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Marrying a Non-U.S. Citizen? No Tax Honeymoon for You

By Blog, Tax and Financial News

Marrying a Non-U.S. Citizen? Taxes for Marrying a Non-U.S. CitizenMarriage is a major life event. One that comes with all kinds of change, including financial. After getting married, there is so much to consider, from merging bank and brokerage accounts to setting up a will; from changing your withholding to updating retirement account beneficiary forms. If this seems like a lot to consider, it’s important to keep in mind that when a U.S. citizen marries a non-U.S. citizen, the situation gets even more complex.

Among some of the more complex tax considerations of mixed citizenship marriages are gift and estate taxes, which we will dive into below.

Gift and Estate Tax Overview

Before getting into the details on non-citizen spousal situations, here is a recap of the basics on U.S. estate and gift taxes. In the United States, estate and gift taxes are essentially a type of transfer tax, with the tax paid by the giver. Tax rates range between 18 percent and 40 percent of the assets transferred, but there are exemptions (with lifetime limits) that can reduce or even cancel out these taxes. Currently, the lifetime exemption is $13.61 million per person; however, this is set to drop to about $7.5 million starting January 1, 2026.

Gifting – No Free Ride in Marriage

When both spouses are U.S. citizens, there is an unlimited gift tax exemption, meaning no gift tax period. In the case where the recipient spouse is a U.S citizen, this still applies; however, when the spouse receiving the gifts is a non-U.S. citizen, then it’s different.

In the case where the U.S. spouse gifts to the non-citizen spouse, there are annual limits. For 2024, the annual aggregate limit for tax-free gifting is $185,000. Gifting beyond this amount starts to eat into the total lifetime exclusion.

Leaving Assets to Heiring Spouses

Leaving a bequest to a non-citizen spouse is very similar to gifting in that it also does not benefit from the uncapped marriage exemption. When a U.S. citizen dies and leaves assets to the non-citizen spouse, the estate tax can apply. After using up the lifetime limit, taxes on these bequests can be up to 40 percent. While each situation it unique, estate planning maneuvers such as setting-up trusts can prevent or mitigate the tax hit.

Reporting Requirement – It’s About More Than Just Paying Taxes

The concept of not needing to pay tax due to exemption limitations or gift/estate tax strategies is distinct from the reporting requirements. Here, the reverse situation is the tricky one: When the non-U.S. citizen makes a gift or bequest to the U.S. spouse. Despite having no tax implications, the U.S. spouse may need to comply with informational reporting requirements if the gifts or bequests are technically foreign-sourced and more than $100,000 (in any given year). Failure to comply with reporting standards can yield serious penalties.

Gift-Splitting is Different

Gift-splitting is a technique that allows a married couple to pool their individual annual gift limits and give more tax-free money to the same person. For example, each spouse gets an annual gifting limit of $18,000 they can give to any one recipient (per calendar year), without any tax considerations or use of the lifetime limits. Gift-splitting lets each spouse give this amount to the same person, effectively doubling the amount they can give together to any one person to $36,000. This is not allowed when one spouse is a non-U.S. citizen.

Conclusion

In the end, there is almost always an issue when the U.S. citizen spouse gifts or bequests to the non-U.S. citizen spouse (not the other way around). Keep these details in mind when tax planning and you’ll be on the right path. Also, it’s important to remember that these are the U.S. tax rules and regulations. Any tax implications for the non-U.S. citizen spouse in their country is beyond the scope of this article.

‘Master’ The Augusta Rule and Save Money on Your Taxes

By Blog, Tax and Financial News


 Augusta Tax Rule, short term rental taxesAnyone who lives in a highly seasonal tourist destination knows you can make money on short-term rentals during events and festivities in your city or town. Think high concentration, short-term, tourist-driven events such as horse racing season in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., or The Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga.

As a result, it is common for locals to get out of dodge and rent out their place during these highly lucrative periods. Typically, this is just for a very brief period while they are on vacation somewhere else themselves, for instance.

Given these circumstances, Congress realized it does not make sense to tax rental income for very short-term periods the same way that long-term rentals are taxed. In response, the government passed the Section 280A exclusion, often called the Augusta Rule in reference to the famous Masters golf tournament.

For the remainder of this article, we will look at the Augusta Rule in more detail and provide practical considerations for taxpayers.

The Augusta Rule, aka the Section 280A Exclusion

At its core, the Augusta Rule creates an exclusion to the concept that real estate rental income is always taxable.Per Section 280A, renting out your residence for 14 days or less, you are exempt from reporting the rental income. This also means no deduction for rental expenses. So, it is like it never happened from a tax perspective. As soon as you rent out that residence for 15 days or more, this exception no longer applies.

Note, it does not matter why you rented out your residence. There is no need for it to be related to an event or any special occasion.

Technical Workings of the Augusta Rule

While the basic rule itself is quite simple, there are details you need to meet in order to qualify for the exclusion – in addition to the 14-day time limit.

  • The property must be a home or similar. This means the properly must be a “dwelling unit” per IRS definitions, meaning houses, apartments, condos, etc. (although houseboats do qualify).
  • The rental price must be reasonable. Look at comparable rents in the area to get an idea of what to charge. Luckily, this is easy today with Airbnb, VRBO, etc.

Practical Considerations

First, the above rules only apply to federal income taxation. State and local tax regulations may differ, so make sure you are up to snuff on these for your area.

Second, just because the IRS does not consider this kind of rental activity a real estate business does not mean you are exempt from local, state or other business licensing or permit needs.

Conclusion

Qualifying under the Augusta Rule can be a wonderful way to save taxes. It can be especially beneficial to those who live in or around major events that occur for only a brief period and bring in massive amounts of tourists, creating high demand and soaring prices as a result. Moreover, it can be a terrific way to a make some tax-exempt income while you are enjoying a personal vacation.

In the end, you must pay attention to the timing – and most importantly, keep excellent records.

Reduce Your Taxes by Putting the Right Assets in Your IRA

By Blog, Tax and Financial News

Reduce Your Taxes by Putting the Right Assets in Your IRAMost people know the basic concept that certain types of investment accounts are tax sheltered while others are not. Think 401(k), 403(b), IRA and Roth IRA accounts, for example. What most people are not aware of is how you split your investment positions between your taxable and non-taxable accounts can result in major tax savings.

Asset Allocation and Location

One of the core principles of investing is to have an appropriate asset allocation that aligns with your risk tolerance and goals. In other words, how much of your investable net worth is in cash, stocks, bonds, precious metals, real estate, alternative assets, private investments, etc? Once you have this determined, the next consideration should be the location of these assets, primarily meaning whether you hold them in a taxable or tax-sheltered account.

The first, core principle behind asset location positioning is that bonds and other fixed income investments get the highest priority within tax sheltered accounts because they pay high-taxed ordinary income. Stocks that pay qualified dividends may be taxed at the more advantageous long-term capital gains rate, so they are typically better in taxable accounts.

What Are the Stakes?

To put it simply, big money. Take the example of a hypothetical $2 million portfolio evenly split between stocks and bonds. In the case where an investor has $1 million each in a taxable account (50/50 stock and bonds) and another $1 million in a tax-sheltered account (again 50/50 stock and bonds); this would cost about $148,000 over 30 years versus placing all the stock in a taxable account and all the bonds in a tax-sheltered account.

Asset Class Location Ranking

Of course, there are many more nuances and types of investments. Below we review 10 different types of assets, ranking them in order of those that get the most benefit from being in a tax-sheltered account with an explanation of why.

  1. K-1-Free Commodity Funds
    Popular for investing in futures, these are typically structured as Cayman Islands holding companies. As a result, they often kick-off highly taxed ordinary income even when the fund is losing money. Keep these in a tax-sheltered account at all costs.
  2. Junk Bonds
    High-yield corporate bonds typically come with large coupons (often 7 percent to 9 percent) and a small capital loss in the 1 percent to 2 percent range. Since the large coupon payment is taxed as ordinary income, while capital losses are worth less from a tax perspective, junk bonds are a prime candidate to go into a tax-sheltered account.
  3. Income Stocks
    Preferred shares and real estate investment trusts are characterized by their high unqualified dividends, so they are not eligible for preferential capital gains tax rates. This makes them best suited for a tax-sheltered account.
  4. High-Grade Bonds
    Similar to junk bonds, but with lower coupons and smaller capital losses, the benefits of holding these in a tax-sheltered account is less than the items above, but it is still preferable to place them in a tax-sheltered account.
  5. U.S. Treasuries
    The interest on U.S. Treasuries is taxed as ordinary income; however, it is exempt from state income tax. Depending on the state in which you are subject to taxes, these fall in the middle ground and could be held in either a taxable or tax-sheltered account.
  6. Actively Managed Mutual Funds
    The frequent churn of the holdings in actively managed funds typically creates more short-term capital gains versus long-term. Again, depending on total returns and how active the fund manager is, these could be held in either a taxable or tax-sheltered account.
  7. K-1 Commodity Funds
    Usually taxed as partnerships, profits typically get a 60/40 treatment, with 60 percent of gains classified as long-term and qualifying for favorable rates, putting them in the middle ground as well.
  8. High-Dividend Stocks
    For some investors, dividends are king. Think utility stocks and big-name blue chips with a steady track record of paying consistent dividends, like Altria. Since most, if not all, the dividend income is usually in the form of qualified dividends, holding these in a taxable account is much less painful.
  9. Stock Index Funds and Low Dividend Stocks
    Broader market mutual funds and ETFs have lower dividends. For example, on average, a total U.S. market ETF yields approximately 0.3 percent. Given this and their low churn, these funds are prime to be held in a taxable account, especially if the intended holding period is more than a year and will qualify you for long-term capital gains treatment and defer any taxable event until sale.
  10. Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) and Private Real Estate Funds
    Typical of oil and natural gas pipeline investments, MLPs pay big dividends early on and they usually are not taxed in early years. Similarly, private placement real estate fund investments are shielded from the income they produce due to the upfront benefits of depreciation. Given their structure and the fact that they hold debt attributable to the owner, however, makes them a no-go for a tax-sheltered account since they create what is considered “unrelated business taxable income.” This makes these investments only suitable for a regular taxable account.

Conclusion

The decision of which types of investments you keep in either taxable or tax-sheltered accounts can make a big difference in how your investments grow and how much you keep. Consider evaluating not only your asset allocation but also your asset location to optimize for taxes.

U.S. Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting Begins

By Blog, Tax and Financial News

The U.S. Treasury recently enacted a new reporting requirement aimed at quashing illicit financial transactions. The agency believes that corporate anonymity is enabling money laundering, terrorism, and drug trafficking. As part of the 2021 Corporate Transparency Act (CTA), certain companies are now required to report information about their beneficial owners. The goal of the new registration requirements is to create a centralized database of beneficial ownership information.

There has been push-back from some lawmakers and small business organizations, citing this as an erroneous regulatory process that just makes life harder for small businesses. Efforts to carve out exceptions or delay the implementation failed. As a result, the Treasury Department officially opened beneficial ownership information reporting on Jan. 1, 2024.

Who is Subject to Reporting?

Generally, a company may need to report beneficial ownership information if it is a corporation, LLC, or other business entity created by the filing with a U.S. secretary of state or a foreign company registered to do business in the United States. Reporting requirements for trusts and other entity types are more dependent on state law.

At first glance, the rules make it look like all businesses are subject to reporting. There are exemptions, however, including nonprofits, publicly traded companies, and certain large operating companies. The FinCEN’s Compliance Guide provides an exemption qualification checklist.

Reporting Timelines and Requirements

First, you only must file an initial report once. There are no annual reporting requirements. Filing deadlines vary based on when a company was created or registered with the relevant secretary of state.

  • Before Jan. 1, 2024, => Deadline of Jan. 1, 2025
  • Between Jan. 1, 2024, and Jan. 1, 2025, => You have 90 calendar days after receiving notice of the company’s creation or registration to file.
  • On or after Jan. 1, 2025, => Deadline is 30 calendar days from the company’s creation or registration.

While there is no annual filing requirement, filing updates are necessary within 30 days of any changes. Ownership activity subject to change reporting includes registering a new business name, a change in beneficial owners, or a beneficial owner’s name, address, or unique identifying number previously provided.

What Do You Need to Report?

Beneficial ownership reporting must identify the following data.

At the company level, it must report:

  • Company name, both legal and trade (if applicable)
  • Company physical address (no post office boxes)
  • Jurisdiction of formation or registration
  • Taxpayer Identification Number

For each beneficial owner, the following must be reported:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Driver’s license, passport, or other acceptable identification

Depending on the situation, there also may be reporting requirements about the company applicant. This is generally a person involved in the creation or registration of the company. The same four pieces of data as for a beneficial owner would need to be provided.

As a general rule, a beneficial owner is someone who controls the company or owns 25 percent or more.

The full definition and all exemptions to whom constitutes a beneficial owner or company applicant can be found here.

No financial information or details about the business operations are required.

How and Where to File

You have the option to file online or via PDF. Filing online can be done through the Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) E-Filing System on the FinCEN site.

There is no cost to file.

Conclusion and Cautions

While the reporting is simple, the requirements should not be taken lightly. Failure to report could result in civil penalties of up to $500 per day and criminal charges of up to two years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

The message is this: Don’t wait – and don’t forget to file!

New Business Travel Per Diem Rates Announced for 2023-2024

By Blog, Tax and Financial News

New Business Travel Per Diem Rates Announced for 2023-2024

Business Travel Per Diem Rates 2023 2024New per diem rates were recently announced by the IRS and are effective for per diem allowances on or after Oct. 1, 2023. These updated rates include changes for the transportation industry, incidental expenses as well as the high-low substantiation method. Before we dive into the detailed changes impacting per diem rates, let’s revisit the concept of the per diem in general.

To Per Diem or Not to Per Diem

There are two basic ways that employees can be reimbursed for business travel expenses. The first is a direct reimbursement of the actual expenses. The second is the per diem method.

Direct actual expense reimbursement is exactly what it sounds like. For example, a sales employee pays for a plane ticket and meals during a customer visit and then submits an expense report with the receipts as backup. Typically, a company will have a travel and expense policy that limits the expenses allowed – no Michelin star restaurants or first-class flights, for example. Other than this, direct expense reimbursement is simple and straightforward.

The second expense reimbursement method is called the per diem method. The per diem method is basically a pre-package policy of controls for both spending and tax purposes.

Fundamentals of Per Diems

Per diem is Latin for the term for each day. In practice, it is a daily allowance granted to each employee. It covers travel and related business expenses, allowing a fixed amount to cover business travel expenses.

Per diem policies can cover only three types of expenses: lodging, meals, and incidentals (anything else must be directly reimbursed). A per diem policy does not need to cover all three, however. An employer can use the per diem only for meals, for example, and deal with lodging under the direct actual expense reimbursement method. Also, the per diem method cannot cover transportation expenses or mileage reimbursement.

Taxation of Per Diems

Per diems are generally not taxable, and no withholding tax on the payments is necessary. The exception to this is if an employee does not provide or provides incomplete expense report information – or if you give the employee a flat amount that is in excess of the maximum allowance (with the excess being taxable).

Two Types of Per Diems

Per diem rates can be determined in one of two ways: either the standard rate or using the high-low method.

The standard rate is a fixed rate, whereas the high-low method is based on the cost of living being higher or lower in different locales. Under the high-low method, for example, Boston gets a higher reimbursement than Des Moines to account for this.

2023-2024 Rate Updates

The IRS updates the per diem rates every year. The 2023-2024 rates took effect Oct.1, 2023. They are as follows:*

  •        Travel to high-cost locations is $309 ($297 prior year)
  •        Travel to other locations is $214 ($204 prior year)
  •        Incidental expense stay is the same at $5 per day, regardless of location

*Taxpayers in the transportation industry are subject to special rates

IRS Plans to Use AI and Ramp Up Enforcement on Millionaires, Partnerships and Crypto

By Blog, Tax and Financial News

IRS Plans to Use AI and Ramp Up Enforcement on Millionaires, Partnerships and Crypto

IRS Plans to Use AIRecently, IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel spoke of changes within the IRS, announcing several initiatives focusing on high-income earners and partnerships, as well as integrating the use of AI within the agency’s work. According to the commissioner, the initiatives were made possible by additional IRS funding provided by the Inflation Reduction Act. Without the funding from this bill, the agency would not have the budget to implement these ramp-ups in enforcement.

Millionaires with Tax Debt

The new initiative on millionaires is not just because they are high-earning taxpayers; it will focus on those with open tax debt. Currently, the IRS has identified approximately 1,600 millionaires who are in debt to the IRS for $250,000 or more. The agency plans to designate agents to focus on these high-impact collection cases. A prior campaign resulted in a collection of more than $38 million in tax debt.

High-Income Earners with Foreign Bank Accounts

Another new initiative focusing on high-earning taxpayers includes ramped-up inspection for those who have foreign bank accounts and use them to evade taxes.

By law, every U.S. resident who has a financial interest in or control over a foreign financial account must disclose this information if he or she had $10,000 or more at any point in the year by filing an FBAR.

The IRS conducted an analysis and identified potentially hundreds of taxpayers who should be filing an FBAR and are not, with average balances of more than $1 million. The most egregious cases are planned to be audited in fiscal year 2024.

Partnerships and Corporations

Starting in 2021, the IRS began the initial stages of a new compliance program focusing on complex partnership tax returns. Now, the IRS is set to expand this initiative over more partnerships.

In total, the IRS has plans to open examinations on the 75 biggest U.S. partnerships. “Biggest” means these businesses have, on average, more than $10 billion in assets, so it’s safe to say small and medium size businesses won’t be affected.

Additionally, the IRS will be looking into smaller (but albeit still large) partnerships with more than $10 million in total assets that have balance sheet mismatches. The focus is on partnerships with balance sheet discrepancies where the prior year’s ending balance sheet is not equal to the next year’s opening balance sheet without any explanation. The IRS uses this as a red flag because they have found through full inspections that balance sheet issues are often the proverbial canary in the coal mine for other areas of non-compliance.

Once again, the focus will be on larger partnerships with balance sheet mismatches. The agency plans to send notices to approximately 500 partnerships. Depending on the initial follow-up, an audit may result.

Digital Assets, Including Crypto

The IRS plans to continue its virtual currency compliance campaign, educating taxpayers on the rules, regulations, and reporting obligations surrounding cryptocurrencies. The rules around the taxation of digital assets have evolved in recent years, and more and more taxpayers are invested in these types of assets.

The IRS subpoenaed transaction information from centralized exchanges and found that potentially an estimated 75 percent of taxpayers involved in crypto are non-compliant, some as a form of tax evasion and others simply from ignorance. In any case, the IRS plans to ramp up digital asset enforcement this coming year.

Artificial Intelligence

Lastly, the IRS is looking to utilize artificial intelligence to help agents do their job more effectively. The IRS is particularly interested in how AI can help flag tax returns for audit in important areas.

The agency plans to invest in the latest analytic solutions that can detect patterns, trends, and activities that are typically linked to tax evasion, thereby freeing up employees to focus on other matters.

Conclusion

Overall, the IRS’s focus is on high-income, tax-debt-burdened individuals, the largest partnerships, and sizable crypto players. This means that these enforcement campaigns shouldn’t have much of an impact on the average taxpayer. However, the growing use of AI will impact everyone from top to bottom.

IRS Announces End of Unannounced Taxpayer Visits (Mostly)

By Blog, Tax and Financial News

IRS Announces End of Unannounced Taxpayer VisitsYou wake up in the middle of the night. Heart racing, drenched in sweat, and breathing heavily. Thankfully, it was just a nightmare when the IRS showed up at your doorstep unannounced. Recently, however, this was the reality for some taxpayers – and not just a bad dream. The IRS just publicized a significant shift in policy, effectively ending the vast majority of surprise taxpayer visits. The change comes in an effort to create safer conditions for IRS officers as well as ease public concerns.

Who’s Knocking at My Door?

In order to understand the change in policy, you’ll need to understand the three categories of IRS employees that typically interact with taxpayers: Revenue Officers, Revenue Agents, and Special Agents.

IRS Revenue Agents are tax return auditors. They don’t typically show up unannounced.

IRS Revenue Officers, of which there are approximately 2,300, have duties that include paying visits to taxpayers to collect back taxes and tax returns not filed. They are not auditors but instead focus on collection efforts, including issuing liens and levies. Revenue Officers are the main category of IRS employees impacted by the policy change.

Special Agents deal with criminal matters and are part of one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the United States. The change in policy does not impact Special Agents.

Safety

Why the shift to (mostly) eliminating surprise visits from IRS Revenue Officers? Safety is cited as the main concern. Unannounced visits to taxpayers, whether at home or their business, can be risky. Historically, IRS Revenue Officers faced contentious and sometimes dangerous conditions during their unannounced visits.

Taxpayer Confusion

There is also a growing number of scam artists pretending to be IRS agents or officers. As a result, taxpayers are increasingly wary of unannounced visits, and this causes confusion for both the taxpayer and law enforcement.

The difficulty in distinguishing between IRS representatives and fakes has caused concern for taxpayers already on guard for scam artists. The IRS believes that maintaining trust among the public will go a long way to maintaining the legitimacy of the organization.

Appointment Letters In Lieu of Visits

In place of these previously unannounced visits, the IRS will contact taxpayers through a 725-B letter, more colloquially known as an appointment letter.

An appointment letter will facilitate scheduling in-person meetings, with the opportunity for the taxpayer to prepare any information and documentation beforehand, allowing for quicker resolution of cases. These meetings occur at a pre-determined time, date, and place.

Limited Visits Will Still Occur

The policy change does not completely eliminate unannounced visits by the IRS. In “extremely limited situations,” such as serving summonses and subpoenas and the seizure of assets, unannounced visits will still occur. To give some perspective, these types of visits will account for only a few hundred per year compared to the tens of thousands of unannounced visits under the old policy.

Conclusion

Unannounced IRS visits are (almost) a thing of the past. They will be carried out only in rare, necessary cases, with most Revenue Officer visits being pre-scheduled. This should ease taxpayer anxiety and make case resolution more efficient.

2023 Sales Tax Holidays for Back-to-School Shopping

By Blog, Tax and Financial News

2023 Sales Tax Holidays for Back-to-School ShoppingNow that we are heading into the backend of summer, it’s time for many states to host their annual sales tax holidays for returning to-school shopping. Numerous states with sales tax (remember, not all states have a sales tax) provide the reprieve to help families with the cost of annual school supplies and clothing.

According to the National Retail Federation, nearly 80 percent of shoppers are expecting increased costs this year versus last year; so more than ever, consumers are looking for ways to save. Furthermore, about two-thirds of back-to-school shoppers take advantage of these tax-free shopping periods.

The vast majority of states offer some type of tax-free shopping for a limited time period, frequently taking place over a weekend. Below, we will look at each state that offers a sales tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers, along with their details. Note that several states, including Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, have their programs in July – and those are excluded from this article due to the timing of publication.

State Programs

Arkansas: From Aug. 5-6, the following items are tax-free for shoppers: clothes and shoes under $100 per piece, fashion accessories $50 and less per piece, as well as electronics, art, and school supplies.

Connecticut: From Aug. 20-26, clothes and shoes priced at $100 or less per piece are tax-exempt. Fashion accessories and sports gear are fully taxable, though.

Iowa: Aug. 4-5, clothes and shoes priced at $100 or less per piece are exempt.

Maryland: From Aug. 13-19, clothes and shoes priced at $100 or less per piece are exempt.

Missouri’s back-to-school tax breaks come Aug. 4-6. Clothes that cost less than $100 per piece are exempt. Also tax exempt on a “per purchase basis” are school supplies under $50, software under $350, and PCs under $1,500.

New Jersey: From Aug. 26 to Sept. 4 all art supplies, instructional materials, school supplies, and sports equipment sold to individuals are sales tax exempt. In addition, computers priced at $3,000 or less are also tax-free.

New Mexico cuts its sales tax charges from Aug. 4-6. Included are clothes, shoes, and backpacks costing $100 or less per piece; school supplies costing $30 or less per piece; and computers costing less than $1,000.

Ohio’s back-to-school deals are during Aug. 4-6. Clothes costing $75 or less per piece; school supplies less than $20; and other instructional materials priced at $20 or less are all tax-free.

Oklahoma from August 4-6; only clothes and shoes costing $100 or less per piece are exempt.

Texas: During Aug. 11-13, clothing, footwear, school supplies, and backpacks priced below $100 per piece are exempt. The exemption applies to both brick-and-mortar sales and those made online or via catalog.

West Virginia: From Aug. 4-7, no sales tax is charged for clothing priced at $125 or less; laptops and tablets costing $500 or less; school supplies purchased for $50 or less; and also certain sports equipment costing $150 or less.

Expirations and Details

If you notice, most states have an exemption for clothes and footwear in a moderate price range. Some are more liberal with their exemptions, while others offer a tax break on a broader scope of items, such as electronics and supplies.

Keep in mind that a few states’ sales tax holidays are permanent, while others are temporary. Also, remember that certain states are very specific about what is exempt from sales tax, so visit your state’s tax revenue website for details. It’s also important to note that some states allow counties or towns to exempt themselves, so check for this provision as well.

Increased Tax Bills Hitting Private Companies – Big and Small

By Blog, Tax and Financial News

Private companies both large and small are feeling the tax pinch due to changes in the law. With rampant inflation, labor shortages, lingering supply chain issues and increased borrowing costs due to rising interest rates, tax problems are the last thing struggling companies need to face.

While tax rates themselves remain largely unchanged, business’ taxable income is increasing due to changes in three main deduction areas: research and experimental (R&E) capitalization; interest expense deduction calculations; and a reduction in bonus depreciation. All of these provisions were made more liberal in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2018, but with a wind-down over a 10-year period.

Part of the problem is that these tax law changes can increase a business’ overall tax burden even though there have been no operational changes to the business, leaving less profits than prior years with all other factors being equal. Below, we look at each of the three tax provisions, the changes coming and the impact on businesses.

Stricter Interest Expense Limitations

Tax code section 163(j) limits the amount of business interest expense to 30 percent of adjusted taxable income. The 30 percent limit remains unchanged, but the basis of what constitutes “taxable income” as part of the calculation is becoming tighter.

From 2018 through 2021 year-end, businesses were allowed to add back depreciation, amortization and depletion in coming up with their adjusted taxable income that underlies the calculation. As a result, for 2022 and onward, without these add-backs the taxable income on which the 30 percent limit is applied will be lower, resulting in smaller interest deductions.

Given that borrowing rates have gone up substantially with increases by the Federal Reserve over recent years, now businesses are hit from two sides at once. They are likely to have higher interest costs but can take less as a deduction.

Research and Experimental Capitalization

At one point, business investments in research and experimentation under the TCJA were 100 percent deductible. Starting with 2022 and after, they need to be capitalized over a five-year period (15 years for foreign R&E).

Bonus Depreciation Decreases

Under the TCJA, bonus depreciation allowed immediate expensing and deduction of qualified investments in property and equipment, up through the taxable year-end of 2022. Starting with property and equipment investments placed in service in 2023, however, bonus depreciation is reduced from 100 percent down to 80 percent and decreases by an additional 20 percent each year until the taxable year 2027. From 2027 and onward, there will be zero bonus depreciations available. This will not only increase taxes, but it will also put a hamper on capital investments, rippling through the economy.

Conclusion

There is already chatter about extending some of these provisions, especially regarding bonus depreciation. Optimism on changes or extensions of these tax provisions should be taken cautiously, however. Many predicted that tax bill extenders would be in place before the end of 2022, but that never came to fruition. Right now, businesses are in a wait-and-see situation, with the threat of materially higher tax bills unless Congress does something.

End of Covid Emergency Declarations Put Work from Home Benefits at Risk

By Blog, Tax and Financial News

Work from Home Benefits at RiskThe end of the federal emergency declaration for Covid-19 came on May 11. As a result, there are various public health policy changes. For example, vaccines and treatments will remain available, but at-home tests may no longer be covered by insurance and national CDC data reporting is subject to change.

Administratively, there are also changes to regulatory measures temporarily put in place by the emergency status that will have tax consequences. As employers struggled during the pandemic, some even to meet payroll, issues around expense reimbursements, stipends and how these are considered fringe benefits or compensation came into light.

History of Section 139

Section 139 came into being over 20 years ago after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Then President George W. Bush signed the Victims of Terrorism Tax Relief Act, which created Section 139, defining qualified disasters and providing a non-taxable status to relief payments. The emergency Covid declaration enabled Section 139 to apply under its time in existence.

Section 139

Consequently, employers were able to aid employees under the federally declared Covid-19 disaster by providing non-taxable benefits to employees while deducting 100 percent at the company level.

One of the typical principles of tax law is that in order for compensation, whether cash or in-kind, to not be taxable to the recipient, it cannot be deducted by the compensating party. This makes sense logically, as the IRS simply wants one side to pay taxes in the end. The disaster declaration allowed a sort of have your cake and eat it to the period when it came to certain employee benefits.

Impact on Benefits

So, Section 139 is the reason why some Covid-related payments never found their way onto a Form W-2. It meant that certain medical expense reimbursements such as testing and OTC treatments, dependent care expenses, and work-from-home expenses, including home office stipends, were treated as deductible for the employer providing them but still not taxable to the employee receiving them.

There was never any specific IRS guidance stipulating exactly which Covid-19 expenses qualify under Section 139. Instead, most employers looked at what benefits they would not have otherwise provided but for the COVID-19 pandemic and classified these as qualifying items.

The Big Problem

Using this logic of classifying benefits that would otherwise not exist, but for Covid-19, as the justification for their taxability under Section 139 put companies in a bind. If they want to continue these benefits, they have to be treated as taxable income to the employee, or the employer can no longer deduct them.

While some benefits, such as Covid-19 test reimbursements, are less of an issue, many employees have come to see others, such as home office stipends, as a normal benefit – especially in the context of the work-from-home (or at least partial) new normal. No longer receiving these benefits or having to pay taxes on them is going to cause a lot of consternation.

Conclusion

One thing is certain. The end of the emergency declaration is going to bring changes in the realm of employee benefits. While the easy solution could be to simply make these benefits taxable to employees, companies need to think about what and how they provide in the context of both tax compliance and employee engagement and retention.