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Showing posts from August, 2018

2018 - 07/26

The U.S. Tax Court ruled that taxpayers without parental rights to their children are unable to claim tax breaks for them. The children lived full-time with an aunt, who adopted them and provided primary financial support. The court ruled that the parents didn’t qualify for the child tax credit and other tax breaks because their children didn’t qualify as dependents for the tax year in question. And since they lived with the aunt, the “same-principal-place-of-abode” requirement wasn’t met. (TC Memo 2018-12)



What you can deduct when volunteering

Because donations to charity of cash or property generally are tax deductible (if you itemize), it only seems logical that the donation of something even more valuable to you — your time — would also be deductible. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Donations of time or services aren’t deductible. It doesn’t matter if it’s simple administrative work, such as checking in attendees at a fundraising event, or if it’s work requiring significant experience and expertise that would be much more costly to the charity if it had to pay for it, such as skilled carpentry or legal counsel.   

However, you potentially can deduct out-of-pocket costs associated with your volunteer work.

The basic rules

As with any charitable donation, for you to be able to deduct your volunteer expenses, the first requirement is that the organization be a qualified charity. You can use the IRS’s “Tax Exempt Organization Search” tool (formerly “Select Check”) at http://bit.ly/2KXWl5b to find out.

Assuming the charity …

2018 - 07/24

Taxpayers win a little but lose a lot in court. A married couple had full time jobs and owned rental properties. The IRS denied several tax deductions related to the properties, including expenses for cleaning, maintenance and utilities. The U.S. Tax Court agreed that the couple wasn’t entitled to thousands of dollars of deductions due to a lack of substantiation. However, the court allowed deductions of $110 for plumbing services and $80 for an appliance repair because they provided an invoice showing the amount paid and a canceled check. (TC Memo 2018-109)



Upskilling: The next frontier in employee training

In the face of a tight job market and a widening skills gap, employers in many industries are catching on to the benefits of “upskilling.” More than just your typical employee training, upskilling takes a broad approach to development.

It can involve teaching workers additional skills in areas related to but outside their current positions to help fulfill the employer’s existing or anticipated needs. Or it can simply give employees access to learning that will help them progress in their careers, either with their current employer or elsewhere.

Real-world examples

Take, for example, Starbucks’ College Achievement Plan. It offers workers tuition reimbursements to earn an online bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University. The coffee company doesn’t stop at tuition — it also provides coaches, advisors and 24/7 tutoring.

Another example is Boeing’s recent launch of a program that will give employees access to online lessons, certification courses and degree programs, as well as several …

Choosing the best business entity structure post-TCJA

For tax years beginning in 2018 and beyond, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) created a flat 21% federal income tax rate for C corporations. Under prior law, C corporations were taxed at rates as high as 35%. The TCJA also reduced individual income tax rates, which apply to sole proprietorships and pass-through entities, including partnerships, S corporations, and, typically, limited liability companies (LLCs). The top rate, however, dropped only slightly, from 39.6% to 37%.

On the surface, that may make choosing C corporation structure seem like a no-brainer. But there are many other considerations involved.

Conventional wisdom

Under prior tax law, conventional wisdom was that most small businesses should be set up as sole proprietorships or pass-through entities to avoid the double taxation of C corporations: A C corporation pays entity-level income tax and then shareholders pay tax on dividends — and on capital gains when they sell the stock. For pass-through entities, there’s no fed…

Factor in state and local taxes when deciding where to live in retirement

Many Americans relocate to another state when they retire. If you’re thinking about such a move, state and local taxes should factor into your decision.  

Income, property and sales tax

Choosing a state that has no personal income tax may appear to be the best option. But that might not be the case once you consider property taxes and sales taxes.

For example, suppose you’ve narrowed your decision down to two states: State 1 has no individual income tax, and State 2 has a flat 5% individual income tax rate. At first glance, State 1 might appear to be much less expensive from a tax perspective. What happens when you factor in other state and local taxes?

Let’s say the property tax rate in your preferred locality in State 1 is 5%, while it’s only 1% in your preferred locality in State 2. That difference could potentially cancel out any savings in state income taxes in State 1, depending on your annual income and the assessed value of the home.

Also keep in mind that home values can vary dra…

2018 - 07/24

Employers generally pay federal unemployment tax (FUTA) of 6% on the first $7,000 of covered wages of each employee each year. That’s offset by the state unemployment insurance (UI) tax paid. States that can’t meet their obligations to pay UI benefits may borrow funds from the federal government. If the loans aren’t repaid, employers in the state may be subject to “credit reductions,” resulting in higher FUTA until loans are paid off. According to the U.S. Labor Dept., only the Virgin Islands is currently subject to a credit reduction, with FUTA increased by 2.4%.



2018 - 07/27

Truckers, don’t miss this deadline! The IRS reminds owners of most heavy highway vehicles that the window of time to file Form 2290 (“Heavy Highway Vehicle Use Tax Return”) and pay related taxes began on 7/1/18, and ends 8/31/18. The highway use tax applies to highway motor vehicles with taxable gross weight of at least 55,000 pounds. This usually includes large trucks, truck tractors and buses. The IRS encourages owners to take advantage of the speed and convenience of using e-filing to file and pay taxes due. Here are more details: https://bit.ly/2mJ926a



6 ways to run a better meeting

There are few more self-destructive acts for an employer than to waste its employees’ time. You not only squander productivity but also hurt morale. Among the most common culprits of wasted time are bad meetings. A sloppily managed one can leave employees grumbling and frustrated for hours, even days, afterward. Here are six ways to run a better meeting:

1. Start on time. Beginning promptly shows you respect people’s time and encourages punctuality as an aspect of your organizational culture. Train and encourage meeting leaders to adhere to firm start times. Managers should address chronic latecomers verbally first (but after the meeting), and in writing later if necessary.

2. Lead with something positive. Poorly run meetings can quickly devolve into unproductive gripe sessions. Set the tone for a more constructive discussion of your agenda items by leading off with some good news highlighting an organizational or individual accomplishment.

3. Clear the air. After a positive start, if …