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Here’s a quick review of some of the rules you can expect to encounter when you get ready to prepare your 2016 federal income tax return.
Income tax rates. For 2016, ordinary federal income tax rates range from 10% to 35% unless your taxable income exceeds $415,050 when you’re single or $466,950 if you’re married filing jointly. The rate on income above those amounts is 39.6%.
Tax breaks that are now permanent. Three tax breaks you’ll be able to take on your 2016 return, and on future returns: 1) The optional deduction for state and local sales tax in lieu of state and local income tax; 2) the $250 deduction for classroom supplies if you’re an educator; and 3) IRA-to-charity transfers of up to $100,000 when you’re 70½ or older.
Itemized deductions and personal exemption phase-outs. For 2016, itemized deductions and personal exemptions are limited when you file as single and your adjusted gross income (AGI) is above $259,400. The limitation begins with AGI above $311,300 for married couples filing jointly.
Alternative minimum tax. The exemption amount for 2016 is $53,900 for singles and $83,800 for married filing jointly.
Capital gains and dividends. Long-term gains are generally taxed at 15%. The rate is zero percent if you’re in the 10% and 15% ordinary income brackets, and 20% when you’re in the 39.6% ordinary income bracket.
Affordable Care Act surtaxes . You’ll pay a Medicare surtax of 0.9% on wages and self-employment income exceeding $200,000 when you’re single and $250,000 when you’re married filing jointly. For unearned income, you’ll pay the 3.8% net investment income tax when you’re single and your modified AGI exceeds $200,000. If you’re married filing jointly, the net investment income tax is imposed when your modified AGI exceeds $250,000.
If you have questions about your 2016 tax return, please call.
The social security coverage threshold for domestic employees, including nannies, will remain at 2,000 for 2017, the same as the 2016 threshold. If your household workers earn less than $2,000, you do not have to pay social security or Medicare taxes on wages paid to those employees. When you pay your household employees more than the threshold, you’re required to pay social security tax of 6.2% and Medicare tax of 1.45%. The $2,000 threshold applies separately to each employee.
Losses can be hard to take – so if you think your S corporation will show a loss for 2016, now’s the time to plan to make sure you’ll get the full tax benefit.
The problem . The amount of the business loss you can deduct on your individual income tax return is limited to your basis in your S corporation stock and certain corporate debt. This is true even if the loss reported to you on Schedule K-1 is greater than your basis.
Here’s how basis works. Typically, stock basis in an S corporation begins with the capital contribution you make to get the company started. Note that when you receive stock as a gift, an inheritance, or in place of compensation, your initial basis is calculated differently.
At the end of each taxable year, your stock basis is adjusted to reflect your business’s operating results. Taxable income increases your basis, while losses reduce it. Basis is also increased by capital you put into your company and reduced by amounts you withdraw, such as distributions.
After your stock basis reaches zero, you may be able to deduct additional losses, up to the extent of your debt basis. That’s the basis you have in loans you make to your company. However, once your stock and debt basis are both reduced to zero, losses incurred are suspended, which means you get no current tax benefit. You can generally take suspended losses in future years, when you again have basis.
The solution. You can increase your basis – and your ability to take losses – by adding capital or making loans to your business.
Please call to discuss how basis affects your individual income tax return. We can guide you through the rules.
For 2017, the wage base for withholding social security tax from wages has increased to $127,200, up from $118,500 in 2016. The “wage base” is the amount of wages on which employers and employees must pay the 6.2% social security tax.The increased wage base means an additional $8,700 of your income is taxed.
The wage base does not affect the 1.45% Medicare payroll tax. Medicare tax is assessed on all wages and net income from self-employment, including amounts above the base. The 0.9% Additional Medicare Tax is not affected either. That tax applies to your compensation in excess of $250,000 when you’re married filing jointly ($200,000 when you’re single).
The federal payroll tax rate for employers and employees remains 7.65%, with social security tax withheld and paid at 6.2%, and Medicare tax withheld and paid at 1.45%. Please contact us for more information.
● December 15 – Due date for calendar-year corporations to pay the last installment of 2016 estimated income tax.
● December 31 – Deadline to complete 2016 tax-free gifts of up to $14,000 per recipient.
● December 31 – Deadline for paying expenses you want to be able to deduct onyour 2016 income tax return.
Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) are nine-digit numbers issued by the IRS so certain taxpayers who do not have a social security number can file a tax return. According to the IRS, approximately 11 million people have received an ITIN. Now, some of these numbers may need to be renewed. ITINs that have not been used on a federal income tax return for three consecutive years will expire on December 31 of the third consecutive year. Under current rules, ITINs not used on a tax return during 2013, 2014, or 2015, will expire on December 31, 2016. In addition, ITINs issued before 2008 will expire on December 31, 2016, even if they have been used on a tax return
If you’re over 70½ and are required to take distributions from your IRA or other retirement account, remember that you must take your 2016 required minimum distribution by December 31. Due to year-end holidays and transfer time constraints, getting the process started now can avoid a last-minute rush, as well as a steep penalty of 50% of the amount not taken.
If this year’s distribution is your first, you have a one-time option of waiting until the beginning of April 2017 to start taking withdrawals. Just remember, waiting means you’ll have two taxable distributions next year.
Contact us for details.
Disasters, natural or otherwise, could ultimately lead to your company’s demise.Fortunately, advance planning can keep you on track. Here are seven scenarios to be prepared for.
1. A natural disaster. To paraphrase the old saying, you can talk about the weather, but there’s not much you can do about it – except have a plan in place in the event a natural disaster damages your business premises. Two tips: Maintain adequate insurance and store valuable business data at a secure off-location site.
2. A key employee quits. Cross-training can avoid business interruptions if a key employee leaves unexpectedly. You might also want to consider asking key employees to sign a reasonable non-compete agreement to protect confidential information. Typically, these agreements prohibit an employee from working for a competitor for a certain period.
3. An employee embezzles company funds. To safeguard your business assets, divide responsibilities so one person doesn’t have complete control over the books. Set up a system of checks and balances.
4. Your biggest customer leaves. To keep your business from going under,update your marketing plan, stay in touch with former customers, establish anemergency budget, and diversify your revenue stream.
5. You become disabled. “Key-person” disability insurance can provide funding to keep your business afloat. The policy may also cover employees who are vital to operations.
6. Your company or partnership splits up. Draft a buy-sell agreement to ensure a smooth transition due to the sale of a business interest, including a forced sale on the death of one of your shareholders or partners. The agreement can establish the terms of a buy-out and set a value for the respective business interests.
7. Your computer system crashes. Extra hardware, such as tablets or laptops, regular off-site backups, and cloud storage for important documents can avoid a crisis when your computer fails.
Beginning this month, you can sign up for a new 2017 health insurance policy on the health insurance Marketplace. You can also change or renew the policy you purchased during the last enrollment period. Even if your current policy has an automatic renewal feature, you’ll want to verify that you’re getting the best deal, and that you are still eligible for the federal premium tax credit.
What if you didn’t sign up last winter and didn’t have health insurance coverage in 2016? You may owe a penalty on your 2016 federal income tax return. The penalty is calculated in one of two ways: as a percentage of your income, or on a per- person basis. You pay whichever is higher.
For 2016, the penalty is 2.5% of your annual household income, up to a maximum of the national average premium for a Bronze plan. The per-person penalty is $695 per adult and $347.50 per child under 18 (up to a maximum per-family penalty of $2,085).