Tax diversification is integral to a well-structured retirement plan. By holding assets in accounts with different tax treatments, such as traditional IRAs, Roth accounts and taxable investments, you can balance current and future tax benefits and gain flexibility to deal with unexpected circumstances.

The Three Types Of Investment Accounts

Many investors look down on taxable investment accounts because of the taxes they must pay each year on interest and dividends, as well as any gains resulting from sales. However, such accounts do offer several benefits. First, they are incredibly flexible. There is no restriction on the types of investments you can make on a taxable basis. And while both traditional and Roth-type retirement accounts are subject to annual contribution limits and to penalties for early withdrawal, there is no limit on contributions to a taxable account, and there are no penalties when you need access to the funds before your retirement.

Qualified dividends and capital gains are taxed at favorable rates in taxable accounts (zero for lower-income taxpayers, 15 percent for most taxpayers and 23.8 percent for high-income taxpayers). Also, investments sold at a loss can be used to reduce one’s tax liability. Since you can generally control when you sell an investment, you can control when you pay much of the tax liability that such accounts generate. The government again favors taxable investments upon the owner’s death. At that time, the cost basis is adjusted to the fair market value, and no capital gains tax is due if the estate immediately sells the holdings.

At first glance, tax-deferred retirement accounts, such as traditional 401(k)s, traditional IRAs and similar plans, may seem to be the most appealing savings options because, by reducing your current tax bills, they give you the biggest upfront benefit. Since none of the income is taxable until withdrawals are made, you may be able to save more overall as the benefits continue to compound.

Regrettably, savers can wind up paying for this upfront tax benefit later in life. Distributions from tax-deferred accounts are treated as ordinary income, even if the growth in the account was generated from investments that would have been taxed at lower capital gains rates in a taxable account. So you would effectively split any profits in tax deferred accounts with the government. If an account grows by 10 percent per year and your tax rate stays the same, the eventual tax liability grows by that same 10 percent. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service generally requires retirees to begin taking certain minimum distributions from tax-deferred accounts at age 70 1/2, which can force you to generate taxable income at inopportune times. Furthermore, investments in a tax-deferred account do not receive a basis adjustment when the account holder dies. Beneficiaries will need to pay income tax when they withdraw assets from these accounts.

Tax-free or Roth accounts can be hard to beat. Although there is no immediate tax deduction for contributions to these accounts, all of the profits go to the investor. The government receives its share at the outset, then current account income and qualified distributions are never taxable. As a result, $1 million in a Roth account is worth significantly more than $1 million in a tax-deferred account, because the balance in a Roth account can be spent during retirement without having to pay any taxes. Another benefit of Roth IRAs in particular is that the IRS does not require distributions from them the way it does from traditional retirement accounts (though such distributions are required from Roth 401(k)s).

Of course, there are drawbacks to tax-free accounts, too. For one, funding a Roth account is more difficult. It takes $15,385 of pre-tax earnings to contribute $10,000 to a Roth account, assuming a 35 percent tax rate. In addition, there’s always the possibility that future legislation could decrease or eliminate the benefits of Roth accounts. If, for example, the federal government or individual states lowered tax rates or shifted to a consumption-based tax system, a Roth IRA would have been a poor choice compared with a traditional IRA, since there is no upfront tax benefit.

Choosing Which Account To Fund

Some rules of thumb can help you determine which types of retirement accounts to use. First, you should have sufficient safe, easily accessible assets in a taxable account as an emergency fund. Six months of living expenses is a good starting point, but the actual amount varies based on your expenses, the security of your current job and how quickly you could get a new job. Funds that you will need access to before retirement should also be kept in a taxable account.

If an employer matches contributions to a retirement plan, you should, when possible, contribute enough to get the full match. Any employer match will automatically be allocated to a tax-deferred account, but you should determine whether the plan will provide a match even if you contribute to a Roth account.

The common wisdom says that you should contribute to a traditional IRA or 401(k), rather than a Roth IRA or 401(k), if your current tax bracket is higher than the tax bracket you expect to occupy in retirement. If the reverse is true, a Roth IRA is the default choice. Although these guidelines are good starting points, savers are generally best served by keeping some assets in each type of account – which is the idea of tax diversification.

People’s lives and future tax legislation are inherently uncertain. Even if you expect your federal tax bracket to remain the same in retirement, it might go up if tax rates go up overall or if you move to a higher-tax state. There is no way to know exactly what your situation will look like in any given year of your retirement. You should have some assets in each type of account, but the particulars of your circumstances will dictate their relative size. As with other sorts of diversification, there is not a one-size-fits-all plan.

Going Above And Beyond Retirement Savings Limits

Selecting the best retirement plans for your situation is beyond the scope of this article, but some planning can allow you to funnel much more money into tax-advantaged accounts than you might have otherwise expected.

Some employers offer defined contribution plans with higher limits than a 401(k), and it is very easy for self-employed individuals to set up SEP IRAs. For high-earning small-business owners, it may be worthwhile to set up a defined benefit (pension) plan, which can allow for much higher contributions. Certain employers also offer nonqualified savings accounts that allow you to defer income in excess of the limits for the qualified plans listed here, but they add different risks.

Besides employer-sponsored plans, annuities and life insurance can also offer tax advantages, but most savers should proceed cautiously. Annuities provide tax deferral, but lack the upfront tax benefit that makes other tax-deferred accounts so appealing. Also, distributions from annuities are taxed at ordinary income tax rates, so if your tax rate is expected to remain high through retirement, you effectively allow the government to take a higher share of your profits than would be the case in a taxable account. If your income tax rate is expected to drop substantially in retirement, certain annuities can be effective savings vehicles once you have exhausted your other options. In many cases, the higher costs of life insurance products outweigh their tax benefits.

If you want to funnel more money into a tax-free account, you might consider converting a portion of your tax-deferred retirement accounts to a Roth IRA. You will have to pay tax on the income at the time of the conversion, but if you expect your tax rate to remain the same or increase in the future, it may be profitable to shift some funds to a Roth. Finally, if you plan to use any of your savings to fund education expenses for a child or grandchild, you might consider funding a Section 529 college savings account. The investments in such accounts grow tax-deferred, and any distributions used for qualified education expenses are tax-free.

Bonds are available in both taxable and tax-exempt formats and there are tax concepts to consider when a person is investing in bonds. Each type of bond, whether tax-exempt or not, has different tax aspects. Tax-exempt municipal bonds and taxable bonds are discussed, explaining how some of the tax rules work for these investments and their investment yields.

Acquisition of Bonds

When purchasing tax-exempt municipal bonds at face value or par, there are no instant tax consequences. When the bond is acquired between interest payment dates, the buyer pays the seller interest that has accrued since the last payment date. The interest paid in advance to the seller is treated as the cost of the investment and is treated basically as a return of some the initial investment when the interest is paid.

Bond Premium Amortization

When tax-exempt municipal bonds are purchased at a premium, the premium is amortized for the duration of the bond term. The effect of this is to decrease the cost of the investment in the bond on a pro rata basis. Thus, holding the bond to maturity means no loss recognized when the bond is paid off.

Interest Excluded From Taxable Income

Normally, tax-exempt municipal bond interest is not added to income for tax purposes (although, the interest may be taxable under alternative minimum tax rules). Also note, municipal bonds usually pay lower interest rates as compared to similar bonds that are taxable.

When comparing taxable investments to tax-free investments, the amount of interest included in income is not the most important issue. What is important is the after-tax yield. For tax-exempt municipal bonds, the after-tax yield is usually equivalent to the pre-tax yield. On the other hand, a taxable bond’s after-tax yield will be based on the amount of interest remaining after deducting the corresponding amount of income tax expense associated with the interest earned on a taxable bond.

The after tax return of a taxable bond depends on a person’s effective tax bracket. In general, tax-free bonds are more appealing to taxpayers in higher brackets; the benefit of not including interest earned in their taxable income is greater. In contrast for taxpayers in lower brackets, the tax benefit is less substantial. Even though municipal bond interest is not taxable, the amount of tax-exempt interest is reported on the return. Tax-free interest is used to calculate the amount social security benefits that are taxable. Tax-free interest also affects the computation of alternative minimum tax and the earned income credit.

Tax-Free Interest is excluded from 3.8% NIIT

Tax-exempt municipal bonds interest is also exempt from the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT). The NIIT is compulsory on the investment income of individuals whose adjusted gross (AGI) is in excess of:

· $250,000 for filing status Married Filing Joint and Qualifying Widower,

· $125,000 for filing status Married Filing Separate, and

· $200,000 filing status Single and Head of Household.

Tax Advantaged Accounts

Purchasing municipal bonds in your regular IRA, SEP, or §401(k) is a no-no. These accounts grow tax free and when withdrawals are made, the amount withdrawn is taxable. Thus, if you desire fixed income obligations in a tax advantaged account consider taxable bonds or similar income securities.

Alternative Minimum Tax Considerations

Interest on municipal bonds is usually not included in income for regular federal income taxes. Interest earned on certain municipal bonds called “private activity bonds” is included in the calculation of alternative minimum tax (AMT). The AMT is a parallel tax system established to make sure that taxpayers pay a minimum amount of taxes. The intention of creating AMT was to prevent people from getting to many tax breaks, for example tax-free interest. The tax breaks are added back into income and cause some people lose tax breaks and pay taxes.

Effects of Tax-Free Interest on Taxability of Social Security

A percentage of social security benefits are taxable when other income besides social security benefits surpasses certain amounts. For this purpose, the amount of taxable social security benefits adds tax-exempt interest into the amount of other income received besides social security benefits to determine the amount of taxable social security benefits. Consequently, if you receive social security benefits, tax-free interest could increase the amount of tax paid on social security benefits.

Effects of Tax-Free Interest on the Calculation of Earned Income Tax Credit

When a taxpayer is otherwise qualified to receive the earned income tax credit, the credit is lost completely when the taxpayer has more than $3,400 (2015) of “disqualified income.” Disqualified Income generally is investment income like dividends, interest -income, and tax-exempt income. Thus, having municipal bond interest in excess of $3,400 causes a taxpayer to lose the credit. However, an individual qualified for the earned income tax credit is in a lower tax bracket and an investment in municipal bonds would yield a lower after tax return as compared to taxable bonds.

CRA Income Tax Audit – Toronto Tax Lawyer Introduction

As Toronto tax lawyers we deal with CRA audits and auditors on a daily basis. So what is a tax audit? This article will explain what you can expect to happen if you are audited for taxes.

The Canadian income tax system is based on self assessment. In other words it is up to every Canadian taxpayer to fully and properly report their total income from all sources on their annual T1 or T2 income tax return. The Canada Revenue Agency performs tax audits and issues income tax assessments to ensure that the self-assessment income tax system continues to work properly. While most Canadians are truthful on their tax returns, there are some who are not. CRA is looking for errors or disputable positions or deliberate misstatements on tax returns that have been filed.

What is a Tax Audit?

An income tax audit is an examination of a taxpayer’s returns and supporting records to make sure that income and expenses have been properly reported and are supported by accounting records and receipts. The CRA tax auditor will ask to see the individual or corporate books and records and bank account and receipts for expenses. A corporation will normally have to provide its minute book to support any dividends or bonuses. There may be questionnaires to be filled out. Any information that is wrong, even if due to an error, will be used against the taxpayer.

Most audits are done to ensure compliance with the Income Tax Act for income or payroll deductions or under the Excise Tax Act for GST/HST.

Canadian Tax Audit Procedures

CRA auditors will often search for relevant information on the Internet, and a taxpayer’s web site or other sources located on Google might contradict information the taxpayer provides to the auditor. This information will then be used for further enquiries possibly including 3rd party requests for information. Furthermore open social media accounts are publicly accessible, and CRA auditors will gather this data from taxpayer social media accounts to build a case against a taxpayer. CRA officials have publicly discussed using taxpayer’s social media accounts in this way. If taxpayer lifestyle and reported income don’t match up the CRA tax auditor may decide to look into the taxpayer’s situation to see what’s actually going on.

CRA’s practice on income tax audits is to do a GST (and HST) compliance review; if problems are found, the matter is normally forwarded to a GST/HST auditor for a full GST/HST audit. Similarly, an income tax compliance review is often done during GST/HST audits. Combined income tax and GST/HST audits were discontinued in July 2010. These compliance reviews are not always carried out and sometimes income tax audits may miss large GST/HST problems and vice versa.

CRA Audit Statistics

CRA issues an annual report to Parliament. The latest one was released in January 2016. The audit statistics from CRA Annual Report 2014-2015 provide less detailed information than for the previous year.

For small & medium enterprises no statistics were given. CRA reports that they reviewed 12,981 international and large business files and 9,440 aggressive tax planning files that resulted in identifying $1.4 billion in fiscal impact. For international and large business files CRA audited 6,540 income tax and GST/HST underground economy files and identified over $448 million in fiscal impact. In all cases there were fewer audits in 2014/15 that the previous year. Presumably this reflects the results of budget changes.

Reasons for Tax Audit

CRA may choose to audit a taxpayer for several reasons. Amongst them are:

Industry audit projects
Random selection
Third party tips
Past history of non-compliance
Comparison of information on returns to information received from third-party sources – in other words are all T-slips reported

Since 2011 CRA has been auditing high net worth individuals and families, sending questionnaires asking for information about all companies, trusts, etc. that they control.

CRA has also been concentrating additional audit resources on the underground economy in an attempt to deter unreported cash sales.

What is the Tax Auditor Looking For?

The focus of the tax audit is to find errors in tax returns. Here are some examples of typical issues that may arise in a tax audit that would cause a taxpayer to receive a tax assessment at the end of the tax audit and that could result in penalties or a referral for a tax evasion investigation:

Overstated Expenses
Overstated Deductions
Over claimed Income Tax Credits
Under reported or unreported Earnings
Unreported cash sales
Unreported internet income
Unreported offshore income
Unreported offshore assets
Credits, such as for charitable donations, that are not supported by receipts
Personal expenses deducted for business
Shareholder loans not repaid within 2 corporate year ends

Right of CRA to Audit and CRA Audit Policies

Section 231.1 of the Income Tax Act gives CRA the statutory ability to carry out audits. In particular it entitles auditors to request and examine documents including computer records. Section 231.2 is a more formal provision whereby a “demand” or “requirement” is issued, but it need not be used by a tax auditor in the normal course where s.231.1 suffices.

The CRA can choose to audit anyone, but case law has held that such discretion does not permit a vexatious audit made for capricious reasons.

The Canada Revenue Agency has an internal policy in CRA Audit Manual §9.12.3 that audits should normally be limited to “one plus one” years that is to say the most recent year for which a return has been filed and assessed, plus one year back, with limited exceptions. This policy can be pointed out to a tax auditor to try to limit the scope of audit requests, but it has no legal effect and cannot be used in court to challenge a tax assessment that has been issued. Of course this rule of one plus one years does not apply in the case where CRA suspects unreported income. They will typically look at three years, and in some cases even more than 3 years.

In theory, the CRA has no discretion in applying the Act and must “follow it absolutely” by issuing a tax assessment for all otaxes wing. The reality is that in practice tax auditors have wide discretion not to assess an amount, however once it is correctly assessed; a Tax Appeals Officer or Tax Court judge will have no power to cancel it on grounds of equity, fairness or compassion.

เว็บข่าวสด ข่าวใหม่ ข่าวดัง เกาะกระแส สังคม ของวัยรุ่น ดารา เซเล็ป รวมไปถึง ข่าวการเมือง เศรษฐกิจ หุ้นกระแส หวยเด็ด หวยดัง ในชีวิต สังคม ประเทศไทย ที่อัพเดททุกชั่วโมง ทำให้เข้าถึง เท่าทัน สิ่งใหม่ ๆ ที่มีการเปลี่ยนแปลง โดยทาง Khaotv ข่าวทีวี ได้นำมาเสนอ ให้กัน เพื่อไม่ให้ล้าสมัย ดั่งยุคแห่ง ความเจริญ ทางด้านเทคโนโลยี อุตสาหกรรม และ การเกษตร ซึ่งเป็นประเทศ แห่งการส่งออก ผลิตภัณฑ์ พืชผัก ผลไม้ อันดับต้น ของโลก ในยุคปัจจุบัน ปีแห่งความล้ำหน้า ทางสังคม

The siren call of boat ownership is easy to understand, here in South Florida. On a hot summer day, or even a crisp winter afternoon, getting out on the water for some sailing, fishing, snorkeling or water skiing can seem like the perfect reason to take the plunge.

Florida, and in particular the Greater Fort Lauderdale area where I live and work, is a major center for the motor yacht and boating industry. In South Florida, about 136,000 people currently work in the industry. According to industry figures for 2014, 19 percent of the over 30,000 boats sold in the U.S. that year were sold in Florida.

If you are ready to invest in a boat of your own, whether a modest fishing boat or a high-end yacht, it is worthwhile to pause and consider the tax implications, wherever you may live. Depending on the ways in which you intend to use your new watercraft, that impact could be minimal, or it could significantly change your overall financial picture.

Taxing Boat Sales

As with any big-ticket purchase, you should keep sales tax in mind when you are ready to buy your vessel of choice. There is no federal vessel tax, and federal luxury tax was repealed in the 1990s, so Uncle Sam does not take any particular interest in whether or not you choose to buy a boat. The states, however, want their cut. Every state is different, so be sure to take the time to understand any particular quirks in state law before you buy.

In Florida, for instance, boats are subject to the state sales tax rate of 6 percent, in addition to any local taxes. However, as of 2010 Florida has capped this tax, limiting it to the first $300,000 of a boat’s purchase price. Thus, under current law, Florida will not collect more than $18,000 in sales tax on your new vessel. In addition, many Florida counties impose a discretionary sales surtax, which can apply to the first $5,000 of the purchase price. These sales tax caps make buying a high-end boat more attractive in Florida.

The Florida Legislature’s revenue estimating committee projected in 2010 that the tax cap would cost the state as much as $1.4 million in the first year. Instead, tax collections on yacht sales in the state rose more than $13 million in that time. Buyers who previously spent large sums to form offshore companies in order to skirt the state tax found it cheaper and easier to simply pay the Florida tax outright. So before you buy a boat, consider whether you can get a better deal by buying and berthing it in another state.

The cap on boat sales tax was so powerful that other states are competing by passing caps of their own. Recently, Maryland, New Jersey and New York all passed or are considering passing laws to cap the tax on boat sales. Depending on your politics, you may consider this an unnecessary tax break for the wealthy boat-buying class, but based on the increase in tax revenue after Florida’s cap went into effect, you can also see how lowering taxes and state competition can sometimes lead to long-term economic benefits. More boat sales in Florida lead to more employment and growth in marine-related industries in the region.

For whatever sales tax you do pay on your boat purchase, you may be able to realize some benefit when filing your federal income taxes. Assuming you itemize your deductions, you can deduct local sales tax in lieu of claiming state and local income taxes. Especially in states – like Florida – that do not levy a personal income tax, this can represent a significant deduction. The main calculation of the general sales tax deduction is based on your adjusted gross income, but you can add sales tax paid specifically on a car or boat purchase to that amount.

Make sure you also understand how a state’s use tax may impact you. For the typical recreational vessel, use tax will not matter, because sales and use tax are mutually exclusive – if you pay sales tax on a transaction, you cannot also owe use tax. That said, if you plan to use a watercraft primarily in a different state than the one where it was purchased, it is worth taking the time to make sure you understand your home state’s rules and that your documentation is in order so you do not end up a target for overzealous state tax authorities.

You should also educate yourself on state and local taxes related to a watercraft which may apply on an annual or ongoing basis. Certain states and local authorities levy personal property taxes annually on boats docked within their jurisdictions.

On the other hand, some states offer particular tax breaks to boat owners. For example, last year Florida passed a law limiting the sales tax on boat repairs to no more than $60,000, or the first $1 million of repair costs. Like the sales tax cap on boat purchases, the law is intended to allow Florida to maintain its status as a leader in the marine industry. The hope is that the cap on boat repair sales tax will attract and retain repair and refit business for luxury yachts and other high-end boats in the state, thereby increasing revenue and employment, bolstering the local economy. If you own a yacht in a high-tax state, it could make sense to cruise it down to Florida for major repair work to save on taxes. Some states even offer a tax credit on fuel used for recreational boating. Yes, even the boating industry has a strong lobby group to push state legislators for tax breaks.

The siren call of boat ownership is easy to understand, here in South Florida. On a hot summer day, or even a crisp winter afternoon, getting out on the water for some sailing, fishing, snorkeling or water skiing can seem like the perfect reason to take the plunge.

Florida, and in particular the Greater Fort Lauderdale area where I live and work, is a major center for the motor yacht and boating industry. In South Florida, about 136,000 people currently work in the industry. According to industry figures for 2014, 19 percent of the over 30,000 boats sold in the U.S. that year were sold in Florida.

If you are ready to invest in a boat of your own, whether a modest fishing boat or a high-end yacht, it is worthwhile to pause and consider the tax implications, wherever you may live. Depending on the ways in which you intend to use your new watercraft, that impact could be minimal, or it could significantly change your overall financial picture.

Taxing Boat Sales

As with any big-ticket purchase, you should keep sales tax in mind when you are ready to buy your vessel of choice. There is no federal vessel tax, and federal luxury tax was repealed in the 1990s, so Uncle Sam does not take any particular interest in whether or not you choose to buy a boat. The states, however, want their cut. Every state is different, so be sure to take the time to understand any particular quirks in state law before you buy.

In Florida, for instance, boats are subject to the state sales tax rate of 6 percent, in addition to any local taxes. However, as of 2010 Florida has capped this tax, limiting it to the first $300,000 of a boat’s purchase price. Thus, under current law, Florida will not collect more than $18,000 in sales tax on your new vessel. In addition, many Florida counties impose a discretionary sales surtax, which can apply to the first $5,000 of the purchase price. These sales tax caps make buying a high-end boat more attractive in Florida.

The Florida Legislature’s revenue estimating committee projected in 2010 that the tax cap would cost the state as much as $1.4 million in the first year. Instead, tax collections on yacht sales in the state rose more than $13 million in that time. Buyers who previously spent large sums to form offshore companies in order to skirt the state tax found it cheaper and easier to simply pay the Florida tax outright. So before you buy a boat, consider whether you can get a better deal by buying and berthing it in another state.

The cap on boat sales tax was so powerful that other states are competing by passing caps of their own. Recently, Maryland, New Jersey and New York all passed or are considering passing laws to cap the tax on boat sales. Depending on your politics, you may consider this an unnecessary tax break for the wealthy boat-buying class, but based on the increase in tax revenue after Florida’s cap went into effect, you can also see how lowering taxes and state competition can sometimes lead to long-term economic benefits. More boat sales in Florida lead to more employment and growth in marine-related industries in the region.

For whatever sales tax you do pay on your boat purchase, you may be able to realize some benefit when filing your federal income taxes. Assuming you itemize your deductions, you can deduct local sales tax in lieu of claiming state and local income taxes. Especially in states – like Florida – that do not levy a personal income tax, this can represent a significant deduction. The main calculation of the general sales tax deduction is based on your adjusted gross income, but you can add sales tax paid specifically on a car or boat purchase to that amount.

Make sure you also understand how a state’s use tax may impact you. For the typical recreational vessel, use tax will not matter, because sales and use tax are mutually exclusive – if you pay sales tax on a transaction, you cannot also owe use tax. That said, if you plan to use a watercraft primarily in a different state than the one where it was purchased, it is worth taking the time to make sure you understand your home state’s rules and that your documentation is in order so you do not end up a target for overzealous state tax authorities.

You should also educate yourself on state and local taxes related to a watercraft which may apply on an annual or ongoing basis. Certain states and local authorities levy personal property taxes annually on boats docked within their jurisdictions.

On the other hand, some states offer particular tax breaks to boat owners. For example, last year Florida passed a law limiting the sales tax on boat repairs to no more than $60,000, or the first $1 million of repair costs. Like the sales tax cap on boat purchases, the law is intended to allow Florida to maintain its status as a leader in the marine industry. The hope is that the cap on boat repair sales tax will attract and retain repair and refit business for luxury yachts and other high-end boats in the state, thereby increasing revenue and employment, bolstering the local economy. If you own a yacht in a high-tax state, it could make sense to cruise it down to Florida for major repair work to save on taxes. Some states even offer a tax credit on fuel used for recreational boating. Yes, even the boating industry has a strong lobby group to push state legislators for tax breaks.

Over the course of the year, I’m sure you’ve noticed the ridiculous way our Congress has acted to update our tax laws. By including tax code provisions in a highway bill, a mass transit bill, and a trade package bill- plus within the Bipartisan Budget Act and the PATH (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes) Acts. (Those last two were, indeed, logical places to regulate taxes.)

There is a chance that the lame duck Congressional session may act on some tax regulations, but given that these folks work about 1 day a week- and then complain how many lazy folks are out across the US not entering the workforce (that is the pot calling the kettle black)- I am not sanguine they will. So, unless they do- this will be the last year that mortgage insurance will be deductible and foreclosed home debt will not be a taxable situation, among a few other items that expire this calendar year.

But, I figured it would be helpful if I combined all these changes into a coherent mass (which our legislators clearly have not), so you can be prepared for the 2016 tax season. (Remember, you file your taxes for 2016 by April 2017. Oh- and if you are a business, the odds are the date your taxes are due, also changed. More on that below.)

Students and Teachers (PATH Act provisions)

Students got a permanent change for deductibility of tuition via the American Opportunity Tax Credit. This provides up to $ 2500 of tax credit for lower-income filers for the first four years of higher education (with a possibility of 40% of the unused credit being received as a refund- if no other taxes are owed). As long as the students are enrolled at least half time for one term of the year and not convicted of drug violations. The real change is that filers must include the EIN of the college or university involved- and demonstrate that they paid the tuition and fees they claim- not what the institutions may list on the 1098-T form.

On the other hand, the tuition deduction for other students will expire at the end of this year. Oh, and that generous (sic) deduction teachers get for buying supplies for their students that schools don’t supply is now permanent- all $ 250 of it. (Most teachers spend at least twice that!)

Pensions and IRA

Folks older than 70.5 years of age no longer have to rush to transfer their IRA (or portions thereof) to charity, because that provision is permanent. (PATH) Please note that the IRS demands that these transfers not be rollovers. One must employ a trustee to transfer the funds; and that trustee cannot hand you the funds to deliver to the charity. If they do, you lose the exemption. No surprises I am sure when I remind you that there must be a contemporaneous acknowledgement (that means a timely receipt) from the charity for that deductible donation or transfer.

Heirs and Estates

While still in the wrong venue, the Highway Bill did fix a big problem. Folks (or entities) that inherit assets from an estate are now required to use the basis filed in the 706 form for their own calculations. (Just so you know, the rules stipulate that estates can value items as per the date of death, or by alternate choice 9 months after that date. Too many “cheaters” would use a different basis for the property they inherited, thereby cheating the tax authorities with alternative valuations.)

To keep this rule in place, executors are now required to stipulate (i.e., file for 8971 and Schedule A of the 706) said value to all heirs and to the IRS. Which means anyone who inherits property- and thought they didn’t need to file Form 706 because the value of the estate was below the threshold for Estate Tax better reconsider. Otherwise, the heirs may be hit with a penalty for using the wrong basis for that inherited asset when they dispose of same.

Why? Because if a 706 form is never filed, the basis of all assets inherited is now defined as ZERO!!!!! It gets worse. Because if an asset were omitted from Form 706, the basis of that property is now determined to also be ZERO. (Unless the statute of limitations is still opened, when an Amended 706 can be filed to correct this omission.)

Another kicker. If the 706 form is filed LATE, the basis of all assets that should have been included are also set at ZERO. Some tax advisors feel this one little provision could be challenged in court. But, let’s just be prudent and file all those 706 Estate Tax returns in a timely fashion. (Filing a 706 when the estate value is below the filing threshold is called a Protective 706 Filing; we’ve been doing those for years. And, we strenuously examine the assets often to the consternation of the heirs- to ensure that all the non-worthless assets are included. You know, that 36 diamond tennis bracelet your grandma promised you would inherit when you turned 16.)

Oh, yeah. Another really big kicker for this little item. Under IRC 6501, the IRS has three years to catch cheaters who misstate certain items (like income taxes [except for continuing fraud], employment taxes, excise taxes, and for this provision- estate taxes and the results therefrom). No more. If an asset from an estate is misstated so that it can affect more than 25% of the gross income on a tax return will now have a SIX year statute of limitation.

The effects of tax avoidance and tax planning on the society has been a controversial issue for a long time yet governments the world over still have difficulty addressing it. It is believed that all these started from the beginning when business agreements were written by the government or associates of government to favour their family, friends or associates that are in business. Unfortunately, tax planning schemes are a legally accepted business practices for which tax professionals are paid huge sums of money to offer tax planning advisory services for both personal and corporate decision making.

According to Investopedia, tax planning is the analysis of a financial situation or plan from a tax perspective. It is an exercise undertaken to minimize tax liability through the best use of all available resources, deductions, exclusions, exemptions, etc. to reduce income and/or capital gains (businessdirectory.com). Tax planning therefore encompasses many different considerations, including the timing of income, purchases and other expenditures, the selection of investments and type of retirement plans etc. However, tax fraud or evasion unlike tax avoidance is not tax planning scheme and hence considered illegal in the tax professional.

Firms, both domestic and international employ numerous tax planning strategies to reduce their tax burden. An exhaustive review is impossible because known strategies are numerous and many strategies are likely unknown to tax analysts. Some forms of tax planning include (a) reclassifying business income as non-business income (b) using transfer pricing to shift income from high tax to low tax jurisdictions (c) employing passive investment companies (d) exploiting tax credits, exemptions and/or concessions in Tax Laws (e) treaty shopping (f) use of hybrids etc.

Judge Learned Hand in the case of Commissioner v Newman in 1947 stated:

“Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one’s affairs so as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere can’t”.

Indeed, tax planning has invariably become an integral part of a financial plan, as reducing tax liability and maximizing eligibility to contribute to retirement plans are both crucial for business success as it has gained prominence in today’s business planning strategies, all because Tax Laws have different provisions relating to entities based on location, type of activity or time period, thus invariably, every difference offers a planning opportunity to a taxpayer.

Then the question that arises is, does tax planning comes with any benefits?

Proper tax planning is essential in both domestic and international business to reduce the distortions that arises for instance due to the lack of harmonization in domestic tax systems. Without tax planning, entities are likely to suffer from excess tax payments and additional tax compliance costs. Among the reasons argued for tax planning are:

(a) Offers the opportunity to lower the amount of taxable income i.e. where a taxpayer’s financial and tax planning strategies are targeted at structuring expenditures to fit into the category of allowable expenses.

(b) Serves as a catalyst to reduce the tax rate at which you are taxed i.e. siting business operations at locations or business to take advantage of the little or no tax rate prevailing in that jurisdictions e.g. tax havens.

(c) It ensures you get all the credits available to you i.e. taking advantage of the tax credits, exemptions and/or concessions available in a tax jurisdiction e.g. the stability agreement provision for a holder of a mining lease in Ghana.

(d) It allows a cashflow forecast to be more effective while minimizing tax liability. A company looking to embark on massive capital or productive investment or re-investment will plan financial transactions with taxes in mind so to avoid making impulsive maneuvers. With a resultant good cashflow, entities positioned to embark on more capital and productive investments. Effective tax and financial planning maximize shareholders’ wealth, and improves cashflow for capital and productive re-investment among others.

(e) For the government, the granting of tax reliefs, exemptions and/or concessions is targeted at increasing private sector productivity, create employment and attract investors and improve cross-border trading.

Considering these benefits, won’t you recommend for more tax planning practices? Just consider these.

Governments efforts to improve national economy has always been limited due to inadequate tax revenue, which forms a larger percentage of government revenue. This could be attributed to the several tax planning schemes as well as tax evasions. In 2005, the average tax revenue to GDP ratio in the developed countries was approximately 35%. In the developing countries, it was equal to 15% and in the poorest of these countries, the group of low income countries tax revenue was just 12% of GDP and tax planning via tax avoidance are widely believed to be important factors limiting revenue mobilization.

The ActionAid and Tax Justice Network-Africa (TJN-A) in its West African Giveaway report published in August 2005 indicated that West African countries are losing an estimated US$9.6 billion of revenue each year by granting tax incentives to foreign companies and that three countries – Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal – are losing an estimated $5.8 billion a year through the granting of corporate tax incentives with Ghana’s portion being around $2.27.

Tax planning approaches like tax avoidance affect the extent to which the government can provide basic need of the population i.e. it results in inadequate supply of basic amenities such as poor infrastructure, poor educational and health systems, inadequate water and power supply as well as poor road networks. This could be one of the reasons why deficit budget financing has become the order of the day in most developing countries.

Income inequality is another adverse effect resulting from increasing tax planning. Taxation has an objective to redistribute income but the accumulation of wealth through tax avoidance schemes for instance has further widened the gap between the low-income earners and the high-income earners.

During an international conference jointly organised by OXFAM International and the International Tax Justice Network, Africa in Accra in February 2014 for instance, the Deputy Campaign Manager of OXFAM, Mr. Stephen Hale, indicated among other things that many developing countries faced challenges in their efforts at mobilizing domestic resources due to factors such as regressive tax regimes, wide range of corporate tax incentives etc.

But the question remains that, if the major source of revenue to every government is tax revenue whiles government revenue and capital expenditures are highly dependent on these tax revenue, can we then conclude that Governments efforts to reduce budget deficits and over reliance on development partners to finance national budget is a dead on arrival discussion, as most of the tax revenue loss is attributable to tax planning schemes such as tax avoidance, tax incentives and poor tax education and awareness?

Probably tax planning is not that beneficial to government as we are made to believe but instead a wolf in a sheep skin which is gradually ripping off government of billions of dollars in tax revenue to meet its huge public expenditures and to make reasonable economic policy. But who is to be blamed, the taxpayer, the government or both? I leave you to judge!

Tax planning has indeed come to stay, however, I suggest that (a) accountability on the part of governments and effective use of tax revenue will instill faith in the government thereby encouraging payment of taxes, (b) anti-avoidance provision should be of general application or refer to specific tax havens or tax avoidance devices (c) the concept of ethical and responsible investing should not be limited to companies products/services but also to their impact on society as well as (d) unification of tax rates and (e)The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations which are famous in their models for international taxation should consider paying more attention to the increasing domestic and international tax planning schemes.

Implementing “flat tax” on Income Rate
One tax reform issue that requires addressing is the amount of revenue that needs to be raised by the federal tax system. When there is a disproportion between revenue and spending, debts and federal deficits will increase and reach unsustainable limits. Policy makers need to assess tax policies and come up with ways of alleviating fiscal pressures. Implement a flat tax on income at a rate of 18% for all Americans. Having a flat tax for all Americans will ensure that all citizens are taxed equally and there is no bias. However, a rate of 18% is too high for the citizens taking into account the citizens have different incomes. Implementing this policy will not be beneficial to the government, as it would benefit high-income earners only.

The working class in America pays too much in taxes compared to cooperation’s and millionaires. Most big and profitable corporations pay little on taxes as compared to the middle class citizens. If corporations and the rich pay their fair share, the nation will afford to cut taxes for most of its middle and common citizens. This can also be boosted by cutting on wasteful spending on weapons, military and war. On the contrary, taxing more on high-income earners will result to the government having more money to waste. It also acts as a deterrent for business and individuals to make money. This might lead to a reduction in investment by investors. In the past, high taxation slowed down the economy and resulted in stagnation. Cutting taxes on businesses promoted the revenue. However, increasing taxes led to a reduction in business spending and investments as they tried to cut their tax expenditure resulting to a decrease in revenue for the government.

Implementing Democratic Party’s Reform
There is an unbalanced proportion of Individual wealth in the US. Aggressive steps needs to be taken for a restoration of fair income distribution. The middle class and the poor pay a lot in terms of federal tax which is due to the unfairness of state taxes. System wide tax reform should be implemented to simplify the tax system. A tax policy should be implemented to eliminate loopholes. Democrats hold the idea that taxes should be increased for the upper class and reduced for the middle class. The tax code and system needs an overhaul. The United States needs a code that creates wealth for people and rewards work and not a code, which generates wealth for those who have it. 200000 dollars should be set at the income level where Americans should be taxed more heavily. This will pave way for cutting taxes for the rest of the citizens. Increasing taxes for wealthy Americans will lead to a 98% cut in taxes where most families will be able to meet their daily economic challenges.

GPO Blueprint Tax Reform Proposal
A proposal by the house GOP blueprint proposed that the corporate income tax should be replaced with a Destination Based Cash Flow Tax (DBCFT). This would help the cooperate income tax and the US worldwide tax system eliminate the distortions it caused. The worldwide system will be replaced with a territorial tax system where companies will be taxed based on their locations of profits and not according to their corporate residence. Companies in the US that earn profits overseas would not be taxed again on their profits when they are brought back to the United States. This tax system would also allow a free flow of capital back to the US by eliminating the lock out effect. This would encourage companies to expand and invest operations throughout the world.

Changing Tax Rates
The plan is to cut taxes at all income levels, but the taxpayers earning high incomes will receive the biggest cuts. The average tax bill will then be cut by 1810 dollars, which would increase the income by 2.5% after tax. The top 1% taxpayers would then benefit by 3/4 of the tax cuts while highest taxpayers would see a decrease in 16.9% tax cut after tax income. The middle class households will receive an estimated 0.5% tax cut after tax income while the poorest American would see a downfall in their tax cut 0.4% after tax income. The plan would see a reduction of 33% by the top individual tax income rate, 20% by the corporate, and 25% for partnership and sole proprietorship. This would reduce the child tax credit and standard deductions.

A cash flow consumption tax would replace the corporate income tax, which would apply for all businesses whereby interests in business would not be deductible and investments would be immediately deducted. This would result in a border adjustable cash flow tax with exclusion of exports receipts and imports purchased would not be deducted. This marginal tax rate cuts would reduce tax rates on new investments, incentives on US investments would be increased, and tax distortions would be reduced on allocation of capital. However, interest rates would increase in the event of increasing government borrowing and lead to a crowd out on private investment. This would offset the positive effects of the plans on private investment. In order to counteract the ramification of the tax cuts on the deficit the federal spending needs to be reduced.

VAT Implementation
National consumption tax (VAT). This is a levy on the difference between the purchase of goods and its sales. Generally, the tax is calculated on a business according to its sales, a credit for taxes that is paid on its purchase is subtracted and the difference is forwarded to the government. The incomes of multinational corporations that are resident in the United States should also be taxed. Discretionary and mandatory spending should also be reduced which will lead to a reduction in deficits and debts. Lowering federal spending on healthcare and reducing revenues below baseline amounts would offset deficit reduction. This would lead to an increase in domestic investment, national saving and the capital stock would be increased.

The majority of taxpayers in EU countries use tax professionals in some shape or form, and for this obvious reason the EU tax administration recognises that they play a very important role in their tax system. As well as helping to make the system run smoothly, they play a key role in influencing and shaping the tax compliance behaviour of their clients. This influence may be positive or negative, because of their professional knowledge of our tax system and its nuances.
Through their representative bodies, tax professionals also have an important role in developing our tax system. They are influential in forming public opinion and general attitudes as to the fairness and equity of the tax system and our administration thereof.
Because of their influential role and the unique position they have in influencing taxpayer behaviour, we recognise that they are one of the primary ingredients in our pursuit of our main corporate goal: “To ensure that everyone complies with their tax and customs responsibilities”.
We therefore spend a lot of time engaging with them using a combination of methods and through many different forums in our efforts to achieve improved taxpayer compliance.

WHAT CAN BE TAX STRATEGY ?

Our strategy in relation to dealing with tax professionals can be laid out in our recent Operational Strategic Programme 2007-2010. Because of the fact that the phrase “tax professional” encompasses persons with a variety of roles and responsibilities, the tax administration must prepare a response to ensure that strategy works.
I would like to give you some background on how the building relationships and partnerships strategy will come about. The relationship between taxpayers and tax administration, I must confirm that is very much an adversarial one characterised by mutual distrust and suspicion. Tax administration recognises that albanian tax professionals have a key role and that is why we have developed sophisticated consultative mechanisms to help administration engage with this wide community.
Let me give you some relevant facts about the Albanian tax system.

ALBANIA’s TAX SYSTEM

Our tax system is concerned with direct and indirect taxes, customs and duties. Albania has taxes on incomes, as well as taxes on goods and services.
Businesses (limited companies and individuals) pay tax on a self-assessment basis. There are approximately 49,000 self employed individuals and 13,000 limited companies on our register.
The General Taxation Directorate is the sole central tax authority in the Republic of Albania. The General Directorate of Taxes (HQ) and its Branch Offices in the districts possess authority to implement and administer taxes. The General Directorate of Taxes is located in Tirana. The General Taxation Directorate establishes its Local Tax Offices in 36 districts and since 1998 is established in Tirana the Large Taxpayer Office. Local Tax Office Heads are appointed and discharged by the General Director of Taxes. The Local Tax Offices provide taxpayers with tax certificates, prepare draft program of tax revenues for the district, supervise and are accountable for accomplishment of the tax revenues and the program, process tax declarations, assess tax liabilities, preserve and organise documents, audit taxpayers and collect taxes as well as implement special executive decisions.
General Taxation Directorate has recently undergone a major organisational restructuring. Essentially, this agency has rebuilt the organisation around different groups of taxpayers. These groups consist of taxpayers in each of four geographic regions and a national large taxpayer group. Apart from collection and debt management functions which remain centralised every other small taxpayer is managed from 2007 from tax offices of local power, as effect of fiscal decentralization in Albania.

WHO AND WHAT ARE ALBANIAN TAX PROFESSIONALS ?

In aLBANIA, a wide range of tax professionals such as accountants, lawyers, tax consultants, businesses and freight forwarders acting on behalf of their clients, the taxpayers, interacting with tax offices. These tax professionals perform a wide variety of functions.
The variety of professionals providing a great deal of tax advice or engaging in compliance activities is generated on the activities of such professionals. For example, accountants, advising on business transactions and internal audit; lawyers such as solicitors and barristers advising on business transactions, conveyancing, estate administration and litigation; auctioneers and real estate agents advising on capital transactions, and customs agents advising on customs matters. Each of these activities in its own right involves some form of tax advice and each professional can be regarded as a “tax professional”, each of which, play a very important part in ensuring that our tax administration and systems work.
Traditionally most VAT businesses and a little number of self-employed persons, i.e., businesses, professions, companies and their directors, use the accountant as tax professional, or “agent”, to engage with tax officials. This high level of representation, even for small business, is because we don’t operate an imputed income system. All businesses have to prepare business accounts on an “accruals” basis, and this generally requires the services of an accountant.
In Ireland we refer to our mainstream tax professionals as “tax practitioners” or “agents” and there are approximately 2,000 such “agents” registered in tax offices when they act as tax return preparers. As a result of this high level of agent representation, taxpayers in Albania tend not to be inhibited about challenging tax administration, and engage in more sophisticated business transactions and use tax professionals to this end.
Another reason for taxpayer challenges is the recent phenomenon of taxation departments being created in legal firms. Also, many corporations are employing lawyers who specialise in mainstream taxation matters and now lawyers are not just engaged in the traditional legal bastions of capital taxation and inheritance tax matters. Primarily, as a result of our Tax Investigation Department a dedicated part of tax administration which pursues the proceeds of crime, our barrister profession, who traditionally did not advocate in taxation matters, are now representing more and more taxpayers in tax matters in the civil and criminal courts.
This increasing competition from the legal profession has raised some issues as regards a level playing field between the different professions. Accountants see the prospect that lawyers might be able to claim legal professional privilege on behalf of clients against Revenue enquiries in certain circumstances as an unfair competitive advantage.

INFLUENCING COMPLIANCE BEHAVIOUR

One of the obvious benefits for tax administration from the engagements with tax professionals is the extent to which they can get them to influence good compliance behaviour. As already mentioned, tax offices regard tax professionals as being hugely influential in terms of promoting good compliance behaviour; indeed, because they may be the only point of contact that a taxpayer has in his/her interactions with tax administration.
However, it is important that tax professionals also see it as in their interest to do so. Not alone does ‘non-compliance’ cost money in lost taxes for tax administration, but it also puts the taxpayer, the client, at serious risk of severe consequences if caught. Being able to deal with taxpayers through their agents substantially reduces the cost of tax administration. Think of what life would be like for a tax administration if there were no tax professionals. Some people who work for tax administrations might say that life would be much easier without them. Yes, there might not be so much tax planning, or challenges to taxation, and taxpayers might be more willing to accept tax administration’s view. This might make life easier for the tax officials. But given the complexity of tax system for enyone that it’s no part of tax administration, despite all the efforts at simplification, think of what the disadvantages might be?
Instead of funnelling the interaction with businesses and corporations through 2,000 tax professionals, it would be necessary to interact directly with an additional 49,000 business and over 13,000 corporate taxpayers. This would have huge cost implications for tax administration, as more employees would be needed to service the substantial additional contacts and queries that would ensue.
It would also be immeasurably harder for tax administration to ensure that all taxpayers understood their obligations and this would adversely affect voluntary compliance.
For these reasons, tax structures try to make it as easy as possible for tax professionals to meet their client’s compliance obligations and we provide a variety of support services and measures to support and achieving client’s compliance.

SUPPORT AND SERVICE FOR TAX PROFESSIONALS

Tax professionals have a big interest in customer service efforts and are rightly critical when the tax services falls below standard. After all, the tax professional is in business to make a profit. Poor service on the tax offices costs money and the taxpayer does not always understand either.
Here are some examples of how tax administration can support and try to try to make life as easy as possible for tax professionals.

Simpler Organisational Structure
In the albanian tax structure, all taxes pertaining to a taxpayer are handled by one office. Prior to that, a taxpayer (or tax professional) could have to deal with a number of offices depending on the tax.
This tax structure makes it much easier for the tax professional to deal with their client’s compliance obligations. However there are problems following the reallocation of all our taxpayer cases in the restructuring period. For some time, tax professionals are unsure which office dealt with their clients. As a result of good contacts with the various professional bodies and in a spirit of openness and co-operation, which is part of taxation strategy of building partnerships, is the possibility for tax officials to engage proactively and positively with a view to implementing practical measures to remedy difficulties.

Some of these initiatives help illustrate this:

o Contact Points
There are special contact points in each of the regions for tax professionals who are experiencing service difficulties in dealing with tax administration. These contact persons are empowered to sort out the difficulty.

o Contact Locator
There is a tool known as ‘Contact Locator’ ,that in albania is not a function used, but in EU countries he can be used to find out which office deals with a taxpayer.

Information Tools
Tax strategy is to ensure clear and timely communication. Some of the many information tools are ready for providing up to date informatio:

– Tax official website http://www.tatime.gov.al

– Tax Buletin

– Tax leaflets

– Seminars and workshops

o Technology
By exploiting technology opportunities as much as possible such as electronic e-filing service, tax structures are able to provide better service while at the same time reducing compliance and their administrative costs. This makes it easier and cheaper for tax professionals to file and pay.

o Fair procedure
Through mechanisms such as tax procedures and Tax Audit Practice Guidelines and other papers and circulars that help the conduct of tax strutures in confront of taxpayers and tax proffesionals.

Having the right team of advisors is critical to achieving your financial goals faster than you ever thought possible. For most people, taxes are the single biggest expense. This makes finding the right tax preparer for your team extremely important.

HOW DO YOU FIND A TAX PREPARER THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

First, not all tax preparers are the same. I previously wrote an article about this last year titled: “Tax Returns – Are they really all created equal”, and you may be as surprised as other readers about just how much tax return preparation can vary.

In fact, I calculated the average savings I typically find from annual tax savings, reducing professional fees and audit assessments. In total, the average savings are:

– $23,750 Annual tax savings

– $5,000 Audit defense savings

– $10,000 Reduced audit assessment savings

– $50,000 Reduced legal fees

– $3,000 Reduced tax return preparation fees

This is a total average potential savings of $91,750! Your tax preparer does make a difference! How much more could you do with these savings?

Second, the right tax preparer for you depends on what is important to you. Take a minute to answer this question:

WHAT MAKES YOUR TAX RETURN SUCCESSFUL?

How you answer this question will impact what type of tax preparer you need on your team. I’ve asked this questions to clients, prospects and colleagues. I have compiled the most popular answers and what it means to you as you find the tax preparer for your team.

ANSWER #1: Paying the least amount of tax legally

Your tax preparer needs to:

– Know the tax law very well and know how to be creative legally.

– Ask you a lot of questions about your situation in order to understand your situation and goals.

– Have a review process where at least one other person reviews your return solely for the purpose of how to reduce your taxes legally.

HERE ARE SEVEN (7) QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK YOUR TAX PREPARER TO DETERMINE IF IT’S A GOOD FIT:

Q1: Can you tell me about the other ___________ (your industry) you service?

A: Your tax preparer needs to know how the tax law applies to your situation. Having other clients in your industry or with similar investments indicates that the tax preparer is likely to be familiar with the tax laws that impact you.