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Making Large Gifts Now Won’t Harm Estates After 2025

On November 20th, the IRS announced individuals taking advantage of the increased gift and estate tax exclusion amounts in effect from 2018 to 2025 will not be adversely impacted after 2025 when the exclusion amount is scheduled to drop to levels before 2018.

The Treasury Department and the IRS issued proposed regulations which implement changes made by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).  As a result, individuals planning to make large gifts between 2018 and 2025 can do so without concern that they will lose the tax benefit of the higher exclusion level once it decreases after 2025.

In general, gift and estate taxes are calculated, using a unified rate schedule, on taxable transfers of money, property and other assets. Any tax due is determined after applying a credit – formerly known as the unified credit – based on an applicable exclusion amount.

The applicable exclusion amount is the sum of the basic exclusion amount (BEA) established in the statute, and other elements (if applicable) described in the proposed regulations. The credit is first used during life to offset gift tax and any remaining credit is available to reduce or eliminate estate tax.

The TCJA temporarily increased the BEA from $5 million to $10 million for tax years 2018 through 2025, with both dollar amounts adjusted for inflation. For 2018, the inflation-adjusted BEA is $11.18 million. In 2026, the BEA will revert to the 2017 level of $5 million as adjusted for inflation.

To address concerns that an estate tax could apply to gifts exempt from gift tax by the increased BEA, the proposed regulations provide a special rule that allows the estate to compute its estate tax credit using the higher of the BEA applicable to gifts made during life or the BEA applicable on the date of death.

To discuss more about your gift and estate tax situation, contact WFY’s Estates and Trusts Partners, Marisa Alvarado and Kevin Wiest, at info@cpa-wfy.com or (949) 910-2727.

© Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

Tax Saving Moves to Improve Your Tax Situation

Since 2018 is coming to a close now is the time to take action to proactively reduce your tax liability before the new year.  Included are a few strategies that may help with your tax situation:

  1. Harvest stock losses while substantially preserving one’s investment position. This can be accomplished by selling the shares and buying other shares in the same company or another company in the same industry to replace them, or by selling the original shares, then buying back the same securities at least 31 days later.
  2. Apply a bunching strategy to deductible contributions and/or payments of medical expenses. Beginning in 2018 the standard deduction has been increased and the itemized deduction of state and local taxes limited to $10,000 which will cause many taxpayers to lose the benefit of their itemized deductions. By bunching multiple years of charitable contributions and medical expenses into one year a taxpayer may create a taxable benefit that would not otherwise exist.  For example, a taxpayer who expects to itemize deductions in 2018 and usually contributes a total of $10,000 to charities each year, should consider refunding 2019 and 2020 charitable contributions by contributing a total of $30,000 into a donor advised charitable fund and then distribute the funds to the charities over the following two years.
  3. Take required minimum distributions (RMDs). Taxpayers who have reached age 70-½ should be sure to take their 2018 RMD from their IRAs or 401(k) plans (or other employer-sponsored retired plans). Failure to take a required withdrawal can result in a penalty of 50% of the amount of the RMD not withdrawn. Those who turned age 70-½ in 2018 can delay the first required distribution to 2019, however, this can result in taking a double distribution in 2019 (the required amount for 2018 and 2019).
  4. Use IRAs to make charitable gifts. Taxpayers who have reached age 70-½, own IRAs, and are thinking of making a charitable gift should consider arranging for the gift to be made by way of a qualified charitable contribution, or QCD—a direct transfer from the IRA trustee to the charitable organization. Such a transfer (not to exceed $100,000) will neither be included in gross income nor allowed as a deduction on the taxpayer’s return. A qualified charitable contribution before year end is a particularly good idea for retired taxpayers who don’t need all of their as-yet undistributed RMD for living expenses.
  5. Make year-end gifts. A person can give any other person up to $15,000 for 2018 without incurring any gift tax. The annual exclusion amount increases to $30,000 per donee if the donor’s spouse consents to gift-splitting. Anyone who expects eventually to have estate tax liability and who can afford to make gifts to family members should do so.

These are broad suggestions that will benefit some but not all taxpayers.  To discuss and create a personalized tax strategy be sure to contact a WFY tax specialist at info@cpa-wfy.com or (949) 910-2727.

© Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

WFY Welcomes New Partner Cyndi LeBerthon

Wright Ford Young & Co. would like to welcome our newest addition to the firm: Cyndi LeBerthon, CPA.  With more than 15 years of public accounting experience, Cyndi has joined WFY as Partner in the Audit Department.

Cyndi is responsible for planning and supervising audit and review engagements in a wide range of industries, including distribution, manufacturing, professional service, technology and hospitality.  Having extensive experience in Employee Benefit Plan audits and ERISA regulations, she also works with plan sponsors in private and public sectors performing annual DOL required audits of their 401(k), 403(b), ESOP, and Pension and Welfare Benefit Plans.

Cyndi is an AICPA authorized peer reviewer and works with other CPA firms throughout California and Arizona, performing their peer reviews and providing consultant services on quality control.  She is also a committee member of the CalCPA Peer Review Committee.   This committee has oversight responsibilities of all peer reviews performed throughout California, Arizona and Alaska.

To learn more about Cyndi LeBerthon, go to https://www.cpa-wfy.com/who-we-are/practice-leaders/cyndi-leberthon/

WFY is Hiring

Wright Ford Young & Co. is seeking qualified candidates to join our growing team! We are looking for hard-working, dedicated people who are willing to learn and flourish in their careers.  Full-time positions are available for the following departments:

Tax Department

  • Staff
  • Preparer

Estates & Trusts Department

  • Senior
  • Supervisor
  • Manager

Audit Department

  • Staff

If interested in any of the positions above, please email your resumes careers@cpa-wfy.com or directly contact the following:

Tax Department: Richard Huffman, rhuffman@cpa-wfy.com

Estates & Trusts Department: Marisa Alvarado, malvarado@cpa-wfy.com

Audit Department: Jeff Myers, jmyers@cpa-wfy.com

 

 

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.

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.

Multistate Sales Tax Amnesty for Online Retailers

The Multistate Tax Commission announced that it is working with 13 states to implement a sales tax amnesty program aimed at getting online retailers to register and file sales tax returns.  The main benefit of the amnesty program is that sellers will not be required to report prior period sales, nor be required to pay penalties or interest on any back taxes owed.  As of today, participating states include:

Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Vermont.  Eight additional states are considering participation but have not committed, and it is not clear whether these additional states will require back taxes to be reported and paid.  The amnesty covers both sales & use taxes, as well as corporate franchise/income taxes.

The application period is August 17, 2017 to October 17, 2017 and taxpayers that have not been contacted will be able to start remitting taxes on future sales without penalty or liability for unreported past sales.

To be clear, this is a great opportunity for online retailers to clear up past sales tax obligations for pennies on the dollar.  Never before have so many states come together to offer an amnesty program of this scope and size.

If you have any questions regarding this program please contact us at info@cpa-wfy.com.

© Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

Wondering About a 1031 Exchange

Perhaps you’ve heard of 1031 exchanges or like-kind exchanges, but you’re unsure of the benefits or whether you even qualify. The Internal Revenue Code 1031 is available to those who hold a property that qualifies as productive use in business or investments. If you have a piece of investment property, a 1031 exchange allows you to swap it for a similar property.

What is a 1031 exchange?

This type of exchange happens when an investor trades his or her real property for a similar or “like-kind” property. Investment properties such as shopping malls, residential buildings, stadiums and more can all be traded among themselves — like-kind merely refers to the type of investment and not the physical form. However, certain types of properties, such as those considered stock in trade, are excluded from 1031 exchanges.

Benefits of a 1031 exchange

The primary benefit of a 1031 exchange is that the investor can trade in their property and defer any capital gains or losses due at the time of sale, as well as any capital gains taxes. There is also no limit on how many times you can exchange property. From an investor’s standpoint, this means that you can continue to make a profit on each additional swap, but you won’t pay any tax on it until you finally sell it off down the road.

What does like-kind exchange mean?

Investors can exchange a single-family home for a beauty salon, a recreation center for an apartment building, and so forth — the physicality of the property is not associated with the term like-kind. Although the guidelines for like-kind may seem open-ended, there are some restrictions that you don’t want to fall prey to, so make sure to hire a professional to assist you with the process.

What are the deadlines?

Once the sale closes on your first property, your facilitator will receive the cash from the sale and you must submit, in writing, the property you are exchanging it for to your facilitator within 45 days. You have 180 days, starting on the day of sale of your first property, to close on the second.

How to choose a facilitator

There are many restrictions when choosing a facilitator, mainly because the facilitator cannot also function as an agent. Attorneys, Realtors or CPAs are all unsuitable as a facilitator; however, you can ask them for recommendations for a facilitator.

These are just the basics; there are a lot of details and exceptions in the fine print of the tax code. Give us a call or email a WFY advisor at info@cpa-wfy.com so we can help you decide when and how a 1031 exchange might be right for you.

© Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

Understanding the Components of a Buy-Sell Agreement

You want to protect your company against disruptive, harmful, and nonproductive owners, which may include divorced spouses, competitors, and disgruntled former employees. And you’re also thinking that your estate needs protection. You decide to enter into a buy-sell agreement while the interests of the parties—your partners and yourself—are aligned or at least not sufficiently misaligned that it would be impossible to discuss the business and valuation aspects of these agreements.

You know that when a trigger event occurs, the interests of the parties—buyers and sellers—may diverge and agreement over pricing and terms can become difficult or impossible to achieve. The following list includes features you should examine when devising your own agreement:

  1. Agree before trigger events and other dissension occurs. You need to agree on possible future occurrences so that the agreement can be written, signed, and dated in advance of these events.
  2. Identify which future events need to be considered. Many things can happen that may trigger the usefulness of a buy-sell agreement: owners may quit, be fired, retire, pass away, become divorced, or go bankrupt. Decide which future potential triggers you want to include in the buy-sell agreement. It’s important that all owners think seriously about these issues. If the buy-sell agreement operates satisfactorily, it will kick in when an applicable event occurs.
  3. Define the trigger events. Firings can be with or without cause, so agreements need to specify what happens in each circumstance. You and your partners should try to anticipate what could happen and document the occurrence in the agreement.
  4. Determine the price at which the identified triggers will occur. This is one of the hardest parts of establishing an effective buy-sell agreement. It’s also why many appraisers and other advisers recommend appraisal with a predetermined appraiser as a generally preferred pricing mechanism. These buy-sell agreements have fixed prices and they are ticking time bombs because they’re seldom updated.
  5. Determine the terms under which the price will be paid. In this regard, important factors to consider include down payment, payment schedule, interest-rate schedule, and fixed or floating interest rate.

Buy-sell agreements are based on different business situations and are formed by unique parties—you and your partners. For more on the components of buy-sell agreements and how they can work for your firm, give us a call today.