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Articles Tagged with taxes

By Nathan Vinson

IRA, taxesThe IRS recently enacted a new IRA rollover rule that’s actually good for consumers, and something that can really help you – but it is a lot more complicated than it appears on the surface. Essentially, the IRS is now giving you a year to roll your old retirement account into a new account or IRA, but only if you’ve faced difficult circumstances that delayed you from making the transaction.

In the past, once you leave a job, you may have received a check for the balance of the funds in your 401(k) (or 403(b) or 457 plan, which are used by non-profits and government agencies, respectively). Once the check is in the mail, you’ve traditionally had 60 days to roll that money into an IRA or other qualifying retirement account.

The administrator of the retirement plan is required to withhold taxes plus a penalty from your check, and will report that to the IRS. You won’t see the withheld money again, unless you roll over the funds within that 60-day time period.

The basic concept is that Uncle Sam wants you saving for retirement, and penalizes you if you don’t keep up with it. Plus, 401(k) money goes into the account pre-tax, so it’s their chance to tax the money – and as we all know, the government never misses a chance to grab some dollars.

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By Nathan Vinson, attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

flag, Olympics, taxesAn interesting question popped up in social media during the 2016 Summer Olympics: will U.S. athletes taking home a medal be taxed on the value of it – particularly those who win the gold?

News accounts have confirmed that yes, U.S. medal-winning athletes will be taxed, but not on the value of the medal itself. It’s the cash prize that comes with each medal that is taxed.

Swimmer Michael Phelps, who has broken all kinds of records this year, may owe the government $55,000 in taxes for the cash prizes that go along with his five gold medals and one silver medal, reports USA Today. Each gold medal is accompanied by a check for $25,000, while each silver earns $15,000 and each bronze $10,000. If Phelps is taxed at the highest income tax rate of 39.6 percent, he would owe around $55,000, the newspaper reports. I checked the math, and yes, that’s about right.

Ouch.

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By Nathan Vinson, attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

This time of year is nice, isn’t it? It’s warm and pleasant out, and maybe a little bit more laid back at work. Tax time is behind you (yes!) and it’s not time to think about next year’s taxes.

OR IS IT?

Well, we hate to break it to you, but yeah, it is time to think about it NOW. It’s July. More than half of the year is gone. If you haven’t set up a good filing system for your receipts and other tax-related information, you need to – and soon. If you’ve got a giant pile of paperwork and receipts, hey, you’re not alone – but don’t let this linger.

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By Nathan Vinson

elderly womanBetween our phones and our e-mail, everyone in America (and likely around the world) is hit with scams every day. We’re promised millions by the wife of a dead African dictator, or told that the caller is from the IRS and needs payment of back taxes immediately. Door-to-door sales people tell us there is something wrong with our roof. Insurance flyers attempt to scare us into thinking that something horrible will happen if we don’t buy their insurance.

Most of us brush this stuff off without a thought. We hang up on the scammers, delete those spam e-mails and move on. But for the elderly, it’s hard to tell the difference between a genuine offer that needs our attention and fraud.

While we all fear looking stupid or gullible, what’s truly frightening for an elderly person is the prospect of looking dumb in front of someone we love and trust. Asking for help as you get older is difficult. Scammers know this – and push the elderly into it by insisting their offer is for a limited time or that dire consequences can result if they don’t act right now.

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By Nathan Vinson, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

gambling taxes

We’ve written previously about gambling taxes, highlighting this issue mainly because of the affection Kentucky has for horse racing. And as you well know, we’re in the midst of horse racing season. Keeneland had its spring meet, and Churchill Downs is now open for the season, with the Kentucky Derby set for May 7. This will be followed by the Preakness in Baltimore and the Belmont Stakes in New York, and the Breeder’s Cup in November in California.

Lots of us love to put a little dough (or a lot!) down on a horse at the track. There was some talk earlier this year of lowering the threshold at which tracks were required to report winnings to the IRS, but that never moved forward, so far as we can tell.

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By Nathan Vinson, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

We’ve heard more than one report of people getting called by scammers pretending to be the IRS, wanting money for back taxes or claiming that the IRS is going to IRS doorwaysue you. Make no mistake: the IRS will not call you.

This time of year, as many people are working on tax filings, anticipating returns and otherwise crunching numbers, the IRS is top of mind, and the scammers know it.

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By Nathan Vinson, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

If you own a small business, offering health insurance to your employees is likely one of your biggest headaches. There are an incredible number of options for health insurance, including the use of health savings accounts. Some small businesses have never offered it for those reasons, and because the costs of it can send a company’s expenses through the roof.

It’s understandable – and until recently, it was entirely legal. Employees could go elsewhere for insurance, such as through a spouse’s work or purchase it privately. But the Affordable Care Act changed all of that. The Act mandates that businesses offer health insurance to employees and their dependents. The rules were phased in over time (but they’re here now), and it’s only for those businesses that hit certain thresholds. An excellent Associated Press article recently outlined all of the thorny problems for small businesses. You can read that here.

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By Nathan Vinson
Attorney, English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

tax movesWe’re about five weeks out from January 1, 2016. Yes, really.

That means if there are financial moves you intended to make this year to save on your 2015 tax bill, you need to get going. I’ve outlined here a brief checklist to get you started.

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entertainers auditBy Nathan Vinson
Attorney, English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

If you are working in the entertainment industry, the IRS has your tax returns in its sights.

In a new “Entertainment Audit Technique Guide,” the IRS recently instructed its auditors to closely examine tax returns from those in the entertainment business.  Auditors will be scrutinizing deductions claimed on tax returns for expenses which, according to the guide, entertainers have historically been “aggressive or abusive” in taking.

The IRS wants to reign in these perceived industry norms to ensure that the entertainers are legitimately entitled to the claimed deductions. In tax parlance, the expenses giving rise to deductions must be “ordinary and necessary.” As the guide puts it, “The distinction between ordinary/necessary and extravagant must be more clearly drawn.”

Those in the entertainment business can include, but are not limited to, comedians, musicians, singers, songwriters, actors, producers and those involved behind the scenes. The IRS wants to see that the deductions entertainers are taking are substantiated with legitimate receipts and records, and that the expenses truly are business-related (i.e. “necessary”).

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By Nathan Vinson, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Goodwill receiptAlmost everyone makes charitable donations of some kind, and many of us expect to deduct the value of those donations from our income when our taxes are being prepared. While it’s not a primary motivator for most who give to charity, it certainly helps spur some giving and motivates some to meet charitable obligations prior to the end of the calendar year.

Here are a few tax rules to keep in mind when making charitable donations of property (i.e. noncash donations), as federal tax law and regulations require certain documentation of gifts depending on the value of the gifts.  In tax parlance, these rules are called “substantiation” requirements.

For gifts under $250, minimal documentation is required to claim a tax deduction. While it is generally required that the taxpayer obtain a receipt from the charitable organization, the taxpayer is excused from doing so if getting a receipt is “impractical.”

An example that the tax regulations use is dropping off property (i.e. clothing) at a charity’s unattended drop site (i.e. a Goodwill drop box after store hours).  In that instance, taxpayers are required to retain in their own records (but not submit to the IRS) documentation containing:

  • the name and address of the charity;
  • the date and location of the donation;
  • a description of the property, including its value;
  • the fair market value of the property contributed and the method used to determine the fair market value; and
  • possibly other documentation.

As you can see, it may just be simpler to get the receipt!

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