What Is an Offer in Compromise with the IRS?

An offer in compromise can make you happy: “Oh boy, the IRS said yes, and my tax debts are over!” Or it can frustrate you. Let’s go over how to navigate the IRS settlement guidelines and see what an OIC entails.

Here’s the good news:

  • An OIC can be a fresh start from your IRS debt.
  • You no longer have to worry that the IRS will seize your wages or bank accounts.
  • Your credit score will no longer show any tax liens against you — the IRS releases them all.
  • IRS collections are put on hold and the compromise is investigated. And then — peace, ah, peace — from IRS certified-mail letters and visits from IRS revenue officers.
  • You put the debt behind you and you can go back to saving for retirement.

But here’s some of the bad news:

  • The IRS will dig deeply into your finances.
  • You have to tell the IRS where you work and bank and you must list your assets, including your house, cars, valuables and retirement accounts.
  • The IRS will look at your paystubs, tax returns, bank statements, business profit and loss statements and proof of payment of monthly bills.
  • After acceptance of the OIC, the IRS will put you on a five-year probation, requiring full compliance in filing and paying taxes. Not playing ball with all IRS expectations will default the settlement.

But wait! It gets even more dicey:

  • An OIC is not a quick fix — it can take the IRS a minimum of nine to 12 months to investigate, and another six months if an appeal is needed. The IRS allows five to 24 months to pay the settlement.
  • If you want to pay credit card, mortgage or car loan monthly bills, think again. The IRS may effectively take over your budgeting.
  • If the IRS determines it can collect what you owe, it will reject your offer, but you can appeal.
  • The settlement amount is not based on fairness, but on collectability.
  • It may not work at all! The IRS recently rejected 60 percent of the offers it received: 41,000 rejections out of a pool of 68,000 submissions!

Let’s see where that leaves us:

  • An OIC can be a wonderful way to rid yourself of the IRS bugging you.
  • You need to consider it from all angles to make sure it’s the right move for you.

A compromise is not the only way to clear the IRS out of your life. The agency can agree that you owe debt, but not force you to repay it — the IRS terms it currently uncollectible and puts you in its bad debt category and leaves you alone. The IRS has 10 years to collect the taxes. You could let the time frame expire rather than compromising. Bankruptcy may be able to eliminate taxes too. See what’s in your best interest.

The point is that you have options, and you should talk to a professional if you’re having tax problems.

© Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. 

Earn Money from California’s Training Subsidy Program

It’s Free Money, and We Can Help You Get Your Share

Do you provide formal training for your employees? Exciting news: The government wants to chip in. Yes, really. In fact, for the past 35 years the State of California has provided over $1.5 billion in training subsidies to California businesses. Smaller companies can receive up to $50,000 per year and larger companies can receive up to $375,000 per year. Never heard of this program? You’re not alone.

The funding comes from a tax that every for-profit company in the state pays, the Employment Training Tax. This tax generates over $100 million a year that is then given back to companies that successfully apply for the funds.

This is not a tax credit. It’s “free money,” given in the form of a check. The money goes to help companies cover the cost of providing training for their employees so they can more efficiently and profitably do their jobs. Almost any type of training is covered, and there are very few restrictions on who can do the training. Typically most recipient companies simply have their own in-house personnel lead the training sessions.

Examples of eligible training include:

  • Business Skills, such as Leadership, Team Building, Communication, Sales, Marketing or Customer Relations
  • Computer Skills, such as Accounting Software, ERP, MRP, CRM, Scheduling, MS Office and other software needed to run a business
  • Manufacturing Skills, which includes almost anything necessary to produce the product or service

Virtually any for-profit company with a physical location in California can take advantage of this program. And once the state cuts the check they have no hold on how the money is used.

Of course, being that this is a government program there is a lot of paperwork involved, and the learning curve for getting this paperwork figured out is fairly steep. Luckily, we’ve already cracked the code. Because of our experience we can handle over 90% of the work required to receive the funds, thus freeing you to do what you do best—run your company.

To see how this program can benefit your company please contact Jeff Myers at JMYERS@CPA-WFY.com or call 949-910-0122

© Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

Individual Tax Law Changes

How to Co-ordinate Cost Segregation with Like-kind Exchange

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was signed by the President on December 22, 2017. The TCJA is the most significant overhaul of Internal Revenue Tax code since the 1986 Tax Act under President Reagan. The Committee Report has over a thousand pages of modifications to many areas of the tax code. One piece of the new legislation (that concern most real estate investors) involves changes to the like-kind exchange rules.

When certain conditions are met, no gain or loss is recognized when a taxpayer exchanges property of like-kind (used in a trade or business or for investment purposes). Before the TCJA, a taxpayer could exchange real property for real property; and personal property for personal property (with some restrictions) without recognizing gain on the exchange. For exchanges completed after December 31, 2017, the TCJA limits this tax-free treatment to an exchange of real property only. Personal property no longer qualifies for like-kind exchange after this date. Many taxpayers and tax preparers are asking the question: How does this impact an exchange of real property that went through a cost segregation study?

Cost segregation is a valuable tax strategy to accelerate depreciation deductions. When the timing is right, this strategic tool can save taxpayers thousands of tax dollars. The primary goal of a cost segregation study is to identify all costs that can be depreciated over shorter depreciable lives. By accelerating depreciation, a taxpayer can defer federal and state income taxes and increase cash flow. If timed correctly, a taxpayer can claim more deductions in a high marginal tax year and less deductions in low marginal tax year resulting in a permanent tax savings.

The building costs identified with shorter depreciable lives (by the cost segregation study) are depreciated as Section 1245 property. Most tax preparers believe that means that these assets are personal property. The distinction that needs to be made is between the personal property (machinery and equipment) from the real property fixtures that qualify as 1245 property for tax purposes but are deemed to be real property by state law. State law generally determines the classification of property as real or personal. For like-kind exchange purposes, the courts have held that state law, although not controlling, is generally followed to determine whether property is real or personal. As such, fixtures can be 1245 property with a shorter depreciable life for depreciation purpose but real property for like-kind exchange purpose. Taxpayers still need to be aware of the potential recapture rules under 1245(b)(4) and 1245(d)(4) but this personal property vs. real property distinction should help taxpayers navigate like-kind exchanges with more comfort.

Finally, according to the Committee Report, it is the intention of the Congress that real property eligible for like-kind exchange treatment under prior law continue to be eligible under TCJA. The expert opinion is that this language means that the treatment of real property that went through cost segregation study should continue to be eligible for like-kind exchange treatment as it has in the past.

© Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. 

Pass-Through Entities and the 20 Percent Tax Break

Small-business owners and partners are scratching their heads over the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and how the new 20 percent tax deduction for pass-through entities will work.

Here’s a little background

A pass-through entity can be a partnership, S corporation, limited liability company or partnership, or sole proprietorship — basically, most of the country’s small businesses. Owners and shareholders of these entities are taxed on earnings based on individual, not corporate, tax rates. Effectively, company earnings, losses and deductions pass through to the individual’s personal tax rates, which, in the past, were typically lower than corporate rates. The pass-through deduction was a nice tax break.

But things have changed.

In 2017, the U.S. corporate tax rate was 35 percent, one of the highest in the industrialized world. The new bill slices that rate to a flat 21 percent, which is lower than the top individual tax rate of 37 percent. Earners who fall into that top tax tier would be silly to claim a pass-through deduction, because their individual rate is now higher than the corporate rate. Say bye-bye to that tax break.

Not so fast. To even things out, lawmakers have allowed pass-through owners to deduct 20 percent of their qualified business income, or QBI, from their personal income taxes, whether or not they itemize. Unlike the corporate tax cut, which is permanent, this pass-through deduction lasts only through 2025, unless Congress extends it.

A 20 percent pass-through deduction is nothing to sneeze at. If you have, say, $100,000 in pass-through income, you can reduce your income taxes by $4,800 if you’re in the 24 percent income tax bracket.

What is QBI?

QBI is, essentially, the profit a pass-through business makes during a year.

QBI includes:

  • Rental income from a rental business.
  • Income from publicly traded partnerships.
  • Real estate investments trusts.
  • Qualified cooperatives.

QBI does not include:

  • Dividend income.
  • Interest income.
  • S corporation shareholder wages.
  • Business income earned outside the United States.
  • Guaranteed payments to LLC members or partnership partners.
  • Capital gain or loss.

Here’s the hitch

In order to take advantage of the pass-through deduction, you must have net taxable income from your businesses. If you don’t make any profit, you can’t deduct 20 percent from nothing.

The QBI from each business is calculated separately. If you have several businesses, and one or more loses money in a given year, you will deduct that loss from the QBI from the profitable businesses.

More considerations

Hey, if there weren’t always more considerations, you wouldn’t need us. Whether you can take advantage of all, some or none of the pass-through tax deduction depends on how much money you earn and how you earn it.

For instance, if your taxable income falls below $315,000 if married filing jointly or $157,500 if single, you can take full advantage of the pass-through deduction. But if your taxable income is more than $315,000/$157,500, taking the deduction will depend on your total income and the kind of work you do. If you perform a personal service, such as doctor or consultant, you’ll lose the deduction at certain income levels. The details are still unclear, and we’re looking forward to reviewing future guidance.

The new pass-through deduction can be a nice tax break for folks who qualify. Not sure if you do? Contact us at info@cpa-wfy.com, and we’ll help you navigate the murky waters surrounding the new tax law and pass-through deduction. We’ll see if you’re entitled to anything and, if so, how much.

© Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

Extraordinary Estate Tax Opportunity

By Cheryl J. Schaffer, CPA, MST, AEP®

Estate and Trust Partner

 

January 9, 2018

You may recall that President Trump promised to repeal the Estate and Gift Tax and their cousin, the Generation Skipping Tax.   However, the enacted version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed just before Christmas 2017, left these three taxes intact.   The outcome is surprising, given that the Republican Party has often condemned these taxes, and given that the House, Senate, and White House are all on the same side of the party divide.   Yet, complete repeal was not accomplished.   Thus, these taxes remain a huge liability for high net worth individuals and families.

What the Act does accomplish is a doubling of the Estate, Gift, and Generation Skipping Tax Exemption.   Starting on January 1, 2018, the exemption is $11,200,000 for individuals and $22,400,000 for married couples, up from $5,490,000 and $10,980,000 in 2017, respectively. On January 1, 2026, the exemption amounts are scheduled to revert to the 2017 levels, adjusted for inflation. The rate remains the same, at 40%.

If you should pass away before 2026, your Estate will benefit from this historic change in the exemption.   Mortality tables show that if you were born after 1947, you have a 50% chance of outliving the 2026 date, when the Estate Tax comes back at full force.   History tells us that if we have a change of parties in power to Democrats, that 2026 date for reducing the exemption might be accelerated.   Thus, it remains critical that high net worth individuals take proactive steps to reduce their exposure to the Estate Tax.

Many tools are at our finger tips to help you reduce your taxable estate through gifting.   The Gift Tax Exemption doubled, allowing an extraordinary opportunity for you to gift substantial appreciating assets without paying a dime of Gift Tax.   Making substantial gifts can be a little frightening: it may bring up issues of control over assets, creating “Trust Babies” who have unrealistic expectations of entitlement, and reducing cash flow.   Careful consideration must be given to these non-tax aspects.   However, these issues can be addressed via strategies involving special types of trusts, such as Dynasty Trusts, Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts, and nontaxable sales to grantor trusts, just to name a few.

You may have noticed that the media has given little mention to the effect of the Act on the income taxation of Estates and Trusts.   Under the new rules, the highest Federal tax rate for a Trust or Estate is 38% on income over $12,500.   Compare this with the highest Federal tax rate for individuals: 35% on $500,000 of taxable income.   Thus, planning distributions to escape the extremely high rate of tax imposed on Trusts and Estates remains critically important.

Since 1916, The Estate Tax Exemption has changed more than 60 times! Despite complete control by Republicans and their repeated aversion to the death tax, the Estate, Gift, and Generation Skipping Tax remains a threat to high net worth families.   Should we have a change in parties over the next few years, what might Democrats do to accelerate that critical 2026 date? One thing you can bet on: Uncertainty is certain!

We have guided our clients through hundreds of Estate Planning transactions resulting in millions of dollars in savings.   We remain ready to point you in the right direction. Please give us a call to see how Wright Ford Young & Co. can help you!

© Copyright 2017. All rights reserved

Bracket Changes and More From the IRS

You haven’t even filed your 2017 taxes yet, but the IRS has already announced changes that will affect your 2018 taxes, which you’ll be filing in 2019. The changes were announced in Revenue Procedure 2017-58, which runs 28 pages, but below are some key points. How do these changes impact you?

Of course, if any meaningful tax reform is passed, anything can be changed. We’ll keep you posted on any developments that affect you.

  • The standard deduction for married filing jointly rises to $13,000 for tax year 2018, up $300. For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction rises to $6,500 in 2018, up from $6,350 in 2017, and for heads of households, the standard deduction will be $9,550 for tax year 2018, up from $9,350 for tax year 2017.
  • The personal exemption for tax year 2018 rises to $4,150, an increase of $100. The exemption is subject to a phase-out that begins with adjusted gross incomes of $266,700 ($320,000 for married couples filing jointly). It phases out completely at $389,200 ($442,500 for married couples filing jointly).
  • The bracket changes have not gone up significantly from the previous year. For example, the floor for the 28 percent “married — filing jointly” category is up from $153,101 to $156,151. The details of each bracket are described in the revenue procedure.
  • The Alternative Minimum Tax exemption amount for tax year 2018 is $55,400, and begins to phase out at $123,100 ($86,200 for married couples filing jointly, for whom the exemption begins to phase out at $164,100). The 2017 exemption amount was $54,300 ($84,500 for married couples filing jointly). For tax year 2018, the 28 percent tax rate applies to taxpayers with taxable incomes above $191,500 ($95,750 for married individuals filing separately).
  • The tax year 2018 maximum Earned Income Credit amount is $6,444 for taxpayers filing jointly who have three or more qualifying children, up from a total of $6,318 for tax year 2017. The revenue procedure has a table providing maximum credit amounts for other categories, income thresholds and phase-outs.
  • For tax year 2018, the monthly limitation for the qualified transportation fringe benefit is $260, as is the monthly limitation for qualified parking.
  • For calendar year 2018, the dollar amount used to determine the penalty for not maintaining minimum essential health coverage remains as it was for 2017: $695.
  • For tax year 2018, for participants who have self-only coverage in a Medical Savings Account, the plan must have an annual deductible that is not less than $2,300, an increase of $50 from tax year 2017, but not more than $3,450, an increase of $100 from tax year 2017. For self-only coverage, the maximum out-of-pocket expense amount is $4,600, up $100 from 2017. For tax year 2018, for participants with family coverage, the floor for the annual deductible is $4,600, up from $4,500 in 2017; however, the deductible cannot be more than $6,850, up $100 from the limit for tax year 2017. For family coverage, the out-of-pocket expense limit is $8,400 for tax year 2018, an increase of $150 from tax year 2017.
  • For tax year 2018, the adjusted gross income amount used by joint filers to determine the reduction in the Lifetime Learning Credit is $114,000, up from $112,000 for tax year 2017.
  • For tax year 2018, the foreign earned income exclusion is $104,100, up from $102,100 for tax year 2017.
  • Estates of decedents who die during 2018 have a basic exclusion amount of $5.6 million, up from a total of $5.49 million for estates of decedents who died in 2017.
  • The annual exclusion for gifts increased to $15,000, an increase of $1,000 from the exclusion for tax year 2017.

Contact us at info@cpa-wfy.com, and we’ll explain how they change your tax situation.

© Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.