A common question, and one where many taxpayers often make mistakes, is whether it is better to receive a home as a gift or as an inheritance. Generally, from a tax perspective, it is more advantageous to inherit a home rather than receive it as a gift before the owner’s death. This article will delve into the tax aspects of gifting a home, including gift tax implications, basis considerations for the recipient, and potential capital gains tax implications. Here are the key reasons why inheriting a home is often the better option.  

Receiving a Home as a Gift 

Let’s first explore the tax ramifications of receiving a home as a gift. Gifting a home is a generous act with significant implications for both the donor and the recipient, particularly regarding taxes. Most gifts of this nature occur between parents and children, making it essential to understand the tax consequences. 

Gift Tax Implications 

When a homeowner gifts their home, the primary tax consideration is the federal gift tax. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires individuals to file a gift tax return if the gift exceeds the annual exclusion amount of $18,000 per recipient for 2024. This amount is adjusted for inflation annually. Since a home’s value typically exceeds this amount, filing a Form 709 gift tax return is often necessary. 

While a gift tax return may be required, actual gift tax may not be due because of the lifetime gift and estate tax exemption. For 2024, this exemption is $13.61 million per individual, meaning a person can gift up to this amount over their lifetime without incurring gift tax. The value of the home will count against this lifetime exemption. 

Basic Considerations for the Recipient 

The basis of the gifted property is a critical concept for the recipient. The recipient’s basis in the property is the same as the donor’s basis, known as “carryover” or “transferred” basis. For example, if a parent purchased a home for $200,000 and later gifts it to their child when its fair market value (FMV) is $500,000, the child’s basis in the home would be $200,000. If the parent made $50,000 in improvements, the adjusted basis would be $250,000, which would be the child’s starting basis. 

This carryover basis can significantly impact the recipient if they sell the home. The capital gains tax will be calculated based on the difference between the sale price and the recipient’s basis. If the home has appreciated significantly, the recipient could face a substantial capital gains tax bill. 

Home Sale Exclusion 

Homeowners who sell their homes may qualify for a $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples) home gain exclusion if they owned and used the residence for 2 of the prior 5 years. However, this gain qualification does not automatically pass on to the gift recipient. To qualify, the recipient must meet the 2 of the prior 5 years qualification. Thus, it may be tax-wise for the donor to sell the home, take the gain exclusion, and gift the cash proceeds. 

Capital Gains Tax Implications 

The capital gains tax implications for the recipient of a gifted home are directly tied to the property’s basis and the donor’s holding period. If the recipient sells the home, they will owe capital gains tax on the difference between the sale price and their basis in the home. Given the carryover basis rule, this could result in a significant tax liability if the property has appreciated. 

Special Considerations 

Sometimes, a homeowner may transfer the title but retain the right to live in it for their lifetime, establishing a de facto life estate. In such situations, the home’s value is included in the decedent’s estate upon their death, and the beneficiary’s basis would be the FMV at the date of death, potentially offering a step-up in basis and reducing capital gains tax implications. 

Receiving a Home as an Inheritance 

There are significant differences between receiving a property as a gift and as an inheritance. 

Basis Adjustment 

When you inherit a home, your basis in the property is generally “stepped up” to the FMV at the date of the decedent’s death. For example, if a home were purchased for $100,000 and is worth $300,000 at the time of the owner’s death, the inheritor’s basis would be $300,000. If sold for $300,000, there would be no capital gains tax on the sale. 

Long-Term Capital Gains 

The holding period for inherited property is always long-term, meaning gains are taxed at more favorable long-term capital gains rates. 

Depreciation Reset 

The accumulated depreciation is reset for inherited property used for business or rental purposes, allowing the new owner to start depreciation afresh. This is not the case with gifted property, where the recipient takes over the giver’s depreciation schedule.  

Conclusion 

While each situation is unique and other factors might influence the decision, from a tax perspective, inheriting a property is often more beneficial than receiving it as a gift. Considering the overall estate planning strategy and potential non-tax implications is crucial. Consulting with a tax professional can provide personalized advice based on specific circumstances. 

Life insurance can provide peace of mind, but if your estate will be large enough that estate taxes will be a concern, it’s important to not own the policy at death. The policy’s proceeds will be included in your taxable estate and may be subject to estate tax. To avoid this result, a common estate planning strategy is to draft an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) to hold the policy.

Avoiding incidents of ownership

Generally, the proceeds of a life insurance policy aren’t included in your taxable estate if you don’t own the policy. However, life insurance proceeds will be included if you possess any “incidents of ownership” over the policy. This goes beyond mere ownership. If you have the right to amend the policy — say, by changing the beneficiaries — or you can borrow against the cash value, it’s treated as an incident of ownership.

Avoiding incidents of ownership can be important because the top estate tax rate is currently 40%. Fortunately, with your gift and estate tax exemption, you can shelter up to $12.92 million (for 2023) of assets from federal gift and estate tax. But be aware that, without congressional action, after 2025 the exemption is scheduled to revert to $5 million (indexed for inflation).

Furthermore, you may have to contend with estate or inheritance tax at the state level. In any event, the estate tax treatment of life insurance policies is a prime consideration in estate planning, especially for wealthier individuals.

Turning to an ILIT

A common method for avoiding these estate tax complications is to use an ILIT. This may be accomplished by setting up a trust as the owner of the life insurance policy when the coverage is purchased or by transferring an existing policy to the trust.

The trust must be “irrevocable,” as the name states. In other words, you must relinquish any control over the ILIT, such as the right to revise beneficiaries or revoke the trust. Similarly, acting as the trustee of the ILIT will be treated as an incident of ownership that invalidates the trust.

You’ll designate the ILIT as the primary beneficiary of the life insurance policy. On your death, the proceeds are deposited into the ILIT and held for distribution to the trust’s beneficiaries, such as your spouse, children, grandchildren or other family members.

Naming your surviving spouse as the sole beneficiary can be problematic, however. It may merely delay estate tax liability until your spouse dies.

Avoiding ILIT red flags

There are several pitfalls to watch for when transferring an insurance policy to an ILIT. Significantly, if you transfer an existing policy to the ILIT and die within three years of the transfer, the proceeds will be included in your taxable estate. One way to avoid this is to have the ILIT purchase the policy on your life and then fund the trust with enough money over time to pay the premiums.

Also bear in mind that the transfer of an existing policy to an ILIT is considered a taxable gift. Further, subsequent transfers to the trust would also be treated as gifts. The gifts can be sheltered from tax by your available gift and estate tax exemption.

Creating wealth and liquidity

Life insurance is a powerful estate planning tool. It creates an instant source of wealth and liquidity to meet your family’s financial needs after you’re gone. To shield proceeds from estate tax, consider creating an ILIT to hold your policy. Contact your estate planning advisor to determine if an ILIT is right for your estate plan.

© 2023

If leaving a charitable legacy is important to you, you may be thinking about establishing a private foundation or other vehicle for managing your philanthropic activities. Private foundations can be highly effective, but they’re expensive to set up and operate. Donor-advised funds (DAFs) are popular alternatives, but they also have potential drawbacks.

Immediate deductions are possible

Why use a foundation or DAF? Can’t you just write checks to your charities of choice? Of course, but contributing funds to a private foundation or DAF allows you to enjoy immediate charitable tax deductions without needing to identify specific beneficiaries or make contributions right away. It gives you more time to research potential recipients or change the organizations you support from year to year.

These vehicles also allow you to involve your family in your charitable endeavors. You can name family members to the board of a private foundation or even hire loved ones to manage it. Many DAFs allow you to designate a successor advisor.

How they’re structured

A private foundation is a charitable organization, typically structured as a trust or corporation and designed to accept donations from a small group of people, such as you and your family. Private foundations usually make grants to other charitable organizations rather than provide charitable services themselves.

A DAF is an investment account, controlled by a sponsoring organization — usually, a public charity or community foundation — and often managed by an investment firm. The fund accepts tax-deductible contributions from investors, who advise the fund on how their charitable dollars should be spent.

Pros and cons

DAFs generally can be set up in a matter of days — or even hours. Setting up a private foundation, however, takes time, since it involves establishing a legal entity. Another advantage of DAFs is that they’re inexpensive (or free) to create, and minimum initial contributions can be as low as $5,000. In contrast, starting a private foundation involves significant legal and accounting fees. Foundations also require much larger initial contributions — typically hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars — to justify their start-up and ongoing administrative expenses.

Here are other ways the two vehicles compare:

Operating expenses. DAFs typically charge management and investment fees of around 1% to 2% of your account balance. Managing a private foundation is much more expensive since you’ll need to appoint a board, hold periodic meetings, keep minutes, file separate tax returns, and incur ongoing legal and accounting costs, in addition to paying investment fees. You’ll also need to hire a staff or engage a third-party administrator, and pay an excise tax on net investment income (currently 1.39%).

Distribution requirements. DAFs aren’t subject to required minimum distributions, so investments can grow tax-free indefinitely (subject to any rules of the sponsoring organization). But private foundations must distribute at least 5% of their net market value each year.

Charitable recipients. Distributions from DAFs must be made to public charities. Private foundations can make grants to a wider range of charitable recipients, including individuals (subject to certain restrictions).

Tax deductibility. Cash contributions to DAFs are tax deductible up to 50% of the donor’s adjusted gross income (AGI), while noncash contributions are generally deductible up to 30% of AGI. For private foundations, the deduction limits are 30% and 20%, respectively. Typically, you can deduct the market value of appreciated assets donated to a DAF. Deductions for donations to foundations are limited to your cost basis (except for publicly traded stock).

Privacy. DAFs are permitted to accept donations privately, so it’s possible for contributors to remain anonymous. Private foundations must publicly disclose the names of donors who give more than $5,000.

Control. This is an area where private foundations have a clear advantage. You and other board members retain full control over the foundation’s investments and distributions. DAF contributions become the sponsor’s property and your role in managing investments and distributions is strictly advisory. Practically speaking, however, sponsors almost always follow contributors’ advice.

Your philanthropic strategy

The right charitable giving vehicle for you depends on many factors, including your financial resources, the charities you wish to support and the level of control you desire. Talk to your advisors about designing a philanthropic strategy that meets your needs.

© 2023

The Silent Generation and Baby Boomers are incredibly fortunate generations—and so might be their heirs. Cerulli’s U.S. High-Net-Worth and Ultra-High-Net-Worth Markets 2021 report predicts these generations will transfer $72.6 trillion in assets to heirs and $11.9 trillion to charities through 2045.

That’s a lot of money, and it presents a unique opportunity for Gen Xers and Millennials to secure their financial futures. But it’s important to remember that this wealth won’t just magically appear. It will take planning and communication between the generations to transfer it smoothly.

Get an Honest Assessment of How Much Wealth There is to Transfer

Managing expectations is one of the biggest challenges heirs face when inheriting wealth from their parents or grandparents. Many Gen Xers and Millennials believe they will inherit a large sum of money, but this may not be the case.

Older generations are living longer and may spend a large percentage of their estate before it can be passed on. Others might give away too much money now and need financial support from their adult children later.

The first step in any estate planning discussion is getting honest about what heirs hope to receive and what the older generation can afford to give.

Decide Who Needs to be Involved in the Planning Process

Older generations can find it difficult to talk about their death. They may feel like they are losing control over their life and finances. Or they may be afraid that their heirs won’t be able to handle the responsibility of inheriting wealth.

However, it’s essential for members of different generations to have open communication about estate planning. That way, everyone is on the same page when the time comes to hand over the reins.

Involving a third party—a CPA, financial advisor, or attorney—in these conversations can help. These professionals do more than ensure the estate planning documents are in order and help navigate tax issues. They can also help facilitate difficult conversations between family members and negotiate any conflicts that might arise during the process. By working with these professionals, families can avoid costly legal disputes and ensure that their wealth is transferred seamlessly from one generation to the next.

Incorporate Education into Your Estate Planning

Even if the younger generation has a good idea of how much they’ll inherit, there may be some surprises. For example, they may inherit assets that must be managed carefully, such as a business or real estate. Or they may be expected to take over their parent or grandparents’ philanthropic activities.

Members of the younger generation who were kept in the dark about these decisions often struggle to live up to expectations.

If you plan on leaving a legacy for your heirs, start educating them about your intentions. Make sure they understand the role you expect them to play in managing and using the wealth you leave behind.

Start the Process Early

Every estate plan is unique, but with a long runway and proper planning, most estate tax is avoidable. The key is to start right away—as soon as it’s clear that are assets you want to transfer.

Some simple strategies you can start implementing now include:

When transferring wealth from one generation to the next, specific strategies will vary depending on whether you own a business, have philanthropic inclinations, and who your heirs are. However, what doesn’t change from one estate plan to the next is the need for communication.

For any generational wealth transfer to be successful, heirs need to understand why the wealth is being transferred, how it will be managed, and their role in the process.

Failure to communicate effectively can lead to many problems, including family feuds and lost money. So, families need to have open discussions about generational wealth transfer early on—before any decisions are made. Managing expectations and having honest conversations can help your family avoid misunderstandings and ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

An Alternate Valuation Date can Reduce Estate Tax Liability

If you have money invested in the stock market, you’re well aware of potential volatility. Needless to say, this volatility can affect your net worth, thus affecting your lifestyle. Something you might not think about is the potential effect on your estate tax liability. Specifically, if the value of stocks or other assets drops precipitously soon after your death, estate tax could be owed on value that has disappeared. One strategy to ease estate tax liability in this situation is for the estate’s executor to elect to use an alternate valuation date.

Alternative Valuation Date Eligibility

Typically, assets owned by the deceased are included in his or her taxable estate based on their value on the date of death. For instance, if an individual owned stocks valued at $1 million on the day when he or she died, the stocks would be included in the estate at a value of $1 million.

Despite today’s favorable rules that allow a federal gift and estate tax exemption of $12.06 million, a small percentage of families still must contend with the federal estate tax. However, the tax law provides some relief to estates that are negatively affected by fluctuating market conditions. Instead of using the value of assets on the date of death for estate tax purposes, the executor may elect an “alternate valuation” date of six months after the date of death. This election could effectively lower a federal estate tax bill.

The election is permissible only if the total value of the gross estate is lower on the alternate valuation date than it was on the date of death. Of course, the election generally wouldn’t be made otherwise. If assets are sold after death, the date of the disposition controls. The value doesn’t automatically revert to the date of death.

Furthermore, the ensuing estate tax must be lower by using the alternate valuation date than it would have been using the date-of-death valuation. This would also seem to be obvious, but that’s not necessarily true for estates passing under the unlimited marital deduction or for other times when the estate tax equals zero on the date of death.

Note that the election to use the alternate valuation date generally must be made with the estate tax return. There is, however, a provision that allows for a late-filed election.

All Assets Fall Under Alternate Valuation Date

The alternate valuation date election can save estate tax, but there’s one potential drawback: The election must be made for the entire estate. In other words, the executor can’t cherry-pick stocks to be valued six months after the date of death and retain the original valuation date for other stocks or assets. It’s all or nothing.

This could be a key consideration if an estate has, for example, sizable real estate holdings in addition to securities. If the real estate has been appreciating in value, making the election may not be the best approach. The executor must conduct a thorough inventory and accounting of the value of all assets.

Estate Plan Flexibility

If your estate includes assets that can fluctuate in value, such as stocks, be sure your executor knows about the option of choosing an alternate valuation date. This option allows flexibility to reduce the chances of estate tax liability. Contact your estate planning advisor for additional information.

© 2022

 

Estate planning usually starts with a Last Will and Testament, a legal document that spells out how you want your assets to be distributed and other affairs handled after you die. A will is a good first step in estate planning, but it’s not necessarily the best option in every situation.

For California residents, trusts can be especially beneficial. In this article, we’ll discuss why you might want to consider setting up a trust or updating your existing trust if you haven’t looked at it in a while.

What is a Living Trust?

While there are many different kinds of trusts, a living trust is one of the most popular types for estate planning.

A living trust is a legal entity that distributes your property to people and organizations after you pass away. Once you establish a living trust, you fund it by putting your assets in the trust’s name. You can put all kinds of assets into a living trust, including real estate, investments, stock from closely held corporations, certificates of deposit (CDs), life insurance, personal property, collectibles, and more.

Living trusts may be revocable or irrevocable. Revocable trusts are more popular for estate planning, as they’re flexible and can be changed any time during your lifetime (as long as you are competent). Irrevocable trusts typically can’t be changed without a court order or approval of the trust’s beneficiaries.

Why is it Important to Have a Trust?

Revocable living trusts are particularly beneficial for California residents for two main reasons.

Probate Records are Open to the Public

Currently, probate is generally required for all estates in California valued at more than $184,500 unless all the assets are in a trust. (For deaths prior to April 1, 2022, the maximum value of an estate was $166,250.) There are a few exceptions. For example, property owned jointly automatically transfers to the surviving owner, and life insurance policies and retirement accounts go to the beneficiaries, as long as they are correctly designated.

Other assets must go through probate, including real estate, personal property, and bank and investment accounts. In California, anyone can view probate records, so setting up a trust can help you and your loved ones maintain privacy.

High Probate Costs

Probate attorney fees are set by statute in California, and they’re based on a percentage of the value of assets that go through probate.

Currently, those rates are:

For value above $25 million, the court determines a “reasonable amount.”

California real estate is expensive so going through probate can be costly based on the value of a residence alone.

For example, say you own a home valued at $1,000,000—roughly the median home price in San Diego. Based on the value of your residence alone, your estate’s probate fees would be:

The attorney’s statutory fee would be $23,000, even if they just file paperwork.

This fee applies even if the home is fully mortgaged since it’s based on the gross amount of probate assets.

Is it Time to Review Your Trust?

If you already have a trust but haven’t looked at it in a while, now is a good time to review it with your attorney.

Many life events can impact how you want to distribute your estate, so it’s essential to ensure your trust and other estate planning documents are up to date.

In general, we recommend reviewing your trust every three to five years or after any of the following life events:

We also recommend working with an estate planning attorney to draft or revise a trust. Many clients think they can save money by using a trust form found on the internet, but estate planning is complex, and trusts are governed by state law. The short-term savings from a DIY approach aren’t worth the expensive problems it can create down the road.

If you’d like a referral to an estate planning attorney, would like us to review your trust documents for tax consequences, or need help with a trust tax return, reach out to a Hamilton Tharp advisor.

Does your business need real estate to conduct operations? Or does it otherwise hold property and put the title in the name of the business? You may want to rethink this approach. Any short-term benefits may be outweighed by the tax, liability, and estate planning advantages of separating real estate ownership from the business.

Tax Implications

Businesses that are formed as C corporations treat real estate assets as they do equipment, inventory and other business assets. Any expenses related to owning the assets appear as ordinary expenses on their income statements and are generally tax deductible in the year they’re incurred.

However, when the business sells the real estate, the profits are taxed twice — at the corporate level and at the owner’s individual level when a distribution is made. Double taxation is avoidable, though. If ownership of the real estate were transferred to a pass-through entity instead, the profit upon sale would be taxed only at the individual level.

Protectin Assets

Separating your business ownership from its real estate also provides an effective way to protect it from creditors and other claimants. For example, if your business is sued and found liable, a plaintiff may go after all of its assets, including real estate held in its name. But plaintiffs can’t touch property owned by another entity.

The strategy also can pay off if your business is forced to file for bankruptcy. Creditors generally can’t recover real estate owned separately unless it’s been pledged as collateral for credit taken out by the business.

Estate Planning Options

Separating real estate from a business may give you some estate planning options, too. For example, if the company is a family business but some members of the next generation aren’t interested in actively participating, separating property gives you an extra asset to distribute. You could bequest the business to one heir and the real estate to another family member who doesn’t work in the business.

Handling the Transaction

The business simply transfers ownership of the real estate and the transferee leases it back to the company. Who should own the real estate? One option: The business owner could purchase the real estate from the business and hold title in his or her name. One concern is that it’s not only the property that’ll transfer to the owner, but also any liabilities related to it.

Moreover, any liability related to the property itself could inadvertently put the business at risk. If, for example, a client suffers an injury on the property and a lawsuit ensues, the property owner’s other assets (including the interest in the business) could be in jeopardy.

An alternative is to transfer the property to a separate legal entity formed to hold the title, typically a limited liability company (LLC) or limited liability partnership (LLP). With a pass-through structure, any expenses related to the real estate will flow through to your individual tax return and offset the rental income.

An LLC is more commonly used to transfer real estate. It’s simple to set up and requires only one member. LLPs require at least two partners and aren’t permitted in every state. Some states restrict them to certain types of businesses and impose other restrictions.

Proceed Cautiously

Separating the ownership of a business’s real estate isn’t always advisable. If it’s worthwhile, the right approach will depend on your individual circumstances. Contact us to help determine the best approach to minimize your transfer costs and capital gains taxes while maximizing other potential benefits.

© 2022

If your business doesn’t already have a retirement plan, now might be a good time to take the plunge. Current retirement plan rules allow for significant tax-deductible contributions.

For example, if you’re self-employed and set up a SEP-IRA, you can contribute up to 20% of your self-employment earnings, with a maximum contribution of $61,000 for 2022. If you’re employed by your own corporation, up to 25% of your salary can be contributed to your account, with a maximum contribution of $61,000. If you’re in the 32% federal income tax bracket, making a maximum contribution could cut what you owe Uncle Sam for 2022 by a whopping $19,520 (32% times $61,000).

More options

Other small business retirement plan options include:

Depending on your circumstances, these other types of plans may allow bigger deductible contributions.

Deadlines to establish and contribute

Thanks to a change made by the 2019 SECURE Act, tax-favored qualified employee retirement plans, except for SIMPLE-IRA plans, can now be adopted by the due date (including any extension) of the employer’s federal income tax return for the adoption year. The plan can then receive deductible employer contributions that are made by the due date (including any extension), and the employer can deduct those contributions on the return for the adoption year.

Important: The SECURE Act provision didn’t change the deadline to establish a SIMPLE-IRA plan. It remains October 1 of the year for which the plan is to take effect. Also, the SECURE Act change doesn’t override rules that require certain plan provisions to be in effect during the plan year, such as the provisions that cover employee elective deferral contributions (salary-reduction contributions) under a 401(k) plan. The plan must be in existence before such employee elective deferral contributions can be made.

For example, the deadline for the 2021 tax year for setting up a SEP-IRA for a sole proprietorship business that uses the calendar year for tax purposes is October 17, 2022, if you extend your 2021 tax return. The deadline for making the contribution for the 2021 tax year is also October 17, 2022. However, to make a SIMPLE-IRA contribution for the 2021 tax year, you must have set up the plan by October 1, 2021. So, it’s too late to set up a plan for last year.

While you can delay until next year establishing a tax-favored retirement plan for this year (except for a SIMPLE-IRA plan), why wait? Get it done this year as part of your tax planning and start saving for retirement. We can provide more information on small business retirement plan alternatives. Be aware that, if your business has employees, you may have to make contributions for them, too.

© 2022

The long-awaited $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) received the U.S. House of Representatives’ approval Friday, November 5, 2021, to provide funding for improvements to highways, bridges, and other road safety measures. The bill also offers plans to reconnect communities previously divided by highway building and expand national broadband networks.  

According to White House projections, investments outlined in the infrastructure act will add approximately 2 million jobs per year over the next decade. 

 A portion of the original bill was held back, and there were not as many tax provisions as originally expected, which could mean additional changes may be coming in a fiscal year 2022 budget reconciliation. 

What’s in the $1T Infrastructure Act?  

There are several key tax provisions found in the IIJA.  

Other Tax Provisions 

What Else is Included? 

Here’s a breakdown of what’s included: 

Where does the Build Back Better plan stand? 

The BBB is set to be the largest social policy bill brought to a vote in recent years, bringing funding to address issues such as climate change, health, education, and paid family and medical leave. 

House leaders hope to pass the Build Back Better plan later when they return November 15 after a weeklong recess.  

The Build Back Better plan and IIJA have many intricate details. We’ll continue to provide more information as it becomes available.  

If you need help understanding how the changes will impact your individual or business tax strategy, please reach out to our team of experts. We’ll help you navigate these changes and make any necessary adjustments to your plan.  

 

Employers offer 401(k) plans for many reasons, including to attract and retain talent. These plans help an employee accumulate a retirement nest egg on a tax-advantaged basis. If you’re thinking about participating in a plan at work, here are some of the features.

Under a 401(k) plan, you have the option of setting aside a certain amount of your wages in a qualified retirement plan. By electing to set cash aside in a 401(k) plan, you’ll reduce your gross income, and defer tax on the amount until the cash (adjusted by earnings) is distributed to you. It will either be distributed from the plan or from an IRA or other plan that you roll your proceeds into after leaving your job.

Tax advantages

Your wages or other compensation will be reduced by the amount of pre-tax contributions that you make — saving you current income taxes. But the amounts will still be subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes. If your employer’s plan allows, you may instead make all, or some, contributions on an after-tax basis (these are Roth 401(k) contributions). With Roth 401(k) contributions, the amounts will be subject to current income taxation, but if you leave these funds in the plan for a required time, distributions (including earnings) will be tax-free.

Your elective contributions — either pre-tax or after-tax — are subject to annual IRS limits. For 2021, the maximum amount permitted is $19,500. When you reach age 50, if your employer’s plan allows, you can make additional “catch-up” contributions. For 2021, that additional amount is $6,500. So if you’re 50 or older, the total that you can contribute to all 401(k) plans in 2021 is $26,000. Total employer contributions, including your elective deferrals (but not catch-up contributions), can’t exceed 100% of compensation or, for 2021, $58,000, whichever is less.

Typically, you’ll be permitted to invest the amount of your contributions (and any employer matching or other contributions) among available investment options that your employer has selected. Periodically review your plan investment performance to determine that each investment remains appropriate for your retirement planning goals and your risk specifications.

Getting money out

Another important aspect of these plans is the limitation on distributions while you’re working. First, amounts in the plan attributable to elective contributions aren’t available to you before one of the following events: retirement (or other separation from service), disability, reaching age 59½, hardship, or plan termination. And eligibility rules for a hardship withdrawal are very stringent. A hardship distribution must be necessary to satisfy an immediate and heavy financial need.

As an alternative to taking a hardship or other plan withdrawal while employed, your employer’s 401(k) plan may allow you to receive a plan loan, which you pay back to your account, with interest. Any distribution that you do take can be rolled into another employer’s plan (if that plan permits) or to an IRA. This allows you to continue deferral of tax on the amount rolled over. Taxable distributions are generally subject to 20% federal tax withholding, if not rolled over.

Employers may opt to match contributions up to a certain amount. If your employer matches contributions, you should make sure to contribute enough to receive the full match. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on free money!

These are just the basics of 401(k) plans for employees. For more information, contact your employer. Of course, we can answer any tax questions you may have.

© 2021

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS expanded its electronic signatures program to include many more forms that historically needed a wet signature. The expansion is intended to make things easier for tax professionals and their clients, while in-person interactions may cause unnecessary risk.  

The IRS has recently extended the ability to accept e-signatures on many documents through December 2021, simplifying the process for tax professionals.  

What types of signatures are accepted? 

The IRS has provided the following acceptable types of electronic signatures: 

While there are additional ways to provide an e-signature, taxpayers are advised to stick to the outlined methods to prevent the possibility of the forms being returned or delayed during processing.  

What forms are included in the recent extension? 

While some forms can be electronically filed, others must be sent by mail and manually processed by the IRS. The forms in this electronic signature program all require the latter – a hardcopy sent to the IRS for processing. This includes: 

Our firm continues to monitor the ability to electronically sign and submit IRS forms. If you have any questions about tax filings, please reach out to our team of tax professionals for help.  

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the fourth quarter of 2021. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

Note: Certain tax-filing and tax-payment deadlines may be postponed for taxpayers who reside in or have a business in federally declared disaster areas.

Friday, October 15

Monday, November 1

Wednesday, November 10

Wednesday, December 15

Contact us if you’d like more information about the filing requirements and to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines.

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With personal income tax representing 61% of California’s total general fund revenue sources, it is no surprise that the California Franchise Tax Board in the last few years has become more aggressive in its enforcement and interpretation of California residency law, using residency audits to do so.

What is California Residency Audit?
According to California’s residency laws, residents must pay state tax on their worldwide income, no matter the source of the income. Meanwhile, part-year residents are only required to pay taxes on income received while a resident of the state. Therefore, a person’s “residence” under California law is the key to understanding their state income tax liability. For this reason, the FTB conducts residency audits that will determine a person’s residency.

The 3 Types of “Residency” According to California Residence Law
When the FTB conducts a residency audit, the outcomes are generally broken down into three different categories. These are resident, nonresident, or part-year resident. The audit is simply meant to help determine which category taxpayers fall into.

According to California residency is defined as an individual who is in the state for anything else other than a temporary or transitory purpose or domiciled in California but physically outside the state for a temporary or transitory purpose. While the above definition might seem very straightforward, in reality the law is broadly written and leaves room for interpretation. As a result, if the FTB says you are a state resident, the burden now lies with you to prove them wrong.

How the FTB Determines Residency Status
California residency law defines the class of persons that are expected to contribute tax revenue to the state. California’s Revenue and Tax Code (R&TC) § 17014 includes every person in the state of California except for those in California for “a temporary or transitory purpose.”

It is important to note that this definition of residency is very broad, and includes everyone currently in the state except for those remaining in the state for a temporary or transitory purpose. It also includes those people domiciled in the state of California but currently outside the state for a temporary or transitory purpose.

Much of the residency determination depends upon the definition of “a temporary or transitory purpose.” California Code of Regulations (CCR) § 17014(b) defines in great detail what “temporary or transitory purpose” means. It states that those domiciled in the state who leave for a short period of time for both business and pleasure are outside the state for “a temporary or transitory purpose,” and as such are to be taxed as California residents.

Those domiciled outside the state, but staying within the state for business, medical or retirement purposes that are long-term and indefinite in time will not be considered in the state for “a temporary or transitory purpose,” and will be subject to the state tax.

The United States saw some of the most sweeping changes in December 2017 with the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).  Many of the amendments to the Internal Revenue Code are temporary in nature, set to expire at the end of 2025. For example, the basic exclusion amount (BEA), which doubled from $5 million to $10 million prior to being adjusted for inflation, will return to pre-2018 levels when the TCJA is set to expire. One major concern, raised by public comments, is what will happen to individuals taking advantage of the increased gift and estate tax exclusion amounts when the exclusion amounts drop to pre-2018 levels? Will they be adversely impacted?

For example, what would happen if a taxpayer chose to gift their entire $11.4 million (adjusted for inflation) lifetime exclusion amount during the TCJA? Rather than using up their basic exclusion amount at their time of death, a taxpayer may choose to use their basic exclusion amount during their lifetime by making large gifts.  Any unused portion would be used to offset or possibly eliminate estate taxes when a taxpayer perishes. 

Those concerns were laid to rest last month when the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service issued final regulations confirming that individuals who plan to take advantage of the TCJA-increased basic exclusion amount will not be adversely impacted after 2025 when the exclusion amount is scheduled to drop to pre-2018 levels. The final regulations also provide a special rule that allows the estate to compute its estate tax credit using the higher of the BEA applicable to gifts made during life or the BEA applicable on the date of death.

For 2019, the inflation-adjusted BEA is $11.4 million. If you are considering making a large gift within the next few years it is important to understand how these changes will impact your personal or business operations. The professionals in our office can answer your questions, call us today!