Changes scheduled for flexible spending accounts

Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are popular with employees because they permit the use of pretax dollars for payment of medical expenses and dependent care costs.

If you use an FSA, be aware that changes are scheduled beginning next year. As part of the health care reform law passed in 2010, there will be a dollar limit on the amount that can be set aside for medical expenses. Effective for plan years starting in 2013, the maximum set-aside for medical expenses will be $2,500.

The limit on what can be set aside for dependent care costs will not change; it remains at $5,000.

Keep an eye on any upcoming legislation that could change these rules again.

Act soon to cut your 2012 taxes

Time is running out to make tax-saving moves for 2012. Here’s a sampling of ideas to consider.

* Maximize the contributions to your employer’s tax-deferred retirement savings plan, thereby saving taxes immediately and deferring taxes on earnings in your account. Also don’t overlook an IRA contribution if you qualify.

* If you’ve held appreciated stock for more than one year, consider donating those shares to charity rather than making cash donations. You’ll avoid paying taxes on the stock’s appreciation, but can generally claim the full fair market value of the stock as a charitable deduction.

* Adjust your withholding. Increase the income tax withheld from your paycheck through year-end to cover extra amounts due from Roth conversions or other taxable income increases in order to avoid underpayment penalties. Alternatively, reducing your withholding to account for an overpayment puts money in your pocket now, instead of next year when you file your return.

* Schedule charitable contributions. Cash and checks mailed by year-end count as 2012 deductions, as do credit card charges you make by December 31. Donations of appreciated securities are deductible when you relinquish control. Allow extra time for stock transfers handled by your broker or a mutual fund company.

* Make family gifts. For 2012, the annual amount you can give away to any individual, free of gift tax, is $13,000 ($26,000 when you’re married and make the gift with your spouse).

* Plan for elective health care expenses. Use up the balance in your flexible spending account (FSA) by year-end, and figure out how much you’ll contribute in 2013. No FSA? You still have time to set up a health savings account (HSA) and make a deductible contribution.

* Remember required minimum distributions. Failing to take a required distribution from your traditional IRA before year-end could cost you 50% of the amount you should have withdrawn.

These are just a few of the tax-cutting moves you should review. For help in finding the right moves to make in your particular situation, give us a call.

Don’t panic if the IRS sends you a letter

There are many reasons why the Internal Revenue Service could be contacting you. Some contacts involve very minor corrections; some are for serious changes that could involve a lot of money. Sometimes the IRS is correct in what they are seeking; sometimes they are wrong.

An IRS notice can be something as simple as a correction to a social security number or as significant as a billing for more taxes, plus interest and penalties.

So, what should you do if you get a letter from the IRS?

Here is a list of do’s and don’ts concerning contact from the IRS.

* Don’t panic, but don’t ignore the notice; the problem will not go away.

* Act promptly. A quick response to the IRS may eliminate further, more complicated correspondence.

* Follow the instructions in the IRS notice. Any correspondence you have with the IRS must make reference to the specific notice you are addressing.

* If you agree with the IRS adjustment, you do not need to do anything unless a payment is due.

* If the IRS is requesting more money or a significant amount of new information, be sure to contact your tax preparer immediately.

* Always provide your tax preparer with a copy of any IRS notice, regardless of how minor it appears to be.

* Keep a copy of all the IRS correspondence with your tax return copy for the year in question.

If you would like more information or assistance with any tax matter, please contact our office. We are here to help you.

IRS eases reporting requirement for small businesses

The “Affordable Care Act of 2010” requires employers to report the cost of coverage under an employer-sponsored group health plan on the employee’s W-2 for 2012.

The IRS is easing this requirement for small companies. Employers issuing fewer than 250 W-2s will not need to include the cost of health care on W-2s for 2012. For these employers, the 2012 reporting is optional. And such reporting will not apply for future years until the IRS publishes guidance giving at least six months of advance notice of any change in the filing requirement.