Tax Issues

Extensions Due on October 17th

Just a gentle (or firm, depending on what you require) reminder: all of those extended tax returns are due on October 17th. If you’ve been following this blog since the summer, then you know I’ve been sounding the alarm on tax return extensions and how to prepare for filing those. Along with filing extended tax returns, this is the time to do any withdrawals of excess IRA contributions made during calendar year 2021 (excess contributions must be withdrawn to avoid penalties). This is also the time to contribute to solo 401(k) simplified employee pension (SEP) plan for tax year 2021 if you extended the filing time for Form 1040.

Whew, that’s a lot! There is still time to do a few things to close out tax year 2021 if you’ve extended your time to file. For most tax preparers, October 17th is the end of their tax season, and they can finally have a chance to rest before the beginning of the next tax season. However, if you’re a business owner, you may have a different tax filing date. If so, keeping up with the general extension dates and assigning specific tasks to complete on those dates can be a fantastic way of staying ahead of the surge of work that comes when its time to file taxes.

That’s all: get those extended taxes filed! Talk to you all soon!

Avoiding Gift Tax – Make Sure The Checks Clear!

Recently, I discussed the issues surrounding the estate of Aretha Franklin. From the sources that I reviewed, it appears that she did not intentionally reduce the size of her estate through gifting to her heirs before her death. It isn’t required that people reduce their estates through giving, however. . . With an annual ceiling of $15,000, affluent individuals of advanced age may prefer to distribute a portion of some inheritances before their death, to avoid taxes to both themselves as well as the recipients.

For those that choose to give before death, whatever you do, make sure your heirs cash those checks as soon as they receive them! A recent tax case (Estate of de Muth v Commissioner) determined that if a check isn’t cleared before a person dies, the checks become part of the estate, and therefore subject to estate tax. Of course, gifters can’t force recipients to quickly cash checks given to them, but if the intent is to ensure that the size of the estate is reduced, then time is truly of the essence.

I was interested in Estate of de Muth because it was always my understanding that it was the date of gifting, and not the date of cashing, that determined when a gift was given. But with the tax courts determining that the act of gift giving occurs upon cashing the check, I now have a different perspective regarding gifts and what constitutes receipt. This is why I love staying aware of the changes with the tax law: you never know what you’ll learn!

Aretha Franklin’s Messy Estate – Key Takeaways

A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Aretha Franklin’s estate has settled a nearly $8 million tax bill, and the way has been cleared for her four sons to start receiving payments from the revenue generated from the use of her image and music. This outcome was a long time coming: Franklin passed four years ago, and her heirs have been unable to settle the estate issues until recently. This development is excellent news, as this opens the way for her sons to start receiving the benefits to which they are entitled.

I won’t rehash all of the details of the case, however, I will highlight some key takeaways that I gleaned as I learned about the messy estate left behind by the Queen of Soul:

  • Destroy previously executed wills. For most people, their end-of-life planning only covers the execution of a will (if they’re proactive). Sadly, some people don’t even do that much planning: far too many people die intestate, leaving their estate planning in the hands of the state where they lived and died. But I digress . . . Leaving a will clarifies how you want your property to be distributed after your death. However, this distribution becomes unclear if you have multiple versions of your will floating around. So, consider destroying previously executed wills whenever you make a revision. The estate is currently comparing 3 different versions of Ms. Franklin’s will, and I’m sure the probate courts will have a field day trying to figure out which one is the one that will be honored.
  • Set up a trust. If you only have a will, you’re doing better than many people. But if you really want to simplify how your assets will be handled, a trust is what you need. Trusts can be established to distribute assets before and after death, they can help avoid certain types of taxes, and they can provide an extra level of clarity that may not be accomplished through the execution of a will alone. Consulting with a trust attorney is a great idea, even if it turns out that a trust isn’t advantageous for your specific circumstances. These attorneys can answer many of the questions you may have related to other estate or end-of-life financial issues.
  • Consider gifting some of your possessions while you’re still alive. The current ceiling for tax-free gifting is $15,000 per person that you choose to gift. Even if you aren’t giving everyone you know $15,000, you can certainly gift some of your possessions now, so that your heirs can avoid gift and estate taxes later.

Those are three of my takeaways from the tax agreement between IRS and Aretha Franklin. I’ll keep an eye on this case to see if any additional developments arise, and if so, I’ll be back with updates. Take care!

3 Things to Do in August for Financial Health

One of the things that my friends regularly do is ask me about what they can do to turn their money around. Most of them have lots of money coming in, but they are unclear about how to invest for growth. Or, they are living well under their means but they want more fun in their finances (less austerity, more joy). Still, some don’t have enough money but they are open to making changes that will allow them to increase their income, decrease their expenses, and start living the life they desire.

For that reason, I’m going to start sharing monthly tips to help with financial health. These are things that I’ve done, or that I’ve recommended, that have helped my friends to get more bang for their bucks, as well as created opportunities for them to grow their finances. For the month of August, I’m focusing on stopping the leaks, or reducing the unnecessary outflow of money. If you can stop costly expenses, then you can save more money and (hopefully!) create the kind of wealth that supports the lifestyle you desire. On that note, let’s look at three things you can do in August for your financial health:

  • Review your withholdings and make appropriate adjustments. If you are a W-2 employee or 1099 recipient that has withholding calculated by the payer, then review your withholdings and see if you need to adjust them. If you tend to owe taxes when you file, then consider holding out a little more money as a pre-payment toward your tax liability. However, if you tend to get a refund (especially if it’s a large refund every year), consider having less money taken out of every check, so you end up having access to more of your money as you earn it. If you want some additional clarity on how to do this, I can make a guide for your convenience (just let me know in the comments below!)
  • Request lowered interest rates on current lines of credit. You may be surprised at what your creditors will do for you, especially if you have a great payment history. Requesting lowered interest can mean more money in your pocket, so ask!
  • Eliminate one (or more!) unused or underused subscription or membership. Last week’s post mentioned one way to save money on memberships, but if you have unused or underused subscriptions or memberships that you’re paying for, the best thing you can do is cancel them and save your money. But, along with canceling those subscriptions or memberships, immediately make a plan for what you’ll do with the money saved. If you don’t, that money will likely still be wasted.

A key point that is often missed when talking about saving money is finding the best way to use those savings. Most of the time, we think we will put that money into a savings account, which may grow and eventually offer a bit of a financial cushion. But the truth is, the money that is freed up by making small adjustments is often squandered. As soon as you know how much money you will save by making small changes, you should quickly designate where that money will go, and put that money where it needs to be without haste Will you put it into a savings account that has a higher yield? Get a clear focus for what that account is for, so that you aren’t tempted to spend the money whenever you’re feeling bored or frustrated. Will you put it in an investment account? Make it an account that makes it a little difficult for you to make frivolous withdrawals. Will you use it to reduce debt? Set up or modify your auto-payment, and increase your current payment account by the amount you’re saving by trimming expenses elsewhere.

Those are three tips (and actually, a fourth tip, too, if you include the savings designation idea!) that can be done during the month, to bring you a little closer to the financial condition you desire. Have a great day, and look out for more tips in the months to come!

Tax Changes May Be Coming – The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022

Hey dear readers! I hadn’t planned to post anything else this week, but when there’s breaking news, I have to share it!

I recently learned that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is gaining traction, and Senators Chuck Shumer and Charles Manchin reached an agreement on the terms of this bill. That is exciting news, considering how Manchin had originally pushed for limited terms. Manchin’s decision to back the bill – without limiting it to the areas of concern, namely, pharmaceutical prices and continued health care subsidization – was unexpected, but an exciting turn that means this bill will be moving forward sooner than expected.

For those that are curious, there are tax implications in this bill (I mean, why else would I be posting about it?). For starters, $124 billion is set aside to fund increased tax enforcement. This means that, if the bill is passed, there will be enhanced enforcement, starting with a little over $3 billion for taxpayer services, $45.6 billion for enforcement (think revenue agents and officers, auditors and specialists, attorneys, and appeals unit employees and resources to support all of the functions), $25 billion for operations support (the other employees that work behind the scenes outside of the enforcement functions), and $4.75 billion for business systems modernization, among other things. The funding is designed to cover 10 years, so the financial gravity of these provisions can be staggered over time.

For taxpayers (individuals) this means that IRS may be getting more help in the months and years to come (the bill provides for more “direct hire authority” capabilities, meaning faster hires). This also means that the previous weakened collection and enforcement function will be beefed up, so the scams and schemes that may have slipped through the cracks before may be identified and examined faster and more efficiently (in other words, wrap up your scams now, if you have some!) For tax practitioners, prepare for more clients that want to clean up their tax records before the enforcement units have the staff and resources to pursue collections on more individuals. There is also an opportunity to offer modernization services and products once various IRS contracts become available.

Now, the bill, as it’s written, indicates that the increased funding isn’t designed to target anyone that earns less than $400,000 annually. However, I think that some taxpayers that earn under the $400K amount may end up getting caught up in the random audits, especially when the more specialized agents and officers are hired and assigned to higher dollar cases, freeing up the overall caseload for less technical (but still effective) specialists and auditors. This will all take a bit of time, of course, but it’s something to look for on the horizon.

The other tax implication discussed in this bill is enforcing a minimum corporate tax of 15% for companies that have over $1 billion in profits. The actual corporate tax rate is a statutory 21%, but these highly profitable companies often pay far less than the proposed 15% amount, because they have the best attorneys and accountants that exploit all of the loopholes currently in the tax code (which is EXACTLY what good practitioners are supposed to do on behalf of their clients, and within the confines of the law). With these new proposals, corporations that qualify will have to pay no less than 15% tax on profits. According to the bill, the minimum corporate tax rate would go into effect after December 31, 2022.

This may sound like a groundbreaking move, but to be clear, the minimum corporate tax rate was a standard issued by the OECD at the last G20 summit (October 2021), and already standard tax practice in multiple other countries. The 15% minimum rate was proposed as part of the two-pillar plan to address digital economies and the tax avoidance that is prevalent in that realm. This segment of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is simply mirroring the accepted standards already in place in other OECD member countries.

Also, the minimum corporate tax rate would only affect 200 companies. So the targeted parties are small in number but account for billions of dollars in the economy. For this reason, there is already criticism from some representatives, regarding the fact that this could affect jobs. Indeed, billion-dollar companies usually employ a lot of people, so there is a possibility that the workforce may be affected. Time will tell what the overall effect will be once the most profitable companies are forced to fork over a minimum amount of their earnings.

Whew, that’s it for today! I hope this got you all caught up on the latest tax happenings, and I’ll be sure to share more of my thoughts as the situation develops. Take care, and I’ll talk to you all soon!

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Articles reviewed: Yahoo, OECD, Business Insider