Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

Archive for November, 2013

FAQ: What is the kiddie tax?

A child with earned income above a certain level is generally required to file a separate tax return as a single taxpayer. However, a child with a certain amount of unearned income (from investments, including dividends, interest, and capital gains) may find that this income becomes subject to tax at his or her parent’s highest marginal tax rate. This is referred to as the “kiddie tax,” and it is designed to prevent parents from transferring income-producing investments to their children, who would generally be taxed at a lower rate.

Does the kiddie tax apply to my situation?

The kiddie tax applies if:

  1. The child has investment income greater than the annual inflation-adjusted amount ($1,900 for 2013; $2,000 for 2014);
  2. At least one of the child’s parents was alive at the end of the tax year;
  3. The child is required to file a tax return for the tax year;
  4. The child does not file a joint return for the tax year; and
  5. The child meets one of the following requirements relating to age and income:
    • The child was under age 18 at the end of the tax year; or
    • The child was age 18 at the end of the tax year and the child’s earned income does not exceed one-half of the child’s own support for the year; or
    • The child was a full-time student who was under age 24 at the end of the tax year and the child’s earned income does not exceed one half of the child’s own support for the year (This does not include scholarships.)

Computing the kiddie tax

If the kiddie tax applies to a child, the child’s tax is calculated as the greater of one of two items:

  1. The tax on all of the child’s income, calculated at the rates applicable to single individuals; or
  2. The sum of two things:
    • The tax that would be imposed on a single individual if the child’s taxable income were reduced by net unearned income, plus
    • The child’s share of the allocable parental tax.

The allocable parent tax is the amount of the increase in the parent’s tax liability that results from adding to the parent’s taxable income the net unearned income of the parent’s children who are subject to the kiddie tax. If a parent has more than one child with unearned income subject to the kiddie tax, then each child’s share of the allocable parental tax would be assigned pro rata according to the ratio that its net unearned income bears to the aggregate net unearned income subject to the kiddie tax.

Which tax form should I use?

A parent with a child or children whose unearned income is subject to the kiddie tax must generally complete and file Form 8615, Tax for Certain Children Who Have Investment Income of More Than $1,900, along with his or her tax return. However, if the child’s interest and dividend income (including capital gain distributions) total less than $9,500 for 2013 ($10,000 for 2014), the parent may be able to elect to include that income on the parent’s return rather than file a separate return for the child. In this case, the parents should complete Form 8814, Parents Election To Report Child’s Interest and Dividends. However, the IRS cautions that the federal income tax owed on a child’s income may be lower if the parent files a separate tax return for the child, which would enable him or her to take certain tax benefits that cannot be taken on the parents’ return.

Divorced, separated, or unmarried parents

The kiddie tax is based on a parent’s tax return, but what happens when parents do not file joint returns? Several special rules determine what should happen. If the parents are married, but file separate returns, then the child should use the return of the parent with the largest taxable income to figure the kiddie tax.

If the parents are married, but do not live together, and the custodial parent is considered unmarried then generally the custodial parent’s return would be used. However, if the custodial parent is not considered unmarried, the child should use the return of the parent with the largest amount of taxable income.

If the child’s parents are divorced or legally separated, and the custodial parent has not remarried, the child should use the custodial parent’s return. If the custodial parent has remarried, the child’s stepparent, rather than the noncustodial parent, is treated as the child’s other parent. Similarly, if the child’s parent is a widow or widower who has remarried, the new spouse is treated as the child’s other parent.

If the child’s parents never married each other, but lived together all year, the child should use the return of the parent with the greater taxable income. If the parents were never married and did not live together all year, the rules are the same as the rules for parents who are divorced.

Calculating the kiddie tax can become confusing as a taxpayer attempts to sort through the numerous rules governing who is subject to the tax, which income is subject to the tax, and how to report it properly. Please do not hesitate to contact our offices with any questions at (908) 725-4414.

 

How Do I? Claim enhanced Code.Sec 179 expensing for 2013

Code Sec. 179 allows taxpayers to expense the cost of qualified property instead of capitalizing the cost and recovering it over a period of years. The provision is designed to help small business. For the period 2010-2013, taxpayers can write off up to $500,000 of the costs of qualified property placed in service during the year. The $500,000 cap is reduced dollar-for-dollar to the extent that the cost of qualified property placed in service during the year exceeds $2 million. The amount claimed cannot exceed the income from the taxpayer’s trade or business for the year. Any amount disallowed can be carried over to a future year.

The enhanced Code Sec. 179 expensing will expire at the end of 2013 unless Congress extends it. The $500,000 cap decreases to $25,000 for property placed in service in tax years beginning after 2013. The $2 million phase-out limitation is scheduled to decrease to $200,000 for tax years beginning after 2013.

Although there is an overall cap on the amount that a taxpayer can write off under Code Sec. 179, there is no cap on the amount that can be written off on a particular piece of property. Thus, if property placed in service in 2013 cost $100,000, a taxpayer can take bonus depreciation for 50 percent of the cost (or $50,000), but can expense the entire $100,000 under Code Sec. 179. There is a $25,000 cap on write-offs for sport utility vehicles.

Qualifying property

Qualifying property is tangible property that is depreciable under Code Sec. 168 (the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System, or MACRS), or off-the-shelf computer software placed in service before 2014. The property must be Code Sec. 1245 property. This includes tangible personal property and property used in manufacturing, extraction and production activities. The property must be acquired for use in the active conduct of a trade or business. The property can be new or used.

For tax years 2010-2013, qualifying property also includes “qualified real property.” This encompasses qualified leasehold improvements, qualified retail improvement property, and qualified restaurant improvement property.

Election

Taxpayers must make the election to claim the Code Sec. 179 deduction on Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization. Taxpayers must make a new election each year. Property can be expensed in the year it is placed in service, not the year it is obtained. The election must provide the total amount of the deduction and the portion of the deduction allocable to each item of property.

Ordinarily, the election must be made by the due date of the return filed for the year in which the property is placed in service. The election is irrevocable unless the IRS consents to revocation. However, for property placed in service in 2003-2013, the taxpayer may make an election (or a revocation) on an amended return filed within the limitations period for an amended return. A revocation, once made on an amended return, is irrevocable

Accelerating or deferring income/deductions as part of a year-end tax strategy

The arrival of year end presents special opportunities for most taxpayers to take steps in lowering their tax liability. The tax law imposes tax liability based upon a “tax year.” For most individuals and small business, their tax year is the same as the calendar year. As 2013 year end gets closer, most taxpayers have a more accurate picture of what their tax liability will be in 2013 than at any other time during the current year. However, if you don’t like what you see, you have until year end to make improvements before your tax liability for 2013 is permanently set in stone.

A good part of year-end tax planning involves techniques to accelerate or postpone income or deductions, as your tax situation dictates. Efforts are generally focused on keeping projected tax liability for 2013 slightly lower than that anticipated for 2014, not overweighing projected tax liability for any one year. Having spikes in taxable income in any one tax year puts you in a higher average tax bracket than you would be in if you had evened out the amount of taxable income between the current and subsequent year.

Right to income versus cash receipt

Generally, a cash-basis taxpayer (which includes most individuals) recognizes income when it is received and takes deductions when expenses are paid. There is a subtle but important difference between the two:

  • Income is generally taxable in the year that it is received, by cash or check or direct deposit. You cannot postpone tax on income by refusing payment until the following year once you have the right to that payment in the current year. However, if you make deferred payments a part of the overall transaction, you may legitimately postpone both the income and the tax on it into the year or years in which payment is made. Postponement in this context usually takes place in a business setting. Examples include: installment sales, on which gain is prorated and taxed based upon the years over which installment payments are made; like-kind exchanges through which no gain is realized except to the extent other non-like-kind property (including cash) may change hands; and, on a higher level, tax-free corporate reorganizations pursuant to special tax code provisions.
  • Deductions, on the other hand, are generally not allowed until you pay for the item or service for which you want to take the deduction. Merely accepting the liability to pay for a deductible item does not make it deduction. Therefore, a doctor’s bill does not become a medical expense deduction necessarily in the year that services are rendered or the bill is sent for payment. Rather, it is only considered deductible in the year in which you pay the bill. Determining when you pay your bills for tax purposes also has its nuances. A bill may be paid when cash is tendered; when a credit card is charged; or when a check is put in the mail (even if it is delivered in due course a few days into a new calendar year).

Compensation arrangements

Compensation arrangements carry their own special set of tax rules. The timing of the inclusion and deduction of compensation is largely governed by the employee’s and the employer’s normal methods of accounting. Under the cash method of accounting, amounts are includible in income when they are actually or constructively received and deductible when they are paid. Most employees are on the cash method.

Cash-basis employers can only deduct the cost of compensation the employee actually or constructively received. Constructive receipt comes into play when an employee attempts to decline offered compensation in order to defer its receipt and thereby postpone tax. Under the constructive receipt rule, the employee is currently taxed in this situation. However, there is no analogous constructive payment rule. Thus, a cash-basis employer may not take a deduction for amounts that it is willing to pay, and that it may have debited on its corporate books, but that it has not actually paid.

Deferred compensation plans, however, may be used to modify these general rules. There are basically two kinds of deferred compensation plans: qualified plans (such as 401(k) plans) and nonqualified plans or arrangements (common in executive compensation packages). Qualified plans are tax favored in that an employer can take an immediate deduction even though the employee might not recognize the income for years. With a nonqualified plan, the employer cannot take its deduction until the employee recognizes the income.

Particularly relevant to employers at year end is an annual bonus rule. Bonuses paid within a brief period of time after the end of the employer’s tax year may be deducted in that tax year. Compensation is generally considered to be paid within a brief period of time if it is paid within two and one-half months of the end of the employer’s tax year.

For a customized examination of what deferral or acceleration planning at year end may work best for you, please contact this office at (908) 725-4414.

 

ACA impact SHOP, tax credits, Marketplaces, and more

Despite the 16-day government shutdown in October, a number of important developments took place impacting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, especially for individuals and businesses. The Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) was temporarily delayed, Congress took a closer look at income verification for the Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit, and held a hearing on the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. Individuals trying to enroll in coverage through HealthCare.gov also experienced some technical problems in October.

SHOP

The Affordable Care Act created two vehicles to deliver health insurance: Marketplaces for individuals and the SHOP for small businesses. Marketplaces launched as scheduled on October 1 in every state and the District of Columbia. Qualified individuals can enroll in a Marketplace to obtain health insurance. Coverage through a Marketplace will begin January 1, 2014.

The October 1 start of SHOP, however, was delayed. Small employers may start the application process on October 1, 2013 but all functions of SHOP will not be available until November, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported. If employers and employees enroll by December 15, 2013, coverage will begin January 1, 2014, HHS explained.

SHOP is closely related to the Code Sec. 45R small employer health insurance tax credit. This tax credit is designed to help small employers offset the cost of providing health insurance to their employees. After 2013, small employers must participate in SHOP to take advantage of the Code Sec. 45R tax credit. For tax years beginning during or after 2014, the maximum Code Sec. 45R credit for an eligible small employer (other than a tax-exempt employer) is 50 percent of the employer’s premium payments made on behalf of its employees under a qualifying arrangement for QHPs offered through a SHOP Marketplace. The maximum credit for tax-exempt employers for those years is 35 percent. Maximum and minimum credits are based upon the level of employee wages. If you have any questions about SHOP and the Code Sec. 45R credit, please contact our office.

Code Sec. 36B tax credit

Effective January 1, 2014, qualified individuals may be eligible for the Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit to help pay for health coverage through a Marketplace. The credit is linked to household income in relation to the federal poverty line (FPL). Generally, taxpayers whose household income for the year is between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line for their family size may be eligible for the credit.

When taxpayers apply for coverage in a Marketplace, the Marketplace will estimate the amount of the Code Sec. 36B credit that the taxpayer may be able to claim for the tax year. Based upon the estimate made by the Marketplace, the individual can decide if he or she wants to have all, some, or none of the estimated credit paid in advance directly to the insurance company to be applied to monthly premiums. Taxpayers who do not opt for advance payment may claim the credit when they file their federal income tax return for the year.

The October 16 agreement to reopen the federal government directed HHS to certify to Congress that Marketplaces verify eligibility for the Code Sec. 36B credit. HHS must submit a report to Congress by January 1, 2014 on the procedures for verifying eligibility for the credit and follow-up with a report by July 1, 2014 on the effectiveness of its income verification procedures.

Employer mandate

The Affordable Care Act generally requires an applicable large employer to make an assessable payment (a penalty) if the employer fails to offer minimum essential health coverage and a number of other requirements are not met. The employer mandate was scheduled to take effect January 1, 2014. However, the Obama administration delayed it for an additional year, to 2015.

In October, the House Small Business Committee heard testimony on the definition of full-time employee status for purposes of the employer mandate. An applicable large employer for purposes of the employer mandate is an employer that employs at least 50 full-time employees or a combination of full-time and part-time employees that equals at least 50. A full-time employee with respect to any month is an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week.

Employers testifying before the GOP-chaired committee urged an increase in the 30-hour threshold. “Many small businesses simply cannot afford to provide coverage to employees who average 30 hours per week,” the owner of a supermarket told the committee. “Business owners will have to make tough choices and many part-time employees will face reduced hours,” he added. “Many franchise businesses are being turned upside down by the new costs, complexities and requirements of the law,” another business owner told the committee.

Legislation (HR 2575) has been introduced in the House to repeal the 30-hour threshold for classification as a full-time equivalent employee for purposes of the employer mandate and to replace it with 40 hours. The bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

HealthCare.gov

As has been widely reported, the individuals seeking to enroll in Marketplace coverage through HealthCare.gov experienced some online problems in October. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has undertaken a comprehensive review of HealthCare.gov. In the meantime, HHS reminded individuals that in-person assistance centers are open as are customer call centers.

Enrollment

The Affordable Care Act generally requires individuals to carry health insurance after 2013 or make a shared responsibility payment (also known as a penalty). For 2014, the penalty is $95 or the flat fee of one percent of taxable income, $325 in 2015 or the flat fee of two percent of taxable income, $695 in 2016 or 2.5 percent of taxable income (the $695 amount is indexed for inflation after 2016).

Open enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s Marketplaces began October 1, 2013 and runs through March 31, 2014. The enrollment period overlaps with the January 1, 2014 requirement to carry health insurance or make a shared responsibility payment. On social media, the Obama administration clarified that individuals who enroll in coverage through a Marketplace at anytime during the enrollment period will not be responsible for a penalty.

If you have any questions about these developments or the Affordable Care Act in general, please contact our office at (908) 725-4414.

IRS delays start of 2014 filing season; Administration clarifies individual mandate penalty

Shortly after resuming operations post-government shutdown, the IRS told taxpayers that the start of the 2014 filing season will be delayed by one to two weeks. The delay will largely impact taxpayers who want to file their 2013 returns early in the filing season. At the same time, the White House clarified on social media that no penalty under the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate would be imposed during the enrollment period for obtaining coverage through an ACA Marketplace.

IRS shutdown

On October 1, many IRS employees in Washington, D.C. and nationwide were furloughed after Congress failed to approve funding for the government’s fiscal year (FY 2014). During the shutdown, only 10 percent of the IRS’ approximately 90,000 employees remained on the job, most engaged in criminal investigations and infrastructure support. Employees on furlough, including revenue agents assigned to exams and hearing officers assigned to collection due process cases, were expressly prohibited from doing any work, including checking email and voice messages.

Employees return to work

The IRS reopened on October 17. The previous day, Congress had passed legislation to fund the government through mid-January 2014. The IRS immediately cautioned taxpayers to expect longer wait times and limited service as it would take time for employees to resume work and process backlogged inventory. Upon their return to work, IRS employees began reviewing email, voice messages and their files as well as completing administrative tasks to reopen operations. The IRS reported that it received 400,000 pieces of correspondence during the furlough period in addition to nearly one million items already being processed before the shutdown.

Returns and refunds

The 16-day furlough overlapped with the October 15 deadline for taxpayers on extension to file 2012 returns. The IRS reported that during the shutdown it continued as many automated processes as possible, including accepting returns and processing payments. The Free File system also was open during the furlough period. However, refunds were not issued while the IRS was closed. Refunds are now being processed. If you have any questions about a refund or payment, please contact our office.

Filing season

The start of the 2014 filing season will be delayed approximately one to two weeks so the IRS can program and test tax processing systems following the 16-day federal government closure. The IRS had anticipated opening the 2014 filing season on January 21. With a one- to two-week delay, the IRS would start accepting and processing 2013 individual tax returns no earlier than January 28, 2014 and no later than February 4, 2014. The IRS reported it will make a final determination on the start of the 2014 filing season in mid-December.

The IRS explained that the government shutdown took place during the peak period for preparing its return processing systems for the 2014 filing season. The IRS must program, test and deploy more than 50 systems to handle processing of nearly 150 million tax returns.

“Readying our systems to handle the tax season is an intricate, detailed process, and we must take the time to get it right,” Acting Commissioner Daniel Werfel said in a statement. “The adjustment to the start of the filing season provides us the necessary time to program, test and validate our systems so that we can provide a smooth filing and refund process for the nation’s taxpayers. We want the public and tax professionals to know about the delay well in advance so they can prepare for a later start of the filing season.”

Affordable Care Act

Beginning January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act generally requires individuals – unless exempt – to carry health insurance or make a shared responsibility payment (also known as a penalty). Individuals exempt from the payment include individuals covered by most employer-sponsored health plans, Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs. The penalty is $95 in 2014 or the flat fee of one percent of taxable income, $325 in 2015 or the flat fee of two percent of taxable income, $695 in 2016 or 2.5 percent of taxable income (the $695 amount is indexed for inflation after 2016).

The Obama administration launched individual Marketplaces (formerly known as Exchanges) on October 1 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The enrollment period for coverage for 2014 began on October 1 and is scheduled to end March 31, 2014, which is after the January 1 effective date of the individual mandate. In late October, the Obama administration clarified on social media that individuals who enroll in coverage through a Marketplace at anytime during the enrollment period will not be responsible for a penalty.

Because of technical problems, some applications on HealthCare.gov have not been running at 100 percent, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported. Individuals can, however, enroll and obtain insurance at in-person assistance centers. Marketplace customer call centers are also open, HHS explained.