Educate yourself about the revised tax benefits for higher education

If you or your child attends (or plans to attend) college, you may be eligible for tax breaks to help foot the bill. The new Consolidated Appropriations Act made some changes. The law repeals the Tuition and Fees Deduction for 2021 and later years. In addition, for 2021 and beyond, the new law aligns the income phase-out rule for the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) with the more favorable phase-out rule for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The LLC can be worth up to $2,000 per tax return annually while the AOTC can be worth up to $2,500 per student each year. Talk with us about which tax credit is the most beneficial in your situation. Each has its own requirements.

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The COVID-19 relief law: What’s in it for you?

The COVID-19 relief law that was signed recently contains many provisions that may affect you. The law provides for direct payments of $600 per eligible individual ($1,200 for a married couple filing jointly), plus $600 per qualifying child. The government has already started making bank direct deposits or mailing checks. Another provision extends a charitable donation tax deduction for individual s who don’t itemize deductions. For 2020, they can take up to a $300 deduction per tax return and for 2021, married joint filers can claim up to $600. These are only a few provisions in the new law. We’ll make sure that you get all the tax breaks you’re entitled to when we prepare your tax return.

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Maximize your 401(k) plan to save for retirement

If your employer offers a 401(k) or Roth 401(k) plan, contributing to it is a smart way to build a substantial nest egg. If you’re not already socking away the maximum allowed, consider increasing your contribution. With a 401(k), an employee elects to have a certain amount of pay deferred and contributed by an employer on his or her behalf to the plan. The contribution limit for 2020 is $19,500. Employees age 50 or older by year end are also permitted to make additional “catch-up” contributions of $6,500, for a total limit of $26,000 for 2020. The IRS recently announced that the 401(k) contribution limits for 2021 will remain the same as they are for 2020.

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The importance of S corporation basis and distribution elections

S corporations may provide tax advantages over C corporations. This can be true if you expect the business to incur losses because C corp. shareholders generally get no tax benefit from losses. Conversely, S corp. shareholders can deduct their share of these losses on personal tax returns to the extent of their basis in the stock and any loans they make to the entity. So the ability to use losses that pass through from an S corp. depends on your basis in the corporation's stock and debt. Be aware that there are some elections available to an S corp. or its shareholders that can affect the basis adjustments caused by distributions and other events. Contact us if you’d like more information.

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Small businesses: Cash in on depreciation tax savers

The Section 179 deduction provides a tax benefit to businesses, enabling them to claim immediate deductions for qualified assets, instead of depreciating them over time. For 2020, the maximum deduction is $1.04 million, subject to a phaseout rule if more than $2.59 million of eligible property is placed in service during the tax year. Even better, the Sec. 179 deduction isn’t the only avenue for immediate tax write-offs for assets such as machinery and equipment. Under the 100% bonus depreciation tax break, the entire cost of eligible assets placed in service in 2020 can be written off this year. Contact us if you want more details about how your business can make the most of the deductions.

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Steer clear of the wash sale rule if you’re selling stock by year end

Are you thinking about selling stock at a loss to offset gains that have been realized during 2020? If so, it’s important not to run afoul of the “wash sale” rule. Under this rule, if you sell stock or securities for a loss and buy substantially identical stock or securities back within the 30-day period before or after the sale date, the loss can’t be claimed for tax purposes. The rule is designed to prevent taxpayers from using the tax benefit of a loss without parting with ownership in a significant way. Note that the rule applies to a 30-day period before or after the sale date to prevent “buying the stock back” before it’s even sold. We can answer any questions you may have.

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Tax responsibilities if your business is closing amid the pandemic

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced many businesses to shut down. If this is your situation, we’re here to assist you in any way we can, including taking care of various tax obligations. A business must file a final income tax return and some other related forms for the year it closes. If you have employees, you must pay them final wages and compensation owed, make final federal tax deposits and report employment taxes. Failure to withhold or deposit employee income, Social Security and Medicare taxes can result in personal liability for what’s known as the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty. There may be other responsibilities. Contact us to discuss these issues and to get answers to any questions.

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Taking distributions from a traditional IRA

If you’ve built a nice nest egg in a traditional IRA (including a SEP or SIMPLE-IRA), it’s critical that you plan carefully for withdrawals from these tax-deferred retirement vehicles. For example, if you need to take money out of a traditional IRA before age 59½, distributions will generally be taxed and may also be subject to a 10% penalty. However, there are several ways to avoid the penalty (but not the regular income tax). Once you attain age 72, traditional IRA withdrawals must generally begin or you’ll be penalized. However, the CARES Act suspended the required minimum distribution rules for 2020. Contact us with traditional IRA questions and to analyze your retirement planning.

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How Series EE savings bonds are taxed

Many people have Series EE savings bonds that were purchased many years ago. Perhaps they were given as gifts or maybe you bought them yourself and filed them away. You may wonder: How is the interest taxed? EE bonds don’t pay interest currently. Instead, accrued interest is reflected in their redemption value. (But owners can elect to have interest taxed annually.) EE bond interest isn’t subject to state income tax. And using the money for higher education may keep you from paying federal income tax on it. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t allow for the tax-free buildup of interest to continue forever. When the bonds reach final maturity, they stop earning interest. Contact us with questions.

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Divorcing couples should understand these 4 tax issues

When a couple is going through a divorce, taxes are probably not foremost on their minds. But without proper planning, some people find divorce to be even more taxing. Several concerns should be addressed to ensure that taxes are kept to a minimum. For example, if you sell your principal residence or one spouse remains living there while the other moves out, you want to make sure you’ll be able to avoid tax on up to $500,000 of gain. You also must decide how to file your return for the year (single, married filing jointly, married filing separately or head of household). There are other issues you may have to deal with. We can help you work through them.

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