Tax Alerts
Tax Briefing(s)

As 2015 winds down, another temporary extension of the tax extenders appears almost certain. Despite talk in early 2015 about finding a permanent solution to the on-again, off-again extenders, the arrival of November brings a short window for Congress to extend these tax breaks. The expected late passage of these popular tax breaks also adds uncertainty to year-end tax planning as well as possibly causing a delay to the start of the 2016 filing season.

Small businesses received some welcomed news in October with passage of the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees (PACE) Act. The new law revises the definition of small employer for purposes of market reforms under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The PACE Act is intended to help protect small businesses from potential health care premium increases. At the same time, many small businesses wait for expected relief from potential penalties for stand-alone health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) deemed not to comply with the ACA.

After acknowledging earlier this year that hackers breached one of its popular online apps, the IRS has promised more identity theft protections in the 2016 filing season. The IRS, along with partners in the tax preparation community, has identified and tested more than 20 new data elements on returns to help detect and prevent identity-theft related filings. The agency is also working to prevent criminals from accessing tax-time financial products.

As the calendar approaches the end of 2015, it is helpful to think about ways to shift income and deductions into the following year. For example, spikes in income from selling investments or other property may push a taxpayer into a higher income tax bracket for 2015, including a top bracket of 39.6 percent for ordinary income and short-term capital gains, and a top bracket of 20 percent for dividends and long-term capital gains. Adjusted gross incomes that exceed the threshold for the net investment income (NII) tax can also trigger increased tax liability. Accordingly, traditional year-end techniques to defer income or to accelerate deductions can be useful.

For a business to start writing off the cost of depreciable equipment and property, it is necessary that the equipment be placed in service. To write off costs in 2015, the equipment must be placed in service by December 31, 2015. The "placed-in-service" requirement applies, for example, for taking depreciation, especially first-year bonus depreciation, under Code Sec. 168, expensing of the cost of property under Code Sec. 179, and other write-offs such as the investment tax credit under Code Sec. 46.

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 tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of November 2015.

It is never too early to begin planning for the 2016 filing season, the IRS has advised in seven new planning tips published on its website. Although the current filing season has just ended, there are steps that taxpayers can take now to avoid a tax bill when April 2016 rolls around. For example, the IRS stated that taxpayers can adjust their withholding, take stock of any changes in income or family circumstances, maintain accurate tax records, and more, in order to reduce the probability of a surprise tax bill when the next filing season arrives.

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.

When starting a business or changing an existing one there are several types of business entities to choose from, each of which offers its own advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the size of your business, one form may be more suitable than another. For example, a software firm consisting of one principal founder and several part time contractors and employees would be more suited to a sole proprietorship than a corporate or partnership form. But where there are multiple business members, the decision can become more complicated. One form of business that has become increasingly popular is called a limited liability company, or LLC.

The IRS has announced a new optional safe harbor method, effective for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2013, for individuals to determine the amount of their deductible home office expenses (IR-2013-5, Rev. Proc. 2013-13). Being hailed by many as a long-overdue simplification option, taxpayers may now elect to determine their home office deduction by simply multiplying a prescribed rate by the square footage of the portion of the taxpayer's residence used for business purposes.

Under the new health care law, starting in 2014, "large" employers with more than 50 full-time employees will be subject to stiff monetary penalties if they do not provide affordable and minimum essential health coverage. With less than eleven months before this "play or pay" provision is fully effective, the IRS continues to release critical details on what constitutes an "applicable large employer," "full-time employee," "affordable coverage," and "minimum health coverage."  Most recently, the IRS issued proposed reliance regulations that provide employers with the most comprehensive explanation of their obligations and options to date.

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.

Have you already mailed (on paper or electronically) your Form 1040 for the 2010 tax year but only now noticed you made an error when preparing the return? If you need to correct a mistake on your federal income tax return that you’ve already filed with the IRS, it’s not too late to correct the mistake by filing an amended return, Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. The IRS considers an amended return filed on or before the due date of a return to be the taxpayer’s return for the period.

The flagging state of the economy has left many individuals and families to cope with rising gas prices and food costs, struggle with their mortgage and rent payments, and manage credit card debt and other common monthly bills. Whether individuals are contemplating how to pay off their credit card or obtain a mortgage amid the "credit crunch" and "economic downturn," many people may be considering alternative sources of financing to reach their goals, including the tapping of a retirement account.