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But He is a Close Friend

2017-11-13 by Eva Rosenberg

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Today TaxMama® wants to talk to you about the latest con games affecting people you know – especially seniors.

 

 

Dear Friends and Family,

I just heard the most frightening story. Unfortunately, it’s true.

An elderly woman is trying to figure out how to pay taxes on a major withdrawal of funds from her retirement account. Although this starts out as a tax problem, that’s just the symptom of the problem. The disease goes much deeper.

This woman met someone on the Internet who became her really good “friend.” He convinced her that he was a millionaire and after a while, told her a story about someone being hospitalized, and needing funds – that he would pay her back. He was able to “prove” to her that he had a million dollars in a bank account. (By giving her an account number and phone number to call. Uh huh.)

She agreed to help him. How? By wiping out her total 401(k) account. Then, since it wasn’t enough, she borrowed money from a friend. How much in total? $250,000!

When her daughter started seeing these funds going out, she tried to get her mother to file a police report. But Mom was adamant. “This is a close friend that I’ve known for a long time.”    But the daughter had never heard of this fellow.     (Apparently, that’s what the victims are told to say.)

This is absolutely powerful stuff! These overseas con artists must be incredibly smart and smooth to convince someone who was otherwise business savvy enough to generate this much in a retirement account. In fact, they are well-trained. And they gain your confidence – which is why they are called “con” men.

We have long known about the Grandparent scam, where they call pretending to be a grandchild in trouble – and they get a few thousand dollars. But this is a new one to me. It’s not new to the FBI. They call it the Romance Scam. $250,000 this woman gave him!!!

How lonely does a person have to be to fall for this kind of persuasion? Even after her daughter tried to intervene, this woman trusted some total stranger instead of her daughter!

Friends, please, please, stand firm. When your parent or friend is sending money to anyone you don’t know, STOP IT! Even if they get angry with you.

And if it’s you! And you are believing someone you’ve never even met, about how much they care about you, and rely on you, and how they will pay you back…Even when they give you ways to “verify” who they are or how much money they have. None of it is true. Get advice from someone you DO know and trust before releasing a dime. And never, never, ever use money from your retirement savings or borrow funds. If you don’t actually have the cash on hand – just say “NO!”

Block them, or hang up on them. And, if you’re really smart, you will report them to the authorities. There is no way to find or stop these people if you don’t tell the cops. Sure, it’s embarrassing. Especially if you already gave them some money. And no, you won’t get the money back. But you might prevent someone else from getting scammed. And, by filing a police report, you will be able to write off the theft loss.

This nice lady refused to report it…so it’s not theft. She gave away $250,000 willingly. And still owes about $50,000 to a friend – and taxes on $200,000 of income – that SHE never got to spend on herself.

To make comments and toss in your own ideas, please drop into the TaxQuips Forum.

And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about scams and other tax and business issues, free. Where? Where else? At www.TaxMama.com.

 

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Summary - Tax Cut and Jobs Act 2017

2017-11-06 by Eva Rosenberg

legislation photo  On November 2nd, the House Ways and Means Committee unveiled a sweeping tax bill, Tax Cut and Jobs Act, designed to undo many of the complexities of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Please understand that this is not law yet. There’s still a long journey, with lots of hurdles, before some version of this bill becomes law. Whatever happens, this won’t affect your 2017 tax return adversely. Most provisions will take effect for “tax years after 2017.”

In the meantime, let me give you a brief overview of how this law will affect you, starting in 2018. After all, you don’t want the entire 429 page information here, on something that isn’t really a law yet.

Please understand, my focus is on individuals and small businesses, only. I will not touch on the large, mult-nationals, and offshore profits at all, though, those provisions are an important factor in balancing the effects of this law.


Glossary


Some abbreviations we will use are M = Married, S = Single, HOH = Head of Household.

AGI – Adjusted Gross Income – the bottom line on the page 1 of the long Form 1040.
Nonrefundable credits – the tax credits may only be used to zero out a taxpayer’s tax liability, not to generate any extra refunds.

Refundable credits – tax credits will be given to taxpayers in excess of their total tax liability – even if they have had nothing withheld.

Tax Credits – they reduce taxes, on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

Tax deductions – they only reduce income times your tax bracket.


 

  • Tax Brackets – Reduced to 4 brackets – 12%, 25%, 35% and 39.6%. Currently, we have 8 tax brackets – 0%, 10%,15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6%  . (I know, you keep hearing that there are 7. The legislators keep omitting the current 0% tax bracket for the lowest income people!)
    • The lowest bracket of 12% will apply to the income of single people at $45,000, married couples at $90,000 and heads of household at $67,500.
    • The average person with income above those amounts will pay 25% until they reach these thresholds – S to $130,000, MFJ to $260,000, HOH to $195,000.
    • Folks will hit the 39.6% bracket when their income reaches $500,000 for S, $1,000,000 for MFJ and $500,000 for HOH.


  • Impact on you. There will no longer be a 0% tax bracket at all. So that may cause taxes to increase on the poorest taxpayers – if the increased family-related tax credits and increased standard deductions don’t reduce their taxes.


  • Personal Exemptions – all gone.
    • Impact on you. For 2018, your personal exemption would have been $4,150. A family of four would lose $16,600 in deductions.


  • Child Tax Credit – Increased to $1,600 from $1,000 per child under age 17
    • Impact on you. That $600 increase is designed to balance out the loss of the $4,150 per child. In a 12% tax bracket – that actually works.
    • The refundable portion of $1,000 (to be indexed for inflation) will require a Social Security number.
    • The income level to claim the credit has been increased – $115,000 (S), $230,000 (MFJ)  (possibly, although not specified – $172,500 for HOH)


  • Family Flexibility Credit – New – worth $300 per non-child dependent. It’s temporary – it expires on 12/31/2022. And it’s not refundable.
    • Impact on you. This is designed to replace the personal exemption for the taxpayer, spouse and any other adult (like a parent, girl-friend, college-age child). This still doesn’t really replace the value of the lost exemptions. It leaves a shortfall of about $300 per person.
    • The income level to claim the credit has been increased – $115,000 (S), $230,000 (MFJ)  (possibly, although not specified – $172,500 for HOH)


  • Standard Deduction – Increased to $12,200 (S), $24,400 (MFJ, and $18,100 (HOH) – under current law it is $6,500 (S), $13,000 (MFJ), and $9,550 (HOH)
    • Impact on you. This appears to be a significant increase in deductions you can use without having to report any expenses or save any receipts. This increase is designed to simplify your tax return preparation. This is, essentially, the basis of their “postcard tax return” concept.
    • For people who rent their residences and have jobs that reimburse all their expenses, this standard deduction and the increase in family-related tax credits will keep your taxes about the same as before – with fewer record-keeping requirements.


  • Itemized Deductions – All of them are being eliminated except for mortgage interest and property taxes. Even those deductions have new caps on them. This means, no deductions for moving expenses, employee business expenses, medical expenses, and so on. In addition, entertainment expenses are totally abolished – for business and employees. Tax preparation fees and fees for financial advice are no longer deductible. Note: The current phase out of itemized deductions and standard deductions for high-income taxpayers will be repealed. Not that it matters since we won’t have any exemptions or many deductions left to take.
    • Impact on you. Folks who traditionally have high deductions for medical expenses, job-related costs, and state tax deductions will be hit hard. All those deductions are gone. There is nothing to replace those tax deductions at all. Who will be the hardest hit?
      • The elderly and disabled who don’t have enough insurance coverage, or must pay for in-home care or must live in care facilities.
      • Employees who have unreimbursed travel and meal expenses.


    • Mortgage Interest – folks with current, qualifying mortgages will still be able to take their interest deductions. If you buy a new home starting in 2018, your mortgage interest deduction will be limited to the interest on a loan of up to $500,000
      • Impact on you. No impact if you keep your current mortgage. But if you refinance, you will only be able to claim the interest on the acquisition debt – probably up to loans of $500,000.
      • The interest deduction is limited to only one principal residence (unlike the two we used to be able to deduct)
      • No deduction will be allowed for home equity debt at all, on new purchases.
      • There is no longer a deduction for the PMI – mortgage insurance
      • They don’t discuss points – but assume that they are only deductible on a new purchase, not on refinanced loans.
      • NOTE: This $500,000 limit applies to all new loans and refinanced loans dated after November 2, 2017! So there is no time to do any refinancing or damage control.


    • Real Property Taxes – limited to a total of $10,000 – regardless of the number of properties involved.
      • Impact on you. Unlike the mortgage interest expense, existing property taxes are not grandfathered.
      • All other state and local tax deductions are gone – which is a bit hit for taxpayers in high tax states like New York, California, Illinois, etc. No effect on the 9 states that have no income taxes, or the few states, like Alaska, that don’t have sales taxes either.
      • Note: Businesses may still deduct all relevant state and local taxes related to their business operations.


    • Charitable Contributions – Still deductible. The limit on deductions rises to 60% of AGI, instead of 50%. There are more complicated provisions, especially with respect to the carryover of unused deductions.
      • Impact on you. For most people, the higher standard deduction will make deducting these donations impossible, since you won’t be able to itemize at all.
      • Impact on charities. Probably a reduction of donations from moderate to lower-income taxpayers. It will practically put a stop to the year-end donations of personal and household goods to charities and thrift shops, since the primary donors will no longer be able to use the deductions.
      • One small piece of good news for those who will still be able to itemize. For the first time in half a century or more, the IRS finally has the right to set the mileage deduction, and to increase it by inflation. It has been frozen at 14 cents per mile because only Congress could change that number.


    • Personal Casualty Losses – gone, except for federally declared disaster areas
      • Impact on you. If you experience a fire, theft, flood or other personal disaster and don’t get insurance compensation for the full amount of the loss – you won’t be able to take a deduction at all. You may need to reduce the deductibles on your various insurances. A real boon for the insurance industry.
      • However, if you are in a disaster area, you will still be able to claim the deductions.
      • Note: This does not impact business casualty losses. Those are still fully deductible.


    • Alimony Expenses – will no longer be deductible at all.
      • Impact on you. Spouses who pay out alimony, child support, or family support will no longer get any tax benefit for the share of the income they give to an ex-spouse. This will definitely cause a re-negotiation of all divorce settlements, since it will be so much more expensive to the paying spouse.
      • Good news: The person receiving the alimony will no longer be paying taxes on this income. So, when the amounts are negotiated downwards, it won’t be as painful.


    • Selling Your Home – in order to avoid paying taxes on the first $250,000/$500,000 of profits, you must now live in the home for at least 5 years out of eight.
      • Impact on you. It’s no longer going to be possible to make a living buying a home, fixing it up and selling it at a profit every two years – and to live tax-free.
      • Adult couples planning marry, who each own homes, might have to sell their homes before marriage, and buy a new home to live in together. Or to do some careful planning about the timing of home sales before and after marriage.
      • More bad news. This exclusion of profits is reduced, dollar-for-dollar, when your AGI exceeds $500,000. (Note: It’s not clear if we must take the excluded profit into account before computing AGI. I hope not.)


    • Education Deductions and Credits – Most have been consolidated into the American Opportunity Credit, with a fifth year of tuition providing an additional credit of up to $500.
      • Impact on you.
      • The Lifetime Learning Credit is gone. A bit of discouragement for folks wanting to continue to improve their skills or learn new skills as their jobs and industries are being phased out.
      • No more deduction for student loan interest.
      • No exclusion from income for interest on U.S. savings bonds.
      • No exclusion from income for tuition-reduction programs.
      • There will be some provisions for relief of debt for student loans that are unpaid due to death, total disability or other conditions.


    • Sec 529 College Savings Plans – New contributions are prohibited. But you may rollover funds, tax-free, from Coverdell plans (like a student IRA).
      • Impact on you. Future college savings will have to be invested in taxable accounts – unless you decide to buy your children whole life insurance policies as early in life as possible. Those funds will grow as you make annual payments. When your child is ready for college, he or she may borrow from the cash value of the life insurance policy with no tax effect.
      • Beneficiaries are expanded so you can designate a beneficiary to be a human fetus. (Yup, it specifies “species homo sapien,” not simian, or canine or ursine, or…)
        • Note: To designate a beneficiary, you must have a name, address and Social Security Number – so that is a rather absurd provision in the proposed law.


      • Funds may be used for elementary and high school costs up to $10,000
      • Funds may be used to pay for apprenticeship programs
      • And with all of these provisions, if you cannot make new contributions, none of this is really helpful, except to wealthy folks who front-loaded their family’s Sec 529 accounts with five years worth of maximum contributions – and have been funding these accounts since the birth of their children, grandchildren or relatives.


    • Tax-Free Employee Awards – Repealed.
      • Impact on you. Your employer used to be able to give you tax-free awards for achievements or safety each year worth $400 (up to $1,600 per year). They may still give you these awards. But the awards will be fully taxable.


    • Employer-Paid Dependent Care Assistance – Repealed
      • Impact on you. Your employer was able to provide a tax-free benefit of up to $5,000 for dependent care assistance. This is no longer a tax-free benefit.


    • Employer-Paid Moving Expense Reimbursements – Repealed
      • Impact on you. In the past, part of the moving expense reimbursements were tax-free – as long as they were for moving the household and direct transportation of the members of the household. The other relocation expenses were taxable. Now – it’s all taxable.


    • Employer-Paid Adoption Expenses – Repealed
      • Impact on you. In the past, your employer could provide up to $13,570 to help cover your adoption expenses as a tax-free benefit. This was in addition to the tax credit you could take for any expenses in excess of the job-related benefit. This benefit is gone.
      • Note: The tax credit for adoptions will still be available – as a nonrefundable credit.


    • Alternative Minimum Taxes (AMT) – Repealed
      • Impact on you. This was originally designed to ensure the wealthy paid taxes, even after their expensive tax planning was put into place. Instead, the income levels where the AMT took effect, affected taxpayers whose income was barely over the poverty level. For the average person, this is a valuable benefit.
      • However, instead of repealing the AMT, they should have left it in effect at much higher income levels – more like $250,000 or $500,000, instead of the $53,900 (S & HOH) or $83,800 (MFJ). This is a HUGE tax break for the wealthy.
      • Note: Most of the average income people who were affected were those who had high employee business expenses, or home equity interest. But since both of those deductions are gone anyway, the average person would not face AMT even without this provision.
      • Folks with an AMT credit carryforward may be able to use them up, at the rate of 50% per year, starting in 2019 – 2021. Whatever’s left may be fully used up in 2022.


    • Estate Taxes – The exclusion from estate tax is doubled to $10,000,000 per person, indexed by inflation. The estate tax totally phases out in 2023. The top estate tax rate drops to 35% from 40%.
      • Impact on you. Not much really. Since, according the IRS statistics of wealth, only about .34% (that’s about a third of ONE percent) of the population have assets in excess of $5 million dollars.
      • The good news. They did include a provision to keep the step-up in basis intact. Normally, when estate taxes are repealed, that also means that the heirs have to struggle to figure out the tax cost to the person who died. Getting a step-up in basis means that when you inherit something, your tax cost (or basis) is the fair market value (FMV) on the date of death.
      • Gift taxes will still be due on lifetime gifts of $10 million or more, indexed for inflation. The gift tax will be 35%
      • The annual gift tax exclusion will remain as is, currently $14,000 to any one person for 2017, and indexed for inflation. It will rise to $15,000 for 2018.






This only covers most of the information in the first 26 pages (out of 82 pages) of the summary of the proposed law, plus the estate & gift taxes and AMT. There are lots more things in there, both good and bad.

For more information, you will find some excellent articles and incisive summaries of this law written by folks like Kelly Phillips Erb at Forbes  https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2017/11/02/how-do-the-proposed-tax-cuts-compare-to-the-2018-tax-rates

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2017/11/02/from-mortgage-caps-to-tax-brackets-how-the-house-tax-bill-could-impact-your-taxes/

and Kay Bell blog –  Don’t Mess With Taxes http://www.dontmesswithtaxes.com/ – and her articles at BankRate.com – http://www.dontmesswithtaxes.com/about.html

And the House Ways and Means press release announcing this plan can be found here – https://waysandmeans.house.gov/category/press-releases/

 

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Tax Cuts and Jobs Act - Introduction

2017-11-06 by Eva Rosenberg

legislation photoToday TaxMama® wants to talk to you about the latest tax proposal from the House of Representatives.
It’s a doozey!

taxmama replies

Dear Friends and Family,

Last week, the House released their sweeping tax reform bill to public view. There’s a lot of excited or panicked chatter about this. Let me gives you a few pertinent facts.
And perhaps a few impertinent comments, too.

1) This is not law. It is a proposed (429 page) bill that the House of Representatives must discuss, dissect and vote on – probably in the next two weeks.

2) Once they have passed their version of the law, it will go to the Senate. In the meantime, the Senate is developing their own version of a sweeping tax bill. So, since there will be differences, the law still cannot pass.
3) It will go to the Joint Committee on Taxation – which is composed of members of the House and Senate. They will hash out their differences and produce a final version of the new, sweeping tax law.

All of this, if they work rapidly, might get accomplished before Christmas. After all, there is pressure on the Legislature to pass a bill this year.

Whether they do or not, here’s something to help you relax and enjoy your holidays. Whatever they do will have very little negative impact on you for 2017.

Practically everything in the proposed bill will take effect for the 2018 tax year. There might be a few provisions that extend some tax breaks to 2017 that ended on 12/31/2016.

So take a deep breath. Don’t panic. It’s OK for now.

You will find a summary of the proposal on this page – http://taxmama.com/?p=14408 . Please look it over to see how this might affect you. Why, since I just told you to relax? Because you have time to contact your representatives in the House and Senate to let them know about provisions that really make you angry. YOU have time to improve the final version of the law – that we do know is coming.

The following link will help you reach all the right people.  Talk to STAFF – they have more power than you can imagine.

http://taxmama.com/special-reports/call-to-action/

One last thing, once the law does pass, my publishers have asked me to put together a detailed explanation for you. We will be releasing that book first thing next year.

To make comments and toss in your own ideas, please drop into the TaxQuips Forum.

And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about tax legislation and other tax and business issues, free. Where? Where else? At www.TaxMama.com.

 

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TaxMama’s TaxQuips Disastrous Tax Issues

2017-09-06 by Eva Rosenberg

hurricane harvey photo

Today TaxMama® says we are facing Hurricane Irma in Florida, dealing with the devastation of Harvey in Texas – and the biggest fire in Los Angeles history. So let’s talk about the special tax breaks available to you.

 

 

 

 

                                                                      

Dear Friends and Family,

Generally, whenever a major disaster strikes in the United States, the president issues a declaration – which triggers some special tax breaks and extensions for those in the disaster area.

In this case, President Trump has issued declarations for 9 disasters,  since taking office. We know there will be one for Hurricane Irma. But, so far, he has not issued the usual declaration for the Los Angeles – La Tuna fires. (But that’s a whole other discussion.)

The most important tax break facing us right now is – additional time. On September 15, we have several things due. The 3rd quarter estimated tax payment for individuals and businesses; the final filing deadline for calendar-year partnerships, S corporations, and trusts (if they were on extension); and certain payroll tax deposits for the previous quarter… Then we have another set of deadlines on October 15th for personal and C corporation tax returns – and the rest of the taxes that are due.

Disaster areas with qualifying presidential disaster declarations have additional time to file returns, forms and payments – without incurring penalties. Although interest will continue to accrue. For the most part, the IRS has announced that Hurricane Harvey victims have until January 31, 2018 to file their forms and pay the relevant taxes. Folks in Virginia’s storm areas in July have until November 30, 2017. Victims of Michigan’s June storms have until October 31, 2017.

It’s important to look up the information related to your state in order to learn if you are entitled to the special tax breaks.

Another valuable benefit of the presidential declaration is to allow taxpayers to report their casualty losses in one of three different years. They can report the loss in the year before the event, the year of the event, or the year when the losses are settled with the insurance company. This makes it possible for you to either get faster refunds, for much needed immediate cash; or to take your losses in the year that gives you the best tax break.

For more disaster-related tips – http://taxmama.com/tax-quips/disasters-and-other-pleasant-experiences/

To make comments and toss in your own ideas, please drop into the TaxQuips Forum.

And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about disasters and other tax and business issues, free. Where? Where else? At www.TaxMama.com.

[Note: If you were subscribed to the e-mailed version of TaxQuips, you’d be getting other exciting news and tips by e-mail, that never appear on the site. Please click on the join TaxMama.com link – it’s free!]

Please post all Comments and Replies to this post in the TaxQuips Forum.

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TaxMama's Tax Quips - the Gig Economy

2017-08-16 by Eva Rosenberg

airbnb photo
Today TaxMama® says that estimated tax payments are due – and that’s timely information for the “Gig” economy. http://deducteverythingbook.com/

 

Dear Friends and Family,

Here are 15 tips for Uber, Lyft and AirBnB workers and others out there on your own. Some of the information comes from chapters 7 and 8 of Deduct Everything

 

1) Be sure to track all rental days –  and/or rental hours if you’re doing pet sitting or providing child care or adult care.

2) Buy rental foods and supplies separately from personal supplies – keep the grocery or store receipts and track them. You can scan them directly into your accounting system if you use Xero or QuickBooks

3) When setting up the house to depreciate the office in home, use your basis (purchase price) or the current fair market value (FMV) – but only if FMV is lower. Be sure to deduct the value of the land first, before computing depreciation.

4) YES, if you are renting your home, you MUST claim depreciation – or use the simplified office in home deduction. Which doesn’t give you enough value when you are renting to tenants instead of using a small office area.

5) For Uber or Lyft drivers with an Office in Home, the simplified method is probably a better idea than all the fuss about actual expenses. You can claim up to $1500/ year ($5×300 sq ft) for a separate office area.  https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/simplified-option-for-home-office-deduction

6) The biggest fallacy of people who get 1099s – you are not an employee – you are in business for yourself. Act like it. After all, you will be paying self-employment taxes of 15.3% on all your net profits.

7) Open a separate business bank account.

8) Make IRS and state estimated tax payments each quarter – the next one is due on Sept 15th

9) You can avoid making estimated payments by raising your withholding if you also have a job.

10) How much should you pay in estimated tax payments? Add 15.3% to your IRS tax bracket  (say 15% = 30.3%) + whatever your state bracket is.  Figure with IRS and state – you should pay about 35% of your profits for the quarter.

11) What’s the best way to pay? Since you don’t have employees, and probably don’t want to go to the trouble of linking your bank account to the IRS’s system (via www.eftps.gov ), use the IRS’ Direct Pay system. It’s free, takes the money from your bank account, provides an instant receipt – and you control where the money is applied – so do it carefully and slowly.
Check to see if your state has a similar system.  Of course, you can always use something like www.pay.gov  (you can use bank account or debit/credit card)

12) Tracking mileage isn’t too hard, since Uber has a tool that handles it for you. Lyft doesn’t seem to, so use MileIQ or something similar

13) In all cases, be sure you have all the correct licenses. Generally getting them is inexpensive and easy. But not having them generates penalties.

14) If you have people working for you – be sure to put them on payroll if they really are your employees. Treating them like freelancers will cause you untold problems – from so many different sources.

15) If they are really in business for themselves  have them fill out a Form W-9 to collect each person’s Social Security number or employer ID number, address, and type of business they operate, if they are an entity. Get this before making the first payment to them. Otherwise, you might have to start holding back 30% of their compensation, or get into trouble yourself.

 

To make comments and toss in your own ideas, please drop into the TaxQuips Forum.

And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about gigs and other tax and business issues, free. Where? Where else? At www.TaxMama.com.

[Note: If you were subscribed to the e-mailed version of TaxQuips, you’d be getting other exciting news and tips by e-mail, that never appear on the site. Please click on the join TaxMama.com link – it’s free!]

Please post all Comments and Replies to this post in the TaxQuips Forum.

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