News

Posted on: September 17, 2013

Where is my Return?

Are you waiting for an IRS refund on an amended return you recently filed?  The IRS now has a way to check on the refund status without calling the general phone number.  If it has been three weeks since you have filed an amended Income Tax Return, you can  click on the “Where’s My Amended Return?” (WMAR) online tool, or call the new toll-free telephone line 866-464-2050. According to the IRS, WMAR provides personalized, automated, and the most up-to-date information on the status of amended returns in both English and Spanish. You can check the status of a Form 1040X filed for the current year, and up to three years prior.

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Posted on: January 17, 2013

American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 now law; Fiscal Cliff compromise makes significant changes

In what undeniably came down to the wire in the early hours of January 1, 2013, the Senate passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which, along with many other provisions, permanently extends the so-called Bush-era tax cuts for individuals making under $400,000 and families making under $450,000 (those above those thresholds now pay at a 39.6 percent rate). The House followed with passage late in the day on January 1; and President Obama signed the bill into law on January 2. Thus, the more than decade-long fight over the fate of the tax cuts, originally enacted under the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA), accelerated under the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (JGTRRA) and extended by Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (2010 Tax Relief Act) comes to an end.

Prelude to the Fiscal Cliff

On May 26, 2001, Congress passed the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA). The legislation was hailed as the largest tax cut in 20 years and dramatically changed the landscape of the federal tax code. Two years later, the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (JGTRRA) was signed into law and accelerated many of the tax cuts set in motion under EGTRRA. Originally scheduled to sunset, or expire, after December 31, 2010, Congress extended these popular provisions for another two years in late 2010 with the passage of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. In 2010, Congress acted before the end of the year to extend the cuts. At the end of 2012, Congress and President Obama engaged in intense negotiations over the “fiscal cliff,” a term that came to combine many federal laws that had a deadline of December 31, 2012, including the Bush-era tax cuts. Congress then passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 on New Year’s Day, 2013, effectively averting the fiscal cliff.

What Does This Mean for You?

The new law extends a majority of the Bush-era tax cuts in the same form as they have existed since 2001 or 2003 when initially enacted. However, major exceptions include a rise in rates, including a maximum 20 percent on capital gains and dividends, on higher-income individuals, as described above, and an increase in the estate tax rate from 35 to 40 percent. In addition to a general extension of the tax rates, many other provisions, including some not affected by the sunset of the Bush-era tax cuts, are significantly or permanently extended, including:

  • Marriage penalty relief;
  • Inflation protection against the alternative minimum tax (AMT);
  • Deductions for student loan interest and tuition and fees;
  • Enhanced child tax and child and dependent care credits;
  • Simplified earned income credit;
  • Deductions for primary and secondary school teacher expenses;
  • Deductions for state and local sales taxes;
  • Research credits;
  • Energy-efficiency credits for homes and vehicles; and
  • Many more provisions.

Unfortunately, the new law is also significant in what it does not do in one important respect. It does not renew the so-called payroll tax holiday that had been in effect during 2011 and 2012. As a result, employees and self-employed individuals will be paying 2 percent more employment tax on their earnings up to the Social Security wage base (which is up to $113,700 for 2013).

Finally, the American Taxpayer Relief Act also includes extensions of provisions that expired at the end of 2011, but now apply to the 2012 tax year. That means it has immediate effect on the 2013 filing season.

The landscape of federal tax law has changed once again, and with it the need to reassess present tax strategies. Please call this office if you have any questions about the new law or how it impacts you directly.

 


If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.

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Posted on: December 14, 2012

Additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on wages starts January 1st

President Obama’s health care package enacted two new taxes that take effect January 1, 2013. One of these taxes is the additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on earned income; the other is the 3.8 percent tax on net investment income. The 0.9 percent tax applies to individuals; it does not apply to corporations, trusts or estates. The 0.9 percent tax applies to wages, other compensation, and self-employment income that exceed specified thresholds.

Additional tax on higher-income earners

There is no cap on the application of the 0.9 percent tax. Thus, all earned income that exceeds the applicable thresholds is subject to the tax. The thresholds are $200,000 for a single individual; $250,000 for married couples filing a joint return; and $125,000 for married filing separately. The 0.9 percent tax applies to the combined earned income of a married couple. Thus, if the wife earns $220,000 and the husband earns $80,000, the tax applies to $50,000, the amount by which the combined income exceeds the $250,000 threshold for married couples.

The 0.9 percent tax applies on top of the existing 1.45 percent Hospital Insurance (HI) tax on earned income. Thus, for income above the applicable thresholds, a combined tax of 2.35 percent applies to the employee’s earned income. Because the employer also pays a 1.45 percent tax on earned income, the overall combined rate of Medicare taxes on earned income is 3.8 percent (thus coincidentally matching the new 3.8 percent tax on net investment income).

Passthrough treatment

For partners in a general partnership and shareholders in an S corporation, the tax applies to earned income that is paid as compensation to individuals holding an interest in the entity. Partnership income that passes through to a general partner is treated as self-employment income and is also subject to the tax, assuming the income exceeds the applicable thresholds. However, partnership income allocated to a limited partner is not treated as self-employment and would not be subject to the 0.9 percent tax. Furthermore, under current law, income that passes through to S corporation shareholders is not treated as earned income and would not be subject to the tax.

Withholding rules

Withholding of the additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax is imposed on an employer if an employee receives wages that exceed $200,000 for the year, whether or not the employee is married. The employer is not responsible for determining the employee’s marital status. The penalty for underpayment of estimated tax applies to the 0.9 percent tax. Thus, employees should realize that the employee may be responsible for estimated tax, even though the employer does not have to withhold.

Planning techniques

One planning device to minimize the tax  would be to accelerate earned income, such as a bonus, into 2012. Doing this would also avoid any increase in the income tax rates in 2013 from the sunsetting of the Bush tax rates. Holders of stock-based compensation may want to trigger recognition of the income in 2012, by exercising stock options or by making an election to recognize income on restricted stock.

Another planning device would be to set up an S corp, rather than a partnership, for operating a business, so that the income allocable to owners is not treated as earned income. An entity operating as a partnership could be converted to an S corp.

If you have any questions surrounding how the new 0.9 percent Medicare tax will affect the take home pay of you or your spouse, or how to handle withholding if you are a business owner, please contact this office.

 


If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.

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Posted on: December 14, 2012

White House, Congress seek to avert “fiscal cliff”

All eyes are on Washington as the White House and the GOP seek to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” before the end of the year.  President Obama and House Republicans are negotiating the fate of the Bush-era tax cuts, mandatory spending cuts and more in the last weeks of 2012 and negotiations are expected to go right up to the end of the year.  At the same time, the IRS has cautioned that the start of the 2013 filing season could be delayed for many taxpayers because of late tax legislation.

Taxes and spending

Almost immediately after President Obama won re-election, Democrats and Republicans scrambled to stake out their positions over the fiscal cliff.  Unless the White House and the GOP reach an agreement, the Bush-era tax cuts will expire for all taxpayers after 2012 and across-the-board spending cuts will take effect.  Many popular but temporary tax incentives, known as tax extenders, expired after 2011, with many more scheduled to expire after 2012.  The alternative minimum tax (AMT), intended many years ago to apply to wealthy taxpayers, is on track to encroach on more middle income taxpayers because it is not indexed for inflation.  Also, the employee-side payroll tax cut is scheduled to expire after 2012.

Since winning a second term, President Obama has repeated that the Bush-era tax cuts should expire for higher income individuals after 2012.  The top two tax rates would rise to 36 percent and 39.6 percent after 2012. All of the remaining rates would be extended.  Tax rates on capital gains and dividends would also increase for higher income individuals. On the campaign trail, President Obama described higher income taxpayers as individuals with incomes above $200,000 and families with incomes above $250,000.

President Obama has talked about trimming $4 trillion from the federal budget deficit.  Approximately $1.6 trillion would come from increased taxes on higher income individuals.  To achieve a target of $1.6 trillion in tax revenue, the Bush-era tax cuts could not be extended for higher income individuals.  Other incentives for higher income individuals would likely be curtailed or possibly eliminated under the President’s plan. These include the personal exemption phaseout (PEP) and the Pease limitation on itemized deductions. President Obama may also re-propose his “Buffett Rule,” which, the President has explained, would ensure that individuals making over $1 million a year pay a minimum effective tax rate of at least 30 percent.

The GOP, its majority reduced in the House after the November elections, has offered few details about its plans to avoid the fiscal cliff.  House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has indicated that the GOP may be open to raising revenue by closing tax loopholes and capping certain unspecified deductions for higher income individuals.  Revenue could also be raised by limiting or abolishing business tax deductions and credits.  Among the business tax incentives most often hinted at for elimination are ones for oil and gas producers. President Obama, however, has said that he will not support a deficit reduction plan that relies on closing undefined tax loopholes.

Possible scenarios

Looking ahead, several scenarios may play out before year-end.  President Obama and the GOP could agree on a tax and deficit reduction package that meets or comes close to the President’s targets.  President Obama and the GOP may agree to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and delay the spending cuts for three or six months to give everyone more time to negotiate a long-term deal.  On the other hand, both sides could fail to reach any agreement before year-end and the Bush-era tax cuts would expire as scheduled.  The spending cuts also would kick-in as scheduled.

Filing season

Whenever Congress changes the tax laws, the IRS has to reprogram its return processing systems.  Tax laws passed late in 2012 have the potential to delay the start of the 2013 filing season depending on how long it takes the IRS to reprogram its systems.

IRS officials have told Congress that they are preparing for late tax legislation, especially legislation on the AMT.  In past years, Congress has routinely “patched” the AMT to shield middle income taxpayers from its reach.  The IRS appears to be anticipating that Congress will patch the AMT for 2012.  If Congress does not, the IRS has warned that the start of the 2013 filing season could be delayed for as many as 60 million taxpayers.

The IRS also must reprogram its processing systems for the tax extenders.  These tax law changes generally do not require the level of reprogramming the AMT patch requires.  The IRS has predicted that any year-end extension of the extenders will be manageable.

Please contact our office if you have any questions about the tax and spending negotiations underway in Washington.

 


If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.

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Posted on: June 15, 2012

Welcome to Our New Site

At Crace Galvis McGrath our goal is to provide clients and prospective clients with the finest resources and information. Recently, our firm has undergone many new changes including the move to a new office and the launch of a new website. The new page will feature information on our business and detailed services offered and provide access to valuable resources. We will also continue to highlight significant news and provide information on our blog.

We ask that you please pardon our construction as we build our new website. Continue to check back for updates and useful information concerning our accounting and advisory services.

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