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Congress Passes “Extenders” Legislation Reviving Expired Tax Breaks for 2015

Many valuable tax breaks expired December 31, 2014. For them to be available for 2015, Congress had to pass legislation extending them — which it now has done, with the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), signed into law by the President on December 18. The PATH Act not only revives expired breaks for 2015 but also makes many breaks permanent, generally extends the rest through either 2016 or 2019, and enhances some breaks.Here is a sampling of extended breaks that may benefit you or your business:• The deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes (extended permanently),• Tax-free IRA distributions to charities (extended permanently),• Bonus depreciation (extended through 2019, but with reduced benefits for 2018 and 2019),• Enhanced Section 179 expensing (extended permanently and further enhanced beginning in 2016),• Accelerated depreciation for qualified leasehold-improvement, restaurant and retail improvement property (extended permanently),• The research tax credit (extended permanently and enhanced beginning in 2016),• The Work Opportunity credit (extended through 2019 and enhanced beginning in 2016), and• Various energy-related tax incentives (extended through 2016).Please contact us for more information on these and other breaks under the PATH Act. Keep in mind that, for you to take maximum advantage of certain extended breaks on your 2015 tax return, quick action may be required.

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7 Last-Minute Tax-Savings Tips

The year is quickly drawing to a close, but there’s still time to take steps to reduce your 2015 taxliability — you just must act by December 31:1. Pay your 2015 property tax bill before the end of the year.2. Make your January 1 mortgage payment.3. Incur deductible medical expenses (if your deductible medical expenses for the year alreadyexceed the applicable floor).4. Pay tuition for academic periods that will begin in January, February or March of 2016 (if it willmake you eligible for a tax credit).5. Donate to your favorite charities.6. Sell investments at a loss to offset capital gains you’ve recognized this year.7. Ask your employer if your bonus can be deferred until January.Keep in mind, however, that in certain situations these strategies might not make sense. For example,if you’ll be subject to the alternative minimum tax this year or be in a higher tax bracket next year,taking some of these steps could have undesirable results.If you’re unsure whether these steps are right for you, consult us before taking action.

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Avoid a 50% Penalty: Take Retirement Plan RMDs by December 31, 2015

After you reach age 70½, you must take annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your IRAs (except Roth IRAs) and, generally, from your defined contribution plans (such as 401(k) plans). You also could be required to take RMDs if you inherited a retirement plan (including Roth IRAs).If you don’t comply — which usually requires taking the RMD by December 31 — you can owe a penalty equal to 50% of the amount you should have withdrawn but didn’t.So, should you withdraw more than the RMD? Taking only RMDs generally is advantageous because of tax-deferred compounding. But a larger distribution in a year your tax bracket is low may save tax.Be sure, however, to consider the lost future tax-deferred growth and, if applicable, whether the distribution could: 1) cause Social Security payments to become taxable, 2) increase income-based Medicare premiums and prescription drug charges, or 3) affect other tax breaks with income-based limits.Also keep in mind that, while retirement plan distributions aren’t subject to the additional 0.9% Medicare tax or 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT), they are included in your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). That means they could trigger or increase the NIIT, because the thresholds for that tax are based on MAGI.For more information on RMDs or tax-savings strategies for your retirement plan distributions, please contact us.

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Don’t Miss Your Opportunity to Make 2015 Annual Exclusion Gifts

Recently, the IRS released the 2016 annually adjusted amount for the unified gift and estate tax exemption and the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption: $5.45 million (up from $5.43 million in 2015). But even with the rising exemptions, annual exclusion gifts offer a valuable tax-saving opportunity.The 2015 gift tax annual exclusion allows you to give up to $14,000 per recipient tax-free — without using up any of your gift and estate or GST tax exemption. (The exclusion remains the same for 2016.)The gifted assets are removed from your taxable estate, which can be especially advantageous if you expect them to appreciate. That’s because the future appreciation can avoid gift and estate taxes.But you need to use your 2015 exclusion by Dec. 31. The exclusion doesn’t carry over from year to year. For example, if you and your spouse don’t make annual exclusion gifts to your grandson this year, you can’t add $28,000 to your 2016 exclusions to make a $56,000 tax-free gift to him next year.Questions about making annual exclusion gifts or other ways to transfer assets to the next generation while saving taxes? Contact us!

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Reduce Taxes on Your Investments With These Year-End Strategies

While tax consequences should never drive investment decisions, it’s critical that they be considered — especially by higher-income taxpayers, who may be facing the 39.6% short-term capital gains rate, the 20% long-term capital gains rate and the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT).

Holding on to an investment until you’ve owned it more than one year so the gains qualify for long-term treatment may help substantially cut tax on any gain. Here are some other tax-saving strategies:

  • Use unrealized losses to absorb gains.
  • Avoid wash sales.
  • See if a loved one qualifies for the 0% rate (or the 15% rate if your rate is 20%).

Many of the strategies that can help you save or defer income tax on your investments can also help you avoid or defer NIIT liability. And because the threshold for the NIIT is based on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), strategies that reduce your MAGI — such as making retirement plan contributions — can also help you avoid or reduce NIIT liability.
These are only a few of the year-end strategies that may help you reduce taxes on your investments. For more ideas, contact us.

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