How are court awards and out-of-court settlements taxed?

The tax implications of owning a corporate aircraft

If your business is successful and you do a lot of business travel, you may have considered buying a corporate aircraft. Of course, there are tax and non-tax implications for aircraft ownership. Let’s look at the basic tax rules.

Business travel only

In most cases, if your company buys a plane used only for business, the company can deduct its entire cost in the year that it’s placed into service. The cases in which the aircraft is ineligible for this immediate write-off are:

  • The few instances in which neither the 100% bonus depreciation rules nor the Section 179 small business expensing rules apply or
  • When the taxpayer has elected out of 100% bonus depreciation and hasn’t made the election to apply Sec. 179 expensing.

In those cases, the depreciation schedule is 20% of the cost for year 1, 32% for year 2, 19.2% for year 3, 11.52% for year 4, 11.52% for year 5 and 5.76% for year 6. Note that the bonus depreciation rate is scheduled to be phased down for property placed in service after 2022.

Interestingly, these “cost recovery” rules are more favorable than the rules for business autos. The business auto rules place annual caps on depreciation and, in the year an auto is placed in service, both depreciation and Sec. 179 expensing.

In the case of a business-travel-only aircraft, post-acquisition expenses aren’t treated differently than post-acquisition expenditures for other machinery and equipment. For example, routine maintenance and repair expenses are immediately deductible while amounts that improve or restore the aircraft must be capitalized and depreciated.

The only “catch” that distinguishes the tax treatment of an aircraft used 100% for business travel from the treatment of most other machinery and equipment is that company aircraft are one of the categories of business property that require more rigorous recordkeeping to prove the connection of uses and expenses to business purposes.

Business and personal travel

Personal travel won’t affect the depreciation results discussed above if the value of the travel is compensation income (and is reported and withheld upon as such) to a person that isn’t at least a 5% owner or a person “related” to the corporation. This means, for example, that personal travel by a non-share-holding employee won’t affect depreciation if the value of the travel is compensation to him or her and is reported and withheld upon. The depreciation results can be affected if the person for whom the value of the travel is compensation income is at least a 5% shareholder or a related person. But even in that case, the depreciation results won’t be affected if you comply with a generous “fail-safe” rule.

With one limitation, personal travel won’t affect the treatment of otherwise-deductible post-acquisition expenditures if the value of the travel is compensation income (and is reported and withheld upon). The limitation is that if the person for whom the value of the travel is to be treated as compensation income is at least a 10% owner, director, officer or a person related to the corporation, the amount of the deduction for otherwise-deductible costs allocable to the personal travel can’t exceed the travel value.

Moving forward

Other rules and limitations may apply. As you can see, even in the case of an aircraft used for business and personal travel, these rules aren’t onerous. But they do require careful recordkeeping and, when an aircraft is used for personal travel, compliance with reporting and withholding requirements. Contact us to learn more in your situation.

© 2021

 

With year-end approaching, 3 ideas that may help cut your tax bill

If you’re starting to worry about your 2021 tax bill, there’s good news — you may still have time to reduce your liability. Here are three quick strategies that may help you trim your taxes before year-end.

1. Accelerate deductions/defer income. Certain tax deductions are claimed for the year of payment, such as the mortgage interest deduction. So, if you make your January 2022 payment in December, you can deduct the interest portion on your 2021 tax return (assuming you itemize).

Pushing income into the new year also will reduce your taxable income. If you’re expecting a bonus at work, for example, and you don’t want the income this year, ask if your employer can hold off on paying it until January. If you’re self-employed, you can delay your invoices until late in December to divert the revenue to 2022.

You shouldn’t pursue this approach if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket next year. Also, if you’re eligible for the qualified business income deduction for pass-through entities, you might reduce the amount of that deduction if you reduce your income.

2. Maximize your retirement contributions. What could be better than paying yourself? Federal tax law encourages individual taxpayers to make the maximum allowable contributions for the year to their retirement accounts, including traditional IRAs and SEP plans, 401(k)s and deferred annuities.

For 2021, you generally can contribute as much as $19,500 to 401(k)s and $6,000 for traditional IRAs. Self-employed individuals can contribute up to 25% of your net income (but no more than $58,000) to a SEP IRA.

3. Harvest your investment losses. Losing money on your investments has a bit of an upside — it gives you the opportunity to offset taxable gains. If you sell underperforming investments before the end of the year, you can offset gains realized this year on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

If you have more losses than gains, you generally can apply up to $3,000 of the excess to reduce your ordinary income. Any remaining losses are carried forward to future tax years.

There’s still time

The ideas described above are only a few of the strategies that still may be available. Contact us if you have questions about these or other methods for minimizing your tax liability for 2021.

© 2021

Small businesses: There still may be time to cut your 2021 taxes

Don’t let the holiday rush keep you from considering some important steps to reduce your 2021 tax liability. You still have time to execute a few strategies.

Purchase assets

Thinking about buying new or used equipment, machinery or office equipment in the new year? Buy them and place them in service by December 31, and you can deduct 100% of the cost as bonus depreciation. Contact us for details on the 100% bonus depreciation break and exactly what types of assets qualify.

Bonus depreciation is also available for certain building improvements. Before the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), bonus depreciation was available for two types of real property: land improvements other than buildings (for example fencing and parking lots), and “qualified improvement property,” a broad category of internal improvements made to nonresidential buildings after the buildings are placed in service. The TCJA inadvertently eliminated bonus depreciation for qualified improvement property. However, the 2020 CARES Act made a retroactive technical correction to the TCJA. The correction makes qualified improvement property placed in service after December 31, 2017, eligible for bonus depreciation.

Keep in mind that 100% bonus depreciation has reduced the importance of Section 179 expensing. If you’re a small business, you’ve probably benefited from Sec. 179. It’s an elective benefit that, subject to dollar limits, allows an immediate deduction of the cost of equipment, machinery, “off-the-shelf” computer software and some building improvements. Sec. 179 expensing was enhanced by the TCJA, but the availability of 100% bonus depreciation is economically equivalent and thus has greatly reduced the cases in which Sec. 179 expensing is useful.

Write off a heavy vehicle

The 100% bonus depreciation deal can have a major tax-saving impact on first-year depreciation deductions for new or used heavy vehicles used over 50% for business. That’s because heavy SUVs, pickups and vans are treated for federal income tax purposes as transportation equipment. In turn, that means they qualify for 100% bonus depreciation.

Specifically, 100% bonus depreciation is available when the SUV, pickup or van has a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating above 6,000 pounds. You can verify a vehicle’s weight by looking at the manufacturer’s label, which is usually found on the inside edge of the driver’s side door. If you’re considering buying an eligible vehicle, placing one in service before year end could deliver a significant write-off on this year’s return.

Time deductions and income

If your business operates on a cash basis, you can significantly affect your amount of taxable income by accelerating your deductions into 2021 and deferring income into 2022 (assuming you expect to be taxed at the same or a lower rate next year).

For example, you could put recurring expenses normally paid early in the year on your credit card before January 1 — that way, you can claim the deduction for 2021 even though you don’t pay the credit card bill until 2022. In certain circumstances, you also can prepay some expenses, such as rent or insurance and claim them in 2021.

As for income, wait until close to year-end to send out invoices to customers with reliable payment histories. Accrual-basis businesses can take a similar approach, holding off on the delivery of goods and services until next year.

Consider all angles

Bear in mind that some of these tactics could adversely impact other factors affecting your tax liability, such as the qualified business income deduction. Contact us to make the most of your tax planning opportunities.

© 2021

 

 

 

Remember to use up your flexible spending account money

Do you have a tax-saving flexible spending account (FSA) with your employer to help pay for health or dependent care expenses? As the end of 2021 nears, there are some rules and reminders to keep in mind.

 

An account for health expenses

A pre-tax contribution of $2,750 to a health FSA is permitted in 2021. This amount is increasing to $2,850 for 2022. You save taxes in these accounts because you use pre-tax dollars to pay for medical expenses that might not be deductible. For example, they wouldn’t be deductible if you don’t itemize deductions on your tax return. Even if you do itemize, medical expenses must exceed a certain percentage of your adjusted gross income in order to be deductible. Additionally, the amounts that you contribute to a health FSA aren’t subject to FICA taxes.

Your employer’s plan should have a listing of qualifying items and any documentation from a medical provider that may be needed to get reimbursed for these items.

FSAs generally have a “use-it-or-lose-it” rule, which means you must incur qualifying medical expenditures by the last day of the plan year (December 31 for a calendar year plan) — unless the plan allows an optional grace period. A grace period can’t extend beyond the 15th day of the third month following the close of the plan year (March 15 for a calendar year plan). What if you don’t spend the money before the last day allowed? You forfeit it.

An additional exception to the use-it-or-lose-it rule permits health FSAs to allow a carryover of a participant’s unused health FSA funds of up to $550. Amounts carried forward under this rule are added to the up-to-$2,750 amount that you elect to contribute to the health FSA for 2021. An employer may allow a carryover or a grace period for an FSA, but not both features.

Take a look at your year-to-date expenditures now. It will show you what you still need to spend and will also help you to determine how much to set aside for next year if there’s still time. Don’t forget to reflect any changed circumstances in making your calculation.

What are some ways to use up the money? Before year end (or the extended date, if permitted), schedule certain elective medical procedures, visit the dentist or buy new eyeglasses.

An account for dependent care expenses

Some employers also allow employees to set aside funds on a pre-tax basis in dependent care FSAs. A $5,000 maximum annual contribution is permitted ($2,500 for a married couple filing separately).

These FSAs are for a dependent-qualifying child who is under age 13, or a dependent or spouse who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care and who has the same principal place of abode as you for more than half of the tax year.

Like health FSAs, dependent care FSAs are subject to a use-it-or-lose-it rule, but only the grace period relief applies, not the up-to-$550 forfeiture exception. Therefore, it’s a good time to review your expenses to date and project amounts to be set aside for 2022.

Other rules and exceptions may apply. Your HR department can answer any questions about your specific plan. We can answer any questions you have about the tax implications.

© 2021  

 

Businesses can show appreciation — and gain tax breaks — with holiday gifts and parties

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the holiday season will soon be here. At this time of year, your business may want to show its gratitude to employees and customers by giving them gifts or hosting holiday parties again after a year of forgoing them due to the pandemic. It’s a good time to brush up on the tax rules associated with these expenses. Are they tax deductible by your business and is the value taxable to the recipients?

Gifts to customers

If you give gifts to customers and clients, they’re deductible up to $25 per recipient per year. For purposes of the $25 limit, you don’t need to include “incidental” costs that don’t substantially add to the gift’s value. These costs include engraving, gift wrapping, packaging and shipping. Also excluded from the $25 limit is branded marketing items — such as those imprinted with your company’s name and logo — provided they’re widely distributed and cost less than $4.

The $25 limit is for gifts to individuals. There’s no set limit on gifts to a company (for example, a gift basket for all team members of a customer to share) as long as the costs are “reasonable.”

Gifts to employees

In general, anything of value that you transfer to an employee is included in his or her taxable income (and, therefore, subject to income and payroll taxes) and deductible by your business. But there’s an exception for noncash gifts that constitute a “de minimis” fringe benefit.

These are items that are small in value and given infrequently that are administratively impracticable to account for. Common examples include holiday turkeys, hams, gift baskets, occasional sports or theater tickets (but not season tickets) and other low-cost merchandise.

De minimis fringe benefits aren’t included in an employee’s taxable income yet they’re still deductible by your business. Unlike gifts to customers, there’s no specific dollar threshold for de minimis gifts. However, many businesses use an informal cutoff of $75.

Cash gifts — as well as cash equivalents, such as gift cards — are included in an employee’s income and subject to payroll tax withholding regardless of how small and infrequent.

Throw a holiday party

In general, holiday parties are fully deductible (and excludible from recipients’ income). And for calendar years 2021 and 2022, a COVID-19 relief law provides a temporary 100% deduction for expenses of food or beverages “provided by” a restaurant to your workplace. Previously, these expenses were only 50% deductible. Entertainment expenses are still not deductible.

The use of the words “provided by” a restaurant clarifies that the tax break for 2021 and 2022 isn’t limited to meals eaten on a restaurant’s premises. Takeout and delivery meals from a restaurant are also generally 100% deductible. So you can treat your on-premises staff to some holiday meals this year and get a full deduction.

Show your holiday spirit

Contact us if you have questions about the tax implications of giving holiday gifts or throwing a holiday party.

© 2021

 

Feeling generous at year end? Strategies for donating to charity or gifting to loved ones

As we approach the holidays, many people plan to donate to their favorite charities or give money or assets to their loved ones. Here are the basic tax rules involved in these transactions.

Donating to charity

Normally, if you take the standard deduction and don’t itemize, you can’t claim a deduction for charitable contributions. But for 2021 under a COVID-19 relief law, you’re allowed to claim a limited deduction on your tax return for cash contributions made to qualifying charitable organizations. You can claim a deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made during this year. This deduction increases to $600 for a married couple filing jointly in 2021.

What if you want to give gifts of investments to your favorite charities? There are a couple of points to keep in mind.

First, don’t give away investments in taxable brokerage accounts that are currently worth less than what you paid for them. Instead, sell the shares and claim the resulting capital loss on your tax return. Then, give the cash proceeds from the sale to charity. In addition, if you itemize, you can claim a full tax-saving charitable deduction.

The second point applies to securities that have appreciated in value. These should be donated directly to charity. The reason: If you itemize, donations of publicly traded shares that you’ve owned for over a year result in charitable deductions equal to the full current market value of the shares at the time the gift is made. In addition, if you donate appreciated stock, you escape any capital gains tax on those shares. Meanwhile, the tax-exempt charity can sell the donated shares without owing any federal income tax.

Donating from your IRA

IRA owners and beneficiaries who’ve reached age 70½ are allowed to make cash donations of up to $100,000 a year to qualified charities directly out of their IRAs. You don’t owe income tax on these qualified charitable distributions (QCDs), but you also don’t receive an itemized charitable contribution deduction. Contact your tax advisor if you’re interested in this type of gift.

Gifting assets to family and other loved ones

The principles for tax-smart gifts to charities also apply to gifts to relatives. That is, you should sell investments that are currently worth less than what you paid for them and claim the resulting tax-saving capital losses. Then, give the cash proceeds from the sale to your children, grandchildren or other loved ones.

Likewise, you should give appreciated stock directly to those to whom you want to give gifts. When they sell the shares, they’ll pay a lower tax rate than you would if they’re in a lower tax bracket.

In 2021, the amount you can give to one person without gift tax implications is $15,000 per recipient. The annual gift exclusion is available to each taxpayer. So if you’re married and make a joint gift with your spouse, the exclusion amount is doubled to $30,000 per recipient for 2021.

Make gifts wisely

Whether you’re giving to charity or loved ones this holiday season (or both), it’s important to understand the tax implications of gifts. Contact us if you have questions about the tax consequences of any gifts you’d like to make.

© 2021

 

Many factors are involved when choosing a business entity

Are you planning to launch a business or thinking about changing your business entity? If so, you need to determine which entity will work best for you — a C corporation or a pass-through entity such as a sole-proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC) or S corporation. There are many factors to consider and proposed federal tax law changes being considered by Congress may affect your decision.

The corporate federal income tax is currently imposed at a flat 21% rate, while the current individual federal income tax rates begin at 10% and go up to 37%. The difference in rates can be mitigated by the qualified business income (QBI) deduction that’s available to eligible pass-through entity owners that are individuals, estates and trusts.

Note that noncorporate taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income above certain levels are subject to an additional 3.8% tax on net investment income.

Organizing a business as a C corporation instead of as a pass-through entity can reduce the current federal income tax on the business’s income. The corporation can still pay reasonable compensation to the shareholders and pay interest on loans from the shareholders. That income will be taxed at higher individual rates, but the overall rate on the corporation’s income can be lower than if the business was operated as a pass-through entity.

Other considerations

Other tax-related factors should also be considered. For example:

  • If substantially all the business profits will be distributed to the owners, it may be preferable that the business be operated as a pass-through entity rather than as a C corporation, since the shareholders will be taxed on dividend distributions from the corporation (double taxation). In contrast, owners of a pass-through entity will only be taxed once, at the personal level, on business income. However, the impact of double taxation must be evaluated based on projected income levels for both the business and its owners.
  • If the value of the business’s assets is likely to appreciate, it’s generally preferable to conduct it as a pass-through entity to avoid a corporate tax if the assets are sold or the business is liquidated. Although corporate level tax will be avoided if the corporation’s shares, rather than its assets, are sold, the buyer may insist on a lower price because the tax basis of appreciated business assets cannot be stepped up to reflect the purchase price. That can result in much lower post-purchase depreciation and amortization deductions for the buyer.
  • If the entity is a pass-through entity, the owners’ bases in their interests in the entity are stepped-up by the entity income that’s allocated to them. That can result in less taxable gain for the owners when their interests in the entity are sold.
  • If the business is expected to incur tax losses for a while, consideration should be given to structuring it as a pass-through entity so the owners can deduct the losses against their other income. Conversely, if the owners of the business have insufficient other income or the losses aren’t usable (for example, because they’re limited by the passive loss rules), it may be preferable for the business to be a C corporation, since it’ll be able to offset future income with the losses.
  • If the owners of the business are subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT), it may be preferable to organize as a C corporation, since corporations aren’t subject to the AMT. Affected individuals are subject to the AMT at 26% or 28% rates. 

These are only some of the many factors involved in operating a business as a certain type of legal entity. For details about how to proceed in your situation, consult with us.

© 2021

 

Factor in taxes if you’re relocating to another state in retirement

Are you considering a move to another state when you retire? Perhaps you want to relocate to an area where your loved ones live or where the weather is more pleasant. But while you’re thinking about how many square feet you’ll need in a retirement home, don’t forget to factor in state and local taxes. Establishing residency for state tax purposes may be more complicated than it initially appears to be.

What are all applicable taxes?

It may seem like a good option to simply move to a state with no personal income tax. But, to make a good decision, you must consider all taxes that can potentially apply to a state resident. In addition to income taxes, these may include property taxes, sales taxes and estate taxes.

If the state you’re considering has an income tax, look at what types of income it taxes. Some states, for example, don’t tax wages but do tax interest and dividends. And some states offer tax breaks for pension payments, retirement plan distributions and Social Security payments.

Is there a state estate tax?

The federal estate tax currently doesn’t apply to many people. For 2021, the federal estate tax exemption is $11.7 million ($23.4 million for a married couple). But some states levy estate tax with a much lower exemption and some states may also have an inheritance tax in addition to (or in lieu of) an estate tax.

How do you establish domicile?

If you make a permanent move to a new state and want to make sure you’re not taxed in the state you came from, it’s important to establish legal domicile in the new location. The definition of legal domicile varies from state to state. In general, domicile is your fixed and permanent home location and the place where you plan to return, even after periods of residing elsewhere.

When it comes to domicile, each state has its own rules. You don’t want to wind up in a worst-case scenario: Two states could claim you owe state income taxes if you establish domicile in the new state but don’t successfully terminate domicile in the old one. Additionally, if you die without clearly establishing domicile in just one state, both the old and new states may claim that your estate owes income taxes and any state estate tax.

The more time that elapses after you change states and the more steps you take to establish domicile in the new state, the harder it will be for your old state to claim that you’re still domiciled there for tax purposes. Some ways to help lock in domicile in a new state are to:

  • Change your mailing address at the post office,
  • Change your address on passports, insurance policies, will or living trust documents, and other important documents,
  • Buy or lease a home in the new state and sell your home in the old state (or rent it out at market rates to an unrelated party),
  • Register to vote, get a driver’s license and register your vehicle in the new state, and
  • Open and use bank accounts in the new state and close accounts in the old one.

If an income tax return is required in the new state, file a resident return. File a nonresident return or no return (whichever is appropriate) in the old state. We can help file these returns.

Before deciding where you want to live in retirement, do some research and contact us. We can help you avoid unpleasant tax surprises.

© 2021

 

Would you like to establish a Health Savings Account for your small business?

With the increasing cost of employee health care benefits, your business may be interested in providing some of these benefits through an employer-sponsored Health Savings Account (HSA). For eligible individuals, an HSA offers a tax-advantaged way to set aside funds (or have their employers do so) to meet future medical needs. Here are the important tax benefits:

  • Contributions that participants make to an HSA are deductible, within limits.
  • Contributions that employers make aren’t taxed to participants.
  • Earnings on the funds in an HSA aren’t taxed, so the money can accumulate tax free year after year.
  • Distributions from HSAs to cover qualified medical expenses aren’t taxed.
  • Employers don’t have to pay payroll taxes on HSA contributions made by employees through payroll deductions.

Eligibility rules

To be eligible for an HSA, an individual must be covered by a “high deductible health plan.” For 2021, a “high deductible health plan” is one with an annual deductible of at least $1,400 for self-only coverage, or at least $2,800 for family coverage. (These amounts will remain the same for 2022.) For self-only coverage, the 2021 limit on deductible contributions is $3,600 (increasing to $3,650 for 2022). For family coverage, the 2021 limit on deductible contributions is $7,200 (increasing to $7,300 for 2022). Additionally, annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits for 2021 cannot exceed $7,000 for self-only coverage or $14,000 for family coverage (increasing to $7,050 and $14,100, respectively, for 2022).

An individual (and the individual’s covered spouse, as well) who has reached age 55 before the close of the tax year (and is an eligible HSA contributor) may make additional “catch-up” contributions for 2021 and 2022 of up to $1,000.

Contributions from an employer

If an employer contributes to the HSA of an eligible individual, the employer’s contribution is treated as employer-provided coverage for medical expenses under an accident or health plan. It’s also excludable from an employee’s gross income up to the deduction limitation. Funds can be built up for years because there’s no “use-it-or-lose-it” provision. An employer that decides to make contributions on its employees’ behalf must generally make comparable contributions to the HSAs of all comparable participating employees for that calendar year. If the employer doesn’t make comparable contributions, the employer is subject to a 35% tax on the aggregate amount contributed by the employer to HSAs for that period.

Taking distributions

HSA distributions can be made to pay for qualified medical expenses, which generally means expenses that would qualify for the medical expense itemized deduction. Among these expenses are doctors’ visits, prescriptions, chiropractic care and premiums for long-term care insurance.

If funds are withdrawn from the HSA for other reasons, the withdrawal is taxable. Additionally, an extra 20% tax will apply to the withdrawal, unless it’s made after reaching age 65, or in the event of death or disability.

HSAs offer a flexible option for providing health care coverage and they may be an attractive benefit for your business. But the rules are somewhat complex. Contact us if you’d like to discuss offering HSAs to your employees.

© 2021

 

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