Should You Be Withholding Taxes for your Nanny or Babysitter?

Many people have taken on a nanny or babysitter to help with childcare.  If you have a nanny, you may have more than a casual contractor engagement, you may have a household employee and you have become an employer.  Employers of household employees must obtain an employer identification number, pay Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment tax for any employee wages.  Your state may require you to pay unemployment insurance as well.

How can I tell if I have a household employee?

In Publication 926, the IRS considers anyone who is an ongoing household helper to be a household employee, not an independent contractor.  If you control not only what work is done, but how it is done, you have an employee.  Whether part time, full time, or hired through an agency, hourly, salaried, or paid by the job, you have an employee.

If the worker controls how the work is done, without direction from you, the worker is self-employed.  A self-employed person is often one who offers their services to the general public in an independent business.

The IRS excludes spouses and related children under 21 years old as household employees.  Grandparents are not considered household employees unless meeting the following exception: they are caring for a child under 18 who has physical or mental conditions requiring adult care for at least 4 continuous weeks in a quarter and the paying party has a marital status meeting one of these conditions: divorced and still unmarried, a widow, or are living with a spouse whose physical or mental conditions prevents them from caring for the child for 4 continuous weeks in a quarter. Additionally, individuals who are under age 18 at any time during the year are also excluded, unless performing household work is that individual’s principal occupation. If he or she is a student, providing household work isn’t considered to be his or her principal occupation.

What are the taxes I must pay if I have an employee?

Federal unemployment taxes (FUTA) must be paid if gross wages are over a threshold, which the IRS has set to be $1,000 in any calendar quarter.  After the threshold is reached, FUTA must be paid on the first $7,000 of gross wages for that year. 

The IRS has set the 2021 annual requirement threshold for when to start paying Social Security and Medicare taxes to $2,300 ($2,400 for 2022).  The 2021 withholding amount for Social Security taxes was set at 6.2%, and Medicare taxes at 1.45%, for a total of 7.65%.  Employees and employers are responsible for paying 7.65% each on all cash wages.  An employer may choose to pay the employee’s share of these taxes on their behalf..

States also have unemployment taxes.  Here in Texas, unemployment is regulated by the Texas Workforce Commission, (TWC), which has specific rules relating to nannies, which they call domestic employment.  The threshold for unemployment tax liability is $1,000 gross wages in a quarter.  Once passing that threshold, wages must be reported and taxes are owed on all wages starting from January 1 of the same year, for the entire year.  TWC allows employers of domestic staff to pay either quarterly or annually.  The annual option requires the filing of an Annual Election Form C-20 by December 31st of the following year.

What about income tax withholding?

It is not required that federal income tax is withheld for household employees.  Employees should be informed that you will be reporting wages and issuing a W-2 for their taxes at the end of the year.  If you choose to withhold federal income tax, IRS publication 15-T will have the current tables used for withholding.  State income tax requirements will vary.  Luckily, here in Texas we don’t have to worry about state income tax.

What else must I do as an employer?

When you have a household employee, you must collect their information and determine if they can legally work in the United States, including Form I-9. This information will be necessary to issue a W-2 to your employee by January 31 of the following year.  The employee gets copies B, C, and 2 of the W-2.  The Social Security Administration gets copy 1 along with a Form W-3.  By April 15 of the following year, Schedule H should be filed along with your income tax return.  If you would not be required to file a return that year, Schedule H still needs to be filed.  Records must be kept for at least 7 years.

This seems like a lot for childcare help!

It’s true, once you become an employer there are more steps involved.  For this reason, some parents choose to use a service to help source nannies or do the payroll for them.  For a processing fee, they will inform parents how much to pay.  The processor then takes the money and does the work of withholding and paying federal and local taxes for parents, passing the appropriate net wages on to the nanny.  These providers give parents a report at the end of the year for their accountant.  Such service providers often also allow the nanny to have their federal income tax withholding done as well.

If you have any additional questions, please contact our office so we may assist.

IIJA’s New Digital Asset Reporting Requirement

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA) was signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021. One major provision of the IIJA includes a requirement that cryptocurrency exchanges perform intermediary Form 1099 reporting for cryptocurrency transactions to the IRS. This will will require that cryptocurrency exchanges perform intermediary Form 1099 reporting for cryptocurrency transactions for all digital assets starting in 2023.

Existing reporting rules. As might already be aware if you have a stock brokerage account, whenever you sell stock or other securities you receive a Form 1099-B at the end of the year reporting your security gains and losses. This Form 1099-B reports the details of transactions, such as sale proceeds, relevant sale or purchase dates, your tax basis for the sale, and the character of gains or losses (long-term, short-term, etc.). Additionally, if you were to transfer stock or securities from one broker to another, your old broker is required to provide your new broker with information on the holdings that were transferred, such as tax basis or date acquired.

Digital asset broker reporting. The IIJA expanded the definition of brokers to include Crypto Exchanges and other service providers that are providing transfers of digital assets on behalf of another person. This means that any platform on which you can buy and sell cryptocurrency will be required to report digital asset transactions to you and the IRS at the end of each year.

Transfer reporting. Sometimes you may have a transfer transaction that is not a sale or exchange. For example, if you transfer cryptocurrency from your wallet at one Crypto Exchange to your wallet at another Crypto Exchange, the transaction is not a sale or exchange. For that type of transfer, as with stock, the old Crypto Exchange will be required to furnish relevant basis and other information to the new Crypto Exchange. Additionally, if the transfer is to an account maintained by a party that is not a Crypto Exchange (or broker), the IIJA requires the old Crypto Exchange to file a return with the IRS. We expect that this filing will include generally the same information that is furnished in a broker-to-broker transfer.

What are Digital assets. For the reporting requirements, a “digital asset” is any digital representation of value which is recorded on a cryptographically secured distributed ledger or any similar technology. The IRS can (and may) modify this definition. As it stands, the definition will capture most cryptocurrencies as well as potentially include some non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that are using blockchain technology for one-of-a-kind assets like digital artwork.

Cash transaction reporting. Historically, when a business receives $10,000 or more in cash in a transaction, that business is required to report the transaction, including the identity of the person from whom the cash was received, to the IRS on Form 8300. The IIJA now requires that businesses treat digital assets like cash for purposes of this reporting requirement, for reporting that is due after December 31, 2023.

Closing. Some things to keep in mind: First, if you use a Crypto Exchange, and it has not already performed a KYC (Know Your Customer), expect it to do so soon. Second, the transactions subject to the reporting will include not only selling cryptocurrencies for fiat currencies (like U.S. dollars), but also exchanging cryptocurrencies for other cryptocurrencies. Third, a reporting intermediary does not always have perfect information, especially when it comes to an entirely new type of reporting. Expect the first information reporting cycle for this reporting requirement to be a bit bumpy.

Remember that as your trusted CPA advisors, we are here to help you and can provide solutions for any challenges that may develop.

How-To Plan Now to Make Filing Your Taxes Easier in 2022

This tax year will be another complex year as many taxpayers received stimulus payments or advance Child Tax Credit payments and will need to take steps now to make filing their tax returns easier in 2022.

Planning will help ensure you are able to file an accurate return and avoid any delays with the IRS processing your return or refund.

Here some steps that you can take now:

Gather and organize tax records. Collecting and organizing all necessary documents and information will help you to avoid filing errors that lead to processing and refund delays. A list of important tax forms that you should be gathering can be found here.

It is especially important that you also keep record of any virtual currency transactions for any purchases, sales, trades, or exchanges of digital assets such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, etc.

In addition, if you also received an Advance Child Tax Credit (ACTC) and/or Premium Tax Credit (PTC) or an Economic Impact Payment and want to determine your eligibility for a Recovery Rebate Credit, should also keep the following documents on hand:

Letter 6419, 2021 Total Advance Child Tax Credit Payments, to reconcile advance Child Tax Credit payments,
Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, to reconcile advance Premium Tax Credits for Marketplace coverage, and
Letter 6475, Your 2021 Economic Impact Payment, to determine eligibility to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit.

The IRS will mail Letters 6419, 6475 and Form 1095-A to you, so be sure to notify the IRS of any change of address.

If you don’t receive, or can’t find your Letters 6419, 6475 or Form 1095-A, you can can retrieve the information on these letters using your online account.

Check tax withholding and/or estimated payments. Finally, we recommend that you check your tax withholding if you owed taxes or received a large refund last year. If you owed taxes last year, you might want to consider having additional amounts withheld or making estimated tax payments to avoid an underpayment penalty. This is especially important if you got married or divorced, had a child, or took on a second job.

You may also need to consider if you need to make estimated tax payment. If you received a substantial amount of non-wage income, such as self-employment income (including non-wage gig income), investment income, taxable Social Security benefits or pension and annuity income, you should make quarterly estimated tax payments or increase your wage withholding to cover the taxes on this type of income.

Please contact our office if you’d like for us to prepare an analysis of projected taxable income and related tax liability.

IRS announces 401(k) limit increases to $20,500

The contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan has been increased from $19,500 to $20,500 beginning with the 2022 calendar year.

Additionally, the income ranges for determining eligibility to make deductible contributions to traditional Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), to contribute to Roth IRAs, and to claim the Saver’s Credit have also all increased for 2022.

Below are the updated phase-out ranges for IRA contributions in 2022:

Single Taxpayers

For single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan (even if only for a portion of the year), the phase-out range is increased to $68,000 to $78,000, up from $66,000 to $76,000.

Married Filing Jointly Taxpayers

If the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is increased to $109,000 to $129,000, up from $105,000 to $125,000.

If the spouse making the IRA contributor is not covered by a workplace retirement plan but is married to someone who is covered, the phase-out range is increased to $204,000 to $214,000, up from $198,000 to $208,000.

Married Filing Separately Taxpayers

If a taxpayer is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

Roth IRAs

The income phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is increased to $129,000 to $144,000 for single and head of household taxpayers, up from $125,000 to $140,000. For married couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is increased to $204,000 to $214,000, up from $198,000 to $208,000. The phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

Simple IRAs

The amount individuals can contribute to their SIMPLE retirement accounts is increased to $14,000, up from $13,500.

Key employee contribution limits that remain unchanged

The limit on annual contributions to an IRA (Roth or Traditional) remains unchanged at $6,000. The IRA catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000, for a maximum contribution amount of $7,000.

The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $6,500. Therefore, participants in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan who are 50 and older can contribute up to $27,000, starting in 2022. The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in SIMPLE plans remains unchanged at $3,000.

Details on these and other retirement-related cost-of-living adjustments for 2022 are in Notice 2021-61, available on IRS.gov.

Advance Child Tax Credit: Should You Opt-Out?

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) included a provision that allows for the IRS to begin making advanced payments of the Child Tax Credit next month. This credit, up to $3,600 per child under the age of 6 and $3,000 per children ages 6 to 17, is typically received as a credit applied against your total tax when you file your tax return.

The Child Tax Credit advance payments, which are scheduled to be made on the 15th of each month, were established to create financial certainty for families to plan their budgets. The first monthly payment is slated to begin on July 15, unless a taxpayer opts-out

Should you opt out of advance payments?

Everyone’s individual situation is different, but many individuals rely on these credits at year-end upon filing to reduce their tax burden, especially individuals and entrepreneurs that have factored these credits into their withholding and estimated tax payments. If you want to avoid any unwanted surprises at tax time, it may be beneficial to opt out of the advance payments unless you need the funds to make ends meet. If you chose to opt out, you will still be able to claim the full Child Tax Credit upon filing of your 2021 tax return. Otherwise, any payments received in advance are not allowed to be claimed as a credit on your 2021 tax return.

Receiving these advance payments will likely complicate your tax return next filing season and result in a lower tax refund or larger balance due than usual.

If you received advances of the Child Tax Credit that you were ultimately not eligible for based on 2021 income, you may also be required to pay these amounts back. Since the advanced credit is based on 2019 or 2020 information, if you earn or receive more income in 2021 than you did in 2020 or 2019, or if your child turns 18 by January 1, 2022, you may be on the hook to repay this advance with your 2021 tax return.

How much are the Child Tax Credit payments?

Most eligible taxpayers will receive $300 per month for each child under 6 years old and $250 per month for each child aged 7-18. However, higher earners will receive reduced payment amounts.

The annual credit can be reduced to $2,000 per child if your modified AGI (adjusted gross income) in 2021 exceeds:

  • $150,000 if you’re married filing jointly
  • $112,500 if you’re filing as a head of household
  • $75,000 if you’re single or married filing separately

The annual credit can be reduced to below $2,000 per child if your modified AGI in 2021 exceeds:

  • $400,000 if you’re married filing jointly
  • $200,000 for all other filing statuses

You can opt-out of receiving this credit here.

You can check your eligibility here.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 – Individual Provisions

Below we have assembled a brief summary of some of the individual taxpayer provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), passed on March 11, 2021.

A Third Round of Stimulus

Recovery rebate credits (stimulus checks). ARPA provides a third round of nontaxable stimulus checks directly payable to individuals. These payments are structured as refundable tax credits against 2021 taxes but will paid in 2021 and reconciled on your 2021 tax return.

This round of stimulus offer’s a maximum payment of $1,400 per eligible individual ($2,800 for married joint filers) and $1,400 for each dependent.

The income phase out limitations for this round set in quicker than previous predecessor payments. For this round of payments, the phase outs will occur between the following Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amounts:

  • Single – $75,000 – $80,000
  • Head of Household: $112,500 – $120,000
  • Married filing joint: $150,000 – $160,000

Eligibility is based on information from 2020 income tax returns (or 2019 returns, if 2020 returns haven’t been filed when the advanced credit is initially issued). For households whose payment was based on 2019 income data, and who would be eligible to receive a larger payment based on 2020 data, no need to worry, as there is a provision that allows for the IRS to issue a supplementary payment.

Changes to the Child Tax Credit and Dependent Care Credit

Child tax credit. For 2021, the child tax credit has been increased significantly from $2,000 per qualifying child to $3,000 per child or $3,600 for children under 6 years of age.

Additionally, the IRS will begin making advanced payments of a taxpayer’s estimated 2021 tax credit during the later part of this year. These advances are expected to be 50% of the anticipated credit a taxpayer would receive on their 2021 return.

Child and dependent care credit. For 2021, the amount of expenses taken into consideration for the child and dependent care credit has been increased from $3,000 to $8,000 for taxpayers with one qualifying dependent and from $6,000 to $18,000 for taxpayers with two or more qualifying dependents. This is a massive increase to a credit that was historically insignificant to high-earners.

Dependent care assistance programs. For 2021, the amount excludible under a dependent care assistance program has been increased to $10,500 (or $7,500 for a married taxpayer filing a separate return).

Change in Taxability of Unemployment Benefits

Income exclusion for unemployment benefits. For 2020, taxpayers with modified AGI less than $150,000 can exclude from gross income $10,200 of their unemployment benefit. As of the date this was written, this limit inconveniently applies to taxpayer’s of all filing statuses, whether married filing joint, separate, head of household, or single.

We hope you find these updates useful. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

ARPA’S Enhancements to the Premium Tax Credit

The premium tax credit (PTC) is a refundable tax credit that assists individuals and families in paying for health insurance obtained through a Marketplace (Healthcare.gov) and was established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Recent COVID relief legislation, the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, (or ARPA) that was just recently passed in March 2021 made several changes to this credit. Below, we’ve assembled an overview of these changes.

Changes in Eligibility for Households Above 400% of the Federal Poverty Line

Under pre-ARPA law, individuals with household income above 400% of the federal poverty line (FPL) weren’t eligible for the PTC.

Under ARPA, for 2021 and 2022, the PTC is available to taxpayers with household incomes that exceed 400% of the FPL. This change will have the effect of increasing the number of people who are eligible for the PTC.

An Increase to PTC for 2021 and 2022

New tables for 2021 and 2021 will modify how the PTC is calculated. These tables calculate the PTC on a sliding scale based on household income, expressed as a percentage of the federal poverty line (FPL). The amount of PTC a taxpayer is eligible for is limited to the excess of the premiums for the applicable benchmark plan over the taxpayer’s required share of those premiums. Previously, a taxpayer would have had to spend as much as 9.83% of their house hold income on health insurance to be eligible for the PTC. This amount decreases to 8.5% for 2021 and 2022.

No Repayment of Excess Advance PTC Payments for 2020

One of the biggest changes to the PTC was the suspension of any repayment of “excess” advances of the PTC. Even though the ARPA was passed in March 2021, this impacted many 2020 filers and is part of the reason for the delays experienced this filing season.

Historically, if your actual PTC turned out to be more than the advance payments you received as a subsidy to your health insurance premiums during the year, you would receive a refundable income tax credit for the excess. But if your advance payments exceed your PTC, you were required to pay back the excess as additional income tax, subject to a repayment cap based on your household income.

For 2020 under ARPA, if you file a 2020 return reconciling your advance PTC payments with your actual PTC, no additional income tax will be imposed if the advance payments are greater. Taxpayers can retain the benefit of the advance payments even if they exceed the maximum PTC to which they are entitled.

This is all very new guidance, but at this time, we are not recommending that clients file amended returns to claim a refund if they’ve already filed a 2020 return and paid the excess credit back as additional tax.

Please let us know if you would like more information about these new provisions.

Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 – Individual Provisions

On Sunday, December 27, 2020, the President signed into law one of the longest bills in US history. This bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021, is a sprawling 5,593 pages and contains a $900 billion relief package for aid related to the COIVD19 pandemic as well as a $1.4 trillion in annual funding for the federal government in the upcoming year.

Individual Economic Stimulus Payments

Eligible individuals are provided a refundable tax credit of:

  • $600 per taxpayer ($1,200 for married filing jointly)*
  • An additional $600 per qualifying child [dependent adults ineligible]

The credit is subject to the same income thresholds for eligibility as the first stimulus payment, but is based on 2019 income. If the credit amount on an individual’s 2020 tax return exceeds the amount of the advanced payment based on 2019 income, taxpayers will receive the difference as a refundable tax credit. The credit amount is reduced by 5% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) in excess of:

  • $150,000 for a joint return
  • $112,500 for head of household
  • $75,000 for all other taxpayers

*There is pending legislation that may increase the amount of the second round of economic stimulus payments to $1,200 per individual ($2,400 for an eligible married filing joint couple). 

Unemployment Payments and New Unemployment Program

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 extends the  duration of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to 50 weeks (previously 39 weeks) for those who don’t qualify for regular compensation or extended benefits under State or Federal law or PEUC (see below).

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC): The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 restores the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) supplement to state unemployment benefits at  $300 per week (reduced from the federal supplement of $600 per week under the Section 2104 of the CARES Act that ended July 31, 2020 ). This federal supplement applies to weeks of unemployment after December 26, 2020 through March 14,2021. 

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation has been extended to March 14, 2021 and allows individuals receiving benefits as of March 14, 2021 to continue through April 5, 2021, as long as that individual has not reached the maximum number of weeks. The number of weeks of benefits an individual may claim through the PEUC program has been increased from 13to 24.

Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation: A new unemployment program provides an additional $100 per week to “mixed earners”, those that have both wage (W-2) and self-employment (i.e. 1099) income and earned at least $5,000 in 2019 and

Individual Income Tax Changes

Decrease to the Medical Deduction Floor. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 permanently reduces the medical deduction floor for years beginning after December 31, 2020 from 10% to 7.5%. 

Extension of Charitable Contribution Deduction for Non-Itemizers. Taxpayers who do not elect to itemize deductions for any tax year beginning in 2021 can deduct up to $300 ($600 if married filing joint) in cash contributions to eligible not-for-profit organizations.

Changes to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Credit. Taxpayers may elect to substitute the earned income for the preceding tax year, if that is greater that the taxpayer’s earned income for 2020.

As always, if you have questions about how this bill impacts you, please contact our office.

“Last-Minute” 2020 Year-End Tax-Saving Moves for Individuals

There are only a few days left before the year ends, but here are some actions you can take before the new year to improve your situation for 2020 and beyond.

Consider President-elect Biden’s proposals. As the year comes to an end, it is hard to predict what, if anything, that the Biden Administration has proposed will become law and take effect in 2021. Most experts believe that taxes will need to be increased after the economic effects of the pandemic to help pay for the increased federal spending as a result of the pandemic. But enacting any major tax legislation is likely to be a slow process and may not affect 2021 taxes.

Here are some of the Biden Administration’s most noteworthy tax proposals:

Tax increase proposals

  • Raise the highest individual income tax rate to 39.6% from 37%.
  • Cap itemized deductions for the wealthiest Americans at 28%.
  • End favorable capital gains rates, including those rates on qualified dividends, for anyone with income over $1 million.
  • Eliminate the step-up in basis at death (taxing all appreciated investments at death)
  • Reducing the estate and gift tax exemption to its pre-Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) level.

Tax decrease proposals.

  • $8,000 tax credit to help offset the costs of child care.
  • Exclusion from income for student loans that have been forgiven.
  • A refundable tax credit for low- and middle-income workers who contribute to IRAs and employer-provided retirement savings plans.

Solve underpayment of estimated tax/withheld tax issues.

Add an extra amount of withholding from your paycheck to solve an underpayment of estimated tax problem. Employees may discover that their prepayments of tax for 2020 have been too small because, for example, their estimate of income or deductions was off and they are underwithheld, or they failed to make estimated tax payments for unanticipated income, such as gains from sales of stock. Or they may have an underpayment of estimated tax because of the additional 0.9% Medicare tax and/or the 3.8% surtax on unearned income. To reduce an estimated tax underpayment penalty, an employee can ask their employers to increase withholding for their last paycheck or paychecks to make up or reduce the deficiency. If you are significantly underwithheld annually, you can file a new Form W-4 or simply request that the employer withhold a flat amount of additional income tax. If you are unable to add an additional withholding amount on your final paycheck, you can make a final estimated tax payment for 2020 (due on Jan. 15, 2021) to cut or eliminate the penalty for a Q4 underpayment only. It doesn’t help with underpayments for preceding quarters. By contrast, tax withheld on wages can wipe out or reduce underpayments for previous quarters because, as a general rule, an equal part of the total withholding during the year is treated as having been paid on each quarterly estimated payment date.

Charitable donations.

Use IRAs to make charitable donations. Taxpayers who have reached age 70½ by the end of 2020, own IRAs, and are thinking of making a charitable gift should consider arranging for the gift to be made by way of a qualified charitable contribution, or QCD—a direct transfer from the IRA trustee to the charitable organization. Such a transfer (up to $100,000 for 2020) will neither be included in gross income nor allowed as a deduction on the taxpayer’s return. But, since such a distribution is not includible in gross income, it will not increase Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) for purposes of the phaseout of any deduction, exclusion, or tax credit that is limited or lost completely when AGI reaches certain specified level.

Taxpayers who have reached age 72 by Dec. 31 normally must take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their IRAs or 401(k) plans (or other employer-sponsored retired plans) by Dec. 31. As a result of the CARES Act, there is no such requirement for 2020.

A QCD before Dec. 31, 2020 can still be a good idea for retired taxpayers who don’t need their as-yet undistributed RMD for living expenses. A 2020 QCD will reduce the taxpayer’s retirement account balance and therefore reduce the amount of the RMD that must be withdrawn in future tax years.

Charitable donation by non-itemizers. Non-itemizers can deduct up to $300 of cash charitable donations that they make in 2020 ($600 for married filing joint taxpayers).

Higher limit on charitable contributions. In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the limit on charitable contributions of cash by an individual in 2020 was increased to 100% of the individual’s adjusted gross income (AGI). For previous years, the limit was 60% of a taxpayer’s AGI. While this increased limit was extended to 2021 by the CAA, 2021, taxpayers should consider increasing 2020 contributions to take advantage of the increased limit.

Retirement plans.

Establish a Keogh plan. A self-employed person who wants to contribute to a Keogh plan for 2020 must establish that plan before the end of 2020. If that is done, deductible contributions for 2020 can be made as late as the taxpayer’s extended tax return due date for 2020.

Relief with respect to withdrawal from retirement plans. A distribution from a qualified retirement plan is generally subject to a 10% additional tax unless the distribution meets an exception under Code Sec. 72(t).

2020 legislation provides that the Code Sec. 72(t) 10% additional tax does not apply to any coronavirus-related distribution, up to $100,000. A coronavirus-related distribution is any distribution made on or after January 1, 2020, and before December 31, 2020, from an eligible retirement plan, made to a qualified individual.

A qualified individual is an individual

  1. Who is diagnosed with the virus SARS-CoV-2 or with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by a test approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
  2. Whose spouse or dependent (as defined in Code Sec. 152) is diagnosed with such virus or disease by such a test, or
  3. Who experiences adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, being furloughed or laid off or having work hours reduced due to such virus or disease, being unable to work due to lack of child care due to such virus or disease, closing or reducing hours of a business owned or operated by the individual due to such virus or disease, or other factors as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.

Other relief also applies to coronavirus-related distributions, including the ability to recognize income over a 3-tax-year period.

Other.

Make year-end gifts. A person can give any other person up to $15,000 for 2020 without incurring any gift tax. The annual exclusion amount increases to $30,000 per donee if the donor’s spouse consents to gift-splitting. Anyone who expects eventually to have estate tax liability and who can afford to make gifts to family members should do so. Besides avoiding transfer tax, annual exclusion gifts take future appreciation in the value of the gift property out of the donor’s estate, and they shift the income tax obligation on the property’s earnings to the donee who may be in a lower tax bracket (if not subject to the kiddie tax).

Watch out for the use-it-or-lose-it rule. Unused cafeteria plan amounts left over at the end of a plan year must generally be forfeited (use-it-or-lose-it rule). A cafeteria plan can provide an optional grace period immediately following the end of each plan year, extending the period for incurring expenses for qualified benefits to the 15th day of the third month after the end of the plan year. Benefits or contributions not used as of the end of the grace period are forfeited. Under an exception to the use-it-or-lose-it rule, at the plan sponsor’s option and in lieu of any grace period, employees may be allowed to carry over up to $500 of unused amounts remaining at year-end in a health flexible spending account.

Taxpayers should make sure they understand their employer’s plan and should make last-minute purchases before year end to the extent that not doing so will result in losing benefits. In most cases, a trip to the drug store, dentist or optometrist, for goods or services that the taxpayer would otherwise have purchased in 2021, can avoid “losing it.”

Paying by credit card creates deduction on date of credit card transaction. Taxpayers should consider using a credit card to pay deductible expenses before the end of the year. Doing so will increase their 2020 deductions even if they don’t pay their credit card bill until after the end of the year.

Increase 2020 itemized deductions via a “bunching strategy.” Many taxpayers who claimed itemized deductions in prior years will no longer be able to do so. That’s because the standard deduction has been increased and many itemized deductions have been cut back or abolished. Paying some otherwise-deductible-in-2021 itemized deductions in 2020 can decrease taxable income in 2020 and will not increase 2021 taxable income if 2021 itemized deductions would otherwise have still been less than the 2021 standard deduction. For example, a taxpayer who expects to itemize deductions in 2020 but not 2021, and usually contributes a total of $1,500 to charities each year, should consider making a total of $3,000 of charitable contributions before the end of 2020 (and skipping charitable contributions in 2021).

Please contact our office for additional guidance and tax savings strategies that may be applicable to your personal situation.

CARES Act Part 2 – Individual Provisions

On Friday, the President signed into law the CARES Act. This legislation contained very significant tax law changes, the majority of which are temporary and will only be relevant for the 2020 calendar year. We’ve spent the last five days digging through this 880 page legislation to highlight the most relevant changes for you. 

Below is a summary of these provisions, as they relate to individuals:

Tax Deadline Extension

 2019 Tax Returns

As you’re probably aware, the April 15th, 2020 tax deadline has been automatically postponed to July 15th, 2020. This includes all of the following:

  • 2019 Form 1040, Individual tax returns and payments
  • 2019 Traditional or Roth IRA contributions
  • 2019 HSA contributions

2020 Estimated Payments For those of you who make estimated payments throughout the year, the Q1 2020 estimated payments deadline was also extended to July 15, 2020. However, the Q2 2020 estimated payments deadline currently remains at June 15, 2020.

Stimulus Rebate Checks

Under the CARES Act, eligible individuals are allowed an economic impact payment equal to:

  1. $1,200 ($2,400 for joint return) plus
  2. $500 for each qualifying child of the taxpayer under 17 years old

 The amount of the credit is reduced (but not below zero) by 5% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) in excess of:

  1. $150,000 for a joint return,
  2. $112,500 for a head of household, and
  3. $75,000 for all other taxpayers

We’ve put together this calculator to help you estimate your stimulus rebate. Please download this sheet to edit. This calculation is based on the CARES Act as of March 27th and may change.

For taxpayers who have already filed their 2019 tax returns, the IRS will use this information to calculate the payment amount. For those who have not yet filed their return for 2019, the IRS will use information from their 2018 tax filing to calculate the payment. This economic impact payment will be deposited directly into the same banking account reflected on the return filed.

In the coming weeks, Treasury plans to develop a web-based portal for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS online, so that individuals can receive payments immediately as opposed to checks in the mail. The IRS will also mail a notice to the taxpayer’s last known address indicating how the payment was made, the amount of the payment, and a phone number for reporting any failure to receive the payment to IRS.

If you would like more information, please see this IRS news release.

If you are due a higher rebate based on your 2020 return next Spring, then you may be able to claim the excess over the amount of rebate already received as a credit on that filing. However, if the rebate received based on 2018 or 2018 was greater than what you would have been entitled to based on your 2020 filing, you will not be required to pay back the excess.

Charitable Contribution Provision

The CARES Act adds a deduction to the calculation of gross income for up to $300 of qualified charitable contributions made during the 2020 tax year by eligible individuals. Qualified charitable contributions must be made in cash to eligible 501(c)(3) non-profits and eligible individuals are those who do not elect to itemize deductions. Prior to the Cares Act, only taxpayers who itemized deductions (rather than taking the standard deduction) were allowed a deduction for charitable contributions.

Student Loan Debt

Employer-Tax Free Reimbursements

Eligible student loan repayments up to $5,250 are excluded from the employee’s gross income. Eligible student repayments are payments made by an employer directly to the employee or lender for principal or interest on any qualified higher education loan before January 1, 2021. This payment must be for the employee – it can’t be for a spouse or a dependent. Note that certain restrictions apply to S-corporation owners and self-employed individuals.

Suspension of Payments

The CARES Act offers a few benefits in relation to federal student loan payments. Note that these provisions only apply to loans that are held through the Department of Education.

  1. Student loan payments are suspended through September 30, 2020.
  2. Interest will not accrue during this time.
  3. Involuntary collection has been suspended. In other words, there is no garnishment of wages, Social Security, and tax refunds for student loan debt collection.
  4. If you are a part of a loan forgiveness program, this period of time will still count as “payments.” For example, those that are in the public service loan forgiveness program are required to make 120 consecutive payments. Although you may not make payments, this period of time will still count as payments toward the 120 consecutive payment requirement.

Student Loan Forgiveness

The CARES Act doesn’t include any provisions for student loan forgiveness. Initial proposals from Senate and House Democrats included student loan forgiveness plans for $10K and $30K but neither proposals were included in the legislation.  

Waiver on Early Withdrawal

The CARES Act provides that the 10% early withdrawal penalty does not apply to any coronavirus-related distribution that is made in 2020, up to $100,000. Note that the requirements for a qualified individual are one:

  1. Who is diagnosed with the virus SARS-CoV-2 or with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by a test approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
  2. Whose spouse or dependent is diagnosed with such virus or disease by such a test, or
  3. Who experiences adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, being furloughed or laid off or having work hours reduced due to such virus or disease, being unable to work due to lack of child care due to such virus or disease, closing or reducing hours of a business owned or operated by the individual due to such virus or disease, etc.

This does NOT mean you do not pay tax on the distribution. However to ease the tax burden, the Cares Act includes a provision so that the amount distributed can be included in income ratably over 3 years (unless the taxpayer elects not to). The way the CARES Act is written you can contribute the aggregate amount of the coronavirus-related distribution back to the eligible retirement plan within the 3-year timeframe and treat the contribution amount as a trustee to trustee transfer.

Final Thoughts

I know this is a challenging time and we are working around the clock to stay on top of every detail as legislation changes. We are here to work through this with you and are honored to be a resource for our community during this time. 

Sincerely,

Paul, Mohib, and Jerome