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2019 Vehicles, Auto Depreciation Limits, and Amounts

The IRS has released the depreciation deduction amounts which are pursuant to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 280F. This code section discusses the depreciation deduction limits for passenger automobiles (including trucks and vans) first placed in service during 2019. For passenger autos acquired before 9/28/17 and placed in service during 2019, the depreciation limits are $10,100 for the first year ($14,900 with bonus depreciation), $16,100 for the second year, $9,700 for the third year, and $5,760 for each succeeding year. Typically bonus depreciation is taken by default for tax year 2019. If a taxpayer is leasing a car, there are also lease inclusion amounts which is really giving the lease expense a haircut. This is discussed in Rev. Proc. 2019-26. Most small business owners use their auto’s for business. However, one needs to be careful in how they deduct the expense and depreciation of the vehicles. There are also additional considerations for luxury autos, and automobiles that weigh over 6,000 lbs., which allow for larger deductions. Clients often ask us – “is it better to lease or purchase?” The answer is, well, it depends. Here are some quick thoughts. If you drive a lot of miles, say over 12,000 miles a year, you will typically have to pay more or get a penalty for too many miles under a lease. However, if you like to get a new car often, then a lease might work out. Purchasing a car generally allows a business owner to deduct a large amount in the first year using accelerated depreciation, but one still needs to navigate through the depreciation limitations above. However, depreciation for vehicles above 6,000 gross vehicle weight may allow for more. Now, most of this discussion is regarding passenger auto’s and SUV’s, so if you purchase commercial vans or trucks for your business the depreciation rules and deductions are generally much larger as they are viewed as not being passenger autos. Anyway, as one can see there are specific rules and considerations for deducting your vehicle. The IRS doesn’t allow for deductions for personal use, and personal use technically can also include commuting to and from work. So, discuss this topic with your tax advisor and make sure you understand your plan, your deductions and your risk. For passenger autos acquired after 9/27/17 and placed in service during 2019, the depreciation limits are $10,100 for the first year ($18,100 with bonus depreciation), $16,100 for the second year, $9,700 for the third year, and $5,760 for each succeeding year. Also, the IRS has released the lease inclusion amounts for lessees of passenger autos first leased in 2019. Rev. Proc. 2019-26.

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Donating your vehicle to charity may not be a tax-wise decision

You’ve probably seen or heard ads urging you to donate your car to charity. “Make a difference and receive tax savings,” one organization states. But donating a vehicle may not result in a big tax deduction — or any deduction at all. Trade in, sell or donate? Let’s say you’re buying a new car and want to get rid of your old one. Among your options are trading in the vehicle to the dealer, selling it yourself or donating it to charity. If you donate, the tax deduction depends on whether you itemize and what the charity does with the vehicle. For cars worth more than $500, the deduction is the amount for which the charity actually sells the car, if it sells without materially improving it. (This limit includes vans, trucks, boats and airplanes.) Because many charities wind up selling the cars they receive, your donation will probably be limited to the sale price. Furthermore, these sales are often at auction, or even salvage, and typically result in sales below the Kelley Blue Book® value. To further complicate matters, you won’t know the amount of your deduction until the charity sells the car and reports the sale proceeds to you. If the charity uses the car in its operations or materially improves it before selling, your deduction will be based on the car’s fair market value at the time of the donation. In that case, fair market value is usually set according to the Blue Book listings. In these cases, the IRS will accept the Blue Book value or another established used car pricing guide for a car that’s the same make, model, and year, sold in the same area and in the same condition, as the car you donated. In some cases, this value may exceed the amount you could get on a sale. However, if the car is in poor condition, needs substantial repairs or is unsafe to drive, and the pricing guide only lists prices for cars in average or better condition, the guide won’t set the car’s value for tax purposes. Instead, you must establish the car’s market value by any reasonable method. Many used car guides show how to adjust value for items such as accessories or mileage. You must itemize In any case, you must itemize your deductions to get the tax benefit. You can’t take a deduction for a car donation if you take the standard deduction. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, fewer people are itemizing because the law significantly increased the standard deduction amounts. So even if you donate a car to charity, you may not get any tax benefit, because you don’t have enough itemized deductions. If you do donate a vehicle and itemize, be careful to substantiate your deduction. Make sure the charity qualifies for tax deductions. If it sells the car, you’ll need a written acknowledgment from the organization with your name, tax ID number, vehicle ID number, gross proceeds of sale and other information. The […]

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IRS updates rules for personal use of employer-provided vehicles

The IRS recently announced the inflation-adjusted maximum value of an employer-provided vehicle under the vehicle cents-per-mile rule and the fleet-average value rule. Employers can use the rules to value an employee’s personal use of such a vehicle for income and employment tax purposes. The new values reflect vehicle-related amendments in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and the IRS’s intent to make the rules more widely available to employers. The IRS is also temporarily loosening some of the consistency requirements for 2018 and 2019. Valuation methods for personal use When an employer provides an employee with a vehicle that’s available for personal use, it must include the value of the personal use in the employee’s income. Employers generally have four methods available to value an employee’s personal use of a company car: General valuation rule. This involves the fair market value (FMV), which is defined as the amount the employee would have to pay a third party to lease the same or similar vehicle on the same or comparable terms in the geographic area where the employee uses the vehicle. Commuting valuation rule. This is the amount of each one-way commute, from home to work or from work to home, multiplied by $1.50. (This method’s availability is subject to stringent requirements, including having a written policy limiting the employee’s use to commuting and “de minimis” personal use.) The cents-per-mile rule. Employers can use the business standard mileage rate (58 cents for 2019, less up to 5.5 cents if the employer doesn’t provide fuel) multiplied by the total miles the employee drives the vehicle (including cars, trucks and vans) for personal purposes. The automobile annual lease valuation rule. With this method, employers use the annual lease value of the automobile (including trucks and vans) — as specified by an IRS table that bases annual lease value on an automobile’s FMV — multiplied by the percentage of personal miles out of total miles driven by the employee. This amount also is subject to a fuel adjustment. The fleet-average value rule allows employers operating a fleet of 20 or more qualifying automobiles to use an average annual lease value for every qualifying vehicle in the fleet when applying the automobile annual lease valuation rule. The fleet-average value rule or the simple cents-per-mile rule isn’t available, though, if the FMV of the vehicle exceeds a certain base value, adjusted annually for inflation, on the first date the vehicle is made available to the employee for personal use. In 2017, the maximum value for the cents-per-mile rule was $15,900 for a passenger automobile and $17,800 for a truck or van. The maximum value for the fleet-average value rule that year was $21,100 for a passenger automobile and $23,300 for a truck or van. The role of the TCJA The base values were raised significantly earlier this year, in IRS Notice 2019-08, to reflect amendments made by the TCJA. The law changes the price inflation measure for automobiles (including trucks and vans). It also substantially increases the maximum annual […]

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It’s a good time to check your withholding and make changes, if necessary

Due to the massive changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the 2019 filing season resulted in surprises. Some filers who have gotten a refund in past years wound up owing money. The IRS reports that the number of refunds paid this year is down from last year — and the average refund is lower. As of May 10, 2019, the IRS paid out 101,590,000 refunds averaging $2,868. This compares with 102,582,000 refunds paid out in 2018 with an average amount of $2,940. Of course, receiving a tax refund shouldn’t necessarily be your goal. It essentially means you’re giving the government an interest-free loan. Law changes and withholding Last year, the IRS updated the withholding tables that indicate how much employers should hold back from their employees’ paychecks. In general, the amount withheld was reduced. This was done to reflect changes under the TCJA — including the increase in the standard deduction, suspension of personal exemptions and changes in tax rates. The new tables may have provided the correct amount of tax withholding for some individuals, but they might have caused other taxpayers to not have enough money withheld to pay their ultimate tax liabilities. Conduct a “paycheck checkup” The IRS is cautioning taxpayers to review their tax situations for this year and adjust withholding, if appropriate. The tax agency has a withholding calculator to assist you in conducting a paycheck checkup. The calculator reflects tax law changes in areas such as available itemized deductions, the increased child credit, the new dependent credit and the repeal of dependent exemptions. You can access the IRS calculator at https://bit.ly/2aLxK0A. Situations where changes are needed There are a number of situations when you should check your withholding. In addition to tax law changes, the IRS recommends that you perform a checkup if you: Adjusted your withholding in 2018, especially in the middle or later part of the year, Owed additional tax when you filed your 2018 return, Received a refund that was smaller or larger than expected, Got married or divorced, had a child or adopted one, Purchased a home, or Had changes in income. You can modify your withholding at any time during the year, or even multiple times within a year. To do so, you simply submit a new Form W-4 to your employer. Changes typically go into effect several weeks after a new Form W-4 is submitted. (For estimated tax payments, you can make adjustments each time quarterly estimated payments are due. The next payment is due on Monday, June 17.) We can help Contact us to discuss your specific situation and what you can do to remedy any shortfalls to minimize taxes due, as well as any penalties and interest. We can help you sort through whether or not you need to adjust your withholding. © 2019

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Selling your home? Consider these tax implications

Spring and summer are the optimum seasons for selling a home. And interest rates are currently attractive, so buyers may be out in full force in your area. Freddie Mac reports that the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 4.14% during the week of May 2, 2019, while the 15-year mortgage rate was 3.6%. This is down 0.41 and 0.43%, respectively, from a year earlier. But before you contact a realtor to sell your home, you should review the tax considerations. Sellers can exclude some gain If you’re selling your principal residence, and you meet certain requirements, you can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) of gain. Gain that qualifies for the exclusion is also excluded from the 3.8% net investment income tax. To qualify for the exclusion, you must meet these tests: The ownership test. You must have owned the property for at least two years during the five-year period ending on the sale date. The use test. You must have used the property as a principal residence for at least two years during the same five-year period. (Periods of ownership and use don’t need to overlap.) In addition, you can’t use the exclusion more than once every two years. Handling bigger gains What if you’re fortunate enough to have more than $250,000/$500,000 of profit when selling your home? Any gain that doesn’t qualify for the exclusion generally will be taxed at your long-term capital gains rate, provided you owned the home for at least a year. If you didn’t, the gain will be considered short term and subject to your ordinary-income rate, which could be more than double your long-term rate. Other tax issues Here are some additional tax considerations when selling a home: Keep track of your basis. To support an accurate tax basis, be sure to maintain thorough records, including information on your original cost and subsequent improvements, reduced by any casualty losses and depreciation claimed based on business use. Be aware that you can’t deduct a loss. If you sell your principal residence at a loss, it generally isn’t deductible. But if part of your home is rented out or used exclusively for your business, the loss attributable to that portion may be deductible. If you’re selling a second home (for example, a vacation home), be aware that it won’t be eligible for the gain exclusion. But if it qualifies as a rental property, it can be considered a business asset, and you may be able to defer tax on any gains through an installment sale or a Section 1031 exchange. Or you may be able to deduct a loss. Your home is probably your largest investment. So before selling it, make sure you understand the tax implications. We can help you plan ahead to minimize taxes and answer any questions you have about your situation. © 2019

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Plug in tax savings for electric vehicles

While the number of plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) is still small compared with other cars on the road, it’s growing — especially in certain parts of the country. If you’re interested in purchasing an electric or hybrid vehicle, you may be eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. (Depending on where you live, there may also be state tax breaks and other incentives.) However, the federal tax credit is subject to a complex phaseout rule that may reduce or eliminate the tax break based on how many sales are made by a given manufacturer. The vehicles of two manufacturers have already begun to be phased out, which means they now qualify for only a partial tax credit. Tax credit basics You can claim the federal tax credit for buying a qualifying new (not used) plug-in EV. The credit can be worth up to $7,500. There are no income restrictions, so even wealthy people can qualify. A qualifying vehicle can be either fully electric or a plug-in electric-gasoline hybrid. In addition, the vehicle must be purchased rather than leased, because the credit for a leased vehicle belongs to the manufacturer. The credit equals $2,500 for a vehicle powered by a four-kilowatt-hour battery, with an additional $417 for each kilowatt hour of battery capacity beyond four hours. The maximum credit is $7,500. Buyers of qualifying vehicles can rely on the manufacturer’s or distributor’s certification of the allowable credit amount. How the phaseout rule works The credit begins phasing out for a manufacturer over four calendar quarters once it sells more than 200,000 qualifying vehicles for use in the United States. The IRS recently announced that GM had sold more than 200,000 qualifying vehicles through the fourth quarter of 2018. So, the phaseout rule has been triggered for GM vehicles, as of April 1, 2019. The credit for GM vehicles purchased between April 1, 2019, and September 30, 2019, is reduced to 50% of the otherwise allowable amount. For GM vehicles purchased between October 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020, the credit is reduced to 25% of the otherwise allowable amount. No credit will be allowed for GM vehicles purchased after March 31, 2020. The IRS previously announced that Tesla had sold more than 200,000 qualifying vehicles through the third quarter of 2018. So, the phaseout rule was triggered for Tesla vehicles, effective as of January 1, 2019. The credit for Tesla vehicles purchased between January 1, 2019, and June 30, 2019, is reduced to 50% of the otherwise allowable amount. For Tesla vehicles purchased between July 1, 2019, and December 31, 2019, the credit is reduced to 25% of the otherwise allowable amount. No credit will be allowed for Tesla vehicles purchased after December 31, 2019. Powering forward Despite the phaseout kicking in for GM and Tesla vehicles, there are still many other EVs on the market if you’re interested in purchasing one. For an index of manufacturers and credit amounts, visit this IRS Web page. Contact us […]

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The Department of Labor proposes updated overtime rule

The Trump administration has released its long-awaited proposed rule to update the overtime exemptions for so-called white-collar workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The rule increases the minimum weekly standard salary level for both regular workers and highly compensated employees (HCEs). It also increases the total annual compensation requirement for HCEs that’s required to qualify them as exempt. In addition, it retains the often confusing “duties test.” The Trump administration rule generally is more favorable to employers than the Obama administration’s 2016 rule, which a federal district court judge in Texas halted before it could take effect. While the latter was expected to make 4.1 million salaried workers newly eligible for overtime (absent some intervening action by their employers), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) predicts that the newly proposed rule will make 1.3 million currently exempt employees nonexempt. The DOL estimates the direct costs for employers under the proposed rule will ring in at $224 million less per year than under the 2016 rule. (It’s unclear whether these figures take into account payroll tax obligations.) The current rule The regulations regarding the overtime exemptions for executive, administrative and professional employees haven’t been updated since 2004. Under them, an employer generally can’t classify a white-collar employee as exempt from overtime requirements unless the employee satisfies three tests: 1. Salary basis test. The employee is paid a predetermined and fixed salary that isn’t subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of the work performed. 2. Salary level test. The employee is paid at least $455 per week or $23,660 annually. 3. Duties test. The employee primarily performs executive, administrative or professional duties. Neither job title nor salary alone can justify an exemption; the employee’s specific job duties and earnings must also meet applicable requirements. Certain employees (for example, doctors, teachers and lawyers) aren’t subject to either the salary basis or salary level tests. The current rules also provide an easier-to-satisfy duties test for certain HCEs who are paid total annual compensation of at least $100,000 (including commissions, nondiscretionary bonuses and other nondiscretionary compensation) and at least $455 salary per week. The Obama administration’s proposed rule The 2016 rule focused primarily on the salary level test, increasing the threshold for exempt employees to $913 per week, or $47,476 per year. The levels would have automatically updated every three years beginning January 1, 2020. At the time, President Obama argued that the overtime regulations had “not kept up with our modern economy.” By more than doubling the salary level test, the rule would have made it unnecessary for employers to even consider an employee’s duties in many cases. If the employee’s pay fell under the threshold for exemption, the duties would be irrelevant — the employee already couldn’t be exempt. The Obama rule also would have raised the HCE threshold above which the looser duties test applies. It boosted the level to the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally, or $134,004 per year. The rule would have continued the requirement […]

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Three questions you may have after you file your return

Once your 2018 tax return has been successfully filed with the IRS, you may still have some questions. Here are brief answers to three questions that we’re frequently asked at this time of year. Question #1: What tax records can I throw away now? At a minimum, keep tax records related to your return for as long as the IRS can audit your return or assess additional taxes. In general, the statute of limitations is three years after you file your return. So you can generally get rid of most records related to tax returns for 2015 and earlier years. (If you filed an extension for your 2015 return, hold on to your records until at least three years from when you filed the extended return.) However, the statute of limitations extends to six years for taxpayers who understate their gross income by more than 25%. You’ll need to hang on to certain tax-related records longer. For example, keep the actual tax returns indefinitely, so you can prove to the IRS that you filed a legitimate return. (There’s no statute of limitations for an audit if you didn’t file a return or you filed a fraudulent one.) When it comes to retirement accounts, keep records associated with them until you’ve depleted the account and reported the last withdrawal on your tax return, plus three (or six) years. And retain records related to real estate or investments for as long as you own the asset, plus at least three years after you sell it and report the sale on your tax return. (You can keep these records for six years if you want to be extra safe.) Question #2: Where’s my refund? The IRS has an online tool that can tell you the status of your refund. Go to irs.gov and click on “Refund Status” to find out about yours. You’ll need your Social Security number, filing status and the exact refund amount. Question #3: Can I still collect a refund if I forgot to report something? In general, you can file an amended tax return and claim a refund within three years after the date you filed your original return or within two years of the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. So for a 2018 tax return that you filed on April 15 of 2019, you can generally file an amended return until April 15, 2022. However, there are a few opportunities when you have longer to file an amended return. For example, the statute of limitations for bad debts is longer than the usual three-year time limit for most items on your tax return. In general, you can amend your tax return to claim a bad debt for seven years from the due date of the tax return for the year that the debt became worthless. We can help Contact us if you have questions about tax record retention, your refund or filing an amended return. We’re available all year long — not just at tax […]

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Stretch your college student’s spending money with the dependent tax credit

If you’re the parent of a child who is age 17 to 23, and you pay all (or most) of his or her expenses, you may be surprised to learn you’re not eligible for the child tax credit. But there’s a dependent tax credit that may be available to you. It’s not as valuable as the child tax credit, but when you’re saving for college or paying tuition, every dollar counts! Background of the credits The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) increased the child credit to $2,000 per qualifying child under the age of 17. The law also substantially increased the phaseout income thresholds for the credit so more people qualify for it. Unfortunately, the TCJA eliminated dependency exemptions for older children for 2018 through 2025. But the TCJA established a new $500 tax credit for dependents who aren’t under-age-17 children who qualify for the child tax credit. However, these individuals must pass certain tests to be classified as dependents. A qualifying dependent for purposes of the $500 credit includes: 1.    A dependent child who lives with you for over half the year and is over age 16 and up to age 23 if he or she is a student, and 2.    Other non-child dependent relatives (such as a grandchild, sibling, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother and other relatives). To be eligible for the $500 credit, you must provide over half of the person’s support for the year and he or she must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or U.S. resident. Both the child tax credit and the dependent credit begin to phase out at $200,000 of modified adjusted gross income ($400,000 for married joint filers). The child’s income After the TCJA passed, it was unclear if your child would qualify you for the $500 credit if he or she had any gross income for the year. Fortunately, IRS Notice 2018-70 favorably resolved the income question. According to the guidance, a dependent will pass the income test for the 2018 tax year if he or she has gross income of $4,150 or less. (The $4,150 amount will be adjusted for inflation in future years.) More spending money Although $500 per child doesn’t cover much for today’s college student, it can help with books, clothing, software and other needs. Contact us with questions about whether you qualify for either the child or the dependent tax credits. © 2019

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