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Be an early-bird tax return filer this year. It may protect you from tax identity theft. Here’s why.


If you’re married and file a joint return, what happens if your spouse doesn’t disclose all of his or her income or otherwise doesn’t pay the correct tax owed? You’re generally liable for the full amount but there may be “innocent spouse” relief.

When a married couple files a joint tax return, each spouse is liable for the full amount of tax on the couple’s combined income. Therefore, the IRS can come after either spouse to collect the entire tax, not just the part that’s attributed to that spouse. This includes any tax deficiency that the IRS assesses after an audit, as well as any penalties and interest. In some cases, spouses are eligible for “innocent spouse relief.” Generally, these spouses were unaware of a tax understatement that was attributable to the other spouse. If you’re interested in trying to obtain relief, paperwork must be filed and deadlines must be met. Contact us. We can assist you with the details.


If you’re married and file a joint return, what happens if your spouse doesn’t disclose all of his or her income or otherwise doesn’t pay the correct tax owed? You’re generally liable for the full amount but there may be “innocent spouse” relief.

When a married couple files a joint tax return, each spouse is liable for the full amount of tax on the couple’s combined income. Therefore, the IRS can come after either spouse to collect the entire tax, not just the part that’s attributed to that spouse. This includes any tax deficiency that the IRS assesses after an audit, as well as any penalties and interest. In some cases, spouses are eligible for “innocent spouse relief.” Generally, these spouses were unaware of a tax understatement that was attributable to the other spouse. If you’re interested in trying to obtain relief, paperwork must be filed and deadlines must be met. Contact us. We can assist you with the details.


Prudently planning how to take money out of your traditional IRA can mean more money for you and your heirs. Here are three areas to understand in order to maximize your retirement savings.

f you’re like many people, you’ve worked hard to accumulate a large nest egg in your traditional IRA (or a SEP-IRA). It’s critical to carefully plan for withdrawals. For example, if you need to take money out of your traditional IRA before age 59-1/2, the distribution will generally be taxable. In addition, distributions before age 59-1/2 may be subject to a 10% penalty tax. (However, several exceptions may allow you to avoid the penalty tax but not the regular income tax.) And once you reach age 70-1/2, distributions from a traditional IRA must begin. If you don’t withdraw the minimum amount each year, you may have to pay a 50% penalty tax on what should have been taken but wasn’t.


If you’re fortunate enough to hit a sizable jackpot in the lottery or while gambling, there are tax implications. Here’s a rundown of the basics.

If you’re lucky enough to be a winner at gambling or the lottery, congratulations! But be aware there are tax consequences. You must report 100% of your winnings as taxable income. If you itemize deductions, you can deduct losses but only up to the amount of winnings. You report lottery winnings as income in the year you actually receive them. In the case of noncash prizes (such as a car), 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. These are just the basic rules. Contact us with questions. We can help you minimize taxes and stay in compliance with all requirements.



If you meet certain requirements, you may be eligible for a tax break on summer day camp expenses you pay for your child. Here is a rundown of the rules.

Now that most schools are out for the summer, you might be sending your children to day camp. The good news: You might be eligible for a tax break for the cost. Day camp is a qualified expense under the child and dependent care credit, which is worth 20% to 35% of qualifying expenses, up to a maximum of $3,000 for one qualifying child and $6,000 for two or more. Note: Sleep-away camp doesn’t qualify. Eligible costs for care must be employment-related. In other words, they must enable you to work or look for work if you’re unemployed. Additional rules apply. Contact us if you have questions about your eligibility for this credit and other tax breaks for parents.



Are you still working after age 70½ and don’t want to take required minimum distributions from your 401(k) account? You might not have to. Here are the details.

If you participate in a qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k), you must generally begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) no later than April 1 of the year after which you turn age 70½. The penalty for withdrawing less than the RMD is 50% of the portion that should have been withdrawn but wasn’t. However, there’s an exception that may apply to certain people if they’re still working for the entire year in which they turn 70½. The RMD rules are complex. Contact us to customize a plan based on your individual retirement and estate planning goals.


Are you interested in joining the growing ranks of plug-in electric vehicle owners? Find out about the federal income tax credit you might be able to claim.

If you’re interested in purchasing an electric or hybrid vehicle, you may be eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. (Depending on where you live, there may also be state tax breaks.) However, the federal credit is subject to a phaseout rule that may reduce or eliminate the tax break based on how many sales are made by a manufacturer. The vehicles of 2 manufacturers (GM and Tesla) have already begun to be phased out, which means they now qualify for a partial tax credit. For a list of manufacturers and credit amounts, visit: https://bit.ly/2vqC8vM. 


The rules for deducting personal casualty losses on a tax return have changed for 2018 to 2025. Specifically, you generally can’t deduct losses unless the casualty event qualifies as a federally declared disaster.

The rules for writing off personal casualty losses on a tax return have changed for 2018 to 2025. Specifically, taxpayers generally can’t deduct losses unless the casualty event qualifies as a federally declared disaster. (The rules for business or income-producing property are different.) Another factor that now makes it harder to claim a casualty loss is that you must itemize deductions to claim one. For 2018 to 2025, fewer people will itemize, because the standard deduction amounts have been significantly increased. We can help you navigate the complex rules.


In a tax identity theft scheme, a thief uses your personal information to file a fraudulent tax return electronically early in the tax filing season and claim a bogus refund. Here’s how to protect yourself. 

The IRS opened the 2018 income tax return filing season on Jan. 28. Consider filing as soon as you can, even if you typically don’t file this early. It can help protect you from tax identity theft, in which a thief files a return using your Social Security number to claim a bogus refund. If you file first, it will be returns filed by any would-be thieves that are rejected by the IRS, not yours. Other benefits: You’ll get your refund sooner or, if you owe tax, you’ll know how much you owe sooner so you can be ready to pay it by April 15. Contact us with questions.


There are three major changes that will impact many individual taxpayers, beginning when they file their 2018 income tax returns. And we’re not talking about tax rate cuts or reduced itemized deductions. 

When you file your 2018 income tax return, you’ll likely find that some big tax law changes affect you, besides the much-discussed tax rate cuts and reduced itemize deductions. For 2018 through 2025, the TCJA: 1) eliminates personal exemptions, 2) increases the standard deduction and 3) expands the child credit. The degree to which these changes will affect you depends on whether you have dependents and, if so, how many. It also depends on whether you typically itemize deductions. We can help ensure you claim all of the breaks available to you on your 2018 return.


Don’t take the substantiation requirements for charitable donation deductions lightly. If you made a gift last year and haven’t received a written acknowledgment from the charity, read this before claiming a deduction on your 2018 income tax return. 

To claim an itemized deduction for a donation of more than $250, generally you need a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the charity. “Contemporaneous” means the earlier of 1) the date you file your income tax return, or 2) the extended due date of your return. If you made a donation in 2018 but haven’t received substantiation and you’d like to deduct it, consider requesting a written acknowledgment from the charity and waiting to file your 2018 return until you receive it. Additional rules apply to certain types of donations. Contact us to learn more. 


Not as many people will benefit from the charitable deduction on their 2018 income tax returns. Find out why donations may no longer save you tax and what you can do to help ensure deductibility.


Assuming a charity is qualified, you may be able to deduct some of the out-of-pocket costs you incur when volunteering for the organization. But the rules are complex.


Have you noticed in your mailbox any notifications from online vendors from whom you purchased items during 2017 reporting your total purchases from them during the year and wondered why? This is because they did not charge you sales tax on your online purchases. And now the State of Louisiana is requiring these vendors to report to them and to you the purchase amounts so the State can ultimately collect the sales tax (actually termed “use tax” at this point in the transaction).


On December 20, Congress completed passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The new law means substantial changes for individual taxpayers. For example, it reduces tax rates for most brackets, nearly doubles the standard deduction and expands the child tax credit. And it provides alternative minimum tax (AMT) and estate tax relief. But it also reduces or eliminates many tax breaks. Most changes affecting individuals are only temporary, generally applying for 2018 through 2025.


We have compiled a checklist of additional actions based on current tax rules that may help you save tax dollars if you act before year-end. Not all actions will apply in your particular situation, but you (or a family member) will likely benefit from many of them. We can narrow down the specific actions that you can take once we meet with you to tailor a particular plan. In the meantime, please review the following list and contact us at your earliest convenience so that we can advise you on which tax-saving moves to make:


Projecting your business income and expenses for this year and next can allow you to time when you recognize income and incur deductible expenses to your tax advantage. Typically, it’s better to defer tax. This might end up being especially true this year, if tax reform legislation is signed into law.


Did you know that if you’re self-employed you may be able to set up a retirement plan that allows you to contribute much more than you can contribute to an IRA or even an employer-sponsored 401(k)? There’s still time to set up such a plan for 2017, and it generally isn’t hard to do. So whether you’re a “full-time” independent contractor or you’re employed but earn some self-employment income on the side, consider setting up one of the following types of retirement plans this year.  


With kids back in school, it’s a good time for parents (and grandparents) to think about college funding. One option is a Section 529 plan. It offers the opportunity to build up a large college nest egg via tax-deferred compounding and can be particularly powerful if contributions begin when the child is quite young. Contributions aren’t deductible for federal purposes, but distributions used to pay qualified expenses are typically income-tax-free for both federal and state purposes, thus making the tax deferral a permanent savings.


An estate tax repeal is one reform that’s been proposed by Congress, but a repeal may not affect you. Here’s why.


Elementary and secondary school teachers and other eligible educators can deduct up to $250 for qualifying classroom supplies they pay for out of pocket. This is an “above-the-line” deduction, which means you don’t have to itemize. Before this special break became available, such expenditures could be deducted only as unreimbursed business expenses under the miscellaneous itemized deduction, subject to a 2% of adjusted gross income (AGI) floor, which could be a difficult threshold to meet.


If you own a home, be sure to claim all the home-related tax breaks you’re entitled to. But be aware that a couple expired at the end of 2016, and others might disappear in the future as part of tax reform.


If you don’t have “minimum essential” health coverage, beware of potential tax penalties.


The American Opportunity credit can provide valuable tax savings for families with a college student. But sometimes it makes sense for the student, rather than the parent, to claim the credit.


Do you know what individual income tax records are safe to toss? If not and you’d like to clear out your files (whether paper or electronic) of unnecessary documents, here are some guidelines.


On December 20, President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan, year-end government spending and tax package, just hours before federal funding was set to expire. Trump's signature on the over 2,000-page spending package avoided a government shutdown.


The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) ( P.L. 111-148) individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power. However, the central question of whether the rest of the ACA remains valid after Congress removed the penalty for not having health insurance remained unanswered. Instead, the case was sent back to the district court to reconsider how much of the ACA could survive without the individual mandate penalty.


Proposed qualified opportunity zone regulations issued on October 29, 2018 ( REG-115420-18) and May 1, 2019 ( REG-120186-18) under Code Sec. 1400Z-2 have been finalized with modifications. The regulations. which were issued in a 550 page document, are comprehensive.


The IRS has issued final regulations that provide guidance on transfers of appreciated property by U.S. persons to partnerships with foreign partners related to the transferor. Specifically, the regulations override the general nonrecognition rule under Code Sec. 721(a) unless the partnership adopts the remedial allocation method and certain other requirements are satisfied. The regulations affect U.S. partners in domestic or foreign partnerships.


The IRS has released Publication 5382, "Internal Revenue Service Progress Update / Fiscal Year 2019—Putting Taxpayers First." This new annual report describes accomplishments across the agency, and highlights the work of IRS employees during the past year. It covers a variety of taxpayer service efforts, including development of the new Taxpayer Withholding Estimator, as well as operations support efforts on areas involving information technology modernization, human capital office initiatives, and others.


Bridget Roberts, the Acting National Taxpayer Advocate, released her 2019 Annual Report to Congress. The report discusses the key challenges facing the IRS regarding the implementation of the Taxpayer First Act, inadequate taxpayer service and limited funding of the agency. Further, Roberts released the third edition of the National Taxpayer Advocate’s "Purple Book," which presents 58 legislative recommendations designed to strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration.


The IRS has modified the applicability dates for proposed regulations under Code Sec. 382 that were issued with NPRM REG-125710-18, September 10, 2019 (2019 proposed regulations). The IRS is withdrawing the text of the proposed applicability dates, and proposing revised applicability dates. The newly issued proposed rules would also provide transition relief.


The Treasury and IRS have issued final regulations on the due diligence and reporting rules for persons making certain U.S. source payments to foreign persons. Guidance is also provided on reporting by foreign financial institutions on U.S. accounts. The regulations are effective on the date the regulations are published in the Federal Register.


Taxpayers have been provided with additional guidance for complying with the Code Sec. 871(m) regulations on dividend equivalent payments for 2021, 2022, and 2023. The Treasury Department and the IRS intend to amend the regulations to delay the effective/applicability date of certain rules. Further, the phase-in period provided in Notice 2018-762, I.R.B. 2018-40, 522, has been extended.