Should you undo a Roth to save taxes?

Yes, 2010 was the year of the Roth, and you may have converted your traditional IRA to take advantage of the one-time option to postpone recognizing the income. As you know, half of the related tax bill will be due with your 2011 tax return.

End of story? Not exactly. You can still take advantage of a planning window that may save you money. Under the rules, you have until October 17, 2011, to change your mind about the original conversion.

The tax term for the “do-over” election is recharacterization. It works like this: Say the value of the assets you converted to a Roth during 2010 has declined. That means if you had waited until now to convert, you would have ended up paying less tax. Reversing your 2010 decision puts you back in the position you were in before the Roth conversion and wipes out your original tax liability.

Even better, you can still do another traditional-to-Roth IRA conversion after recharacterizing. While the option of splitting the income over future years is no longer available, you can achieve the same effect by reconverting over a multi-year period. Just be aware that time restrictions may apply on this strategy. For details or assistance, give us a call.

Some business meals are 100% deductible

Are you watching what you eat at work? Though that may not seem like a tax question, how you account for meals can affect your business tax return.

One reason why: While you can generally deduct only half the cost of meals related to your business activities, the tax code includes specific exceptions that allow a deduction of 100% of what you spend on food and beverages in certain situations.

Here are three exceptions to the general rule.

* Meals provided to your employees on a social basis. That once-a-year holiday party qualifies for 100% deductibility as a “recreational, social, or similar activity,” as long as it is primarily for the benefit of all your employees.

* Food with nominal cost. Do you supply bottled water, morning-meeting donuts or office snacks for your staff? “De minimis” employee benefits — those small items your business pays for that are not considered taxable income to your employees — are typically 100% deductible.

* Items available to the public. Food served at seminars, promotions, or a “new office warming” reception where you invite the public is 100% deductible.

Remember that you’ll still need to keep detailed records to substantiate your deductions for meals and food served under these exceptions.

We’ll be happy to help you review your expenses and set up a system to account for items that qualify for a more generous deduction.

Who should take advantage of the IRA charitable rollover?

If you or someone in your family could qualify to make a charitable IRA rollover, should it be considered? Here are some of the situations in which this tax break could be beneficial.

* You have to take the RMD, but you don’t need the money and you don’t want to pay tax on the distribution.

* You want to give to charity, but you don’t itemize deductions so any contribution you make would not be tax-deductible.

* You do itemize deductions, but your charitable contribution deduction would be affected by the 50% / 30% of AGI limit.

* Having to include your RMD in income would result in the phasing out of other deductions and credits based on adjusted gross income.

The charitable IRA rollover is a powerful tool for tax planning. But remember, as it now stands, this provision will expire December 31, 2011. Give us a call if you would like to analyze whether this option makes tax sense for you or a family member.