IRS Statement on Balance due Notices

 

Please read the following IRS Statement on Balance due Notices:

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-statement-on-balance-due-notices-cp14

Inflation enhances the 2025 amounts for Health Savings Accounts

The IRS recently released guidance providing the 2025 inflation-adjusted amounts for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). These amounts are adjusted each year, based on inflation, and the adjustments are announced earlier in the year than other inflation-adjusted amounts, which allows employers to get ready for the next year.

Fundamentals of HSAs

An HSA is a trust created or organized exclusively for the purpose of paying the qualified medical expenses of an account beneficiary. An HSA can only be established for the benefit of an eligible individual who is covered under a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). In addition, a participant can’t be enrolled in Medicare or have other health coverage (exceptions include dental, vision, long-term care, accident and specific disease insurance).

Within specified dollar limits, an above-the-line tax deduction is allowed for an individual’s contribution to an HSA. This annual contribution limitation and the annual deductible and out-of-pocket expenses under the tax code are adjusted annually for inflation.

Inflation adjustments for 2025

In Revenue Procedure 2024-25, the IRS released the 2025 inflation-adjusted figures for contributions to HSAs, which are as follows:

Annual contribution limits. For calendar year 2025, the annual contribution limit for an individual with self-only coverage under an HDHP will be $4,300. For an individual with family coverage, the amount will be $8,550. These are up from $4,150 and $8,300, respectively, in 2024.

In addition, for both 2024 and 2025, there’s a $1,000 catch-up contribution amount for those who are age 55 or older by the end of the tax year.

High-deductible health plan limits. For calendar year 2025, an HDHP will be a health plan with an annual deductible that isn’t less than $1,650 for self-only coverage or $3,300 for family coverage (these amounts are $1,600 and $3,200 for 2024). In addition, annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments and other amounts, but not premiums) won’t be able to exceed $8,300 for self-only coverage or $16,600 for family coverage (up from $8,050 and $16,100, respectively, for 2024).

Heath Reimbursement Arrangements

The IRS also announced an inflation-adjusted amount for Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). An HRA must receive contributions from an eligible individual (employers can’t contribute). Contributions aren’t included in income, and HRA reimbursements used to pay eligible medical expenses aren’t taxed. In 2025, the maximum amount that may be made newly available for the plan year for an excepted benefit HRA will be $2,150 (up from $2,100 in 2024).

Collect the benefits

There are a variety of benefits to HSAs that employers and employees appreciate. Contributions to the accounts are made on a pre-tax basis. The money can accumulate tax-free year after year and can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for a variety of medical expenses such as doctor visits, prescriptions, chiropractic care and premiums for long-term care insurance. In addition, an HSA is “portable.” It stays with an account holder if he or she changes employers or leaves the workforce. Many employers find it to be a fringe benefit that attracts and retains employees. If you have questions about HSAs at your business, contact us.

© 2024

Should you convert your business from a C to an S corporation?

Choosing the right business entity has many implications, including the amount of your tax bill. The most common business structures are sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, C corporations and S corporations.

In some cases, a business may decide to switch from one entity type to another. Although S corporations can provide substantial tax benefits over C corporations in some circumstances, there are potentially costly tax issues that you should assess before making the decision to convert from a C corporation to an S corporation.

Here are four considerations:

1. LIFO inventories. C corporations that use last-in, first-out (LIFO) inventories must pay tax on the benefits they derived by using LIFO if they convert to S corporations. The tax can be spread over four years. This cost must be weighed against the potential tax gains from converting to S status.

2. Built-in gains tax. Although S corporations generally aren’t subject to tax, those that were formerly C corporations are taxed on built-in gains (such as appreciated property) that the C corporation has when the S election becomes effective, if those gains are recognized within five years after the conversion. This is generally unfavorable, although there are situations where the S election still can produce a better tax result despite the built-in gains tax.

3. Passive income. S corporations that were formerly C corporations are subject to a special tax. It kicks in if their passive investment income (including dividends, interest, rents, royalties, and stock sale gains) exceeds 25% of their gross receipts, and the S corporation has accumulated earnings and profits carried over from its C corporation years. If that tax is owed for three consecutive years, the corporation’s election to be an S corporation terminates. You can avoid the tax by distributing the accumulated earnings and profits, which would be taxable to shareholders. Or you might want to avoid the tax by limiting the amount of passive income.

4. Unused losses. If your C corporation has unused net operating losses, they can’t be used to offset its income as an S corporation and can’t be passed through to shareholders. If the losses can’t be carried back to an earlier C corporation year, it will be necessary to weigh the cost of giving up the losses against the tax savings expected to be generated by the switch to S status.

Other issues to explore

These are only some of the factors to consider when switching a business from C to S status. For example, shareholder-employees of S corporations can’t get all the tax-free fringe benefits that are available as a C corporation. And there may be issues for shareholders who have outstanding loans from their qualified plans. These factors must be taken into account in order to understand the implications of converting from C to S status.

If you’re interested in an entity conversion, contact us. We can explain what your options are, how they’ll affect your tax bill and some possible strategies you can use to minimize taxes.

© 2024

The tax advantages of including debt in a C corporation capital structure

Let’s say you plan to use a C corporation to operate a newly acquired business or you have an existing C corporation that needs more capital. You should know that the federal tax code treats corporate debt more favorably than corporate equity. So for shareholders of closely held C corporations, it can be a tax-smart move to include in the corporation’s capital structure:

  • Some third-party debt (owed to outside lenders), and/or
  • Some owner debt.

Tax rate considerations

Let’s review some basics. The top individual federal income tax rate is currently 37%. The top individual federal rate on net long-term capital gains and qualified dividends is currently 20%. On top of this, higher-income individuals may also owe the 3.8% net investment income tax on all or part of their investment income, which includes capital gains, dividends and interest.

On the corporate side, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) established a flat 21% federal income tax rate on taxable income recognized by C corporations.

Third-party debt

The non-tax advantage of using third-party debt financing for a C corporation acquisition or to supply additional capital is that shareholders don’t need to commit as much of their own money.

Even when shareholders can afford to cover the entire cost with their own money, tax considerations may make doing so inadvisable. That’s because a shareholder generally can’t withdraw all or part of a corporate equity investment without worrying about the threat of double taxation. This occurs when the corporation pays tax on its profits and the shareholders pay tax again when the profits are distributed as dividends.

When third-party debt is used in a corporation’s capital structure, it becomes less likely that shareholders will need to be paid taxable dividends because they’ll have less money tied up in the business. The corporate cash flow can be used to pay off the corporate debt, at which point the shareholders will own 100% of the corporation with a smaller investment on their part.

Owner debt

If your entire interest in a successful C corporation is in the form of equity, double taxation can arise if you want to withdraw some of your investment. But if you include owner debt (money you loan to the corporation) in the capital structure, you have a built-in mechanism for withdrawing that part of your investment tax-free. That’s because the loan principal repayments made to you are tax-free. Of course, you must include the interest payments in your taxable income. But the corporation will get an offsetting interest expense deduction — unless an interest expense limitation rule applies, which is unlikely for a small to medium-sized company.

An unfavorable TCJA change imposed a limit on interest deductions for affected businesses. However, for 2024, a corporation with average annual gross receipts of $30 million or less for the three previous tax years is exempt from the limit.

An example to illustrate

Let’s say you plan to use your solely owned C corporation to buy the assets of an existing business. You plan to fund the entire $5 million cost with your own money — in a $2 million contribution to the corporation’s capital (a stock investment), plus a $3 million loan to the corporation.

This capital structure allows you to recover $3 million of your investment as tax-free repayments of corporate debt principal. The interest payments allow you to receive additional cash from the corporation. The interest is taxable to you but can be deducted by the corporation, as long as the limitation explained earlier doesn’t apply.

This illustrates the potential federal income tax advantages of including debt in the capital structure of a C corporation. Contact us to explain the relevant details and project the tax savings.

© 2024

Pay attention to the tax rules if you turn a hobby into a business

Many people dream of turning a hobby into a regular business. Perhaps you enjoy boating and would like to open a charter fishing business. Or maybe you’d like to turn your sewing or photography skills into an income-producing business.

You probably won’t have any tax headaches if your new business is profitable over a certain period of time. But what if the new enterprise consistently generates losses (your deductions exceed income) and you claim them on your tax return? You can generally deduct losses for expenses incurred in a bona fide business. However, the IRS may step in and say the venture is a hobby — an activity not engaged in for profit — rather than a business. Then you’ll be unable to deduct losses.

By contrast, if the new enterprise isn’t affected by the hobby loss rules, all otherwise allowable expenses are deductible, generally on Schedule C, even if they exceed income from the enterprise.

Important: Before 2018, deductible hobby expenses could be claimed as miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to a 2%-of-AGI “floor.” However, because miscellaneous deductions aren’t allowed from 2018 through 2025, deductible hobby expenses are effectively wiped out from 2018 through 2025.

How to NOT be deemed a hobby

There are two ways to avoid the hobby loss rules:

  1. Show a profit in at least three out of five consecutive years (two out of seven years for breeding, training, showing or racing horses).
  2. Run the venture in such a way as to show that you intend to turn it into a profit maker rather than a mere hobby. The IRS regs themselves say that the hobby loss rules won’t apply if the facts and circumstances show that you have a profit-making objective.

How can you prove you have a profit-making objective? You should operate the venture in a businesslike manner. The IRS and the courts will look at the following factors:

  • How you run the activity,
  • Your expertise in the area (and your advisors’ expertise),
  • The time and effort you expend in the enterprise,
  • Whether there’s an expectation that the assets used in the activity will rise in value,
  • Your success in carrying on other activities,
  • Your history of income or loss in the activity,
  • The amount of any occasional profits earned,
  • Your financial status, and
  • Whether the activity involves elements of personal pleasure or recreation.

Case illustrates the issues

In one court case, partners operated a farm that bought, sold, bred and raced Standardbred horses. It didn’t qualify as an activity engaged in for profit, according to a U.S. Appeals Court. The court noted that the partnership had a substantial loss history and paid for personal expenses. Also, the taxpayers kept inaccurate records, had no business plan, earned significant income from other sources and derived personal pleasure from the activity. (Skolnick, CA 3, 3/8/23)

Contact us for more details on whether a venture of yours may be affected by the hobby loss rules, and what you should do to avoid tax problems.

© 2024

Growing your business with a new partner: Here are some tax considerations

There are several financial and legal implications when adding a new partner to a partnership. Here’s an example to illustrate: You and your partners are planning to admit a new partner. The new partner will acquire a one-third interest in the partnership by making a cash contribution to the business. Assume that your basis in your partnership interests is sufficient so that the decrease in your portions of the partnership’s liabilities because of the new partner’s entry won’t reduce your basis to zero.

More complex than it seems

Although adding a new partner may appear to be simple, it’s important to plan the new person’s entry properly to avoid various tax problems. Here are two issues to consider:

1. If there’s a change in the partners’ interests in unrealized receivables and substantially appreciated inventory items, the change will be treated as a sale of those items, with the result that the current partners will recognize gain. For this purpose, unrealized receivables include not only accounts receivable, but also depreciation recapture and certain other ordinary income items. To avoid gain recognition on those items, it’s necessary that they be allocated to the current partners even after the entry of the new partner.

2. The tax code requires that the “built-in gain or loss” on assets that were held by the partnership before the new partner was admitted be allocated to the current partners and not to the entering partner. In general, “built-in gain or loss” is the difference between the fair market value and basis of the partnership property at the time the new partner is admitted.

The upshot of these rules is that the new partner must be allocated a portion of the depreciation equal to his or her share of the depreciable property, based on current fair market value. This will reduce the amount of depreciation that can be taken by the current partners. The other outcome is that the built-in gain or loss on the partnership assets must be allocated to the current partners when the partnership assets are sold. The rules that apply in this area are complex, and the partnership may have to adopt special accounting procedures to cope with the relevant requirements.

Follow your basis

When adding a partner or making other changes, a partner’s basis in his or her interest can undergo frequent adjustment. It’s important to keep proper track of your basis because it can have an impact on these areas:

  • Gain or loss on the sale of your interest,
  • How partnership distributions to you are taxed, and
  • The maximum amount of partnership loss you can deduct.

We can help

Contact us if you’d like assistance in dealing with these issues or any other issues that may arise in connection with your partnership.

© 2024

Taxes when you sell an appreciated vacation home

Vacation homes in upscale areas may be worth way more than owners paid for them. That’s great, but what about taxes? Here are three scenarios to illustrate the federal income tax issues you face when selling an appreciated vacation home.

Scenario 1: You’ve never used the home as your primary residence

In this case, the home sale gain exclusion tax break (up to $250,000 or $500,000 for a married couple) is unavailable. Your vacation home sale profit will be treated as a capital gain.

If you’ve owned the property for more than one year, the gain will be taxed at no more than the 20% maximum federal rate on long-term capital gains (LTCGs), plus the net investment income tax (NIIT), if applicable. However, the 20% rate only applies to the lesser of:

  • Your net LTCG for the year, or
  • The excess of your taxable income, including any net LTCG, over the applicable threshold.

For 2024, the thresholds are $518,900 for single filers, $583,750 for married joint filers and $551,350 for heads of households. If your taxable income is below the applicable threshold, the maximum federal rate on net LTCGs is 15%.

If you also owe the 3.8% NIIT, the effective federal rate on some or all of your net LTCG will be 18.8% (15% + 3.8%) or 23.8% (20% + 3.8%).

You may owe state income tax, too.

Scenario 2: You’ve rented out the vacation home

In this situation, you probably deducted depreciation for rental periods. If so, the federal rate on gain attributable to depreciation (so-called unrecaptured Section 1250 gain) can be up to 25%, assuming you’ve held the property for over one year. You may also owe the 3.8% NIIT on the unrecaptured Section 1250 gain. Any remaining gain will be taxed at the federal rates explained earlier.

Plus, if you rented out the vacation home but used it only a little for personal purposes, it has probably been classified as a rental property for federal tax purposes. If so, you may have had rental losses that couldn’t be deducted currently due to the passive activity loss (PAL) rules. You can deduct these suspended PALs when the property is sold.

Scenario 3: You used the vacation home as a principal residence for a time

In this case, you might be able to claim the tax-saving principal residence gain exclusion break. Specifically, if you owned and used the property as your principal residence for at least two years during the five-year period ending on the sale date, you probably qualify for the exclusion.

There’s another major qualification rule for the home sale gain exclusion tax break. The exclusion is generally available only when you’ve not excluded an earlier gain within the two-year period ending on the date of the later sale. In other words, you generally cannot claim the gain exclusion until two years have passed since you last used it.

Of course, if you have a really big gain from selling your vacation home, it may be too big to fully shelter with the gain exclusion — even if you qualify for the maximum $250,000/$500,000 break. Assuming you’ve owned the property for more than one year, the part of the gain that can’t be excluded will be an LTCG taxed under the rules explained earlier.

Conclusion

Taxes on vacation home sales can get complicated, and we haven’t covered all the potential issues here. However, the tax results are simple if you’ve never rented out the property and never used it as a principal residence. We can fill in the blanks in your situation and answer any questions that you may have.

© 2024

When partners pay expenses related to the business

It’s not unusual for a partner to incur expenses related to the partnership’s business. This is especially likely to occur in service partnerships such as an architecture or law firm. For example, partners in service partnerships may incur entertainment expenses in developing new client relationships. They may also incur expenses for: transportation to get to and from client meetings, professional publications, continuing education and home office. What’s the tax treatment of such expenses? Here are the answers.

Reimbursable or not

As long as the expenses are the type a partner is expected to pay without reimbursement under the partnership agreement or firm policy (written or unwritten), the partner can deduct the expenses on Schedule E of Form 1040. Conversely, a partner can’t deduct expenses if the partnership would have honored a request for reimbursement.

A partner’s unreimbursed partnership business expenses should also generally be included as deductions in arriving at the partner’s net income from self-employment on Schedule SE.

For example, let’s say you’re a partner in a local architecture firm. Under the firm’s partnership agreement, partners are expected to bear the costs of soliciting potential new business except in unusual cases where attracting a large potential new client is deemed to be a firm-wide goal. In attempting to attract new clients this year, you spend $4,500 of your own money on meal expenses. You receive no reimbursement from the firm. On your Schedule E, you should report a deductible item of $2,250 (50% of $4,500). You should also include the $2,250 as a deduction in calculating your net self-employment income on Schedule SE.

So far, so good, but here’s the issue: a partner can’t deduct expenses if they could have been reimbursed by the firm. In other words, no deduction is allowed for “voluntary” out-of-pocket expenses. The best way to eliminate any doubt about the proper tax treatment of unreimbursed partnership expenses is to install a written firm policy that clearly states what will and won’t be reimbursed. That way, the partners can deduct their unreimbursed firm-related business expenses without any problems from the IRS.

Office in a partner’s home

Subject to the normal deduction limits under the home office rules, a partner can deduct expenses allocable to the regular and exclusive use of a home office for partnership business. The partner’s deductible home office expenses should be reported on Schedule E in the same fashion as other unreimbursed partnership expenses.

If a partner has a deductible home office, the Schedule E home office deduction can deliver multiple tax-saving benefits because it’s effectively deducted for both federal income tax and self-employment tax purposes.

In addition, if the partner’s deductible home office qualifies as a principal place of business, commuting mileage from the home office to partnership business temporary work locations (such as client sites) and partnership permanent work locations (such as the partnership’s official office) count as business mileage.

The principal place of business test can be passed in two ways. First, the partner can conduct most of partnership income-earning activities in the home office. Second, the partner can pass the principal place of business test if he or she:

  • Uses the home office to conduct partnership administrative and management tasks and
  • Doesn’t make substantial use of any other fixed location (such as the partnership’s official office) for such administrative and management tasks.

To sum up

When a partner can be reimbursed for business expenses under a partnership agreement or standard operating procedures, the partner should turn them in. Otherwise, the partner can’t deduct the expenses. On the partnership side of the deal, the business should set forth a written firm policy that clearly states what will and won’t be reimbursed, including home office expenses if applicable. This applies equally to members of LLCs that are treated as partnerships for federal tax purposes because those members count as partners under tax law.

© 2024

When businesses may want to take a contrary approach with income and deductions

Businesses usually want to delay recognition of taxable income into future years and accelerate deductions into the current year. But when is it wise to do the opposite? And why would you want to?

One reason might be tax law changes that raise tax rates. The Biden administration has proposed raising the corporate federal income tax rate from its current flat 21% to 28%. Another reason may be because you expect your noncorporate pass-through entity business to pay taxes at higher rates in the future and the pass-through income will be taxed on your personal return. There have also been discussions in Washington about raising individual federal income tax rates.

If you believe your business income could be subject to tax rate increases, you might want to accelerate income recognition into the current tax year to benefit from the current lower tax rates. At the same time, you may want to postpone deductions into a later tax year, when rates are higher and the deductions will be more beneficial.

To fast-track income

Consider these options if you want to accelerate revenue recognition into the current tax year:

  • Sell appreciated assets that have capital gains in the current year, rather than waiting until a later year.
  • Review the company’s list of depreciable assets to determine if any fully depreciated assets are in need of replacement. If fully depreciated assets are sold, taxable gains will be triggered in the year of sale.
  • For installment sales of appreciated assets, elect out of installment sale treatment to recognize gain in the year of sale.
  • Instead of using a tax-deferred like-kind Section 1031 exchange, sell real property in a taxable transaction.
  • Consider converting your S corporation into a partnership or LLC treated as a partnership for tax purposes. That will trigger gains from the company’s appreciated assets because the conversion is treated as a taxable liquidation of the S corp. The partnership will have an increased tax basis in the assets.
  • For construction companies with long-term construction contracts previously exempt from the percentage-of-completion method of accounting for long-term contracts: Consider using the percentage-of-completion method to recognize income sooner as compared to the completed contract method, which defers recognition of income until the long-term construction is completed.

To postpone deductions

Consider the following actions to postpone deductions into a higher-rate tax year, which will maximize their value:

  • Delay purchasing capital equipment and fixed assets, which would give rise to depreciation deductions.
  • Forego claiming big first-year Section 179 deductions or bonus depreciation deductions on new depreciable assets and instead depreciate the assets over a number of years.
  • Determine whether professional fees and employee salaries associated with a long-term project could be capitalized, which would spread out the costs over time.
  • Buy bonds at a discount this year to increase interest income in future years.
  • If allowed, put off inventory shrinkage or other write-downs until a year with a higher tax rate.
  • Delay charitable contributions into a year with a higher tax rate.
  • If allowed, delay accounts receivable charge-offs to a year with a higher tax rate.
  • Delay payment of liabilities where the related deduction is based on when the amount is paid.

Contact us to discuss the best tax planning actions in the light of your business’s unique tax situation.

© 2024

Update on retirement account required minimum distributions

If you have a tax-favored retirement account, including a traditional IRA, you’ll become exposed to the federal income tax required minimum distribution (RMD) rules after reaching a certain age. If you inherit a tax-favored retirement account, including a traditional or Roth IRA, you’ll also have to deal with these rules.

Specifically, you’ll have to: 1) take annual withdrawals from the accounts and pay the resulting income tax and/or 2) reduce the balance in your inherited Roth IRA sooner than you might like.

Let’s take a look at the current rules after some recent tax-law changes.

RMD basics

The RMD rules require affected individuals to take annual withdrawals from tax-favored accounts. Except for RMDs that meet the definition of tax-free Roth IRA distributions, RMDs will generally trigger a federal income tax bill (and maybe a state tax bill).

Under a favorable exception, when you’re the original account owner of a Roth IRA, you’re exempt from the RMD rules during your lifetime. But if you inherit a Roth IRA, the RMD rules for inherited IRAs come into play.

A later starting age

The SECURE 2.0 law was enacted in 2022. Previously, you generally had to start taking RMDs for the calendar year during which you turned age 72. However, you could decide to take your initial RMD until April 1 of the year after the year you turned 72.

SECURE 2.0 raised the starting age for RMDs to 73 for account owners who turn age 72 in 2023 to 2032. So, if you attained age 72 in 2023, you’ll reach age 73 in 2024, and your initial RMD will be for calendar 2024. You must take that initial RMD by April 1, 2025, or face a penalty for failure to follow the RMD rules. The tax-smart strategy is to take your initial RMD, which will be for calendar year 2024, before the end of 2024 instead of in 2025 (by the April 1, 2025, absolute deadline). Then, take your second RMD, which will be for calendar year 2025, by Dec. 31, 2025. That way, you avoid having to take two RMDs in 2025 with the resulting double tax hit in that year.

A reduced penalty

If you don’t withdraw at least the RMD amount for the year, the IRS can assess an expensive penalty on the shortfall. Before SECURE 2.0, if you failed to take your RMD for the calendar year in question, the IRS could impose a 50% penalty on the shortfall. SECURE 2.0 reduced the penalty from 50% to 25%, or 10% if you withdraw the shortfall within a “correction window.”

Controversial 10-year liquidation rule

A change included in the original SECURE Act (which became law in 2019) requires most non-spouse IRA and retirement plan account beneficiaries to empty inherited accounts within 10 years after the account owner’s death. If they don’t, they face the penalty for failure to comply with the RMD rules.

According to IRS proposed regulations issued in 2022, beneficiaries who are subject to the original SECURE Act’s 10-year account liquidation rule must take annual RMDs, calculated in the usual fashion — with the resulting income tax. Then, the inherited account must be emptied at the end of the 10-year period. According to this interpretation, you can’t simply wait 10 years and then drain the inherited account.

The IRS position on having to take annual RMDs during the 10-year period is debatable. Therefore, in Notice 2023-54, the IRS stated that the penalty for failure to follow the RMD rules wouldn’t be assessed against beneficiaries who are subject to the 10-year rule who didn’t take RMDs in 2023. It also stated that IRS intends to issue new final RMD regulations that won’t take effect until sometime in 2024 at the earliest.

Contact us about your situation

SECURE 2.0 includes some good RMD news. The original SECURE Act contained some bad RMD news for certain account beneficiaries in the form of the 10-year account liquidation rule. However, exactly how that rule is supposed to work is still TBD. Stay tuned for developments.

© 2024

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