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Hurricane Florence Losses

via Hurricane Florence Losses

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Hurricane Florence Losses

Under current tax law, personal casualty losses from Hurricane Florence can only be claimed as an itemized deduction.  There is legislation pending in Congress that may change this treatment to allow a deduction for those taxpayers who do not itemize.  As of today, February 28, 2019, we are recommending that taxpayers with Hurricane Florence losses to extend their 2019 tax returns in anticipation of Congress passing relief provisions.

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New Tax withholding Rates

The IRS released information today on the new payroll withholding tables.

These changes are due to tax rate decreases by Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts signed by President Trump on December 22, 2017.  Look for additional net pay on your 2018 paychecks.

Updated 2018 Withholding Tables Now Available; Taxpayers Could See Paycheck Changes by February

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today released Notice 1036, which updates the income-tax withholding tables for 2018 reflecting changes made by the tax reform legislation enacted last month. This is the first in a series of steps that IRS will take to help improve the accuracy of withholding following major changes made by the new tax law.

The updated withholding information, posted today on IRS.gov, shows the new rates for employers to use during 2018. Employers should begin using the 2018 withholding tables as soon as possible, but not later than Feb. 15, 2018. They should continue to use the 2017 withholding tables until implementing the 2018 withholding tables.

Many employees will begin to see increases in their paychecks to reflect the new law in February. The time it will take for employees to see the changes in their paychecks will vary depending on how quickly the new tables are implemented by their employers and how often they are paid — generally weekly, biweekly or monthly.   The new withholding tables are designed to work with the Forms W-4 that workers have already filed with their employers to claim withholding allowances. This will minimize burden on taxpayers and employers. Employees do not have to do anything at this time.



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Higher Social Security taxes for many in 2017, small increase in benefits for recipients

From CCH tax news:

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will increase by 0.3 percent in 2017. The rates for Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) and Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) taxes will remain at a combined 7.65 percent in 2017. Because of the increase, the maximum taxable earning for OASDI purposes will increase from $118,500 to $127,200.

The SSA cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) are based on the rise in the average Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of 2014 through the third quarter of 2016. Because of the increase in the CPI-W during that period, the law increases benefits to help offset inflation. As a result, monthly Social Security and SSI benefits for over 65-million Americans will increase 0.3 percent in 2017.

Comment. The Social Security wage base for 2017 will be $127,200. According to the SSA, of the estimated 173-million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2017, some 12 million will pay more because of the increase in the wage base. The SSA explained on its website that the formula for determining the wage base is set by law. The formula is applicable only if a cost-of-living increase becomes effective for December of the year in which a determination of the base would ordinarily be made. Because there is a cost-of-living increase for December 2016, the formula is applicable, the SSA explained.

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The Department of Labor issued final regulations on May 18th on new overtime rules.  These rules will become effective 12-1-2016.

Under these rules, more employees will be subject to overtime pay than under current law.

From the news release today from the DOL:
Key Provisions of the Final Rule
The Final Rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative and Professional workers to be exempt. Specifically, the Final Rule:
Sets the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South ($913 per week; $47,476 annually for a full-year worker);
1. Sets the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal duties test to the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally
($134,004); and
2. Establishes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles and to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective
tests for exemption.
3. Additionally, the Final Rule amends the salary basis test to allow employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level.
Final Rule: Overtime – Wage and Hour Division (WHD) – U.S. Departme… https://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/final2016/index.htm

The effective date of the final rule is December 1, 2016. The initial increases to the standard salary level (from $455 to $913 per week) and HCE total annual compensation requirement (from $100,000 to $134,004 per year) will be effective on that date. Future automatic updates to those thresholds will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020.


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Finally, Tax Breaks coming for 2015

It appears that Congress will pass and the President will sign the “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes” Act.

For businesses, this will make permanent the $500,000 section 179 deduction and will extend bonus depreciation through 2019 as well as allow for a 15 year depreciation life for certain leasehold improvements and restaurant property.

For individuals, the Bill extends permanently the ability to make to $100,000 of charitable contributions directly from an IRA. Other tax benefits such as the $250 educator expense deduction and the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college tuition were also made permanent.

Good news for taxpayers, it is a shame that Congress waited until the last two weeks of December to finally address this.

On another note, the IRS has issued the standard mileage rates for 2016.

2016 Standard Mileage Rates Released (IR-2015-137; Notice 2016-1)

The IRS has released the 2016 optional standard mileage rates that employees, self-employed individuals, and other taxpayers can use to compute deductible costs of operating automobiles (including vans, pickups and panel trucks) for business, medical, moving and charitable purposes.

The 2016 standard mileage rate has decreased to 54 cents per mile for business uses and 19 cents per mile for medical and moving uses. It remains at 14 cents per mile for charitable uses. For purposes of computing the allowance under an FAVR plan, the standard automobile cost may not exceed $28,000 ($31,000 for trucks and vans).

The updated rates are effective for deductible transportation expenses paid or incurred on or after January 1, 2016, and for mileage allowances or reimbursements paid to, or transportation expenses paid or incurred by, an employee or a charitable volunteer on or after January 1, 2016.

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2015 Planning Issues for Individuals

Overlooked tax issues

With the end of each year there are issues to be considered which vary with each individual’s circumstance.   Some overlooked issues are listed below.

Retirement Distributions:  The requirement to take minimum distributions from retirement accounts begins the year a taxpayer reaches the age of 70½. This first distribution may be delayed but no later than April 1 of the following year but, if delayed, it will mean that two distributions will be received in one year. The balances of all retirement accounts should be considered in determining the required minimum distribution; however, the distribution can be taken from one or all accounts. Failure to take the required amount can result in a penalty of 50% of the amount that was not distributed.

Medicare:  An individual becomes eligible for Medicare at age 65 even though they have not yet reached the age to receive full Social Security benefits. There is a 7 month enrollment period which is the 3 months prior to, the month of, and the 3 months following the month of obtaining age 65. If this enrollment time frame is missed, unless special circumstances apply, enrollment would take place during the general enrollment period of January 1 through March 31 of each year with coverage beginning July 1. Late enrollment may result is higher premiums for both Part A and Part B.

Beneficiaries:  Reviewing the designated beneficiaries listed for retirement accounts and life insurance proceeds should be done periodically. The designated beneficiary on the account, whomever that may be, is entitled. There have been many instances where beneficiaries should have been changed due to a change in circumstances but were not. The review should also include bank and brokerage accounts for payable upon death beneficiaries. Beneficiary designations override any instructions left in a will.