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Finding your way through the passive activity rules can be an overwhelming task. Passive activity loss limitations can often lead to unintended outcomes. This is particularly evident when it comes to the self-rental rules.

For various tax and legal reasons, a taxpayer may decide to hold an operating company and the real estate in which it operates in separate entity structures. Renting the building to “yourself” is allowable under the tax code and is encouraged. Sound tax planning will help make sure that the losses from your rental activity do not get “trapped” because of the passive activity loss rules.

Passive Activity Losses

Passive activity losses are only allowed to the extent there is passive income. Any passive losses that cannot be taken in the current year are carried forward until they can be taken against any future passive income. Section 469(c) of the Internal Revenue Code defines passive activities as “any activity which involves the conduct of any trade or business, and in which the taxpayer does not materially participate [; including] any rental activity.”


The following is a summary of important tax developments that have occurred in the past three months that may affect you, your family, your investments, and your livelihood. Please call us for more information about any of these developments and what steps you should implement to take advantage of favorable developments and to minimize the impact of those that are unfavorable.


There is an old saying about procrastination: “He who waits to do tomorrow what can be done today will…” I forget the end – I will look it up later. Speaking of procrastination, it seems for all the talk in Congress of passing sweeping tax legislation, we don’t seem any closer to change than we were prior to the election. With the assumption that no tax changes will occur during 2017, here are a few ideas that you can implement this year to lower your tax liability. 


Tax reform discussions continue on Capitol Hill with legislation expected to be released very soon. GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate appear to be aiming for a comprehensive overhaul of the Tax Code. President Trump and Republicans in Congress have set out an ambitious schedule of passing a tax reform bill before year-end. 


Year-end tax planning can provide most taxpayers with a good way to lower a tax bill that will otherwise be waiting for them when they file their 2017 tax return in 2018. Since tax liability is primarily keyed to each calendar tax year, once December 31, 2017 passes, your 2017 tax liability for the most part – good or bad – will mostly be set in stone.


As the 2018 filing season nears, the IRS is reminding taxpayers that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains on the books. The ACA’s reporting requirements for individuals have not been changed by Congress. At the same time, the Trump Administration has proposed administrative changes to the ACA, which could expand health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), the use of short-term, limited duration health insurance, and association health plans.


Holiday gifts made to customers are generally deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses as long as the taxpayer can demonstrate that such gifts maintain or improve customer goodwill. Such gifts must bear a direct relationship to the taxpayer's business and must be made with a reasonable expectation of a financial return commensurate with the amount of the gift. However, the $25 annual limitation per recipient on deductibility is applicable to holiday gifts, unless a statutory exceptions applies.


For purposes of federal tax, employers must withhold and pay FICA taxes (7.65%) if they paid a household employee cash wages of at least $2,000 in 2016 or in 2017 ($2,100 in 2018). Employers must pay FUTA tax (6%) if they paid total cash wages of at least $1,000 in a calendar quarter to household employees. A homeowner may be an “employer” to a housekeeper; or, if enough evidence is shown, merely a recipient of services by an independent contractor or self-employed individual.


As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important federal tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of November 2017.


If you file a joint return and your taxable income is less than that of your spouse, the "spousal" IRA rules may allow you to contribute up to $5,000 in 2009 (or $6,000 if you are 50 or older) to an individual retirement account (IRA) this year. A "spousal IRA" is a term more commonly used to describe an IRA set up for a nonworking, stay-at-home spouse.


In many parts of the country, residential property has seen steady and strong appreciation for some time now. In an estate planning context, however, increasing property values could mean a potential increase in federal estate tax liability for the property owner's estate. Many homeowners, who desire to pass their appreciating residential property on to their children and save federal estate and gift taxes at the same time, have utilized qualified personal residence trusts.


In 2009, individuals saving for retirement can take advantage of increased contribution limits for various retirement plans. More money can be socked away with tax advantages like tax-deferred growth and possible tax-deductibility.


Have you ever thought about distributions of property dividends (rather than cash dividends) from your corporation?  In some situations, it makes sense to distribute property in lieu of cash for a variety of reasons. However, before you make the decision as to the form of any distributions from your company, you should consider the various tax consequences of such distributions.


Throughout all of our lives, we have been told that if we don't want to work all of our life, we must plan ahead and save for retirement. We have also been urged to seek professional guidance to help plan our estates so that we can ensure that our loved ones will get the most out of the assets we have accumulated during our lifetime, with the least amount possible going to pay estate taxes.  What many of us likely have not thought about is how these two financial goals -- retirement and estate planning -- work together. 


During uncertain economic times, it's easy to feel pessimism and react hastily amid media reports about growing unemployment rates and stock market downturns. However, such actions can wreak havoc on your long-term personal and financial goals. Taking some time out now to put the uncertain future into perspective can help minimize the impact that many external forces can have on your personal and financial life.


Q:  One of my children received a full scholarship for all expenses to attend college this year.  I had heard that this amount may not be required to be reported on his tax return if certain conditions were met and the funds were used specifically for certain types of her expenses.  Is this true and what amounts spent on my child's education will be treated as qualified expenses?


How much am I really worth? This is a question that has run through most of our minds at one time or another. However, if you aren't an accountant or mathematician, it may seem like an impossible number to figure out. The good news is that, using a simple step format, you can compute your net worth in no time at all.


Employers are required by the Internal Revenue Code to calculate, withhold, and deposit with the IRS all federal employment taxes related to wages paid to employees. Failure to comply with these requirements can find certain "responsible persons" held personally liable. Who is a responsible person for purposes of employment tax obligations? The broad interpretation defined by the courts and the IRS may surprise you.


How quickly could you convert your assets to cash if necessary? Do you have a quantitative way to evaluate management's effectiveness? Knowing your business' key financial ratios can provide valuable insight into the effectiveness of your operations and your ability to meet your financial obligations as well as help you chart your company's future.


Raising a family in today's economy can be difficult and many people will agree that breaks are few -- more people mean more expenditures. However, in recent years, the IRS has passed legislation that borders on "family-friendly", with tax credits and other breaks benefiting families with children. Recent legislation also addresses the growing trend towards giving families a break.


Imagine you had a camera that could take a snapshot of your financial transactions over the course of a year. This snapshot would give you a chance to see the results of financial decisions you made during the course of the year -- good and bad. By using your recently filed Form 1040 as a "snapshot" of your past spending and investment habits, you can use this information to make better financial decisions in the current year.


Q. Each year when it comes time to prepare my return, I realize how little I think about my tax situation during the rest of the year. I seem to lack any sort of common sense when it comes to dealing with my taxes. Do you have any general advice for people like me trying to "do the right thing" in any tax situation that may arise during the year?


Stock options have become a common part of many compensation and benefits packages. Even small businesses have jumped on the bandwagon and now provide a perk previously confined to the executive suites of large publicly held companies. If you are an employee who has received stock options, you need to be aware of the complicated tax rules that govern certain stock options -- several potential "gotchas" exist and failing to spot them can cause major tax headaches.


Telecommuting not only offers employees flexibility, but accommodates lives that can often be hectic. While employees love the lifestyle and family/home advantages of telecommuting, the potential improvement to the bottom line is what appeals to employers.


A number of charities use the Internet to solicit funds, allowing potential donors to make contributions online. You can even create an account in a special type of planned giving instrument: a donor-advised fund. What are these funds, and are they right for you?


Q. I am reviewing my portfolio and considering selling some of my stock. How do I determine what tax basis I have in the publicly-traded shares that I own for purposes of determining my gain or loss if I buy and sell multiple shares at different times? Does keeping track of basis really matter?