Wednesday, January 22, 2020

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS A NATIONAL DISGRACE!


It continues to confuse me why the Republican Party has totally abandoned all honor, integrity and credibility to support and defend the worst, most corrupt, most ignorant, most incompetent, and most self-absorbed President in the history of the US.
Is the Party so dependent on keeping his core cult of ignorant racists?
What dirt does Trump have on Republicans?
The Republican Party is a national disgrace!


















Monday, January 20, 2020

WHAT’S THE BUZZ, TELL ME WHAT’S A HAPPENNIN’?


* Kay Bell, the yellow rose of taxes, explains in detail “Who must file a 2019 tax return” at DON’T MESS WITH TAXES.


Her #10 is something important – and something that most taxpayers would not think about (highlight is mine) –

To start the audit statute of limitations clock ticking. Yes, audit rates continue to drop. But no one wants to be in that small percentage of filers whose form get picked for an extra IRS examination, which is what the agency calls the process.

The IRS generally can go back three years to look at your old tax filings. However, that tax audit clock doesn't start ticking until you actually file a 1040. So even if you didn't make quite enough to trigger the filing requirement, you might want to make sure the IRS can't come back, say, five years from now to ask about why you didn't file in 2019.”

* Jim Blankenship discusses the new “QCD anti-abuse rule” in “QCD after the SECURE Act” at FINANCIAL DUCKS IN A ROW.

* If you need to find a tax professional to prepare your 2019 tax returns you should check out the articles in the “Advice and Information” section of my website FIND A TAX PROFESSIONAL.

* From Robert W Wood at FORBES.COM – “IRS Forms 1099 Are Coming, Key Facts for Your Taxes”.

A reminder – if you did not receive a Form 1099 for 2019 income this does not mean you do not have to report the income.  Taxable income of all types must be reported whether or not you receive a Form 1099.

* For those who are interested the TAX FOUNDATION identifies “State and Local Sales Tax Rates, 2020”.

* Michael Cohn reports “IRS improves online Withholding Estimator to reflect new W-4” at ACCOUNTING TODAY.

I have not checked this tool out, and really have no reason to, so I can’t speak to its effectiveness.  I talk about filling out the new W-4 here.

* Ginita Wall answers the question “Are Your Political Campaign Contributions Tax Deductible?” at the INTUIT TURBO TAX BLOG.  

The answer – “political donations are not tax deductible”.

* The FORBES.COM TaxGirl Kelly Phillips Erb tells us “IRS Issues Tax Guidance On Discharged Student Loans”.


THE LAST WORD

This must continue to be said.

It is obvious to anyone with a brain that the Trump Presidency is a clear and present danger to the future of America and the world.  As we approach primary season it is very, very important for Democrats to acknowledge this.

Absolutely NOTHING is more important in the 2020 Presidential election than removing Trump from the White House (assuming, as is expected, he survives the impeachment trial). 

While the competence, experience, sincerity and integrity of a candidate is an issue in any election, no other issue is more important in 2020 than defeating Trump.

This is NOT the election to debate liberal vs conservative ideals and policies.

Democratic voters MUST choose the person who has the best chance of defeating Trump in the election.  The Democratic candidate for President in 2020 MUST NOT give independent or anti-Trump Republicans and conservatives ANY reason to not vote for him or her.

TTFN


















Wednesday, January 15, 2020

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED TRY, TRY AGAIN



The new alternative tax election is effective for taxable years of the pass-through entities beginning on or after January 1, 2020.  This does not affect 2019 tax returns.

This is clearly another attempt by NJ to work around the federal $10,000 state and local tax (SALT) itemized deduction limitation enacted by the GOP Tax Act by changing a (perhaps) non-deductible individual income tax into a (hopefully) deductible state business income tax.    

The first attempt failed.  In May of 2018 Murphy signed legislation that would allow a taxpayer to donate to a charitable fund established by their municipality, county or school district. In return for their donation, the taxpayer would receive a credit on their property tax bill of up to 90 percent of the donation.  The assumption was the taxpayer could deduct the full amount of the donation as a charitable contribution on Schedule A, effectively providing a back-door deduction for the property tax.  The IRS was quick to point out that any deduction for a contribution to such a charitable fund must be reduced by the amount of the property tax credit received under the federal Trump (new synonym for “quid pro quo”) rule.  Only 10% of the donation is allowed as an itemized deduction.

I am not sure what the practical implementation of this new law on NJ tax returns will look like.  While NJ partnerships and S-corporations already file a tax form on which they can elect to pay the tax, will sole proprietors who file a federal Schedule C now have to file a new separate NJ business tax return to pay the tax? 

From what I have found in an initial online search the tax the pass-through entity will pay is -

1) 5.525% tax on the first $250,000 of distributive proceeds  
2) 6.37% tax on distributive proceeds between $250,000 and $1M  
3) 8.97% tax on distributive proceeds between $1M and $3M
4) 10.75% tax on distributive proceeds over $3M.

The above tax rates mirror the higher end of the current NJ tax rates for Form NJ-1040. 

I will be interested to see how the IRS responds to this new attempt to help NJ taxpayers evade federal income tax.  It is clear what NJ is doing, and the Service will certainly understand this.  I would think in order for this scheme to work NJ would have to make the entity-level tax mandatory and not optional and exempt from taxation on the NJ-1040 the pass-through income from NJ-based partnerships, sub-S corporations and net profits from business (federal Schedule C).

I will certainly to have more to say about this new tax scheme after the tax filing season when more information becomes available.

TTFN









WHAT TO GIVE YOUR TAX PRO


Your tax professional wants to make sure you take advantage of all the deductions and credits to which you are entitled – but he or she can only do this if you give him or her complete and accurate information.  When providing your tax information be sure to include all of the following (if it applies to your situation):

* Full names, as they appear on the Social Security card, Social Security numbers and dates of birth for you, your spouse, and all dependents, and the relationship of all dependents, whether or not, and how long, they lived with you, and if they had health insurance coverage.

* W-2 forms (all copies) and the final pay-stub for the year for all of your employers.  Make a copy of your W-2s to keep with you before sending them to me.

* All 1099s (for interest, dividends, gross proceeds, pensions, distributions from a Qualified Tuition Program, and other income), 1098s (for mortgage interest, contribution of a motor vehicle to charity, student loan interest, and tuition and fees), and K-1s and all attachments (for partnerships, sub-S corporations, estates, and trusts) from all sources.

* Any 1095-A you receive regarding health insurance premiums and advance premium tax credits for insurance purchased through the government Marketplace.  You do NOT need Forms 1095-B and 1095-C to prepare your return.

* All year-end statements and information from brokerage and mutual fund accounts and any AVERAGE COST STATEMENTS received from a mutual fund on the sale of fund shares.

* A detailed listing of-

1. unreimbursed medical expenses, including travel for travel for medical care, local property taxes and state personal property taxes paid, and cash and non-cash charitable contributions.

2. rental income and expenses,

3. self-employment income and expenses, and/or

4. federal and state estimated tax payments.

Your taxpro doesn’t need to see actual bills, receipts, or cancelled checks.  For the most part he or she will just need numbers.  Do not send him or her a pile of medical bills and receipts and insurance statements and expect them to sort through the pile to determine your allowable medical deduction.

Your taxpro also does not need to see proof or acknowledgement of each of your individual cash donations - just need a listing of your contributions.  You should, however, provide any receipts, acknowledgments or listings for non-cash contributions such as clothes, books, household items, furniture, etc. 

When I say “He or she will just need numbers” I mean specific numbers for deductions you are claiming.  “Claim the maximum” or “Whatever I am allowed” or “Same as last year” is not appropriate.  The maximum is what you actually paid – and you are allowed what you actually paid!  Tell your preparer “$1023.50” or “$20.00 per week for 50 weeks” or “4638 miles”!

If any of the following situations apply you will need to provide additional information -

IF YOU SOLD INVESTMENTS – The date of purchase and cost of all investments sold.  This information may be in the Year-End Consolidated Form 1099 Statement you received from the brokerage firm or mutual fund house.  If cost basis information for all trades is not included on this statement have your broker provide you with a “profit and loss” report for all the year’s trades that reconciles to the Form 1099B for each account.  If you sold an investment you inherited, provide the number of shares inherited and date of death of the person from whom they were inherited.  

IF YOU SOLD REAL ESTATE – The Closing/Settlement Statements for both the purchase and sale of the property, plus the cost of improvements made to the property over the years and any expenses of sale paid separate from the closing.

IF YOU PURCHASED REAL ESTATE – The Closing/Settlement Statement for the purchase of the property.  For rental property identify the separate amounts of “assessed value” for land and improvements from the tax bill.

IF YOU RECEIVED DISTRIBUTIONS FROM AN IRA – The year-end statements for all IRA accounts.

IF YOU RECEIVED DISTRIBUTIONS FROM A PENSION PLAN – Did you rolled-over the distribution to an IRA or “take the money and run”?

IF YOU ARE PAYING ALIMONY – The Social Security number of your ex-spouse, the amount of alimony paid for the year, and any other required payments, such as health insurance premiums, real estate expenses, that you are making on behalf of your ex-spouse.  This does NOT apply for any divorce decrees or agreements executed after December 31, 2018.

IF YOU PURCHASED A CAR, TRUCK, SUV, MOTORCYCLE, BOAT OF AIRPLANE – The amount of sales tax paid. 

IF YOU HAVE A MORTGAGE OR HOME EQUITY LOAN OR LINE OF CREDIT – A detailed separate analysis of “acquisition debt” (money borrowed to buy, build or substantially improve the property) and “home equity debt” (money borrowed for any other reason, and any closing costs for refinancing that was added to the loan principal) for your primary residence and any personal-use vacation residences going back to the initial purchase mortgage for each property.  For detailed information see my “Mortgage Interest Guide”.  

IF YOU REFINANCED A MORTGAGE – The Closing/Settlement Statement for the refinance and the term of the new loan. 
 
IF YOU DONATED A CAR TO CHARITY – All the paperwork you received from the charity, especially the Form 1098-C, plus the original cost and date of purchase of the car.

IF YOU HAVE GAMBLING WINNINGS – All W2-Gs, details of all your gambling losses, regardless of the “category” of gambling, and any gambling log you kept. 

IF YOU HAVE DEPENDENTS IN COLLEGE – All Form 1098-Ts received and all the “Burser’s Reports” for the year that show tuition and other payments.  You may be able to print-out a financial report from the college’s website.  Also what was spent on course-related books, supplies, and equipment.  If you have taken a distribution from a Section 529 Qualified Tuition Program include the cost of room and board.

IF YOU PAID FOR CHILD CARE, WHETHER DIRECTLY OR THROUGH A FLEXIBLE SPENDING ACCOUNT – The name, address, Social Security or Employer Identification number, and amount paid for all child-care providers.  If you have more than one child, how much you paid for each child.  You may be able to get detailed statements from the provider(s).   

IF YOU PURCHASED AN ENERGY-EFFICIENT PRODUCT FOR YOUR HOME – A description of the items you purchased, the purchase price, and any Manufacturer’s Certification you received or confirmation that the purchase qualifies. Please independently verify that your purchase qualifies for the credit.

Additional information may be needed for your state tax returns.  Ask your taxpro. 

If this is the first year with a new tax preparer be sure to also give him or her copies of your 2018, 2017, and 2016 federal and state returns.

TTFN















Tuesday, January 14, 2020

THE NJ-NATP ANNUAL “FAMOUS” STATE TAX SEMINAR



Every year at this time you will find me where I have been, with 1 or 2 exceptions for snow, for almost 30 years now – attending the New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Tax Professionals annual “Famous State Tax Seminar”, at the APA Hotel Woodbridge (formerly the Woodbridge Hilton) in Iselin NJ for probably 20 years now.  It truly is “famous”.  As I say each year, it is a “must-attend” for anyone who prepares New Jersey taxes for individuals and businesses. 

As has been the custom each year, the first presentation of the day, after preliminary remarks by the NJ-NATP President and Seminar Chair, is the “keynote” speaker, which is normally the current Director, or Acting Director, of the NJ Division of Taxation.   Unfortunately, while I do believe the NJDOT Director should be invited to speak each year, and his attendance shows his and the Division’s support of, and highlights the importance to the Division of, NJ-NATP and NJ tax professionals in general, the actual presentation usually provides the least amount of actual “continuing professional education”.

This year (still) Acting Director John Ficara returned.  And his presentation was, like last year’s, “redundant, touching briefly on topics that were discussed in more detail by the other NJDOT representatives in subsequent presentations.”

And, as I first observed a few years ago, “ . . . there was really nothing of consequence to ‘take away’.  There was no time for audience questions or comments, and he did not address real systemic issues with the Division.”

I once again repeat my suggestion first made a couple of years ago –  Perhaps for the future seminars registrants could be asked to submit to the chapter in advance written systemic questions and concerns for the seminar chair to present to the Director instead of the nice but mostly useless keynote address.”

Before I continue, as a point of information, at this point in my career my interest is pretty much limited to individual income tax issues – involving the NJ-1040 and New York’s IT-201 and IT-203 – and only issues that would affect my current clients, although I still have a basic interest in major NJ corporate tax changes and the NJ property tax relief programs.  And, since I no longer accept new clients and am actually winding down toward retirement, as I have said often here and elsewhere, while I do believe you can teach an old dog new tricks, there are some new tricks this old dog doesn’t want to learn, and I say to any existing client to whom these “new tricks” might apply “Homey don’t play that”.

The reason we come to this seminar each year is to learn what is new with NJ state taxes – individual and corporate income, payroll, sales, estate and inheritance, and property.  And the “main event”, so to speak, is always what began in the mid-2000s as the “Jake and Jim Show” (long-time readers of TWTP and long-time attendees of this seminar will know what I mean) and has now become the “Alexis and Abra Show”.  I am talking about the presentations of what is now known as the NJ Division of Taxation’s “Taxation University”.

The TU program started off with sales tax.  As there was apparently nothing new in this area to report the NJDOT representatives walked us through the process and procedures of a sales tax audit.  Not a topic I was interested in.

The individual and property tax relief issues were covered by the Alexis of “Alexis and Abra”, who has been speaking at this seminar for years now and has been extremely helpful to me and other NJNATP taxpros in dealing with NJ tax issues during the year.  Her presentation identified the changes I have previously blogged about here in my post “WHAT’S NEW FOR 2019 NEW JERSEY STATE TAX FORMS” from last Tuesday. 

One item Alexis discussed involved the new sales tax and occupancy tax rules for transient vacation rentals that took effect with 2018.  Effective 8/9/2019, only properties rented via agencies like Air BnB and VRBO, travel agencies like Expedia, or that are “professionally managed” are subject to these taxes.  Individual property owners who personally rent out vacation homes do not have to register with NJ and be concerned with sales or occupancy tax.  And if an individual rents a property via Air BnB, VRBO or another such agency it is the agency that is responsible for registering with the state and collecting and remitting the tax.

Alexis also reported that beginning with 2020, all NJ W-3s, W-2s, W-2Gs, and 1099s - 2020 forms that will be filed in January of 2021 - need to be filed electronically –.  It is anticipated that these forms will be able to be filed directly via a free online option.

There were no changes to either the NJ Homestead Benefit or NJ Property Tax Reimbursement programs, other than increasing the PTR income eligibility limit to $91,505 for 2019.  The filing deadline for the 2019 PTR-1 or PTR-2 form is November 2, 2020.  Alexis reminded us that the 2018 PTR was the first time in over a decade the NJ legislature did not reduce the income limit for receiving a check to $70,000 in order to balance the budget.  All qualified applicants whose PTR gross income was less than $89,014 received a reimbursement check in 2019.  Let us hope the 2019 threshold will remain intact when the budget is passed this June.

There were also no changes to the NJ inheritance tax for 2019 or going forward, but TU did provide present a primer on the rules and policies for this tax - another topic I was not interested in.

As an aside, it is my belief that this day-long seminar should be limited to discussions of changes that affect the current tax filing season and really should not include purely educational presentations.

Abra of “Alexis and Abra” discussed NJ corporate taxes.  Here the major change involved “Unitary Combined Reporting” for corporations with direct or indirect common ownership.  I learned, thankfully, that this will not affect any of my very few remaining corporate return clients (an example of a “new trick” I don’t have to learn).  This blog if about individual income taxes anyway, so I won’t go into this topic here.

The last TU speaker covered “Identity Theft and Fraud Protection” items.  While not really an update, because of the increase in such theft and fraud it is a topic that needed to be addressed.

As has been the custom the last several years, the seminar ended with long-time NATP instructor and friend of NJ-NATP Kathryn Keane’s presentation of NY state tax updates and “Late Breaking Federal Updates”.  There was really nothing new for NY (I will address any changes to the NY state income tax forms in a post here when the 2019 forms are made available online) , so the “meat” of her discussion involved the last-minute extension of the infamous “tax extenders” by the idiots in Congress and the changes to retirement savings from the SECURE Act.

As always, NJ-NATP, the Taxation University, and KK did a great job.  Seminar Chairs Josh Melum and Alyce Taylor and new chapter President Teresa Marron deserve kudos.


TTFN










Monday, January 13, 2020

WHAT’S THE BUZZ, TELL ME WHAT’S A HAPPENNIN’?


This past Saturday I attended the NJ chapter of NATP’s annual “Famous State Tax Seminar”.  Look for my “review” here tomorrow (Tuesday).

* As most of you know I do not submit the federal returns I have prepared to the IRS electronically.  This is not because I have any issues with electronic filing, but because I never have, and never will, used flawed and expensive commercial tax preparation software to prepare federal income tax returns. 

In the past I have successfully used the NJWebFile system to submit NJ-1040 returns directly to Trenton free of charge online, and to request direct deposit of refunds.  However, I have learned that, unfortunately, the NJWebFile system has been discontinued.  So, I can no longer submit NJ-1040 returns electronically, and can no longer request direct deposit of client refunds.      

While NJWebFile is no longer available to self-preparing NJ resident taxpayers, there is an NJ E-File option available.

* As he does at the beginning of every year Russ Fox reminds taxpayers who use their car for business “It’s Time to Start Your 2020 Mileage Log” at TAXABLE TALK.     

Employees can no longer deduct employee business expenses, so this is most important for self-employed taxpayers.  However, with Congress fond of retroactive tax law changes it couldn’t hurt for employees to keep a mileage log as well just in case.

As Russ points out “IRS regulations and Tax Court rulings require” a “contemporaneous written mileage log”.

* The FOBES.COM TaxGirl Kelly Phillips Erb provides “2020 Tax Refund Chart Can Help You Guess When You’ll Receive Your Money”.

It is important to note that, as KPE points out – “I can't stress enough that these are educated guesses. I like math and charts as much as the next tax geek, but many factors could affect your tax refund.”

Your state delivery schedule may be different.  Many states are taking additional steps to verify taxpayer identity.  New Jersey, for example, will not begin to send out refunds until March 2nd.

I recommend that you request direct deposit to your bank account for any refunds you will be getting.

* This AMERICANS FOR COMMON SENSE post is not about taxes but is important anyway.  This is not said often enough - and is not properly understood by many.  Please read and share “Politics and Religion”.

*  At ACCOUNTING WEB Julian Bond reminds us “You Can’t Deduct a Hobby Loss Without a Profit Motive”.

THE LAST WORD

This must be said again and again every day.

There is no issue more important for the future, safety and security of America and the world today than removing ignorant, incompetent and totally self-absorbed demagogue Trump from the White House and removing his hypocritical Republican enablers from Congress.

TTFN











Tuesday, January 7, 2020

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2019 NEW JERSEY STATE TAX FORMS


I was truly surprised to find that the 2019 New Jersey state income tax forms,schedules and instructions were up and available at the NJ Division of Taxation website last Friday afternoon.  I seem to recall that the Division was late in releasing the 2018 forms, schedules and instructions.

Last year the forms, schedules and instructions were re-designed and rewritten – for the better.  The 2019 versions appear to be almost the same as the 2018 versions, with some minor changes.

On Line 9 of the NJ-1040 the amount of the Veteran’s Exemption amount has been changed from $3,000 to $6,000 to reflect the doubling of the credit for 2019.

Two lines have been added to the NJ-1040 -

* Line 38d = Homeowner/Tenant Status.  Fill in the oval indicating whether you were a homeowner, tenant, or both during 2019.

* Line 52 = Shared Responsibility Payment.  This replaces the question about health insurance coverage that had appeared above the signature section on Page 4 of the 2018 NJ-1040.

A new schedule - Schedule NJ-HCC: Health Care Coverage - has been added for taxpayers to provide healthcare coverage information.  While you are no longer penalized on the federal return for not having “adequate” health insurance for your entire household for the entire year, NJ has added a “Shared Responsibility Payment” penalty for 2019.  We are told – “If your income on line 29 is above the filing threshold, you must submit this schedule with your return.”  However, if you and everyone in your tax household had minimum essential health coverage for the entire year you only have to complete Part 1 of Schedule NJ-HCC.

The NJDOT website explains (highlights are mine) –

Beginning in 2019, New Jersey residents who are required to file a return (and members of their tax household) must have minimum essential health coverage for the entire year unless they qualify for an exemption {click here to see the exemptions – rdf}. A tax household includes the taxpayer, their spouse (if filing a joint return), and any individuals they claim as dependents on their NJ-1040. It also includes any individuals they can, but don’t, claim as dependents on their return. If a taxpayer or anyone in their tax household did not have the required coverage and does not qualify for an exemption, they may owe a shared responsibility payment.”

FYI – the Retirement Income Exclusion for 2019 is $60,000 for Single, Head of Household and Qualifying Widow(er/Surviving CU Partner filers, $80,000 for a married couple filing a joint return, and $40,000 for married taxpayers filing separate returns.  The income threshold for claiming this exclusion remains at $100,000.  And the NJ Earned Income Tax Credit is increased to 39% of the federal EITC.

TTFN










Monday, January 6, 2020

WHAT’S THE BUZZ, TELL ME WHAT’S A HAPPENNIN’?


For 2020 I am returning the weekly BUZZ to Mondays (at least for January).

* Let’s start off the first BUZZ of 2020 with Russ Fox’s New Year’s Eve announcement of “The 2019 Tax Offender of the Year” at TAXABLE TALK.

Congress, not the winner, was once again nominated.  I think they have been nominated every year I have been following this award.

* Also on December 31st the IRS finally announced the 2020 standard mileage allowance rates, which I reported in “This Just In”. 

* FORBES.COM’s TaxGirl Kelly Phillips Erb listed her choice for the “Top 100 Must-Follow Tax Twitter Accounts For 2020”.

Hey, where am I - @rdftaxpro?  Are my posts too political?

* Remaining at FORBES.COM, Tony Nitti began the new year with what is apparently his annual custom of suggesting “The Five New Year’s Resolutions Every Tax Pro Should Make”.

* And, before I leave FORBES.COM, Robert W Wood provides “New Year Resolutions...About Your Taxes” for taxpayers.

* Speaking of resolutions, KPE gets into the act with “Five Tax Resolutions to Make for 2020”, also for taxpayers, at her BLOOMBERG TAX blog.

* As you begin to get ready to prepare your 2019 tax returns, I suggest you read my book “TAX SMARTS: MY BEST ADVICE FROM 45+ YEARS AS A TAX PROFESSIONAL”.

Fellow tax blogger Russ Fox of TAXABLE TALK has said of this book - “The . . . pages of tax advice within the e-book (a pdf document) are full of good, common-sense advice  . . . any individual who follows Robert’s advice will be far, far better off than those who don’t.”

It is also available as an e-book for reading on Kindle.  Click here.

* From Manasa Sogal Nadig’s THE BUZZ ABOUT TAXES (I like the title) – “SECURE Act BIG Retirement Plan Changes: Major Take-AwaysRead More Here!

TTFN