Guest Article Archives - Think Outside the Tax Box

Guest Article

By Amber Gray-Fenner, EA NTPI Fellow USTCP

Retirement Tax Planning – Having a Rough Year? Turn Lemons into Lemonade by Using Business Losses to Offset Roth IRA Conversions

A ROTH conversion can be a very powerful tool for your retirement. While you don’t receive a tax break for deposits to your ROTH account, qualified withdrawals from the account are tax-free, even earnings. This is an excellent way to avoid tax increases. Let’s say your taxes rise due to increases in tax rates, or because you earn more, which catapults you to a higher tax bracket, ROTH IRA conversions can save you a ton of money in taxes over the long term.

The disadvantage, of course, is that tax is due on the amount you convert based on the value at conversion. But many times, such as when you are in a temporarily low tax bracket, have large deductions during the year, or in a year with business losses, can provide optimal opportunities to convert with little to no tax expense.

Looking for more strategic times to convert? Keep reading to learn more.



In Part One of this series, we looked at strategies to reduce adjusted gross income (AGI). But the planning doesn’t stop there. We call deductions that reduce AGI “above the line” deductions. But wait, the tax saving opportunities don’t stop with AGI. Even with the higher standard deductions courtesy of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), there are many opportunities for taxpayers of modest means to find “below the line” tax savings. Let’s explore the many ways you can reduce your taxable income and whether you maximize your tax benefits even more with tax credits. Keep in mind that a tax deduction reduces your taxable income A tax credit reduces your tax dollar for dollar and, in some cases, the credits are refundable, meaning you can get additional tax benefits even after reducing your taxable income to zero . Read on for some tax planning tips reducing taxable income and maximizing credits that may work for you.

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Tax Planning – It’s Not Just For the Wealthy – Part 1

It's hard to escape the news covering numerous methods high net-worth clients use to minimize their taxes. A ProPublica (June 8, 2021) headline trumpets, “The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax.” CNBC (September 20, 2021) highlights, “The wealthy may avoid $163 billion in taxes every year. Here’s how they do it.” Even Teen Vogue dives into the topic. If you're a taxpayer of more modest means, you may think, Hey, what about me? I can’t afford the team of high-priced tax advisers or consider many of these tax reduction techniques. Are there ways I can minimize my taxes that are legal, easy to implement, and affordable? The answer is a resounding YES. And how do I qualify? Read on for some tax planning tips that will work for you. Part One (of this two-part series) covers strategies to reduce your adjusted gross income.

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Client Alert

You Are Not Eligible for the Employee Retention Credit: Vague “Suspensions” Lead to Trouble

Far too many of these Employee Retention Credit (ERC) claims are nonsense. Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy helping businesses claim the ERC. I have written in these pages about the unique ways a business may qualify and how to use startup eligibility even for existing employers. But let’s be honest: People are manipulating this program beyond belief. The refund dollars are too attractive and have created far too large an incentive for shops charging high commission fees (I have seen fees charged between 10 to 35 percent of the refund). In the coming years, numerous aggressive ERC shops may contact you if they haven’t already. How do you know whether a claim is legitimate or nonsense? Here, we will review the most prevalent bad arguments to help you avoid trouble.

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Just Good Business – Curate Your Subscriptions

Do you ever feel like your inbox is out of control? Perhaps you even have more than one out of control inbox. Do you find yourself getting vapor-locked from information overload? Do you consider the phrase “inbox zero” and feel like it’s as achievable as driving to the moon? It’s time to work on that. An uncurated collection isn’t a collection it’s a hoard, and an uncurated information library isn’t a library it’s a digital fire hazard. Digital clutter can be as detrimental to your professional life as physical clutter is to your personal life. Before you start curating, however, I recommend giving some thought to how you want to go about it. For example, I have a work e-mail that is for clients to reach me that I only access when I am at my desk working. In general, my work e-mail is not the e-mail to which my subscriptions are sent—not even the tax-related subscriptions. My work e-mail is for clients only (and a few colleagues). That way, if I want to read tax news when I’m not working, I’m not distracted by e-mails from clients. At the same time, my tax news goes to a different inbox. My shopping ads go somewhere else as well. While I don’t recommend having one e-mail address for each type of communications, having a few different e-mail addresses (one for “work work”, one for work reading and networking, one for personal use and shopping) can help to create boundaries that will keep you from being distracted by work when you are trying to shop and vice versa. Once you have your various inboxes set up (or not), it’s time to take a cold hard look at all of that digital clutter. Let’s face it, most of us don’t read the consumer disclosures when we sign up for something or use a business’ website. Whenever you provide your e-mail address to a business or use their website your e-mail address is captured. Unfortunately, not only does the business with which you are transacting use that as consent to e-mail you, often the use disclosure includes authorization for the business to sell your data (either anonomized or not) to other businesses. That’s why when you order custom business swag from one company you are not only inundated with additional e-mail from that company but you start getting e-mail solicitations from businesses selling similar or complementary products and/or services. The same thing happens when you register for continuing education classes, enter a drawing at an expo using your business card, or join a professional organization. You start getting e-mail solicitations from that company, but if, or when, that company monetizes their e-mail list, your e-mail address is included. Yay! (Can you sense my sarcasm?) I read once that it takes an average of nine “touches” to convince a consumer to make a purchase. Unfortunately because e-mail is relatively inexpensive and easily automated, many retail businesses use it to make all of those touches. Between regular shopping, gift shopping, professional organizations, professional news, regular news, it’s really easy for the amount of e-mail into your various inboxes to get completely overwhelming in a short period of time. That’s why it’s just good business to spend some time once or twice a year curating your subscriptions! If the thought of trimming down your subscriptions gives you FOMO, keep reading for some tips and tactics to make sure you still get important notifications while eliminating the excess.

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DeFi Games as a § 162 Activity

In our recent issue, we discussed the exponentially growing universe (or metaverse if you will) of DeFi or blockchain based gaming. In that article, I shared how dedicated players support their livelihood, especially in places with a low cost of living, by playing the games. In this issue we will explore the concept of a “Trade or Business” as defined by § 162, and how specifically how blockchain gaming meet this threshold. For a quick refresher of what constitutes a § 162 activity, see our article “Pros and Cons of Cryptocurrency Mining as a Trade or Business. Why become a trade or business? Meeting these requirements can make a difference between video games being treated as a hobby and becoming a tax benefit. Click here to keep reading.

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US V Harry Stonehill – America’s Jarndyce v Jarndyce

1962. It was the only year in which JFK was president for the whole entire year. World events impinged on my family. My older brother served onboard an aircraft carrier chasing Soviet submarines and when not recovering Mercury astronauts, had his four-year enlistment extended to five. Somehow the bright fourth grader that I was, I missed the story of the dramatic raid by the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation on March 3, 1962. According to reporter, Amando Doronila, who covered the raid, 200 agents seized 35 truckloads of documents from 27 offices and corporations controlled by American expatriate Harry Stonehill. Why should we care? Believe it or not, the implications of that March 3, 1962, raid are still being litigated in the United States. Read on to learn more!

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“The hardest thing to understand in the world is the income tax” – Albert Einstein You may have spoken to clergy members about many things, but I’ll bet you never spoke with them about their tax issues. Did you ever wonder whether and how clergy are taxed and how they pay taxes? Clergy taxation has some surprising twists and turns. Are they employees or self-employed? Is their income taxable or exempt from income tax? Can they deduct their business expenses? If these were multiple-choice questions, you might need an “all of the above” option. Or, as is often the case with tax-related questions, an “it depends” option. Tax compliance pitfalls and tax planning opportunities abound. Read on for more.

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Tax Planning for DeFi Based Games

As cryptocurrency continues to become more popular, its reach into areas not normally associated with crypto has expanded dramatically. One of the largest areas of growth is the DeFi Gaming sector. DeFi games function like regular video games with one major difference: They are either built on or rely on a blockchain to record activity. This can allow in-game assets to be NFTs that can be bought, sold, or even used in different gaming platforms. While this is a highly desirable ability for the player, it also carries with it tax consequences that gamers have previously not had to consider. With careful planning however, these tax consequences can be mitigated. Continue reading to learn more!

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