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.

Qualifying for the Family-Owned Business Exemption from Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax

Beginning July 1, 2013, the transfer at death of certain family owned business interests are exempt from the Pennsylvania inheritance tax. Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax is currently 4.5% for linear descendants, 12% for siblings and 15% for everyone else. To qualify for the family-owned business exemption, a family-owned business interest must:

  1. Have been in existence for five years prior to the decedent’s death;
  2. Have less than 50 full time equivalent employees and a net book value of assets totaling less than $5,000,000 at the date of the decedent’s death;
  3. Be engaged in a trade or business, the principal purpose of which is not the management of investments or income producing assets;
  4. Be transferred to one or more qualified transferees – the decedent’s husband or wife, grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, or children, siblings or their children. Children include natural children, adopted children; and stepchildren;
  5. Owned by a qualified transferee for a minimum of seven years after the decedent’s death;
  6. Reported on a timely filed Pennsylvania inheritance tax return and filed within 9 months of the decedents date of death, or within 15 months of the decedent’s date of death if the estate or person required to file the return was granted the six month statutory extension.

The transferee must file an annual certification and notify the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue within thirty days of any transaction or occurrence causing the qualified family-owned business to fail to qualify for the exemption. Failure to comply with the certification or notification requirements results in a total loss of the exemption.

If you feel you qualify for the family-owned business exemption please contact Gregory J. Spadea online or at 610-521-0604 of Spadea & Associates, LLC in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.

What To Do If You Receive An IRS Summons

Notepad with sign Owe Taxes

A summons requires you to provide the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with information that is relevant to your tax. The IRS will summon information after it has already informally requested the information using form 4564 – Information Document Request. The IRS uses a summons to determine whether a tax return is correct, to prepare a substitute for return when none was filed or to collect tax. To obtain this information, the IRS may serve a summons directly on the subject of the investigation or any third party who may possess relevant information. In doing so, the IRS may examine books and records including documents such as invoices or bank statements. The IRS may also summon the testimony of the person possessing the records.

In many cases, the IRS is required to notify the taxpayer about other persons or entities receiving the third-party summons. Two significant exceptions to this notice rule are: (1) the summons was issued in connection with a criminal investigation to a person who is not a third party record keeper such as a bank, an accountant, broker, enrolled agent or investment company, (2) the summons was issued in aid of collection of an assessment made or judgment rendered against the person with respect to whose tax liability the summons is issued. In other words, there has already been a judgment or tax assessment made against the taxpayer and the summons is an effort to collect monies from the taxpayer.

You should not ignore a summons because a federal court may find and hold you in contempt or, worse, you may be subject to criminal prosecution for a failure to obey a summons. If you fail to comply with a summons the IRS may petition the Federal District Court to enforce the summons. The IRS must establish that (1) the investigation will be conducted pursuant to a legitimate purpose; (2) the inquiry may be relevant to that purpose; (3) the information sought is not already in the IRS’ possession; and (4) the administrative steps required under the Internal Revenue Code have been followed. If the IRS does so you will have to contest the summons. You can contest a summons on substantive grounds, technical or procedural grounds, or on Constitutional or other privilege grounds. Substantive defenses typically include arguments over whether a particular matter is part of a legitimate investigation, or whether the persons or documents summoned are relevant to an IRS investigation. Technical or procedural defenses usually are not worth litigating because the IRS can simply issue another summons to correct the procedural errors. You can also assert privileges under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the US Constitution to prevent the summons from being enforced. These rights and privileges are asserted where the information sought is incriminating and protected from disclosure under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, or where the summons itself is so broad that it constitutes an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

If you receive a IRS summons you should contact Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604 of Spadea & Associates, LLC in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. Mr. Spadea worked for the IRS for over 13 years and has extensive experience responding to the IRS and will determine when, and on what basis, you might refuse to answer the questions. Mr. Spadea will also help you evaluate which documents are relevant and, more importantly, which documents should be produced.

9 Exceptions to the 10% Premature Distribution Penalty on Individual Retirement Accounts

2 elderly people on the couch

Whenever you take a premature distribution from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) you have to pay a 10% penalty on the taxable amount of the distribution in addition to federal income tax. However there are 9 exceptions that you can use to avoid paying that 10% penalty which are as follows:

  1. Withdrawals That Count as Substantially Equal Periodic Payments (SEPPs). This exception is the same as the one for qualified retirement plan withdrawals, except separation from service is not required. The rules for SEPPs require you to receive a series of annual payouts. This is similar to an annuity which pays you an equal stream of payments for a set period. If you have several IRAs, you do not need to withdraw from them all. You only need to annuitize one or more of the IRAs to generate annual SEPPs that are big enough to meet your cash needs. However, the entire balance in all your IRAs must be considered and annuitizing only a portion of an IRA does not qualify for this exception. Unfortunately, the SEPP exception has two important requirements that you need to be aware of:
    • (1) Once begun, the SEPP must continue for at least five years or, if later, until the owner reaches age 59 1/2. If the SEPPs are stopped too soon, all the previous age 59 1/2 withdrawals that were thought to have been taken under the SEPP exception are subject to the 10% penalty tax. The same thing can happen if the annuitized account is modified during the period when SEPPs are required, for example by making annual contributions to that account or by rolling over all or part of that account into another account.
    • (2) Annual SEPP amounts must be calculated correctly. If the correct annual amounts are not withdrawn, it is deemed to be a prohibited modification of the SEPP, which results in all the previous age 59 1/2 withdrawals that were thought to have been taken under the SEPP exception being hit with the 10% penalty tax.
  2. Withdrawals for Medical Expenses in Excess of 10% (or 7.5% if you or your spouse are over 65) of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). This exception is the same as the one for qualified plan withdrawals.
  3. Withdrawals by Military Reservists Called to Active Duty. This exception is the same as the one for qualified plan withdrawals.
  4. Withdrawals for IRS Levies. This exception is the same as the one for qualified plan withdrawals. Note that this exception is unavailable when the IRS levies against the IRA owner (as opposed to the IRA itself), and the owner then withdraws IRA funds to pay the levy.
  5. Withdrawals after Death. This exception is the same as the one for qualified plan withdrawals. Note that this exception is not available for funds rolled over into a surviving spouse’s IRA or if the surviving spouse elects to treat the inherited IRA as her own account. Therefore, the surviving spouse should leave amounts that will be needed before age 59 1/2 in the inherited IRA. This way, the 10% penalty tax can be avoided on those amounts.
  6. Withdrawals after Disability. This exception is the same as the one for qualified plan withdrawals.
  7. Withdrawals for First-time Home Purchases. This exception applies only to IRAs. It allows penalty-free withdrawals (up to $10,000 per lifetime) to the extent the account owner uses the funds within 120 days to pay for qualified acquisition costs for a first-time principal residence. The principal residence can be acquired by: (1) the account owner or the account owner’s spouse; (2) the account owner’s child, grandchild, or grandparent; or (3) the spouse’s child, grandchild, or grandparent. The buyer of the principal residence (and the spouse if the buyer is married) must not have owned a present interest in a principal residence within the two-year period that ends on the acquisition date. Qualified acquisition costs are defined as costs to acquire, construct, or reconstruct a principal residence-including closing costs.
  8. Withdrawals for Qualified Higher Education Expenses. This exception only applies to IRAs. Early IRA withdrawals are penalty-free to the extent of qualified higher education expenses paid during that same year. Qualified higher education expenses include amounts paid for tuition, books, fees and other related expenses for an eligible student. This amount will be reflected on a form 1098-T that the school will send to the student. However, the qualified expenses must be for the education of: (1) the account owner or the account owner’s spouse or (2) a child, stepchild, or adopted child of the account owner or the account owner’s spouse.
  9. Withdrawals for Health Insurance Premiums during Unemployment. This exception only applies to IRAs, and is available if you received unemployment compensation payments for 12 consecutive weeks under any federal or state unemployment compensation law during the year in question or the preceding year. If this condition is satisfied, your early withdrawals during the year in question are penalty-free up to the amount paid during that year for health insurance premiums to cover the account owner, spouse, and dependents. However, early withdrawals after you regain employment for at least 60 days don’t qualify for this exception.

If you took a distribution from your IRA and received a form 1099-R with a distribution code of 1, and feel you meet one of exceptions listed above, please contact Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604 of Spadea & Associates, LLC located in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.

Your IRS Taxpayer Bill of Rights

Stop, pay your taxes!

Stop, pay your taxes!

The Internal Revenue Service announced on June 10, 2014, the adoption of a Taxpayer Bill of Rights that will become a cornerstone document to provide the nation’s taxpayers with a better understanding of their rights. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights takes the multiple existing rights embedded in the tax code and groups them into 10 key categories, making them more visible and easier for taxpayers to understand. The rights will be sent to millions of taxpayers this year when they receive IRS notices on issues ranging from audits to collection. The rights will also be publicly visible in all IRS facilities as well as online at IRS.gov.

The IRS released the Taxpayer Bill of Rights following extensive discussions with the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent office inside the IRS that represents the interests of U.S. taxpayers. I have given my opinion after each provision of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights on how I feel the IRS is doing with respect to each provision.

The Taxpayer Bill Of Rights are as follows:

  1. The Right to Be Informed. The IRS tries really hard to keep taxpayers informed but sometimes stops communicating for various reasons. Therefore, it is very important for you to follow up if you do not hear back from the IRS after 90 days of responding to a notice.
  2. The Right to Quality Service. The IRS is not delivering quality customer service. Whenever I call the IRS on behalf of a client, I am on hold for 30 to 60 minutes due to budget constraints and poor management. The IRS funding and employee headcount has decreased significantly since 2010, while its workload has increased due to health care reform and foreign account reporting rules.
  3. The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax. The IRS does a good job with this right and gives refunds when taxpayers file amended returns as well as billing taxpayers who fail to pay the correct amount of tax.
  4. The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard. and
  5. The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum. Both these rights can be read together. The IRS does a good job giving taxpayers several ways to challenge or appeal its position either through the Taxpayer Advocate service, Appeals including fast track mediation, US Tax Court and the Court for Federal Claims.
  6. The Right to Finality. The IRS does not always provide a written report at the conclusion of a correspondence audit. Therefore, I always request a written report or statement from the IRS at the conclusion of an audit or when payments are applied from different years.
  7. The Right to Privacy. The IRS does a good job of protecting taxpayer privacy.
  8. The Right to Confidentiality. The IRS does a good job keeping your information confidential although it does share information with other federal agencies and state governments.
  9. The Right to Retain Representation. This is your most important right as a taxpayer. I personally know several clients that were not represented at the audit stage and paid more tax than clients I have represented at the audit stage with the same issues. I would never recommend a client go to an IRS audit by themselves.
  10. The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System. I think this right is the responsibility of Congress since they pass all the tax laws which are not always fair.

If you receive an IRS Notice or have any questions about your taxpayer rights feel free to contact Gregory J. Spadea online or at 610-521-0604. Gregory J. Spadea is a tax attorney, former IRS Agent and founding member of the Law Offices of Spadea & Associates, LLC located in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.

What Should I Do if I Receive an IRS CP2000 Notice Stating I have Unreported Income

Sign on IRS Building in Washington, DC, United States

After you file your tax return the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will match your return information with third parties who issued you W-2’s or 1099’s. If a discrepancy occurs the IRS will issue you a CP2000 notice assessing you additional tax on any unreported income. I always tell my tax clients to email or fax me any IRS correspondence they receive immediately, because the IRS typically gives you 30 days to respond.

However, if you ignore the notice, you receive a 90 day letter to petition the tax court. I always recommend petitioning that tax court to preserve your appeal rights. However in the event you fail to petition the tax court within the 90 days, you can still apply for audit reconsideration.

The first thing I do when a client calls me is to review the CP2000 notice and make sure it is accurate because the IRS sends lots of inaccurate notices to taxpayers. In addition I verify that is actually from the IRS and not from an identity thief. I typically will file an amended return if my client has additional expenses relating to the unreported income or has basis in securities sold that generated the CP2000 in the first place. If the IRS is disallowing a deduction I will send in the documentation to substantiate it. I always try to get the accuracy related penalty abated and am successful most of the time, especially if only one year is involved.

If you receive a notice from the IRS under-reporter unit do not panic. Just contact Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604 from Spadea & Associates, LLC in Ridley Park.

When Do I Need To Take Required Minimum Distributions (RMD)

Sad businessman pushing hand truck with taxes.
If you are age 70-1/2 or older by the end of the year (December 31), the IRS requires you to take a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your tax-deferred retirement accounts such as traditional IRAs, SEP IRAs and 401(k) plans no later than New Year’s Eve. If you turned age 70-1/2 this year, you have the option to delay your first RMD until April 1 of the following year, but if you decide to do that, you will have to take two RMD’s in the same year which could increase your income taxes substantially.

If you inherit an IRA from your spouse you can wait until you reach 70-1/2 before taking required minimum distributions.

However, if you inherit an IRA from someone other than your spouse you must determine whether the account owner died before, on, or after his or her required beginning date (RBD):

• If the account owner died before the RBD, you may choose between two ways of calculating the RMDs—the life expectancy method or the five-year method.
• If the account owner died on or after the RBD, you must use the life-expectancy method.

The life-expectancy method requires that you withdraw certain minimum amounts annually according to calculations set forth by the IRS. You can always withdraw more than the required amount if you wish.

The five-year method requires that you receive all assets in the account no later than the end of the fifth year following the year of the account owner’s death. There are no minimum withdrawal requirements. You may withdraw assets at any time, as long you redeem the entire account by the end of the fifth year following the owner’s year of death. This option is only available if the IRA owner passed away before the RBD.

Your RMD is calculated using a “life expectancy” factor taken from IRS life expectancy tables. Non-spouse beneficiaries use the Single Life Expectancy Table, found in IRS Publication 590. If you are one of a group of beneficiaries, your RMD may be calculated using the life expectancy factor of the oldest beneficiary of the group.

If you withdraw less than the required minimum distribution, you will be subject to a federal penalty, which is an excise tax equal to 50% of the amount you should have withdrawn. This penalty is in addition to paying ordinary income tax on the amount you should have withdrawn.

Therefore you should keep a paper trail of all of your RMD distributions. Also keep a copy of any notice your brokerage firm sends you about the RMD for this year. This paper trail will be extremely helpful if you are audited or if you determine in the future that you did not withdraw enough money this year to satisfy the RMD requirement.

If you need any help calculating the RMD or have questions about how you can reduce your tax on the RMD, please call Gregory J. Spadea of Spadea & Associates, LLC at 610-521-0604, located in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.

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