It’s hard to be logical all the time about everything. The most financially successful tax clients we serve at least attempt to force themselves to be logical, for their own benefit. For instance, our parents, as well as a subset of the economy including some popular radio show based advisors like Dave Ramsey, say you should pay off your home and have a “free and clear” deed as a goal (they are wrong in most cases by the way). That kind of thinking is emotional thinking, mixed perhaps with some presumptive attitude about what the general populous is capable of. “Well, we know we can’t get people to do what would really be best for them based on pure math and[…]

Many times business owners have come into our office and with our help have found that they were doing things incorrectly regarding their bookkeeping and taxes. Occasionally, the errors add to the tax burdens that they have been under-reporting. That never feels good, but it is always better to fix those issues prior to any audit. Often, errors discovered “pre-audit” can be fixed by simply amending the return, and no IRS issues follow, and everyone just moves on. But quite often, the errors made were not in their own favor. In those case, we help them file amended returns that net them large additional refunds for up to three years back, and that always feels great! So, how do these[…]

When people are contemplating selling an asset like a house, an investment property, stock or a business asset, it’s usually to make a profit or to raise cash. Sometimes, a house is sold in order to buy bigger (or smaller), to move to a different town to take a new job. In the case of stocks, it might be for the taking of profits, stopping further loses, or again to raise cash.  One common thread among all of these decisions is that people generally think about them for some time before they act, as usually these are among the largest assets they have. What we see often in the tax planning world is that people sell the asset, and then[…]

Tax Planning is a constant stream of adaptation to the new rules that the government and IRS come up with annually. One year we have a tax credit for new windows, the next year it goes away, but a new credit for heat pumps is added. The only constant is change. Occasionally, policies that are popular are extended and made permanent when the IRS has enough time and data that they can see that the tax break is having the expected effect in their budget for other government agendas. The new LIQCD (Legacy IRA Qualified Charitable Contribution) is one of those items that was added during the Secure 2.0 tax package in late 2022 that has yet to become mainstream,[…]

Tax policy and rates have always been fluid, much more so than most people realize, as they only focus on it for short periods one time a year. You also don’t see many high school or college classes on the history of taxes and tax planning, unless you’re in accounting school. Like a distant relative you see at an occasional wedding, you forget most of the prior experiences and conversations and simply repeat them as an act of convenience. It’s the lack of personal taxation understanding and the continuous ebbs and flows that allow the tax authorities to keep things the same just long enough to let people form habits, then change the tax rules to penalize the habits created.[…]

There is nothing permanent except change!  Stated by a Greek philosopher over 2500 years ago and it still stands true, especially in the tax code. Sometimes there are big changes, like the one coming in 2025/2026 with the expiration of TCJA, and sometimes small changes, but it’s a good bet that every year something for business owners that was deductible is not and something that was not deductible now is. It is an accountant’s job of course to keep track of all that, but the proactive communication between the accountants of the world and their clients is often lacking. A good example of this is entertainment. For a very long time entertainment was deductible for business owners while prospecting with[…]

Current tax rules now require that the entire balance of a non-spousal participant’s inherited IRA account to be distributed or withdrawn within 10 years of the death of the original owner. The 10-year rule applies regardless of whether the participant dies before, on, or after the RMD (required minimum distribution) age at which they had to begin withdrawals. In other words, you must withdraw the inherited funds within 10 years and pay income taxes on the distributed amounts. Since the withdrawals are required, you won’t pay the 10% penalty if you’re under the age of 59½. But you must pay income taxes on the distributions, and you must eventually empty the account. Children of IRA holders, same sex partners in some[…]

It’s human nature, of course. We complain about our weight while in the line at the ice-cream stand. We complain about being tired, then stay up late playing the latest game on our smart devices. Humans are funny and contradictory animals. Have you ever noticed that when you’re in a conversation, people are quick to complain about their taxes? Many people who complain about their tax bill are actually paying very little compared to most folks. However, some people pay a lot of unintended or surprise taxes. An example we see a great deal are self-employed folks. They will tell us “I pay too much in federal or state income taxes,” but on review of their 1040, they actually paid no[…]

Have you ever had a “light bulb” moment?  I have been driving for many years. I’ve driven at least a million miles and I own a few cars (I collect certain types), and when driving my spouse’s car or one from the collection that I haven’t driven in a while, inevitably it’s time to gas up. I pull up to a pump and get out and realize that the gas cap is on the other side, back up the car, turn it around with a sigh and fill it up. Then this year the “light bulb” moment. While trying to figure out the dashboard “iPhone” charger fuse location, I happened to be looking at the diagram of the fuel gauge in the manual from[…]

Some people have filed their tax return, received a refund and already spent it. Others have filed and paid and the “pain is over” for another year. But for many who have not filed and are looking at the calendar and saying “Oh, no!”, here are some tips. If you haven’t filed because of a natural disaster in your area, you may not have to do anything. The IRS gives a state by state accounting of any special things going on around the country that might affect filing deadlines. Click this link, go to your state and see: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/around-the-nation.   If you don’t have anything under special rules then you may extend the filing of your paperwork by submitting form[…]

Don’t let your stockbroker off the hook when it comes to tax planning. Many people work with brokers when they buy and sell stocks. Many people now, because of the internet, also have become their own stockbrokers, doing their own research and trading on various platforms. Whether you use a professional or do your trades yourself, you still need to hold your stockbroker accountable. What do I mean? If a broker is helping you buy and sell, they had to take a Series license of some kind. Sometimes, an RIA (Registered Investment Advisor) has taken a Series 65 exam. If it’s a representative of a broker/dealer, perhaps they’ve taken a Series 6 or a Series 7 exam. There are other possibilities, but the point is, these exams are[…]

With tax season in full swing and documents from broker/dealers and other investment companies coming out later and later, you can definitely smell the tax “angst” in the air. The amount of pressure that tax offices and their clients seem to be under is palpable. Why is this all happening and what about this is important to you? It’s happening because, over the years, although the IRS has stood firm at mid-January to April 15th as the filing season for 1040 filers, on the other side of the equation are the vendors themselves that have to send documents to the IRS: The banks, the mortgage companies, the investment companies, etc. The companies have managed to lobby and get extensions of time to[…]

The answer to that might surprise you. Because, for the most part, the answer is yes.  However, sometimes they are only fair if you know how to “play the game”. Most people think only the wealthy can avoid paying income tax because they know how to play the game. Well, at a much lower level, everybody knows some of the tricks to “playing the game”. For instance, you might be contributing to your 401(k) at work. Well, you’re playing the game. However, you might not know that even though you’re contributing everything you can to your 401(k) at work, you’re still allowed to open an additional private IRA, and take another several thousand dollars off of your taxable income. The trick is “knowing the rest of the rules[…]

When people save for retirement they almost automatically use accounts that avoid tax now. IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457s, all pretax retirement savings plans. Certainly, long term savings uninterrupted by withdrawals and the effect of compounding interest on interest earned is unarguably valuable, but doing that in pretax accounts is NOT the only way to have that happen! Non-qualified annuities and Roth IRAs allow the same mechanics of compounding to happen, and in retirement both can be as valuable depending on the circumstances and actions of the retiree. Annuities are underappreciated as a tax planning tool, because of the way earnings are treated as ordinary income upon withdrawal. However if annuitized at retirement (an option the advisors that distribute them don’t[…]

When you start tax planning with a new client, the first thing people often ask is why the accountant or CPA they are using doesn’t think or act the way you do in discussing the hunt for possible tax savings. After all, the current CPA is smart, trustworthy, running a successful accounting business and well respected in the community. So, why are you telling them all these wonderful new tax savings ideas that their CPA has never mentioned? There are many explanations, but the simplest is how the accountants themselves view the job that they do. Often, accountants think that the profession of accounting in its simplest form is the job of telling the story of money that has already[…]

At this time of year many people who were getting a refund have already filed their tax return. It leaves the remaining majority of folks who, despite having withholdings, are still going to owe additional tax. We talk a great deal about tax planning and changing behaviors to achieve better outcomes in the future, but many are faced right now with a tax bill for last year. So, what can be done? Anything? The answer is YES! It’s actually simple and easy for most folks to substantially reduce the tax liability they are facing by opening a prior year IRA! It is one of the very few ways the IRS allows you to retroactively affect your taxes. What if you[…]

People often struggle with record keeping and are typically so busy that they are simply unaware of tools or services that have been developed that could greatly improve the recording of tax deductible expenses, mileage, etc. There are many topics we could cover here, but two that are universal. If you are in business, you have a phone and a car. Cell phones are pretty typical for smaller companies. What we usually see is a personal cell phone bill of about $150-200 a month, and of course the business owner wants to deduct it all. When you start asking questions however, it’s almost always a family plan with the spouse and kids on it, so 80% of the cost and[…]

An often overlooked tax savings opportunity comes from not fully understanding how you can use your cars as a deduction on your tax return.  It is very common for people who have a Schedule C sole proprietor type business to claim their mileage on automobiles. But the privilege of using personal deductions on a tax return is not limited to someone who is filing a Schedule C.  For instance, a landlord might own three apartment buildings and file a schedule E on his personal tax return and not feel like he is “self-employed” as he has a full-time W-2 job. However, the use of his personal car on that schedule E is just as deductible as it is for the[…]

Often people will have one-time “Income Events” that greatly increase the income tax due in that year. Finding ways to mitigate that additional tax, especially for younger people, can be challenging. In some cases, setting up a Charitable Lead Trust (CLT) in order to receive an upfront income tax deduction might be viable option. A person who has significant and unusual taxable income in a particular year can establish the grantor lead trust and use the charitable income tax deduction to mitigate the impact of taxes in his or her situation. An example might be someone who has received the proceeds from selling a business, or a stock option at work is coming due. A far more common and likely[…]

As weather interrupts some parts of the country and business owners have to scramble and fill in the gaps of employees, supplies, deliveries and the like, it’s easy for them to worry about taxes later, after all, there’s “plenty of time.” That often comes back to bite them though, sometimes hard. If they run their business as a sole proprietorship then yes, they have until mid-April to file, and until mid-October if they file an extension.  However, the majority of small businesses under pay tax estimates, if they pay them at all, and the first filing date (mid-April) is when the taxes are due, even with an extension to file. The penalties and interest are based on what’s owed and[…]

People who are worried about the 10 year rule, requiring beneficiaries of inherited IRAs to withdraw the entire balance within 10 years, can double that time with a CRT beneficiary in front of inheritors.  What if you really have a big IRA and the 10 year rule just isn’t enough of a stretch to help your beneficiary stay out of the top tax bracket?  Or any other reason you care about reducing the negative tax impact from the 10-year rule? You could use other remaining tax rules to your benefit by setting up a charitable trust.  A charitable trust allows the retirement assets to continue growing tax-deferred, even once the assets are distributed from the retirement account into the CRT.[…]

Have you worked toward losing weight in the past because you want to look more attractive, or fit into an expensive wardrobe you already own? When you lose weight you often also lower your blood pressure and/or cholesterol as a bonus. It might not be the primary motivation, but the extra benefit is of course welcome! If you are a business owner, then we pose this question. Some time ago you had an idea. Over the years your turned that idea into a successful and profitable business. Have you properly protected what you worked so hard to build?  An unexpected turn of events could put your biggest asset at risk. Did you know that moving business earnings into a qualified[…]

People try, but “adulting” is hard!  Kids, pets, job, relatives, friends, bills, medical problems, car problems, work problems all in the last day, so when I have time I will start tax planning.  Same as….so when I have time I will start estate planning, it’s just so far down on most peoples’ day to day list of things to do that all the other issues just cycle in some complex order that nobody understands and the last two items never seem to bubble up to the top…UNTIL THEY DO! If you are a business owner, thoughts of tax planning might bubble to the surface a couple times a year, perhaps March 15th and April 15th (or later if you have[…]

There are many ways a tax return can be done that are all OK with the IRS, but only one of those ways nets the largest refund! People need to understand this across America, and we talk about tax planning constantly. We blog, tweet, post, email and on and on, yet we as an industry are not even getting 10% of the public to take on tax planning! The clients who do are often thrilled at the outcomes, and yet it’s just hard to get people to want to spend half the time that they spend planning their vacations on planning their own tax outcomes, even though larger refunds would pay for those vacations! Tax planning offices often don’t look like a franchise such[…]

Dear Santa, I feel like you put me on the naughty list every year. When I file my tax return you impose taxes on me that I don’t want to pay. It feels like tons of coal are being unfairly put into my very little stockings. I try to be a good person all year, so I’m not sure why you are singling me out and treating me this way. Dear Suzie, You are not on the naughty list. In fact, you’re not on any list at all. You’re not being watched by me or my elves, unless you are doing things you ought not be doing. Every year I actually provide you with lots of presents, the following just[…]

People who earn more than a certain amount and who are enrolled in Medicare Part B or Medicare Part D, or both, will face additional premiums, called The Medicare Income-Related Monthly Adjusted Amount (IRMAA). IRMAA “surcharges,” which is a replacement word for a tax, are based on income earned two years prior to the coverage year. So, for example, a client enrolling in Medicare in 2023 would pay an IRMAA surcharge based on their 2021 tax return. Generally there are two types of people that pay IRMAA surcharges: Those who might be affected and those who will always be affected. Because it is income based, people with an unusual income event may only be affected once, while people with higher incomes may always[…]

We talk a lot about people not doing tax planning and not spending more time creating the tax outcomes they want. We urge people to understand that it’s within their own control and that tax outcomes can be legally and ethically manipulated. We go on and on about the benefits.  But…we understand why it’s so rarely done! It is because almost nothing in people’s lives has more constant change than taxes, and keeping up with all the changes can be an overwhelming challenge. What if every four years your banking rules changed, “Oh I’m sorry John, we no longer pay you interest, now you pay us interest to keep money here.” Or “Now you have to send in your mortgage payment daily,[…]

Many people have the intention of doing a better job of “tax planning” in order to start having more favorable outcomes, but busy lives and life interruptions can leave them little time.  If this is you, you’re not alone.  Time flies even in normal times, but with the current stressful environment, everyone is scrambling even more, so you look at the calendar and think, “I can go see my accountant or financial advisor, or I can get my shopping done”, and the next thing you know it, it’s Thanksgiving and the end of the year is upon us. Most advanced tax planning requires communication about concepts, takes reams of paperwork and time to submit to custodians, so it would be[…]