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Mitlin Financial Inc. - An SEC Registered Investment Advisor - Tax Season

5 Tax Planning Steps to Take Before the Year Ends

As we enter the final quarter of 2017 (yes the last three months of the year are here), I am sure you feel the same way we do and cannot believe how fast this year has gone by. Keep in mind that the year is not going to slow down and there are several things you should be thinking about as the final days of the year pass us.

We are going to provide you with five things that you should review in the next couple of weeks to ensure that you are prepared for 2018 and filing your 2017 tax returns.

     1) Take caution before making investments in a non-qualified (or non-retirement) account(s). This time of year mutual funds begin to announce their plans to distribute capital gains to their shareholders. The last thing you want to do is make a significant investment in a mutual fund and then get hit with large capital gains after only owning the fund for a few weeks. Does this mean you should or should not invest in these types of accounts until January 1st? No, you can certainly invest between now and the end of the year, but you must be aware of the potential consequences. In addition, there are strategies that you can use to invest your funds now and avoid these capital gains distributions before the end of the year.

      2) Review your non-qualified account mentioned above. Take note of your year-to-date capital gains or losses due to sales of investments over the course of the year. You may want to sell some of the investments that are not performing well in your portfolio (take the loss) to offset gains you currently have in your account year-to-date. Another option may be to take some gains in your account if you have a net loss for the year thus far. This type of review will allow you to put yourself in a better tax position for the year.

      3) Do you have carryover losses from previous years on your tax return? You may want to take some profits in some of your holdings if you have carryover losses reported on your return. The IRS only allows you to take a loss of $3,000 after you net out your gains and losses, so utilizing this strategy will allow you to capture a gain without tax liability to the extent you have a carryover loss.

     4) Take a look at your retirement plan(s) and see if you are on course to maximize the benefits of the plan(s). Although you can make IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA contributions in 2018 for 2017, your 401(k) contributions (in most cases) need to be contributed in the 2017 calendar year. You should review the extent to which you have contributed this year vs. the maximum contribution allowed ($18,000 if you are under 50 years old, and $24,000 if you are over 50). You may want to increase this contribution towards the maximum if you are going to be in need of a tax deduction.

      5) Stay alert.....Tax reform is being spoken about on almost a daily basis at this point. There have been debates as to whether this reform will go through in 2017, retroactive back to January 1, 2017, or will we see it passed in 2018. It is important to stay alert because we do not know what tax reform will look like or what it will mean to you because it is so fluid at the moment. You will want to know what it means for you when (or if) it is passed. Pay attention because this may have an impact on your tax obligation for 2017.

Mitlin Financial, Inc. believes that working with a team is an important part of getting the best outcomes for our clients. It is important that the strategies above are reviewed and evaluated for your own personal facts and circumstances. Being that we do not provide tax advice, we welcome the opportunity to work with your CPA to review your situation and make sure that you are doing everything you should be in order to be prepared for your 2017 tax filing and mitigating the tax impact from your investments as well. Be sure to contact us regarding your own situation as we enter the end of the year. Feel free to give us a call at (844) 4-MITLIN x12 and allow Mitlin Financial, Inc. to facilitate your financial future!

Disclaimer: This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice.

Last Minute IRA Contributions: Traditional & Roth IRAs

We at Mitlin Financial hope that you had a healthy and successful 2016. As we move full steam ahead into 2017 and into tax season, we want to make sure that you are all set when it comes to saving for your retirement. Contributing to an Individual Retirement Account, better known as an IRA, can be a powerful retirement saving tool. It is important to understand your time and contribution constraints for making last minute contributions. In addition to the inherent benefits of contributing to your IRA, staying informed of the correct contribution limits and deadlines can be the difference between contributing to your account correctly and incurring unwanted penalties or fees.

Mid-Year Financial Check

Mid Year Financial Check

 

Almost three quarters of the year is now behind us and before you know it the holidays and New Year will be here. I am not trying to rush things, but at the same time, we want to make sure that you are prepared for what the year will bring in terms of your tax situation. It is important to take a look at your financial situation for the year thus far and make sure you are positioned properly for your 2019 tax filing. You do not want to wait until the last week of 2019 or even April to learn of potential issues you may encounter.

It would be a great idea to reach out to your financial team to discuss any financial events so far this year that were out of the norm. The financial events that have taken place may, or may not, have an impact on your tax standing, but it is easier to review, guide, plan, and protect if they are discussed well before the end of the year. Once your team is aware, of what has happened, they can advise you on your options and propose the best course of action. You are much better off planning for this on October 15th than March 15th when some of your available planning options may no longer exist

As a firm, Mitlin Financial makes it a habit to ask our clients on a regular basis, at least two times a year, if there has been anything in their financial life that would warrant us to make any changes or adjustments to their plan. You would be amazed at some of the things we have been informed of at these meetings. Everything from, “I lost my job three months ago” to “I sold my house and we are moving across the country” have come out of this simple question. You would think these would be things they would be calling us right away to discuss and review the impact on their financial standing; but, unfortunately, life gets in the way sometimes. This simple question has allowed us to review, correct, and advise our clients to the best course of action knowing this new information.

Asking this simple question during our review meeting with clients has had a positive impact on our practice and our ability to help our clients. In many cases, it has allowed us to address potential issues that may have been unintended, but life just got in the way. This will also provide you with peace of mind knowing you have addressed the issues and will not need to wait until the last minute to come up with a solution. This would also be a good time to review year-to-date capital gains and interest income from your portfolio to make sure it is in line with previous years. Should there be a significant discrepancy from the prior year, this is something that should be addressed so you are not surprised with a larger than normal tax bill. This will save you significant time when it comes to the end of the year because you will be able to have a good idea of your current standing and then plan accordingly.

The last thing I want to leave you with, as we enter the end of the year, is to be careful purchasing mutual funds in non-qualified accounts. This has been something that has really caused many clients, and their accounting professionals, a lot of grief. As mutual funds begin to announce capital gains distributions for the year-end it is important to know what the distribution is and when it will be taking place. We have seen clients purchase mutual funds in late October, November, and December and receive huge capital gains distributions, which are taxable because they purchased a fund just prior to the distribution. Imagine owning a fund for a couple of weeks and getting a $10,000 capital gains distribution. This is not a surprise that you want to have, so just be cognizant of any mutual fund purchases before the end of the year that you are making in a non-qualified account. It may be ideal for you to hold off on investing new funds or use an ETF until the distribution has been completed.

The importance of having a review with your financial team is to make sure that you both are on the same page and no surprises will come at tax time. The year-end is crazy enough for most, you might as well make things as easy and problem-free as you can. It goes back to the old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

I would highly suggest that you hold a mid-year check-in with your financial team. This could save you hours of grief towards the end of the year or at tax time next year. Be sure to contact us, Mitlin Financial, at (844) 4-MITLIN x12 to schedule a time if you are not having these reviews with your current financial team. Be sure to share this article with friends, family and business acquaintances who might be experiencing this too. We look forward to helping you, and them, get on the right path and stay there.

This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice.

Mitlin Minute: Last Minute IRA Contributions

In this edition of Mitlin Minute we discuss what options are available to still take advantage of 2016 tax deductions.
 

 
Disclaimer: This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice.

Small Business Owners Looking for a Tax Deduction

SEP IRA Small Business

 

Is this going to be a good year financially? Did you have a new product or service that was a huge success? Do you think you will pay too much in taxes due to that success? Would you prefer to pay less in taxes and keep more for yourself and save for retirement at the same time?

Setting up a retirement plan could alleviate some of the stress of your tax bill and put you on the right path for retirement. As a small business owner, your business is typically set up in one of two ways. You may be established as an independent contractor or 1099 employee, which is typical in some service businesses, or you may be a corporation. Small businesses that are set up as corporations are very often S- Corps. Under either circumstance, you can take advantage of setting up a retirement plan, which will lower your tax burden while putting monies away for your financial future.

Retirement plans can be set up and funded by a small business regardless of their business structure. The type of plan, the amount you can contribute and your overall tax deduction may differ based upon your structure. Let’s take a look at one of the most popular options that would be available, the SEP IRA.

The SEP IRA allows a business owner to defer a maximum of 25% of their income into the retirement plan each year, which in turn will lower your tax liability. The 25% maximum applies to those business owners who are on payroll and paying themselves via W-2, which is the least common method for independent contractors. Paying yourself via W-2 will allow you to defer a maximum of 25% of the compensation listed on your W-2 for the year.  

Those business owners that are simply using a Schedule C to determine their income for the year, which is most common for 1099 employees, have a maximum contribution of 20% of net income. Schedule C or 1099 employees are synonymous with the same type of employment status and are treated the same for retirement plan purposes.

It does not matter whether you are limited to 20% or 25%, the maximum dollar amount you can contribute for 2018 is $55,000. This amount changes annually, visit the IRS website for current limits. Keep in mind, a SEP IRA simply needs to be set up and funded before your tax filing deadline. The contributions are not mandatory and can change from year to year based upon your annual success. This gives you a lot of flexibility from year to year and plenty of time to review your year-end tax situation prior to contributing.

As an example, if you are an independent contractor (1099) in the 25% tax bracket who had a net income of $200,000 and set up a SEP IRA. The SEP IRA would allow you to make a maximum contribution of $40,000 (20% of your net income). This would lower your taxable income from $200,000 to $160,000. In turn, your tax bill will be reduced by $10,000. Essentially the $40,000 contribution made to your SEP IRA only cost you $30,000.

The SEP IRA will work the same way for those businesses set up as corporations. The only difference will be that they will be able to contribute 25% of their W-2 wages. Keep in mind that you if you are paying yourself via W-2, you can only include the W-2 wages to determine your maximum contribution. Shareholder distributions are not included as compensation for calculating your SEP IRA contribution.

You need to be aware that if you have employees this may not be the best option because you will be required to contribute for employees that have been with you three years or more. The percentage used to determine your contribution would be used for your employees as well, which may create a financial burden.

Mitlin Financial assists our clients in setting up retirement plans for them and their businesses. We would be more than happy to assist you with any questions that you may have on this topic, including which retirement plan would be best for your business. Feel free to contact us, Mitlin Financial, at (844) 4-MITLIN x12 if you or someone you know needs assistance in reviewing their options.

This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice.

Tax Planning Is a Year Round Concern

 Tax Planning Is A Year Round Concern

 

Income tax planning is something you need to be aware of year-round and should continuously evaluate.  Although your tax returns are not due until April 15th each year, without extensions, it is important to make sure you are aware of your tax situation all year.  Decisions made over the course of the year that have a financial impact could hinder or improve your tax liability and a little extra work during the year can save you hours of review and alleviate your tax burden too.

When it comes to taxes, it is important to have the right financial team in place. You need to have your wealth management firm, CPA and other advisors on the same page working in your best interest. While you are in the process of, or shortly after, filing your most recent tax return there are several things you can review to make sure you are making the most tax efficient use of your investable assets.

One of the easiest ways for you to alleviate your income tax burden would be to take advantage of investment accounts that can provide a tax deduction. It is easy to see from your previous year’s W-2 how much you took advantage of your company’s retirement plan, be sure to read2019 IRS Limits Affecting Qualified Plans and IRA’s for specific limits. It may make sense for you to consider increasing your contributions in order to lower your income tax liability and concurrently help you increase your retirement savings. Should your company not have a 401(k) or company retirement plan be sure to explore the possibility of using an IRA in a similar manner.

Utilizing different types of retirement savings vehicles would make sense too. It is important for you to understand that all of the money that is being saved on a tax-deferred basis towards retirement will be taxable in the future when you withdraw it. It may make sense for you to utilize a Roth 401(k) option, if available, or a Roth IRA which would enable access to funds in retirement that would not be taxable. By taking advantage of both forms of savings, it will allow you flexibility down the road to have more control over your income taxes.

In addition to retirement accounts, it is also important to have investment accounts that will allow you access to your money at any time without penalty, unlike most of the retirement accounts mentioned thus far. Investment accounts can generate different forms of taxable income, such as dividend income, short term capital gains and long-term capital gains, and you should have a basic understanding of what they are and how they work. Simple things like holding investments for at least 12 months and one day will turn a short term capital gain into a long one, which can mean a significant tax savings. Have you ever sold an investment only a few days prior to the one-year mark only to pay short term capital gains instead of long term, when there was no imminent need to sell? Mutual Funds should be reviewed carefully as they can produce taxable income and capital gains. It is especially important to know when mutual funds will be distributing their capital gains. We have seen clients purchase funds in early November, only to receive a significant capital gain distribution after only owning it for a few weeks. In these cases, it may make sense to wait to make the purchase or purchase an equivalent investment that has no distribution scheduled.

You will also want to make sure that you have the right investments in the right accounts. It would be ideal for you to place investments that would have the highest tax implications in your tax deferred accounts. Simply placing the highest income producing investments or those you plan to hold short term in the most ideal accounts could save you quite a bit in taxes. When making investments, it is best to place them in the type of account that will help your tax situation based upon their propensity to produce taxable income.

Lastly, you should be reviewing your accounts on an annual basis, around November, to see if there are any opportunities to harvest tax losses. As the end of the year approaches it is important to see if there are ways to mitigate your income tax liability for the year. We know most people do not necessarily like taking losses, but many times it will make sense to take the loss and reduce your tax liability. Should you feel really convicted about the holding, you can always double up the position thirty plus days before the end of the year and on day thirty one sell the initial lot for the loss. This will provide you the opportunity to capture the loss and still own the position, while participating in the upside potential of the holding.

This type of planning is how we assist our clients regularly. In many cases we will coordinate with their CPA to make sure everyone is on the same page and the portfolio changes will indeed be of help to the client. Having an open dialogue between your financial team is important to make sure everything is being done to put you in the best position possible.

Please feel free to contact us, Mitlin Financial, at (844) 4-MITLIN x12 if you or someone you know has encountered tax issues with regards to their investments or simply does not feel their CPA and advisor are on the same page. We look forward to helping you, and them, make the decision that is best for all.

 

This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice.

What you should know about Investment Accounts, Capital Gains, Income

 What you should know about Investment Accounts Capital Gains and Income

Investing is a complicated topic that many do not fully understand and they rely on their advisors to assist them through the process of investing and becoming retirement ready. Taxes are an area that cause significant confusion and the fact that they have a tendency to change over time adds to the confusion.

Taxes on investment accounts can come in several forms and we will discuss some of the most common types along with strategies to help you over time. We touched on this topic in a recent article,Tax Planning Is A Year Round Concern, and we will expand on it here.

Income from investments can come in several forms, such as dividends and interest. The best type of income, especially for high net worth clients, is tax free income. This income will not be taxed, assuming it is tax free on both the Federal and State level. There are investments that will pay tax free income that will only be federally tax free and it is important to be aware of this, especially if you live in a State that has a high income tax bracket. The majority of interest and dividends will be taxed as ordinary income, unless they are a qualified dividend. This will typically be your highest taxed form of income generated from your investments. In these cases, unless you are in need of this income to live on or are in low tax bracket, it would make the most sense to try and place these types of assets in a qualified account. This would allow you to own the asset and not pay taxes on the income.

Capital gains are another consideration when it comes to taxes on investments. These types of gains are broken down into short term, less than twelve months, and long term, longer that twelve months. Depending on your income, the taxes owed could vary widely. The higher the tax bracket you are in, the larger the difference. Short term capital gains are taxed as ordinary income and will be taxed at your normal tax bracket. However, if you hold the asset for twelve months and a day the capital gain becomes long term providing a maximum tax of twenty percent (depending on your income tax bracket) on the Federal return, plus the State tax owed. This could amount to a significant difference in tax and you will want to make sure you are holding assets, if you can, for the long term in order to maximize your tax position. In the instance that you are looking to purchase an investment with the intention of only holding it on a short term basis, we would recommend placing this asset in a Qualified account and avoid the capital gain altogether.

We know that clients do not like to take losses, but sometimes it makes sense for you to bite the bullet. We recommend that you, along with your advisor, review your portfolio each November to evaluate gains and losses for the year. Long term and short term gains and losses will net out each year and you can develop a picture of what your capital gains will be for the year. Based upon the review, it may make a lot of sense to sell an asset at a loss and negate some of your overall capital gain. At times, we have seen clients that understand they need to do this in order to mitigate their tax liability, but at the same time are still confident the asset will work out long term. In these cases, you can double up the position thirty plus days before the end of the year and on day thirty one, in order to avoid a wash sale, sell the initial lot for the loss. This will provide you with the opportunity to capture the loss and still own the position, while participating in the upside potential of the holding.

Planning like this is an important aspect of working with the right advisory team. This type of review should take place with you, your wealth advisor and your CPA annually to make sure things are being done in your best interest. It is key to have your CPA and wealth management firm on the same page with a good working relationship. This is why we always look to build relationships with our clients’ tax advisors. Please feel free to contact us, Mitlin Financial, at (844) 4-MITLIN x12 if you or someone you know has encountered tax issues with regards to their investments, has questions about how taxes like these will affect them or simply does not feel their CPA and advisor are on the same page. We look forward to helping you, and them, make the decision that is best for all. 

This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice.

Where did my tax refund go?

 

 background bills cash tax refund

 

Does your family rely on your tax refund every year? Do you use your tax refund for a family vacation or use it to pay your real estate taxes for the year? This year is going to be an interesting year for taxpayers who rely on receiving their refund each year, because they may not get one. I bet that got your attention and interest to continue reading.

It is going to be more important than ever to sit down with your CPA and review your year-end tax planning, especially if you have not already. The IRS updated their payroll tax deduction tables earlier this year to better reflect the correct amount of tax withholdings for taxpayers. The new tables reflect the changes in the standard deduction, repeal of personal exemptions and changes in tax rates and brackets. What this means is you may be getting more each week in your paycheck, but at the expense of not over-withholding like you have in the past.

Those of you who have been used to receiving tax refunds each year were receiving them because you withheld more taxes from your weekly paychecks than you needed to. When you file your taxes it is determined how much tax you owe and what you have paid in over the course of the year. Whether the difference is positive or negative will dictate if you get a refund or need to pay. Those that have overpaid taxes over the course of the year will receive a refund and people who have underpaid will owe. Be careful if you are not paying enough into the system during the course of the year as this may cause additional penalties as well.

The ideal scenario would be: your taxes owed and what has been paid wash each other out. Keep in mind, although you may love that refund, you simply provided the government with an interest free loan for the majority of the year.

So why are things different this year? The payroll tax tables have been redrafted to reflect, as closely as possible, the actual taxes owed by the taxpayer. This has increased the amount you are receiving each pay period from your employer and lowered the amount of taxes you are paying into the system. Therefore, when it comes to filing your taxes early next year there is a good chance that you will not be getting the refund you have been accustomed to in previous years because you have received this money all throughout the year.

We see this year, because it is the first year with the new tables, as being a challenge for many CPA’s who work with clients that are unaware of these changes. I can just imagine their clients, who are used to receiving a several thousand dollar refund each year, reaction when they are told their refund is a couple of hundred dollars or worse yet that they owe tax. This is not going to be a pleasant conversation and one that is going to take the CPA time to explain and educate the client. It is not the CPA’s fault, nor did their client pay more in tax (not necessarily the case in all situations) but it was simply a situation where the client received more money all throughout the year.

It is highly suggested that you consult with your CPA now, before their busy season kicks in, and have the conversation so you know where you stand for the year. This will allow you to plan better over the next few months and make decisions that may allow you to improve your tax situation. It also will provide you a few months to make changes to your withholdings if it makes sense for you.

Planning is key and having the right people on your team is just as important.Mitlin Financial assists our clients in having these conversations with their tax advisors and look to help them plan appropriately. We would be more than happy to assist you with any questions that you may have on this topic, including recommending the right tax advisor for you. Feel free to contact us, Mitlin Financial, at (844) 4-MITLIN x12 if you or someone you know needs assistance in planning for their taxes.

This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice.