Individual Tax briefs
Two important tax deadlines are coming up — and they don’t involve filing your 2022 tax return
April 18 is the deadline for filing your 2022 tax return. But a couple of other tax deadlines are coming up in April and they’re important for certain taxpayers:
- Saturday, April 1 is the last day to begin receiving required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRAs, 401(k)s and similar workplace plans for taxpayers who turned 72 during 2022.
- Tuesday, April 18 is the deadline for making the first quarterly estimated tax payment for 2023, if you’re required to make one.
Here are the basic details about these two deadlines.
Taking a first RMD
RMDs are normally made by the end of the year. But anyone who reached age 72 during 2022 is covered by a special rule that allows IRA account owners and participants in workplace retirement plans to wait until as late as April 1, 2023, to take their first RMD. For an IRA, you must take your first RMD by April 1 of the year following the year in which you turn 72, regardless of whether you’re still employed.
You may have heard the age for beginning RMDs went up. Under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement 2.0 Act (SECURE 2.0), the age distributions must begin increased from age 72 to age 73 starting on January 1, 2023. But if you turned 72 during 2022, you must take your first RMD by April 1.
If your RMDs in any year are less than the required amount for that year, you’ll generally be subject to a penalty.
Making estimated tax payments
You may have to make estimated tax payments for 2023 if you receive interest, dividends, alimony, self-employment income, capital gains or other income. If you don’t pay enough tax during the year through withholding and estimated payments, you may be liable for a tax penalty on top of the tax that’s ultimately due.
Individuals must pay 25% of their “required annual payment” by April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15 of the following year, to avoid an underpayment penalty. If one of those dates falls on a weekend or holiday, the payment is due the next business day. For example, this year the filing deadline is April 18 for most taxpayers because April 15 falls on a Saturday and April 17 is a holiday in the District of Columbia.
The required annual payment for most individuals is the lower of 90% of the tax shown on the current year’s return or 100% of the tax shown on the return for the previous year. However, if the adjusted gross income on your previous year’s return was more than $150,000 ($75,000 if you’re married filing separately), you must pay the lower of 90% of the tax shown on the current year’s return or 110% of the tax shown on the return for the previous year.
Generally, people who receive most of their income in the form of wages satisfy these payment requirements through the tax withheld from their paychecks by their employers. Those who make estimated tax payments generally do so in four installments. After determining the required annual payment, they divide that number by four and make four equal payments by the due dates.
But you may be able to use the annualized income method to make smaller payments. This method is useful to people whose income isn’t uniform over the year, for example because they’re involved in a seasonal business.
Staying on track
Contact us if you have questions about RMDs and estimated tax payments. We can help you stay on track so you aren’t liable for penalties.
Claiming losses on depreciated or worthless stock
Have you bought stock in a company that later dropped in value? While you may prefer to forget such an ill-fated investment, at least you can claim a capital loss deduction on your tax return. Here are the rules that apply when a stock you own is sold at a loss or becomes completely worthless.
Stock sales produce capital losses
Stocks are capital assets and produce capital gains or losses when they’re sold. Your capital gains and losses for the year must be netted against one another in a specific order, based on whether they’re short-term (held one year or less) or long-term (held for more than one year).
If, after netting, you have short-term or long-term losses (or both), you can use them to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income ($1,500 for married taxpayers filing separately). Any loss in excess of this limit is carried forward to later years, until all of it is either offset against capital gains or deducted against ordinary income in those years, subject to the $3,000 limit. If you have both net short-term losses and net long-term losses, the net short-term losses are used to offset ordinary income before the net long-term losses are used.
If you’ve realized capital gains during the year from stock or other asset sales, consider selling some of your losing positions to offset the gains. A good tax strategy is to sell enough losing stock to shelter your earlier gains and generate a $3,000 loss, since this is the maximum loss that can be used to offset ordinary income each year.
Wash sale rule
If you believe that a stock you own will recover but want to sell now in order to lock in a tax loss, be aware of the wash sale rule. Under it, if you sell stock at a loss and buy substantially identical stock back within the 30-day period before or after the sale date, you can’t claim the loss for tax purposes. In order to claim the loss, you must buy the new shares outside of the period that begins 30 days before and ends 30 days after the sale of the loss stock.
In some cases, stock you own may have become completely worthless. If so, you can claim a loss equal to your basis in the stock, which is generally what you paid for it. The stock is treated as though it had been sold on the last day of the tax year. This date is important because it determines whether your capital loss is long-term or short-term.
Stock shares become worthless when they have no liquidation value, because the corporation’s liabilities exceed its assets, and no potential value, because the business has no reasonable hope of becoming profitable. A stock can be worthless even if the corporation hasn’t declared bankruptcy. Conversely, stock may still have value even after a bankruptcy filing, if the corporation continues operating and the stock continues trading.
You may not discover that a stock has become worthless until after you’ve filed your tax return for the year of worthlessness. In that case, you can amend your return for that year to claim a credit or refund due to the loss. This can be done for seven years from the date your original return was due, or two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
Other rules may apply. For example, if you’re a victim of a Ponzi-type investment scheme, you may be able to mitigate your financial loss by taking advantage of special tax relief available. Let us know if you have any questions.
Awarded money in a lawsuit or settlement? It’s only tax-free in certain circumstances
You generally must pay federal tax on all income you receive but there are some exceptions when you can exclude it. For example, compensatory awards and judgments for “personal physical injuries or physical sickness” are free from federal income tax under the tax code. This includes amounts received in a lawsuit or a settlement and in a lump sum or in installments.
But as taxpayers in two U.S. Tax Court cases learned, not all awards are tax-free. For example, punitive damages and awards for unlawful discrimination or harassment are taxable. And the tax code states that “emotional distress shall not be treated as a physical injury or physical sickness.”
Here are the facts of the two cases.
Case #1: Payment was for personal injuries, not physical injuries
A taxpayer received a settlement of more than $327,000 from his former employer in connection with a lawsuit. He and his spouse didn’t report any part of the settlement on their joint tax return for the year in question. The IRS determined the couple owed taxes and penalties of more than $119,000 as a result of not including the settlement payment in their gross income.
Although the settlement agreement provided the payment was “for alleged personal injuries,” the Tax Court stated there was no evidence that it was paid on account of physical injuries or sickness. The court noted that the taxpayer’s complaint against the employer “alleged only violations of (state) labor and antidiscrimination laws, wrongful termination, breach of contract, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
The taxpayer argued that he had a physical illness that caused his employer to terminate him. But he didn’t provide a “direct causal link” between the illness and the settlement payment. Therefore, the court ruled, the amount couldn’t be excluded from his gross income. (TC Memo 2022-90)
Case #2: Legal malpractice payment doesn’t qualify for exclusion
This case began when the taxpayer was injured while at a hospital receiving medical treatment. She sued for negligence but lost her case. She then sued her attorneys for legal malpractice.
She received $125,000 in a settlement of her lawsuit against the attorneys. The amount was not reported on her tax return for the year in question. The IRS audited the taxpayer’s return and determined that the $125,000 payment should have been included in gross income. The tax agency issued her a bill for more than $32,000 in taxes and penalties.
The taxpayer argued that the payment was received “on account of personal physical injuries or physical sickness” because if it wasn’t for her former attorneys’ allegedly negligent representation, she “would have received damages from the hospital.” The IRS argued the amount was taxable because it was for legal malpractice and not for physical injuries. The U.S. Tax Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the IRS. (Blum, 3/23/22)
As you can see, the requirements for tax-free income from a settlement are strict. If you receive a court award or out-of-court settlement, consult with us about the tax implications.
Child Tax Credit: The rules keep changing but it’s still valuable
If you’re a parent, you may be confused about the rules for claiming the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The rules and credit amounts have changed significantly over the last six years. This tax break became more generous in 2018 than it was under prior law — and it became even better in 2021 for eligible parents. Even though the enhancements that were available for 2021 have expired, the CTC is still valuable for parents. Here are the current rules.
For tax years 2022 and 2023, the CTC applies to taxpayers with children under the age of 17 (who meet CTC requirements to be ‘’qualifying children’’). A $500 credit for other dependents is available for dependents other than qualifying children.
The CTC is currently $2,000 for each qualifying child under the age of 17. (For tax years after 2025, the CTC will go down to $1,000 per qualifying child, unless Congress acts to extend the higher amount.)
The refundable portion of the credit is a maximum $1,400 (adjusted annually for inflation) per qualifying child. The earned income threshold for determining the amount of the refundable portion for these years is $2,500. (With a refundable tax credit, you can receive a tax refund even if you don’t owe any tax for the year.) The $500 credit for dependents other than qualifying children is nonrefundable.
Credit for other dependents
In terms of the $500 nonrefundable credit for each dependent who isn’t a qualifying child under the CTC rules, there’s no age limit for the credit. But certain tax tests for dependency must be met. This $500 credit can be used for dependents including:
- Those age 17 and older.
- Dependent parents or other qualifying relatives supported by you.
- Dependents living with you who aren’t related to the taxpayer.
AGI “phase-out” thresholds
You qualify for the full amount of the 2022 CTC for each qualifying child if you meet all eligibility factors and your annual adjusted gross income isn’t more than $200,000 ($400,000 if married and filing jointly). Parents with higher incomes may be eligible to claim a partial credit.
Before 2018 and after 2025, the income threshold amounts for the total credit are lower: $110,000 for a joint return; $75,000 for an individual filing as single, head of household or a qualifying widow(er); and $55,000 for a married individual filing a separate return.
Claiming the CTC
To claim the CTC for a qualifying child, you must include the child’s Social Security number (SSN) on your return. The number must have been issued before the due date for filing the return, including extensions. If a qualifying child doesn’t have an SSN, you may claim the $500 credit for other dependents for that child.
To claim the $500 credit for other dependents, you’ll need to provide a taxpayer identification number for each non-CTC-qualifying child or dependent, but it can be an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number or SSN.
If you expect the CTC to reduce your income tax, you may want to reduce your wage withholding. This is done by filing a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, with your employer.
These are the basics of the CTC. As you can see, it’s changed quite a bit and the credit is scheduled to change again in 2026. Contact us if you have any questions.
Answers to your questions about 2023 limits on individual taxes
Many people are more concerned about their 2022 tax bills right now than they are about their 2023 tax situations. That’s understandable because your 2022 individual tax return is due to be filed in 10 weeks (unless you file an extension).
However, it’s a good time to familiarize yourself with tax amounts that may have changed for 2023. Due to inflation, many amounts have been raised more than in past years. Below are some Q&As about tax limits for this year.
Note: Not all tax figures are adjusted annually for inflation and some amounts only change when new laws are enacted.
I didn’t qualify to itemize deductions on my last tax return. Will I qualify for 2023?
In 2017, a law was enacted that eliminated the tax benefit of itemizing deductions for many people by increasing the standard deduction and reducing or eliminating various deductions. For 2023, the standard deduction amount is $27,700 for married couples filing jointly (up from $25,900). For single filers, the amount is $13,850 (up from $12,950) and for heads of households, it’s $20,800 (up from $19,400). If the amount of your itemized deductions (including mortgage interest) is less than the applicable standard deduction amount, you won’t itemize for 2023.
How much can I contribute to an IRA for 2023?
If you’re eligible, you can contribute $6,500 a year to a traditional or Roth IRA, up to 100% of your earned income. (This is up from $6,000 for 2022.) If you’re 50 or older, you can make another $1,000 “catch up” contribution (for 2023 and 2022).
I have a 401(k) plan through my job. How much can I contribute to it?
In 2023, you can contribute up to $22,500 to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan (up from $20,500 in 2022). You can make an additional $7,500 catch-up contribution if you’re age 50 or older (up from $6,500 in 2022).
I periodically hire a cleaning person. Do I have to withhold and pay FICA tax on the amounts I pay them?
In 2023, the threshold when a domestic employer must withhold and pay FICA for babysitters, house cleaners, etc. who are independent contractors is $2,600 (up from $2,400 in 2022).
How much do I have to earn in 2023 before I can stop paying Social Security on my salary?
The Social Security tax wage base is $160,200 for this year (up from $147,000 last year). That means that you don’t owe Social Security tax on amounts earned above that. (You must pay Medicare tax on all amounts that you earn.)
If I don’t itemize, can I claim charitable deductions on my 2023 return?
Generally, taxpayers who claim the standard deduction on their federal tax returns can’t deduct charitable donations. For 2020 and 2021, non-itemizers could claim a limited charitable contribution deduction. Unfortunately, this tax break has expired and isn’t available for 2022 or 2023.
How much can I give to one person without triggering a gift tax return in 2023?
The annual gift exclusion for 2023 is $17,000 (up from $16,000 in 2022).
Only the beginning
These are only some of the tax amounts that may apply to you. If you have questions or need more information, contact us.
Retirement plan early withdrawals: Make sure you meet the requirements to avoid a penalty
Most retirement plan distributions are subject to income tax and may be subject to an additional penalty if you take an early withdrawal. What’s considered early? In general, it’s when participants take money out of a traditional IRA or other qualified retirement plan before age 59½. Such distributions are generally taxable and may be subject to a 10% penalty tax.
Note: The additional penalty tax is 25% if you take a distribution from a SIMPLE IRA in the first two years you participate in the SIMPLE IRA plan.
Fortunately, there are several ways that the penalty tax (but not the regular income tax) can be avoided. However, the rules are complex. As the taxpayer in one new court case found, if you don’t meet the requirements, you’ll be forced to pay the penalty.
Some exceptions to the 10% early withdrawal penalty tax are only available to taxpayers who take early distributions from traditional IRAs, while others can only be used with qualified retirement plans such as 401(k)s.
Some examples of exceptions include:
- Paying for medical costs that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income,
- Taking annuity-like annual withdrawals under IRS guidelines,
- Withdrawing money from an IRA, SEP or SIMPLE plan up to the amount of qualified higher education expenses for you, your spouse, children or grandchildren, and
- Taking withdrawals of up to $10,000 from an IRA, SEP or SIMPLE plan for qualified first-time homebuyers.
Facts of the new case
Another exception is available for the total and permanent disability of the retirement plan participant or IRA owner. In one case, a taxpayer took a retirement plan distribution of $19,365 before he reached age 59½, after losing his job as a software developer. According to the U.S. Tax Court, he had been diagnosed with diabetes, which he treated with insulin shots and other medications.
The taxpayer filed a tax return for the year of the distribution but didn’t report it as income because of his medical condition. The retirement plan administrator reported the amount as an early distribution with no known exception on Form 1099-R, which was sent to the IRS and the taxpayer.
The court ruled that the taxpayer didn’t qualify for an exception due to disability. The court noted that an individual is considered disabled if, at the time of a withdrawal, he or she is “unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or to be of long-continued and indefinite duration.”
In this case, the taxpayer was previously diagnosed with diabetes, but he had been able work up until the year at issue. Therefore, the federal income tax deficiency of $4,899 was upheld. (TC Memo 2023–9)
As the taxpayer in this case discovered, taking early distributions is one area where guidance is important. We can help you determine if you’re eligible for any exception to the 10% early withdrawal penalty tax.
Why you might want to file early and answers to other tax season questions
The IRS announced it opened the 2023 individual income tax return filing season on January 23. That’s when the agency began accepting and processing 2022 tax year returns. Even if you typically don’t file until much closer to the mid-April deadline (or you file for an extension), consider filing earlier this year. The reason is you can potentially protect yourself from tax identity theft.
Here are some answers to questions taxpayers may have about filing.
How can your tax identity be stolen?
In a typical tax identity theft scam, a thief uses another individual’s personal information to file a fraudulent tax return early in the filing season and claim a bogus refund.
The actual taxpayer discovers the fraud when he or she files a return and is told by the IRS that the return is being rejected because one with the same Social Security number has already been filed for the tax year. Ultimately, the taxpayer should be able to prove that his or her return is the legitimate one, but tax identity theft can be time consuming and frustrating to straighten out. It can also delay a refund.
Your best defense may be to file early. Why? If you file first, the tax return filed by a potential thief will be rejected.
What are this year’s deadlines?
This year, the filing deadline to submit 2022 returns or file an extension is Tuesday, April 18 for most taxpayers. The due date is April 18, instead of April 15, because the 15th falls on a weekend and the District of Columbia’s Emancipation Day holiday falls on Monday, April 17.
If you’re requesting an extension, you’ll have until October 16, 2023, to file. Keep in mind that an extension of time to file your return doesn’t grant you any extension of time to pay your taxes. You should estimate and pay any taxes owed by the regular deadline to help avoid penalties.
When will your W-2s and 1099s arrive?
To file your tax return, you need all of your Form W-2s and 1099s. January 31 is the deadline for employers to issue 2022 W-2s to employees and, generally, for businesses to issue Form 1099s to recipients of any 2022 interest, dividend or reportable miscellaneous income payments (including those made to independent contractors).
If you haven’t received a W-2 or 1099 by February 1, first contact the entity that should have issued it. If that doesn’t work, ask us how to proceed.
Are there any other advantages to filing early?
In addition to protecting yourself from tax identity theft, another advantage of early filing is that, if you’re getting a refund, you’ll get it sooner. The IRS expects most refunds to be issued within 21 days. The time may be shorter if you file electronically and receive a refund by direct deposit into a bank account.
Direct deposit also avoids the possibility that a refund check could be lost, stolen, returned to the IRS as undeliverable or caught in mail delays.
If you have questions or would like an appointment to prepare your return, please contact us. We can help ensure you file an accurate return and receive all of the tax breaks to which you’re entitled.
Tax-saving ways to help pay for college — once your child starts attending
If you have a child or grandchild in college — congratulations! To help pay for the expenses, many parents and grandparents saved for years in tax-favored accounts, such as 529 plans. But there are also a number of tax breaks that you may be able to claim once your child begins attending college or post-secondary school.
Tuition tax credits
You can take the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) of up to $2,500 per student for the first four years of college — a 100% credit for the first $2,000 in tuition, fees, and books, and a 25% credit for the second $2,000. You can take a Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) of up to $2,000 per family for every additional year of college or graduate school — a 20% credit for up to $10,000 in tuition and fees.
The AOTC is 40% refundable up to $1,000 (meaning you can get a refund if the credit amount is greater than your tax liability). Both credits are phased out for married couples filing jointly with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) between $160,000 and $180,000, and for singles with MAGI between $80,000 and $90,000.
Only one credit can be claimed per eligible student in any given year. To claim the education tax credits, a taxpayer must receive a Form 1098-T statement from the school. Other rules may apply.
Scholarships are exempt from income tax if certain conditions are satisfied. The most important is that the scholarship generally can’t be compensation for services, and it must be used for tuition, fees, books and supplies (not for room and board).
However, a tax-free scholarship reduces the amount of expenses that may be taken into account in computing the AOTC and LLC and may reduce or eliminate those credits.
Employer educational assistance
If your employer pays your child’s college expenses, the payment is a fringe benefit, and is taxable to you as compensation, unless it’s part of a scholarship program that’s “outside of the pattern of employment.” Then, the payment will be treated as a scholarship (if the requirements for scholarships are satisfied).
Tuition payments by grandparents and others
If someone gives you money to pay your child’s college expenses, the person is generally subject to gift tax, to the extent the payments exceed the annual exclusion of $17,000 per recipient for 2023. Married donors who split gifts may exclude gifts of up to $34,000 for 2023.
However, if the person (say, a grandparent) pays your child’s tuition directly to an educational institution, there’s an unlimited exclusion from gift tax for the payment. This unlimited gift tax exclusion applies only to direct tuition costs (not room and board, books, supplies, etc.).
Retirement account withdrawals
You can take money out of your IRA or Roth IRA any time to pay college costs without incurring the 10% early withdrawal penalty that usually applies to distributions before age 59½. However, the distributions are subject to tax under the usual IRA rules.
You also may be able to borrow against your employer retirement plan or take withdrawals from it to pay for college. But before you do so, make sure you understand the tax implications, including any penalties that you may incur.
Not all of the above breaks may be used in the same year, and some of them reduce the amounts that qualify for other breaks. So it takes planning to determine which should be used in any given situation. Contact us if you’d like to discuss any of the above options, or other alternatives.
Tax-wise ways to save for college
If you’re a parent or grandparent with college-bound children, you may want to save to fund future education costs. Here are several approaches to take maximum advantage of the tax-favored ways to save that may be available to you.
Series EE U.S. savings bonds offer two tax-saving opportunities when used to finance college expenses:
- You don’t have to report the interest on the bonds for federal tax purposes until the bonds are cashed in, and
- Interest on “qualified” Series EE (and Series I) bonds may be exempt from federal tax if the bond proceeds are used for qualified college expenses.
To qualify for the college tax exemption, you must purchase the bonds in your own name (not the child’s) or jointly with your spouse. The proceeds must be used for tuition, fees, etc. — not room and board. If only some proceeds are used for qualified expenses, only that part of the interest is exempt.
If your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds certain amounts, the exemption is phased out. For bonds cashed in 2023, the exemption begins to phase out when joint MAGI hits $137,800 for married joint filers ($91,850 for other returns) and is completely phased out if MAGI is $167,800 or more for joint filers ($106,850 or more for others).
Qualified tuition programs or 529 plans
Typically known as a “529 plans,” these programs allow you to buy tuition credits or make contributions to an account set up to meet a child’s future higher education expenses. 529 plans are established by state governments or private institutions.
Contributions aren’t deductible and are treated as taxable gifts to the child. But they’re eligible for the annual gift tax exclusion ($17,000 in 2023). A donor who contributes more than the annual exclusion limit for the year can elect to treat the gift as if it were spread out over a five-year period.
Earnings on the contributions accumulate tax-free until the college costs are paid from the funds. Distributions from 529 plans are tax-free to the extent the funds are used to pay “qualified higher education expenses,” which can include up to $10,000 in tuition for an elementary or secondary school. Distributions of earnings that aren’t used for “qualified higher education expenses” are generally subject to income tax plus a 10% penalty.
Coverdell education savings accounts (ESAs)
You can establish a Coverdell ESA and make contributions of up to $2,000 for each child under age 18. This age limitation doesn’t apply to beneficiaries with special needs.
The right to make contributions begins to phase out once AGI is over $190,000 on a joint return ($95,000 for single taxpayers). If the income limit is an issue, the child can make a contribution to his or her own account.
Although contributions aren’t deductible, income in the account isn’t taxed, and distributions are tax-free if spent on qualified education expenses. If the child doesn’t attend college, the money must be withdrawn when the child turns 30 and any earnings will be subject to tax plus a penalty. However, unused funds can be transferred tax-free to a Coverdell ESA of another member of the family who hasn’t reached age 30. The age 30 requirement doesn’t apply to individuals with special needs.
We can help
These are just some of the tax-favored ways to save a college fund for your children. In a future article, we’ll discuss possible tax breaks once your child is already in college. Contact us if you wish to discuss these issues.
SECURE 2.0 law may make you more secure in retirement
A new law was recently signed that will help Americans save more for retirement, although many of the provisions don’t kick in for a few years. The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement 2.0 Act (SECURE 2.0) was signed into law on December 29, 2022.
SECURE 2.0 is meant to build on the original SECURE Act of 2019, which made major changes to the required minimum distribution (RMD) rules and other retirement provisions.
Here are some of the significant retirement plan changes and when they’ll become effective:
- The age for beginning RMDs is going up. Employer-sponsored qualified retirement plans, traditional IRAs and individual retirement annuities are subject to RMD rules. They require that benefits start being distributed by the required beginning date. Under the new law, the age distributions must begin increases from age 72 to age 73 starting on January 1, 2023. It will then increase to age 75 starting on January 1, 2033.
- There will be higher “catch-up” contributions for 401(k) participants ages 60 through 63. Currently, participants in certain retirement plans can make additional catch-up contributions if they’re age 50 or older. The limit on catch-up contributions to 401(k) plans is $7,500 for 2023. SECURE 2.0 will increase the 401(k) plan catch-up contribution limits for individuals ages 60 through 63 to the greater of $10,000 or 150% of the regular catch-up amount. The increased amounts will be indexed for inflation after 2025. This provision will take effect for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2024. (There will also be increased catch-up amounts for SIMPLE plans.)
- Tax-free rollovers will be allowed from 529 accounts to Roth IRAs. SECURE 2.0 will permit beneficiaries of 529 college savings accounts to make direct trustee-to-trustee rollovers from a 529 accounts in their names to their Roth IRAs without tax or penalty. Several rules apply. This provision is effective for distributions after December 31, 2023.
- “Matching” contributions will be permitted for employees with student loan debt. The new law will allow an employer to make matching contributions to 401(k) and certain other retirement plans with respect to “qualified student loan payments.” The result of this provision is that employees who can’t afford to save money for retirement because they’re repaying student loan debt can still receive matching contributions from their employers into retirement plans. This will take effect beginning after December 31, 2023.
Non-retirement plan provision
There are also some parts of the law that aren’t related to retirement plans, including a change to Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts. Tax-exempt ABLE programs are established by states to assist individuals with disabilities. Currently, in order to be the beneficiary of an ABLE account, an individual’s disability or blindness must have occurred before age 26. SECURE 2.0 increases this age limit to 46, which will make more people eligible to benefit from an ABLE account. This provision is effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2025.
Just the beginning
These are only some of the many provisions in SECURE 2.0. Contact us if you have any questions about your situation.
Renting to a relative? Watch out for tax traps
If you own a home and rent it to a relative, you may be surprised to find out there could be tax consequences.
Quick rundown of the rules
Renting out a home or apartment that you own may result in a tax loss for you, even if the rental income is more than your operating costs. You’ll be entitled to a depreciation deduction for your cost of the house or apartment (except for the portion allocated to the land). However, if your tenant is related to you, special rules and limitations may apply. For this purpose, “related” means a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent or sibling.
No limitations apply if:
- You rent a home to a relative who uses it as his or her principal residence (that is, not just as a second or vacation home) for the year, and
- The home is rented at a fair market rent amount (not at a discount).
In these cases, you can deduct all the normal rental expenses, even if they result in a rental loss for the year. (If you have a loss, however, it’s a “passive” loss, which may be subject to a different set of limitations.)
Below fair market rent
Problems arise if you set the rent below the fair market rental value. The reason is this then becomes a rental property that you’re treated as using personally. So you’d have to allocate the expenses between the personal and rental portions of the year. Even more seriously, however, since all of the rental days (at a bargain rate to a relative) are treated as personal days, the rental portion would be zero. Thus, you’d have to report all of the rent you receive in income, but none of your expenses for the home would be deductible. (You’d still be able to deduct the mortgage interest, assuming it otherwise qualifies as deductible, and property taxes. These items are deductible even for nonrental homes.)
Given the above problems, it’s important to set the rent at a fair rate. Factors to look at include comparable rentals in the area and whether you made any “side” gifts to your relative (to help pay the rent) that could reasonably be interpreted to be a bargain element.
Contact us if you have any questions or would like to discuss any of these matters in more detail.
Answers to your questions about taking withdrawals from IRAs
As you may know, you can’t keep funds in your traditional IRA indefinitely. You have to start taking withdrawals from a traditional IRA (including a SIMPLE IRA or SEP IRA) when you reach age 72.
The rules for taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) are complicated, so here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
What if I want to take out money before retirement?
If you want to take money out of a traditional IRA before age 59½, distributions are taxable and you may be subject to a 10% penalty tax. However, there are several ways that the 10% penalty tax (but not the regular income tax) can be avoided, including to pay: qualified higher education expenses, up to $10,000 of expenses if you’re a first-time homebuyer and health insurance premiums while unemployed.
When do I take my first RMD?
For an IRA, you must take your first RMD by April 1 of the year following the year in which you turn 72, regardless of whether you’re still employed.
How do I calculate my RMD?
The RMD for any year is the account balance as of the end of the immediately preceding calendar year divided by a distribution period from the IRS’s “Uniform Lifetime Table.” A separate table is used if the sole beneficiary is the owner’s spouse who is 10 or more years younger than the owner.
How should I take my RMDs if I have multiple accounts?
If you have more than one IRA, you must calculate the RMD for each IRA separately each year. However, you may aggregate your RMD amounts for all of your IRAs and withdraw the total from one IRA or a portion from each of your IRAs. You don’t have to take a separate RMD from each IRA.
Can I withdraw more than the RMD?
Yes, you can always withdraw more than the RMD. But you can’t apply excess withdrawals toward future years’ RMDs.
In planning for RMDs, you should weigh your income needs against the ability to keep the tax shelter of the IRA going for as long as possible.
Can I take more than one withdrawal in a year to meet my RMD?
You may withdraw your annual RMD in any number of distributions throughout the year, as long as you withdraw the total annual minimum amount by December 31 (or April 1 if it is for your first RMD).
What happens if I don’t take an RMD?
If the distributions to you in any year are less than the RMD for that year, you’ll be subject to an additional tax equal to 50% of the amount that should have been paid out, but wasn’t.
Plan ahead wisely
Contact us to review your traditional IRAs and to analyze other aspects of your retirement planning. We can also discuss who you should name as beneficiaries and whether you could benefit from a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs are retirement savings vehicles that operate under a different set of rules than traditional IRAs. Contributions aren’t deductible but qualified distributions are generally tax-free.
Strategies for investors to cut taxes as year-end approaches
The overall stock market has been down during 2022 but there have been some bright spots. As year-end approaches, consider making some moves to make the best tax use of paper losses and actual losses from your stock market investments.
Tax rates on sales
Individuals are subject to tax at a rate as high as 37% on short-term capital gains and ordinary income. But long-term capital gains on most investment assets receive favorable treatment. They’re taxed at rates ranging from 0% to 20% depending on your taxable income (inclusive of the gains). High-income taxpayers may pay an additional 3.8% net investment income tax.
Sell at a loss to offset earlier gains
Have you realized gains earlier in the year from sales of stock held for more than one year (long-term capital gains) or from sales of stock held for one year or less (short-term capital gains)? Take a close look at your portfolio and consider selling some of the losers — those shares that now show a paper loss. The best tax strategy is to sell enough losers to generate losses to offset your earlier gains plus an additional $3,000 loss. Selling to produce this loss amount is a tax-smart idea because a $3,000 capital loss (but no more) can offset the same amount of ordinary income each year.
For example, let’s say you have $10,000 of capital gain from the sale of stocks earlier in 2022. You also have several losing positions, including shares in a tech stock. The tech shares currently show a loss of $15,000. From a tax standpoint, you should consider selling enough of your tech stock shares to recognize a $13,000 loss. Your capital gains will be offset entirely, and you’ll have a $3,000 loss to offset against the same amount of ordinary income.
What if you believe that the shares showing a paper loss may turn around and eventually generate a profit? In order to sell and then repurchase the shares without forfeiting the loss deduction, you must avoid the wash-sale rules. This means that you must buy the new shares outside of the period that begins 30 days before and ends 30 days after the sale of the loss stock. However, if you expect the price of the shares showing a loss to rise quickly, your tax savings from taking the loss may not be worth the potential investment gain you may lose by waiting more than 30 days to repurchase the shares.
Use losses earlier in the year to offset gains
If you have capital losses on sales earlier in 2022, consider whether you should take capital gains on some stocks that you still hold. For example, if you have appreciated stocks that you’d like to sell, but don’t want to sell if it causes you to have taxable gain this year, consider selling just enough shares to offset your earlier-in-the-year capital losses (except for $3,000 that can be used to offset ordinary income). Consider selling appreciated stocks now if you believe they’ve reached (or are close to) the peak price and you also feel you can invest the proceeds from the sale in other property that’ll give you a better return in the future.
These are just some of the year-end strategies that may save you taxes. Contact us to discuss these and other strategies that should be put in place before the end of December.
How savings bonds are taxed
Many people have savings bonds that were purchased many years ago. Perhaps they were given to your children as gifts or maybe you bought them yourself. You may wonder how the interest you earn is taxed. And if they reach final maturity, what action do you need to take to ensure there’s no loss of interest or unanticipated tax consequences?
Series EE Bonds dated May 2005 and after earn a fixed rate of interest. Bonds purchased between May 1997 and April 30, 2005, earn a variable market-based rate of return.
Paper Series EE Bonds, issued between 1980 and 2012, are sold at half their face value. For example, you pay $25 for a $50 bond. The bond isn’t worth its face value until it matures. New electronic EE Bonds earn a fixed rate of interest that’s set before you buy the bond. They earn that rate for their first 20 years and the U.S. Treasury may change the rate for the last 10 years of the bond’s 30-year life. Electronic EE bonds are sold at their face value. For example, you pay $100 for a $100 bond.
The minimum ownership term is one year, but a penalty is imposed if the bond is redeemed in the first five years.
Series EE bonds don’t pay interest currently. Instead, accrued interest is reflected in the redemption value of the bond. The U.S. Treasury issues tables showing redemption values. Series EE bond interest isn’t taxed as it accrues unless the owner elects to have it taxed annually. If the election is made, all previously accrued but untaxed interest is also reported in the election year. In most cases, the election isn’t made so that the benefit of tax deferral can be enjoyed. On the other hand, if the bond is owned by a taxpayer with little or no other current income, it may be beneficial to incur the income in low or no tax years to avoid future inclusion. This may be the case with bonds owned by children, although the “kiddie tax” may apply.
If the election isn’t made, all of the accrued interest is taxed when the bond is redeemed or otherwise disposed of (unless it was exchanged for a Series HH bond in an option available before September 1, 2004). The bond continues to accrue interest even after reaching its face value but at “final maturity” (after 30 years) interest stops accruing and must be reported (again, unless it was exchanged for an HH bond).
If you own EE bonds (paper or electronic), check the issue dates on your bonds. If they’re no longer earning interest, you probably want to redeem them and put the money into something more profitable.
Series I savings bonds are designed to offer a rate of return over and above inflation. The earnings rate is a combination of a fixed rate, which will apply for the life of the bond, and the inflation rate. Rates are announced each May 1 and November 1.
Series I bonds are issued at par (face amount). An owner of Series I bonds may either:
- Defer reporting the increase in the redemption (interest) to the year of final maturity, redemption, or other disposition, whichever is earlier, or
- Elect to report the increase each year as it accrues.
If 2 is elected, the election applies to all Series I bonds then owned by the taxpayer, those acquired later, and to any other obligations purchased on a discount basis, (for example, Series EE bonds). You can’t change to method 1 unless you follow a specific IRS procedure.
State and local taxes
Although the interest on EE and I bonds is taxable for federal income tax purposes, it’s exempt from state and local taxes. And using the money for higher education may keep you from paying federal income tax on the interest. Contact us if you have any questions about savings bond taxation.
Year-end giving to charity or loved ones
The holiday season is here and many people plan to donate to their favorite charities or give money or assets to their loved ones before the end of the year. Here are the basic tax rules involved in these transactions.
Donating to charity
In 2022, in order to receive a charitable donation write-off, you must itemize deductions on your tax return. What if you want to give gifts of investments to your favorite charities? There are a couple of points to keep in mind.
First, don’t give away investments in taxable brokerage accounts that are currently worth less than what you paid for them. Instead, sell the shares and claim the resulting capital loss on your tax return. Then, give the cash proceeds from the sale to charity. In addition, if you itemize, you can claim a full tax-saving charitable deduction.
The second point applies to securities that have appreciated in value. These should be donated directly to charity. The reason: If you itemize, donations of publicly traded shares that you’ve owned for over a year result in charitable deductions equal to the full current market value of the shares at the time the gift is made. In addition, if you donate appreciated stock, you escape any capital gains tax on those shares. Meanwhile, the tax-exempt charity can sell the donated shares without owing any federal income tax.
Charitable donations from your IRA
IRA owners and beneficiaries who’ve reached age 70½ are permitted to make cash donations totaling up to $100,000 annually to IRS-approved public charities directly out of their IRAs. You don’t owe income tax on these qualified charitable distributions (QCDs), but you also don’t receive an itemized charitable contribution deduction.
The upside is that the tax-free treatment of QCDs equates to an immediate 100% federal income tax deduction without having to worry about restrictions that can potentially delay itemized charitable write-offs. Contact your tax advisor if you want to hear about the full benefits of QCDs. If you’re interested in taking advantage of this strategy for 2022, you’ll need to arrange with your IRA trustee or custodian for money to be paid out to one or more qualifying charities before year end.
Giving to loved ones
The principles for tax-smart gifts to charities also apply to gifts to family members and loved ones. That is, you should sell investments that are currently worth less than what you paid for them and claim the resulting tax-saving capital losses. Then, give the cash proceeds from the sale to your children, grandchildren or other loved ones.
Likewise, you should give appreciated stock directly to those to whom you want to give gifts. When they sell the shares, they’ll pay a lower tax rate than you would if they’re in a lower tax bracket.
In 2022, the amount you can give to one person without gift tax implications is $16,000 per recipient (increasing to $17,000 in 2023). The annual gift exclusion is available to each taxpayer. So if you’re married and make a joint gift with your spouse, the exclusion amount is doubled to $32,000 per recipient for 2022.
Whether you’re giving to charity or loved ones (or both) this holiday season, it’s important to understand the tax consequences of gifts. Contact us if you have questions about taxes and any gifts you want to make.
Adopting a child? Bring home a tax break too
Two tax benefits are available to offset the expenses of adopting a child. In 2022, adoptive parents may be able to claim a credit against their federal tax for up to $14,890 of “qualified adoption expenses” for each child. This will increase to $15,950 in 2023. That’s a dollar-for-dollar reduction of tax.
Also, adoptive parents may be able to exclude from gross income up to $14,890 in 2022 ($15,950 in 2023) of qualified expenses paid by an employer under an adoption assistance program. Both the credit and the exclusion are phased out if the parents’ income exceeds certain limits.
Parents can claim both a credit and an exclusion for expenses of adopting a child. But they can’t claim both a credit and an exclusion for the same expenses.
To qualify for the credit or the exclusion, the expenses must be “qualified adoption expenses.” These are the reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, travel expenses (including meals and lodging), and other expenses directly related to the legal adoption of an “eligible child.”
Qualified expenses don’t include those connected with the adoption of a child of a spouse, a surrogate parenting arrangement, expenses that violate state or federal law or expenses paid using funds received from a government program. Expenses reimbursed by an employer don’t qualify for the credit, but benefits provided by an employer under an adoption assistance program may qualify for the exclusion.
Expenses related to an unsuccessful attempt to adopt a child may qualify. Expenses connected with a foreign adoption (the child isn’t a U.S. citizen or resident) qualify only if the child is actually adopted.
Taxpayers who adopt a child with special needs are deemed to have qualified adoption expenses in the tax year in which the adoption becomes final, in an amount sufficient to bring their total aggregate expenses for the adoption up to $14,890 for 2022 ($15,950 for 2023). They can take the adoption credit or exclude employer adoption assistance up to that amount, whether or not they had those amounts of actual expenses.
An eligible child is under age 18 at the time a qualified expense is paid. A child who turns 18 during the year is eligible for the part of the year he or she is under age 18. A person who is physically or mentally incapable of caring for him- or herself is eligible, regardless of age.
A special needs child refers to one who the state has determined can’t or shouldn’t be returned to his or her parents and who can’t be reasonably placed with adoptive parents without assistance because of a specific factor or condition. Only a child who is a citizen or resident of the U.S. is included in this category.
The credit allowed for 2022 is phased out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) over $223,410 ($239,230 for 2023) and is eliminated when AGI reaches $263,410 ($279,230 for 2023).
Note: The adoption credit isn’t “refundable.” So, if the sum of your refundable credits (including any adoption credit) for the year exceeds your tax liability, the excess amount isn’t refunded to you. In other words, the credit can be claimed only up to your tax liability.
Get the full benefit
Contact us with any questions. We can help ensure you get the full benefit of the tax savings available to adoptive parents.
How inflation will affect your 2022 and 2023 tax bills
The effects of inflation are all around. You’re probably paying more for gas, food, health care and other expenses than you were last year. Are you wondering how high inflation will affect your federal income tax bill for 2023? The IRS recently announced next year’s inflation-adjusted tax amounts for several provisions.
Standard deduction. What does an increased standard deduction mean for you? A larger standard deduction will shelter more income from federal income tax next year. For 2023, the standard deduction will increase to $13,850 for single taxpayers, $27,700 for married couples filing jointly and $20,800 for heads of household. This is up from the 2022 amounts of $12,950 for single taxpayers, $25,900 for married couples filing jointly and $19,400 for heads of household.
The highest tax rate. For 2023, the highest tax rate of 37% will affect single taxpayers and heads of households with income exceeding $578,125 ($693,750 for married taxpayers filing jointly). This is up from 2022 when the 37% rate affects single taxpayers and heads of households with income exceeding $539,900 ($647,850 for married couples filing jointly).
Retirement plans. Many retirement plan limits will increase for 2023. That means you’ll have an opportunity to save more for retirement if you have one of these plans and you contribute the maximum amount allowed. For example, in 2023, individuals will be able to contribute up to $22,500 to their 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans and most 457 plans. This is up from $20,500 in 2022. The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in these plans will also rise in 2023 to $7,500. This is up from $6,500 in 2022.
For those with IRA accounts, the limit on annual contributions will rise for 2023 to $6,500 (from $6,000). The IRA catch-up contribution for those age 50 and up remains at $1,000 because it isn’t adjusted for inflation.
Flexible spending accounts (FSAs). These accounts allow owners to pay for qualified medical costs with pre-tax dollars. If you participate in an employer-sponsored health Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you can contribute more in 2023. The annual contribution amount will rise to $3,050 (up from $2,850 in 2022). FSA funds must be used by year end unless an employer elects to allow a two-and-one-half-month carryover grace period. For 2023, the amount that can be carried over to the following year will rise to $610 (up from $570 for 2022).
Taxable gifts. Each year, you can make annual gifts up to the federal gift tax exclusion amount. Annual gifts help reduce the taxable value of your estate without reducing your unified federal estate and gift tax exemption. For 2023, the first $17,000 of gifts to as many recipients as you would like (other than gifts of future interests) aren’t included in the total amount of taxable gifts. (This is up from $16,000 in 2022.)
While it will be quite a while before you have to file your 2023 tax return, it won’t be long until the IRS begins accepting tax returns for 2022. When it comes to taxes, it’s nice to know what’s ahead so you can take advantage of all the tax breaks to which you are entitled.
Plan now to make tax-smart year-end gifts to loved ones
Are you feeling generous at year end? Taxpayers can transfer substantial amounts free of gift taxes to their children or other recipients each year through the proper use of the annual exclusion.
The exclusion amount is adjusted for inflation annually, and for 2022, the amount is $16,000.
The exclusion covers gifts that an individual makes to each recipient each year. So a taxpayer with three children can transfer a total of $48,000 to the children this year free of federal gift taxes. If the only gifts during a year are made this way, there’s no need to file a federal gift tax return. If annual gifts exceed $16,000, the exclusion covers the first $16,000 and only the excess is taxable.
Note: This discussion isn’t relevant to gifts made to a spouse because they’re gift tax-free under separate marital deduction rules.
Gift splitting by married taxpayers
If you’re married, gifts made during a year can be treated as split between the spouses, even if the cash or asset is actually given to an individual by only one of you. Therefore, by gift splitting, up to $32,000 a year can be transferred to each recipient by a married couple because two exclusions are available. So for example, a married couple with three married children can transfer a total of $192,000 each year to their children and the children’s spouses ($32,000 times six).
If gift splitting is involved, both spouses must consent to it. This is indicated on the gift tax return (or returns) the spouses file. (If more than $16,000 is being transferred by a spouse, a gift tax return must be filed, even if the $32,000 exclusion covers total gifts.)
The “present interest” requirement
For a gift to qualify for the annual exclusion, it must be a “present interest” gift, meaning the recipient’s enjoyment of the gift can’t be postponed to the future. For example, let’s say you put cash into a trust and provide that your adult child is to receive income from it while your child is alive and your grandchild is to receive the principal at your child’s death. Your grandchild’s interest is a “future interest.” Special valuation tables determine the value of the separate interests you set up for each recipient. The gift of the income interest qualifies for the annual exclusion because enjoyment of it isn’t deferred, so the first $16,000 of its total value won’t be taxed. However, the “remainder” interest is a taxable gift in its entirety.
If the gift recipient is a minor and the terms of the trust provide that the income may be spent by or for the minor before he or she reaches age 21, and that any amount left is to go to the minor at age 21, then the annual exclusion is available. The present interest rule won’t apply.
“Unified” credit for taxable gifts
Even gifts that aren’t covered by the exclusion, and are therefore taxable, may not result in a tax liability. That’s because a tax credit wipes out the federal gift tax liability on the first taxable gifts that you make in your lifetime, up to $12.06 million for 2022. However, to the extent you use this credit against a gift tax liability, it reduces or eliminates the credit available for use against the federal estate tax at your death.
Questions? Contact us. We can also prepare a gift tax return for you if more than $16,000 is given to a single person this year.