When To Issue or Not Issue IRS Form 1099

I strongly encourage our business clients, nonprofit organizations and landlords to issue 1099 forms which are required by law. The reason is IRS Form 1099 provides the means of reporting very specific types of income from non-employment related sources that might not be reported elsewhere. If you paid someone for services (other than employees) you must issue them a 1099 by January 31 of the following year. Business income tax returns including IRS Forms 1120S and 1040, Schedule C include a question asking if Forms 1099 were filed as required and by signing your return, you are certifying that your response is true.

I recommend to all my clients to review all disbursements made from January 1, through December 31, summarizing all payments for services to unincorporated individuals and businesses where the accumulated total is $600 or more.  If you pay a Limited Liability Company (LLC) that is taxed like a corporation you still have to issue a 1099 to that LLC.  Make sure you have the correct name, employer identification or social security number and address of everyone you pay before you pay them.

Beyond having to possibly face an IRS or State audit, if you fail to file the correct information by the deadline, fail to include all the required information on a return, or if you include incorrect information, you can be subjected to an array of steep penalties if you cannot show reasonable cause.  If the payee fails to furnish his or her taxpayer identification number (TIN), they are subject to backup withholding at a 28% rate. If you do not collect and pay backup withholding from affected payees as required, you may become liable for any uncollected amount.

Closeup of overlapping Form 1099G Certain Government Payouts and W-2 forms.

Here are a few additional tips of when you do not have to issue 1099’s:

1. Do not send a 1099-MISC to an employee since that is what a W-2 is for.  Remember that someone that performs services for you is either an employee or an independent contractor, but not both.  

2. Do not send a 1099 to someone you’ve paid by credit card, debit card or by services like PayPal. Such payments will be reported on a 1099K that they will receive from their merchant services provider

3. Do not use Form 1099-MISC to report employee business expense reimbursements. Report payments made to employees under a non-accountable plan as wages on Form W-2. 

4. If you pay a non-U.S. citizen who works remotely via the Internet from another country, you do not need to file a 1099 for that person. However, if the foreign worker performs any work inside the United States, you would need to file the 1099. For that purpose, you should have that foreign worker fill out, sign and return to you Form W-8BEN.

5. Do not issue 1099’s to corporations.

If you need help issuing 1099’s or have any questions, please contact Gregory J. Spadea at 610- 521-0604.  The Law Offices of Spadea & Associates, LLC prepares tax returns year round.   

When Can I Deduct Alimony on my Federal Tax Return Ordered Prior to December 31, 2018

When divorce occurs, one ex-spouse is often obligated to make continuing payments to the other spouse. However, for the payments to be deducted by the payer, they must meet the tax-law definition of alimony. For any particular payment to qualify as deductible alimony for federal income tax purposes and meet the tax law definition of alimony, all the following requirements must be met:

  1. The payment must be made pursuant to a written divorce decree or separation agreement such as a temporary support order. Note that payments made in advance of signing a written divorce or separation agreement or before the effective date of a court order or decree cannot be deductible alimony. Such payments are considered voluntary and are therefore nondeductible. The same is true for payment of amounts in excess of what is required under a written divorce decree or separation agreement.
  2. The payment must be to or on behalf of a spouse or ex-spouse. Therefore, payments to third parties, such as attorneys and mortgage companies, are okay if made on behalf of a spouse or ex-spouse and pursuant to a divorce decree or separation agreement.
  3. The divorce decree or separation agreement must state the payments are alimony.
  4. After divorce or legal separation (meaning the couple is considered divorced for federal income tax purposes), the ex-spouses cannot live in the same household or file a joint return for the year they separated or thereafter.
  5. The payment must be made in cash or cash equivalent such as check or money order.
  6. The payment cannot be fixed or deemed child support in the divorce decree.
    Fixed child support simply refers to amounts designated as such in the divorce or separation agreement, so it’s easy to identify. Payments are considered to be deemed child support if they are terminated or reduced by any of the following so-called contingencies relating to a child: a. Attaining the age 18, or the local age of majority.
    b. Death.
    c. Marriage.
    d. Completion of schooling.
    e. Leaving the ex-spouse’s household.
    f. Attaining a specified income level.
  7. The payer’s return is required to include the recipient’s social security number.
  8. The obligation to make payments (other than payment of delinquent amounts) must cease if the recipient party dies. If the divorce decree is unclear about whether or not payments must continue, state law controls. If under state law, the payer must continue to make payments after the recipient’s death, the payments cannot be alimony. Therefore, to avoid problems, the divorce decree should always explicitly stipulate whether a payment obligation continues to exist after the death of the recipient party. Failing this test is probably the most common cause for lost alimony deductions.
  9. There is also an IRS rule that states if alimony payments decrease by more than
    $15,000 per year between years 1 and 2, or years 2 and 3, then part of the payments will not qualify for a tax deduction to the payor (and hence will not be taxable to the payee.) In other words, if alimony payments total more than $15,000 per year then they must last more than one year and cannot be reduced too quickly. The reason for this is because the IRS sees this as a property settlement, not alimony. Because of this rule replacing all monthly payments with a lump sum “alimony” payment that is paid all in one year will often cause a trigger of this recapture rule, since alimony will go down to $0 in year

Keep in mind the Tax Cuts Jobs Act repealed the deduction for alimony paid and the corresponding inclusion of alimony in income by the recipient. The provision is effective for any divorce or separation agreement executed after December 31, 2018, or for any divorce or separation agreement executed on or before December 31, 2018, and modified after that date, if the modification expressly provides that the amendments made by this provision apply to such modification. Thus, alimony paid under a separation agreement entered into prior to the effective date is generally grandfathered.

It is very important to consult a tax attorney like Gregory J. Spadea before signing the marital settlement agreement. You can reach him at the Law Offices of Spadea & Associates, LLC in Ridley Park at 610-521-0604.

Understanding Philadelphia’s Contractor Property Tax Exemption and the Three 10 Year Property Tax Abatement Programs

CONTRACTOR’S 30 MONTH PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION PROGRAM

Under the contractor’s tax exemption program, the property owner may obtain a real estate tax exemption for up to 30 months from the date the building permit is issued for the increase in the assessed value of the property due to the improvements being made to the property.

The contractor’s tax exemption program applies to developers who are building or rehabbing a residential property that will be leased or sold. Application to the contractor’s tax exemption program must be made by December 31 of the year that the building permit is issued.  Properties that are eligible under the contractor’s tax exemption program include a dwelling unit in a single house, duplex, triplex, townhouse, row house, or multi-family building.

WIlliam Penn on top of Philadelphi City Hall overlooking Philadelphia

The tax exemption under this governmental program begins on the first day of the month after the building permit is issued by the city of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections and concludes 30 months later or until the property is leased or sold, whichever comes first.  You would use the same application as the 10 year tax abatement program and it should be filed at the same time as tax abatement application along with copies of the permits.  

10 YEAR PROPERTY TAX ABATEMENT PROGRAMS

The tax abatement program provides for a real estate tax abatement for a period of 10 years for the increase in the property’s assessed value based upon the improvements made to the property.  The 10 Year tax abatement program is actually divided into three separate application processes depending upon how the property is being used—Section 19-1303(2) (Ordinance 961), 19-303(3) (Ordinance 1130) and 19-1303(4) (Ordinance 1456-A) of the Philadelphia Code.

What part of the tax abatement program a property owner should apply for depends upon whether the property is owner-occupied or an investment property, and, if the property is an investment property, whether the property is being rented or sold after the property improvements are completed, and, finally, whether the improvements to the property are being made to a vacant lot (i.e., new construction) or to an existing building structure.

Ordinance 961 offers a 10 year tax abatement in improvements made to existing residential building structures that will either be sold at the completion of the improvements or occupied by the property owner.

Ordinance 1456-A provides for a tax abatement for new construction of residential properties that will be sold upon completion. A dwelling unit in a single house, duplex, townhouse, row house and multi-family building qualify for a tax abatement under Ordinance 1456-A.

Under Ordinance 1130, property owners may obtain a tax abatement for improvements due to rehabilitation of a preexisting building structure or new construction of commercial, industrial and any other business properties, including rental residential properties. In other words, property owners who newly-build or improve existing commercial and industrial properties should apply for this governmental program.

Both Ordinance 1130 and Ordinance 1456-A require the submission of the tax abatement application within 60 days from the date the building permit is issued, while, on the other hand, the property owner is “asked” to submit the application under Ordinance 961 by Dec. 31 of the year that the building permit is issued.

To illustrate the benefit of the tax abatement programs, if the property owner increases the property’s assessed value from $100,000 to $250,000 through improvements made to the property and, assuming the property owner is eligible for both the contractor’s tax exemption and tax abatement programs, that increase in the property’s assessed value will be exempt or abated from real estate taxation for up to 12-and-a-half years. Under the city’s current real estate tax program, the real estate savings will be well over $20,000.

Under all three 10 year tax abatement programs, the 10-year tax abatement does not begin until the year following the completion of the property improvements.  What happens in many circumstances is that the city reassesses the property soon after the improvements are completed. If the reassessment occurs in the middle of the year in which the improvements are completed, the increase in real estate taxes will not be abated for that year and, thus, the property owner will have to pay this real estate tax increase for the remainder of that year until the tax abatement goes into effect the following year.

That is where the contractor’s tax exemption program comes in. Since the city is prohibited from collecting any increases in real estate taxes for the first 30 months after the building permit is issued, assuming the property improvements are completed well in advance of the expiration of this 30-month period of time, the property owner, if eligible for the contractor’s tax exemption program, will not have to pay for any increases in the assessed value of the property.  This is why it really makes sense to apply for both the Contractor exemption and the 10 year property tax abatement at the same time and attach the building permits to each application.

If you have any questions or need help applying for any of the property abatement programs please call Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604.

Understanding the Accumulated Earnings Tax Before Switching To a C Corporation in 2019

The June 2018 Penn Wharton Budget Model survey indicated that over 235,000 business owners are projected to convert their pass-through businesses to C corporations.  Their primary motivation is to take advantage of the new 21% corporate tax rate under the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  This is particularly important for business owners who can’t fully benefit from the new Qualified Business Income deduction. In fact, the biggest switchers are owners of specified service businesses whose taxable income exceeds $415,000 for married filing jointly filers.

Although the new 21% rate is tempting, C corporations are subject to double taxation. Corporate income is taxed once at the entity level and again when it is distributed to shareholders as dividends. This can be avoided if the corporation retains all of it’s profits to finance growth.  However, this opens the door to the Accumulated Earnings Tax (AET) if profits accumulate beyond the reasonable needs of the business.

The AET is a penalty tax imposed on corporations for unreasonably accumulating earnings. The tax rate on accumulated earnings is 20%, the maximum rate at which they would be taxed if distributed.  The tax is in addition to the regular corporate income tax and is assessed by the IRS, typically during an IRS audit. There is no IRS form for reporting the AET. If imposed, the earnings are subject to triple taxation when eventually distributed to the shareholders. Once at the entity level, then when the AET is imposed and finally when the accumulated earnings are distributed to shareholders.

The AET applies when there is intent to avoid income tax at the shareholder level by accumulating earnings in the corporation. The AET applies even when tax avoidance is not the main reason for the accumulation of income but is only one of several reasons.  Keep in mind the IRS allows for an accumulated earnings credit of $250.000 or $150,000 if you are taxed as a Personal Service Corporation. Therefore, once your retained earnings exceed those limits you need to be concerned about the AET and document why your corporation needs accumulated earnings exceeding that amount.

The fact that a corporation is a holding or investment company is automatically considered evidence of the existence of a tax avoidance purpose unless the corporation can establish it wasn’t formed to avoid tax. A holding company is a corporation in which there is practically no activity other than the holding of investment property. An investment company is one that buys and sells stock, securities, real estate, and other investment property, in addition to holding investment property. If the corporation is not a holding or investment company, a tax avoidance motive is considered present if the corporation has accumulated earnings and profits in excess of the reasonable needs of the business unless it can prove otherwise by a preponderance of the evidence. The IRS regulations identify the following situations that may indicate accumulations beyond the reasonable needs of the business exist:

  1. Loans to shareholders or related parties.
  2. Payments by the corporation that personally benefit the shareholders.
  3. Investments in assets having no reasonable relationship to the corporation’s business.
  4. A weak dividend history.
  5. Retention of earnings to provide against unrealistic hazards.
  6. Working capital levels that appear high in relation to the needs of the business.

7. Salaries paid to shareholder/employees that are either extremely high (avoiding corporate  

     income tax) or extremely low (avoiding shareholder income and employment tax).

The AET is not assessed if accumulated earnings are reasonable in light of business needs. This subjective test can be satisfied by a variety of business reasons including retaining earnings to satisfy the reasonably anticipated future needs of the business.  The IRS regulations provide some broad criteria that can be used to justify that earnings are being accumulated for reasonable business needs. These include:

  1. Providing for a business expansion or plant replacement.
  2. Acquiring a business enterprise through purchasing stock or assets.
  3. Facilitating the retirement of company debt created in connection with its trade or business.
  4. Providing necessary working capital for the business.
  5. Providing for investments in suppliers, or loans to customers or suppliers to maintain the business of the corporation.

6. Providing for contingencies such as the payment of reasonably anticipated losses such as an

    actual or potential lawsuit, loss of a major customer, or self-insurance.

The accumulated amount does not have to be used immediately or within a short period after the close of the tax year, so long as it will be used within a reasonable time depending on all the facts and circumstances relating to the future needs of the business.   

To avoid the AET which is 20% of “accumulated taxable income”, a corporation must be able to demonstrate to the IRS that its accumulations are necessary to meet its business needs. The corporation must have sufficient facts and documentation to substantiate that the plans for present and future business needs require additional funds. A determination of whether the accumulation of earnings and profits is a reasonable business need is based on the facts and circumstances of each case. 

The dramatic reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% has sparked renewed interest in the AET. Although it remains to be seen whether flow-through entities will rush to covert to C corporations, those that do will need to pay attention to this tax.  Conversion may be the way to go if owners have no need for distributions and the corporation avoids the AET by proving its accumulations are for the reasonable needs of the business.

If you have any questions, please call Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604.

How Much Long Term Care Premium Can I Deduct From My 2019 Federal Income Taxes

How Much Long Term Care Premium Can I Deduct From my 2019 Federal Income Taxes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is increasing the amount taxpayers can deduct from their 2019 income as a result of buying long-term care insurance.

Premiums for “qualified” long-term care insurance policies are tax deductible to the extent that they, along with other unreimbursed medical expenses including Medicare premiums, exceed 10 percent of the insured’s adjusted gross income in 2019. (It was a lower 7.5 percent threshold for the 2017 and 2018 tax years.  Therefore you must itemize your deductions to deduct any of your medical expenses including long term care premiums.

To be “qualified,” policies issued on or after January 1, 1997, must adhere to certain requirements, among them that the policy must offer the consumer the options of “inflation” and “nonforfeiture” protection, although the consumer can choose not to purchase these features.

These premiums are deductible for the taxpayer in the year paid for himself, his spouse and other dependents. However, there is a limit on the amount of the premium that can be deducted which depends on the age of the taxpayer at the end of the year. Following are the deductibility limits for 2019. Any premium amounts for the year above these limits are not considered to be a medical expense and will not be deductible.

Age Before the Close of the Taxable Year                 Annual Deduction Limit on Premiums

40 or less                                                                                             $420

More than 40 but not more than 50                                                    $790

More than 50 but not more than 60                                                    $1,580

More than 60 but not more than 70                                                    $4,220

More than 70                                                                                       $5,270

In 2019 the IRS announced a change involving the taxability of benefits from per diem or indemnity policies, which pay a predetermined amount each day.  These benefits are not included in income except amounts that exceed the beneficiary’s total qualified long-term care expenses or $370 per day, whichever is greater.

If you have any questions on the deductible of Long Term care premiums please call Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604.   

Seven Year-End Tax Tips for 2018

Seven Year-End Tax Tips for 2018

 

Here are 7 tax moves for you to consider before the end of the year.

  1. Defer income to next year. Consider opportunities to defer income to 2019, particularly if you think you may be in a lower tax bracket then. For example, you may be able to defer a year-end bonus or delay the collection of business debts, rents, and payments for services. Doing so may enable you to postpone payment of tax on the income until next year.

 

  1. Accelerate deductions and take capital losses. You might also look for opportunities to accelerate deductions into the current tax year. If you itemize deductions, paying  medical expenses, mortgage interest, and charitable deductions before the end of the year, instead of paying them in early 2019, could make a difference on your 2018 return.

 

  1. Harvest Capital Gains and Losses. Any appreciated stocks that you have held for a year and a day you can lock in the lower capital gains rate by selling at year end.   You should also consider selling any stocks that can generate capital losses which you can deduct up to $3,000 after netting all your capital losses against all your capital gains.  Keep in mind after you sell a stock you can buy it back after 31 days to avoid the wash sale rules.

 

  1. Maximize retirement contributions. Deductible contributions to a traditional IRA, SIMPLE IRA or SEP IRA or pre-tax contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k), can reduce your 2018 taxable income. If you haven’t already contributed up to the maximum amount allowed, consider doing so by year-end.

 

  1. Take any required minimum distributions. Once you reach age 70½, you generally must

start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans. However an exception may apply if you’re still working for the employer sponsoring the plan). Take any distributions by the date required — the end of

the year for most individuals. The penalty for failing to do so is substantial: 50% of any

amount that you failed to distribute as required.

 

  1. Beware of the 3.8% net investment income tax. This additional tax may apply to some or all of your net investment income if your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing jointly, $125,000 if married filing separately, $200,000 if head of household).

 

  1. Bump up withholding if you expect to owe tax. If it looks as though you’re going to owe federal income tax for the year, especially if you think you may be subject to an estimated tax penalty, consider asking your employer to increase your withholding for the remainder

of the year to cover the shortfall.  The biggest advantage in doing so is that withholding is

considered as having been paid evenly through the year instead of when the dollars are actually

taken from your paycheck. This strategy can also be used to make up for low or missing

quarterly estimated tax payments. With all the recent tax changes, it may be especially

important to review your withholding for 2018.

 

If you have any questions or need any help preparing your taxes please call Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604.  The Law Offices of Spadea & Associates, LLC prepares tax returns and advises business and individual clients on estate and tax planning year round. 

Business Owners Can Deduct the New Section 199A Business Income Deduction in 2018

 

Eligible business owners may now deduct up to 20 percent of certain business income from a business operated as a sole proprietorship, partnership, S corporation, trust, or estate.  The deduction may also be claimed on dividends from real estate investment trusts.  The new deduction is referred to as the Section 199A deduction and was created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).  Congress made this change to create tax parity between business owners and C Corporations.  The TCJA reduced the top federal corporate tax rate from 35 % to 21% but only reduced the top federal personal income tax rate from 39.6% to 37%. Excluding the 20% of qualified business income reduces the top personal rate from 37% to 29.6%.

 

Here are four basic things business owners should know about this complicated deduction:

  1. There is an income threshold to qualify for the deduction so if your total taxable income

before taking the qualified business income deduction is less than $315,000 for a married couple filing a joint return, or $157,500 for all other filers you are eligible for Section 199A deduction regardless of what type of business you have.  In addition if your business does not fall into one of the service fields listed below you can take the full deduction regardless of your taxable income.

 

  1. The deduction is available whether you itemize your deductions on Schedule A or take the standard deduction.  However, the deduction will not reduce your adjusted gross income or

reduce your earnings subject to Social Security or Medicare.  Keep in mind income earned

through a C corporation or by providing services as an employee is not eligible for the deduction.

 

  1. For each qualified trade or business the Section 199A deduction is limited to the lesser of

these two amounts:
– Twenty percent of qualified business income; or
– Twenty percent of taxable income computed before the qualified business income

deduction minus net capital gains.

  1. If your total taxable income before taking the qualified business income deduction exceeds $315,000 for a married couple filing a joint return, or $157,500 for all other filers, there are additional limitations if you in a specified service field.  If you are in a specified service field, once your income exceeds $415,000 for a married couple filing jointly and $207,500 for all other filers, your Section 199A deduction is totally phased out.  A specified service field includes health care, accounting, law, performing arts, consulting, financial services and any service business that relies on the reputation of one of the officers or employees. The good news is that if you do not fall into one of the specified service fields you can take the full deduction regardless of your income.

In closing, I would highly recommend you make the maximum contribution to your Simple IRA, solo 401(k) or SEP IRA to reduce your taxable income and increase your eligibility for the Section 199A deduction.  If you need assistance calculating the Section 199A deduction or preparing your taxes please call Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604.

What Every Landlord and Tenant Should Know About the Implied Warranty of Habitability

What Landlords and Tenants Need to Know about the Implied Warranty of Habitability

 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ensured that tenants have the right to a decent place to live.  This guarantee to decent rental housing is called the implied Warranty of Habitability.

 

The Warranty means that in every residential lease in Pennsylvania whether oral or written, there is a promise (the Warranty) that a landlord will provide a home that is safe, sanitary, and healthful.  A rental home must be safe to live in and the landlord must keep it that way throughout the rental period by making necessary repairs.  Even if the renter signs a lease to take the dwelling “as is”, the Warranty protects the individual.  The right to a livable home cannot be waived in the lease.  Remember, the Warranty is in the lease, whether or not the lease says so.  Any lease clause attempting to waive this Warranty is unenforceable.

 

The Warranty does not require the landlord to make cosmetic repairs.  For example, the landlord is not required to repair faded paint, install new carpeting, or make other cosmetic upgrades or improvements.  However, the landlord must remedy serious defects affecting the safety or the ability to live in the rental unit.

 

The following are examples of defects covered by the Implied Warranty of Habitability:

 

  • Lack of hot and/or cold running water
  • Defunct sewage system
  • No ability to secure the leased premises with locks (doors, windows)
  • Lack of adequate heat in winter
  • Insect or rodent infestation
  • Leaking roof
  • Unsafe doors, stairs, porches and handrails
  • Inadequate electrical wiring (fire hazard) or lack of electricity
  • Inability to store food safely because of broken refrigeration unit (when the landlord is responsible for maintenance and repair of refrigerator in the lease)
  • Unsafe structural component that makes it dangerous to occupy the premise

 

If you are a tenant living in leased premises that have any of the defects listed above you have the following legal rights after you have complied with the notice requirements of the lease:

  1. the right to withhold rent until repairs are made, or
  2. the right to “repair and deduct”—that is, to hire a repairperson to fix a serious defect that makes a unit unfit (or buy a replacement part or item and do it yourself) and deduct the cost from your rent.

If you have any questions or need a landlord tenant lawyer, please call Gregory J. Spadea at 610 521 0604.  The Law Offices of Spadea & associates, LLC has been helping landlords and tenants since 2001 and is located in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.

When Can I Deduct Alimony Ordered Prior to December 31, 2018

When divorce occurs, one ex-spouse is often obligated to make continuing payments to the other spouse. However for the payments to be deducted by the payer, they must meet the tax-law definition of alimony. For any particular payment to qualify as deductible alimony for federal income tax purposes and meet the tax law definition of alimony, all the following requirements must be met:
1. The payment must be made pursuant to a written divorce decree or separation agreement such as a temporary support order. Note that payments made in advance of signing a written divorce or separation agreement or before the effective date of a court order or decree cannot be deductible alimony. Such payments are considered voluntary and are therefore nondeductible. The same is true for payment of amounts in excess of what is required under a written divorce decree or separation agreement.

2. The payment must be to or on behalf of a spouse or ex-spouse. Therefore, Payments to third parties, such as attorneys and mortgage companies, are okay if made on behalf of a spouse or ex-spouse and pursuant to a divorce decree or separation agreement.

3. The divorce decree or separation agreement must state the payments are alimony.

4. After divorce or legal separation (meaning the couple is considered divorced for federal income tax purposes), the ex-spouses cannot live in the same household or file a joint return for the year they separated or thereafter.

5. The payment must be made in cash or cash equivalent such as check or money order.

6. The payment cannot be fixed or deemed child support in the divorce decree.

Fixed child support simply refers to amounts designated as such in the divorce or separation agreement,

so it’s easy to identify. Payments are considered to be deemed child support if they are terminated or reduced by any of the following so-called contingencies relating to a child:

a. Attaining the age 18, or the local age of majority.
b. Death.
c. Marriage.
d. Completion of schooling.
e. Leaving the ex-spouse’s household.
f. Attaining a specified income level.

7. The payer’s return is required to include the recipient’s social security number.

8. The obligation to make payments (other than payment of delinquent amounts) must cease if the recipient party dies. If the divorce decree is unclear about whether or not payments must continue, state law controls. If under state law, the payer must continue to make payments after the recipient’s death, the payments cannot be alimony. Therefore, to avoid problems, the divorce decree should always explicitly stipulate whether a payment obligation continues to exist after the death of the recipient party. Failing this test is probably the most common cause for lost alimony deductions.

9. There is also an IRS rule that states if alimony payments decrease by more than
$15,000 per year between years 1 and 2, or years 2 and 3, then part of the payments will not qualify for a tax deduction to the payor (and hence will not be taxable to the payee.) In other words, if alimony payments total more than $15,000 per year then they must last more than one year and cannot be reduced too quickly. The reason for this is because the IRS sees this as a property settlement, not alimony. Because of this rule replacing all monthly payments with a lump sum “alimony” payment that is paid all in one year will often cause a trigger of this recapture rule, since alimony will go down to $0 in year 2.

Keep in mind the Tax Cuts Jobs Act repealed the deduction for alimony paid and the corresponding inclusion of alimony in income by the recipient. The provision is effective for any divorce or separation agreement executed after December 31, 2018, or for any divorce or separation agreement executed on or before December 31, 2018, and modified after that date, if the modification expressly provides that the amendments made by this provision apply to such modification. Thus, alimony paid under a separation agreement entered into prior to the effective date is generally grandfathered.

It is very important to consult a tax attorney like Gregory J. Spadea before signing the marital settlement agreement. You can reach him at the Law Offices of Spadea & Associates, LLC in Ridley Park at 610-521-0604.

Understanding the New VA Requirements for Veterans Aid & Attendence Benefits

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has finalized new rules that establish an asset limit, a look-back period, and asset transfer penalties for veterans applying for VA Aid & Attendance pension benefits. The Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit pays a monthly pension to low-income veterans or their spouses who are in nursing homes or who need help at home with everyday tasks like eating, bathing, dressing, using the toilet or walking.

Veteran Estate Planning

Currently, to be eligible for Aid and Attendance a veteran or his spouse must meet certain income and asset limits. The asset limits aren’t specified, but the range is $40,000 to $80,000 depending on the age of the veteran. In the past there have been no penalties if an applicant divests himself of assets right before applying. That is, before now you could transfer assets over the VA’s limit to an Intentional Defective Grantor Trust or transfer them to your children before applying for benefits and the transfers would not affect eligibility. The new regulations prevent that by setting a net worth limit of $123,600, which coincidentally is the current maximum amount of assets in 2018 that a Medicaid applicant’s spouse is allowed to retain. But in the case of the VA, this number will include both the applicant’s assets and income. It will be indexed to inflation in the same way that Social Security increases. The good news is an applicant’s house (up to a two-acre lot) will not count as an asset even if the applicant is currently living in a nursing home. Applicants will also be able to deduct medical expenses including payments to assisted living facilities from their income.

The regulations also establish a three-year look-back provision. Applicants will have to disclose all financial transactions they were involved in for three years before applying for VA benefits. Applicants who transferred assets to put themselves below the net worth limit within three years of applying for benefits will be subject to a penalty period which can last as long as five years. This penalty is a period of time during which the person who transferred assets is not eligible for VA benefits. There are exceptions to the penalty period for fraudulent transfers and for transfers to a trust for a child who is unable to support him or herself.
Under the new rules, the VA will determine a penalty period in months by dividing the amount transferred that would have put the applicant over the net worth limit by the maximum annual pension rate (MAPR).

You will need the following information to apply for VA Aid & Attendance Benefits:
• Discharge or Separation Documents (DD 214)
• Form 21-4142: Authorization and Consent to Release Information to the Department of Veterans Affairs
• Physician Statement, VA Form 21-2680 or Nursing Home Statement, VA Form 21-0779
• Medical Expenses incurred, VA Form 21P-8416
• Marriage Certificate and Death Certificate (Surviving Spouses only)
• Asset Information (bank account statements, etc.)
• Verification of Income (social security award letter, pensions, IRAs or annuity statements)
• Proof of Medical Premiums (Insurance Statements, Medication or Medical bills that are not reimbursed by Medicare)

The new rules go into effect on October 18, 2018. The VA will disregard asset transfers made before that date. If you need estate planning assistance please contact Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604. Mr. Spadea has been preparing free wills for Veterans since 2001 to thank them for their service.

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