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Tax Changes for 2013: A Checklist
Welcome 2013! As the new year rolls around, it's always a sure bet that there will be changes to the current tax law and 2013 is no different. From health savings accounts to retirement contributions here's a checklist of tax changes to help you plan the year ahead.
For 2013, the big news is the signing of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), which modified, made permanent or extended a number of tax provisions that expired in 2012 and 2011, for both individuals and businesses. Standard mileage, health savings account contribution limits, and foreign earned income exclusion, as well as most retirement contribution limits have been adjusted upward to reflect inflation as well.
Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
For 2013, the net unearned income for a child under the age of 19 (or a full-time student under the age of 24) that is not subject to "kiddie tax" is $2,000.
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
A qualified individual must be covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and not be covered by other health insurance with the exception of insurance for accidents, disability, dental care, vision care, or long-term care.
For calendar year 2013, a qualifying HDHP must have a deductible of at least $1,250 (up $50 from 2012) for self-only coverage or $2,500 (up $100 from 2012) for family coverage (unchanged from 2011) and must limit annual out-of-pocket expenses of the beneficiary to $6,250 for self-only coverage (up $200 from 2012) and $12,500 for family coverage (up $400 from 2012).
Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs)
Self-only coverage. For taxable years beginning in 2013, the term "high deductible health plan" means, for self-only coverage, a health plan that has an annual deductible that is not less than $2,150 (up $50 from 2012) and not more than $3,200 (up $50 from 2012), and under which the annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits do not exceed $4,300 (up $100 from 2012).
Increased AGI Limit for Deductible Medical Expenses
Eligible Long-Term Care Premiums
Foreign Earned Income Exclusion
Long-Term Capital Gains and Dividends
Pease and PEP (Personal Exemption Phaseout)
Estate and Gift Taxes
Individuals - Tax Credits
Earned Income Tax Credit
Child Tax Credit
Child and Dependent Care Credit
Individuals - Education
American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credits
Interest on Educational Loans
Tuition and Related Expenses Deduction
Individuals - Retirement
Income Phase-out Ranges
For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the phase-out range is $95,000 to $115,000, up from $92,000 to $112,000. For an IRA contributor who is not covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple's modified AGI is between $178,000 and $188,000, up from $173,000 and $183,000.
The modified AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $178,000 to $188,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $173,000 to $183,000 in 2012. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $112,000 to $127,000, up from $110,000 to $125,000. For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a retirement plan, the phase-out range remains $0 to $10,000.
Standard Mileage Rates
Section 179 Expensing
Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC)
Transportation Fringe Benefits
While this checklist outlines important tax changes for 2013, additional changes in tax law are more than likely to arise during the year ahead.
Don't hesitate to call us if you want to get an early start on tax planning for 2013. We're here to help!
The Fiscal Cliff Deal: What It Means for You
By now, everyone has heard about the "fiscal cliff" bill signed into law on January 2, 2013, but what you might not understand is how it affects you. With that in mind, let's take a closer look.
What is the "Fiscal Cliff"?
The term "fiscal cliff" refers to the $503 billion in federal tax increases and $200 billion in spending cuts (according to recent Congressional Budget Office projections) that took effect at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013--before Congress passed ATRA. It is the abruptness of these measures and possible negative economic impacts such as an increase in unemployment and a recession that has resulted in the use of the metaphor "fiscal cliff".
What Could Have Happened?
According to the Tax Policy Center the arrival of the fiscal cliff would have meant that nearly 90% of all households would see their taxes rise. The top 20 percent of Americans would see their effective tax rate rise about 5.8 percentage points on average, while the bottom 20 percent of Americans would see their tax rate rise about 3.7 percentage points as a result of the Bush-era tax cuts to income, estate, and capital gains tax.
Further, in addition to a rise in tax rates, middle class and the lower-income working families are affected by the fiscal cliff in other ways--among them child-related credits and deductions for dependent care and education, and the EITC.
What Actually Happened: The "Fiscal Cliff" Deal
On January 1, 2013, Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which President Obama signed into law the following day. The "fiscal cliff" bill, as it's referred to, extended a number of tax provisions that expired in 2011 and 2012, as well as increasing taxes on higher income individuals.
All Wage Earners
Personal tax rate. Marginal tax rates remained the same for most taxpayers (10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35%) except for those taxpayers with taxable income greater than $400,000 (single filers) or $450,000 for married filers, whose rate increased to 39.6%.
Payroll taxes. The payroll tax holiday expired at the end of 2012 and was not extended. This means that you'll see 6.2% taken out of your paycheck for Social Security for the first $113,700 in wages for 2013 instead of 4.2%. For the average family making $50,000 a year, this amounts to $1,000 less in their pocket. The self-employed tax rate reverts to 15.3% up from 13.3% in 2012.
Unemployment Insurance. Federally funded unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, scheduled to end on December 29, 2012, were extended for another year, through December 29, 2013.
Middle Income Families
Child-Related Tax Credits. Child-related tax credits, used by families to offset their tax burden, have been extended under ATRA. The child tax credit remains at $1,000 and is still refundable. It is phased out for married couples who earn over $110,000 and single filers who earn more than $75,000. The dependent care tax credit is equal to 35% of the first $3,000 ($6,000 for two or more) of eligible expenses for one qualifying child.
Education. The American Opportunity Tax Credit, which was scheduled to revert to the Hope Credit ($1,500), has been extended through 2017. The credit is used to offset education expenses and is worth up to $2,500.
EITC. The EITC or Earned Income Tax Credit, which benefits low to middle income working families, is extended for five years through the end of 2017. In 2013 the maximum credit is $6,044.
Higher Income Earners
AMT. The AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) "patch" (exemption amounts) was made permanent and indexed for inflation for tax years beginning in 2013 and made retroactive for 2012. In addition, nonrefundable personal credits can be used to offset AMT liability. For 2013, the exemption amounts are $80,800 ($78,750 in 2012) for married taxpayers filing jointly and $51,900 ($50,600 in 2012) for single filers.
Marriage Penalty. The larger standard deduction for married couples filing joint tax returns is retained ($12,200 in 2013) as is the increased size of the 15% income tax bracket. Generally, each spouse would need to earn income in excess of $80,000 (with no itemized deductions) in order to be hit with the marriage penalty; however, the higher your income, the harder you get hit with the penalty. Despite this, it usually makes more sense to file joint tax returns and not married filing separately. If you're not sure which filing status to use, give us a call.
Long Term Capital Gains and Dividends. For retirees (and others) whose investment income is at or above $400,000 (single filers) or $450,000 (married filing jointly), long term capital gains and dividends are both taxed at 20%. However, taxpayers in the lower brackets (10% and 15%) however, the tax rate is zero. For middle tax brackets, long-term capital gains and dividends are taxed at 15%.
Even if that dividend income is part of an IRA or other retirement plan (and not in and of itself subject to taxes), retirees in the highest tax bracket ($400,000 for single filers) will still be affected by higher income tax rates in 2013 of 39.6%.
Estate and Gift Taxes. The exclusion for a decedent's estate is $5,250,000 (adjusted for inflation) and the top tax rate increases to 40% for taxpayers with income of $400,000 ($450,000 married filing jointly). The "portability" election of exemptions between spouses remains in effect for decedents dying after 2012. The gift tax is increased to $14,000.
Pease amendment and PEP. The Pease amendment, which enabled wealthier taxpayers to get the full value of their itemized deductions, expired in 2012. As a result, taxpayers with incomes of $250,000 $300,000 married filing jointly) will see higher taxes, especially when taking into account higher personal tax rates, Medicare tax increases (see Higher Income Earners above), and the return of the personal exemption phaseout (PEP) provision in 2013 as well. Threshold amounts for PEP are $250,000 for single filers and $300,000 married filing jointly.
If you have questions or need help understanding how the fiscal cliff impacts you, don't hesitate to give us a call. We'll help you figure it out and plan ahead for the future.
1099s: 5 Key Reporting Changes for Businesses
According to the IRS, under-reporting of income is the biggest contributing factor to the IRS tax gap--the amount owed by individuals and businesses versus the amount that was actually paid in taxes. In 2006, the most recent year for which data are available, under-reporting across taxpayer categories accounted for an estimated $376 billion of the gross tax gap.
Overall, the IRS found that compliance is highest where there is third-party information reporting (1099 forms used to report taxable income earned that is not considered salary and wages) and/or withholding (W-2 forms). In the case of W-2 forms, the IRS found that a net of only 1% of wage and salary income was misreported; however, amounts subject to little or no information reporting had a 56 percent net misreporting rate in 2006.
In an effort to close that tax gap, the IRS has changed some reporting requirements for 1099s for tax year 2012. Here are some of those key changes:
1. 1099-MISC. Starting in 2012, compensation of $600 or more paid in a calendar year to an H-2A visa agricultural worker who did not give you a valid taxpayer identification number must be reported on 1099-MISC. You must also withhold federal income tax under the backup withholding rules. However, if the worker does furnish a valid taxpayer identification number, then report the payments on Form W-2.
2. 1099-B. New boxes have been added to Form 1099-B for reporting the stock or other symbol (box 1d), quantity sold (box 1e), whether basis is being reported to the IRS (box 6b), and state income tax withheld (boxes 13-15). Other boxes on the form have been moved or renumbered. In addition, brokers must report on Form 1099-B sales of covered securities by an S corporation if the S corporation acquired the covered securities after 2011.
3. 1099-C. The titles for boxes 1, 2, and 6 on Form 1099-C have changed. Box 1 is now Date of Identifiable Event; box 2 is now Amount of Debt Discharged; and box 6 is now Identifiable Event Code, and requires the entry of a code for the identifiable event. See Box 6--Identifiable Event Code. For 2012, all codes are optional except for Code A--Bankruptcy.
4. 1099-DIV. Exempt-interest dividends from a mutual fund or other regulated investment company (RIC) are now reported on Form 1099-DIV and are no longer reported on Form 1099-INT, Interest Income. Also, boxes 12 through 14 have been added to Form 1099-DIV to report state income tax withheld.
5. 1099-INT. Exempt-interest dividends from a mutual fund or other regulated investment company (RIC) are no longer reported on Form 1099-INT. Instead, those amounts are reported on Form 1099-DIV, Dividends and Distributions. In addition, boxes 11 through 13 have been added to Form 1099-INT to report state income tax withheld.
If you need help with 1099s this year, don't hesitate to give us a ring. We're happy to help you out.
How to Get Paid on Time
Due to current economic conditions, it's likely that collecting on your accounts receivables is becoming more and more of a challenge. Strengthening your collection procedures may allow you to improve collection rates and shorten the aging days of your accounts receivables.
The following suggestions will help your business improve its cash flow and tighten up its credit and collections policies. Some of the tips discussed here may not be suitable for every business, but can serve as general guidelines to give your company more financial stability.
Define Your Policy. Define and stick to concrete credit guidelines. Your sales force should not sell to customers who are not credit-worthy, or who have become delinquent. You should also clearly delineate what leeway sales people have to vary from these guidelines in attempting to attract customers.
Clearly Explain Your Payment Policy. Invoices should contain clear written information about how much time customers have to pay, and what will happen if they exceed those limits.
Follow Through on Your Stated Terms. If your policy stipulates that late payers will go into collection after 60 days, then you must stick to that policy. A member of your staff (but not a salesperson) should call all late payers and politely request payment. Accounts of those who exceed your payment deadlines should be penalized and/or sent into collection, if that is your stated policy.
Train Staff Appropriately. The person you designate to make calls to delinquent customers must be apprised of the seriousness and professionalism required for the task. Here is a suggested routine for calls to delinquent payers:
IRS Announces 2013 Standard Mileage Rates
Beginning January 1, 2013, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups, or panel trucks) is:
The standard mileage rate are based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile.
Let us know if you have questions about which driving activities you should monitor as tax year 2013 begins.
Retirement Plan Distributions for Sandy Victims
The Internal Revenue Service announced that 401(k)s and similar employer-sponsored retirement plans can be used to make loans and hardship distributions to victims of Hurricane Sandy and members of their families.
401(k) plan participants, employees of public schools and tax-exempt organizations with 403(b) tax-sheltered annuities, and state and local government employees with 457(b) deferred-compensation plans may be eligible to take advantage of these streamlined loan procedures and liberalized hardship distribution rules. Though IRA participants are barred from taking out loans, they may be eligible to receive distributions under liberalized procedures.
Retirement plans can provide this relief to employees and certain members of their families who live or work in the disaster area. To qualify for this relief, hardship withdrawals must be made by Feb. 1, 2013.
The IRS is also relaxing procedural and administrative rules that normally apply to retirement plan loans and hardship distributions. As a result, eligible retirement plan participants will be able to access their money more quickly with a minimum of red tape. In addition, the six-month ban on 401(k) and 403(b) contributions that normally affects employees who take hardship distributions will not apply.
This broad-based relief means that a retirement plan can allow a Sandy victim to take a hardship distribution or borrow up to the specified statutory limits from the victim's retirement plan. It also means that a person who lives outside the disaster area can take out a retirement plan loan or hardship distribution and use it to assist a son, daughter, parent, grandparent or other dependent who lived or worked in the disaster area.
Plans will be allowed to make loans or hardship distributions before the plan is formally amended to provide for such features. In addition, the plan can ignore the limits that normally apply to hardship distributions, thus allowing them, for example, to be used for food and shelter. If a plan requires certain documentation before a distribution is made, the plan can relax this requirement as described in the Announcement.
Ordinarily, retirement plan loan proceeds are tax-free if they are repaid over a period of five years or less. Under current law, hardship distributions are generally taxable. Also, a 10 percent early-withdrawal tax usually applies.
If you have any questions about hardship distributions from your retirement account, please give us a call. We can help.
Don't Fall for Phony IRS Websites
The Internal Revenue Service is issuing a warning about a new tax scam that uses a website that mimics the IRS e-Services online registration page.
The actual IRS e-Services page offers web-based products for tax preparers, not the general public. The phony web page looks almost identical to the real one. The IRS gets many reports of fake websites like this. Criminals use these sites to lure people into providing personal and financial information that may be used to steal the victim's money or identity.
The address of the official IRS website is www.irs.gov. Don't be misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov.
If you find a suspicious website that claims to be the IRS, send the site's URL by email to email@example.com. Use the subject line, 'Suspicious website'.
Be aware that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us and be sure to report any unsolicited email that appears to be from the IRS by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get Ready for 2013: Closing Out Quickbooks 2012
Over the past year QuickBooks has been hard at work recording and tracking and storing all of that financial data that you've entered so faithfully.
But when you turn the calendar page and make a new start January 1, your accounting software could use some closure on the year that's just passed. Here are some actions you can take to ring out the old and ring in the new. Here are some of the highlights:
Figure 1: You can make yourself crazy looking for a nickel when you're reconciling, but it's a critical function.
Figure 2: It's good to match up your physical inventory count with QuickBooks occasionally, and the end of the year is as good a time as any.
Figure 3: Frequent backups are critical, but you should be sure to have a copy of your entire 2012 data file stored somewhere safe.
Again, these are suggestions. QuickBooks does not require you to do any of them. There's more you can do, and you will need assistance with some of these. So let's set up a December or early January meeting to get you started right in 2013.
We want to take this opportunity to thank you for letting us serve your company in 2012. We certainly appreciate your business, and we're happy to do what we can to help your business prosper in the coming year.
Tax Due Dates for January 2013
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