10 TAX BREAKS SET TO EXPIRE IN 2013

Income Tax Service For Small Businesses – Federal tax breaks come and go, and this year is no exception. Unless Congress takes action, 55 of them are set to expire on December 31, 2013. Let’s take a look at the ones that are most likely to affect taxpayers like you. 

1. Teachers’ Deduction for Certain Expenses

Primary and secondary school teachers buying school supplies out-of-pocket may be able to take an above-the-line deduction of up to $250 for unreimbursed expenses. An above the line deduction means that it can be taken before calculating adjusted gross income.

2. State and Local Sales Taxes

Taxpayers that pay state and local sales tax can deduct the amounts paid on their federal tax returns (instead of state and local income taxes)–as long as they itemize. In other words, if you’re thinking of buying a big ticket item such as a boat or car and live in a state with sales tax, you might want to think about buying it this year.

3. Mortgage Insurance Premiums

Mortgage insurance premiums (PMI) are paid by homeowners with less than 20% equity in their homes. These premiums were deductible in tax years 2012 and 2013; however, this tax break is scheduled to end on December 31, 2013. Mortgage interest deductions for taxpayers who itemize are not affected.

4. Exclusion of Discharge of Principal Residence Indebtedness

Typically, forgiven debt is considered taxable income in the eyes of the IRS; however, this tax provision, which expires at the end of this year, allows homeowners whose homes have been foreclosed on or subjected to short sale to exclude up to $2 million of cancelled mortgage debt. Also included are taxpayers seeking debt modification on their home.

5. Distributions from IRAs for Charitable Contributions

Taxpayers who are age 70 ½ or older can donate up to $100,000 in distributions from their IRA to charity. Some people do not want to take the mandatory minimum distributions (which are counted as income) upon reaching this age and instead can contribute it to charity, using it as a strategy to lower income enough to take advantage of other tax provisions with phaseout limits.

6. Mass Transit Fringe Benefits

In 2013, commuters using mass transit can exclude from income up to $245 per month on transit benefits paid by their employers such as monthly rail or subway passes, making it on par with parking benefits (also up to $245 pre-tax). This provision is set to expire at the end of the year, however and in 2014, pre-tax benefits for mass transit commuters drop to a maximum of $130 per month, while parking benefits remain the same.

7. Energy Efficient Appliances

This tax break has been around for a while, but if you’re still thinking about making your home more energy efficient, now is the time to take advantage of this tax credit, which reduces your taxes (as opposed to a deduction that reduces your taxable income). The credit is 10% of the cost of building materials for items such as insulation, new water heaters, or a wood pellet stove.

Note: This tax is cumulative, so if you’ve taken the credit in any tax year since 2006, you will not be able to take the full $500 tax credit this year. If, for example, you took a credit of $300 in 2011, the maximum credit you could take this year is $200.

8. Electric Vehicles

Buy a four-wheel electric vehicle such as a Ford Focus Electric (Model years 2012-2014), BMW i3 Sedan (Model year 2014), Fiat 500e (Model year 2013), and Nissan Leaf (Model years 2011-2013) and take a tax credit of $7,500. Other vehicles, such as a 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid and the Toyota Prius Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle (Model years 2012-2014) are eligible for a lesser tax credit. Call us for additional information on tax credits for electric vehicles.

Note: The credit begins to phase out for a manufacturer’s vehicles when at least 200,000 qualifying vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer have been sold for use in the United States.

9. Donation of Conservation Property

Also expiring this year is a tax provision that allows taxpayers to donate property or easements to a local land trust or other conservation organization and receive a tax break in return.

10. Small Business Stock

If you’ve been thinking about investing in a small business such as a start-up C-corporation, consider doing it this year because this tax provision expires on December 31. If you hold onto this stock for five years, you can exclude 100% of the capital gains–in other words, you won’t be paying any capital gains. If you wait until January, you will only be able to exclude 50% of the capital gains.

To learn more about whether you should be taking advantage of these and other tax credits and deduction set to expire at the end of 2013, please give us a call today. We’re here to help. For no obligation free consultation contact us today!

ABA Tax Accounting

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10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT CAPITAL GAINS

Accounting Services For Small Businesses – Did you know that almost everything you own and use for personal or investment purposes is a capital asset? Capital assets include a home, household furnishings and stocks and bonds held in a personal account.

When you sell a capital asset, the difference between the amount you paid for the asset and its sales price is a capital gain or capital loss. Here are 10 facts you should know about how gains and losses can affect your federal income tax return.
1. Almost everything you own and use for personal purposes, pleasure or investment is a capital asset.
2. When you sell a capital asset, the difference between the amount you sell it for and your basis — which is usually what you paid for it — is a capital gain or a capital loss.
3. You must report all capital gains.
4. You may only deduct capital losses on investment property, not on personal-use property.
5. Capital gains and losses are classified as long-term or short-term. If you hold the property more than one year, your capital gain or loss is long-term. If you hold it one year or less, the gain or loss is short-term.
6. If you have long-term gains in excess of your long-term losses, the difference is normally a net capital gain. Subtract any short-term losses from the net capital gain to calculate the net capital gain you must report.
7. The tax rates that apply to net capital gain are generally lower than the tax rates that apply to other income. For 2013, the maximum capital gains rate is 20 percent; however that rate only applies to taxpayers in the highest tax bracket (39.6%) whose income exceeds $400,000 (single filers) or $450,000 (joint filers). Taxpayers in the middle tax brackets pay a maximum of 15 percent. For taxpayers in the lowest tax brackets (under 15%) the rate may be 0 percent on some or all of the net capital gain. Rates of 25 or 28 percent may apply to special types of net capital gain.
8. If your capital losses exceed your capital gains, you can deduct the excess on your tax return to reduce other income, such as wages, up to an annual limit of $3,000, or $1,500 if you are married filing separately.
9. If your total net capital loss is more than the yearly limit on capital loss deductions, you can carry over the unused part to the next year and treat it as if you incurred it in that next year.
10. A new form (Form 8949, Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets) was introduced in 2011 to calculate capital gains and losses and list all capital gain and loss transactions. Subtotals are then carried over to Schedule D (Form 1040), where gain or loss is calculated.

Give us a call us if you need more information about reporting capital gains and losses. We’re here to help. For no obligation free consultation contact us today!
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RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS LIMITS ANNOUNCED FOR 2014

Income Tax Service For Small Businesses – The Internal Revenue Service announced cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for Tax Year 2014.

In general, some pension limitations such as those governing 401(k) plans and IRAs will remain unchanged because the increase in the Consumer Price Index did not meet the statutory thresholds for their adjustment. However, other pension plan limitations will increase for 2014.

Here are the highlights:
• The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $17,500.

• The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $5,500.

• Contribution limits for SIMPLE retirement accounts remains at $12,000.

• The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have modified adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $60,000 and $70,000, up from $59,000 and $69,000 in 2013. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range is $96,000 to $116,000, up from $95,000 to $115,000. For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $181,000 and $191,000, up from $178,000 and $188,000. For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

• The AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $181,000 to $191,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $178,000 to $188,000 in 2013. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $114,000 to $129,000, up from $112,000 to $127,000. For a married individual filing a separate return, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

• The AGI limit for the saver’s credit (also known as the retirement savings contribution credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $60,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $59,000 in 2013; $45,000 for heads of household, up from $44,250; and $30,000 for married individuals filing separately and for singles, up from $29,500.

Questions? Give us a call. We’re here to help. For no obligation free consultation contact us today!
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TAP YOUR RETIREMENT MONEY EARLY; MINIMIZE PENALTIES

Income Tax Service For Individuals – The purpose of retirement plans such as the 401(k) and Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is to save money for your retirement years. As such, the IRS imposes a penalty of 10% for early withdrawals taken from qualified retirement plans before age 59 1/2. Qualified retirement plans include section 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and 401(k) plan, tax-sheltered annuity plans under section 403(b) for employees of public schools or tax-exempt organizations.

While you should always think carefully about taking money out of your retirement plan before you’ve reached retirement age, there may be times when you need access to those funds, whether it’s buying a new house or paying for out of pocket medical expenses. Fortunately, IRS provisions allow a number of exceptions that may be used to avoid the tax penalty.
1. If you are the beneficiary of a deceased IRA owner, you do not have to pay the 10% penalty on distributions taken before age 59 1/2 unless you inherit a traditional IRA from your deceased spouse and elect to treat it as your own. In this case, any distribution you later receive before you reach age 59 1/2 may be subject to the 10% additional tax.

2. Distributions made because you are totally and permanently disabled are exempt from the early withdrawal penalty. You are considered disabled if you can furnish proof that you cannot do any substantial gainful activity because of your physical or mental condition. A physician must determine that your condition can be expected to result in death or to be of long, continued, and indefinite duration.

3. Distributions for qualified higher educational expenses are also exempt, provided they are not paid through tax-free distributions from a Coverdell education savings account, scholarships and fellowships, Pell grants, employer-provided educational assistance, and Veterans’ educational assistance. Qualified higher education expenses include tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for the enrollment or attendance of a student at an eligible educational institution, as well as expenses incurred by special needs students in connection with their enrollment or attendance. If the individual is at least a half-time student, then room and board are considered qualified higher education expenses. This exception applies to expenses incurred by you, your spouse, children and grandchildren.

4. Distributions due to an IRS levy of the qualified plan.

5. Distributions those are not more than the cost of your medical insurance. Even if you are under age 59 1/2, you may not have to pay the 10% additional tax on distributions during the year that are not more than the amount you paid during the year for medical insurance for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents. You will not have to pay the tax on these amounts if all of the following conditions apply: you lost your job, you received unemployment compensation paid under any federal or state law for 12 consecutive weeks because you lost your job, you receive the distributions during either the year you received the unemployment compensation or the following year, you receive the distributions no later than 60 days after you have been reemployed.
6. Distributions to qualified reservists. Generally, these are distributions made to individuals called to active duty after September 11, 2001 and on or after December 31, 2007.

7. Distributions in the form of an annuity. You can take the money as part of a series of substantially equal periodic payments over your estimated lifespan or the joint lives of you and your designated beneficiary. These payments must be made at least annually and payments are based on IRS life expectancy tables. If payments are from a qualified employee plan, they must begin after you have left the job. The payments must be made at least once each year until age 59 1/2, or for five years, whichever period is longer.

8. If you have out-of-pocket medical expenses that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income, you can withdraw funds from a retirement account to pay those expenses without paying a penalty. For example, if you had an adjusted gross income of $100,000 for tax year 2013 and medical expenses of $12,500, you could withdraw as much as $2,500 from your pension or IRA without incurring the 10% penalty tax. You do not have to itemize your deductions to take advantage of this exception.

9. An IRA distribution used to buy, build, or rebuild a first home also escapes the penalty; however, you need to understand the government’s definition of a “first time” home buyer. In this case, it’s defined as someone who hasn’t owned a home for the last two years prior to the date of the new acquisition. You could have owned five prior houses, but if you haven’t owned one in at least two years, you qualify.

The first time homeowner can be yourself, your spouse, your or your spouse’s child or grandchild, parent or other ancestor. The “date of acquisition” is the day you sign the contract for purchase of an existing house or the day construction of your new principal residence begins. The amount withdrawn for the purchase of a home must be used within 120 days of withdrawal and the maximum lifetime withdrawal exemption is $10,000. If both you and your spouse are first-time home buyers, each of you can receive distributions up to $10,000 for a first home without having to pay the 10% penalty.

Remember that although using the above techniques will help you avoid the 10% penalty tax, you are still liable for any regular income tax that’s owed on the funds that you’ve withdrawn. Distributions rolled over into another qualified retirement plan or distributions from a Roth IRA however, escape both the regular income tax and the 10% penalty tax. Rollovers should be made directly between your brokers, to avoid paying the 20% withholding required on distributions that you touch.

Thinking about tapping your retirement money early? Give us a call. We’ll help you figure out whether you can avoid penalties on your early withdrawals–or not. We’re here to help. For no obligation free consultation contact us today!
ABA Tax Accounting
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Tax Tips to Reduce Your Taxes with Miscellaneous Deductions

Federal, State, Local and International Taxes – If you itemize deductions on your tax return, you may be able to deduct certain miscellaneous expenses, which might reduce your federal income tax. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at miscellaneous deductions that might benefit you this tax season.

Deductions Subject to the Two Percent Limit. You can deduct most miscellaneous expenses only if they exceed two percent of your adjusted gross income. These include expenses such as:
• Unreimbursed employee expenses.
• Expenses related to searching for a new job in the same profession.
• Certain work clothes and uniforms.
• Tools needed for your job.
• Union dues.
• Work-related travel and transportation.
Deductions Not Subject to the Two Percent Limit. Some deductions are not subject to the two percent of AGI limit. Some expenses on this list include:
• Certain casualty and theft losses. This deduction applies if you held the damaged or stolen property for investment. Property that you hold for investment may include assets such as stocks, bonds and works of art.
• Gambling losses up to the amount of gambling winnings.
• Losses from Ponzi-type investment schemes.
Miscellaneous deductions are reported on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. Be sure to keep records of your deductions as a reminder when you file your taxes in 2014.

Keep in mind that many expenses are not deductible. For example, you can’t deduct personal living or family expenses. If you have questions about whether your expenses are deductible or need assistance with Schedule A, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re here to help. For no obligation free consultation contact us today!
ABA Tax Accounting
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What you need to know about Business Travel Expenses

Small Business Accounting – Travel expenses are the ordinary and necessary expenses of traveling away from home for your business, profession, or job. Generally, employees deduct these expenses using Form 2106 or Form 2106-EZ and on Schedule A, Form 1040. You cannot deduct expenses that are lavish or extravagant or that are for personal purposes.

You are traveling away from home if your duties require you to be away from the general area of your tax home for a period substantially longer than an ordinary day’s work, and you need to get sleep or rest to meet the demands of your work while away.

Generally, your tax home is the entire city or general area where your main place of business or work is located, regardless of where you maintain your family home. For example, you live with your family in Chicago but work in Milwaukee where you stay in a hotel and eat in restaurants. You return to Chicago every weekend. You may not deduct any of your travel, meals, or lodging in Milwaukee because that is your tax home. Your travel on weekends to your family home in Chicago is not for your work, so these expenses are also not deductible. If you regularly work in more than one place, your tax home is the general area where your main place of business or work is located.

In determining which is your main place of business, take into account the length of time you are normally required to spend at each location for business purposes, the degree of business activity in each area, and the relative significance of the financial return from each area. However, the most important consideration is the length of time spent at each location.

Travel expenses paid or incurred in connection with a temporary work assignment away from home are deductible. However, travel expenses paid in connection with an indefinite work assignment are not deductible. Any work assignment in excess of one year is considered indefinite. Also, you may not deduct travel expenses at a work location if it is realistically expected that you will work there for more than one year, whether or not you actually work there that long. If you realistically expect to work at a temporary location for less than one year, and the expectation changes so that at some point you realistically expect to work there for more than one year, travel expenses become nondeductible when your expectation changes.

You may deduct travel expenses, including meals and lodging, you had in looking for a new job in your present trade or business. You may not deduct these expenses if you had them while looking for work in a new trade or business or while looking for work for the first time. If you are unemployed and there is a substantial break between the time of your past work and your looking for new work, you may not deduct these expenses, even if the new work is in the same trade or business as your previous work.

Travel expenses for conventions are deductible if you can show that your attendance benefits your trade or business. Special rules apply to conventions held outside the North American area.
Deductible travel expenses while away from home include, but are not limited to, the costs of:
• Travel by airplane, train, bus, or car between your home and your business destination,
• Using your car while at your business destination,

• Fares for taxis or other types of transportation between the airport or train station and your hotel, the hotel and the work location, and from one customer to another, or from one place of business to another,
• Meals and lodging, and
• Tips you pay for services related to any of these expenses.
Instead of keeping records of your meal expenses and deducting the actual cost, you can generally use a standard meal allowance ranging from $31 to $51 for certain high cost areas, depending on where you travel.

The deduction for business meals is generally limited to 50% of the unreimbursed cost.
If you are an employee, your allowable travel expenses are figured on Form 2106 or 2106-EZ. Your allowable unreimbursed expenses are carried from Form 2106 or 2106-EZ to Schedule A, Form l040, and are subject to a limit based on 2% of adjusted gross income. Refer to Miscellaneous Expenses for information on the 2% limit. If you do not itemize your deductions, you cannot deduct these expenses. If you are self-employed, travel expenses are deductible on Schedule C, C-EZ, or, if you are a farmer, Schedule F, Form 1040.

Good records are essential. Refer to Recordkeeping for information on record keeping.
For more information on travel expenses, for no obligation free consultation contact us today!
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Back-to-School Tax Tips for Students and Parents

Back-to-School Tax Tips for Students and Parents

Going to college can be a stressful time for students and parents. The IRS offers these tips about education tax benefits that can help offset some college costs and maybe relieve some of that stress.

• American Opportunity Tax Credit. This credit can be up to $2,500 per eligible student. The AOTC is available for the first four years of post-secondary education. Forty percent of the credit is refundable. That means that you may be able to receive up to $1,000 of the credit as a refund, even if you don’t owe any taxes. Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, course related books, supplies and equipment. A recent law extended the AOTC through the end of Dec. 2017.

• Lifetime Learning Credit. With the LLC, you may be able to claim up to $2,000 for qualified education expenses on your federal tax return. There is no limit on the number of years you can claim this credit for an eligible student.

You can claim only one type of education credit per student on your federal tax return each year. If you pay college expenses for more than one student in the same year, you can claim credits on a per-student, per-year basis. For example, you can claim the AOTC for one student and the LLC for the other student.

• Student loan interest deduction. Other than home mortgage interest, you generally can’t deduct the interest you pay. However, you may be able to deduct interest you pay on a qualified student loan. The deduction can reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500. You don’t need to itemize deductions to claim it.

These education benefits are subject to income limitations and may be reduced or eliminated depending on your income.

For more information, contact us today to get a free consultation!
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Your Taxes can be reduced with Miscellaneous Deductions

Federal, State, Local and International Taxes – If you itemize deductions on your tax return, you may be able to deduct certain miscellaneous expenses. You may benefit from this because a tax deduction normally reduces your federal income tax.

Here are some things you should know about miscellaneous deductions:

Deductions Subject to the Two Percent Limit. You can deduct most miscellaneous expenses only if they exceed two percent of your adjusted gross income. These include expenses such as:
• Unreimbursed employee expenses.
• Expenses related to searching for a new job in the same profession.
• Certain work clothes and uniforms.
• Tools needed for your job.
• Union dues.
• Work-related travel and transportation.

Deductions Not Subject to the Two Percent Limit. Some deductions are not subject to the two percent of AGI limit. Some expenses on this list include:
• Certain casualty and theft losses. This deduction applies if you held the damaged or stolen property for investment. Property that you hold for investment may include assets such as stocks, bonds and works of art.
• Gambling losses up to the amount of gambling winnings.
• Losses from Ponzi-type investment schemes.

Many expenses are not deductible. For example, you can’t deduct personal living or family expenses. Report your miscellaneous deductions on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. Be sure to keep records of your deductions as a reminder when you file your taxes in 2014.

For more information, contact us today to get a free consultation!
ABA Tax Accounting
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Is federal income tax withholding required on deferred compensation payments?

Yes. If the distribution is an eligible rollover distribution, 20% withholding is required, unless the distributee chooses to make a direct rollover. For distributions that are not eligible for rollover, nonperiodic distributions are subject to withholding at a flat rate of 10%, while the withholding on periodic distributions is the amount that would be withheld if the distribution were wages paid to an employee for the appropriate payroll period. With regard to distributions that are not eligible to be rolled over, the participant may make an election to waive withholding. This election is not available for eligible rollover distributions. Considering a Tax Professional? For no obligation free consultation contact us today!
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