Posts Tagged ‘year-end tax planning’

2013 Winter Solstice Tax Tip: S corporation basis

Saturday, December 21st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20091210-1.JPGJust because today is the shortest day of the year doesn’t mean you can’t do some year-end tax planning.  Today is a good day for S corporation owners with losses to ponder whether they can use those losses on their 2013 return.

An S corporation owner needs to jump three hurdles to deduct losses passing through on the K-1.

There needs to be basis.

The basis needs to be “at-risk.”

The losses either need to be “non-passive,” or you need other “passive income” to enable you to deduct a passive loss.

We’ll just talk about basis today.

A taxpayer’s initial basis in an S corporation is the amount paid for the stock. It is increased by capital contributions and by undistributed income of the S corporation. It is reduced by distributions of S corporation earnings and by S corporation losses and expenses.

Your basis is determined on the last day of the tax year, so if you are short right now, a capital contribution made by December 31 can get you where you need to be.  So look at your S corporation income, losses and distributions for this year so far, and see if you need to put some more cash in the company before year-end.  If you own all of the company, that can be just a matter of writing a check.  Don’t try to be cute and take the money back out on January 1, either.

If you have other owners, it gets more complicated.  In that case, a loan to the S corporation might be the way to get you the basis you need.  We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Check the Tax Update for a new year-end tip daily through December 31!



Tax Roundup, 12/18/2013: Have you made your College Savings Iowa gift? And: la loi, c’est IRS!

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

csi logo
Year-end is sneaking up on us.
 So it doesn’t catch us completely unawares, the Tax Update will provide a year-end idea each day through December 31.  Today we pass on a reminder that Iowans can deduct contributions to College Savings Iowa, the state’s Section 529 college savings plan, on their Iowa 1040s — but only if they fund their contributions before year-end.  From the State Treasurer:

Contributions to College Savings Iowa must be made by the end of the year to qualify for the 2013 Iowa state tax deduction. Account holders can deduct up to $3,045 for each open account and can contribute online at* Contributions sent by mail must postmark checks by December 31, 2013.

College Savings Iowa lets anyone – parents, grandparents, friends and relatives – invest for college on behalf of a child.  Investors do not need to be a state resident and can withdraw their investments tax-free to pay for qualified higher education expenses including tuition, books, supplies and room and board at any eligible college, university, community college or accredited technical training school in the United Sates or abroad.

It’s a great way to help your kids start out in life without a big student loan.

William Perez is doing yeoman’s work on year-end planning at his place; today he has Donating Cash to Charity at Year-End.  

Kay Bell offers Donating appreciated assets to your favorite charity


45R credit chartLa Loi, C’est IRS.  It’s not surprising that the IRS would disregard mere vendor rules when it believes it can pass out tax credits to taxpayers who clearly don’t qualify.  That’s exactly what they did yesterday when they announced that it will allow the (ridiculously complex) Sec. 45R small employer health insurance credit in Washington and Wisconsin in 2014, even though those states won’t have the required “Small Business Health Options Program” exchange in place.

The Code clearly requires allows the credit only to employers buying through the exchange starting in 2014, but the IRS has granted “transition relief” waiving that requirement.  Heck, why not just grant the credit to anybody who just has “health” next year.  You know, as a transition rule.


No.  Is Obamacare Really an Improvement on the Status Quo?  (Megan McArdle).  “Bob Laszewski, an insurance industry expert who has become the go-to guy for the news media on the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (because the insurance industry is extremely reluctant to talk), tells the Weekly Standard that he thinks come Jan. 1, more people will have lost private insurance than gained it…”


William McBride, Economists Find Eliminating the Corporate Tax Would Raise Welfare (Tax Policy Blog).  That’s why the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan does just that.



TIGTALeft hand, meet right hand.   The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reports “IRS Vendors Owe Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars In Federal Tax Debt“:

Federal law generally prohibits agencies from contracting with businesses that have unpaid Federal tax liabilities.

TIGTA reviewed the IRS’s controls over the integrity and validity of vendors receiving payments from the IRS, including the vendor’s tax compliance and suspension and debarment status. TIGTA also reviewed controls over the IRS’s Vendor Master File (VMF), which contains information about vendors that enables them to do business with the IRS.

The vast majority of vendors that conduct business with the IRS meet their Federal tax obligations. However, TIGTA found that 1,168 IRS vendors (7 percent) had a combined $589 million of Federal tax debt as of July 2012, the most recent data for which information was available at the time TIGTA conducted the review. Few of the vendors had a current tax payment plan.

That means the IRS breaks its own rules in dealing with about one out of 15 of its vendors — another instance where the IRS breaks the rules with no consequence.  A “Sauce for the Gander” rule, one that would penalize IRS personnel who break rules just like they do for taxpayers, might help here.


Sometimes the IRS gets it right.  IRS Provided Some Good Tips this Morning (Russ Fox)


Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Profits Interests, Capital Interests, And Restricted Property:


In Crescent Holdings v. Commissioner 141 T.C. 15 (2013), the Tax Court doled out three lessons every tax advisor con learn from:


  1. How to differentiate between a profits interest and a capital interest in a partnership.

  2. Section 83 applies to the grant of a capital interest,

  3. If a capital interested in a partnership has not yet vested under the meaning of Section 83, the recipient should not be allocated any undistributed income from the partnership.

  4. The income allocable to an unvested capital interest granted by a partnership must be allocated to the remaining partners of the partnership.

Good stuff.


TaxProf, Billionaires’ Use of Zeroed-Out GRATs Blows $100 Billion Hole in Estate Tax.  Paul Caron quotes a Forbes article.

Jack Townsend, Raoul Weil Has First U.S. Court Appearance

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving 2013: Sow Much Good



Robert D. FlachWOULDN’T IT BE NICE.  He discusses the new IRS Commissioner nominee and asks,  “Wouldn’t it be great to have a person who had actually prepared tax returns for a living in the position?”  What, and have somebody who actually knows something?

20131211-1Robert has a thing about the Tea Party, but I suspect even he would Follow the Tea Party on Stadium Financing Issues (David Brunori, Tax Analysts Blog):

The Atlanta Braves are planning to move their stadium to the suburbs. The Braves blackmailed, threatened, and coerced the backboneless politicians in Cobb County, Ga., to pay for the stadium… As far as I can tell, the only organization to have put up any fight against this insane corporate welfare is the Atlanta Tea Party.”

When the Tea Party movement sticks to the fight for smaller government, there’s a lot to like there.



Tax Justice Blog, Income Tax Deductions for Sales Taxes: A Step Away from Tax Fairness

Joseph Thorndike, When Is a “Fee” Actually a Tax? When Politicians Say It Isn’t (Tax Analysts Blog)

Peter Reilly,  How To Tax Kody Brown And The Sister Wives And Other Polygamous Families?  He quotes my Twitter feed.  If Peter follows @joebwan, maybe you should too!


News From the Profession.  There’s a Hidden Deloitte Auditor in the Airport Cell Phone Crasher Video Making the Rounds (Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 12/28/2012: Last tax planning weekend of 2012. Also: the crisis of unreported pretend income!

Friday, December 28th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

20121228-2There’s not much time.  There are 366 days in 2012, but only four left.  It’s asking a lot of the last four days of the tax year to fix the tax problems of the other 362, but there are a few things you can still do.  You can still make charitable contributions that count this year.  You can get your last mortgage payment paid this year, making the interest on it deductible.  You can pay cash-basis business expenses.  You can even start a qualified pension plan, technically (good luck getting it drafted and in place by Monday, though).

Some last-minute rules to keep in mind:

Timely-mailed is timely-paid.  If you make a deductible payment by check, the postmark date is the date for deduction.  If the check is big enough to matter, take it down to the post office and send it Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested.

Electronic payments count.  The nice thing about an electronic payment is that there is no dispute about when it happened, and it won’t get lost in the mail.

Credit card payments count.  If you make a payment – say, a charitable contribution – by credit card before the ball drops Monday night, it counts as a 2012 deduction, even though you won’t pay your credit card bill until next year.

Gifts of stock have to be completed by the end of business Monday.  If you want to make a gift of appreciated stock, it needs to be nestled in the recipient charity’s account by the end of the day Monday.  That might require some quick action by both your broker and your charity.

Many related parties are on cash basis for deductions, even for accrual taxpayers.  If you owe your nephew money out of your S corporation, you need to get him paid by Monday to get the deduction this year.

Capital gains and losses count on the trade dateExcept for short sales, which count on the settlement date.

Remember, this year is a bit crazy with the tax increases coming down next year, and with the Fiscal Cliff uncertainty.  Income tax rates are rising for higher-income folks, so the usual year-end deferral of income might not be a great idea.  With higher rates next year, business deductions might well be worth more then, so the usual frenzy of paying cash-basis business expenses may not be your best bet.

With itemized deductions, it’s very hard to tell.  While higher tax rates usually would mean deduction will be worth more next year than this year, plans have been floated to either cap the total amount of itemized deductions — $25,000 and $50,000 have been thrown out — or to cap the tax benefit at, say, 28%, regardless of the top rate.  Some taxpayers with big charitable pledges have moved them up to this year to hedge against a deduction cap.


The House of Representatives reconvenes Sunday.  Is a Fiscal Cliff deal going to happen before this year closes?  Don’t hold your breath, if this story from Tax Notes is any guide ($link):

     As President Obama and senators returned to Washington December 27, aides to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced that the lower chamber will not return for legislative business until December 30 and that the House may be in session through January 2.

     The House schedule suggests that a fiscal cliff deal, if there is one, will not come until sometime between 6:30 p.m. December 30, when first House votes are expected, and late January 2. The 113th Congress is scheduled to convene January 3 at 12 p.m.

The best we can hope for is that they pass something with an AMT patch so that the upcoming tax season isn’t thrown into chaos.  There’s no hope that they’ll actually address the incontinent spending that is leading the government to fiscal catastrophe.

Fiscal Cliff Notes

TaxProf,  CNBC: Will ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Accelerate Millionaire Deaths?

Kay Bell, Fiscal cliff is important, but don’t forget some 2012 tax laws need attention ASAP

Kevin Drawbaugh, Factbox: Corporate tax breaks in play at “cliff” and beyond

Trish McIntire, Tax’s Perfect Storm:

Congress only has 4 days to do something about taxes (if they’re willing to work the weekend). And the situation has gotten more complicated with Treasury Secretary Geithner’s announcement that the US will reach our debt ceiling on December 31st.  4 days to do what they refused to do earlier in the year and haven’t been able to do in the last few weeks. I’m not hopeful.

William McBride, The Fiscal Cliff in History (Tax Policy Blog):

As the chart below shows, it will result in the highest tax rate on individual income (39.6 percent) since 2000, the highest tax rate on capital gains (23.8 percent) since 1997, and the highest tax rate on dividends (43.4 percent) since 1986.




David Brunori, Michael Moore and Film Tax Credits (

Paul Neiffer,  Farm Income Not Cash Rent!

Russ Fox, Is It Time to Take a Casualty Loss on Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet?

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days of Charitable Giving 2012: ShelterBox

Robert D. Flach, 2012 – THE YEAR IN TAXES

Robert Goulder, Gérard Depardieu: Tax Exile (

Oh, Goody: 2013 May Be the Year of Perpetual Fiscal Crisis (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox).


Let’s make people file lots of extra forms because I think they’re getting away with something.  The TaxProf links to an odd piece in the Washington Post by a Ray D. Madoff. who seems to think the rich are up to something.  He’s not sure what, though, so we should have everybody file a bunch of extra tax forms so he can figure it out.

He says sure, the income tax code is progressive:      

 The IRS recently released its analysis of 2010 tax returns,  which shows the allocation of taxes over different income groups. This information is both informative and misleading. According to these latest figures, in 2010 the top 1 percent of earners (those with adjusted gross incomes of at least $369,691) paid about 37 percent of all income taxes but reported just less than 19 percent of all income. Based on these data, the U.S. income tax system looks truly progressive.  This lends credence to the view that the wealthy are paying even more than their fair share.

Ah, but what are they hiding?

But statistics can be only as good as the information on which they are based, and here the data are fundamentally misleading. People pay income  tax only on amounts that Congress counts as income. This excludes the sources of revenue most commonly enjoyed by the richest Americans: gifts, inheritances, distributions from trusts and proceeds of life insurance.

So what does he propose to do?

It is time for Congress to shine a light on the types of income most enjoyed by the wealthy. Individuals should be required to report all sources of income, including gifts, inheritances, life insurance and distributions from trusts so that we can begin to assess the impact of these exclusions.

First, to point out an obvious error: most distributions from taxable trusts are already reported on two income tax returns.  Trust income follows trust distributions.  Trusts get a deduction when they make a distribution, so they have to file a K-1 with their 1041 to report the distribution and the allocation of distributed income.  The beneficiary reports the K-1 amounts on Form 1040.  Income from revocable trusts is reported directly on the grantor’s return, so distributions are irrelevant.

Second, the big inheritances and gifts are already reported — just not on income tax returns.  Gifts over the annual exclusion amount are already reported on Form 709, and large estates file Form 706.  Does he really want everybody to have to keep track of their birthday presents and gifts from Grandpa for 1040 reporting?

Finally, this stuff isn’t income.  A gift is a distribution of wealth; it reduces the donor’s wealth as much as it increases the recipients.  It’s a wash, a nothing.  Same thing for trust distributions — they are funded by reducing the grantor’s wealth, and the distributions are either income distributions or delayed transfers from the donor.  Life insurance proceeds are arguably income, but they are already normally reported on 1099-R.

So what is his point?

Everyone agrees that fairness matters when it comes to income taxes. But we cannot have an honest discussion about tax fairness when we are kept in the dark about how much income people actually receive. Only when full reporting is required can we have an accurate picture of people’s true income. Then we can begin to fashion a tax plan that is fair for all Americans.

It’s nice that he wants to have an “honest” discussion.  He could start by honestly saying that he really just wants to raise income taxes on “the rich”, but is hampered by statistics inconveniently showing that they are already paying a lot of taxes.  He wants to try to drag in a lot of things that aren’t actually income into the mix to make it look like the rich should be paying more.  Sorry: the rich guy isn’t buying.


Two months to rule them all

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 by Joe Kristan

You have two months left to control your 2011 tax destiny: my new post at, the Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.


Tax Moves for the last day of 2009

Thursday, December 31st, 2009 by Joe Kristan

There are only a few hours left in 2009. Still, it’s enough for a few year-end tax planning moves, if you hurry!
Capital losses: If you sell stock at a loss today, you can take the loss. You can deduct capital losses to the extent of capital gains, plus (if you are an individual) $3,000. This doesn’t work for short sales, which are considered closed on the settlement date, rather than the trade date; also, beware the “wash-sale” rules.
Live another day. If you survive today, but not tomorrow, you may avoid estate tax altogether, assuming you have enough assets to worry about the estate tax.
Or don’t. If your estate is under $3.5 million, maybe this is a good day to check out. Your estate will be too small to pay estate tax, but your heirs will benefit from a step-up in the basis of your assets to their date-of-death value.
Remember, the official position of the Tax Update is that there’s no good day for dying.
You also have time to make some charitable contributions, either by getting the check in the mail today or by using your credit card. If you are feeling charitable, but you don’t know what to do, here are some charities that I like:
Salvation Army
Iowa Donor Network, the Iowa organization that gathers and allocates donor organs.
Cornell College
Southern Illinois University
The Tax Foundation
Reason Foundation
Alzheimers Association
Sertoma Foundation
And don’t forget that TaxGrrrl is running in the Komen Race for the Cure. Sponsor her, or make a donation.
Update from the comments:

International Development Enterprises. All money donated to them goes towards developing techonology suitable for poorer countries, which is then sold in the free market. Water pumps, water purifiers and so on. Free market and by design self sustaining, as people have to choose to buy it.

Also, the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation does a wonderful job. Unfortunately, they don’t have an online credit card donation page (ahem, Roger!).
If you want some more ideas, Kay Bell has a roundup of year-end tax moves.
This is the last of our 2009 year-end tax planning tips. See you next year!


Year-end deductions: beware related parties

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009 by Joe Kristan

As the tax year winds up, businesses are busy accruing year-end expenses to get the deduction into this year. They need to be careful: if you owe money to a cash-basis “related party,” it’s not enough to accrue the expense this year. You need to pay it to deduct it.
Code Section 267 only allows a deduction to a related party “as of the day as of which such amount is includible in the gross income of the person to whom the payment is made.” That’s no problem if the “related party” is on the accrual method, because they will be accruing the income at the same time you accrue the expense. But if the related party is a cash-basis taxpayer, you have to pay.
Who is “related?” It’s a pretty wide net, but most problems arise with closely-held accrual-method businesses and their cash basis owners. If you have a C corporation, only owners of more than 50% of the stock, and their families (siblings, spouses, ancestors and descendants) are related. For pass-through entities — partnerships and S corporations — any owner is a related party, along with members of owners families and anybody related to the family members.
The broad definition of related parties for pass-throughs means that if a calendar year accrual-method S corporation accrues a bonus for a 2009 shareholder’s nephew payable in January 2010, the deduction gets deferred until 2010. The same thing applies to interest expense, rental expense, or any other expense owed to a cash-basis related party.
The year is almost over. Time to review the Tax Update’s 2009 year-end planning tips!


Year-end planning and the Iowa School Tuition Organization Credit

Monday, December 28th, 2009 by Joe Kristan

There isn’t much time left in your 2009 year-end planning, but there is still time to save some real money this year. If you feel charitable towards private elementary schools, the Iowa School Tuition Organization Tax Credit makes makes certain donations to fund private elementary schools nearly free, after tax.
The STO credit is a 65 percent state tax credit. While there is no Iowa charitable deduction for STO donations, the federal deduction is unaffected. Here’s how it works for a hypothetical top-bracket non-AMT Iowa taxpayer (ignoring phaseouts) in dollars and cents for a $100 gift — a net cost after tax of $10.73:
There is a catch: Iowa limits the annual amount of gifts eligible for this credit. If the credit is oversubscribed, you may not get a full credit. Your STO may be able to give you some guidance on whether there is still room for the full credit this year. Here are some to choose from:
Iowa Lutheran School Tuition Organization
SouthEast Iowa Tuition Organization
Heart of Iowa STO
Catholic Tuition Organization
While these credits may be less than ideal from a policy standpoint (the Tax Update is more of a voucher fan), you go to war with the tax law you have. If this is where your charitable inclinations lie, the Iowa STO credit makes contributions to student tuition organizations a tax-efficient way to go.
As the decade winds down, wind down with the Tax Update’s 2009 year-end tax tips!


Playing the $13,000 Santa

Thursday, December 24th, 2009 by Joe Kristan

20091224-1.JPGIn this season of frantic giving, don’t forget the $13,000 per-donor, per-donee gift tax exclusion. Unless you have great confidence that you will die next year AND that Congress won’t restore the estate tax retroactive to January 1, 2009, anybody who is a candidate for the estate tax should consider using the gift tax annual exclusion to get money out of the estate. A couple with four kids maximizing annual giving can reduce thier taxable estates by $520,000 over five years, not even counting appreciation of the gift.
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. To get the gift to count in 2009, here are some tips:
– If you’re writing a check, march the lucky recipient down to the bank to cash it by December 31. Checks not cashed by year-end normally won’t count as 2009 gifts.
– If you are donating private company stock, make sure the corporate secretary records the transfer on the company’s books by year end. Also make sure the tax returns reflect the gift – if you make a December 25 gift of S corporation stock, make sure the donee gets a K-1 showing income for the 12/25 through 12/31 period.
– If you are donating public company stock, make sure it’s in the donee’s brokerage account before the end of the day December 31.
– If you are giving a disused sports facility, see your attorney; you can afford one.
Remember, if you miss the 2009 annual gifting exclusion, it’s gone forever. 2009 isn’t coming back.
Our 2009 year-end tax planning series concludes next week. See you then!


The Newlywed Game, year-end tax planning edition!

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009 by Joe Kristan

20091223-1.jpgLove is a many-splendored thing, but love is even better when it saves taxes. Your marital status at year-end is your filing status for the entire year, so maybe you want to run down to the courthouse and tie the knot before the ball drops before midnight January 1, local time. Sure, call me a hopeless romantic. The Tax Update just rolls that way.
A quick trip to the preacher may be in order in the following circumstances:
– One prospective spouse has a big capital gain, and the other has capital losses that would otherwise go unused.
– One of you has passive income, the other has passive losses. If you are married on the last day of the year, the losses can offset the income on a joint return.
– One of you has substantial income in 2009, and the other doesn’t. If you have only one income between the two of you, you’ll save taxes on a joint return because of the wider tax brackets on a joint filing.
– If you are Iowans, and one of you has pension income, marriage will enable you to exclude up to $12,000 from your Iowa income tax return. A single filer can only exclude $6,000.
There are a wide variety of other special circumstances that could lead you to tie the knot. A good tax marriage results whenever one partner has tax attributes, like capital losses, that can be used on a joint return but would not be useful on a single return. Other such items could include tax credit carryforwards and investment interest carryforwards, among others
Of course these things apply to couples pondering divorce, too, but that’s too sad to dwell on this time of year. Oops, I just did. And some couples, particularly those where both have good incomes, are better off postponing marriage, or (shudder) accelerating divorce.
Anyway, you should marry for the right reasons. But if you can both be in love and cut your taxes, why not let IRS help pay for your honeymoon?
This may be the most romantic of our 2009 year-end planning tips. But we’re not done yet!

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