Archive for the ‘Personal Finance’ Category

Put Your Property Easement Agreement To Work

Tuesday, 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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The Tax Professional’s Christmas List

Friday, 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

Thursday, 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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Save More For Retirement in 2015

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

As you work to secure your retirement, you may be pleased to find out about changes to several retirement-related items that may allow you to put a little more cash away in 2015. In October, the IRS announced several adjustments to the limitations previously set on retirement planning tools as a result of an increased cost-of-living. So what does that mean to you and your retirement plan(s) of choice? Take a look:

  • If you contribute to a 401(k), 403(b), 457 plan or a Thrift Savings Plan, the following changes could impact how you contribute:

-        You can now invest up to $18,000 annually – this is an increase up from $17,500.

-        If you’re 50 years old or older and are trying to catch-up on your retirement savings, you may now invest $6,000 annually. The previous catch-up contribution limit was $5,500.

  • If you contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA), you will see the following changes in 2015:

-        The annual limit and additional catch-up contribution limit for an IRA for individuals 50 years old and older will not change in 2015. The annual contribution is $5,500 and the catch-up contribution is $1,000.

-        Single filers and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $61,000 and $71,000 will no longer be eligible to receive a deduction for contributing to their traditional IRA. This has increased from $60,000 and $70,000 in 2014.

-        Married couples who file jointly, where one spouse makes an IRA contribution that is covered by a workplace retirement plan, will see an increased income phase-out range for taking the deduction as well. The new range is $98,000-$118,000 – up from $96,000-$116,000.

-        If you’re an IRA contributor, not covered by a workplace retirement plan, but are married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if you and your spouse’s income falls between $183,000 and $193,000 – up from $181,000 and $191,000.

-        The phase-out range for a married taxpayer who files a separate return and who is covered by a workplace retirement plan will not change in 2015. The range remains $0 to $10,000.

  • If you make contributions to a Roth IRA, you will see the following changes:

-        The phase-out range for married couples filing jointly is $183,000 to $193,000 – an increase from $181,000 to $191,000.

-        The phase-out range for single filers and heads of household is $116,000 to $131,000 – an increase from $114,000 to $129,000.

-        The phase-out range for a married individual who files a separate return is unchanged.

As we approach the end of the year, there’s not a better time to evaluate your current retirement plan situation and determine if you need to make any changes for 2015. To learn more about how these retirement plan changes could impact your financial situation, email Rea & Associates.

By Paul McEwan, CPA, MT, AIFA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Manage Your Business’s Ethical Framework After You’re Gone

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

While the reasons for drafting an ethical will may seem more personal than business-related, an ethical will can be an effective way for business owners to pass along their vision for the future of their company after they are gone.

A properly drafted last will and testament is critical to ensure your estate’s financial well-being. Perhaps equally important is your responsibility to manage your intellectual assets, including knowledge and ethical values. An ethical will, also known as a legacy letter, is a way for you to pass along information to family, friends, colleagues and even communities.

Ethical wills have been around for many centuries. They were very prevalent in Medieval Times, but lost much of their popularity in modern times. Over the past couple of decades, they have regained their popularity.

While a last will and testament details how a person’s possessions will be distributed after death, an ethical will is a way to pass on a person’s values, hopes, dreams and life lessons – among other viewpoints. Though an ethical will is not a legal document, Business Week has described it as an aid to estate planning.

What should I include in my ethical will?

  • Your personal values – the importance of honesty, integrity and personal responsibility.
  • Your views on work ethic, dedication to one’s chosen profession and work-life balance.
  • Your views on charitable giving and community responsibility.
  • How to develop and cultivate personal and business relationships.
  • Your hopes and dreams for your spouse, children and other family members.
  • Anything that you have learned in life and would like to pass on to others.

When should I draft my ethical will?

  • Marriage
  • Birth of a child
  • Children leaving for college
  • When drafting a succession plan for your business
  • End of life
  • Or anytime

An ethical will can be an integral part of your overall estate plan, so consider putting one together today!

By Cathy Troyer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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