New Pass-Through Entity Rules

One of the most important – and complicated – changes in the new tax reform act is to tax rules affecting small businesses that are treated as “pass-through entities.”

The good news is that if you own one of these businesses you may get as much as a 20 percent reduction to the taxation of business net income under the new rules. However, calculating the actual deduction can become very complex. It depends upon several factors, including your level of income, your profession, the amount your business spends on wages and property acquired during the year.

Tax reform background

Most small businesses in the U.S. use pass-through business structures, which pass their profits on to their individual owners. Owners pay tax on those profits at their individual tax rates, in conjunction with other income. The new tax rates range from 10 percent to 37 percent in the 2018 tax year. Pass-through business structures include S corporations, partnerships and LLCs. Sole proprietorships handle business income in a similar way using Form 1040 Schedule C and are also covered by the new rules. [Read more…]

Home Closing

We recently closed on our residence in Newton. Mary was outstanding. She proactively reached out to their attorney frequently as they were not that responsive. She kept us informed the entire way and overall I can only say is she is a total professional. THANK YOU MARY!

~William F.

How to sell your rented investment property

Are you ready to sell that investment property, but unsure what to do because it’s currently being rented? You have options, but first you need to understand the legal restrictions on selling a property while a tenant is renting it.

Most states do not see selling the property as a valid enough reason to terminate a lease agreement early. So if there is still a set term on the lease, you may need to wait the tenant out before selling. Otherwise you can offer to pay him or her to vacate early.

For tenants on a month-to-month lease, be sure not to violate local landlord-tenant statutes that set forth the proper notice requirements for the tenant to vacate the property. These normally range from 30 to 60 days. [Read more…]

Why more millennials are opting for adjustable-rate mortgages

Cash-strapped millennials looking to keep interest-rate costs down are opting for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) instead of the more traditionally popular fixed-rate mortgages.

ARMs are particularly attractive for young homeowners who do not plan to retain property long term. Experts say the best way to select an ARM is to match the fixed period to the time the buyer plans to be in the home. For example, millennials planning to move where their jobs take them within a few years might find a 3/1 ARM provides a rate advantage in the short term.

Know a millennial thinking of trying an ARM? Here’s what they should consider: [Read more…]

When can a tenant legally withhold rent?

Although it’s never ideal, sometimes it may become necessary to withhold rent until problems with a rental unit are corrected.

Tenants need to be very careful when doing so. A tenant must provide notice and be sure to follow state or local laws. Not following the rules can lead to an eviction for failing to pay rent.

First, always give the landlord a reasonable opportunity to fix any problems. But if you have repairs that need to be made and your landlord refuses to make them, or won’t even return your call, eventually withholding rent may be an option. Unless your lease specifically allows you to deduct or withhold rent for particular repairs, maintenance or other issues, you need to clear it with your landlord, in writing, to make sure you are protected from a breach of contract claim. If your landlord refuses to cooperate, an experienced landlord-tenant attorney can help you avoid having to pay even more for an eviction defense attorney down the road. [Read more…]

Precautions to take before starting a home-improvement project

You’ve selected the right contractor, picked out the materials and set aside the necessary budget. It might seem like you’re ready to embark on that home-improvement project. But have you contacted your insurance agent?

Experts recommend that homeowners get in touch with their insurance agent before a home-improvement project to make sure they have sufficient coverage, and after the project is done to see if policy limits need to be increased to provide for enough insurance to rebuild the home. Some projects, such as replacing a roof or installing impact-resistant windows, may even qualify you for an insurance discount.

If anything goes wrong during the project that results in the need to file a claim, you’ll be glad you handled the following in advance, as well: [Read more…]

Weigh the risks in contractor disputes

Construction projects can get tense, and when a dispute arises mid-project it takes some finesse to maintain working relationships or at least get the project done.

It’s always best to bring up any concerns right away and see if by talking it out you and the contractor can find resolution. Often contractors will be willing to redo work, or make changes to completed work, for a discounted price.

That can be the most cost effective way to resolve an issue, and can also help keep your project close to the original timeline, as the contractor will want to maintain the working relationship. [Read more…]

U.S. Supreme Court rules on regulatory takings

Property owners forced to hash out regulatory takings in court may lose out more often thanks to a new test used to determine whether two adjacent properties with a single owner could be considered a larger parcel.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Murr v. Wisconsin found that the properties in question were a single parcel, and because the owners were not deprived of all economically viable uses of their property they could not establish a compensable regulatory taking.

The case addressed land use regulations that merged adjacent parcels (one developed, one undeveloped) into one for environmental reasons, despite the fact they were separately acquired, owned and taxed. The regulations prevented the development or sale of the second, undeveloped parcel. [Read more…]

Total Efficiency

Mary was pleasant to work with. She knew what she was doing the whole time and worked very diligently during the P&S writing and some negotiations at the end to ensure I was covered and protected. She was also the closing attorney. She was on time, came in prepared and ready to go which made the process quick and smooth. I totally recommend her to anyone.

~Claribel

Excellent

Mary was very thorough, responsive and detail oriented. She was a pleasure to work with and did a spectacular job with my closing. I’d recommend her strongly.

~Jeremy

IRS now allows private debt collectors to dun taxpayers

In a move that could be confusing to seniors who are vulnerable to scams, the IRS is using private debt collection agencies to collect past-due taxes. The new program began in April 2017.

Pursuant to a law Congress passed in December 2015, the IRS may now contract with private debt collectors to collect certain debts. The private collection agencies can work on accounts where the taxpayer owes money but the IRS is no longer actively working on the account, perhaps because it is older or because the IRS does not have the resources to continue pursuing it.

Historically, scammers have posed as the IRS to target seniors and other vulnerable adults to retrieve identifying information or payment. Up until now, tax professionals have been able to reassure clients that the IRS would never harass consumers over the phone. However, under this new rule private debt collectors may contact taxpayers by phone, which may make it more difficult to determine whether a scammer is targeting the taxpayer.  [Read more…]

Five things to know to reduce your tax on capital gains

Although it is often said that nothing is certain except death and taxes, the one tax you may be able to avoid or minimize the most through planning is the tax on capital gains. Here’s what you need to know to do such planning:

What is capital gain? Capital gain is the difference between the “basis” in property (usually real estate or stocks, but also including artwork and collectibles) and its selling price. The basis is usually the purchase price of the property. So, if you purchased a house for $250,000 and sold it for $450,000 you would have $200,000 of gain ($450,000 – $250,000 = $200,000). [Read more…]

Using a prepaid funeral contract to spend down assets for Medicaid

No one wants to think about his or her death, but a little preparation in the form of a prepaid funeral contract can be useful. In addition to helping your family after your passing, a prepaid funeral contract can be a good way to spend down assets in order to qualify for Medicaid.

A prepaid or pre-need contract allows you to purchase funeral goods and services before you die. The contract can be entered into with a funeral home or cemetery. Prepaid funeral contracts can include payments for embalming and restoration; a room for the funeral service; a casket, vault or grave liner; cremation; transportation; permits; a headstone; a death certificate; and an obituary, among other things.

One benefit of a prepaid funeral contract is that you are paying now for a service that may increase in price — possibly saving your family money. You are also saving your family from having to make arrangements after you die, which can be difficult and time-consuming. [Read more…]

Estate planning for a single person

If you are single, you may not think you need to plan your estate.  But single people have as much reason to plan as anyone else. Estate planning not only involves determining where your assets will go when you die, it also helps you plan for what will happen should you become incapacitated, perhaps as the result of a stroke, dementia, or injury. If you don’t make a plan, you will have no say in what happens to you or your assets.

Without a properly executed will in place when you die, your estate will be distributed according to state law. If you are single, most states provide that your estate will go to your children, parents, or other living relatives. If you have absolutely no living relatives, then your estate will go to the state. This may not be what you want to have happen to your assets. You may have charities, close friends, or particular relatives that you want to provide for after your death.

If you become incapacitated without any planning, a court will have to determine who will have the authority to handle your finances and make health care decisions for you. The court may not choose the person you would have chosen. In addition, going to court to set up a guardianship is time-consuming and expensive. [Read more…]

The best way to avoid an audit: Preparation

Getting audited by the IRS is no fun. Some taxpayers are selected for random audits every year, but the chances of that happening to you are very small. You are much more likely to fall under the IRS’s gaze if you make one of several common mistakes.

That means your best chance of avoiding an audit is by doing things right before you file your return this year. Here are some suggestions:

Don’t leave anything out. Missing or incomplete information on your return will trigger an audit letter automatically, since the IRS gets copies of the same tax forms (such as W-2s and 1099s) that you do. [Read more…]

Mileage rates for 2018

The IRS recently announced mileage rates to be used for travel in 2018. The standard business mileage rate increased by 1 cent to 54.5 cents per mile. The medical and moving mileage rates also increased by 1 cent, to 18 cents per mile. Charitable mileage rates remained unchanged at 14 cents per mile.

Remember to properly document your mileage to receive full credit for your miles driven.

Looking ahead: Tax reform in 2018

Congress has passed tax reform that will take effect in 2018, ushering in some of the most significant tax changes in three decades. Here are some major items in the new bill that impact individual taxpayers.

Reduces income tax brackets. The bill retains seven brackets, but at reduced rates, with the highest tax bracket dropping to 37 percent from 39.6 percent.

Double standard deductions. The standard deduction nearly doubles to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for married filing jointly. To help cover the cost, personal exemptions and most additional standard deductions are suspended.

[Read more…]

Tax filing reminders

January 16 – Due date for the fourth installment of 2017 individual estimated tax.

January 31 –

  • Due date for employers to furnish W-2 statements to employees, and to file Forms W-2 with the Social Security Administration (both paper and electronic forms).
  • Due date for payers to provide most Forms 1099-MISC with non-employee compensation in box 7 to recipients and to the IRS.
  • Employers must file 2017 federal unemployment tax returns and pay any tax due.
  • Due date for providers to send Forms 1095 to recipients and the IRS.