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

Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) for 2015

Close up of female accountant making calculations

The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 includes the new “Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE).” ABLE establishes a new type of tax-advantaged account for disabled individuals, allowing them to save money for future needs while remaining eligible for government benefit programs like Medicaid. Here is a quick summary of the most important tax changes-starting with those that affect individuals.

Beginning in 2015, the Act allows states to establish tax-exempt Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts to assist persons with disabilities in building an account to pay for qualified disability expenses. An ABLE account can be set up for an individual (1) who is entitled to benefits under the Social Security disability insurance program or the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program due to blindness or disability occurring before the individual reached age 26 or (2) for whom an annual disability certification has been filed with IRS for the tax year.

Annual contributions are limited to the annual gift tax exclusion amount for that tax year which is $14,000 for 2015. Distributions are tax-free to the extent they don’t exceed the beneficiary’s qualified disability expenses for the year. Qualified disability expenses include housing, transportation, education, job training, health, financial management and legal fees.

Distributions that exceed qualified disability expenses are included in taxable income and are subject to a 10% penalty tax. However, distributions can be rolled over tax-free within 60 days to another ABLE account for the benefit of the beneficiary or an eligible family member. Similarly, an ABLE account’s beneficiary can be changed, as long as the new beneficiary is an eligible family member.

Except for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), ABLE accounts are disregarded for federal means-tested programs.

If you have any questions or would like help setting up an ABLE account feel free to contact Gregory J. Spadea online or 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.

IRS Clarifies One-Per-Year Limit on IRA Rollovers in 2015

Retirement plan documents and pen

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued guidance clarifying the impact a 2014 individual retirement arrangement (IRA) rollover has on the one-per-year limit imposed by the Internal Revenue Code on tax-free rollovers between IRAs.

The clarification relates to a change in the way the statutory one-per-year limit applies to rollovers between IRAs. The change in the application of the one-per-year limit reflects an interpretation by the U.S. Tax Court in a January 2014 decision applying the limit to preclude an individual from making more than one tax-free rollover in any one-year period, even if the rollovers involve different IRAs.

Before 2015, the one-per-year limit applies only on an IRA-by-IRA basis (that is, only to rollovers involving the same IRAs). Beginning in 2015, the limit will apply by aggregating all an individual’s IRAs, effectively treating them as if they were one IRA for purposes of applying the limit.

To allow transition time, the IRS made it clear that the new interpretation will apply beginning Jan. 1, 2015. A distribution from an IRA received during 2014 and properly rolled over within 60 days to another IRA, will have no impact on any distributions and rollovers during 2015 involving any other IRAs owned by the same individual. In other words, IRA owners will be able to make a fresh start in 2015 when applying the one-per-year rollover limit to multiple IRAs.

Although an eligible IRA distribution received on or after Jan. 1, 2015 and properly rolled over to another IRA will still get tax-free treatment, subsequent distributions from any of the individual’s IRAs (including traditional and Roth IRAs) received within one year after that distribution will not get tax-free rollover treatment. As the guidance makes clear, a rollover between an individual’s Roth IRAs will preclude a separate tax-free rollover within the 1-year period between the individual’s traditional IRAs, and vice versa.

Keep in mind Roth conversions which are rollovers from traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs, rollovers between qualified plans and IRAs, and trustee-to-trustee transfers which are direct transfers of assets from one IRA trustee to another are not subject to the one-per-year limit and are disregarded in applying the limit to other rollovers.

Therefore IRA owners should request trustee to trustee direct transfers or request a check made payable to the receiving IRA trustee and deliver it to the receiving trustee themselves within 60 days of the check date.

If you have any questions, please contact Gregory J. Spadea of Spadea & Associates, LLC at 610-521-0604.

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.

Preparing for the IRS Trust Fund Recovery Penalty Interview

Stop, pay your taxes!

If you fail to pay over the federal employment tax you withhold from your employees’ salaries the IRS will eventually come knocking on your door. This problem generally occurs when a business runs short of cash to pay both operating expenses and payroll. There may be enough cash to pay vendors and pay net payroll, but not enough to pay the federal government the employer and employee withholding taxes. Employer withholding taxes are 7.65% of gross payroll which consists of 6.2% social security tax and 1.45% medicare tax. The employee withholding consists of federal income tax and state income withheld in addition to the 6.2% social security tax and 1.45% medicare tax.

When the quarterly 941 federal employment tax return is filed with the IRS, the Government gives the employee credit for the tax withheld listed on the quarterly 941 returns whether the employer pays over the employer and employee withholdings or not. That is why the tax withholdings are called trust fund taxes because the employer is holding the money in trust for the federal government. The funds do not belong to the employer and if the employer uses the money for something else he is in essence stealing from the federal government.

If you fail to pay over the employer tax withholding every month or quarter a Revenue Officer will show up at your business unexpectedly and want to interview you. You should hire a tax attorney before speaking with the Revenue Officer. I have handled many trust fund recovery interviews and have been able to reduce the proposed assessments dramatically if I was involved before the IRS Form 4180 interview took place. IRS Form 4180 is the form the Revenue Officer completes during the interview. The Revenue Officer will try to determine if you are the responsible party by asking:

  1. Did you make deposits or sign the business checks;
  2. Did you determine what bills were paid;
  3. Did you have ability to hire and fire employees;
  4. Did you sign the federal employment and income tax returns;
  5. Did you sign loans on behalf of the business;
  6. Were you involved in the day to day operations of the business;
  7. Did you make or authorize payment of federal tax deposits.

If the Revenue Officer determines that you are the responsible party he will issue Form 2751 which is a Proposed Assessment of the Trust Fund Penalty. I will help you determine If you do not agree with the proposed liability you can submit an appeal request within 60 days of the issuance of the notice. If the case is not resolved in IRS Appeals you can file a complaint in federal district court.

If a Revenue Officer does call or visit your business, please call Gregory J. Spadea of Spadea & Associates, LLC at 610-521-0604, in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.

When Does an Estate Fiduciary Income Tax Return Need to be Filed

The estate must file a 1041 fiduciary income tax return if the estate has income or property sales over $600 during the tax year. So if the executor receives a 1099 under the Estate Tax Identification Number for over $600 of interest or dividend income, or real estate is sold in a subsequent year after death, a fiduciary income tax return will have to be filed. The federal estate fiduciary 1041 income tax return is due 3½ months after the close of the tax year.

Normally, estate fiduciary returns result in “excess deductions on termination”, which can be divided equally among all the beneficiaries, and used by them as itemized deductions on their personal federal income tax returns to increase their income tax refund.

There is no income tax on inheritances except to the extent that such items represent tax deferred items such as pension plans, annuities, IRA’s, and accrued E bonds or to the extent that they represent income earned after death, there is no inheritance tax on such post-death income. Income tax on such tax deferred items is due by the beneficiaries in the year they receive the income. A final federal income tax return for your loved one must be filed, assuming he met the filing threshold which for the 2014 tax year is $11,700, excluding social security for a decedent over the age of 65. In addition, if federal income tax was withheld, you would file to get the federal income tax refund regardless of the income earned.

There is never any Pennsylvania income tax due on inherited property including tax deferred property such as pension plans, IRA’s or annuities.

If there are U.S. Savings Bonds, the significant factors are: (a) the turnover date; and (b) income tax on accrued interest. The turnover date means that since bonds increase in value every six months, there is a loss of up to five months interest if cashing is not made in one of the two months in each year in which value increases. There are three choices with respect to reporting accrued interest on Savings Bonds: (1) Report it on the decedent’s final 1040 return; if he owes no tax, even with the interest included, this is the clear choice; (2) Report it on the estate’s fiduciary 1041 return, if this is done, ensure you have sufficient estate deductions to offset against the bond interest; or (3) Transferring the bonds without cashing, which makes sense if the beneficiary is in a low tax bracket.

If you were named as a beneficiary of an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), then you should consider the possibility of electing to stretch the pay-out over your own life expectancy if the plan administrator permits it. If not then you can take distributions over 5 years or elect to withdraw the entire balance. However, you must pay federal income tax on any distributions you receive in the year received.

Real estate, like stock, takes a stepped up basis at death, so that original cost to the decedent is irrelevant for income tax purposes. If you decide to sell a house and do not need the aid of a real estate agent to find a buyer, we can handle all the paperwork from the agreement of sale to closing for an additional fee. Keep in mind if you do not sell the property within fifteen months after the date of death we must value the property using the common level ratio or based on an appraisal.

Contact Gregory J. Spadea of Spadea & Associates, LLC at 610-521-0604 if you need help administering an estate or find yourself being appointed as an Executor.

Wrongful Death Proceeds Are Not Subject to Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax or Federal Income Tax

The Pennsylvania Wrongful Death statute allows the personal representative of an estate to bring an action for the benefit of a decedent’s spouse, children or parents to recover damages for the death of the decedent caused by the wrongful act, neglect, unlawful violence of another. The statute entitles a plaintiff to recover damages for pain and suffering, loss of earning power, medical and hospital bills, funeral expenses and certain estate administration expenses.

Wrongful death proceeds are not taxable for Pennsylvania Inheritance purposes or for federal income tax purposes. On the other hand survival action proceeds are subject to Pennsylvania inheritance tax. Since Pennsylvania taxes survival actions but not wrongful death actions, you, through your attorney want to maximize the wrongful death recovery amount. The court tends to allocate the proceeds of wrongful death actions and survival actions based upon the facts of the case and the evidence presented by your attorney.

Under the Pennsylvania Probate, Estate and Fiduciary code the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is an interested party in any orphan’s court proceeding. Therefore your attorney must get written consent from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue regarding the proposed allocation since its interests will be adversely affected by the amount allocated to the wrongful death action.

Survival Actions are valued at the decedent’s date of death for Pennsylvania Inheritance tax purposes. Any unpaid Inheritance tax is due within thirty days after the estate receives the proceeds. If there is any tax due beyond thirty days the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue begins charging interest on the unpaid balance which is currently 6%.

Contact Gregory J. Spadea

If you have a question about a wrongful death action or survival action please contact Spadea & Associates, LLC online or at 610-521-0604, located in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.

What Business Expenses Are Deductible?

Coffee cup and tax forms

If you are a self-employed sole proprietor or operate an LLC taxed as an S-corporation, any expense that your business incurs that is ordinary and necessary is deductible under Section 162 of the Internal Revenue Code. Therefore, list the total spent on each of the expense categories listed below:

  • Accounting, legal and professional fees;
  • Advertising;
  • Car expense – indicate total annual miles driven, then break out total annual business miles plus parking and tolls including business log with date, miles driven, business purpose and destination or
    total annual miles driven, actual fuel invoices, auto insurance, repairs and total miles driven and total annual business miles plus parking & tolls;
  • Fixed Assets – If you bought a vehicle, computer, equipment, office furniture or placed it in service during the tax year, even if you already owned it. Also provide a copy of the purchase invoice so the total cost can be expensed it under IRC Sec. 179;
  • W-3 – Salaries that your company paid to others. List officer and shareholder salary separately;
  • Employer share of employment taxes like FICA and FUTA;
  • Commissions or fees paid to other contractors. Have them fill in form W-9 if they were not incorporated so a 1099 can be issued by February 1;
  • If you already issued them a 1099, please provide the 1096 showing total independent contractors paid.
  • Professional Liability Insurance, Workmans Compensation Insurance and Health insurance;
  • Office Supplies;
  • Materials or Purchase of inventory for resale;
  • Travel, Hotel, Airfare and Car Rental;
  • Meals – keep track of date, place, person entertained and business purpose. If you do not have a digital calendar (such as Outlook or Google Calendar) then you need a receipt for everything If you have a digital calendar then you only need receipt if you pay more than $75.00;
  • Telephone including local, long distance, fax, land lines and mobile;
  • DSL, cable and internet charges;
  • Postage including shipping costs like Fed Ex and UPS;
  • Continuing education and business seminars and conferences;
  • Interest expense paid on business loans and provide year end balances;
  • Rent for office space or equipment;
  • Utilities like electricity, fuel oil, water or gas.
  • Prior year PA franchise (Capital Stock) tax from Page 2 of the PA RCT-101;
  • Prior Year Local Income Tax paid;
  • Total State sales tax paid if you included it in gross sales revenue.

Never pay any personal expenses from your business bank account. Instead take draws from your business account and transfer money to your personal account and pay the personal bills directly from your personal account. Contact Spadea & Associates, LLC at 610-521-0604, if you have any questions or need your tax returns prepared.

Why Is My Inherited IRA Subject To Both Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax And Federal Income Tax?

Pennsylvania levies inheritance tax on the following classes of beneficiaries:

1. Class A – This class includes grandparents, parents, children including natural children, adopted children and step-children, and an un-remarried spouse of a child. This is the only class that receives a $3,500 family exemption from the Pennsylvania inheritance tax which is 4.5% for Class A Beneficiaries.

2. Class A1 – This class includes brothers, half-brothers, sisters, half-sisters, and persons having at least one parent in common with the decedent, either by blood or by adoption. Pennsylvania inheritance tax is 12% for Class A1 Beneficiaries.

3. Class B – This class includes all other beneficiaries. Pennsylvania inheritance tax is 15% for Class B Beneficiaries.

Generally inheritances are not subject to income tax under Section 102 of the Internal Revenue Code. One exception to that rule is traditional Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA’s) because IRA’s contain tax deferred assets that have never been subject to income tax. Therefore, in addition to paying Pennsylvania inheritance tax a beneficiary also has to pay income tax when they inherit a traditional IRA in the year they withdraw money from the IRA. The good news is that the Traditional IRA is not subject to Pennsylvania income tax.

If you inherit an IRA you should consider all the options the Plan Administrator offers you.

One option would be taking a lump-sum distribution. Another option would be taking distributions over five years to lessen the tax bite. A third option may be rolling the inherited IRA over into your existing traditional IRA if the Plan Administrator allows it.

Keep in mind that no matter which option you select you will not have to pay the 10% premature distribution penalty since inherited IRA’s are always exempt from the penalty regardless of the age you decide to take the distribution.

If you have any questions about inherited IRA’s feel free to call Gregory J. Spadea of Spadea & Associates, LLC at 610-521-0604.

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