How inflation will affect your 2022 and 2023 tax bills

The effects of inflation are all around. You’re probably paying more for gas, food, health care and other expenses than you were last year. Are you wondering how high inflation will affect your federal income tax bill for 2023? The IRS recently announced next year’s inflation-adjusted tax amounts for several provisions.

Some highlights

Standard deduction. What does an increased standard deduction mean for you? A larger standard deduction will shelter more income from federal income tax next year. For 2023, the standard deduction will increase to $13,850 for single taxpayers, $27,700 for married couples filing jointly and $20,800 for heads of household. This is up from the 2022 amounts of $12,950 for single taxpayers, $25,900 for married couples filing jointly and $19,400 for heads of household.

The highest tax rate. For 2023, the highest tax rate of 37% will affect single taxpayers and heads of households with income exceeding $578,125 ($693,750 for married taxpayers filing jointly). This is up from 2022 when the 37% rate affects single taxpayers and heads of households with income exceeding $539,900 ($647,850 for married couples filing jointly).

Retirement plans. Many retirement plan limits will increase for 2023. That means you’ll have an opportunity to save more for retirement if you have one of these plans and you contribute the maximum amount allowed. For example, in 2023, individuals will be able to contribute up to $22,500 to their 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans and most 457 plans. This is up from $20,500 in 2022. The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in these plans will also rise in 2023 to $7,500. This is up from $6,500 in 2022.

For those with IRA accounts, the limit on annual contributions will rise for 2023 to $6,500 (from $6,000). The IRA catch-up contribution for those age 50 and up remains at $1,000 because it isn’t adjusted for inflation.

Flexible spending accounts (FSAs). These accounts allow owners to pay for qualified medical costs with pre-tax dollars. If you participate in an employer-sponsored health Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you can contribute more in 2023. The annual contribution amount will rise to $3,050 (up from $2,850 in 2022). FSA funds must be used by year end unless an employer elects to allow a two-and-one-half-month carryover grace period. For 2023, the amount that can be carried over to the following year will rise to $610 (up from $570 for 2022).

Taxable gifts. Each year, you can make annual gifts up to the federal gift tax exclusion amount. Annual gifts help reduce the taxable value of your estate without reducing your unified federal estate and gift tax exemption. For 2023, the first $17,000 of gifts to as many recipients as you would like (other than gifts of future interests) aren’t included in the total amount of taxable gifts. (This is up from $16,000 in 2022.)

Thinking ahead

While it will be quite a while before you have to file your 2023 tax return, it won’t be long until the IRS begins accepting tax returns for 2022. When it comes to taxes, it’s nice to know what’s ahead so you can take advantage of all the tax breaks to which you are entitled.

© 2022


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Annual gift tax exclusion amount increases for 2023

Did you know that one of the most effective estate-tax-saving techniques is also one of the simplest and most convenient? By making maximum use of the annual gift tax exclusion, you can pass substantial amounts of assets to loved ones during your lifetime without any gift tax. For 2022, the amount is $16,000 per recipient. In 2023, the amount will increase by $1,000, to $17,000 per recipient.

Maximizing your gifts

Despite a common misconception, federal gift tax applies to the giver of a gift, not to the recipient. But gifts can generally be structured so that they’re — at least to a limited degree — sheltered from gift tax. More specifically, they’re covered by the annual gift tax exclusion and, if necessary, the unified gift and estate tax exemption for amounts above the exclusion. (Using the unified exemption during your lifetime, however, erodes the available estate tax shelter.)

For 2022, you can give each family member up to $16,000 a year without owing any gift tax. For instance, if you have three adult children and seven grandchildren, you may give each one up to $16,000 by year end, for a total of $160,000. Then you can turn around and give each one $17,000 beginning in January 2023, for $170,000. In this example, you could reduce your estate by a grand total of $330,000 in a matter of months.

Furthermore, the annual gift exclusion is available to each taxpayer. If you’re married and your spouse consents to a joint gift, also called a “split gift,” the exclusion amount is effectively doubled to $32,000 per recipient in 2022 ($34,000 in 2023).

Bear in mind that split gifts and large gifts trigger IRS reporting responsibilities. A gift tax return is required if you exceed the annual exclusion amount, or you give joint gifts with your spouse. Unfortunately, you can’t file a “joint” gift tax return. In other words, each spouse must file an individual gift tax return for the year in which they both make gifts.

Coordinating with the lifetime exemption

The lifetime gift tax exemption is part and parcel of the unified gift and estate tax exemption. It can shelter from tax gifts above the annual gift tax exclusion. Under current law, the exemption effectively shelters $10 million from tax, indexed for inflation. In 2022, the amount is $12.06 million, and in 2023 the amount will increase to $12.92 million. However, as mentioned above, if you tap your lifetime gift tax exemption, it erodes the exemption amount available for your estate.

Exceptions to the rules

Be aware that certain gifts are exempt from gift tax, thereby preserving both the full annual gift tax exclusion amount and the exemption amount. These include gifts:

  • From one spouse to the other,
  • To a qualified charitable organization,
  • Made directly to a healthcare provider for medical expenses, and
  • Made directly to an educational institution for a student’s tuition.

For example, you might pay the tuition for a grandchild’s upcoming school year directly to the college. That gift won’t count against the annual gift tax exclusion.

Planning your gifting strategy

The annual gift tax exclusion remains a powerful tool in your estate-planning toolbox. Contact us for help developing a gifting strategy that works best for your specific situation.

© 2022


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What do the 2023 cost-of-living adjustment numbers mean for you?

The IRS recently issued its 2023 cost-of-living adjustments for more than 60 tax provisions. With inflation up significantly this year, many amounts increased considerably over 2022 amounts. As you implement 2022 year-end tax planning strategies, be sure to take these 2023 adjustments into account.

Also, keep in mind that, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), annual inflation adjustments are calculated using the chained consumer price index (also known as C-CPI-U). This increases tax-bracket thresholds, the standard deduction, certain exemptions and other figures at a slower rate than was the case with the consumer price index previously used, potentially pushing taxpayers into higher tax brackets and making various breaks worth less over time. The TCJA adopts the C-CPI-U on a permanent basis.

Individual income taxes

Tax-bracket thresholds increase for each filing status but, because they’re based on percentages, they increase more significantly for the higher brackets. For example, the top of the 10% bracket increases by $725, to $1,450, depending on filing status, but the top of the 35% bracket increases by $22,950 to $45,900, again depending on filing status.

The TCJA suspended personal exemptions through 2025. However, it nearly doubled the standard deduction, indexed annually for inflation through 2025. For 2023, the standard deduction will be $27,700 (married couples filing jointly), $20,800 (heads of households), and $13,850 (singles and married couples filing separately). After 2025, standard deduction amounts are scheduled to drop back to the amounts under pre-TCJA law unless Congress extends the current rules or revises them.

Changes to the standard deduction could help some taxpayers make up for the loss of personal exemptions. But it might not help taxpayers who typically used to itemize deductions.

AMT

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) is a separate tax system that limits some deductions, doesn’t permit others and treats certain income items differently. If your AMT liability is greater than your regular tax liability, you must pay the AMT.

Like the regular tax brackets, the AMT brackets are annually indexed for inflation. For 2023, the threshold for the 28% bracket will increase by $14,600 for all filing statuses except married filing separately, which increased by half that amount.

The AMT exemptions and exemption phaseouts are also indexed. The exemption amounts for 2023 will be $81,300 for singles and $126,500 for joint filers, increasing by $5,400 and $8,400, respectively, over 2022 amounts. The inflation-adjusted phaseout ranges for 2023 will be $578,150–$903,350 (singles) and $1,156,300–$1,662,300 (joint filers). Amounts for married couples filing separately are half of those for joint filers.

Education and child-related breaks

The maximum benefits of certain education and child-related breaks generally remain the same for 2023. But most of these breaks are limited based on a taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). Taxpayers whose MAGIs are within an applicable phaseout range are eligible for a partial break — and breaks are eliminated for those whose MAGIs exceed the top of the range.

The MAGI phaseout ranges will generally remain the same or increase modestly for 2023, depending on the break. For example:

The American Opportunity credit. For tax years beginning after December 31, 2020, the MAGI amount used by joint filers to determine the reduction in the American Opportunity credit isn’t adjusted for inflation. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with MAGI in excess of $80,000 ($160,000 for joint returns). The maximum credit per eligible student is $2,500.

The Lifetime Learning credit. For tax years beginning after December 31, 2020, the MAGI amount used by joint filers to determine the reduction in the Lifetime Learning credit isn’t adjusted for inflation. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with MAGI in excess of $80,000 ($160,000 for joint returns). The maximum credit is $2,000 per tax return.

The adoption credit. The phaseout ranges for eligible taxpayers adopting a child will also increase for 2023 — by $15,820, to $239,230–$279,230 for joint, head-of-household and single filers. The maximum credit will increase by $1,060, to $15,950 for 2023.

(Note: Married couples filing separately generally aren’t eligible for these credits.)

These are only some of the education and child-related breaks that may benefit you. Keep in mind that, if your MAGI is too high for you to qualify for a break for your child’s education, your child might be eligible to claim one on his or her tax return.

Gift and estate taxes

The unified gift and estate tax exemption and the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption are both adjusted annually for inflation. For 2023, the amounts will be $12.92 million (up from $12.06 million for 2022).

The annual gift tax exclusion will increase by $1,000 to $17,000 for 2023.

Retirement plans

Nearly all retirement-plan-related limits will increase for 2023. Thus, depending on the type of plan you have, you may have limited opportunities to increase your retirement savings if you’ve already been contributing the maximum amount allowed:

Your MAGI may reduce or even eliminate your ability to take advantage of IRAs. Fortunately, IRA-related MAGI phaseout range limits all will increase for 2023:

Traditional IRAs. MAGI phaseout ranges apply to the deductibility of contributions if a taxpayer (or his or her spouse) participates in an employer-sponsored retirement plan:

  • For married taxpayers filing jointly, the phaseout range is specific to each spouse based on whether he or she is a participant in an employer-sponsored plan:
    • For a spouse who participates, the 2023 phaseout range limits will increase by $7,000, to $116,000–$136,000.
    • For a spouse who doesn’t participate, the 2023 phaseout range limits will increase by $14,000, to $218,000–$228,000.
  • For single and head-of-household taxpayers participating in an employer-sponsored plan, the 2023 phaseout range limits will increase by $5,000, to $73,000–$83,000.

Taxpayers with MAGIs in the applicable range can deduct a partial contribution; those with MAGIs exceeding the applicable range can’t deduct any IRA contribution.

But a taxpayer whose deduction is reduced or eliminated can make nondeductible traditional IRA contributions. The $6,500 contribution limit for 2023 (plus $1,000 catch-up, if applicable, and reduced by any Roth IRA contributions) still applies. Nondeductible traditional IRA contributions may be beneficial if your MAGI is also too high for you to contribute (or fully contribute) to a Roth IRA.

Roth IRAs. Whether you participate in an employer-sponsored plan doesn’t affect your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA, but MAGI limits may reduce or eliminate your ability to contribute:

  • For married taxpayers filing jointly, the 2023 phaseout range limits will increase by $14,000, to $218,000–$228,000.
  • For single and head-of-household taxpayers, the 2023 phaseout range limits will increase by $9,000, to $138,000–$153,000.

You can make a partial contribution if your MAGI falls within the applicable range, but no contribution if it exceeds the top of the range.

(Note: Married taxpayers filing separately are subject to much lower phaseout ranges for both traditional and Roth IRAs.)

Crunching the numbers

With the 2023 cost-of-living adjustment amounts soaring higher than 2022 amounts, it’s important to understand how they might affect your tax and financial situation. We’d be happy to help crunch the numbers and explain the best tax-saving strategies to implement based on the 2023 numbers.

© 2022


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Worried about an IRS audit? Prepare in advance





IRS audit rates are historically low, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report , but that’s little consolation if your return is among those selected to be examined. Plus, the IRS recently received additional funding in the Inflation Reduction Act to improve customer service, upgrade technology and increase audits of high-income taxpayers. But with proper preparation and planning, you should fare well.

From tax years 2010 to 2019, audit rates of individual tax returns decreased for all income levels, according to the GAO. On average, the audit rate for all returns decreased from 0.9% to 0.25%. IRS officials attribute this to reduced staffing as a result of decreased funding. Businesses, large corporations and high-income individuals are more likely to be audited but, overall, all types of audits are being conducted less frequently than they were a decade ago.

There’s no 100% guarantee that you won’t be picked for an audit, because some tax returns are chosen randomly. However, the best way to survive an IRS audit is to prepare in advance. On an ongoing basis you should systematically maintain documentation — invoices, bills, cancelled checks, receipts, or other proof — for all items to be reported on your tax returns. Keep all records in one place.

Audit targets

It also helps to know what might catch the attention of the IRS. Certain types of tax-return entries are known to involve inaccuracies so they may lead to an audit. Here are a few examples:

  • Significant inconsistencies between tax returns filed in the past and your most current return,
  • Gross profit margin or expenses markedly different from those of other businesses in your industry, and
  • Miscalculated or unusually high deductions.

Certain types of deductions may be questioned by the IRS because there are strict recordkeeping requirements for them — for example, auto and travel expense deductions. In addition, an owner-employee’s salary that’s much higher or lower than those at similar companies in his or her location may catch the IRS’s eye, especially if the business is structured as a corporation.

If you receive a letter

If you’re selected for an audit, you’ll be notified by letter. Generally, the IRS doesn’t make initial contact by phone. But if there’s no response to the letter, the agency may follow up with a call.

Many audits simply request that you mail in documentation to support certain deductions you’ve claimed. Only the strictest version, the field audit, requires meeting with one or more IRS auditors. (Note: Ignore unsolicited email or text messages about an audit. The IRS doesn’t contact people in this manner. These are scams.)

The tax agency doesn’t demand an immediate response to a mailed notice. You’ll be informed of the discrepancies in question and given time to prepare. Collect and organize all relevant income and expense records. If anything is missing, you’ll have to reconstruct the information as accurately as possible based on other documentation.

If you’re audited, our firm can help you:

  • Understand what the IRS is disputing (it’s not always clear),
  • Gather the specific documents and information needed, and
  • Respond to the auditor’s inquiries in the most effective manner.

The IRS normally has three years within which to conduct an audit, and an audit probably won’t begin until a year or more after you file a return. Don’t panic if the IRS contacts you. Many audits are routine. By taking a meticulous, proactive approach to tracking, documenting and filing your company’s tax-related information, you’ll make an audit less painful and even decrease the chances you’ll be chosen in the first place.

© 2022


IRS audit rates are historically low, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, but that’s little consolation if your return is among those selected to be examined. Plus, the IRS recently received additional funding in the Inflation Reduction Act to improve customer service, upgrade technology and increase audits of high-income taxpayers. But with proper preparation and planning, you should fare well.

From tax years 2010 to 2019, audit rates of individual tax returns decreased for all income levels, according to the GAO. On average, the audit rate for all returns decreased from 0.9% to 0.25%. IRS officials attribute this to reduced staffing as a result of decreased funding. Businesses, large corporations and high-income individuals are more likely to be audited but, overall, all types of audits are being conducted less frequently than they were a decade ago.

There’s no 100% guarantee that you won’t be picked for an audit, because some tax returns are chosen randomly. However, the best way to survive an IRS audit is to prepare in advance. On an ongoing basis you should systematically maintain documentation — invoices, bills, cancelled checks, receipts, or other proof — for all items to be reported on your tax returns. Keep all records in one place.

Audit targets

It also helps to know what might catch the attention of the IRS. Certain types of tax-return entries are known to involve inaccuracies so they may lead to an audit. Here are a few examples:

  • Significant inconsistencies between tax returns filed in the past and your most current return,
  • Gross profit margin or expenses markedly different from those of other businesses in your industry, and
  • Miscalculated or unusually high deductions.

Certain types of deductions may be questioned by the IRS because there are strict recordkeeping requirements for them — for example, auto and travel expense deductions. In addition, an owner-employee’s salary that’s much higher or lower than those at similar companies in his or her location may catch the IRS’s eye, especially if the business is structured as a corporation.

If you receive a letter

If you’re selected for an audit, you’ll be notified by letter. Generally, the IRS doesn’t make initial contact by phone. But if there’s no response to the letter, the agency may follow up with a call.

Many audits simply request that you mail in documentation to support certain deductions you’ve claimed. Only the strictest version, the field audit, requires meeting with one or more IRS auditors. (Note: Ignore unsolicited email or text messages about an audit. The IRS doesn’t contact people in this manner. These are scams.)

The tax agency doesn’t demand an immediate response to a mailed notice. You’ll be informed of the discrepancies in question and given time to prepare. Collect and organize all relevant income and expense records. If anything is missing, you’ll have to reconstruct the information as accurately as possible based on other documentation.

If you’re audited, our firm can help you:

  • Understand what the IRS is disputing (it’s not always clear),
  • Gather the specific documents and information needed, and
  • Respond to the auditor’s inquiries in the most effective manner.

The IRS normally has three years within which to conduct an audit, and an audit probably won’t begin until a year or more after you file a return. Don’t panic if the IRS contacts you. Many audits are routine. By taking a meticulous, proactive approach to tracking, documenting and filing your company’s tax-related information, you’ll make an audit less painful and even decrease the chances you’ll be chosen in the first place.

© 2022

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Investing in the future with a 529 education plan

If you have a child or grandchild who’s going to attend college in the future, you’ve probably heard about qualified tuition programs, also known as 529 plans. These plans, named for the Internal Revenue Code section that provides for them, allow prepayment of higher education costs on a tax-favored basis.

There are two types of programs:

  1. Prepaid plans, which allow you to buy tuition credits or certificates at present tuition rates, even though the beneficiary (child) won’t be starting college for some time; and
  2. Savings plans, which depend on the investment performance of the fund(s) you place your contributions in.

You don’t get a federal income tax deduction for a contribution, but the earnings on the account aren’t taxed while the funds are in the program. (Contributors are eligible for state tax deductions in some states.) You can change the beneficiary or roll over the funds in the program to another plan for the same or a different beneficiary without income tax consequences.

Distributions from the program are tax-free up to the amount of the student’s “qualified higher education expenses.” These include tuition (including up to $10,000 in tuition for an elementary or secondary public, private or religious school), fees, books, supplies and required equipment. Reasonable room and board is also a qualified expense if the student is enrolled at least half time.

Distributions from a 529 plan can also be used to make tax-free payments of principal or interest on a loan to pay qualified higher education expenses of the beneficiary or a sibling of the beneficiary.

What about distributions in excess of qualified expenses? They’re taxed to the beneficiary to the extent that they represent earnings on the account. A 10% penalty tax is also imposed.

Eligible schools include colleges, universities, vocational schools or other postsecondary schools eligible to participate in a student aid program of the U.S. Department of Education. This includes nearly all accredited public, nonprofit and for-profit postsecondary institutions.

However, “qualified higher education expenses” also include expenses for tuition in connection with enrollment or attendance at an elementary or secondary public, private or religious school.

A school should be able to tell you whether it qualifies.

The contributions you make to the qualified tuition program are treated as gifts to the student, but the contributions qualify for the gift tax exclusion amount ($16,000 for 2022, adjusted for inflation). If your contributions in a year exceed the exclusion amount, you can elect to take the contributions into account ratably over a five-year period starting with the year of the contributions. Thus, assuming you make no other gifts to that beneficiary, you could contribute up to $80,000 per beneficiary in 2022 without gift tax. (In that case, any additional contributions during the next four years would be subject to gift tax, except to the extent that the exclusion amount increases.) You and your spouse together could contribute $160,000 for 2022 per beneficiary, subject to any contribution limits imposed by the plan.

A distribution from a qualified tuition program isn’t subject to gift tax, but a change in beneficiary or rollover to the account of a new beneficiary may be. Contact us with questions about tax-saving ways to save and pay for college.

© 2022


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Year-end giving to charity or loved ones

The holiday season is here and many people plan to donate to their favorite charities or give money or assets to their loved ones before the end of the year. Here are the basic tax rules involved in these transactions.

Donating to charity

In 2022, in order to receive a charitable donation write-off, you must itemize deductions on your tax return. What if you want to give gifts of investments to your favorite charities? There are a couple of points to keep in mind.

First, don’t give away investments in taxable brokerage accounts that are currently worth less than what you paid for them. Instead, sell the shares and claim the resulting capital loss on your tax return. Then, give the cash proceeds from the sale to charity. In addition, if you itemize, you can claim a full tax-saving charitable deduction.

The second point applies to securities that have appreciated in value. These should be donated directly to charity. The reason: If you itemize, donations of publicly traded shares that you’ve owned for over a year result in charitable deductions equal to the full current market value of the shares at the time the gift is made. In addition, if you donate appreciated stock, you escape any capital gains tax on those shares. Meanwhile, the tax-exempt charity can sell the donated shares without owing any federal income tax.

Charitable donations from your IRA

IRA owners and beneficiaries who’ve reached age 70½ are permitted to make cash donations totaling up to $100,000 annually to IRS-approved public charities directly out of their IRAs. You don’t owe income tax on these qualified charitable distributions (QCDs), but you also don’t receive an itemized charitable contribution deduction.

The upside is that the tax-free treatment of QCDs equates to an immediate 100% federal income tax deduction without having to worry about restrictions that can potentially delay itemized charitable write-offs. Contact your tax advisor if you want to hear about the full benefits of QCDs. If you’re interested in taking advantage of this strategy for 2022, you’ll need to arrange with your IRA trustee or custodian for money to be paid out to one or more qualifying charities before year end.

Giving to loved ones

The principles for tax-smart gifts to charities also apply to gifts to family members and loved ones. That is, you should sell investments that are currently worth less than what you paid for them and claim the resulting tax-saving capital losses. Then, give the cash proceeds from the sale to your children, grandchildren or other loved ones.

Likewise, you should give appreciated stock directly to those to whom you want to give gifts. When they sell the shares, they’ll pay a lower tax rate than you would if they’re in a lower tax bracket.

In 2022, the amount you can give to one person without gift tax implications is $16,000 per recipient (increasing to $17,000 in 2023). The annual gift exclusion is available to each taxpayer. So if you’re married and make a joint gift with your spouse, the exclusion amount is doubled to $32,000 per recipient for 2022.

Tax-smart gifts

Whether you’re giving to charity or loved ones (or both) this holiday season, it’s important to understand the tax consequences of gifts. Contact us if you have questions about taxes and any gifts you want to make.

© 2022


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If you’re moving out of state, review your estate plan

Are you planning to move to a different state? It may be due to a change in jobs, a desire for a better climate, an opportunity to downsize or to be closer to your kids. In any event, you’ll have to cope with some hassles, including securing motor vehicle registrations, finding new physicians and updating financial records.

In addition to these tasks, here’s some practical advice: Don’t forget to amend your will and other estate planning documents. It doesn’t have to be the first thing you do, but it shouldn’t be the last, either.

Different state, different laws

Remember that the laws governing wills, as well as most other estate planning documents, vary from state to state. Although your will is still generally valid, you may need to take extra steps to ensure complete enforcement. For example, depending on your situation, you might consider appointing a different executor.

Furthermore, state laws for estate planning are constantly changing. This could adversely affect the implementation of your will, trusts, powers of attorney and medical directives. You may no longer be able to achieve the intended results or you might have to forfeit certain tax benefits. In a worst-case scenario, your documents could be rendered obsolete. Also, consider the state tax impact on pensions and other retirement plan accounts.

Review and revise before you relocate

The optimal approach is to review your estate plan before relocating to determine if any changes will be needed. We can help you revise your estate planning documents as necessary.

© 2022


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Providing fringe benefits to employees with no tax strings attached





Businesses can provide benefits to employees that don’t cost them much or anything at all. However, in some cases, employees may have to pay tax on the value of these benefits.

Here are examples of two types of benefits which employees generally can exclude from income:

  1. A no-additional-cost benefit. This involves a service provided to employees that doesn’t impose any substantial additional cost on the employer. These services often occur in industries with excess capacity. For example, a hotel might allow employees to stay in vacant rooms or a golf course may allow employees to play during slow times.
  2. A de minimis fringe benefit. This includes property or a service, provided infrequently by an employer to employees, with a value so small that accounting for it is unreasonable or administratively impracticable. Examples are coffee, the personal use of a copier or meals provided occasionally to employees working overtime.

However, many fringe benefits are taxable, meaning they’re included in the employees’ wages and reported on Form W-2. Unless an exception applies, these benefits are subject to federal income tax withholding, Social Security (unless the employee has already reached the year’s wage base limit) and Medicare.

Court case provides lessons

The line between taxable and nontaxable fringe benefits may not be clear. As illustrated in one recent case, some taxpayers get into trouble if they cross too far over the line.

A retired airline pilot received free stand-by airline tickets from his former employer for himself, his spouse, his daughter and two other adult relatives. The value of the tickets provided to the adult relatives was valued $5,478. The airline reported this amount as income paid to the retired pilot on Form 1099-MISC, which it filed with the IRS. The taxpayer and his spouse filed a joint tax return for the year in question but didn’t include the value of the free tickets in gross income.

The IRS determined that the couple was required to include the value of the airline tickets provided to their adult relatives in their gross income. The retired pilot argued the value of the tickets should be excluded as a de minimis fringe.

The U.S. Tax Court agreed with the IRS that the taxpayers were required to include in gross income the value of airline tickets provided to their adult relatives. The value, the court stated, didn’t qualify for exclusion as a no-additional-cost service because the adult relatives weren’t the taxpayers’ dependent children. In addition, the value wasn’t excludable under the tax code as a de minimis fringe benefit “because the tickets had a value high enough that accounting for their provision was not unreasonable or administratively impracticable.” (TC Memo 2022-36)

You may be able to exclude from wages the value of certain fringe benefits that your business provides to employees. But the requirements are strict. If you have questions about the tax implications of fringe benefits, contact us.

© 2022


Businesses can provide benefits to employees that don’t cost them much or anything at all. However, in some cases, employees may have to pay tax on the value of these benefits.

Here are examples of two types of benefits which employees generally can exclude from income:

  1. A no-additional-cost benefit. This involves a service provided to employees that doesn’t impose any substantial additional cost on the employer. These services often occur in industries with excess capacity. For example, a hotel might allow employees to stay in vacant rooms or a golf course may allow employees to play during slow times.
  2. A de minimis fringe benefit. This includes property or a service, provided infrequently by an employer to employees, with a value so small that accounting for it is unreasonable or administratively impracticable. Examples are coffee, the personal use of a copier or meals provided occasionally to employees working overtime.

However, many fringe benefits are taxable, meaning they’re included in the employees’ wages and reported on Form W-2. Unless an exception applies, these benefits are subject to federal income tax withholding, Social Security (unless the employee has already reached the year’s wage base limit) and Medicare.

Court case provides lessons

The line between taxable and nontaxable fringe benefits may not be clear. As illustrated in one recent case, some taxpayers get into trouble if they cross too far over the line.

A retired airline pilot received free stand-by airline tickets from his former employer for himself, his spouse, his daughter and two other adult relatives. The value of the tickets provided to the adult relatives was valued $5,478. The airline reported this amount as income paid to the retired pilot on Form 1099-MISC, which it filed with the IRS. The taxpayer and his spouse filed a joint tax return for the year in question but didn’t include the value of the free tickets in gross income.

The IRS determined that the couple was required to include the value of the airline tickets provided to their adult relatives in their gross income. The retired pilot argued the value of the tickets should be excluded as a de minimis fringe.

The U.S. Tax Court agreed with the IRS that the taxpayers were required to include in gross income the value of airline tickets provided to their adult relatives. The value, the court stated, didn’t qualify for exclusion as a no-additional-cost service because the adult relatives weren’t the taxpayers’ dependent children. In addition, the value wasn’t excludable under the tax code as a de minimis fringe benefit “because the tickets had a value high enough that accounting for their provision was not unreasonable or administratively impracticable.” (TC Memo 2022-36)

You may be able to exclude from wages the value of certain fringe benefits that your business provides to employees. But the requirements are strict. If you have questions about the tax implications of fringe benefits, contact us.

© 2022

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You may be liable for “nanny tax” for all types of domestic workers

You’ve probably heard of the “nanny tax.” But even if you don’t employ a nanny, it may apply to you. Hiring a house cleaner, gardener or other household employee (who isn’t an independent contractor) may make you liable for federal income and other taxes. You may also have state tax obligations.

If you employ a household worker, you aren’t required to withhold federal income taxes from pay. But you can choose to withhold if the worker requests it. In that case, ask the worker to fill out a Form W-4. However, you may be required to withhold Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes and to pay federal unemployment (FUTA) tax.

2022 and 2023 thresholds

In 2022, you must withhold and pay FICA taxes if your household worker earns cash wages of $2,400 or more (excluding the value of food and lodging). The Social Security Administration recently announced that this amount will increase to $2,600 in 2023. If you reach the threshold, all the wages (not just the excess) are subject to FICA.

However, if a nanny is under age 18 and childcare isn’t his or her principal occupation, you don’t have to withhold FICA taxes. So, if you have a part-time student babysitter, there’s no FICA tax liability.

Both an employer and a household worker may have FICA tax obligations. As an employer, you’re responsible for withholding your worker’s FICA share. In addition, you must pay a matching amount. FICA tax is divided between Social Security and Medicare. The Social Security tax rate is 6.2% for the employer and 6.2% for the worker (12.4% total). Medicare tax is 1.45% each for the employer and the worker (2.9% total).

If you want, you can pay your worker’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you do, your payments aren’t counted as additional cash wages for Social Security and Medicare purposes. However, your payments are treated as additional income to the worker for federal tax purposes, so you must include them as wages on the W-2 form that you must provide.

You also must pay FUTA tax if you pay $1,000 or more in cash wages (excluding food and lodging) to your worker in any calendar quarter. FUTA tax applies to the first $7,000 of wages paid and is only paid by the employer.

Making payments

You pay household worker obligations by increasing your quarterly estimated tax payments or increasing withholding from wages, rather than making an annual lump-sum payment.

As an employer of a household worker, you don’t have to file employment tax returns, even if you’re required to withhold or pay tax (unless you own your own business). Instead, employment taxes are reported on your tax return on Schedule H.

When you report the taxes on your return, include your employer identification number (not the same as your Social Security number). You must file Form SS-4 to get one.

However, if you own a business as a sole proprietor, you include the taxes for a household worker on the FUTA and FICA forms (940 and 941) that you file for the business. And you use your sole proprietorship EIN to report the taxes.

Keep careful records

Keep related tax records for at least four years from the later of the due date of the return or the date the tax was paid. Records should include the worker’s name, address, Social Security number, employment dates, dates and the amount of wages paid and taxes withheld, and copies of forms filed.

Contact us for assistance or questions about how to comply with these requirements.

© 2022


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What local transportation costs can your business deduct?





You and your small business are likely to incur a variety of local transportation costs each year. There are various tax implications for these expenses.

First, what is “local transportation?” It refers to travel in which you aren’t away from your tax home (the city or general area in which your main place of business is located) long enough to require sleep or rest. Different rules apply if you’re away from your tax home for significantly more than an ordinary workday and you need sleep or rest in order to do your work.

Costs of traveling to your work location

The most important feature of the local transportation rules is that your commuting costs aren’t deductible . In other words, the fare you pay or the miles you drive simply to get to work and home again are personal and not business miles. Therefore, no deduction is available. This is the case even if you work during the commute (for example, via a cell phone, or by performing business-related tasks while on the subway).

An exception applies for commuting to a temporary work location that’s outside of the metropolitan area in which you live and normally work. “Temporary,” for this purpose, means a location where your work is realistically expected to last (and does in fact last) for no more than a year.

Costs of traveling from work location to other sites

On the other hand, once you get to the work location, the cost of any local trips you take for business purposes is a deductible business expense. So, for example, the cost of travel from your office to visit a customer or pick up supplies is deductible. Similarly, if you have two business locations, the costs of traveling between them is deductible.

Recordkeeping

If your deductible trip is by taxi or public transportation, save a receipt if possible or make a notation of the expense in a logbook. Record the date, amount spent, destination and business purpose. If you use your own car, note miles driven instead of the amount spent. Note also any tolls paid or parking fees and keep receipts.

You’ll need to allocate your automobile expenses between business and personal use based on miles driven during the year. Proper recordkeeping is crucial in the event the IRS challenges you.

Your deduction can be computed using:

  1. A standard mileage rate (58.5¢ per business mile driven between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2022, and 62.5¢ per business mile driven between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2022) plus tolls and parking, or
  2. Actual expenses (including depreciation, subject to limitations) for the portion of car use allocable to the business. For this method, you’ll need to keep track of all costs for gas, repairs and maintenance, insurance, interest on a car loan and any other car-related costs.

Employees versus self-employed

From 2018 – 2025, employees, may not deduct unreimbursed local transportation costs. That’s because “miscellaneous itemized deductions” — a category that includes employee business expenses — are suspended (not allowed) for 2018 through 2025. However, self-employed taxpayers can deduct the expenses discussed in this article. But beginning with 2026, business expenses (including unreimbursed employee auto expenses) of employees are scheduled to be deductible again, as long as the employee’s total miscellaneous itemized deductions exceed 2% of adjusted gross income.

Contact us with any questions or to discuss the matter further.

© 2022


You and your small business are likely to incur a variety of local transportation costs each year. There are various tax implications for these expenses.

First, what is “local transportation?” It refers to travel in which you aren’t away from your tax home (the city or general area in which your main place of business is located) long enough to require sleep or rest. Different rules apply if you’re away from your tax home for significantly more than an ordinary workday and you need sleep or rest in order to do your work.

Costs of traveling to your work location

The most important feature of the local transportation rules is that your commuting costs aren’t deductible. In other words, the fare you pay or the miles you drive simply to get to work and home again are personal and not business miles. Therefore, no deduction is available. This is the case even if you work during the commute (for example, via a cell phone, or by performing business-related tasks while on the subway).

An exception applies for commuting to a temporary work location that’s outside of the metropolitan area in which you live and normally work. “Temporary,” for this purpose, means a location where your work is realistically expected to last (and does in fact last) for no more than a year.

Costs of traveling from work location to other sites

On the other hand, once you get to the work location, the cost of any local trips you take for business purposes is a deductible business expense. So, for example, the cost of travel from your office to visit a customer or pick up supplies is deductible. Similarly, if you have two business locations, the costs of traveling between them is deductible.

Recordkeeping

If your deductible trip is by taxi or public transportation, save a receipt if possible or make a notation of the expense in a logbook. Record the date, amount spent, destination and business purpose. If you use your own car, note miles driven instead of the amount spent. Note also any tolls paid or parking fees and keep receipts.

You’ll need to allocate your automobile expenses between business and personal use based on miles driven during the year. Proper recordkeeping is crucial in the event the IRS challenges you.

Your deduction can be computed using:

  1. A standard mileage rate (58.5¢ per business mile driven between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2022, and 62.5¢ per business mile driven between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2022) plus tolls and parking, or
  2. Actual expenses (including depreciation, subject to limitations) for the portion of car use allocable to the business. For this method, you’ll need to keep track of all costs for gas, repairs and maintenance, insurance, interest on a car loan and any other car-related costs.

Employees versus self-employed

From 2018 – 2025, employees, may not deduct unreimbursed local transportation costs. That’s because “miscellaneous itemized deductions” — a category that includes employee business expenses — are suspended (not allowed) for 2018 through 2025. However, self-employed taxpayers can deduct the expenses discussed in this article. But beginning with 2026, business expenses (including unreimbursed employee auto expenses) of employees are scheduled to be deductible again, as long as the employee’s total miscellaneous itemized deductions exceed 2% of adjusted gross income.

Contact us with any questions or to discuss the matter further.

© 2022

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on What local transportation costs can your business deduct?