Is a Health Savings Account right for you?

Given the escalating cost of health care, there may be a more cost-effective way to pay for it. For eligible individuals, a Health Savings Account (HSA) offers a tax-favorable way to set aside funds (or have an employer do so) to meet future medical needs. Here are the main tax benefits:

  • Contributions made to an HSA are deductible, within limits,
  • Earnings on the funds in the HSA aren’t taxed,
  • Contributions your employer makes aren’t taxed to you, and
  • Distributions from the HSA to cover qualified medical expenses aren’t taxed.

Who’s eligible?

To be eligible for an HSA, you must be covered by a “high deductible health plan.” For 2021, a high deductible health plan is one with an annual deductible of at least $1,400 for self-only coverage, or at least $2,800 for family coverage. For self-only coverage, the 2021 limit on deductible contributions is $3,600. For family coverage, the 2021 limit on deductible contributions is $7,200. Additionally, annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits can’t exceed $7,000 for self-only coverage or $14,000 for family coverage.

An individual (and the individual’s covered spouse) who has reached age 55 before the close of the year (and is an eligible HSA contributor) may make additional “catch-up” contributions for 2021 of up to $1,000.

HSAs may be established by, or on behalf of, any eligible individual.

Deduction limits

You can deduct contributions to an HSA for the year up to the total of your monthly limitations for the months you were eligible. For 2021, the monthly limitation on deductible contributions for a person with self-only coverage is 1/12 of $3,600. For an individual with family coverage, the monthly limitation on deductible contributions is 1/12 of $7,200. Thus, deductible contributions aren’t limited by the amount of the annual deductible under the high deductible health plan.

Also, taxpayers who are eligible individuals during the last month of the tax year are treated as having been eligible individuals for the entire year for purposes of computing the annual HSA contribution.

However, if an individual is enrolled in Medicare, he or she is no longer eligible under the HSA rules and contributions to an HSA can no longer be made.

On a once-only basis, taxpayers can withdraw funds from an IRA, and transfer them tax-free to an HSA. The amount transferred can be up to the maximum deductible HSA contribution for the type of coverage (individual or family) in effect at the transfer time. The amount transferred is excluded from gross income and isn’t subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty.

Distributions

HSA Distributions to cover an eligible individual’s qualified medical expenses, or those of his spouse or dependents, aren’t taxed. Qualified medical expenses for these purposes generally mean those that would qualify for the medical expense itemized deduction. If funds are withdrawn from the HSA for other reasons, the withdrawal is taxable. Additionally, an extra 20% tax will apply to the withdrawal, unless it’s made after reaching age 65 or in the event of death or disability.

As you can see, HSAs offer a very flexible option for providing health care coverage, but the rules are somewhat complex. Contact us if you have questions.

© 2021


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Best practices for reporting business-related T&E expenses

Many companies have resumed some level of business-related travel and entertainment (T&E) activities — or they plan to do so this fall. Unfortunately, these expense categories may be susceptible to incomplete recordkeeping and even fraud. So, it’s important for companies to implement formal T&E policies to ensure reporting is detailed and legitimate.

Substantiating expenses

Traditionally, executives, salespeople and other workers who travel or entertain customers for business must submit expense reports after each trip or by the end of each month. Once approved by supervisors, expense reports enable workers to get reimbursed for expenses they pay personally. Alternatively, some companies issue corporate credit cards to cover approved T&E expenses.

To comply with financial reporting and tax rules, the following information is usually required on expense reports:

  • The amount of the expense,
  • The time and place of the expense,
  • The business purpose of the expense, and
  • The business relationship to the taxpayer of any person fed or entertained (if the expense is for meals or entertainment).

Most companies require travelers to submit copies of original receipts, rather than credit card statements, with their expense reports for T&E items above a predetermined limit (usually $25 or $50). Examples of costs that may qualify for reimbursement are airfare, auto mileage, taxis and ride-sharing services, rental cars, gas and tolls, lodging, tips, business phone calls, wi-fi access charges and meals (with exceptions).

Entertainment expenses — such as football tickets, green fees and fishing excursions — are usually eligible for reimbursement, if permitted by the company’s T&E policy. Plus, they’re deductible for book purposes under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). But they’re not deductible under current tax law.

Expense accounts gone wild

Completing expense reports is often one of the most dreaded tasks for white-collar professionals. Though the temptation to procrastinate is strong, waiting until the end of the reporting period to submit expense reports can be problematic. It may be difficult to find receipts and remember the details about a business trip that happened weeks or months ago. This can result in errors and omissions when reporting expenses.

Expense account cheating is also common. For example, dishonest workers may overstate expenses, request multiple reimbursements, change numbers on a receipt and otherwise falsify their expense reports. One of the most common fraud methods is to mischaracterize expenses, using legitimate receipts for nonbusiness-related activities.

Getting a handle on spending

Now is a good time to review and possibly upgrade your T&E reporting practices. For example, remind workers what’s considered a “reimbursable” expense, and how often expense reports should be submitted. This prevents misunderstandings and makes punishing infractions, when they occur, easier.

Your company also might want to reinforce its T&E practices by investing in expense tracking software to help managers spot inconsistencies in reporting by subordinates. It’s also important to check for managers who override your company’s T&E policies. Everyone in an organization must be held to the same standards.

Contact us for more information about best practices in reporting T&E expenses. We can help you minimize the risk of errors, omissions and fraud.

© 2021


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EIDL program retooled for still-struggling small businesses

For many small businesses, the grand reopening is still on hold. The rapid spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 has mired a variety of companies in diminished revenue and serious staffing shortages. In response, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has retooled its Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program to offer targeted relief to eligible employers.

A brief history

The EIDL program was in place well before 2020. However, the federal government has ramped up the initiative’s visibility while trying to help small businesses during the pandemic.

With the entire country essentially declared a disaster area, the CARES Act established an enhanced EIDL program for small businesses affected by COVID-19. It offered lower interest rates, longer repayment terms and a streamlined application process.

The American Rescue Plan Act upped the ante, offering eligible companies targeted EIDL advances that are excluded from the gross income of the person who receives the funds. The law stipulates that no deduction or basis increase will be denied, and no tax attribute will be reduced, because of this gross income exclusion.

Latest enhancements

The SBA’s most recent enhancements to the EIDL program offer “a lifeline to millions of small businesses who are still being impacted by the pandemic,” according to SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. (Eligible employers include not only small businesses, but also qualifying nonprofits and agricultural companies in all U.S. states and territories.)

First and foremost, the loan cap has increased from $500,000 to $2 million. Eligible small businesses can use these funds for almost any operating expense, including payroll and equipment purchases. Funds can also be applied for certain debt payments. Specifically, the SBA has expanded the allowable use of EIDL funds to prepay commercial debt and pay down federal business debt.

In addition, the agency has implemented a new deferred payment period under which borrowers can wait until two years after loan origination to begin repaying their COVID-related EIDLs.

Application details

If you believe your small business could qualify and benefit from these newly enhanced EIDLs, first identify how much money you need and how soon you need it. The SBA is offering a 30-day “exclusivity window” to approve and disburse loans of $500,000 or less. Approval and disbursement of loans of more than $500,000 will begin after this 30-day period.

The agency has also rolled out a streamlined application process that establishes “more simplified affiliation requirements” modeled after those of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The deadline for applications remains December 31, 2021. As is the case with any government loan, it’s better to apply earlier rather than later in case funds run out.

Help with the process

For further details about the new and improved COVID-related EIDL program, go to sba.gov/eidl. And don’t hesitate to contact us. We can help you determine whether your small business qualifies for one of these loans and, if so, assist with completing the application process.

© 2021


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The tax score of winning

Studies have found that more people are engaging in online gambling and sports betting since the pandemic began. And there are still more traditional ways to gamble and play the lottery. If you’re lucky enough to win, be aware that tax consequences go along with your good fortune.

Review the tax rules

Whether you win online, at a casino, a bingo hall, a fantasy sports event or elsewhere, you must report 100% of your winnings as taxable income. They’re reported on the “Other income” line of your 1040 tax return. To measure your winnings on a particular wager, use the net gain. For example, if a $30 bet at the racetrack turns into a $110 win, you’ve won $80, not $110.

You must separately keep track of losses. They’re deductible, but only as itemized deductions. Therefore, if you don’t itemize and take the standard deduction, you can’t deduct gambling losses. In addition, gambling losses are only deductible up to the amount of gambling winnings. Therefore, you can use losses to “wipe out” gambling income but you can’t show a gambling tax loss.

Maintain good records of your losses during the year. Keep a diary in which you indicate the date, place, amount and type of loss, as well as the names of anyone who was with you. Save all documentation, such as checks or credit slips.

Hitting a lottery jackpot

The odds of winning the lottery are slim. But if you don’t follow the tax rules after winning, the chances of hearing from the IRS are much higher.

Lottery winnings are taxable. This is the case for cash prizes and for the fair market value of any noncash prizes, such as a car or vacation. Depending on your other income and the amount of your winnings, your federal tax rate may be as high as 37%. You may also be subject to state income tax.

You report lottery winnings as income in the year, or years, you actually receive them. In the case of noncash prizes, this would be the year the prize is received. With cash, if you take the winnings in annual installments, you only report each year’s installment as income for that year.

If you win more than $5,000 in the lottery or certain types of gambling, 24% must be withheld for federal tax purposes. You’ll receive a Form W-2G from the payer showing the amount paid to you and the federal tax withheld. (The payer also sends this information to the IRS.) If state tax withholding is withheld, that amount may also be shown on Form W-2G.

Since the federal tax rate can currently be up to 37%, which is well above the 24% withheld, the withholding may not be enough to cover your federal tax bill. Therefore, you may have to make estimated tax payments — and you may be assessed a penalty if you fail to do so. In addition, you may be required to make state and local estimated tax payments.

Talk with us

If you’re fortunate enough to win a sizable amount of money, there are other issues to consider, including estate planning. This article only covers the basic tax rules. Different rules apply to people who qualify as professional gamblers. Contact us with questions. We can help you minimize taxes and stay in compliance with all requirements.


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Selling a home: Will you owe tax on the profit?

Many homeowners across the country have seen their home values increase recently. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price of homes sold in July of 2021 rose 17.8% over July of 2020. The median home price was $411,200 in the Northeast, $275,300 in the Midwest, $305,200 in the South and $508,300 in the West.

Be aware of the tax implications if you’re selling your home or you sold one in 2021. You may owe capital gains tax and net investment income tax (NIIT).

Gain exclusion

If you’re selling your principal residence, and meet certain requirements, you can exclude from tax up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) of gain.

To qualify for the exclusion, you must meet these tests:

  • You must have owned the property for at least two years during the five-year period ending on the sale date.
  • You must have used the property as a principal residence for at least two years during the 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.

Gain above the exclusion amount

What if you have more than $250,000/$500,000 of profit? 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.

If you’re selling a second home (such as a vacation home), it isn’t 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 like-kind exchange. In addition, you may be able to deduct a loss.

The NIIT

How does the 3.8% NIIT apply to home sales? If you sell your main home, and you qualify to exclude up to $250,000/$500,000 of gain, the excluded gain isn’t subject to the NIIT.

However, gain that exceeds the exclusion limit is subject to the tax if your adjusted gross income is over a certain amount. Gain from the sale of a vacation home or other second residence, which doesn’t qualify for the exclusion, is also subject to the NIIT.

The NIIT applies only if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds: $250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly and surviving spouses; $125,000 for married taxpayers filing separately; and $200,000 for unmarried taxpayers and heads of household.

Two other tax considerations

  1. Keep track of your basis. To support an accurate tax basis, be sure to maintain complete records, including information about your original cost and subsequent improvements, reduced by any casualty losses and depreciation claimed for business use.
  2. You can’t deduct a loss. If you sell your principal residence at a loss, it generally isn’t deductible. But if a portion of your home is rented out or used exclusively for business, the loss attributable to that part may be deductible.

As you can see, depending on your home sale profit and your income, some or all of the gain may be tax free. But for higher-income people with pricey homes, there may be a tax bill. We can help you plan ahead to minimize taxes and answer any questions you have about home sales.

© 2021


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Does your employer provide life insurance? Here are the tax consequences

Employer-provided life insurance is a coveted fringe benefit. However, if group term life insurance is part of your benefit package, and the coverage is higher than $50,000, there may be undesirable income tax implications.

Tax on income you don’t receive

The first $50,000 of group term life insurance coverage that your employer provides is excluded from taxable income and doesn’t add anything to your income tax bill. But the employer-paid cost of group term coverage in excess of $50,000 is taxable income to you. It’s included in the taxable wages reported on your Form W-2 — even though you never actually receive it. In other words, it’s “phantom income.”

What’s worse, the cost of group term insurance must be determined under a table prepared by the IRS even if the employer’s actual cost is less than the cost figured under the table. With these determinations, the amount of taxable phantom income attributed to an older employee is often higher than the premium the employee would pay for comparable coverage under an individual term policy. This tax trap gets worse as an employee gets older and as the amount of his or her compensation increases.

Your W-2 has answers

What should you do if you think the tax cost of employer-provided group term life insurance is higher than you’d like? First, you should establish if this is actually the case. If a specific dollar amount appears in Box 12 of your Form W-2 (with code “C”), that dollar amount represents your employer’s cost of providing you with group term life insurance coverage in excess of $50,000, less any amount you paid for the coverage. You’re responsible for federal, state and local taxes on the amount that appears in Box 12 and for the associated Social Security and Medicare taxes as well.

But keep in mind that the amount in Box 12 is already included as part of your total “Wages, tips and other compensation” in Box 1 of the W-2, and it’s the Box 1 amount that’s reported on your tax return

Possible options

If you decide that the tax cost is too high for the benefit you’re getting in return, find out whether your employer has a “carve-out” plan (a plan that carves out selected employees from group term coverage) or, if not, whether it would be willing to create one. There are different types of carve-out plans that employers can offer to their employees.

For example, the employer can continue to provide $50,000 of group term insurance (since there’s no tax cost for the first $50,000 of coverage). Then, the employer can either provide the employee with an individual policy for the balance of the coverage, or give the employee the amount the employer would have spent for the excess coverage as a cash bonus that the employee can use to pay the premiums on an individual policy.

Contact us if you have questions about group term coverage or whether it’s adding to your tax bill.

© 2021


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ABLE accounts may help disabled or blind family members

There may be a tax-advantaged way for people to save for the needs of family members with disabilities — without having them lose eligibility for government benefits to which they’re entitled. It can be done though an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account, which is a tax-free account that can be used for disability-related expenses.

Who is eligible?

ABLE accounts can be created by eligible individuals to support themselves, by family members to support their dependents, or by guardians for the benefit of the individuals for whom they’re responsible. Anyone can contribute to an ABLE account. While contributions aren’t tax-deductible, the funds in the account are invested and grow free of tax.

Eligible individuals must be blind or disabled — and must have become so before turning age 26. They also must be entitled to benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs. Alternatively, an individual can become eligible if a disability certificate is filed with the IRS for him or her.

Distributions from an ABLE account are tax-free if used to pay for expenses that maintain or improve the beneficiary’s health, independence or quality of life. These expenses include education, housing, transportation, employment support, health and wellness costs, assistive technology, personal support services, and other IRS-approved expenses.

If distributions are used for nonqualified expenses, the portion of the distribution that represents earnings on the account is subject to income tax — plus a 10% penalty.

More details

Here are some other key factors:

  • An eligible individual can have only one ABLE account. Contributions up to the annual gift-tax exclusion amount, currently $15,000, may be made to an ABLE account each year for the benefit of an eligible person. If the beneficiary works, the beneficiary can also contribute part, or all, of their income to their account. (This additional contribution is limited to the poverty-line amount for a one-person household.)
  • There’s also a limit on the total account balance. This limit, which varies from state to state, is equal to the limit imposed by that state on qualified tuition (Section 529) plans.
  • ABLE accounts have no impact on an individual’s Medicaid eligibility. However, ABLE account balances in excess of $100,000 are counted toward the SSI program’s $2,000 individual resource limit. Therefore, an individual’s SSI benefits are suspended, but not terminated, when his or her ABLE account balance exceeds $102,000 (assuming the individual has no other assets). In addition, distributions from an ABLE account to pay housing expenses count toward the SSI income limit.
  • For contributions made before 2026, the designated beneficiary can claim the saver’s credit for contributions made to his or her ABLE account.

States establish programs

There are many choices. ABLE accounts are established under state programs. An account may be opened under any state’s program (if the state allows out-of-state participants). The funds in an account can be invested in a variety of options and the account’s investment directions can be changed up to twice a year. Contact us if you’d like more details about setting up or maintaining an ABLE account.

© 2021


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Opening a new location calls for careful planning

The U.S. economy has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride for the past year and a half. Some industries have had to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges, while others have seen remarkable growth opportunities arise.

If your business is doing well enough for you to consider adding a location, both congratulations and caution are in order. “Fortune favors the bold,” goes the old saying. However, strained cash flow and staffing issues can severely disfavor the underprepared.

Ask the right questions

Among the most fundamental questions to ask is: Will we be able to duplicate the success of our current location? If your first location is doing well, it’s likely because you’ve put in place the people and processes that keep the business running smoothly. It’s also because you’ve developed a culture that resonates with your customers. You need to feel confident you can do the same at subsequent locations.

Another important question is: How might expansion affect business at both locations? Opening a second location prompts a consideration that didn’t exist with your first: how the two establishments will interact. Placing the two operations near each other can make it easier to manage both, but it also can lead to one operation cannibalizing the other. Ideally, the two locations will have strong, independent markets.

Run the numbers

You’ll need to consider the financial aspects carefully. Look at how you’re going to fund the expansion. Ideally, the first location will generate enough revenue so that it can both sustain itself and help fund the second. But you may still need to take on debt, and it’s not uncommon for construction costs and timelines to exceed initial projections.

You might want to include some extra dollars in your budget for delays or surprises. If you must starve your first location of capital to fund the second, you’ll risk the success of both.

Account for the tax ramifications as well. If you own the real estate, property taxes on two locations will affect your cash flow and bottom line. You may be able to cut your tax bill with various tax incentives, such as by locating the second location in an Enterprise Zone. But the location will first and foremost need to make sense from a business perspective. There may be other tax issues as well — particularly if you’re crossing state lines.

Assess the risk

For some businesses, expanding to a new location may be the single most impactful way to drive growth and build the bottom line. However, it’s also among the riskiest endeavors any company can take on. We’d be happy to help you assess the feasibility of opening a new location, including creating financial projections that will provide insights into whether the move is a reasonable risk.

© 2021


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The Tax Legislation Waiting Game




There is a lot at stake as the Democrats maneuver to pass tax and spending legislation to advance the Biden agenda.

We are in a period of “once in a lifetime” politics with the convergence of budget reconciliation, debt ceiling expiration and infrastructure investment combined with a razor thin majority in the Senate.

The passage of legislation is far from done and by time you read this there may already be legislation passed or the entire passage may be completely dead. Regardless of the outcome the next few weeks will set the stage for tax policy over the next 4 years or longer.

At the heart of the Biden agenda is the $3.5 trillion tax and spend proposal a.k.a. social spending or budget reconciliation bill. As of this writing, the House Ways and Means has a “mark-up” of a bill waiting to be introduced to the House. There is significant decent in the Senate which appears to make this “mark-up” unpassable.

The $3.5 trillion bill is telling. There is a lot in this several thousand-page bill. Primarily, the approach is to significantly increase social spending and pay for it through taxing corporations and “the rich”. Fundamental to the Biden Tax Policy is that we want to increase taxation for individuals and businesses who make “too much”. Additionally, there is the desire to reduce individual’s ability to pass wealth to their heirs without paying significant tax and thus diminish the ability to unfairly pass generational wealth. This is a fundamental change to the current tax policy which will require us to be adaptive to whatever final law, if any, is passed.

We believe that the politics will get worked out in October, a bill will get passed while infrastructure and the debt ceiling get resolved. Although that seems unlikely at the moment. We do not believe that the Democrats will be able to pass an aggressive $3.5 trillion spending amount. However, we do believe that the final price tag will be between $2 – $2.5 trillion. The tax provisions are uncertain at this time. The corporate and individual tax rate increases seem certain while there is a lot of room for negotiation around estate tax provisions, capital gains changes, the state and local tax deduction limit and fate of the current business 20% deduction (§199A).

We will monitor this matter very closely and get information out as soon as we have more details. In the meantime, do not do anything specifically based on the speculation of pending law change. However, if you have not already began to address your estate and trust matters, please contact us or your estate attorney immediately to address pending changes and their impact on your specific situation.

It is imperative during this period of uncertainty to tap into the information we distribute and schedule meetings to address the impact of any passed legislation on your specific situation.


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Cordasco Weighs in on CBS News


Check out the CBS News Retirement Plan proposals under the current version of the social spending initiative.

https://cbsn.ws/3A5cn32 

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