If you're planning to adjust your investment portfolio by selling some losing stocks at year-end, take a minute to review the wash sale rules. A wash sale occurs when you sell a stock, bond, or mutual fund and buy the same or a substantially identical security within 30 days before or after the sale. When this happens, you're barred from deducting a tax loss on the sale. Instead, your cost basis of the new security is increased by the loss. Example: Say you sell 100 shares of XYZ mutual fund at a loss of $3 per share. A week later, you regret your decision and buy another 100 shares of XYZ fund. Your original loss of $300 will be disallowed, and you'll add the $300 to your cost basis in the new shares. The rules apply to losses generated by transactions involving "substantially identical" stocks and securities, including mutual funds and stock or option grants you receive as part of your compensation. Whether one security is considered substantially identical to another depends on several factors. Generally stocks or bonds in different companies - even those in the same industry - are not substantially identical. Be aware of a possible trap if you use an automatic purchase plan or dividend reinvestment plan. If these plans cause you to acquire more shares of a stock or fund within 30 days of a sale, the wash sale rules will apply to your sale. Wash sales can also occur when you repurchase the security in your IRA, or when your spouse or a company you control does the buying. How can you avoid a wash sale? You can avoid a wash sale if you make your purchase more than 30 days before or after the sale date. Also, you can buy shares in a different but similar stock or mutual fund without triggering a wash sale. If you have questions about the wash sale rules, please call us.
Monday, September 30, 2013
Thursday, September 26, 2013
As year-end approaches, don't overlook this option to reduce your business taxes for 2013: accelerated write-offs for business asset purchases. For example, the Section 179 immediate expensing deduction lets you write off the cost of assets you purchase and place in service this year, including vehicles, equipment, and software. For 2013, the maximum Section 179 deduction is $500,000. Another example is the "bonus" depreciation deduction, which allows you to expense up to 50% of the cost of new assets, including those that might not qualify for Section 179.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
All small businesses start with something in common: they devour cash. They need cash for inventory, office space, insurance, legal fees, business licenses, remodeling costs, and the list goes on. Because very few start-ups can secure equity financing from venture capitalists, most business owners must get needed cash from a combination of personal assets and debt. If you're thinking about starting a small business, here's a short list of financing sources to consider: * Personal assets. The advantages of tapping your own bank account are obvious. You don't have to pay the money back, you don't incur interest, and you don't have to grovel at a loan officer's feet. The disadvantages may not be as clear. Other priorities - college savings, retirement plans - can get shoved aside. So if you're going to use your own assets, set limits. Decide how much risk you're willing to incur, and don't deviate. * Friends and relatives. Convince your brother and golf partner that your idea is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and they may provide seed money for your new enterprise. If they lend you cash, be sure to set up a formal agreement spelling out the loan details (interest rate, loan term, payment schedule). And remember, many a family relationship and golf partnership have been ruined when a business fails and loans can't be repaid. * Home equity loans and lines of credit. Another possible source of financing, the equity in your house can often be tapped either through a fixed rate loan or a variable rate line of credit. These sources of financing tend to have much lower interest rates than credit cards or personal loans. The disadvantage, of course, is that your house is on the line. Fail to make the payments and you could face foreclosure. * Banks and credit unions. Financial institutions are often reluctant to lend money to businesses without a proven track record, especially in today's credit-challenged market. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. To increase your likelihood of success, take time to lay out a detailed business plan (a good idea whether or not you ever visit a bank), and be able to justify your business needs in writing. Other sources of start-up financing include retirement plans, grants, even credit cards. Remember to think through the amount needed and have a realistic plan for repayment. If you need help with these and other options, give us a call.
Friday, September 20, 2013
When you borrow from your 401(k), you become both a borrower and a lender. Whether that's a good idea depends on your personal financial situation - and in the process of making the decision about lending money to yourself, you may have questions regarding the tax consequences. For instance, though you probably know the initial borrowing has no federal income tax effect, you might be wondering whether the interest you pay will be deductible. In general, the answer is no. That's true even when you use 401(k) loan proceeds for your home. Ordinary loan repayments are not taxable events either. That is, you don't have to pick up the interest you repay into your account as taxable income. And, though you're increasing your 401(k) account with the principal portion of each payment, that amount is not considered a contribution. You can still make pre-tax contributions up to the annual limit ($17,500 for a traditional 401(k) during 2013, plus an additional $5,500 when you're age 50 or older). What if you default on the 401(k) loan? The balance of your loan is considered a distribution to you, and you'll have to report it as ordinary income on your federal tax return. In addition, when you're under age 59�, a 10% early-withdrawal penalty typically applies. Being both a 401(k) borrower and a lender can lead to tax surprises. Give us a call to make sure you have the whole story before you arrange a 401(k) loan.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Teaching your children about money and finances is easiest when you start early. Here's a quick review of what you should teach your children at each age if you want them to become financially competent adults. Preschool - Skills to Teach * Identify coins and bills; learn what each is worth. * Understand that you can't buy everything; choices are necessary. * Save money in a piggy bank. Grade School - Skills to Teach * Read price tags; learn comparison shopping. * Do money arithmetic; make change. * Manage an allowance; use it to pay for some of child's own purchases. * Open a savings account and learn about interest. * Participate in family financial discussions about major purchases, vacation choices, etc. Teens - Skills to Teach * Work to earn money. * Budget for larger purchases. * Learn to use a checking account. * Learn about investing - stocks, mutual funds, CDs, IRAs, etc. * Share in financial planning (and saving) for college. College/Young Adult - Skills to Teach * Learn about borrowing money (interest, default, etc.). * Use credit card judiciously. * Participate in family estate planning discussions. Knowing about money - how to earn it, use it, invest it, and share it - is a critical life skill. It's never too early to start teaching your children about financial matters.
Monday, September 16, 2013
It turns out you can go back after all - at least when it comes to last year's decision to convert your traditional IRA to a Roth. The question is, do you want to? You might, if your circumstances have changed. For example, say the value of the assets in your new Roth account is currently less than when you made the conversion. Changing your mind could save tax dollars. Recharacterizing your Roth conversion lets you go back in time, as if the conversion never happened. You'll have to act soon, though, because the window for undoing a 2012 Roth conversion closes October 15, 2013. Before that date, you have the opportunity to undo all or part of last year's conversion. After October 15, you can change your mind once more and put the money back in a Roth. That might be a good choice when you're recharacterizing because of a reduction in the value of the account. Just remember you'll have to wait at least 30 days to convert again. Give us a call for information on Roth recharacterization rules. We'll help you figure out if going back is a good idea.
Friday, September 13, 2013
As schools get back in session, it's a good time to check the education tax breaks for which you might qualify. First, there's the "American Opportunity Tax Credit" for a percentage of qualified expenses paid during the first four years of higher education. Second, the "Lifetime Learning Credit" allows a deduction for a percentage of qualified expenses paid for any year the American Opportunity Credit isn't claimed, and it even applies to job-related classes. Third, you may quality for a deduction for interest paid on student loans. Fourth, education savings accounts allow annual nondeductible contributions for children under 18, with tax-free withdrawals for qualifying education expenses.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
In a "2013 Summertime Tax Tip," the IRS reminded taxpayers about the current rules on home sales. Here's a quick review of those rules. Tax Free Home Sale The tax law allows the majority of taxpayers who sell their homes to enjoy 100% tax-free profit from the sale. If you have owned and used your home as your principal residence for at least two of the five years preceding the sale, you may exclude from income tax up to $250,000 of profit if you're single or up to $500,000 if you're married filing jointly. Generally, the exclusion may be used only once every two years. The law provides that married individuals may exclude up to $500,000 of profits if: * either spouse owned the home for at least two of the five years before the sale, * both spouses used the home as a principal residence for at least two of the five years before the sale, and * neither spouse is ineligible for the exclusion because of the once-every-two-year limit. If one spouse cannot use the exclusion because of the once-every-two-year rule, the other spouse may still claim the exclusion if he or she qualifies. However, the exclusion then cannot exceed $250,000. Meet the Requirements The law does contain some relief for those taxpayers who cannot meet the ownership and use rules or who have already excluded gain on a home sale within the two-year limit. If the failure to meet either rule is due to a job change, health problems, or certain other unforeseen circumstances, a partial exclusion may be available. The partial exclusion is calculated based on the fraction of the two years that the requirements were met. The IRS reminds homeowners that if all the gain in their home sale is excludable under the rules above, they probably don't need to report the sale on their tax return. Only one home sale per two-year period can be excluded, and only a taxpayer's main home qualifies for an exclusion. If a taxpayer has two homes and lives in both of them, the main home is usually the one lived in most of the time. If you have questions about the tax consequences of your home sale, contact our office.
Monday, September 9, 2013
As you begin your year-end tax planning review, keep in mind the return of the limitation on itemized deductions and personal exemptions for higher-income taxpayers. When you're married filing jointly and your adjusted gross income is more than $300,000, the amount you can claim for these two items is reduced. The threshold is $250,000 if you file as a single.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
The tax law signed last January extended the tax break that allows contributions of up to $100,000 from a traditional IRA to a qualified charity. Taxpayers aged 70 or older can make a distribution directly from an IRA to a charity. The amount donated is not included in the taxpayer's gross income and is considered part of the required minimum distribution for the year.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Review your tax deductions for 2013 while there's still time to manage them for a lower tax bill this year. The standard deduction for 2013 is $12,200 for married couples filing a joint return and $6,100 for single taxpayers. If your deductions are close to the threshold, consider accelerating deductible expenses. For example, you can add sales tax paid on a new vehicle to the IRS standard amount when claiming the itemized deduction for state and local sales tax.