Too Close For Comfort?

Lisa Beamer | December 17th, 2014

Tax Provisions Extended Just In Time

They may have waited until the 23rd hour, but members of Congress finally voted to extend more than 50 expired tax provisions slated to expire at the end of the year. Tuesday evening’s 76-16 vote in favor of the extensions was enough to send a collective sigh of relief among tax professionals nationwide. The bill will now be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Many tax professionals were worried that Congress would postpone the vote until after the New Year, which could have postponed the start of the 2015 tax season and hurt those on the tax prep front lines, including the IRS, tax preparers and some software providers. But today is a new day and instead of planning for the worst case scenario, tax planning can commence as planned.

The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, or H.B. 5771, temporarily extends several tax breaks and provisions while correcting some technical errors found in prior legislation. Including:

  • Extensions that benefit individuals:

-        A $250 above-the-line deduction for certain expenses of teachers

-        An election to deduct state and local sales tax

-        Tax-free charitable distributions from individual retirement accounts (IRAs)

-        The private mortgage insurance (PMI) itemized deduction

-        The energy efficient home improvement tax credit

  • Extensions that benefit businesses:

-        The work opportunity tax credit

-        A research and experimentation credit

-        The Section 179 expensing limit

-        50% bonus depreciation

A complete list of 2014 tax extenders can be found in this article, published by the Journal of Accountancy.

Another bill within H.B. 5771 was also up for Congressional consideration – the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014. The legislation seeks to provide for tax-favored accounts that allow those who are disabled to save money to pay for disability expenses. This portion of the ABLE Act amends the definition of personal holding company income, institutes certain inflation adjustments and, for employment tax purposes, allows for certified professional employer organizations to be treated as employers for work-site employees who perform services for customers of the organization.

The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 is by no means a long-term fix. There were earlier proposals that sought to permanently extend some provisions while extending others for more than a year, but those suggestions were unable to find traction throughout the legislature. So, while we may be able to relax this year, we will likely have bouts of Déjà vu over the course of 2015.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Put Your Property Easement Agreement To Work

Jim Fracker | December 16th, 2014

The shale oil and gas play has spurred a significant amount of pipeline and infrastructure activity throughout certain areas of the United States. As a result, many landowners are now being approached by landmen armed with cash offers and easement agreements in the hopes of acquiring the right to use your property to process and transport oil and gas related products. Before you sign on that dotted line, be sure to seek advice from someone well versed in the complexities of property easements.

Be An Informed Property Owner

You probably want to keep as much money in your bank account as possible. So when it comes to paying your taxes, you probably have no intention of giving the government more than its fair share, right? Did you know that when you enter into certain agreements, such as land easements, you may be able to dictate the type of tax treatment your income receives? The trick is to fully understand the tax consequences of language in the agreement.

The tax treatment of a land easement typically is determined (at least in part) by the easement agreement itself. The easement language will either determine if the agreement is for a permanent (or perpetual) easement period, which is exclusive in nature; or if it’s a temporary easement, which will be effective for a finite period of time.

Understand Your Options

If you enter into a permanent easement agreement, the taxable part of the transaction could qualify for capital gains, which may result in an opportunity to save some money during tax season. If you are able to apply the capital gains tax treatment to the income generated from the land easement contract, as opposed to the ordinary income tax rate, you could stand to see your tax rate that is applied to this income drop by almost half.

  • Capital Gains tax rate = 20 percent
  • Regular Income tax rate = 39.6 percent

On the other hand, if you are looking for another option, which could eliminate current payment of tax all together (defer the tax consequence into the future), you might consider the like-kind exchange tax planning strategy. Like-kind exchange rules require the property that is exchanged and the property that is acquired to be held for productive use or investment purposes.

Agreements that receive like-kind treatment under U.S. Code 1031 may result in the deferral of your taxes being due until well into the future or until you dispose of the property acquired in the like-kind exchange. For this to work, the easement agreement must be considered perpetual or permanent and must also involve real estate that is used as part of your trade or business or that is being held for investment purposes.

Don’t Disqualify Yourself

While the thought of exchanging your land easement for other real estate while deferring your taxes may seem attractive, the process of entering into, and maintaining, a like-kind exchange is very complex and must be strictly adhered to. In other words, you will need to seek out help to navigate the waters. If you would like to see if you qualify for a like-kind exchange, email Rea & Associatesfor more information. And remember to always consult your current financial advisor or another professional well versed in like-kind exchange taxation, before signing any land easement contract. Failure to do so may disqualify you from favorable like-kind exchange treatment.

By Jim Fracker, CPA (Zanesville office)

 

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Should I Make a Big Purchase to Cut Taxes?

Joel Yoder | December 16th, 2014

This is a hectic time for business owners who are working to close their books on the previous year while strategically planning for the year ahead. For me, this is the time of year I find myself frequently fielding questions from clients who want to know if buying equipment will help them keep their taxes down.

Unfortunately, without the proper information, any answer I could provide would be about as useless as seeking business advice from a Magic 8-Ball. Fortunately, the answer really isn’t difficult to find, especially if you have a well-maintained balance sheet.

To determine whether purchasing equipment would be beneficial to your business from a tax perspective, I have to know what your profit looks like. And while it may be easy to pull out your profit and loss statement to find the answer, I would encourage you to take a look at your balance sheet as well. It’s capable of painting a detailed picture of your business and is a great tool that can help you make sound financial decisions for your business.

Before you make any decisions that could impact your business’s financial stability, make sure these six items on your balance sheet are accurate.

  • Cash Reconciliation
    • Check to make sure that all cash has been reconciled and make special note of checks that have remained uncashed for an extended period of time.
    • Verify that all checks – incoming and outgoing – have been recorded, and their status tracked.
  • Collectability of accounts receivable
    • Does your business currently have any bad debts? If so, have you taken the necessary actions to determine that the account in question is uncollectable?
    • Once an account is uncollectable, take the steps needed to prove that determination and receive the benefit from it.
  • Accurate Inventory
    • The end of the year is an ideal time to take a physical inventory.
    • An inaccurate inventory can greatly impact your profit – not to mention your ability to properly manage your resources.
  • New/Disposed Fixed Assets
    • Be sure to add all new assets (equipment, fixtures, etc.) to the correct accounts. Don’t let them become buried in your purchases.
    • If you are planning to sell your company in the next 5-10 years, it is extremely important to keep an accurate record of your assets because they can help determine your asking/selling price.
  •  Liabilities
    • Keep a current record of all your liabilities and update it regularly to maintain accuracy.
    • Make sure that all debts are tracked and recorded.
  • Member Draws
    • Check to make sure that your member withdrawal account is accurate. If there are any expenses you expected to see but didn’t, investigate and find out why.
    • If after year end you happen to find personal expenses that were in regular expenses, your profit increases and so do your taxes.

Your company’s profit is not just a number. Your profit is determined by a wide range of factors – and these are just a few. If you are really want to lower your taxes, make sure your bookkeeping is accurate before developing a plan.

Email Rea & Associates to discover more ways to increase your business’s profitability.

By Joel Yoder, CPA (Millersburg office)

 

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The Tax Professional’s Christmas List

Lisa Beamer | December 12th, 2014

Move Over Santa, This One’s For Congress

While the holidays typically bring about feelings of joy and comfort, they can also be a time of stress. And as the year comes to a close, many individuals are left to frantically resolve a number of tasks that they had hoped would be completed before the end of 2014 – yet they are still lingering on their to-do lists.

If tax professionals across the country were to compose a letter this holiday season, it wouldn’t be sent to Santa. Instead, it would pass over the North Pole en route to Washington D.C. – and it would be addressed to the members of the United States Congress.

This year, all we want for Christmas is for our congressional leaders to extend the more than 50 tax provisions that were left to expire at the end of 2013 – before the end of the year. Failure to do so could have a negative impact on the 2015 tax season.

While it is possible for Congress to wait until the New Year to enact these provisions next month, a retroactive approach would ultimately hurt the IRS, tax professionals and software providers. This is why it is so important for the provisions to be extended before Dec. 31.

Furthermore, postponing this legislative action could postpone the start of the 2015 tax season, which would delay refunds to millions of American taxpayers.

What tax provisions are at risk?

Individual tax payers are at risk of losing:

  • A $250 above-the-line tuition deduction
  • An election to deduct state and local sales tax
  • Tax-free charitable distributions from individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
  • The private mortgage insurance (PMI) itemized deduction
  • The energy efficient home improvement tax credit

Popular business tax benefits at risk of disappearing include:

  • The work opportunity tax credit
  • A research credit
  • The Section 179 expensing limit
  • Bonus depreciation

This holiday season, it is our hope that Congress will move quickly to resolve this issue in a way that is favorable for American tax payers. Doing so would not only provide the IRS and tax professionals with the time they need to prepare for the 2015 tax season; such legislative action would help promote the financial wellbeing of the American taxpayers.

Would you like to discuss tax planning options for yourself or your business? Email Rea & Associates to speak with a tax professional today. Will you want help filing your 2014 business taxes and/or personal taxes? Would you like a little extra help preparing for the 2015 tax season, our tax experts will work with you to make your experience as worry-free and seamless as possible.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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New Year, New Mileage Rates

Lesley Mast | December 11th, 2014

Every mile you drive for business will be worth a little more next year, according to a recent IRS announcement. Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the optional standard mileage rate for those calculating the deductible costs of driving for business will be 57.5 cents, which is up from 56 cents.

Based on a study of the fixed and variable costs associated with operating an automobile, the standard mileage rates take into consideration vehicle depreciation, insurance, repairs, maintenance, gas, etc. However, if you don’t intend on tracking your mileage, you also have the option of claiming deductions based on the actual costs of using your own vehicle rather than the standard mileage rates. Just be aware that you will not be allowed to claim both.

For example, if you have plans of claiming an accelerated depreciation on your vehicle, then you will not be able to claim the business standard mileage rate as well. If you are a business owner, you should also note that the standard rate is not available to fleet owners, or those who use more than four vehicles simultaneously. Additional details and rules can be found in Revenue Procedure 2010-51.

While the standard mileage rate for the business miles you drive will increase in 2015, those who use their vehicles for medical or moving purposes will see a reduction of half a cent in their mileage rates. Starting Jan. 1, the miles you drive for medical or moving purposes will be calculated at 23 cents per mile driven. And those driving their vehicles as a service to charitable organizations may calculate their deductions at 14 cents per mile driven.

Also in its announcement, the IRS noted an adjustment to the standard automobile cost allowable under the fixed and variable rate (FAVR) plan, which considers the costs taxpayers incur by driving their own vehicles for work-related purposes. In 2015, standard automobile costs may not exceed $28,200 or $30,800 for trucks and vans.

Do you use your vehicle for business? Make sure you track of your mileage. Every mile you travel is an opportunity to realize real tax savings. Our expert financial advisors can help professionals like you find opportunities you never even knew existed. Email Rea & Associates today and start the New Year out right.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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