The AMT: Will this tax apply to you?

What’s your alternative minimum tax (AMT) preference?

Though you might prefer to not think about the AMT, certain income and deductions, known as preference items, affect the way the tax will apply to you. Those amounts, along with others called “adjustments,” are added to or subtracted from the income shown on your tax return to arrive at your AMT taxable income.

For example, certain bond interest that you exclude from your regular taxable income must be included when computing income for the AMT. This is a “preference item” because tax-exempt interest gets preferential treatment under ordinary federal income tax rules.

Adjustments include personal exemptions and your standard deduction. In the AMT calculation, these taxable-income reducers are not deductible. Instead, they’re replaced with one flat exemption, which is generally the amount of income you can exclude from the AMT.

Note: For your 2013 tax return, the AMT exemption is $80,800 when you’re married filing a joint return or are a surviving spouse, $51,900 when you file as single, and $40,400 if you’re married and file separately. The exemption decreases once your income reaches a certain level.

What if you itemize? Some itemized deductions are allowed, such as charitable contributions. Others, including medical expenses and mortgage interest, are computed using less favorable rules.

Whatever AMT preference – or adjustment – applies to you, we’re here to help calculate the best tax outcome. Please contact us for details or assistance.

David Bradsher, CPA

Who must file a 2013 income tax return?

The rules for filing 2013 tax returns are straightforward for most people. Marital status, age, and income level are generally the determining factors. Here’s a quick overview of the income levels at which a 2013 return is required.

*Single individual…..$10,000

*Single individual, 65 or older…..$11,500

*Married individual, separate return, regardless of age…..$3,900

*Married couple, joint return…..$20,000

*Married couple, joint return, one spouse 65 or older…..$21,200

*Married couple, joint return, both spouses 65 or older…..$22,400

*Head of household…..$12,850

*Head of household, 65 or older…..$14,350

*Qualifying widow or widower (surviving spouse)…..$16,100

*Qualifying widow or widower (surviving spouse), 65 or older…..$17,300

Different IRS rules govern filing for dependents, those who owe special taxes (e.g., self-employment tax), children under age 19 and noncitizens. Also taxpayers due a refund should file regardless of income level.

For more information or filing assistance, contact our office.

David Bradsher, CPA

Should you adjust your withholding for 2014?

Early this year, review the amount of income tax you’re having withheld from your wages to see if it should be adjusted. While you must meet minimum tax payment requirements, don’t overwithhold or you’ll be giving the IRS interest-free use of your money for a year. Don’t underwithhold either, or you face penalty and interest charges on the underpayment.

David Bradsher, CPA

IRS announces new FSA rule

Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) allow taxpayers to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses. The drawback has been the fact that unused amounts each year are forfeited. Plans could provide a 2½ month grace period to use up unspent set-asides.

Now a change announced by the IRS adds more flexibility to these accounts. Plans can be modified by employers to allow up to $500 of unused amounts to be carried over into the following year. Health FSAs cannot have both the old 2½ month grace period and the $500 carryover; they can have one or the other (or neither).

David Bradsher, CPA

1099 reporting due in January

Nearly every company, large or small, has to file Form 1099-MISC with the IRS and send a copy to recipients by January 31, 2014.

You use Form 1099-MISC to report miscellaneous payments to nonemployees. This includes fees for services paid to independent contractors, such as consultants, lawyers, cleaning services, and others. Generally, you don’t report fees paid to corporations, but there are exceptions (payments to lawyers, for example).

For details or filing assistance, contact our office.

David Bradsher, CPA

Are disability insurance benefits taxable?

ave you decided to include disability insurance as part of your financial plan? If so, the next decision is how to pay the premiums. Here’s why: The choice you make now can affect the taxability of the benefits received later.

For example, say your employer offers disability insurance as part of a cafeteria plan. When you sign up, the premiums are deducted from your paycheck before taxes. You’re getting a current break in the form of excluding the premiums from income, and later payouts of policy benefits are generally taxable to you.

What if you pay part of the premium with after-tax income and your employer pays the rest? In that case, policy benefits are split into taxable and nontaxable portions.

Illustration: You pay 40% of the premium and your employer pays 60%. Benefits are 60% taxable.

If you opt to buy a policy yourself, premiums are not deductible on your personal tax return, and benefits you collect are not taxable.

Like other aspects of financial planning, choosing insurance involves weighing your alternatives and selecting what’s most suitable for achieving your goal of protecting and growing assets. Give us a call. We’ll help ensure that your financial plan remains on track.

David Bradsher, CPA