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Tax reform discussions continue on Capitol Hill with legislation expected to be released very soon. GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate appear to be aiming for a comprehensive overhaul of the Tax Code. President Trump and Republicans in Congress have set out an ambitious schedule of passing a tax reform bill before year-end. 


Year-end tax planning can provide most taxpayers with a good way to lower a tax bill that will otherwise be waiting for them when they file their 2017 tax return in 2018. Since tax liability is primarily keyed to each calendar tax year, once December 31, 2017 passes, your 2017 tax liability for the most part – good or bad – will mostly be set in stone.


As the 2018 filing season nears, the IRS is reminding taxpayers that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains on the books. The ACA’s reporting requirements for individuals have not been changed by Congress. At the same time, the Trump Administration has proposed administrative changes to the ACA, which could expand health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), the use of short-term, limited duration health insurance, and association health plans.


Holiday gifts made to customers are generally deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses as long as the taxpayer can demonstrate that such gifts maintain or improve customer goodwill. Such gifts must bear a direct relationship to the taxpayer's business and must be made with a reasonable expectation of a financial return commensurate with the amount of the gift. However, the $25 annual limitation per recipient on deductibility is applicable to holiday gifts, unless a statutory exceptions applies.


For purposes of federal tax, employers must withhold and pay FICA taxes (7.65%) if they paid a household employee cash wages of at least $2,000 in 2016 or in 2017 ($2,100 in 2018). Employers must pay FUTA tax (6%) if they paid total cash wages of at least $1,000 in a calendar quarter to household employees. A homeowner may be an “employer” to a housekeeper; or, if enough evidence is shown, merely a recipient of services by an independent contractor or self-employed individual.


As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important federal tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of November 2017.


Everyone in business must keep records. Among other things, good records will help a business prepare the business tax returns, and will support items reported on tax returns. Taxpayers also must keep their business records available for inspection by the IRS.


Many federal income taxes are paid from amounts that are withheld from payments to the taxpayer. For instance, amounts roughly equal to an employee's estimated tax liability are generally withheld from the employee's wages and paid over to the government by the employer. In contrast, estimated taxes are taxes that are paid throughout the year on income that is not subject to withholding. Individuals must make estimated tax payments if they are self-employed or their income derives from interest, dividends, investment gains, rents, alimony, or other funds that are not subject to withholding.


When accelerating or deferring income or expenses at year end as part of an overall tax strategy, certain timing rules become critical. So does the ability to prove to the IRS when certain actions take place. The following timing rules, among others, should be considered especially important as year-end approaches:


An LLC (limited liability company) is not a federal tax entity. LLCs are organized under state law. LLCs are not specifically mentioned in the Tax Code, and there are no special IRS regulations governing the taxation of LLCs comparable to the regulations for C corporations, S corporations, and partnerships. Instead, LLCs make an election to be taxed as a particular entity (or to be disregarded for tax purposes) by following the check-the-box business entity classification regulations. The election is filed on Form 8832, Entity Classification Election. The IRS will assign an entity classification by default if no election is made. A taxpayer who doesn't mind the IRS default entity classification does not necessarily need to file Form 8832.


Certain planning techniques involve the use of interest rates to value interests being transferred to charity or to private beneficiaries. While the use of these techniques does not necessarily depend on the interest rate, low interest rates may increase their value.


Although it is generally not considered prudent to withdraw funds from a retirement savings account until retirement, sometimes it may appear that life leaves no other option. However, borrowing from certain qualified retirement savings account rather than taking an outright distribution might prove the best solution to getting you through a difficult period. If borrowing from a 401(k) plan or other retirement savings plan becomes necessary, for example to pay emergency medical expenses or for a replacement vehicle essential to getting to work, you should be aware that there is a right way and a number of wrong ways to go about it.


Some individuals must pay estimated taxes or face a penalty in the form of interest on the amount underpaid. Self-employed persons, retirees, and nonworking individuals most often must pay estimated taxes to avoid the penalty. But an employee may need to pay them if the amount of tax withheld from wages is insufficient to cover the tax owed on other income. The potential tax owed on investment income also may increase the need for paying estimated tax, even among wage earners.


Everybody knows that tax deductions aren't allowed without proof in the form of documentation. What records are needed to "prove it" to the IRS vary depending upon the type of deduction that you may want to claim. Some documentation cannot be collected "after the fact," whether it takes place a few months after an expense is incurred or later, when you are audited by the IRS. This article reviews some of those deductions for which the IRS requires you to generate certain records either contemporaneously as the expense is being incurred, or at least no later than when you file your return. We also highlight several deductions for which contemporaneous documentation, although not strictly required, is extremely helpful in making your case before the IRS on an audit.


A disregarded entity refers to a business entity with one owner that is not recognized for tax purposes as an entity separate from its owner.  A single-member LLC ("SMLLC"), for example, is considered to be a disregarded entity. For federal and state tax purposes, the sole member of an SMLLC disregards the separate legal status of the SMLLC otherwise in force under state law.


Depreciation is a reasonable allowance for wear and tear on property used in a trade or business or for the production of income. Property is depreciable if it has a useful life greater than one year and depreciates in value. Property that appreciates in value may also  depreciate if subject to wear and tear. Depreciation ends in the tax year that the asset is retired from service (by sale, exchange, abandonment or destruction) or that the asset is fully depreciated.

In light of the IRS’s new Voluntary Worker Classification Settlement Program (VCSP), which it announced this fall, the distinction between independent contractors and employees has become a “hot issue” for many businesses. The IRS has devoted considerable effort to rectifying worker misclassification in the past, and continues the trend with this new program.  It is available to employers that have misclassified employees as independent contractors and wish to voluntarily rectify the situation before the IRS or Department of Labor initiates an examination.

Job-hunting expenses are generally deductible as long as you are not searching for a job in a new field. This tax benefit can be particularly useful in a tough job market. It does not matter whether your job hunt is successful, or whether you are employed or unemployed when you are looking.

With the stock market fluctuating up and down (but especially down), some investors may decide to cash out investments that they initially planned to hold.  They may have taxable gains or losses they did not expect to realize.  Other investors may look to diversifying their portfolios further, moving a more significant portion into Treasury bills, CDs and other “cash-like” instruments, or even into gold and other precious metals. Here are reminders about some of the tax issues involved in these decisions.

Whether for a day, a week or longer, many of the costs associated with business trips may be tax-deductible. The tax code includes a myriad of rules designed to prevent abuses of tax-deductible business travel. One concern is that taxpayers will disguise personal trips as business trips. However, there are times when taxpayers can include some personal activities along with business travel and not run afoul of the IRS.

With school almost out for the summer, parents who work are starting to look for activities for their children to keep them occupied and supervised. The possibilities include sending a child to day camp or overnight camp. Parents faced with figuring out how to afford the price tag of these activities may wonder whether some or part of these costs may be tax deductible. At least two possible tax breaks should be considered: the dependent care credit in most cases, and the deduction for medical expenses in certain special situations.

Most people are familiar with tax withholding, which most commonly takes place when an employer deducts and withholds income and other taxes from an employee's wages. However, many taxpayers are unaware that the IRS also requires payors to withhold income tax from certain reportable payments, such as interest and dividends, when a payee's taxpayer identification number (TIN) is missing or incorrect. This is known as "backup withholding."

As the 2015 tax filing season comes to an end, now is a good time to begin thinking about next year's returns. While it may seem early to be preparing for 2016, taking some time now to review your recordkeeping will pay off when it comes time to file next year.


A business with a significant amount of receivables should evaluate whether some of them may be written off as business bad debts. A business taxpayer may deduct business bad debts if the receivable becomes partially or completely worthless during the tax year.

Estimated tax is used to pay tax on income that is not subject to withholding or if not enough tax is being withheld from a person's salary, pension or other income. Income not subject to withholding can include dividends, capital gains, prizes, awards, interest, self-employment income, and alimony, among other income items. Generally, individuals who do not pay at least 90 percent of their tax through withholding must estimate their income tax liability and make equal quarterly payments of the "required annual payment" liability during the year.


In-plan Roth IRA rollovers are a relatively new creation, and as a result many individuals are not aware of the rules. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 made it possible for participants in 401(k) plans and 403(b) plans to roll over eligible distributions made after September 27, 2010 from such accounts, or other non-Roth accounts, into a designated Roth IRA in the same plan. Beginning in 2011, this option became available to 457(b) governmental plans as well. These "in-plan" rollovers and the rules for making them, which may be tricky, are discussed below.


Although individual income tax returns don't have to be filed until April 15, taxpayers who file early get their refunds a lot sooner. The IRS begins accepting returns in January but does not start processing returns until February. Determining whether to file early depends on various personal and financial considerations. Filing early to somehow fly under the IRS's audit radar, however, has been ruled out long ago by experts as a viable strategy.


A business can deduct ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred in carrying on any trade or business. The expense must be reasonable and must be helpful to the business.

If one of your children received a full scholarship for all expenses to attend college this year, you may be wondering if this amount must be reported on his or her income tax return. If certain conditions are met, and the funds are used specifically for certain types of expenses, your child does not have to report the scholarship as income.

While the economy continues to slowly recover, many businesses continue to face customers struggling to pay outstanding bills for services or goods. The Tax Code provides relief to businesses faced with the inability to collect on accounts receivable. Businesses that are unable to get customers to pay the bill can claim a deduction for the “bad debt.”


Q. I spend 20 hours every week cooking meals and delivering them to an organization that feeds the hungry and homeless. Am I entitled to a deduction for my time and the food I pay for out of my own money?

Debt that a borrower no longer is liable for because it is discharged by the lender can give rise to taxable income to the borrower. Debt forgiveness income or cancellation of debt income ("COD" income) is the amount of debt that a lender has discharged or canceled. However, in many situations, the canceled debt is excluded from taxable income.

Employees can elect to make voluntary contributions from their salary to certain retirement plans. The type of plan may depend on your employer. Many employers maintain cash or deferred arrangements -- 401(k) plans -- as part of their defined contribution retirement plan. State and local governments can maintain "457" eligible deferred compensation plans. Nonprofit organizations can provide a 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity. And, of course, taxpayers can contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA).

Many businesses are foregoing salary increases this year because of the economic downturn. How does a business find and retain employees, as well as keep up morale, in the face of this reality? The combined use of fringe benefits and the tax law can help. Some attractive fringe benefits may be provided tax-free to employees and at little cost to employers.

The small business corporation (S corp) is one of the most popular business entities today, offering its shareholders the flow-through tax treatment of a partnership and the limited liability of a corporation. The S corp has become an even more prominent entity in the small business community, in part, because the IRS has relaxed certain requirements for electing S corp status. A small business corporation does not need to elect to be treated as an S corp each year to maintain S corp status.

If you use your car for business purposes, you may have learned that keeping track and properly logging the variety of expenses you incur for tax purposes is not always easy. Practically speaking, how often and how you choose to track expenses associated with the business use of your car depends on your personality; whether you are a meticulous note-taker or you simply abhor recordkeeping. However, by taking a few minutes each day in your car to log your expenses, you may be able to write-off a larger percentage of your business-related automobile costs.

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In order to be tax deductible, compensation must be a reasonable payment for services. Smaller companies, whose employees frequently hold significant ownership interests, are particularly vulnerable to IRS attack on their compensation deductions.


Ordinarily, you can deduct the fair market value (FMV) of property contributed to charity. The FMV is the price in an arm's-length transaction between a willing buyer and seller. If the property's value is less than the price you paid for it, your deduction is limited to FMV. In some cases, you must submit an appraisal with your tax return.

More small businesses get into trouble with the IRS over payroll taxes than any other type of tax. Payroll taxes are a huge source of government revenue and the IRS takes them very seriously. It is actively looking for businesses that have fallen behind in their payroll taxes or aren't depositing them. When the IRS finds a noncompliant business, it hits hard with penalties.

Q: After what period is my federal tax return safe from audit? A: Generally, the time-frame within which the IRS can examine a federal tax return you have filed is three years. To be more specific, Code Sec. 6501 states that the IRS has three years from the later of the deadline for filing the return (usually April 15th for individuals) or, if later, the date you actually filed the return on a requested filing extension or otherwise. This means that if you file your 2014 return on July 10, 2015, the IRS will have until July 10, 2018 to look at it and "assess a deficiency;" not April 15, 2018.


One of the easiest ways for a business to limit liability is to use independent contractors instead of employees. Of course, merely calling employees "independent contractors" will not make those individuals independent contractors.

Entertaining business clients and employees at sports events or arts performances can be good for the bottom line; and tax deductible, too. Whether to maintain contacts with existing customers, woo new business, or reward your employees; footing the bill at the ball game or hosting an evening at the theater can go a long way to generate positive returns.

No, taxpayers may destroy the original hardcopy of books and records and the original computerized records detailing the expenses of a business if they use an electronic storage system.

U.S. Savings Bonds can be a relatively risk-free investment during time of upheaval in the stock market, such as we are experiencing now. There are two different types of savings bonds for tax purposes. The first includes Series EE bonds and Series I bonds. If you invest in these bonds, you have a choice of reporting interest as it accrues each year you hold the bond until you sell it or redeem it. A second category consists of a special type of savings bond, HH bonds, on which income generally must be reported as accrued.


A pre-tax benefit can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but usually can fit into one of two categories.


Apart from wages, one of the most common sources of taxable income is from investments. While investment income from non-exempt sources is generally fully taxable to individuals under the Internal Revenue Code, many of the expenses incurred in producing that income are deductible. Knowing the rules governing investment expenses can reduce -- sometimes significantly -- the tax impact of investment income.


Telecommuting not only offers employees flexibility, but accommodates lives that can often be hectic. While employees love the lifestyle and family/home advantages of telecommuting, the potential improvement to the bottom line is what appeals to employers.


If you are considering selling business property that has substantially appreciated in value, you owe it to your business to explore the possibility of a like-kind exchange. Done properly, a like-kind exchange will allow you to transfer your appreciated business property without incurring a current tax liability. However, since the related tax rules can be complex, careful planning is needed to properly structure the transaction.


Although the IRS may compromise any tax liability, taxpayers may often find it difficult to obtain an offer-in-compromise (OIC).  However, for taxpayers experiencing especially difficult financial hardship, the IRS may be more willing to negotiate, especially if the taxpayer has been compliant in the past.


Maintaining good financial records is an important part of running a successful business. Not only will good records help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your business' operations, but they will also help out tremendously if the IRS comes knocking on your door.


The Internet has taken investing to a whole different level: inexpensive online trading and real-time stock market data have made many of us 'armchair investors'. As you actively manage your investments, you will no doubt incur additional expenses. Many of these expenses are deductible investment expenses.