 by the tax filing deadline, you may use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, but it will delay any refund due while the information is verified.
If you receive a corrected W-2 after your return is filed and the information it contains does not match the income or withheld tax that you reported on your return, you must file an amended return on Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.
If you have questions about your Forms W-2 or 1099 or any other tax-related materials, please call or email.
|Updated Withholding Tables for 2016|
Updated income-tax withholding tables for 2016 have been released. The newly revised version contains percentage method income-tax withholding tables and related information that employers need to implement these changes.
In addition, employers should continue withholding Social Security tax at the rate of 6.2 percent of wages paid. The Social Security wage base limit remains at $118,500. The Medicare tax rate remains at 1.45 percent each for the employee and employer.
The additional Medicare tax of 0.9 percent for employees (not employers) remains in effect and should be withheld from employee wages that exceed $200,000 in a calendar year, at the beginning in the pay period in which the employee's wages exceed $200,000.
In 2016 the amount for one withholding allowance on an annual basis is $4,050. Employers should start using the revised withholding tables and correct the amount of Social Security tax withheld as soon as possible in 2016, but not later than February 16, 2016. For any Social Security tax under-withheld before that date, employers should make the appropriate adjustment in workers' pay as soon as possible, but not later than March 31, 2016.
Employers and payroll companies handle the withholding changes, so workers typically won't need to take any additional action, such as filling out a new W-4 withholding form. Individuals and couples with multiple jobs, people who are having children, getting married, getting divorced or buying a home, and those who typically wind up with a balance due or large refund at the end of the year may want to consider submitting revised W-4 forms.
As always, it's prudent for workers to review their withholding every year and, if necessary, fill out a new W-4 to give to their employer. For example, individuals and couples with multiple jobs, people who are having children, getting married, getting divorced or buying a home, and those who typically wind up with a balance due or large refund at the end of the year may want to consider submitting revised W-4 forms.
Please call the office if you have any questions about income tax withholding in 2016.
|Reduce Your Taxes with the Child Care Tax Credit|
If you paid someone to care for a person in your household last year while you worked or looked for work, then you may be able to take the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and reduce the amount of tax owed.
Here are 12 facts you should know about this important tax credit:
1. Child, Dependent or Spouse. You may be able to claim the credit if you paid someone to care for your child, dependent or spouse last year.
2. Work-related Expenses. Your expenses for care must be work-related. This means that you must pay for the care so you can work or look for work. This rule also applies to your spouse if you file a joint return. Your spouse meets this rule during any month they are a full-time student. They also meet it if they're physically or mentally incapable of self-care.
3. Qualifying Person. The care must have been for "qualifying persons." A qualifying person can be your child under age 13. A qualifying person can also be your spouse or dependent who lived with you for more than half the year and is physically or mentally incapable of self-care.
4. Earned Income Required. You must have earned income, such as from wages, salaries and tips. It also includes net earnings from self-employment. Your spouse must also have earned income if you file jointly. Your spouse is treated as having earned income for any month that they are a full-time student or incapable of self-care. This rule also applies to you if you file a joint return. Please call if you have any questions about what qualifies as earned income.
5. Credit Percentage / Expense Limits. The credit is worth between 20 and 35 percent of your allowable expenses. The percentage depends on the amount of your income. Your allowable expenses are limited to $3,000 if you paid for the care of one qualifying person. The limit is $6,000 if you paid for the care of two or more.
6. Dependent Care Benefits. If your employer gives you dependent care benefits, special rules apply. For more information about these rules, please call the office.
7. Qualifying Person's SSN. You must include the Social Security Number of each qualifying person to claim the credit.
8. Keep Records and Receipts. Keep all your receipts and records for when you file your tax return next year. You will need the name, address and taxpayer identification number of the care provider. You must report this information when you claim the credit.
9. Form 2441. File Form 2441, Child and Dependent Care Expenses with your tax return to claim the credit.
10. Joint Return if Married. Generally, married couples must file a joint return. You can still take the credit, however, if you are legally separated or living apart from your spouse.
11. Don't overlook vacation and summer camps. Day camps are common during the summer months. Many parents pay for day camps for their children during school vacations while they work or look for work. If this applies to you, your costs may qualify for a federal tax credit that can lower your taxes.
12. Certain Care Does Not Qualify. You may not include the cost of certain types of care for the tax credit, including:
Don't hesitate to call.
|Job Search Expenses May be Deductible|
New year, new job? If you've decided it's time to move on from your current position and look for a new one, you may be able to deduct some of your job search costs. Here's what you need to know:
1. Same Occupation. You can't deduct expenses for a job search in a new occupation; your expenses must be for a job search in your current line of work.
2. Resume Costs. You can deduct the cost of preparing and mailing your resume.
3. Travel Expenses. If you travel to look for a new job, you may be able to deduct the cost of the trip. To deduct the cost of the travel to and from the area, the trip must be mainly to look for a new job. You may still be able to deduct some costs if looking for a job is not the main purpose of the trip.
4. Placement Agency. You can deduct some job placement agency fees you pay to look for a job.
5. First Job. You can't deduct job search expenses if you're looking for a job for the first time.
6. Substantial Job Break. You can't deduct job search expenses if there was a long break between the end of your last job and the time you began looking for a new one.
7. Reimbursed Costs. Reimbursed expenses are not deductible.
8. Schedule A. You usually deduct your job search expenses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. You'll claim them as a miscellaneous deduction. You can deduct the total miscellaneous deductions that are more than two percent of your adjusted gross income.
9. Premium Tax Credit. If you receive advance payments of the premium tax credit it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or eligibility for other coverage, to your Health Insurance Marketplace. Other changes that you should report include changes in your family size or address.
Advance payments of the premium tax credit provide financial assistance to help you pay for the insurance you buy through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Reporting changes will help you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance so you can avoid getting too much or too little in advance.
Need more information? Help is just a phone call away!
|Tax Due Dates for February 2016|
Employers - Give your employees their copies of Form W-2 for 2015 by February 1, 2016. If an employee agreed to receive Form W-2 electronically, post it on a website accessible to the employee and notify the employee by February 1, 2016.
Businesses - Give annual information statements to recipients of 1099 payments made during 2015.
Employers - Federal unemployment tax. File Form 940 for 2015. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you already deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.
Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2015. Deposit any undeposited tax. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.
Employers - Nonpayroll taxes. File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2015 on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on pensions, annuities, IRAs, gambling winnings, and payments of Indian gaming profits to tribal members. Deposit any undeposited tax. (If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return.) If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.
Individuals - who must make estimated tax payments. If you did not pay your last installment of estimated tax by January 15, you may choose (but are not required) to file your income tax return (Form 1040) for 2015. Filing your return and paying any tax due by February 1, 2016 prevents any penalty for late payment of last installment.
Payers of Gambling Winnings - If you either paid reportable gambling winnings or withheld income tax from gambling winnings, give the winners their copies of Form W-2G.
Certain Small Employers - File Form 944 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2015. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more from 2015 but less than $2,500 for the fourth quarter, deposit any undeposited tax or pay it in full with a timely filed return.
All businesses - Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2015. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return.
Employees - who work for tips. If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.
Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2015. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.
Farm Employers - File Form 943 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2015. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.
Certain Small Employers - File Form 944 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2015. This tax due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.
Employers - Nonpayroll taxes. File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2015 on all nonpayroll items. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.
Employers - Federal unemployment tax. File Form 940 for 2015. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.
Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.
Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.
Individuals - If you claimed exemption from income tax withholding last year on the Form W-4 you gave your employer, you must file a new Form W-4 by this date to continue your exemption for another year.
All businesses. Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2015. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return.
Employers - Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2015, but did not give you a new Form W-4 to continue the exemption this year.
Businesses - File information returns (Form 1099) for certain payments you made during 2015. These payments are described under February 1. There are different forms for different types of payments. Use a separate Form 1096 to summarize and transmit the forms for each type of payment. See the 2015 Instructions for Forms 1099, 1098, 5498, and W-2G for information on what payments are covered, how much the payment must be before a return is required, what form to use, and extensions of time to file.
If you file Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, 3922, or W-2G electronically (not by magnetic media), your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms is still February 1.
Farmers and Fishermen - Farmers and fishermen. File your 2015 income tax return (Form 1040) and pay any tax due. However, you have until April 18 to file if you paid your 2015 estimated tax by January 15, 2016.
Payers of Gambling Winnings - File Form 1096, Annual Summary and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns, along with Copy A of all the Forms W-2G you issued for 2015. If you file Forms W-2G electronically (not by magnetic tape), your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 1.
Employers - File Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, along with Copy A of all the Forms W-2 you issued for 2015.
If you file Forms W-2 electronically (not by magnetic media), your due date for filing them with the SSA will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms is still February 1.
Employers - with employees who work for tips. File Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips. Use Form 8027-T, Transmittal of Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips, to summarize and transmit Forms 8027 if you have more than one establishment. If you file Forms 8027 electronically (not by magnetic tape), your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31.
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