Should You File Jointly, Or Not?

For many married couples, filing jointly is a good idea, but there are exceptions.

Ninety-five percent of married couples file joint federal tax returns. Filing jointly can be convenient. Frequently, there’s a financial advantage, but that does not mean it should be done without consideration.1

Years ago, there was less incentive to file jointly. That was because the “marriage penalty” for doing so was effectively greater. There is no written “marriage penalty” in the Internal Revenue Code, but, in the past, income tax brackets were structured a bit differently and spouses having similar annual incomes sometimes paid more taxes by filing jointly than single taxpayers did.

There are many good reasons to file jointly. Nearly all of them involve saving money.

Joint filing may give you an effective tax break right off the bat. Currently, married taxpayers who file separately face the 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6% income tax brackets at lower income thresholds than other unmarried taxpayers.2

Joint filers can claim significant tax credits that marrieds filing separately cannot. If you want to claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit, the Elderly or Disabled Credit, or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), you have to file jointly. Joint filing also gives you the potential to claim the full Child Tax Credit, rather than a reduced one.3

Deductions, too, decrease when you file separately as a married couple. Standard deductions fall significantly. Phase-out ranges affect itemized deductions, and some itemized deductions are unavailable for married couples who do not file jointly. Couples who file separate 1040s can only deduct 50% of the capital gains losses joint filers can. In addition, if one spouse elects to itemize deductions, so must the other (there must be a separate Schedule A for each spouse). The spouse with fewer deductions has no ability to use the standard deduction to lower his or her taxable income.2,3

Joint filing even helps you with regard to the Alternative Minimum Tax. When you file separately as a married couple, your AMT exemption falls by 50%. So you may be more susceptible to the AMT if you file separately. If the AMT affects you, you will find many federal tax deductions reduced or unavailable to you.3

Do you live in a community property state? If you do, you may know that state tax law defines what is considered separately held or jointly held property. If you want to itemize deductions in a community property state, the paperwork can be onerous.3

More of your Social Security benefits may be taxed if you file separately. Social Security gives you a “base exemption,” an income threshold above which Social Security benefits may be taxable. The base exemption for married couples filing jointly is $32,000, meaning that if 50% of the Social Security benefits you receive in a tax year plus your other income in a tax year exceeds $32,000, taxes may apply. The base exemption for married couples filing separately who live together at any time during the tax year is $0. It improves to $25,000 for married couples filing separately who live apart for an entire year.4

So why would you not file jointly when married? In certain circumstances, filing separately may be wiser.

Maybe you do not trust your spouse financially. If your spouse is a tax cheat or interprets federal tax law very loosely, filing jointly could prove hazardous in the case of an audit or other troubles. Both spouses must sign a joint return, meaning that both spouses are legally responsible for all taxes, penalties, and fines linked to that return. Yes, an innocent spouse may be offered tax protection by the IRS, but that innocence must be proven.2,3

Maybe you or your spouse have large out-of-pocket medical expenses. If so, and if the spouse contending with such bills earns much less than the other, there may be merit in filing separately. By doing so, the spouse with far less income might have an opportunity to meet the 10% AGI threshold needed to itemize medical expenses. (The 7.5% AGI threshold for itemizing these costs is still in place for taxpayers age 65 and older.)2

Maybe you are separating or divorcing. If that is the case, then it may seem only natural to begin filing separately while still married. Doing so now may lessen the chance of the two of you wading through tax issues in the aftermath of a split.

If you are unsure about whether to file jointly or singly, you can ask a tax professional for his or her opinion. Or, that professional can look at last year’s return and run the numbers for you. Most couples find that filing jointly works out best, but there are exceptions.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at phone# 641-464-2248 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com
Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2016/01/26/married-filing-joint-tax-returns-irs-helps-some-couples-with-offshore-accounts/ [2/6/16]
2 – abcnews.go.com/Business/filing-taxes-jointly-good-idea/story?id=22504248 [2/17/14]
3 – foxbusiness.com/features/2015/03/06/should-couples-file-taxes-separately-or-jointly-which-is-best-for.html [3/6/15]
4 – irs.com/articles/how-are-social-security-benefits-taxed [2/11/16]

Congress Gives Some “Holiday Gifts” to Taxpayers

Some key federal tax breaks are made permanent…at last.

During the past few Decembers, taxpayers and tax preparers have waited anxiously for Congress to rescue expiring federal tax provisions. Usually, legislators pass an eleventh-hour bill to extend certain tax perks for another year and reinstate them for the current year.

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, or PATH – just passed by Congress, just signed into law by President Obama – not only renews 52 expiring tax provisions but makes some permanent. You may be a taxpayer who benefits from its passage.1,2,

Would you like to make a tax-free transfer of IRA assets to a charity? PATH makes that opportunity permanently available to you. A traditional IRA owner at least 70½ years old may make a charitable gift from that IRA to a qualified charity and exclude the transferred amount from their gross income for the tax year in which the gift is made. This is a tax-efficient move for wealthy, older IRA owners who see their annual Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) as more of a tax issue than a necessity.3

Does your business do any research or development? The federal R&D tax credit is now permanent – and in a sense, even sweeter. Any company with less than $50 million in gross receipts may use the R&D credit to counter the Alternative Minimum Tax next year and every year. Thanks to PATH, even some start-ups not yet facing income tax may be able to offset payroll taxes via this credit.2

Are you thinking about remodeling your restaurant or retail business? PATH preserves and makes permanent the 15-year period for depreciating remodeling and other improvements. No going back to the old 39-year period.3

Are you hoping those bigger Section 179 deduction limits will remain in place? They will. PATH preserves the current $500,000 immediate deduction limit of the cost of qualifying asset acquisitions, and the current phase-out starting at $2 million. Going forward, both of these thresholds will be inflation-indexed. In related news, PATH also keeps the 50% “bonus depreciation” provision in place through 2017 and extends it to restaurants and retail businesses that are owned as well as leased.2,3

Do you take advantage of the Child Tax Credit? In 2009, the CTC was enhanced to offer parents a $1,000 credit per qualifying child plus an additional (refundable) tax credit equal to 15% of any earned income over $3,000. This $3,000 threshold (which was set to return to the $10,000 level in 2017) becomes permanent thanks to PATH.2

Would you like to claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit? If so, you will be pleased to know that this college education credit will not shrink to $1,800 in 2017. It will remain at $2,500 thanks to PATH. The current phase-out levels ($80,000 for single filers, $160,000 for joint filers) will also remain in place.2

Do you live where there are no state income taxes? PATH makes the itemized federal deduction for state and local sales taxes a permanent option for you.2

Are you a teacher who takes the above-the-line deduction for K-12 school supplies? PATH makes that deduction permanent as well and indexes it for inflation.2

Businesses get a 2-year reprieve from the Cadillac tax. Companies sponsoring high-priced health insurance plans will not have to face this tax until 2018 thanks to PATH.3

PATH suspends the 2.3% excise tax on medical devices for 2 years. This tax, which represents 2.3% of what importers and manufacturers pay on sales of certain healthcare equipment, will resurface in 2018.3

PATH extends some tax perks only through 2016. Most notably, it continues the tax exclusion on canceled home loan debt for another year. It also preserves the current $4,000 limit for the above-the-line tuition deduction for college education.2

Tax breaks rewarding homeowners, homebuilders, and contractors for energy efficiency are also preserved for another year by PATH. Builders and contractors may still take advantage of a credit as large as $2,000 for manufacturing energy-efficient residences, and the 179D deduction is still available for those who build green or make qualifying HVAC and lighting improvements to commercial properties. Home energy tax credits of up to $500 will still reward taxpayers who make energy-saving upgrades to their primary residence.2

PATH may be your route to some significant tax savings. You will have to act fast to claim them for 2015, but you have plenty of time to take advantage of these opportunities in 2016.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email mikem@cfgiowa.com.
Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/economy-budget/263889-tax-extenders-on-the-road-to-tax-reform [12/18/15]
2 – forbes.com/sites/anthonynitti/2015/12/16/permanent-rd-higher-section-179-expensing-highlight-tentative-deal-on-tax-extenders/ [12/16/15]
3 – accountingtoday.com/news/tax-practice/congress-makes-some-tax-extenders-permanent-76718-1.html [12/16/15]

Fall Financial Reminders

Here are some important things to note as the year comes to a close.

 As every calendar year ends, the window slowly closes on some notable financial deadlines and opportunities. Here are several to keep in mind before 2016 arrives.

Don’t forget that IRA RMD. If you are older than age 70½ and own one or more traditional IRAs, you have to take your annual IRA required minimum distribution (RMD) by December 31. If you are being asked to take your very first RMD, you actually have until April 1, 2016 to take it – but your 2016 income taxes may be substantially greater as a result. (Note: original owners of Roth IRAs never have to take RMDs from those accounts.)1

Did you recently inherit an IRA? If you have and you weren’t married to the person who started that IRA, you must take the first RMD from that IRA by December 31 of the year after the death of that original IRA owner. You have to do it whether the original account is a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA.2

You might want to divide that inherited IRA into multiple inherited IRAs before New Year’s Eve, thereby promoting a lengthier payout schedule for younger inheritors of those assets. This move must be made by the end of the year that follows the year in which the original IRA owner died. Otherwise, any co-beneficiaries receive distributions per the life expectancy of the oldest beneficiary. Check with the IRA custodian to see if it will permit this.2

Can you contribute more to a 401(k), 403(b), 457 or TSP plan? You have until December 31 to boost your 2015 contribution. This year, the contribution limit on both plans is $18,000 for those under 50, $24,000 for those 50 and older.3

Can you do the same with your IRA? The traditional and Roth IRA contribution limit for 2015 is $5,500 for those under 50, $6,500 for those 50 and older. (You must have employment compensation to make IRA contributions.) Some taxpayers earn too much to make Roth IRA contributions – above $131,000 AGI, an individual filing as single or head of household can’t make a Roth contribution for 2015, and neither can joint filers with AGI exceeding $193,000.4

Ever looked into a Solo(k) or a SEP plan? If you have self-employment income, you can save for the future using a self-directed retirement plan, such as a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan or a Solo 401(k). You don’t have to be exclusively self-employed to set one of these up – you can work full-time for someone else and contribute to one of these while also deferring some of your salary into the retirement plan sponsored by your employer. Contributions to SEPs and Solo 401(k)s are tax-deductible. December 31 is the annual deadline to set one up, and if you meet that deadline, you can make your contributions for the current year as late as April 15 of next year.5

You can contribute up to 25% of your net self-employment income to a SEP for 2015 – up to $53,000. For a Solo 401(k), the same $53,000 limit applies – but you can reach it by contributing a mix of Roth or pre-tax salary deferrals and up to 25% of your net self-employment income (20% if your business is an LLC or sole proprietorship). You are allowed to defer up to $18,000 in salary and up to 20%/25% of net self-employment income into a Solo 401(k) for 2015, and up to $24,000 and up to 20%/25% net self-employment income if you are 50 or older. (If you contribute to another employer’s 401(k) plan, the sum of your employee salary deferrals plus your Solo(k) contributions can’t be greater than the aforementioned $18,000/$24,000 limits.)5,6

Do you need to file IRS Form 706? If you are wealthy and your spouse passed away in 2015, this may be necessary. Executors of estates use Form 706 to notify the IRS of the size of an estate. If a gross estate and adjusted taxable gifts of a decedent exceed the estate tax exemption (currently $5.43 million), the executor of that estate must file Form 706 after the decedent’s passing. If the decedent’s gross estate and adjusted taxable gifts are less than the estate tax exemption, Form 706 should be filed anyway to show the IRS that the unused portion of the decedent’s estate tax exemption may be carried over to the surviving spouse. A new IRS rule says that executors filing returns after July 31, 2015 for estates exceeding the estate tax exemption must inform both heirs and the IRS about the value of certain types of assets so that tax won’t be underreported should these assets be sold. (See your tax advisor for details.)7,8

Are you feeling generous? You could gift appreciated securities to charity before 2015 ends – you may take a charitable deduction for them on your 2015 1040 form and avoid capital gains taxes on the shares. You may want to gift a child, relative, or friend – a single taxpayer can gift up to $14,000 this year to as many other individuals as desired, and a couple may jointly gift up to $28,000 to as many individuals as they wish. Just remember the current $5.43 million/$10.86 million lifetime exemption.3

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email mikem@cfgiowa.com

Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

   Citations.

1 – fool.com/investing/general/2015/09/29/mrd-requirements-for-your-retirement-accounts.aspx [9/29/15]

2 – retirementwatch.com/IRASample1.cfm [10/13/15]

3 – cnbc.com/2015/09/12/its-time-to-maximize-those-year-end-investment-moves.html / [9/12/15]

4 – 401k.fidelity.com/public/content/401k/home/vpcontributionlimits [10/13/15]

5 – kiplinger.com/article/saving/T047-C001-S003-retirement-plans-for-self-employed-workers.html [9/9/14]

6 – irafinancialgroup.com/solo401kcontributionlimits.php [10/13/15]

7 – finance.zacks.com/must-file-irs-form-706-9433.html [10/13/15]

8 – tinyurl.com/nmjdd96 [8/7/15]

 

 

Understanding the Gift Tax

Most of us will never face taxes related to money or assets we give away.

“How can I avoid the federal gift tax?” If this question is on your mind, you aren’t alone. The good news is that few taxpayers or estates will ever have to pay it.

Misconceptions surround this tax. The IRS sets both a yearly gift tax exclusion amount and a lifetime gift tax exemption amount, and this is where the confusion develops.

Here’s what you have to remember: practically speaking, the federal gift tax is a tax on estates. If it wasn’t in place, the rich could simply give away the bulk of their money or property while living to spare their heirs from inheritance taxes.

Now that you know the reason the federal government established the gift tax, you can see that the lifetime gift tax exclusion matters more than the annual one.

“What percentage of my gifts will be taxed this year?” Many people wrongly assume that if they give a gift exceeding the annual gift tax exclusion, their tax bill will go up next year as a result. Unless the gift is huge, that won’t likely occur.

The IRS has set the annual gift tax exclusion at $14,000 this year. What this means is that you can gift up to $14,000 each to as many individuals as you like in 2015 without having to pay any gift taxes. A married couple may gift up to $28,000 each to an unlimited number of individuals tax-free this year – this is known as a “split gift”. Gifts may be made in cash, stock, collectibles, real estate – just about any form of property with value, as long as you cede ownership and control of it.1

So how are amounts over the $14,000 annual exclusion handled? The excess amounts count against the $5.43 million lifetime gift tax exemption (which is periodically adjusted upward in response to inflation). While you have to file a gift tax return if you make a gift larger than $14,000 in 2015, you owe no gift tax until your total gifts exceed the lifetime exemption.1

“What happens if I go over the lifetime exemption?” If that occurs, then you will pay a 40% gift tax on gifts above the $5.43 million lifetime exemption amount. One exception, though: all gifts that you make to your spouse are tax-free provided he or she is a U.S. citizen. This is known as the marital deduction.1,2

“But aren’t the gift tax and estate tax exemptions linked?” They are. The gift tax exemption and the estate tax exemption are sometimes called the unified credit. So if you have already made taxable lifetime gifts that have used up $4 million of the current $5.43 million unified credit, then only $1.43 million of your estate will be exempt from inheritance taxes if you die in 2015.2

However, the $5.43 million unified credit extended to each of us is portable. That means that if you don’t use all of it up during your lifetime, the unused portion of the credit can pass to your spouse at your death.2

In sum, most estates can make larger gifts during the individual’s life without any estate, gift or income tax consequences. If you have estate planning questions in mind, turn to a legal or financial professional well versed in these matters for answers.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at Ph# 641-782-5577 or email:  mikem@cfgiowa.com 

Website:  www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/Tax-Planning-and-Checklists/The-Gift-Tax-Made-Simple/INF12127.html [2/24/15]

2 – schwab.com/public/schwab/nn/articles/The-Estate-Tax-and-Lifetime-Gifting [1/28/15]

 

 

The U.S. Savings Bond Tax Trap

Open that safe deposit box.  See if your bond has matured.

Did you buy U.S. Savings Bonds decades ago? Or did your parents or grandparents purchase some for you? If so, take a look at them before April 15 rolls around. Your bonds may have matured. That means they are no longer earning interest, and it also means you need to cash them in.1

Check those maturity dates. Sometimes people hold U.S. Savings Bonds past the date of final maturity, often by accident. The old bonds are simply stashed away somewhere and forgotten.

While the Treasury will not penalize you for holding a U.S. Savings Bond past its date of maturity, the Internal Revenue Service will. Interest accumulated over the life of a U.S. Savings Bond must be reported on your 1040 form for the tax year in which you redeem the bond or it reaches final maturity. This must be done even if you (or the original bondholder) chose to have the interest on the bond accumulate tax-deferred until the final maturity date. Failure to report such interest may lead to a federal tax penalty.2

You are supposed to pay tax on a U.S. Savings Bond in one of two ways. Most bondholders choose to defer the tax until the bond matures. Once they redeem the bond, they report the interest through a 1099-INT form. Others choose to pay the tax annually prior to cashing the bond in, reporting the increase in the value of the bond as taxable interest each year.2,3

What if you find out you have held a U.S. Savings Bond for too long? You need to amend your federal tax return for the year in which the bond reached final maturity. You can file an amended return with the help of IRS Form 1040X. It may seem more logical and less arduous to report the forgotten, accumulated U.S. Savings Bond interest on your latest federal tax return, but the IRS does not want you to do that. The longer you leave the accumulated interest unreported, the greater the chance you will be cited for a tax penalty (or assessed a larger one than the one already in store for you).2

Another note about reporting interest: if a U.S. Savings Bond has matured and you have failed to redeem it, you will not find a Form 1099-INT for it in your records. Only redemption will bring that 1099-INT your way. (The accumulated interest for the bond should have been reported to the IRS regardless.) After you cash in that old bond, you will thereafter receive a 1099-INT. It will record that the interest on the bond was earned in the year of the bond’s final maturity.2

Plan ahead & keep track. U.S. Savings Bonds were issued on paper for decades and were often purchased on behalf of children and grandchildren. They are issued electronically now and receive little recognition, yet they can still prove quite useful to a retiree looking to improve cash flow. When you cash in a bond, or even multiple bonds, the “cash infusion” may help you put off withdrawing assets from another retirement account. While the interest on U.S. Savings Bonds is taxed by the IRS, it is exempt from state and local taxes.4

You want to keep track of the maturity dates, the yields and the interest rates on your bonds, as that will help you to figure out what bond to redeem when. A decades-old U.S. Savings Bond may cash out at anywhere from three to nine times its face value at full maturity.4

A useful search tool. Do you own a Series E U.S. Savings Bond? You might want to check on its maturity date at savingsbonds.gov/indiv/tools/tools_treasuryhunt.htm, which provides records of Series E bonds issued since 1974.5

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or  email:  mikem@cfgiowa.com

Website:  www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – treasurydirect.gov/indiv/research/securities/res_securities_stoppedearninginterest.htm [3/2/15]

2 – budgeting.thenest.com/penalty-savings-bond-past-final-maturity-31113.html [3/18/15]

3 – irs.gov/publications/p550/ch01.html#en_US_2014_publink10009895 [2014]

4 – usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/tompor/2014/01/26/did-you-cash-those-savings-bonds-you-got-as-a-kid/4824631/ [1/26/14]

5 – treasurydirect.gov/indiv/tools/tools_treasuryhunt.htm [9/19/14]

 

Tax Season Phone Scams

Beware of crooks calling you up & claiming to be the IRS.

Every year, con artists posing as the Internal Revenue Service perpetrate scams on taxpayers. Their weapon is a telephone, and they use it to leave thousands of households poorer. These gambits can seem very convincing, but you need not fall prey to them if you are informed.

The IRS will never call you up & demand money. Nor will the IRS contact you by phone to discuss your refund. In addition, it will not use social media, text messages or emails out of the blue to talk about tax matters with you.1

Not everyone knows this, and these criminals exploit that fact. In particular, these crooks target immigrants and elders. They presume that these demographic groups do not understand tax law and tax collection proceedings as well as others. Sometimes the caller ID will even suggest the “IRS” to further the scam.1

Since December 2013, federal investigators have detected about 290,000 fraudulent IRS calls made to homes and businesses. About 3,000 people succumbed to these scams during that period, forking over a total of $14 million in “back taxes” – roughly $5,000 per taxpayer.2

What are the telltale signs of a bogus IRS call? The classic sign is the demand for an immediate payment of “taxes” when no bill for delinquent taxes has been sent to you by the IRS to begin with. The IRS nearly always makes initial contact with taxpayers by mail.2

Another common move is asking for a credit or debit card number. In one common scam, the caller alleges that you have unpaid back taxes that can only be settled by buying a prepaid debit card (and by supplying the card number to the caller).1

Bullying is another red flag. In another prevalent scam, a message may be left saying that this is a “final notice from the Internal Revenue Service” and tell you that the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you on a business or personal tax issue. Threats of arrest, deportation or losing your driver’s license may be made. The caller may also tell you that you have no way to appeal, no chance to plead innocence – you are guilty and must pay taxes owed now.1,2

How can you report frauds like this? If you know for a fact that you do not owe any back taxes, call up the office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484 and report what happened to you. (TIGTA is on the Web at tigta.gov.) Alternately, go to FTC Complaint Assistant website maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and file a complaint there (click on “Other” in the right-side menu, and then click on “Imposter Scams”). Start your notes with the phrase “IRS Telephone Scam.”1

If you think you actually might owe some back taxes, call the IRS instead at IRS at 1-800-829-1040 as that really should be resolved; IRS staffers can assist you with such a matter.1

Watch out for these crooks, and let others know about their tactics so that they may avoid becoming victims.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph. 641-782-5577 or email:  mikem@cfgiowa.com

website:  www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Citations.

1 – irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Scam-Phone-Calls-Continue;-IRS-Identifies-Five-Easy-Ways-to-Spot-Suspicious-Calls [10/29/14]

2 – cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2015/01/nearly_3000_people_in_us_have.html [1/23/15]

2015 IRA Deadlines Are Approaching

Here is what you need to know. 

Financially, many of us associate April with taxes – but we should also associate April with important IRA deadlines.

*April 1 is the absolute deadline to take your first Required Mandatory Distribution (RMD) from your traditional IRA(s).

*April 15 is the deadline for making annual contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA.1

Let’s discuss the contribution deadline first, and then the deadline for that first RMD (which affects only those IRA owners who turned 70½ last year).

The earlier you make your annual IRA contribution, the better. You can make a yearly Roth or traditional IRA contribution anytime between January 1 of the current year and April 15 of the next year. So the contribution window for 2014 is January 1, 2014- April 15, 2015. You can make your IRA contribution for 2015 anytime from January 1, 2015-April 15, 2016.2

You have more than 15 months to make your IRA contribution for a given year, but why wait? Savvy IRA owners contribute as early as they can to give those dollars more months to grow and compound. (After all, who wants less time to amass retirement savings?)

You cut your income tax bill by contributing to a deductible traditional IRA. That’s because you are funding it with after-tax dollars. To get the full tax deduction for your 2015 traditional IRA contribution, you have to meet one or more of these financial conditions:

*You aren’t eligible to participate in a workplace retirement plan.

*You are eligible to participate in a workplace retirement plan, but you are a single filer or head of household with modified adjusted gross income of $61,000 or less. (Or if you file jointly with your spouse, your combined MAGI is $98,000 or less.)

*You aren’t eligible to participate in a workplace retirement plan, but your spouse is eligible and your combined 2015 gross income is $183,000 or less.3

If you are the original owner of a traditional IRA, by law you must stop contributing to it starting in the year you turn 70½. If you are the initial owner of a Roth IRA, you can contribute to it as long as you live provided you have taxable compensation and MAGI below a certain level (see below).1,3

If you are making a 2014 IRA contribution in early 2015, be aware of this fact. You must tell the investment company hosting the IRA account what year the contribution is for. If you fail to indicate the tax year that the contribution applies to, the custodian firm may make a default assumption that the contribution is for the current year (and note exactly that to the IRS).4

So, write “2015 IRA contribution” or “2014 IRA contribution” as applicable in the memo area of your check, plainly and simply. Be sure to write your account number on the check. Should you make your contribution electronically, double-check that these details are communicated.

How much can you put into an IRA this year? You can contribute up to $5,500 to a Roth or traditional IRA for the 2015 tax year, $6,500 if you will be 50 or older this year. (The same applies for the 2014 tax year). If you have multiple IRAs, you can contribute up to a total of $5,500/$6,500 across the various accounts. Should you make an IRA contribution exceeding these limits, you will not be rewarded for it: you will have until the following April 15 to correct the contribution with the help of an IRS form, and if you don’t, the amount of the excess contribution will be taxed at 6% each year the correction is avoided.1,4

If you earn a lot of money, your maximum contribution to a Roth IRA may be reduced because of MAGI phase-outs, which kick in as follows.3

2014 Tax Year                                                                2015 Tax Year

Single/head of household: $114,000 – $129,000          Single/head of household: $116,000 – $131,000

Married filing jointly: $181,000 – $191,000                   Married filing jointly: $183,000 – $193,000

Married filing separately: $0 – $10,000                        Married filing jointly: $0 – $10,000

If your MAGI falls within the applicable phase-out range, you may make a partial contribution.3

A last-chance RMD deadline rolls around on April 1. If you turned 70½ in 2014, the IRS gave you a choice: you could a) take your first Required Minimum Distribution from your traditional IRA before December 31, 2014, or b) postpone it until as late as April 1, 2015.1

If you chose b), you will have to take two RMDs this year – one by April 1, 2014 and another by December 31, 2014. (For subsequent years, your annual RMD deadline will be December 31.) The investment firm hosting your IRA should have already notified you of this consequence, and the RMD amount(s) – in fact, they have probably calculated the RMD(s) for you.5

Original owners of Roth IRAs will never face this issue – they are not required to take RMDs.1

Michael Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577  or email mikem@cfgiowa.com

website:  www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Traditional-and-Roth-IRAs [11/3/14]

2 – dailyfinance.com/2014/12/06/time-running-out-end-year-retirement-planning/ [12/6/14]

3 – asppa.org/News/Browse-Topics/Sales-Marketing/Article/ArticleID/3594 [10/23/14]

4 – investopedia.com/articles/retirement/05/021505.asp [1/21/15]

5 – schwab.com/public/schwab/nn/articles/IRA-Tax-Traps [6/6/14]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Alert for People Who Use CDs for Their IRAs

A recent tax court ruling now limits the frequency of IRA rollovers.

Do you like to shop around online for the best CD rates? Do you have a habit of moving certificates of deposit from bank to bank in pursuit of better yields? If you do, you should be aware of an obscure but important IRS decision, one that could directly impact any IRA CDs you own.

Pay attention to the new, tighter restrictions on 60-day IRA rollovers. This is when you take possession of some or all of the assets from a traditional IRA you own and deposit them into another traditional IRA (or for that matter, the same traditional IRA) within 60 days. By making this tax-savvy move, you exclude the amount of the IRA distribution from your gross income.1

For decades, the IRS had a rule prohibiting multiple tax-free rollovers from the same traditional IRA within a 12-month period. For example, an individual couldn’t make an IRA-to-IRA rollover in November and then do another one in March of the following year using the same IRA.1

This didn’t present much of a dilemma for people who owned more than one IRA, of course. If they owned five traditional IRAs, they could potentially make five such tax-free rollovers in a 12-month period, one per each IRA. Internal Revenue Code Section 408(d)(3) allowed that.1,2

Those days are over. Thanks to a 2014 U.S. Tax Court ruling (Bobrow v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2014-21), the once-a-year rollover restriction will apply to all IRAs owned by an individual starting January 1, 2015. This year, you’ll be able to make a maximum of one tax-free IRA-to-IRA rollover, regardless of how many IRAs you own.1

If you have multiple IRA CDs maturing, you could risk breaking the new IRS rule. When a CD matures, what happens? Your bank cuts you a check, and you reinvest or redeposit the money.

When this happens with an IRA CD, your goal is to make that tax-free IRA-to-IRA rollover within 60 days. In accepting the check from the bank, you touch those IRA assets. If you fail to roll them over by the 60-day deadline, those IRA assets in your possession constitute taxable income.3

So if the new rules say you can only make one tax-free IRA-to-IRA rollover every 12 months, what happens if you have three IRA CDs maturing in 2015? What happens with the two IRA CDs where you can’t make a tax-exempt rollover?

Here is how things could play out for you. You could end up with much more taxable income than you anticipate: the money leaving the two other IRA CDs would constitute IRA distributions and be included in your gross income. If you are not yet age 59½, you could also be hit with the 10% penalty on early IRA withdrawals.3,4

Is there a way out of this dilemma? Yes. This new IRS rule doesn’t apply to trustee-to-trustee transfers of IRA assets. A trustee-to-trustee transfer is when the financial company hosting your IRA arranges a payment directly from your IRA to either another IRA or another type of retirement plan. So as long as the bank (or brokerage) serving as the custodian of your IRA CD arranges such a transfer, no taxable event will occur.3

Speaking of things that won’t change in 2015, two very nice allowances will remain in place for IRA owners. You will still be able to make an unlimited amount of trustee-to-trustee transfers between IRAs in a year, as well as an unlimited number of Roth IRA conversions per year.1

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph. 641-782-5577 or mikem@cfgiowa.com.

website:  www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

Traditional IRA account owners should consider the tax ramifications, age and income restrictions in regards to executing a conversion form a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The converted amount is generally subject to income taxation.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.   

Citations.

1 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/IRA-One-Rollover-Per-Year-Rule [5/14/14]

2 – bna.com/announcement-clarifies-inconsistency-b17179889881/ [4/24/14]

3 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Plan-Participant,-Employee/Rollovers-of-Retirement-Plan-and-IRA-Distributions [4/21/14]

4 – bankrate.com/financing/cd-rates/cd-ira-owners-beware-of-new-rule/ [9/2/14]

 

 

 

 

Why the National Debt is Higher Than You Think

We all can recite some of the biggest accounting scandals in history.  Lehman Brothers, Enron, and AIG all come to mind. Each of their accounting “practices” lost their investors money. But would you believe that our government is also using accounting tactics to make the deficit appear smaller than it really is?

According to a recent report by USA Today the US government reports that the federal deficit is at $1.3 trillion. However, those calculations do not include liabilities for retirement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Those two liabilities alone rose $3.7 trillion in just the last year.

So, how can the federal government make such a large discrepancy in the national debt? Congress actually exempts itself from having to include retirement liabilities in its debt projections. Yet all other business-like entities including corporations and state and local governments are required by law to report their retirement liabilities on their financial statements.

What does this mean for younger workers?  You may not believe that this will have an effect on you but if you’re not yet retired, it may.  There is a chance that the government may increase taxes and/or decrease retirement benefits in the years ahead out of necessity. If tomorrow, Congress passes a law that increases taxes by 15% to try and get the deficit under control, would you feel comfortable in your current financial situation?  Consider that question carefully as the deficit continues to grow.