Your Questions Answered Archives - Think Outside the Tax Box

Your Questions Answered

By Peter J Reilly CPA

Tax Days of Our Lives: CPA Firm Contentious Breakup Ends in Tax Court Decision

I am going to nominate the Clark Raymond opinion as the best tax story of the year. At least, it is the best one for CPAs. You have to tease it out of the opinion, but there is a kind of rollicking story of troubled partner relationships. I did 40 years in large local and regional public accounting with a little bit of national icing on the cake and never encountered so much apparent dysfunction. Other commentary on the case has concluded that the lesson is about doing a good job maintaining your capital accounts, but I think the real lessons may be a little different.

It is public record, but the guys in the conflict are still practicing so out of professional courtesy I will refer to them as Tom, Dick, and Harry. There is another partner who is part of the story that I will call Jane. Also, for simplicity, I will ignore the fact that they held their partnership interests through single member entities and in Tom’s case in an entity with his wife who did administrative work. And I will refer to the entity involved as “the firm.”

The story is every accountant’s nightmare (and would make for a great tax-themed soap opera). Partners disagree. Partners walk out. Clients follow exiting partners to their new business leaving the old partner with debt.

Here is the story.

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Way Out of State Tax on Student Debt Forgiveness

There was some rain on the parade of celebration of the student loan debt forgiveness. The Tax Foundation, perhaps with a touch of schadenfreude, announced that the forgiveness, not federally taxable due to recent legislation, might be taxable in as many as thirteen states. They have taken a closer look and backpedaled quite a bit. It is now down to four states Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina and Wisconsin and those are not for sure. But, there is likely another way out for many of the recipients of this boon. Keep reading to learn more!

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Ethical Concerns in Using Tax Planning Software

Question: What are my ethical responsibilities when I use software to produce a tax plan? Answer: In the world of taxes, there are many ethical issues that can come into play. One area that involves judgment and expertise is when it comes to interpreting tax codes for various purposes such as taking deductions or understanding how ambiguous language might apply in certain situations – all while trying not to make any mistakes. To learn more about your ethical obligations, continue reading.

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The Inflation Reduction Act Overview: A Brief Guide for the Non-Tax Professional

Question: How can I explain the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act to my tax planning clients? Answer: The simplest solution I've found so far is to break the Act into three components: tax credits for electric vehicles, tax credits for home improvements, and how the IRS will use the new funds allocated to them. From there, it's a simple matter of identifying some of the core concepts behind each category. To save you some trouble, I've created new client alerts to illustrate how one might do that! Keep reading to learn more!

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Self Rental Tax Dilemma: Are Your Deductions at Risk?

It’s challenging at times to understand the passive activity loss guidelines. Many taxpayers are not fully aware of the rules or how they could affect investments and transactions. There are some details that, if not taken care of in advance, could have serious detrimental tax effects. The way to handle self-rentals in relation to the passive activity loss rules is one of these subtleties. Although many professionals know the self-rental regulations, there are some circumstances that can result in a loss of desired tax benefits. To continue learning about a general overview of the self-rental provision and the passive activity requirements and how to maximize your deductions from them, keep reading. You will also learn the effects of selling an operating company with a self-rental property still on the books.

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How to Avoid the Top 4 Mistakes in Selling Tax Planning to Current Clients

After two years of “The Tax Season That Never Ends,” tax pros everywhere are looking for ways to leverage their services and improve profit margins in their firms. But many are missing out on their biggest opportunity to dramatically increase profits: selling tax planning to existing clients. As technology has advanced and firms have adopted more automation, tax pros can do much more work in less time. This is a problem when you are in the business of selling billable hours. Additionally, as the Tax Code has grown in complexity, we often find that taxpayers don’t fully understand the value of our expertise and knowledge – they simply see the same prepared form year after year. This makes it difficult to continue increasing prices beyond the market rate for tax prep. As a result, many tax preparers have embraced value pricing for tax planning services. The market demand for strategic planning has increased and as small business owners embrace do-it-yourself accounting software, it is easy to offer this missing expert advice needed to assist the business owner in reducing tax expense. Accountants have found success in breaking through pricing barriers and reducing the risk of scope creep in their experiments with value pricing. Yet most are fearful of bringing this offer to existing clients and start offering higher priced planning only to new customers. Many judge that existing clients will be upset the pros haven’t offered this work in the past, assuming taxpayers will be unhappy missing out on value they could have created long ago. Still others worry merely raising rates will mean losing customers. Despite discovering that new customers really like price certainty and value the strategic work, tax pros are still reluctant to upsell existing relationships, thereby, offering different processes to lists of “new” and “old.” Yet considering it costs five times more to gain a new client than to approach an existing client, many accountants are leaving profits on the table. According to research by Bain and Company, increasing your client retention rate increases profits by 25 percent to 95 percent. And statistics show that keeping and selling more services to a current client is less expensive compared to securing a new client. Still, fear blocks many from making this transition, creating more loyal, profitable, and happy clients. Here are the four biggest mistakes I see tax professionals make by not offering advisory services to clients.

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How to Slash Your Property Taxes

Question: You talk a lot about reducing federal taxes, but what about other taxes? It seems like we get taxed on everything multiple times! Is this even legal? Answer: Isn’t it the truth! You may feel that your income, purchases, and belongings get taxed double, triple, and even more times. The saying goes, “nothing is certain except death and taxes.” And even when you die the same property and earnings may be taxed again. The Supreme Court even answered the question in 2015 about whether taxing the same income more than once is constitutional. In the case of Maryland v. Wynne, the 5-4 decision indicates that two states do not have the right to tax the same income. While many of the strategies discussed in Think Outside the Tax Box reduce federal taxes, most of them will reduce your state income taxes as well, depending on whether or not the state in which you pay taxes conforms to federal tax law. In addition, there are many state tax reduction strategies worth learning and implementing. However, did you know there are also tax reduction strategies for other types of taxes like property taxes? One of the oldest taxes and primary sources of revenue for states, counties, cities, schools, and fire departments comes from taxing the value of property owned within a jurisdiction. In some locations, this can include personal property as well as real estate. Like most good tax laws, property tax laws include loopholes you can use to pay less. To learn more, continue reading here.

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Tax Planning Software – Artificial Intelligence or Skill Saw?

Question: How much time should be devoted to studying tax planning? Can’t I just select a software providing Artificial Intelligence to Inform Me What to Do? Answer: To answer this question Dear Reader, I’ll ask a question in response. Are you a user of TurboTax or a similar software tool? Chances are as a reader of Think Outside the Tax Box, you use something (or someone) different than software purchased at a big box store. The answer to this question may be a similar situation to a semi-regular TikTok viewer of DIY household construction projects. Does the job require a router or a Dremel tool? If you’ve heard me talk about tax planning before, no doubt you’ve heard me describe tax planning software as an instrumental tool. It can provide valuable insights such as data extracted from your tax returns, calculation of minimum required estimated tax payments, and even a few tips to save annual tax. Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer braving a construction project in your home or a new business owner or novice tax planner, the answer depends on the nature of the job you are doing. Is it possible for this experienced Tax Planner of more than 20 years with an advanced degree and thousands of tax plans to complete a bathroom remodel in just a weekend with a Dremel tool? Certainly. I’ve even got the pictures to prove it. Just like the bathroom-in-a-weekend, it is possible with an off-the-internet-software to develop a few ideas to save some tax dollars. But if you look closely at my personal photos – you’ll notice the glue expired on my “driftwood” mirror frame. The recycled wood tiles failed to stay up with the shower moisture in the air, and while the dimensions of my replacement countertop – the walls were just a hair too uneven in my old house. In the end, my weekend project took more than 4 weekends of my precious free time, more than $1,200 in the after-the-fact hired help to fix my handywork, and a little of my pride revealing this online to a public audience. To read about when it is a DEAL BREAKER to rely on AI tax planning software, click here to continue reading.

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Top Crime Writer Cannot Avoid SE Tax on Book Royalties

Karin Slaughter’s novel False Witness focuses on a lawyer in a prestigious Atlanta firm gearing up for a criminal trial. Coincidentally we have this week the outcome of her own legal drama, which likely only excites the tax blogosphere. Her appeal to the Eleventh Circuit of a 2019 Tax Court decision confirming that she owed almost $190,000 in self-employment tax for 2010 and 2011 was unsuccessful. Read on to find out what we can learn from this lesson!

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