Age Related Tax Milestones

As I grow older, I am reminded of the Steve Miller song, Fly Like An Eagle where he sings “time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future…”.  This blog covers some important age-related tax milestones that I witness every tax season and that you should keep in mind as you get older.

Ages 0–23

The so-called “Kiddie Tax” rules can potentially apply to your child’s (or grandchild’s) investment income until the year he or she reaches age 24. Specifically, a child’s investment income in excess of the applicable annual threshold is taxed at the parent’s marginal tax rate.

Hour glass image for tax lawyer blog Greg Spadea

Note: For 2018 and 2019, the unfavorable income tax rates for trusts and estates were used to calculate the Kiddie Tax. Recent legislation changed this for 2020 by once again linking the child’s tax rate to the parent’s marginal tax rate. However, you may elect to apply this change to your 2018 and 2019 tax years. If we feel an election would be beneficial for 2018, we may recommend amending your return.

For 2020 and 2021, the investment income threshold is $2,200. A child’s investment income below the threshold is usually taxed at benign rates (typically 0% for long-term capital gains and dividends and 0%, 10%, or 12% for ordinary investment income and short-term gains). Note that between ages 19 and 23, the Kiddie Tax is only an issue if the child is a full-time student. For the year the child turns age 24 and for all subsequent years, the Kiddie Tax ceases to be an issue.

Age 18 or 21

A custodial account set up for a minor child comes under the child’s control when he or she reaches the age of majority under applicable state law which is 21 in Pennsylvania.  If there’s a significant amount of money in the custodial account, this issue can be a big deal. Depending on the child’s maturity level and dependability, you may or may not want to take steps to ensure that the money in the custodial account is used for expenditures you approve of such as college tuition.

Age 30

If you set up a Coverdell Education Savings Account (CESA) for a child (or grandchild), it must be liquidated within 30 days after he or she turns 30 years old. To the extent earnings included in a distribution are not used for qualified higher education expenses, they are subject to federal income tax plus a 10% penalty tax. Alternatively, the CESA account balance can be rolled over tax-free into another CESA set up for a younger family member.

Age 50

If you are age 50 or older as of the end of the year, you can make an additional catch-up contribution to your Section 401(k) plan (up to $6,500 for 2020), Section 403(b) plan (up to $6,500 for 2020), Section 457 plan (up to $6,500 for 2020), or SIMPLE-IRA (up to $3,000 for 2020), assuming the plan permits catch-up contributions. You also can make an additional catch-up contribution (up to $1,000 for 2019 or 2020) to your traditional or Roth IRA. The deadline for making IRA catch-up contributions for the 2019 tax year is 4/15/20.

Age 55

If you permanently leave your job for any reason, you can receive distributions from the former employer’s qualified retirement plan without being socked with the 10% early distribution penalty tax. This is an exception to the general rule that the taxable portion of qualified retirement plan distributions received before age 59½ are subject to the 10% penalty tax. Note that this exception applies only if you have attained age 55 on or before your separation from service.

Age 59½

You can receive distributions from all types of tax-favored retirement plans and accounts including IRAs, Section 401k accounts, pensions and tax-deferred annuities without being hit with the 10% early distribution penalty tax. Before age 59½, the penalty tax will apply to the taxable portion of distributions unless an exception is available.

Age 62

You can choose to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits. However, your benefits will be lower than if you wait until reaching full retirement age, which is age 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954. Also, if you work before reaching full retirement age and your earnings exceed $18,950, your 2021 Social Security retirement benefits will be further reduced.

Age 66

You can start receiving full Social Security retirement benefits at age 66 if you were born between 1943–1954. You will not lose any benefits if you work in years after the year you reach the full retirement age of 66, regardless of how much income you have in those years. However, if you will reach age 66 in 2021, your benefits may be reduced if your income from working exceeds $50,520.

Note: If you were born after 1954, your full retirement age goes up by two months for each year before leveling out at age 67 for those born in 1960 or later.

Warning: Under current law, up to 85% of your Social Security benefits may be subject to federal income tax, depending on your provisional income level. Provisional income equals your gross income from other sources plus tax-exempt interest income and 50% of your Social Security benefits. Contact us if you have questions or want more information.

Age 70

You can choose to postpone receiving Social Security retirement benefits until you reach age 70. If you make this choice, your benefits will be higher than if you start earlier.

An often-overlooked issue that you must factor into the breakeven age is when you would come out ahead by postponing benefits. For example, if your normal retirement age is 66 and you wait until age 70 to begin receiving benefits, you forego benefits for four years. It would take 12½ years to reach the breakeven point. Are you sure you will still be around and able to enjoy the higher benefit at age 82½?  Fortunately, I can prepare a report to help you decide when to take social security based on your current earnings, other retirement income and your health.

Age 72

At this age, you must begin taking annual Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from tax-favored retirement accounts such as traditional IRAs, SIMPLE IRAs, SEP accounts, or 401k accounts and pay the resulting income taxes. However, you do not need to take any RMDs from Roth IRAs set up in your name. The initial RMD is for the year you turn 72 if you had not reached age 70½ by December 31, 2019.  You can postpone taking the initial RMD until April 1 of the year after you reach the magic age.  If you choose that option, however, you must take two RMDs in that same year: one by the April 1 deadline (the RMD for the previous year) plus another by December 31 (the RMD for the current year). For each subsequent year, you must take another RMD by December 31. There’s one more exception: If you are still working after reaching age of 72, and you do not own over 5% of the employer, you can postpone taking any RMDs from the employer’s plan until after you have actually retired.

Thanks to a change included in the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (the SECURE Act), the age after which you must begin taking RMDs is increased from 70½ to 72. This favorable change only applies to individuals who attain age 70½ after December 31, 2019.  So, if you turned 70½ in 2019 or earlier, you are unaffected. If you turn 70½ in 2020 or later, you will not need to begin taking RMDs until after attaining age 72.

Conclusion

Remember that almost all adults should do at least some estate planning. In uncomplicated situations, nothing more than a simple will and updated beneficiary designations may be required. If you have a larger estate, taking steps to confront realities about your heirs and to reduce exposure to the federal estate tax and income tax and any Pennsylvania inheritance tax may be advisable. Please call Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604, if you think your estate plan needs updating.

Understanding The Tax Rules Relating to Personal Use of Vacation Homes

Understanding the Tax Rules Relating to Personal Use of Vacation Homes

There are three basic rules for treating expenses and income in connection with vacation homes. It all depends on the number of days the home is rented versus the days that it is used for personal purposes.

1) When the personal use of the vacation home exceeds the greater of 14 days or 10% of the days it is actually rented all the expenses are only deductible to the extent of rental income. For example repairs, utilities, insurance, depreciation, and so on are deductible only to the extent of gross income less mortgage interest and property taxes attributable to rental use. However, you cannot claim a loss on the rental, while net income in excess of expenses is taxable.

Gregory Speadea Attorney TAx Lawyer article on Vacation Home

2) When the vacation home is rented out for less than 15 days during the year, there are no tax ramifications. In other words, you don’t recognize rental income or deduct rental expenses.

For example, say you rent a beach house in Ocean City. You and your family use the beach house most of the summer. Then you rent out the place the two weeks after Labor Day. In effect, all of the rental income is tax-free.

Note: You still can claim those itemized deductions you would be entitled to if you did not receive any rental income. This includes mortgage interest limited to all mortgages up to $1,000,000, used to buy, construct, or improve your first home and second home for tax years prior to 2018. Beginning in 2018, this mortgage limit is lowered to $750,000. In addition, for tax years beginning in 2018 there is a $10,000 deduction limit for state and local income taxes and real property taxes.

3) When your personal use of the home does not exceed the greater of 14 days or 10% of the days the vacation home is rented out, the above limits do not apply. All expenses attributable to the rental are deductible – even if you show a loss. However the amount of the loss may be limited by the passive loss rules.

What constitutes a “personal use day” for these purposes? Any day that the home is used by an owner of the family (or family member), someone who pays less than a fair market rental or someone who uses the home under a barter or exchange agreement-even if a fair rental is paid. The amount of time spent at the vacation home doesn’t matter. For instance, if you use the home for just one hour, the whole day is considered a personal use day.

However, a day will not count as a personal day if you spend the time cleaning up or fixing up the place. And that’s true if even if the rest of the family comes along just for the ride.

How do the passive loss rules affect things? In general, losses from so-called passive activities can only be used to offset income from passive activities. The rental activity of your vacation home, by its very nature, will be considered a passive activity.

But there’s still a way to get around the rules. If you “actively participate” in the rental activity, you can use up to $25,000 of loss to offset non-passive income, such as wages and portfolio income. The $25,000 offset is available in full if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is below $100,000. It is phased out until it completely disappears for an AGI above $150,000.

What constitutes active participation? The requirement can be satisfied by regular, continuous and substantial involvement in the rental activity. Examples: participation in management decisions such as approving new tenants, scheduling or supervising repairs, deciding on rental terms, etc. In order to qualify under this exception, you must own at least a 10% interest in the property. Please refer to my blog Understanding What A Real Estate Professional is Under the Passive Activity Loss Rules.

Remember the passive activity loss rules do not come into play at all if your personal use exceeds the 14 days or 10% of the days rented because you cannot deduct the rental loss. If you have any questions contact Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604.

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.

What You Need to Know About IRS Late Filing and Late Paying Penalties

Late taxes legal action notice

April 15 was the tax day deadline for most people. If you are due a refund there is no penalty if you file a late tax return. But if you owe tax, and you failed to file and pay on time, you will owe interest and penalties on the tax you pay late. You should file your tax return and pay the tax as soon as possible to stop them. Here are eight facts that you should know about these penalties.

  1. Two penalties may apply. If you file your federal income tax return late and owe tax with the return, two penalties may apply. The first is a failure-to-file penalty for late filing. The second is a failure-to-pay penalty for paying late.
  2. Penalty for late filing. The failure-to-file penalty is normally 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late. It will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. However if you requested a six month extension by filing form 4868 by April 15, and filed the return by October 15, you will not be penalized for late filing.
  3. Minimum late filing penalty. If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty for late filing is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.
  4. Penalty for late payment. The failure-to-pay penalty is generally 0.5 percent per month of your unpaid taxes. It applies for each month or part of a month your taxes remain unpaid and starts accruing the day after taxes are due. It can build up to as much as 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.
  5. Combined penalty per month. If the failure-to-file penalty and the failure-to-pay penalty both apply in any month, the maximum amount charged for those two penalties that month is 5 percent.
  6. File even if you can’t pay. In most cases, the failure-to-file penalty is 10 times more than the failure-to-pay penalty. So if you can’t pay in full, you should file your tax return and pay as much as you can. Use IRS Direct Pay to pay your tax directly from your checking or savings account. Most people can set up an installment agreement with the IRS using the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov or calling 1-800-829-1040 or filing form 9465.
  7. Late payment penalty may not apply if you filed an extension. If you requested a six month extension of time to file your federal income tax return by April 15 and paid at least 90 percent of the taxes you owe, you will not face a failure-to-pay penalty. However, you must pay the remaining balance by the October 15. You will owe interest on any taxes you pay after the April 15 due date.
  8. No penalty if reasonable cause. You will not have to pay a failure-to-file or failure-to-pay penalty if you can show reasonable cause for not filing or paying on time. There is also penalty relief available for repayment of excess advance payments of the premium tax credit for 2014. If you have any questions please contact Spadea & Associates, LLC online or at 610-521-0604.

Making Federal Estimated Tax Payments

A picture of a tax return form

I often get phone calls from clients asking how to calculate estimated federal and state income tax payments. The payment for the first quarter estimate is due on April 15th.
In general, estimated taxes must be paid on any income which is not subject to withholding, including taxable income from self-employment, interest, dividends, alimony, gambling winnings, unemployment compensation, social security, rent, and gains from the sale of assets. You may also have to pay estimated tax if the amount of income tax being withheld from your salary, social security, pension or other income is not enough to cover your tax due. Estimated tax is used to pay income tax and self-employment tax, as well as other taxes reported on your personal income tax return. If you do not pay enough tax, either through withholding or estimated tax, or a combination of both, you may have to pay a penalty. You may be charged a penalty even if you are due a refund when you file your return. Estimated tax payments are made in four quarterly installments and can be based on a regular tax method or an annualized income installment method.

If you choose not to use the “Regular installment method”, the annualized installment method allows you to compute your estimated tax based on actual income earned in each of four specific periods. As a result, tax on income which is seasonally earned will not be paid until the period in which it is earned. For example, if a significant percentage of your income is earned in the last quarter of the year, then utilizing the annualized income installment method will allow you to defer the payment of tax on this income to the final quarter as opposed to paying the tax on this amount in equal installments throughout the year.

In general, under the regular installment method, the required annual payment which is paid quarterly through estimated taxes (if no tax is withheld) is the smaller of 1) 90% of the current year’s total expected tax or 2) 100% of the tax shown on the prior year return. Note that if your last year’s Adjusted Gross Income was over $150,000 ($75,000 for married filing separately); the safe harbor is 110%. Adjusted Gross Income refers to all taxable income less certain deductions such as your SEP/IRA/Other Retirement Plan contributions, alimony payments, deductible health insurance premiums paid for self-employed individuals, moving expense deductions, deductible tuition, student loan interest and fees and self-employment tax deductions.

Timing of Payments, Penalty for Underpayment

The year is divided into four payment periods for estimated tax purposes. Each period has a specific payment due date. Note that if you do not pay enough tax by the due date for each period, you may be charged a penalty through the date any underpayment remains outstanding even if you are due a refund upon filing your income tax return. The penalty is equal to the interest rate charged on tax deficiencies (3% per year as of January 20, 2015) on the amount of the installment underpayment from the date the installment is due until the earlier of the date the underpayment is made up for April 15th of the next year. Thus, generally the penalty for underpayment of an estimate is equivalent to paying the IRS non-deductible interest.

The specific due dates for estimated tax payments are as follows:

Period Due Date
January 1 – March 31 April 15
April 1 – May 31 June 15
June 1 – August 31 September 15
September 1 – December 31 January 15 of following year

Here are tips worth considering about estimated taxes and how to pay them.

  1. As a general rule, you must pay estimated taxes in 2015 if both of these statements apply: 1) You expect to owe at least $1,000 in tax after subtracting your tax withholding and tax credits, and 2) You expect your withholding and credits to be less than the smaller of 90% of your 2015 taxes or 100% of the tax on your 2014 return. There are special rules for farmers, fishermen, certain household employers and certain higher income taxpayers.
  2. For Sole Proprietors, LLC Members, Partners and S Corporation shareholders, you generally have to make estimated tax payments if you expect to owe $1,000 or more in tax when you file your return.
  3. To figure your estimated tax, include your expected gross income, taxable income, taxes, deductions and credits for the year. You can use the worksheet in Form 1040ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals for this, or just email me your year to date Profit and Loss and I will help you.

The easiest way to pay estimated taxes is electronically through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or EFTPS. You can also pay estimated taxes by check or money order using 1040ES – Estimated Tax Payment Voucher or by credit or debit card, but I do not advise using your credit card due to the expensive service charge. If you have any questions please email or call Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604 of Spadea & Associates, LLC in Ridley park, Pennsylvania

2015 Retirement Plan Contribution Limits

Jar with label Retirement Plan

The Internal Revenue Service announced cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for Tax Year 2015. In general, many of the pension plan limitations will change for 2015 because the increase in the cost-of-living index met the statutory thresholds that trigger their adjustment. Here are the highlights:

  • The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $17,500 to $18,000.
  • The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $5,500 to $6,000.
  • The limit on annual contributions to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) remains unchanged at $5,500. The additional catch-up contribution limit amount for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.
  • Contribution limits for SIMPLE retirement accounts is increased from $12,000 to $12,500. The additional catch-up contribution limit amount for individuals aged 50 and over is increased from $2,500 to $3,000.
  • The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have modified adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $61,000 and $71,000, up from $60,000 and $70,000 in 2014. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range is $98,000 to $118,000, up from $96,000 to $116,000 in 2014. For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $183,000 and $193,000, up from $181,000 and $191,000 in 2014. For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000. Keep in mind there is no income limit for taxpayers who are not covered by a qualified retirement plan.
  • The AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $183,000 to $193,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $181,000 to $191,000 in 2014. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $116,000 to $131,000, up from $114,000 to $129,000. For a married individual filing a separate return, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.
  • The deductible contribution for Simplified Employee Pension Plans (SEPs) is $53,000, up from $52,000 in 2014.
  • The AGI limit for the saver’s credit, which also known as the retirement savings contribution credit, is $61,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $60,000 in 2014; $45,750 for heads of household, up from $45,000 in 2014; and $30,500 for married individuals filing separately and for singles, up from $30,000 in 2014.

Spadea & Associates, LLC

Contact us online or at (610) 521-0604 to schedule a free consulation. At the law offices of Spadea & Associates, LLC, in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, we represent individuals and businesses throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, including Delaware County, Montgomery County and Camden County. We also work with clients in Philadelphia and Burlington Counties.

12 Tips to Help Landords Audit Proof Their Tax Return

Tax return paper

The IRS does not audit too many returns due to inadequate staffing and poor management. However, to truly audit proof your return, I would advise you and all my landlord clients to:

  1. Make the election under Treasury Regulation 1.469-9(g) to aggregate all real estate activities as one activity for passive loss rules if you have more than one rental property. This makes meeting the 750 hour rule for all you rental properties much easier than having to meet it for each individual rental property.
  2. Keep a log on Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendars of the work you do as a Landlord to meet the 750 hour test such as:
    1. working or improving the property;
    2. researching and bidding on properties;
    3. finding and screening tenants;
    4. collecting rent;
    5. performing maintenance.
  3. Never use round numbers on your return because it looks like you are estimating your expenses.
  4. If you pay a contractor or any unincorporated person more than $600 during the year you must issue them a 1099. Therefore you should have them fill in a W-9, before you pay them so you will have their information and can prepare a 1099.
  5. Reconcile the mortgage interest and real estate taxes reported on your 1098 to the amount deducted on your return to ensure the numbers match.
  6. Do not deduct capital improvements under repairs but instead depreciate them or use Internal Revenue Code Section 179 to expense them in the tax year they are placed in service.
  7. Use Quickbooks if you have multiple properties to track rental income and expenses for each property. Deposit all your rental income into a separate bank account.
  8. Never deposit rental income into your personal account and never pay personal expenses from your rental account. Transfer money from your rental account to your personal account and then pay personal expenses from your personal account.
  9. Have a separate credit card that you use only for your rental properties and pay the monthly bill from your rental bank account. At the end of the year the credit card company will give you a summary of all your expenses making your record keeping that much easier.
  10. Make sure all your deposits into your rental bank accounts reconcile to the amount of rental income reported on your tax return.
  11. Keep your leases current and make sure the monthly rent that you deposit is the amount listed on the lease.
  12. Keep security deposits in a separate trust account and only disburse those funds when the tenant moves out.

If you have any questions about audit proofing your return or need help preparing your tax return call Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604 or contact him online, of Spadea & Associates, LLC in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.

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