Should you be making estimated tax payments?

During the tax year you must prepay a substantial amount of the taxes you’ll owe for that year, or you risk being hit with an underpayment penalty. If you’re an employee, that’s usually not a problem. Your employer will withhold taxes from each paycheck. You can adjust the amount withheld so that it covers your total tax bill, even if you have extra income from moonlighting or investments. But if you’re self-employed or retired, you might need to make estimated tax payments.

To avoid a penalty, the total of your withholding and estimated tax payments must generally be at least 90 percent of your tax liability for the year, or 100 percent of your last year’s tax liability. There’s no penalty if your underpayment is less than $1,000. Special rules apply to farmers, fishermen, and higher-income taxpayers.

You pay your estimated taxes by making four payments, due in April, June, and September of the current year, and in January of the next year. You can’t just wait until the last date to pay what you owe. You must start paying estimated taxes as you earn taxable income. You can either pay all the tax you owe on each quarter’s earnings, or you can pay it in installments over the remaining periods. But you must be sure to pay enough to avoid an underpayment penalty for each period. Again, special rules apply to farmers and fishermen.

Please contact our office if you think you might need to make estimated tax payments. The quarterly calculations can be complicated, and we can help you figure out how much you need to pay at each date.

David Bradsher, CPA

Your social security benefits may be taxable

Did you sign up for social security benefits last year? If so, you may have questions about how those payments are taxed on your federal income tax return.

The good news is the formula is the same as prior years. That’s also the bad news, because the thresholds for determining taxability are not indexed for inflation, and did not change either. Those thresholds, or “base amounts,” remain at $32,000 when you’re married and file a joint return, and $25,000 when you’re single.

How much of your social security benefit is taxable? To determine the answer, calculate your “provisional income.” That’s your adjusted gross income plus tax-exempt interest, certain other exclusions, and one-half of the social security benefits you received.

When you’re married filing jointly, your benefits are 50% taxable if your provisional income is between $32,000 and $44,000. If your provisional income is more than $44,000, up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable. For singles, the 50% taxability range is $25,000 to $34,000.

In some cases, diversifying the types of other retirement income you receive can reduce the tax burden on your social security benefits. Contact us if you want more information or planning assistance.

David Bradsher, CPA

Some questions and answers about reverse mortgages

A reverse mortgage is a loan against your property. But, instead of you making payments to the lender as you do on a regular mortgage, the lender is paying you. The repayment of this mortgage takes place after you no longer live in your home. Here are some answers to common questions about reverse mortgages.

1. How can a reverse mortgage benefit me?

The proceeds from this type of loan can be used for any purpose you want. You can use it to pay monthly bills, travel, improve your home or anything else you care to. And since it is a loan, it is not subject to income tax.

2. Do I qualify for a reverse mortgage?

To qualify, you must be 62 years of age or older. You must own your home and use it as your primary residence. If you owe money on a current mortgage, back taxes, or insurance, you must clear these off the property by closing time of your new mortgage.

3. What is the process for getting a reverse mortgage?

First, you will meet with a free reverse mortgage consultant.

Second, you will be counseled by a HUD-approved counselor to make sure you understand how this loan works.

Third, submit your application to the lender.

Fourth, have your home appraised.

Fifth, once all the documents are in order, the lender will issue final approval.

Sixth, funds will be available to you after all documents are signed and the closing is complete.

4. How much money will I receive?

The amount of your loan proceeds will depend on you and your spouse’s ages and the value of the equity in your home.

5. How much cash do I need to come up with?

The only expense you need to pay for is the property appraisal. All other fees can be paid for out of the loan proceeds. You should never pay anyone a fee to apply for a reverse mortgage, not beforehand and not at closing.

6. What payments do I need to make during the life of this loan?

You are not required to make loan payments. However, as per your agreement, you must keep the real estate taxes and home insurance current. You must also pay for home repairs.

7. How is this loan different from a regular mortgage?

On this loan, there are no monthly principal and interest payments. There are no credit scores or income requirements to secure this loan. And at the end of the loan, you are not liable for any loan amount over the value of the home.

8. How long does it take before my funds will be available?

There is no fixed time table. In part, it will depend on the appraisal, the title report, and on other paperwork considerations. A typical loan should be done in less than two months.

9. When do I need to pay this loan back?

As long as you meet the contract terms, nothing is due until you no longer live in the home. The home can then be sold and any money in excess of what the lender has coming is refunded to you or your estate. If the sales proceeds do not pay the lender in full, you are not required to pay the difference.

10. How do I know if a reverse mortgage is a good idea?

Reverse mortgages are not for everyone. Your counselor will inform you of all the pluses and minuses. You should have enough information at that time to make a knowledgeable decision. You should compare all aspects of the reverse mortgage against a conventional home equity loan.

David Bradsher, CPA