Feature Article Archives - Think Outside the Tax Box

Feature Article

By Eva Rosenberg, EA CTC

10 Reasons Your Clients Should Get a Tax Divorce

As a married individual, you can select a tax filing status as either married filing jointly or married filing separately, and in some cases neither of these statuses achieve what is possible for two single taxpayers each filing their own tax return. In many cases it can seem you are getting penalized for being married in the U.S.

You may get frustrated that you seem to keep getting hit with “wealth taxes or penalties.” Of course, you may not refer to it that way. But when you see things like the Alternative Minimum Tax, The Net Investment Income Tax, the Additional Medicare Tax, and a whole variety of other taxes that are higher for married filers than they are for two single people…you may be tempted to think about a divorce.

And “live in sin”?

No matter your personal beliefs there are at least 10 tax attributes that cost married filers more than two single people. In some instances, children are in the mix, as they relate to specific credits. Some of these situations only apply to wealthy couples. Some only apply to those earning $50,000 or less or seniors.

These attributes, commonly known as the so-called “marriage penalty” refer to situations where it may pay to file as two single individuals rather than as a married couple. However to qualify, you cannot legally be married as of December 31.

To learn more about these penalties and find out how to work around them, continue reading.

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Home Sweet Domicile – There’s More to State Residence Than a Driver’s License

Voter registration, a drivers license, and day counting are what come to mind when people think about residence for state income tax purposes. There is no question that those basics are very important and ignoring them can kill your cause. Nonetheless, many other factors can enter into a determination, including church attendance and pets. That’s because you will generally be a resident of the state in which you have your “domicile.” And domicile as a concept borders on the mystical. It is your true home, it remains your domicile until you abandon it and establish a new one. Yet, establishing your domicile in a state with no (or low) income taxes can be lucrative. In some cases, this can represent millions of dollars all by avoiding state income tax. The natural progression of a business owner’s life can also include exiting said business at substantial profit. Your domicile at the time of the transaction can be pivotal in determining how much of that profit you’ll be left with in retirement. To learn more about how to do this, keep reading.

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Retirement Tax Planning – Work for All Seasons of Life

The single best skincare tip for avoiding wrinkles is to stay out of the sun. What does this have to do with retirement tax planning? Well, much as skincare shouldn’t stop when the first wrinkle appears, tax planning for retirement shouldn’t stop at retirement. Tax planning for retirement is an ongoing balancing act that, in a perfect world, begins with the first earned income and continues for the remainder of the taxpayer’s life. The trick is to balance tax strategies that help while a client is working with tax strategies that are going to benefit the client once they retire all without having a crystal ball as to how tax laws may change in the short- or long-term future. This article is the first in a four-part series that explores tax planning strategies both before and during retirement and discusses the importance of pro-active planning before and during retirement. Keep reading to learn more…

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Make Tax Magic with a Health Savings Account

Congress created one of the best tax savings vehicles in 2003. It wasn’t the individual retirement account (IRA). It wasn’t the Roth IRA.It was the health savings account (HSA). The HSA is the only tax-preferred savings vehicle in which a taxpayer potentially gets both an upfront tax deduction in addition to tax-free and penalty-free distributions. The IRS wrote the HSA rules to give taxpayers maximum flexibility in how they use their HSAs for medical expenses. Strategic use of the HSA can lead to lifelong tax savings opportunities. Let’s review the basic rules as to how an HSA operates, the little-known rules that create tax savings opportunities, and examples of how the HSA can be used to provide tax-free and penalty-free distributions when the taxpayer has a cash need.

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Client Alert

The 8082 Solution to Erroneous K-1s

If you’re thinking about extra forms that might have to go in with a 1040, Form 8082 is probably not the first thing that pops into your mind. But if what you need to do includes Form 8082 – Notice of Inconsistent Treatment or Administrative Adjustment Request, and you leave it out, there might be no way to recover. That appears to be the result in the Second Circuit decision in Laurence Gluck’s appeal of a Tax Court decision. There is also a lesson about like-kind exchanges that may have continuing significance despite changes in the law. With a deficiency of more than $1.5 million, it seems like a pretty big deal. It turns out that Laurence Gluck is one of New York City's largest landlords, so it may not have been that big a deal for him. On the other hand, it makes it surprising that the issue tripped him up. Click here to continue reading.

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The Bucket List (Part 2): Living Large in Retirement While Minimizing Your Taxes

In Part 1 of this series, we took a deeper dive into IRMAA planning and minimizing tax on your Social Security benefits. You play a large role in shaping your retirement years in terms of lifestyle and financial health. Think of taking advantage of the many techniques to lower your tax during your retirement years as another aspect of self-care. By treating your financial health and well-being as carefully as you treat your mental and physical well-being, you can ensure that you have resources to attain your financial goals and support yourself in the style for which you’ve planned. In my practice, I see a wide range of client behavior surrounding retirement – from no planning to thoughtful, long-range planning. Looking ahead, whether you’re working with your tax professional and financial team or whether you’re planning on your own, pays off enormously. Please read on for some additional tips and techniques for tax savings involving charitable giving, Roth IRA conversions, and minimizing capital gains taxes – and two more examples.

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Client Alert

The Bucket List (Part 1): Living Large in Retirement While Minimizing Your Taxes

We've all heard the messages to pay yourself first, save a percentage of your income, build your nest egg, and some of us heeded the messages. Whether you’ve saved a lot or a little, we have many ways to reduce taxes in retirement, and by doing so, we maximize the power of our retirement savings. Accumulating retirement funds is step one. And there are tax-advantaged ways to save for retirement: employer plans (401(k), 403(b), 457), individual retirement accounts (IRAs), self-employed retirement plans (Keogh, SEP, SIMPLE, Solo 401(k)), and non-retirement accounts. While you’re saving, you may have accumulated multiple “buckets” of assets, some in taxable accounts, some tax-deferred, some nontaxable. Looking ahead toward retirement withdrawals/distributions (the funds you’ll need for essential and discretionary living expenses) adds tremendous value, and tax planning is a big part of the picture. Read on for more specifics and stay tuned for Part 2 with additional tips and examples.

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Client Alert

Should You Switch Your Work Strategy for Tax Planning Season?

If you’re like most tax professionals, you’re probably working tax-prep season hyper-focused and -vigilant, refusing to hit pause except on absolute demand. You’re keeping a sharp eye on the ball, the players, and the end goal: maximizing your resources and providing impeccable service to your clients. Now, when you have lots of familiar, practiced work to do in little time, working like this can produce great results. However, tax-prep season is ending, and tax-reduction planning season is beginning. Therein, hyper-focus, hyper-vigilance, and workdays, weeks, and months without meaningful rest can backfire and steal from you the results you hope to produce. That’s because reactively responding to external demands and deadlines (set by clients and the IRS, for example), requires something different from you doing proactive designing and selling high-end tax plans. Consider this, as you shift from tax-prep to tax planning, you: ● Soften your focus on computers, numbers, and speed and sharpen your focus on talking with prospective clients about their finances, their hopes and worries about their business and family, and how you might best serve them. This requires a shift from grinding and discipline to presence and attunement. ● Soften your focus on meeting immediate deliverables and sharpen your focus on developing long-term strategies for products you offer and your business overall. This requires a shift from following rules, structures, and guidance to thinking creatively and working socially. ● Soften your focus on external deadlines and client demands and sharpen your focus on your own ambitions and drive to get things done. This requires a shift from aligning your priorities with others’ agendas to aligning your priorities with your own dreams and goals. Making shifts like these can be challenging, particularly if tax-prep season devours you and you enter tax-reduction planning season depleted and drained. However, taking time now to recharge and reset can help you pivot and produce powerful results in the end. Did Tax Season Devour and Deplete You? When it comes to personal performance in business, I like to contrast two modes of working: Depleted Mode and Resourced Mode. These modes aren’t binary; rather, they’re two ends of a continuum that we all constantly move along. Generally, when you find yourself highly distracted and distractible, pushing yourself to keep going, and working excessive hours to make up for lost time, you’re in Depleted Mode. Tax-prep season unfailingly produces this outcome for the best of tax pros. Exhaustion (or simple tiredness), frustration, and a taxed mind (pun intended) live here. When you’re drawn into your work, interested in the results you produce, and loving what you do, you’re in Resourced Mode. Enthusiasm, creativity, and connection live here. Resourced Mode offers an ideal environment to tax pros for engaging with the demands of tax planning season. You’ve probably seen yourself operate in both of these modes and along the continuum. Many tax professionals start the tax-prep season in Resourced Mode but end in Depleted Mode after months of hyper-focus and -vigilance, both of which you can only sustain in short bursts. There’s nothing wrong with Depleted Mode; most people land themselves there through hard work and commitment. (Incidentally, you can build systems and structures to reduce or avoid Depletion Mode over time, but that’s a topic for another day.) Many people produce great work in Depleted Mode, and that can trick them into thinking it’s effective for every kind of work. You can do tax prep in Depleted Mode, for example, because the work is familiar, somewhat predictable and consistent, and ultimately requires less mental engagement. However, Depleted Mode renders fewer productive results in tax-planning season because there you need deeper thought, mental space and physical energy to develop a strategy, a connection to people, and effectively sales. Ultimately, even in situations where Depleted Mode works decently, Depleted Mode can lead to: ▪ Procrastination: Being overworked and under-rested drains your mental capacity and leads to internal resistance on projects that require more mental energy. ▪ Distractibility: Quick changes of focus habituate your brain to prioritize distractions instead of focused work, so you might find yourself putting “easy” work ahead of “valuable” work. ▪ Agitation: Fast pacing can create agitation, or a constant background sense of worry, which can hinder progress when you try to settle into something that requires deeper thinking, such as tax or business strategy (which requires divergent, non-linear thinking). ▪ Lower pay for more work: procrastination, distractibility, and agitation make it difficult to approach valuable work (higher-paying, more satisfying), leaving you to do easy work instead (lower-paying, less satisfying) so you feel as if you accomplish something. ▪ Cyclical depletion: In Depleted Mode, you produce less per hour, make up for it by working more hours, and stay in Depleted Mode by overworking yourself. Still working in depleted mode? Click here to learn how to shut down the grind and turn on the productivity.

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COVID-19 Benefits: Taxable or Tax-Free?

Federal, state, and local governments, as well as private organizations, have collectively given trillions of dollars in financial support to individuals and businesses during the pandemic through a maze of government and private programs. These benefits will help taxpayers to a greater extent if they are tax-free, but are they? In some cases, we have a definite answer. For many, it is the classic tax law answer: “It depends.” We’ll review the general tax law rules applicable to deciding, then show three ways you can use the tax law to exclude these benefits from a taxpayer’s income.

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Client Alert
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