Accounting Blog

Tax Planning for Divorce

If you are getting a divorce, taxes are probably not highest on your list of concerns. Still, you should consider a number of tax-related issues.

Property Settlements

Dividing property in connection with divorce generally has no immediate consequences for either spouse. However, if the spouse who receives property in the divorce settlement later sells it, there may be again to report for tax purposes. So, potential taxes should be a consideration in deciding which spouse will receive which property.

Note that a spouse who receives property in a divorce figure any gain on a subsequent sale of the property using the transferring spouse’s basis (e.g., cost), not the property’s value when it was received.

For example, Michelle receives 10 acres of unimproved land in her divorce settlement. Her ex-husband bought the land for $25,000. It’s now worth $100,000. If Michelle sells the land for $100,000, she will have to report a taxable gain of $75,000 (the difference between the $100,000 selling price and the $25,000 cost basis).

Personal Residence

If a divorcing couple sells their home while they are still married, they are entitled to exclude up to $500,000 of gain from their taxable income if otherwise eligible for the exclusion. If the ownership of the home is simply transferred to one spouse as part of the divorce settlement, there is no taxable gain or loss at the time of transfer. However, should that spouse later sell the house while he or she is unmarried, only a $250,000 exclusion would be available.

Retirement Benefits

A divorce settlement often determines how retirement plan benefits will be divided. However, an employer may distribute retirement plan benefits to a former spouse only after receiving a court-issued document that meets the requirements for a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). The benefits are taxable to the former spouse who receives them pursuant to a QDRO.

Dependency Exemptions

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 suspended the deduction for dependency exemptions for 2018 through 2025. But after 2025, the deduction will apply (unless additional changes are made). While the spouse who has legal custody of a child is generally entitled to claim the dependency exemption, this tax advantage is negotiable and can change from year to year. The custodial spouse can waive his or her right to the exemption, allowing the noncustodial spouse to claim it.

Other Tax Benefits

Having a child qualify as a dependent may impact other tax benefits. For example, there is a potential child tax credit of up to $2,000 annually for each qualifying dependent child under age 17.

Alimony vs. Child Support

For 2018, payments that qualify as alimony under the tax law are deductible by the paying spouse and are considered taxable income to the recipient spouse. Child support payments, on the other hand, are not deductible by the paying spouse and are not included in the recipient spouse’s income. The IRS characterizes payments that are linked to an event or date relating to a child — such as high school graduation or a 21st birthday — as child support rather than alimony.

Note that the tax treatment of alimony will be different for taxpayers who divorce after 2018. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, no deduction is available for alimony payments made under post-2018 divorce or separation agreements and recipients are not required to include the payments in income.

These are just some of the tax planning issues that could be important in a divorce situation. Be sure to consult your tax and legal advisors to discuss how these general rules pertaining to your personal situation.

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Why a Net Unrealized Appreciation Strategy is Important

Individuals who plan to take distributions of appreciated employer stock from their tax-qualified retirement plan accounts may receive favorable tax treatment by using a “net unrealized appreciation” (NUA) strategy.

This strategy involves taking a “qualifying” lump-sum distribution of employer stock from a qualified plan upon separation from service or another “triggering event” (such as reaching age 59½) and paying ordinary income taxes on only the plan’s cost basis in the stock. NUA is the difference between the shares’ cost basis and their market value at the time of distribution.

When the stock is eventually sold, taxes will be due on the appreciation at distribution at long-term capital gains rates (currently a maximum of 20% for those in the top regular tax bracket) regardless of how long the employer securities may have been held in the plan. Any further appreciation is taxed at either the short-term or long-term capital gains rate, depending on the holding period.

If your plan assets consist primarily of employer stock, consider using the NUA strategy for part of the distribution and rolling over the remaining shares to an IRA. You could then sell the shares in the IRA and buy a more diversified mix of investments.

A Few Considerations

Could you benefit from the NUA strategy? While it can reduce the taxes you pay, it’s not appropriate for everyone. Think about these factors as you make your decision.

 

Time frame. This strategy provides the most benefit when stock won’t be sold for several years.

Taxes. The NUA strategy may be less beneficial if tax rates change or your tax rate declines in retirement.

Diversification. No matter which strategies you employ, it’s important to maintain an adequately diversified portfolio.

To learn more about tax rules and regulations for investments, give us a call today. Our knowledgeable and trained staff is here to help.

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Why Your Cost Basis is Important to You

When you sell securities in a taxable investment account, you have to know your “basis” in the securities to determine whether you have a gain or a loss on the sale — and the amount. Generally, your basis is the price you paid for your shares of stock or a mutual fund, adjusted for any reinvested dividends or capital gain distributions, as well as for any costs of the purchase.

Although the cost basis calculation sounds straightforward enough, there’s more to the story.

Inherited and Gifted Securities

Though basis is usually derived from cost, inheritances are treated differently. Generally, the basis of inherited securities is reset at their date-of-death value.

With gifted securities, the person receiving the securities generally takes the basis of the person who gave them. However, if gift tax was paid, a basis adjustment may be necessary. And, if the securities’ fair market value on the date of the gift is less than their original cost, you use that lower value to determine any loss on a subsequent sale.

Stock Dividends and Splits

Instead of distributing cash dividends, companies sometimes distribute stock dividends. Stock dividends are generally not taxable. However, a basis adjustment needs to be made, in the website http://fullyaccountable.com/ you will find the most prepared professionals to manage each step. If the new stock you receive is identical to the old stock — for example, you receive two new shares of XYZ common stock for each share of XYZ common stock you own — you simply divide the basis of your old stock by the total number of shares held after the distribution to arrive at your new basis for each share.

Stock splits also result in basis adjustments. For example, if a company has a “two-for-one split” of its stock, the original basis must be divided between the two new shares. Conversely, companies sometimes have “reverse splits,” such as when three shares are exchanged for one, in which case the basis in the original three shares is now the basis of the new share.

Keeping track of share basis through a series of mergers, spinoffs, etc., can be very complicated. Often, taxpayers must research the terms of the relevant transactions by contacting the company directly or logging on to the company’s website.

Selling Less Than Your Entire Holding

If you sell less than your entire holding in a particular stock and can adequately identify the shares you sold (“specific identification”), you may use their basis to determine your gain or loss. Adequate identification involves delivering the stock certificates to your broker or, if your broker holds the stock, telling your broker the particular stock to be sold and getting a written confirmation. If you can’t adequately identify the shares you sell, you may use the FIFO –“first in, first out” — method to determine your basis.

With mutual funds, you are also allowed to elect to use the “average basis” method of accounting for shares sold. With this method, the total cost of all the shares owned is divided by the total number of shares owned.

Tax-deferred and Tax-exempt Investments

Cost basis is generally not an issue with securities held in tax-deferred investment accounts, such as individual retirement accounts (IRAs) or employee retirement accounts. With these accounts, you are not taxed on capital gains but will be taxed at ordinary income-tax rates on distributions you receive. (Qualified Roth distributions are an exception.) Also note that though interest on municipal bonds may be tax exempt, any gain realized from selling such bonds is taxable, so it’s important to keep the information you’ll need to determine your basis.

Connect with our team today for all the latest and most current tax rules and regulations.

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Will You have to Pay Taxes on Your Annuities?

Typically, at least a portion of an annuity payment is taxable.* Taxpayers should be careful to distinguish between the portion that represents a nontaxable return of the amount paid for the annuity and the taxable portion.

General Rule

To do this, the taxpayer generally divides the original, after-tax contribution by the expected return on the date the annuity begins. The cost/payout ratio, or “exclusion ratio,” is then multiplied by each installment payment to determine the nontaxable amount.

Example. Mary paid $10,800 for an annuity that will pay her $100 per month for 20 years. Mary’s expected return is $24,000. The exclusion ratio is 45% ($10,800/$24,000). For each $100 installment, $45 will be nontaxable, and the remaining $55 will be taxable.

Note that the expected returns on annuities may vary with the amount and the measuring term. Where the measuring term is someone’s lifetime or joint lifetimes, the IRS has tables for determining the expected return.

With variable annuities, the payout may vary based on such things as investment performance or changes in a particular index. Generally, the exclusion ratio is calculated by dividing the cost of the annuity contract by the total number of anticipated payments. However, if the nontaxable portion exceeds the actual payment, the taxpayer may elect to recompute the exclusion ratio for later years.

“Qualified” Annuities

Individuals sometimes receive all or a portion of the money in their qualified retirement plan accounts as an annuity. Such annuities are referred to as “qualified” annuities, and the method for calculating the exclusion ratio is similar to those described above. Note, however, that if the account assets consist entirely of pretax salary contributions (and earnings on those contributions), the exclusion ratio will be zero, and each installment will be fully taxable.

For more information about investments and taxes, give our tax professional a call today.

* Different rules apply to withdrawals, dividends, and loans from annuity contracts.

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You Have a Year-End Capital Gains Distribution – Now What?

If you are a mutual fund* investor, chances are you will receive a capital gain distribution notice in the next few weeks. Distributions represent your share of gains the fund earned when it sold investments. While gains are welcome, the taxes on them are not. Since gains are a form of income, they’re taxable to you. The exception: Taxes on distributions from mutual funds you hold in a retirement plan won’t be due until you begin taking money out of those accounts.

Capital gain can still occur even if the fund has performed poorly. This happens when a fund manager sells stocks that may be down for the year but that haveincreased in value since their purchase, resulting in a net capital gain. The trend of fund managers to trade holdings frequently in an effort to increase their fund’s return adds to the likelihood that you’ll owe capital gains tax.

In most cases, capital gain distributions from mutual funds held in taxable accounts are taxed as long-term gain, even for investors who have held a fund for less than a year.

Minimizing Expenses

Here are a few ways to reduce the taxes on capital gain distributions.

Offset gains with capital losses. Losses from one investment may be used to offset capital gains from another, dollar for dollar.

Consider tax-efficient funds. A fund that holds its investments is less likely to generate taxable gains than a fund that buys and sells assets frequently. Before you buy, consider the types of investments a fund holds and the fund’s investment philosophy.

Don’t buy a fund immediately before it makes a capital gains payout. You’ll essentially get back a part of your investment in the fund and be taxed on it. Wait until the distribution has been made.

To learn more about capital gains and how they affect your taxes, give us a call today. Our staff of professionals are always happy to help.

*Mutual funds are sold by prospectus, which includes information on charges, expenses, and risks. To receive a current prospectus, please contact your registered representative. You should read the prospectus carefully before investing.

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Understanding Mutual Fund Distributions Tax Consequences

Do you invest in mutual funds? Unless you hold your investment in a tax-deferred account, you’ll want to consider taxes when you look at a fund’s returns. After all, it’s not what your fund earns but what you keep that counts.

Distributions of Fund Income

Mutual funds are required to distribute almost all of their income — including realized capital gains, dividends, and interest
— to their shareholders each year. The tax bite from these distributions reduces the fund’s total return to the investor.

Capital gains. The tax rate on long-term capital gains is capped at 15% for most taxpayers, and 20% for those with higher incomes. However, if a fund sells a security at a gain before meeting the more-than-one-year holding period for long-term capital gain treatment, the gain is considered short term and is taxable to you when distributed at your regular tax rate.
Regular individual tax rates currently range as high as 37%.

Dividends. The tax rates on qualifying dividends mirror the long-term capital gains rates. These rates apply to qualifying dividends a mutual fund receives on stocks in its portfolio and distributes to shareholders. Dividends that don’t qualify for a favorable rate are taxable to you at your regular tax rate.

Interest. Distributions of interest a fund earns on bonds, certificates of deposit, and other interest-bearing investments are generally taxable to you at your regular tax rate. However, interest you receive from a municipal bond fund is generally exempt from federal income taxes (and possibly state taxes as well).

Note that a 3.8% surtax on net investment income may also apply to your capital gains, dividends, and interest from mutual fund investments if your income exceeds a tax law threshold. And you must pay taxes on taxable fund distributions whether or not you reinvest the distributions in additional shares of the fund.

Sales of Fund Shares

When you sell shares in a mutual fund, you’ll typically have a gain or loss to report on your tax return. If the securities in the
fund’s portfolio have gone up in value during the period the fund has owned them, this appreciation is reflected in the share price. Similarly, if the value of the fund’s holdings has dropped, the share price will reflect the loss in value.

Your gain or loss on a sale of fund shares is figured by comparing the amount you realize on the sale to your cost basis in
the shares you sold. If you sell all the shares you own, figuring your taxes is easy. You just add up all the investments you’ve
made, including reinvested dividends and other distributions, and compare that amount to the net sale proceeds to determine whether you have a gain or loss. However, if you don’t sell all your shares at once, you must use an IRS-approved method for figuring your cost basis.

Taxes can have a significant effect on your mutual fund returns. Be sure to consider them in evaluating your investments.

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Understanding Cost Basis of Your Securities

When you sell securities in a taxable investment account, you have to know your “basis” in the securities to determine whether you have a gain or a loss on the sale — and the amount — for tax purposes. Generally, your basis is the price you paid for the investment, adjusted for the costs associated with that purchase, any share splits, reinvested dividends, or capital gain distributions.

Although the cost basis calculation sounds straightforward enough, there’s more to the story.

Inherited and Gifted Securities

Though basis is usually derived from cost, inheritances are treated differently. Generally, the basis of inherited securities is reset at their date-of-death value. This reset is sometimes referred to as a “step-up in basis.”

With gifted securities, the person receiving the securities generally takes the basis of the person who gave them. However, if gift tax was paid, a basis adjustment may be necessary. And, if the securities’ fair market value on the date of the gift is less than their original cost, you use that lower value to determine any loss on a subsequent sale.

Stock Dividends and Splits

Instead of distributing cash dividends, companies sometimes distribute stock dividends. Stock dividends are generally not taxable. However, a basis adjustment needs to be made. If the new stock you receive is identical to the old stock — for example, you receive two new shares of XYZ common stock for each share of XYZ common stock you own — you simply divide the basis of your old stock by the total number of shares held after the distribution to arrive at your new basis for each share.

Stock splits also result in basis adjustments. For example, if a company has a “two-for-one split” of its stock, the original basis must be divided between the two new shares. Conversely, companies sometimes have “reverse splits,” such as when three shares are exchanged for one, in which case the basis in the original three shares is now the basis of the new share.

Keeping track of share basis through a series of mergers, spinoffs, etc., can be very complicated. Often, taxpayers must research the terms of the relevant transactions by contacting the company directly or logging on to the company’s website.

Selling Less Than Your Entire Holding

If you sell less than your entire holding in a particular stock and can adequately identify the shares you sold (“specific identification”), you may use their basis to determine your gain or loss. Adequate identification involves delivering the stock certificates to your broker or, if your broker holds the stock, telling your broker the particular stock to be sold and getting a written confirmation. If you can’t adequately identify the shares you sell, you may use the FIFO — “first in, first out” — method to determine your basis.

With mutual funds, you are also allowed to elect to use the “average basis” method of accounting for shares sold. With this method, the total cost of all the shares owned is divided by the total number of shares owned.

Tax-Deferred and Tax-Exempt Investments

Cost basis is generally not an issue with securities held in tax-deferred investment accounts, such as traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs) or employee retirement accounts. With these accounts, you are not taxed on capital gains but will be taxed at ordinary income tax rates on distributions you receive. (Qualified Roth distributions are an exception.) Also note that though interest on municipal bonds may be tax exempt, any gain realized from selling such bonds could be taxable, so it’s important to keep the information you’ll need to determine your basis.

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Should You Sell Your Under Performing Stock and then Buy it Back?

You sold one of your stock investments at a profit, so now you’ll have to report a capital gain on this year’s income tax return. Since another stock you own has been losing ground lately, you’re thinking of selling it to claim a capital loss on your return to offset your gain.

However, because you believe the company will bounce back eventually, you’re reluctant to part with your stock. What would happen if you sold your stock to claim the loss and then bought it back again right away?

Wash-Sale Rules

At first glance, it might appear to be the perfect plan. But it won’t work because of the tax law’s wash-sale rules. These rules prevent you from claiming a capital loss on a securities sale if you buy “substantially identical” securities within 30 days before or after the sale. If you want to claim the loss, you’ll have to wait more than 30 days to repurchase stock in the company.

Gone for Good?

Wondering what happens to wash-sale losses you can’t deduct? They don’t just disappear from your tax calculations. Instead, you’re allowed to add the losses to the cost basis of the shares you reacquire. This increase in cost basis will mean a smaller capital gain (or a larger loss) when you eventually sell your shares.

Potential Trap

Keep track of any share purchases you make through a stock dividend reinvestment plan or by having mutual fund distributions automatically reinvested. Selling shares of the same stock or mutual fund at a loss within 30 days of the automatic purchase (before or after) will trigger the wash-sale rules, and part of your loss will be disallowed.

Is There a Plan B?

Is there any way you can take your tax loss and still maintain your position in the stock? You may be able to double up on the loss securities, then wait 30 days and sell your original securities at a loss. Be sure to consult your tax advisor before taking this, or any, action.

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Keeping Up With Your IRA: Tax Season Checklist

If you’re one of the millions of American households who own either a traditional individual retirement account (IRA) or a Roth IRA, then the onset of tax season should serve as a reminder to review your retirement savings strategies and make any changes that will enhance your prospects for long-term financial security. It’s also a good time to start an IRA if you don’t already have one. The IRS allows you to contribute to an IRA up to April 15, 2019, for the 2018 tax year.

This checklist will provide you with information to help you make informed decisions and implement a long-term retirement income strategy.

Which Account: Roth IRA or Traditional IRA?

There are two types of IRAs available: the traditional IRA and the Roth IRA. The primary difference between them is the tax treatment of contributions and distributions (withdrawals). Traditional IRAs may allow a tax deduction based on the amount of a contribution, depending on your income level. Any account earnings compound on a tax-deferred basis and distributions are taxable at the time of withdrawal at then-current income tax rates. Roth IRAs do not allow a deduction for contributions, but account earnings and qualified withdrawals are tax-free .1

In choosing between a traditional and a Roth IRA, you should weigh the immediate tax benefits of a tax deduction this year against the benefits of tax-deferred or tax-free distributions in retirement.

If you need the immediate deduction this year — and if you qualify for it — then you may wish to opt for a traditional IRA. If you don’t qualify for the deduction, then it’s almost certainly a better idea to fund a Roth IRA.

Case in point: Your ability to deduct traditional IRA contributions may be limited not only by income but by your participation in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. (See callout box below.) If that’s the case, a Roth IRA is likely to be the better solution.

On the other hand, if you expect your tax bracket to drop significantly after retirement, you may be better off with a traditional IRA if you qualify for the deduction. You could claim an immediate deduction now and pay taxes at the lower rate later. Nonetheless, if your anticipated holding period is long, a Roth IRA might still make more sense. That’s because a prolonged period of tax-free compounded earnings could more than makeup for the lack of a deduction.

Traditional IRA Deductible Contribution Phase-Outs
Your ability to deduct contributions to a traditional IRA is affected by whether you are covered by a workplace retirement plan.

If you are covered by a retirement plan at work, your deduction for contributions to a traditional IRA will be reduced (phased out) if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is:

  • Between $101,000 and $121,000 for a married couple filing a joint return for the 2018 tax year.
  • Between $63,000 and $73,000 for a single individual or head of the household for the 2018 tax year.

If you are not covered by a retirement plan at work but your spouse is covered, your 2017 deduction for contributions to a traditional IRA will be reduced if your MAGI is between $189,000 and $199,000.

If your MAGI is higher than the phase-out ceilings listed above for your filing status, you cannot claim the deduction.

Roth IRA Contribution Phase-Outs
Your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA is affected by your MAGI. Contributions to a Roth IRA will be phased out if your MAGI is:

  • Between $189,000 and $199,000 for a married couple filing a joint return for the 2018 tax year.
  • Between $120,000 and $135,000 for a single individual or head of the household for the 2018 tax year.

If your MAGI is higher than the phase-out ceilings listed above for your filing status, you cannot make a contribution.

Should You Convert to Roth?

The IRS allows you to convert — or change the designation of — a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, regardless of your income level. As part of the conversion, you must pay taxes on any investment growth in — and on the amount of any deductible contributions previously made to — the traditional IRA. The withdrawal from your traditional IRA will not affect your eligibility for a Roth IRA or trigger the 10% additional federal tax normally imposed on early withdrawals.

The decision to convert or not ultimately depends on your timing and tax status. If you are near retirement and find yourself in the top income tax bracket this year, now may not be the time to convert. On the other hand, if your income is unusually low and you still have many years to retirement, you may want to convert.

Maximize Contributions

If possible, try to contribute the maximum amount allowed by the IRS: $5,500 per individual, plus an additional $1,000 annually for those age 50 and older for the 2018 tax year. Those limits are per individual, not per IRA.

Of course, not everyone can afford to contribute the maximum to an IRA, especially if they’re also contributing to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. If your workplace retirement plan offers an employer’s matching contribution, that additional money may be more valuable than the amount of your deduction. As a result, it might make sense to maximize plan contributions first and then try to maximize IRA contributions.

Review Distribution Strategies

If you’re ready to start making withdrawals from an IRA, you’ll need to choose the distribution strategy to use: a lump-sum distribution or periodic distributions. If you are at least age 70½ and own a traditional IRA, you may need to take required minimum distributions every year, according to IRS rules.

Don’t forget that your distribution strategy may have significant tax-time implications if you own a traditional IRA because taxes will be due at the time of withdrawal. As a result, taking a lump-sum distribution will result in a much heftier tax bill this year than taking a minimum distribution.

The April filing deadline is never that far away, so don’t hesitate to use the remaining time to shore up the IRA strategies you’ll rely on to live comfortably in retirement.

Source/Disclaimer:

1Early withdrawals (before age 59½) from a traditional IRA may be subject to a 10% additional federal tax. Nonqualified withdrawals from a Roth IRA may be subject to ordinary income tax as well as the 10% additional tax.

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Smart Pricing Strategies

It’s a given that businesses need to be profitable to survive. A key element in making a profit is pricing. Here are some suggestions that can help you get your pricing right.

Identify Your Costs

If you don’t know what your product’s or service’s total costs are, you can’t price them accurately. What makes up the total cost? The components may include:

  • Cost of materials or merchandise
  • Labor costs, including salaries plus benefits
  • Overhead costs, such as taxes, rent, insurance, marketing, utilities, and transportation

Determining how much you need to charge just to cover your costs is an essential first step in setting prices. Be sure to reevaluate your costs regularly. If you are experiencing difficulty moving certain products at an acceptable profit, your costs could be too high.

Know Your Customers

Customers generally fall into distinct categories. Some are very price sensitive. Others focus less on price and more on convenience. The implied status or exclusivity of certain goods and services is very important to certain other customers. Once you identify the type of customer you are targeting, it becomes easier to set your prices accordingly.

Know Your Competitors

Knowing what your competitors charge for similar products or services helps you position your business in the marketplace. For example, if you determine your competitors focus on low prices, you can decide if you want to differentiate your business by focusing on superior service.

Leveraging service as a value proposition may justify charging higher prices than your competition. Or there may be other differentiators that allow you to charge higher prices, such as exclusive merchandise or highly knowledgeable employees.

Experiment and Monitor

Look for ways you can sell options, service contracts, and add-ons to a primary product or service, perhaps by offering several “packages” at different prices. Or consider applying discounts based on the quantity ordered.

Continuously monitor your prices and your profitability. Knowing which products or services are making you money allows you to make data-driven decisions about inventory and pricing.

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