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2013 Tax Changes for Individuals
From personal deductions to tax credits and educational expenses, many of the tax changes affecting individuals were related to the signing of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA), which modified, made permanent, or extended a number of tax provisions that expired in 2010 and 2011. With that in mind, here's what individuals and families need to know about tax changes that took effect in 2013.
The additional standard deduction for blind people and senior citizens increases in 2013 to $1,200 for married individuals and $1,500 for singles and heads of household.
Income Tax Rates
Due to inflation, tax-bracket thresholds increased for every filing status. For example, the taxable-income threshold separating the 15-percent bracket from the 25-percent bracket is $72,500 for a married couple filing a joint return.
Estate and Gift Taxes
Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
Marriage Penalty Relief
Pease and PEP (Personal Exemption Phaseout)
Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)
Specifically, in the case of a plan providing a grace period (which may be up to two months and 15 days), unused salary reduction contributions to the health FSA for plan years beginning in 2012 or later that are carried over into the grace period for that plan year will not count against the $2,500 limit for the subsequent plan year.
Further, the IRS is providing relief for certain salary reduction contributions exceeding the $2,500 limit that are due to a reasonable mistake and not willful neglect and that are corrected by the employer.
Long Term Capital Gains
Individuals - Tax Credits
In 2013 a nonrefundable (i.e. only those with a lax liability will benefit) credit of up to $12,970 is available for qualified adoption expenses for each eligible child.
Child and Dependent Care Credit
For two or more qualifying dependents, you can claim up to 35 percent of $6,000 (or $2,100) of eligible expenses. For higher income earners the credit percentage is reduced, but not below 20 percent, regardless of the amount of adjusted gross income.
Child Tax Credit
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
Individuals - Education Expenses
Coverdell Education Savings Account
American Opportunity Tax Credit
Employer Provided Educational Assistance
Lifetime Learning Credit
Student Loan Interest
Individuals - Retirement
Please contact us if you need help understanding which deductions and tax credits you are entitled to. We are always available to assist you.
2013 Tax Changes for Businesses
Whether you file as a corporation or sole proprietor here's what business owners need to know about tax changes in 2013.
Standard Mileage Rates
Health Care Tax Credit for Small Businesses
Credit for Hiring Qualified Veterans
Section 179 Expensing
10 Tax Breaks Set to Expire in 2013
Federal tax breaks come and go, and this year is no exception. Unless Congress takes action, 55 of them are set to expire on December 31, 2013. Let's take a look at the ones that are most likely to affect taxpayers like you.
1. Teachers' Deduction for Certain Expenses Primary and secondary school teachers buying school supplies out-of-pocket may be able to take an above-the-line deduction of up to $250 for unreimbursed expenses. An above the line deduction means that it can be taken before calculating adjusted gross income.
2. State and Local Sales Taxes Taxpayers that pay state and local sales tax can deduct the amounts paid on their federal tax returns (instead of state and local income taxes)--as long as they itemize. In other words, if you're thinking of buying a big ticket item such as a boat or car and live in a state with sales tax, you might want to think about buying it this year.
3. Mortgage Insurance Premiums Mortgage insurance premiums (PMI) are paid by homeowners with less than 20% equity in their homes. These premiums were deductible in tax years 2012 and 2013; however, this tax break is scheduled to end on December 31, 2013. Mortgage interest deductions for taxpayers who itemize are not affected.
4. Exclusion of Discharge of Principal Residence Indebtedness Typically, forgiven debt is considered taxable income in the eyes of the IRS; however, this tax provision, which expires at the end of this year, allows homeowners whose homes have been foreclosed on or subjected to short sale to exclude up to $2 million of cancelled mortgage debt. Also included are taxpayers seeking debt modification on their home.
5. Distributions from IRAs for Charitable Contributions Taxpayers who are age 70 ½ or older can donate up to $100,000 in distributions from their IRA to charity. Some people do not want to take the mandatory minimum distributions (which are counted as income) upon reaching this age and instead can contribute it to charity, using it as a strategy to lower income enough to take advantage of other tax provisions with phaseout limits.
6. Mass Transit Fringe Benefits In 2013, commuters using mass transit can exclude from income up to $245 per month on transit benefits paid by their employers such as monthly rail or subway passes, making it on par with parking benefits (also up to $245 pre-tax). This provision is set to expire at the end of the year, however and in 2014, pre-tax benefits for mass transit commuters drop to a maximum of $130 per month, while parking benefits remain the same.
7. Energy Efficient Appliances This tax break has been around for a while, but if you're still thinking about making your home more energy efficient, now is the time to take advantage of this tax credit, which reduces your taxes (as opposed to a deduction that reduces your taxable income). The credit is 10% of the cost of building materials for items such as insulation, new water heaters, or a wood pellet stove.
Note: This tax is cumulative, so if you've taken the credit in any tax year since 2006, you will not be able to take the full $500 tax credit this year. If, for example, you took a credit of $300 in 2011, the maximum credit you could take this year is $200.
8. Electric Vehicles Buy a four-wheel electric vehicle such as a Ford Focus Electric (Model years 2012-2014), BMW i3 Sedan (Model year 2014), Fiat 500e (Model year 2013), and Nissan Leaf (Model years 2011-2013) and take a tax credit of $7,500. Other vehicles, such as a 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid and the Toyota Prius Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle (Model years 2012-2014) are eligible for a lesser tax credit. Call us for additional information on tax credits for electric vehicles.
Note: The credit begins to phase out for a manufacturer's vehicles when at least 200,000 qualifying vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer have been sold for use in the United States.
9. Donation of Conservation Property Also expiring this year is a tax provision that allows taxpayers to donate property or easements to a local land trust or other conservation organization and receive a tax break in return.
10. Small Business Stock If you've been thinking about investing in a small business such as a start-up C-corporation, consider doing it this year because this tax provision expires on December 31. If you hold onto this stock for five years, you can exclude 100% of the capital gains--in other words, you won't be paying any capital gains. If you wait until January, you will only be able to exclude 50% of the capital gains.
To learn more about whether you should be taking advantage of these and other tax credits and deduction set to expire at the end of 2013, please give us a call today.
Tap Your Retirement Money Early; Minimize Penalties
The purpose of retirement plans such as the 401(k) and Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is to save money for your retirement years. As such, the IRS imposes a penalty of 10% for early withdrawals taken from qualified retirement plans before age 59 1/2. Qualified retirement plans include section 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and 401(k) plan, tax-sheltered annuity plans under section 403(b) for employees of public schools or tax-exempt organizations.
While you should always think carefully about taking money out of your retirement plan before you've reached retirement age, there may be times when you need access to those funds, whether it's buying a new house or paying for out of pocket medical expenses. Fortunately, IRS provisions allow a number of exceptions that may be used to avoid the tax penalty.
Remember that although using the above techniques will help you avoid the 10% penalty tax, you are still liable for any regular income tax that's owed on the funds that you've withdrawn. Distributions rolled over into another qualified retirement plan or distributions from a Roth IRA however, escape both the regular income tax and the 10% penalty tax. Rollovers should be made directly between your brokers, to avoid paying the 20% withholding required on distributions that you touch.
Thinking about tapping your retirement money early? Give us a call. We'll help you figure out whether you can avoid penalties on your early withdrawals--or not.
Retirement Contributions Limits Announced for 2014
The Internal Revenue Service announced cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for Tax Year 2014.
In general, some pension limitations such as those governing 401(k) plans and IRAs will remain unchanged because the increase in the Consumer Price Index did not meet the statutory thresholds for their adjustment. However, other pension plan limitations will increase for 2014. Here are the highlights:
Questions? Give us a call. We're here to help.
10 Things to Know About Capital Gains
Did you know that almost everything you own and use for personal or investment purposes is a capital asset? Capital assets include a home, household furnishings and stocks and bonds held in a personal account.
When you sell a capital asset, the difference between the amount you paid for the asset and its sales price is a capital gain or capital loss. Here are 10 facts you should know about how gains and losses can affect your federal income tax return.
1. Almost everything you own and use for personal purposes, pleasure or investment is a capital asset.
2. When you sell a capital asset, the difference between the amount you sell it for and your basis -- which is usually what you paid for it -- is a capital gain or a capital loss.
3. You must report all capital gains.
4. You may only deduct capital losses on investment property, not on personal-use property.
5. Capital gains and losses are classified as long-term or short-term. If you hold the property more than one year, your capital gain or loss is long-term. If you hold it one year or less, the gain or loss is short-term.
6. If you have long-term gains in excess of your long-term losses, the difference is normally a net capital gain. Subtract any short-term losses from the net capital gain to calculate the net capital gain you must report.
7. The tax rates that apply to net capital gain are generally lower than the tax rates that apply to other income. For 2013, the maximum capital gains rate is 20 percent; however that rate only applies to taxpayers in the highest tax bracket (39.6%) whose income exceeds $400,000 (single filers) or $450,000 (joint filers). Taxpayers in the middle tax brackets pay a maximum of 15 percent. For taxpayers in the lowest tax brackets (under 15%) the rate may be 0 percent on some or all of the net capital gain. Rates of 25 or 28 percent may apply to special types of net capital gain.
8. If your capital losses exceed your capital gains, you can deduct the excess on your tax return to reduce other income, such as wages, up to an annual limit of $3,000, or $1,500 if you are married filing separately.
9. If your total net capital loss is more than the yearly limit on capital loss deductions, you can carry over the unused part to the next year and treat it as if you incurred it in that next year.
10. A new form (Form 8949, Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets) was introduced in 2011 to calculate capital gains and losses and list all capital gain and loss transactions. Subtotals are then carried over to Schedule D (Form 1040), where gain or loss is calculated.
Give us a call us if you need more information about reporting capital gains and losses.
Are Your Social Security Benefits Taxable?
All Social Security recipients should receive a Form SSA-1099 from the Social Security Administration which shows the total amount of their benefits.
But many people may not realize the Social Security benefits they received in 2013 may be taxable. The information outlined below should help you determine whether those benefits you receive in 2013 are taxable or not.
1. How much, if any, of your Social Security benefits are taxable depends on your total income and marital status.
2. Generally, if Social Security benefits were your only income for 2013, your benefits are not taxable and you probably do not need to file a federal income tax return.
3. If you received income from other sources, your benefits will not be taxed unless your modified adjusted gross income is more than the base amount for your filing status (see below).
4. Your taxable benefits and modified adjusted gross income are figured on a worksheet in the Form 1040A or Form 1040 Instruction booklet. Your tax software program will also figure this for you.
5. You can do the following quick computation to determine whether some of your benefits may be taxable:
6. The 2013 base amounts are:
Confused? Give us a call. We'll make sure you receive all of the Social Security benefits you're entitled to.
QuickBooks 2014 Simplifies Common Tasks
If Intuit named its desktop versions of QuickBooks by the version number rather than the year we'd be in version 20-something by now. QuickBooks, still the preferred software for small businesses, keeps getting smarter in its annual upgrades. Rather than pile on tons of new features in its upgrades, for many years now, Intuit has concentrated on making it easier for you to access the tools and data that are already there.
QuickBooks 2014 is no exception. Its combination of small-but-effective changes makes it easier to get in and do what needs to be done quickly and then get out and move on to activities that will help build your business.
A Superior View
If you do upgrade to QuickBooks 2014, head first to the new Income Tracker (Customers | Income Tracker). QuickBooks offers numerous reports and other tools for following the progress of your incoming revenue, but this new feature provides the best we've seen in the software.
Figure 1: QuickBooks 2014's new Income Tracker gives you real-time access to the status of your receivables.
You may find yourself spending a lot of time on this screen because it gives you a birds-eye view of your receivables that isn't available anywhere else in the program. You can click on any of the four colored bars that run across the top of the screen - Estimates, Open Invoices, Overdue and Paid Last 30 Days--to change the data that appears below. Within each bar is the number of related transactions and their total dollar amount.
You'll use the drop-down lists directly below these navigational bars to set filters that define a subset of transactions. These are CUSTOMER: JOB, TYPE, STATUS and DATE.
The last column in the table is labeled ACTION. Once you've earmarked a transaction or transactions that you want to work with by checking the box in front of each name, you can select an action you want to take. If OPEN INVOICES is active, for example, you can receive payment for the transaction(s), print or email them. Where applicable, you can open a drop-down menu in the lower left of the screen and batch-produce invoices, sales receipts and credit memos/refunds.
More Descriptive Email
If you regularly send invoices through email, you may have wondered how many of them actually get opened by your customers in a timely fashion. QuickBooks 2014 contains a new tool that makes the details of each invoice available within the body of the email itself.
Figure 2: You can modify this template or leave it as is: QuickBooks 2014 will fill in the relevant details for each customer.
To access this template, open the Edit menu and select Preferences. Click on the Send Forms tab, then Company Preferences. Open the drop-down list to select the type of form you want to view or modify (pay stub, sales receipt, credit memo, etc.). Click the Edit button to see the actual template, and open the Insert Field drop-down menu to see your options. When you email a form, QuickBooks will replace the text and numbers in brackets with the correct details for each recipient.
This is what is called a mail merge. They're fairly simple to use, but one error will throw your message off. We can help you get set up with these.
Intuit has made many small-but-useful features to QuickBooks 2014, all designed to help you work faster and smarter, and simply to support more convenient operations. For example, the Ribbon toolbars on transactions now include a tab or menu that lets you open related reports.
Figure 3: You can now access reports directly from the Ribbon toolbar on transaction screens.
Upgrading to a new version of QuickBooks can be challenging, so we encourage you to let us know if you'd like to explore the process. New functionality and usability that improves your workflow and your understanding of your finances can be worth the time and trouble.
Tax Due Dates for December 2013
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