Insights


NEWS

Coverdell ESAs: The Tax-Advantaged Way to Fund Elementary and Secondary School Costs

Coverdell ESAs: The Tax-Advantaged Way to Fund Elementary and Secondary School Costs

With school letting out you might be focused on summer plans for your children (or grandchildren). But the end of the school year is also a good time to think about Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) — especially if the children are in grade school or younger. One major advantage of ESAs over another popular education saving tool, the Section 529 plan, is that tax-free ESA distributions aren’t limited to college expenses; they also can fund elementary and secondary school costs. That means you can use ESA funds to pay for such qualified expenses as tutoring and private school tuition. Other benefits Here are some other key ESA benefits: • Although contributions aren’t deductible, plan assets can grow tax-deferred. • You remain in control of the account — even after the child is of legal age. • You can make rollovers to another qualifying family member. A sibling or first cousin is a typical example of a qualifying family member, if he or she is eligible to be an ESA beneficiary (that is, under age 18 or has special needs). Limitations The ESA annual contribution limit is $2,000 per beneficiary. The total contributions for a particular ESA beneficiary cannot be more than $2,000 in any year, no matter how many accounts have been established or how many people are contributing. However, the ability to contribute is phased out based on income. The phaseout range is modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $190,000–$220,000 for married couples filing jointly and $95,000–$110,000 for other filers. You can make a partial contribution if your MAGI falls within the applicable range, and no contribution...
Real Estate Investor vs. Professional: Why it Matters

Real Estate Investor vs. Professional: Why it Matters

Income and losses from investment real estate or rental property are passive by definition — unless you’re a real estate professional. Why does this matter? Passive income may be subject to the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT), and passive losses generally are deductible only against passive income, with the excess being carried forward. Of course the NIIT is part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and might be eliminated under ACA repeal and replace legislation or tax reform legislation. But if/when such legislation will be passed and signed into law is uncertain. Even if the NIIT is eliminated, the passive loss issue will still be an important one for many taxpayers investing in real estate. “Professional” requirements To qualify as a real estate professional, you must annually perform: • More than 50% of your personal services in real property trades or businesses in which you materially participate, and • More than 750 hours of service in these businesses. Each year stands on its own, and there are other nuances. (Special rules for spouses may help you meet the 750-hour test.) Tax strategies If you’re concerned you’ll fail either test and be subject to the 3.8% NIIT or stuck with passive losses, consider doing one of the following: Increasing your involvement in the real estate activity. If you can pass the real estate professional tests, the activity no longer will be subject to passive activity rules. Looking at other activities. If you have passive losses from your real estate investment, consider investing in another income-producing trade or business that will be passive to you. That way, you’ll have passive...
Operating Across State Lines Presents Tax Risks — or Possibly Rewards

Operating Across State Lines Presents Tax Risks — or Possibly Rewards

It’s a smaller business world after all. With the ease and popularity of e-commerce, as well as the incredible efficiency of many supply chains, companies of all sorts are finding it easier than ever to widen their markets. Doing so has become so much more feasible that many businesses quickly find themselves crossing state lines. But therein lies a risk: Operating in another state means possibly being subject to taxation in that state. The resulting liability can, in some cases, inhibit profitability. But sometimes it can produce tax savings. Do you have “nexus”? Essentially, “nexus” means a business presence in a given state that’s substantial enough to trigger that state’s tax rules and obligations. Precisely what activates nexus in a given state depends on that state’s chosen criteria. Triggers can vary but common criteria include: • Employing workers in the state, • Owning (or, in some cases even leasing) property there, • Marketing your products or services in the state, • Maintaining a substantial amount of inventory there, and • Using a local telephone number. Then again, one generally can’t say that nexus has a “hair trigger.” A minimal amount of business activity in a given state probably won’t create tax liability there. For example, an HVAC company that makes a few tech calls a year across state lines probably wouldn’t be taxed in that state. Or let’s say you ask a salesperson to travel to another state to establish relationships or gauge interest. As long as he or she doesn’t close any sales, and you have no other activity in the state, you likely won’t have nexus. Strategic...
Cash Balance Plans

Cash Balance Plans

More professional practices (and practice groups) should look into them. In corporate America, pension plans are fading away: 59% of Fortune 500 companies offered them to new hires in 1998, but by 2015, only 20% did. In contrast, some legal, medical, accounting, and engineering firms are keeping the spirit of the traditional pension plan alive by adopting cash balance plans.1 Owners and partners of these highly profitable businesses sometimes get a late start on retirement planning. Cash balance plans give them a chance to catch up. Contributions to these defined benefit plans are age dependent: the older you are, the more you can potentially sock away each year for retirement. In 2016, a 55-year-old could defer as much as $180,000 a year into a cash balance plan; a 65-year-old, as much as $245,000.2 These plans are not for every business as they demand consistent contributions from the plan sponsor. Yet, they may prove less expensive to a company than a classic pension plan, and offer significantly greater funding flexibility and employee benefits compared to a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k).2,3,4,5 How does a cash balance plan differ from a traditional pension plan? In a cash balance plan, a business or professional practice maintains an account for each employee with a hypothetical “balance” of pay credits (i.e., employer contributions) plus interest credits. There can be no discrimination in favor of partners, executives, or older employees; the owner(s) have to be able to make contributions for other employees as well. The plan pays out a pension-style monthly income stream to the participant at retirement – either a set dollar...

EVENTS

WEBINARS

Benchmarking Your Key Performance Indicators

Benchmarking Your Key Performance Indicators

Many practice managers do not perform any kind of benchmarking and therefore never realize the true potential of their practice. With minimal improvements, a practice can see a significant increase in cash flow and a better bottom line.

Healthcare Denial Management

Healthcare Denial Management

Think your medical practice has a healthy revenue cycle? If you haven’t focused—really focused—on insurance denials, then think again. Denials might be the most underestimated and poorly understood sources of significant cash leakage from your practice’s revenue cycle.

Front Office Success

Front Office Success

Your front office is action-central for patient service and efficient patient flow. Hang on to your seats for this entertaining but illuminating webinar at how to prevent service breakdowns and blunders at this critical crossroads.

Meaningful Use: The Insanity Continues

Meaningful Use: The Insanity Continues

Don’t miss this webinar on the new changes to the meaningful use regulations. Many of these changes are beneficial and will relieve some pressures that practices were facing to manage compliance and reporting requirements.