Tag Archives: cpa toledo

IRS Releases 2015 Standard Mileage Rates

The IRS has recently announced the 2015 standard mileage rates available for use in calculating the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes. Starting January 1, 2015, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck will be 57.5 cents per mile for business miles driven, which is up from the 56 cents per mile currently allowed in 2014. In addition, the rate will change to 23 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, which is actually down half a cent from the 2014 rate. The rate for charitable miles driven will remain at 14 cents per mile as this rate is fixed by Congress.

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Some may wonder why there is such a difference between the business miles rate and the rate for medical or moving purposes. The reasoning behind this is that, in calculating the rate for business miles driven, the IRS uses an annual study of the various fixed and variable costs associated with operating a vehicle. These costs include depreciation, insurance, repairs, tires, maintenance, gas and oil. As inflation causes the cost of many of these expenses to rise, the IRS adjusts their rate for business miles accordingly. In contrast, the rate for medical and moving purposes is based only on variable costs, like gas and oil. As we have all noticed, prices at the pump have dropped considerably in recent months. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy predicts the average price for a gallon of gas to be $2.60 in 2015, the lowest full-year average since 2009. As a result, the rate for medical or moving purposes has decreased to account for this expected drop in gas prices.

It is important to remember that these standard mileage rates are optional, and taxpayers always have the option of deducting their actual costs incurred with operating a vehicle. While deducting the actual costs may require more work, due to the increased recordkeeping required, in many cases the actual costs method provides the greatest benefit. It is also important to note that, when choosing to use the standard mileage rates, taxpayers should always keep an accurate and detailed log of their miles traveled for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

By: Ruben Becerra, Staff Accountant

5 Strategies for Reducing/Eliminating Your Estate Tax

As many of you know the estate tax exemptions and rates have been all over the board in recent years. For many Americans, this isn’t an issue. However, when you begin amassing a large enough estate this becomes a huge concern. Historically, passing away with a large enough estate has imposed upwards of 55% tax. For 2014, this rate is at 40% with a $5,340,000 personal lifetime exclusion. Below are 5 strategies you can use now to help mitigate any future tax burden you should incur.

EstateTax1. Start gifting smaller amounts
There is an annual gift exclusion of up to $14,000 per person per year. Meaning a married couple could collectively gift 28,000 per year per person without eating into any of their lifetime estate tax exclusion.

2. Gift highly appreciable assets now
Gifts of over $14,000 will still need to be reported on the federal Form 709 (and will consequently count against your lifetime limit) but gifting these assets now, instead of waiting, allows the appreciation to build with the recipient instead of counting against your lifetime limit later on.

3. Buy life insurance
Life insurance proceeds are not includible in your taxable estate and are, therefore, a good way of sheltering your net worth. Doing this essentially transforms taxable assets into non-taxable income once a death occurs (assuming the estate is not the beneficiary of the policy and the decedent is not the owner).

4. Use both exemptions
Currently, the tax code allows for the husband and wife to each claim a $5.34 million estate/gift exemption. If elected timely, any unused portion of a spouse’s estate can be transferred to the surviving spouse (called portability).

5. Take advantage of unlimited exemptions
When in doubt, be charitable! The IRS allows you to contribute an unlimited amount to the qualified charities of your choice. So if you are considering donating a portion of your estate and are over the exemption limitation this would be a terrific way of sheltering those dollars from taxation.

Courtney Elgin, CPA

Driving A Lot? Deduct Your Mileage

I recently met with a client who is starting a new investment firm. He asked me how to determine if an expense can be classified at a business expense. He told me he drives to meet with potential partners and was wondering if any of that mileage would be considered a business expense. I told him if you are using your vehicle to meet people or to scope out locations, etc. then absolutely, those situations would fall under the business expense category.

The question then came up of how to track these expenses in order to receive the deduction. I explained there are two different methods, the first being the allowance method and the second, tracking the actual expenses. Each of these methods has a sidenote worthy of mentioning. The allowance method must be elected in the first year the vehicle is used for business purposes. If it is not, it cannot be used.

Mileage

The allowance method replaces taking a deduction for actual operating costs and depreciation. You can, however, deduct parking fees and tolls that are paid for business purposes. If you use the allowance method, you must keep records of your business trips. These records need to be comprised of the date, customer or client visited, the purpose and the number of miles travelled for business. This can be used for leased vehicles as well. However, it must be used for the entire lease period. The log can be kept electronically or on paper, but must be available at the request of the IRS. The total business miles for the year are then multiplied by the IRS standard mileage rate, $.56 in 2014, and deducted on the tax return.

Actual expenses can be deducted in the first year if the allowance method is not elected, or in any future year. This is only true if the vehicle is not leased. However, electing in a future year forfeits any first-year accelerated depreciation that may be available. Actual expenses must be tracked for items like, gasoline, oil, repairs, license tags, insurance, etc. Depreciation or lease payments can also be deducted. If the vehicle is also used personally, then the total expenses are allocated based on the business use percentage. This percentage is determined based on the total miles driven for the year and the business miles driven for the year.

Deducting automobile expenses can surely save you money on your tax return, just make sure you gather the appropriate documentation the select the right method for your deduction.

To receive a free copy of William Vaughan Company’s mileage log, email Jessica Sloan at sloan@wvco.com

By: Tara West, CPA, CMA

Don’t Leave Health Care Dollars on the Table

Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the end of December to review your finances. You might not have enough time to take full advantage of some money-saving strategies before the ball drops. Here are some healthy yearend moves you may be able to make.

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Check your deductibles

Many health insurance plans have an annual deductible. If you’ve already met yours for the year, now’s the time to schedule any elective procedures you’ve been considering. If it doesn’t look like you’re going to meet your deductible this year, then switch gears and push any non-urgent visits into next year. That might help youmeet your deductible in 2015.

Max out your benefits

Be sure to take advantage of any benefits your health plan provides you free of charge. For example, it may cover an annual physical and various screenings.

If your employer sponsors a wellness program, don’t wait until the end of the year to check your status. You may be eligible for additional rewards for doing something as simple as scheduling a screening.

Review your FSA

If you have a health flexible spending account (FSA) through your employer, check your balance. If you have more money in your account than you can spend by the end of the year, see if the plan offers a grace period so employees can spend down their funds. Or the plan may allow employees to carry over a certain amount to the next year. Find out if your employer offers one of these options.

Tax tips

If you usually itemize deductions on your tax return, you may want to brush up on the details about the medical expense deduction. You won’t be able to qualify for it until your expenses are over 10% of your adjusted gross income (7.5% if you or your spouse is 65 or older). If you’re close to reaching the threshold, it may influence the decisions you make about elective procedures. You can only deduct unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed the threshold.

 

Where You Call Home Can Affect Your Taxes!

One of the most exciting parts of a sport’s season is when free agency begins and several big name players change teams. One phrase you may often hear when referring to star players during NBA free agency is, “If they play for this team, they will make more money.” The reason for this is because the NBA has a maximum salary that players can earn. So no matter how great a player is, there is a cap on the salary a player can receive.

The specific details of a maximum can vary player to player, but in general a player who has completed fewer than seven seasons can earn up to 25% of the salary cap. As seasons played increase, so does the percent of the salary cap that a player can earn. A player completing more than seven, but less than ten seasons, can earn up to 30%, and a player completing ten or more seasons can earn up to 35% of the salary cap. The salary cap varies year to year, so the percentage is based on the salary cap in effect the first year of the contract. Specific contract details can be found in the NBA’s 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement found on the NBA’s website.

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So if the NBA has a maximum to their contracts, how can a player make more money playing for one team over another? The answer lies in the state and local income taxes in effect in the city the player calls home. Let’s take LeBron James for example. This year LeBron rescinded his talents from South Beach and returned them to Cleveland. LeBron agreed to a two-year, $42.2 million deal, receiving $20,644,400 in year one. The 2014-15 season will be LeBron’s eleventh season in the NBA. Therefore, he is eligible to earn up to 35% of the salary cap. The salary cap used to calculate maximum salaries is based on a percentage of the NBA’s Basketball Related Income, and is $58,984,000 for the 2014-15 season. $58,984,000 x 35% = $20,644,400. LeBron, therefore, is receiving the maximum contract.

Though LeBron had many reasons to come back to Cleveland, money was not one of them. If LeBron had re-signed with the Miami Heat, he would be playing in a state with no state or local income taxes. By coming to Cleveland, LeBron will be subject to both Ohio and Cleveland income taxes. For Ohio, LeBron will be in the highest tax bracket and pay a total of $1,219,282. Luckily, LeBron did some good tax planning when choosing where to build his home as he does not live within any city or school taxing districts. However, athletes are required to pay local taxes in the city games are played in. Therefore, LeBron will be subject to Cleveland’s 2% income tax for home games while he would have had no city income tax in Miami. The additional Cleveland income tax comes to $206,444. In total, LeBron will be taking home $1,425,726 less than if he had stayed in Miami in the first year of his contract alone.

So when choosing your next job or moving to a new home be sure to consider the tax implications. Though most of us won’t be losing in excess of $1.4 million, a significant portion of your take-home pay can be lost by choosing a new home within local taxing districts with high rates. Fortunately for LeBron, he does not need to worry about money and the $1.4 million is a small price to pay to come home.

By: Mark Sawyer, CPA

Tax Planning & Trimming Your Tax Bill

When it comes to making moves to slash your federal income-tax bill, it pays to start early. You have a limited opportunity to come up with planning strategies that may help reduce the taxes you’ll owe for 2014, so don’t miss out.

Can You Say Loss?

While you haven’t actually lost anything until you sell an underperforming investment, now may be a good time to review your portfolio for potential candidates. An investment that has lost value since you acquired it and consistently underperformed its benchmark may no longer belong in your portfolio. If the investment shows no sign of improving, selling it before year-end and taking a capital loss may be your best move. Capital losses are fully deductible to offset capital gains and up to $3,000 of ordinary income each year ($1,500 if married filing separately). Excess losses can be carried over for deduction in future years, subject to the same limitations.

A Good Time for Gains

Favorable tax rates may make taking profits on appreciated stock you’ve held longer than one year advantageous. Long-term capital gains from the sale of stocks and other securities are currently taxed at a maximum rate of 15% for most taxpayers, 0% for taxpayers in brackets below 25%, and 20% for taxpayers in the top regular tax bracket (39.6%). Current capital losses or carryover losses from a prior year can offset gains from the sale.

Don’t make taxes your only reason for selling an investment. Consider the impact the sale will have on your overall portfolio before you make a decision.

Year End Tax PlanningSave More, Pay Less

Increasing your pretax contribution to an employer-sponsored retirement plan before the end of the year may be another strategy to consider. Since you don’t pay current taxes on your contributions, deferring a greater amount of your pay can lower your tax bill. If you’ve reached age 50 and already contributed the maximum annual amount through salary deferrals, your plan may allow you to make catch-up contributions.

In addition, the contributions you make to a traditional individual retirement account by April 15, 2015, may be deductible on your 2014 tax return. The 2014 contribution limit is $5,500 ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older). Your tax advisor can review the deduction requirements with you.

 

Donating to Charity

You have until year-end to make donations to your favorite organizations and claim an itemized deduction for charitable contributions. (Make sure the organizations qualify to receive deductible contributions.) By donating with a credit card or with a check mailed by December 31, you’ll be able to take the deduction on your 2014 return even though you won’t receive your credit card bill or have your check processed until January 2015. You’ll need to have specific proof of your gifts. Deduction limits apply.

Bunching Expenses

Accelerating or delaying expenses is a strategy that may help you exceed the floor amounts for certain deductions. For 2014, medical expenses are deductible only in the amount that exceeds 10% of adjusted gross income, or AGI (7.5% of AGI for individuals age 65 or older). Scheduling and paying out-of-pocket costs before year-end for medical appointments, elective surgery, dental work, or eye exams that you were planning for early 2015 may help you exceed the floor. The deduction for unreimbursed employee business and miscellaneous expenses is limited to the amount that exceeds 2% of AGI.

Not every strategy mentioned will be appropriate for your personal situation. Your tax advisor can help you determine those that can make a difference.

October 15 Deadline Upon Us

October 15, the deadline to file extended individual tax returns is fast approaching. This is a great time for a reminder that the extension applies to the filing due date, and it is not an extension of the due date to pay. Penalty and interest are still charged to an account if the resulting tax liability is not fully paid on April 15.

tax deadline

The terms “penalty and interest” sound gruesome enough on their own. Now throw in the fact that they’re showing up on an IRS notice, and it might be enough to make some taxpayers’ bones quiver.

But what if you don’t have the cash to pay the entire bill at once? The IRS will allow individuals to set up an installment plan, but that cost you too. Penalty and interest are still due, and on top of that there is a one time set up fee that can cost over $100. As scary as a large tax liability can be, surely one wouldn’t want to make it worse by adding to it. Well don’t fret, we have a viable solution: pay it down with a credit card and owe the bank instead of the IRS.

By: Anthony Mifsud, Staff Accountant