Charitable Giving – Gifts of Appreciated Property

Preface: “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” – Booker T. Washington

Charitable Giving – Gifts of Appreciated Property

Tax complications, apart from questions of proof, do not ordinarily arise when you make a cash gift to a charity. However, complications can and do arise when you make a gift of appreciated property.

Appreciated property is property that has a current fair market value that is higher than your tax basis in the property. Basis is the yardstick for measuring gain or loss and usually is the original amount you paid for the property. However, special basis rules apply for inherited property, property acquired by gift, and property for which depreciation deductions are allowable, such as property used in a trade or business.

Your charitable deduction will depend on whether the appreciated property is ordinary income property or capital gain property. Ordinary income property includes business inventory and a capital asset, for example stock held for investment, that you owned for one year or less. Capital gain property includes capital assets that you owned for more than one year as well as certain real and depreciable property used in a business.

In general, your deduction for ordinary income property is limited to your basis. For example, you bought stock five months ago for $5,000. It’s now worth $8,000. An immediate contribution of the stock would give you a deduction of $5,000, not $8,000. Now suppose you bought the stock more than one year ago for $5,000 and again contribute it when it’s worth $8,000. Here, you normally would be able to deduct the full $8,000. In either case, you would not be taxed on the $3,000 in appreciation. That is a far better result than if you sold the stock, paid tax on the gain, and contributed the remaining proceeds to charity.

Unfortunately, not all contributions of appreciated capital gain property give you a deduction for the full value of the property even if held for more than one year. Your deduction is limited to basis when you contribute tangible personal property that is put to an unrelated use by the charity. For example, if you contributed a painting to a hospital and the hospital used it for display, the use of the painting would be unrelated to the hospital’s charitable purpose and your deduction would be limited to basis. On the other hand, a painting contributed to a museum and used for display by it would not be an unrelated use and your deduction would not be limited.

Special percentage limitations also come into play. If the property qualifies as capital gain property and it is real estate or stock, your deduction generally is limited to 30 percent of your adjusted gross income unless you make a special election.

As you can see, contributions of appreciated property to charities are a bit more complicated than run of the mill cash contributions. Also, the rules for contributions to private charities are somewhat different. If you have any questions about a contemplated contribution of appreciated property, please contact us so for a consultation to maximize the tax benefits of your generosity.

Guidance on Employee Use of Cell Phones

Preface: “It used to be that we imagined that our mobile phones would be for us to talk to each other. Now, our mobile phones are there to talk to us.” ~ Sherry Turkle

Guidance on Employee Use of Cell Phones

The Internal Revenue Service has issued guidance designed to clarify the tax treatment of employer-provided cell phones.

The guidance, issued as an IRS Notice, relates to a provision in the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 that removed cell phones from the definition of listed property, a category under tax law that normally requires additional recordkeeping by taxpayers.

The guidance on the treatment of employer-provided cell phones as an excludible fringe benefit provides that when an employer provides an employee with a cell phone primarily for non-compensatory business reasons, the business and personal use of the cell phone is generally nontaxable to the employee. The IRS will not require recordkeeping of business use in order to receive this tax-free treatment.

Simultaneously with the Notice, the IRS announced in a memo to its examiners a similar administrative approach that applies with respect to arrangements common to small businesses that provide cash allowances and reimbursements for work-related use of personally-owned cell phones. Under this approach, employers that require employees, primarily for non-compensatory business reasons, to use their personal cell phones for business purposes may treat reimbursements of the employees’ expenses for reasonable cell phone coverage as nontaxable. This treatment does not apply to reimbursements of unusual or excessive expenses or to reimbursements made as a substitute for a portion of the employee’s regular wages.

Under the guidance issued, where employers provide cell phones to their employees or where employers reimburse employees for business use of their personal cell phones, tax-free treatment is available without burdensome recordkeeping requirements. The guidance does not apply to the provision of cell phones or reimbursement for cell-phone use that is not primarily business related; as such arrangements are generally taxable.

If you have any questions regarding the use of cell phones or the tax treatment of other fringe benefits, please call our office at your  convenience.



Independent Contractors v. Employees – An Update

Preface: A problem is the chance for you to do your best. – Duke Ellington

Independent Contractors v. Employees – An Update

Worker classification is a hotly contested audit issue that has caused anxiety for business owners all across the country. Whether a worker is classified as an employee or as an independent contractor can mean a substantial difference in the amount of employment taxes that the business pays. In addition, the new health care reform law imposes health care coverage requirements on an employer with more than 50 full-time employees, a fact which may tempt many employers to hire independent contractors instead. It is one thing to legitimately employ an independent contractor. However, an employer who misclassifies his employees either inadvertently or deliberately to minimize its employment tax or health care coverage responsibilities, may become subject to interest, penalties and tax liens. Such measures can bankrupt an otherwise successful business.

A business that is not currently under audit for employment taxes, but that wishes to correct its workers’ classification, may choose to enter the Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP). The IRS opened the program in 2011, and it is still in effect. Eligible businesses that enter the program are required to pay only 10 percent of the employment taxes that would have otherwise been due for the most recent tax year. In addition, there would be no interest or penalties, and the IRS would not conduct an employment tax audit of the business.

Additionally, the IRS has a voluntary settlement program to resolve worker classification issues called Classification Settlement Program (CSP).  This allows businesses and tax examiners to resolve worker classification cases as early in the administrative process as possible, thereby reducing taxpayer burden. In the CSP, examiners can offer a business under audit a worker classification settlement using a standard closing agreement developed for this purpose. The CSP procedures also ensure that the taxpayer relief provisions are properly applied. The IRS opened the program in March 1996. A taxpayer declining to accept a settlement offer retains all rights to administrative appeal that exist under the Service’s current IRS procedures and all existing rights to judicial review.

In light of the IRS’s predominantly pro-taxpayer initiatives, you may want to re-examine your worker classifications at this time. Even when potential employment tax liabilities are not overwhelming, it’s important to remember that misclassification can also cause pension plan difficulties. If you have discovered a misclassification and wish to determine whether you are eligible to participate in the VCSP, please do not hesitate to call our office for more information.

2023 Tax Planning: Benefits of Lowering Adjusted Gross Income

Preface: Life is really simple, but men insist on making it complicated. – Confucius

2023 Tax Planning: Benefits of Lowering Adjusted Gross Income

Effective tax planning to reduce your income can reduce your overall tax burden. Individual taxpayers may be able to reduce their taxable income through deductions if they meet the qualifications and income limitations. Saving for retirement and for future medical costs is an important way for an individual may achieve financial security and prepare to save for future expenses. This letter focuses on the background and tax benefits on reducing adjusted gross income by contributing to retirement plans, contributing to a health savings account, and opportunities for a student loan interest deduction.

 Traditional IRA. Any individual, regardless of whether or not covered under other qualified retirement plans, can establish an individual retirement account (IRA). Whether an individual is employed or self-employed, they may also take advantage of a variety of employer-sponsored retirement plans. These options not only provide security for the future, but also may provide opportunities for current tax savings. Traditional IRAs allow an individual with earned income to make tax-deductible contributions to a savings plan under which the gains and earnings are not taxed until they are distributed.

 Contributions to a traditional IRA are generally deductible on the taxpayer’s individual income tax return, to the extent that they do not exceed the lesser of the individual’s compensation for the year or the maximum contribution limit for the year and subject to income limits. In addition, nondeductible contributions from after-tax income may be made to traditional IRAs.  For 2023, total contributions to all of a taxpayer’s traditional and Roth IRAs cannot be more than the lesser of $6,500 ($7,500 if they are age 50 or older) or their taxable compensation for the year. The prior maximum age limitation of 70 ½ to contribute to an IRA ended effective for contributions after December 31, 2019.

 SEP PlanA SEP is a type of IRA for small business owners or self-employed individuals. A SEP IRA allows the employer to make contributions to the accounts set up for employees. Self-employed individuals choosing a SEP must include all employees who satisfy the following requirements: at least 21 years of age; were employed during any three of the preceding five years; and earned at least $750 in the current year.

 Contributions to a SEP plan are tax-deductible and earnings are not taxable until withdrawal. One advantage of the SEP IRA is the higher contribution limit. For 2023, employers can contribute the lesser of up to 25% of income (limited to $330,000) or $66,000.

 SIMPLE Plan. Any employer that had no more than 100 employees with $5,000 or more in compensation during the preceding calendar year can establish a SIMPLE IRA plan. Self-employed individuals who received earned income from the taxpayer and leased employees are taken into account for purposes of the 100-employee limitation.

Employers must also make contributions whether or not an employee elects to defer a portion of their income to the plan. Contributions are tax deductible and investments grow tax deferred until the owner is ready to make withdrawals in retirement. For 2023 an employee may defer up to $15,500. If the individual age 50 or over, there is a $3,500 catch up contribution allowed, for a total of $19,000.

 Health Savings Account (HSA). Health savings accounts (HSAs) are available for individuals who have a high deductible health plan and may be funded by the individual or the individual’s employer. The benefits of an HSA include:

        • taxpayers can claim a tax deduction for contributions you or someone other than your employer make to your HSA,
        • contributions to your HSA made by your employer may be excludable from income, and
        • the contributions remain in your account until you use them.

 For 2023, the maximum contribution to an HSA is the lesser of: the annual deductible under the individual’s high deductible health plan; or $3,850 for an individual with self-only coverage and $7,750 for an individual with family coverage.

Student loan interest deduction. Interest paid by an individual taxpayer during the tax year on any qualified education loan is deductible from gross income in calculating adjusted gross income. The student loan must be incurred by the taxpayer solely to pay qualified higher education expenses. The maximum deductible amount of interest is $2,500, but the deduction is phased out or reduced based on the taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income.

If you’d like to evaluate the tax advantages of retirement plans, health savings account, or education benefits could apply to your individual income tax situation – please call us at your earliest convenience to review potential tax plans for you to reduce your 2023 taxable income or tax liability.

Famous Twain Quotes

Preface: The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little. — Mark Twain

Famous Twain Quotes 

Sam Clemens was never at a loss for words. Here you’ll find some of his most famous quotes‚ including the ones we inscribed on the walls of our museum center. While we continue to build our database‚ you can also check out‚ a site lovingly created by Twain House friend Barbara Schmidt. Here‚ you’ll not only find quotes‚ but also hundreds of primary materials on Mark Twain‚ such as interviews and articles from newspapers and other media of the era.

Famous Twain Quotes