Retirement Planning: Are Your Social Security Benefits Taxable?

Retirement Planning: Are Your Social Security Benefits Taxable?

If you are retired now or planning on retiring soon, you’ll need to determine if any of your Social Security benefits will be taxed. It’s an important part of figuring your income and expenses during this time of your life.

Since 1984, Social Security beneficiaries with total incomes exceeding certain thresholds have been required to pay federal income tax on some of their benefit income. And because those income thresholds have remained unchanged while wages have increased, the proportion of beneficiaries who pay income tax has risen over time. On average, more than half of beneficiaries typically owe federal income tax on part of their Social Security benefits.

Will You Have to Pay?

Here’s how to determine if your Social Security benefits are taxable:

Add one-half of your (and your spouse’s, if married) Social Security income to all your other income, including pensions, wages, interest, dividends and capital gains.

  • If you’re single and your total added-up income equals more than $25,000, then part of your Social Security benefits may be taxable.
  • If you’re married filing jointly and your total income equals more than $32,000, then part of your Social Security benefits may be taxable.

Up to 50% of your benefits may be taxable if you are:

  • Filing single, head of household, or qualifying widow or widower with $25,000 to $34,000 income.
  • Married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse with $25,000 to $34,000 income.
  • Married filing jointly with $32,000 to $44,000 income.

Up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable if you are:

  • Filing single, head of household, or qualifying widow or widower with more than $34,000 income.
  • Married filing jointly with more than $44,000 income.
  • Married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse with more than $34,000 income.
  • Married filing separately and lived with your spouse at any time during the past year.

If you’re like most, a certain percentage of your monthly retirement, survivor and/or disability benefits is potentially taxable, depending on your income and filing status. Of course, there are a lot of other factors that go into figuring your income (and expenses) during retirement. And all of that information can help you figure out the best time for you to retire.

We’re here to help you make those important calculations — and ensure they’re correct — so you can enjoy your retirement without worrying about how to pay for it. Contact us when you’re ready.

Rollover Relief for RMDs

 

If you already took a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) this year from certain types of retirement accounts, you can roll those funds back into your retirement account, thanks to the CARES Act. The 60-day RMD rollover period has been extended to August 31, 2020.

In addition to rollovers, this also applies if you are an IRA owner or beneficiary who has already received an RMD distribution this year. You can repay the distribution to the IRA by August 31, 2020. Further, this repayment is NOT subject to the one rollover per 12-month period limitation and the restriction on rollovers for inherited IRAs.

This relief applies if you had an RMD due in 2020 from a defined-contribution retirement plan, including a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, or an IRA. It also applies if you turned 70½ in 2019 and would have had to take your first RMD by April 1, 2020. Note that the waiver does NOT apply to defined-benefit plans.

If you have any questions about this RMD relief, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

MONEY BRIEF #1

The PPP loan deadline has been extended to August 8, 2020, after being signed by President Trump on Saturday. This 5-week extension re-opens the application window for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), keeping open a source of funding for struggling small businesses while Congress works on a second, more targeted funding program. The SBA had stopped accepting loan applications on June 30 before the extension was approved. As of June 30, the SBA had approved more than $520 billion in PPP funding, with approximately $129 billion in funds remaining available.

MONEY BRIEF #2

If you received an Economic Impact Payment, you should keep Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment, with your tax records.

Notice 1444 provides details about the amount of your payment, how the payment was made and how to report any payment that wasn’t received. The IRS mailed this notice to your last known address within 15 days after sending the EIP. It’s especially important to keep this notice if you think your payment amount is wrong.

When you file your 2020 tax return, we’ll use your Notice 1444 to claim any additional credits, if you are eligible for them. Keep this notice on hand with your other important tax records, including W-2s, 1099s, and other income documents and records. Remember, you should be keeping copies of your past tax returns and supporting documents for at least three years.

Retirement Plan Update: Important Changes to RMD Rules for 2020

Retirement Plan Update: Important Changes to RMD Rules for 2020

If you have an IRA or other qualified retirement plan and you are 70+, you’ll want to know about a special rule change made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted in March, you will not have to take a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your retirement account for 2020.

As a reminder, RMDs are the required withdrawal you must take from your qualified retirement plan (IRA, SIMPLE IRA or SEP IRA) each year after you reach age 70½. Note that Roth IRAs do not require withdrawals until after the death of the owner.

If you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan [e.g., defined contribution, defined benefit, 403(b) or governmental 457(b) plan], you must also begin RMDs in the year in which you reach age 70½ or the year you retire, whichever is later.

How the RMD Waiver Works

For 2020 only, Required Minimum Distributions are waived for all employer-sponsored retirement plans and IRAs, including inherited accounts. The only type of plan that the rule change does not apply to is an employer-sponsored defined-benefit plan (e.g., a traditional “pension” type plan). Here’s how the new rules work:

  • The waiver applies to RMDs due in 2020, but attributable to 2019. (If your first RMD year was 2019, and you took the RMD beforeFebruary 1, 2020, the 2020 RMD waiver does NOT apply. However, if you took the RMD between February 1 and May 15, 2020, you CAN take advantage of the 2020 RMD waiver.)
  • You do not need to meet any COVID-19 “qualifying criteria” to waive RMDs for 2020.
  • If you do not take an RMD in 2020, you will NOT be required to take two RMDs in 2021.

If you have already taken your RMD, you have the opportunity to roll it back into a retirement account should you want to. For distributions taken between Feb. 1 and May 15, 2020, the following rules apply:

  • Distributions must be rolled back into a retirement account by July 15, 2020.
  • For IRA-to-IRA rollovers, only one rollover is allowed per 12 months beginning from the day the distribution is received.
  • You can only roll over the same assets that were distributed. So, if 10 shares of XYZ company are distributed, you can only roll over up to 10 shares of XYZ company. If $5,000 in cash is distributed, you can only roll over up to $5,000 in cash.
  • Inherited and successor IRAs are not eligible to receive an IRA-to-IRA rollover; however, a spouse beneficiary can roll the assets into an IRA in their own name if the rules above are met.

Questions? We Have Answers!

With all that’s happening these days, these rules may very well change again. But for now, if you’re unsure about your RMD situation, contact us. We can help make sure the rules are followed so you are not penalized.

Stimulus Payment Update

Approximately 130 million people have received Economic Impact Payments (EIP) worth more than $200 billion in the program’s first four weeks. In Georgia alone, more than 4 million people have received nearly $7 billion in payments. The IRS has been sending out new batches of stimulus benefits every week, and is urging people to use Get My Payment by noon Wednesday, May 13, for a chance to get quicker delivery. You can check the status of your payment here.

How to Make Ends Meet During the COVID-19 Crisis

How to Make Ends Meet During the COVID-19 Crisis

As the reality of sheltering in place settles in, many of our clients are asking how best to cut costs and deal with mortgage, credit card and other payments. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau encourages financial institutions to work with their customers to meet their needs. And the U.S. Department of the Treasury recommends that banks waive ATM, overdraft, late payment and other fees as much as possible, and offer accommodations for borrowers to defer or skip some payments.

To determine your options, start by visiting your financial institution’s website and reviewing any information already posted there. Many have already established programs to assist their customers. For example, several auto insurance companies — including State Farm, Allstate, Encompass and Geico — have announced rebates or discounts for their customers, since driving has been reduced.

Mortgage Payments

If you can’t pay your mortgage or can only pay a portion, contact your mortgage servicer. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides two protections for homeowners with federally-backed mortgages:

  • A foreclosure moratorium, and
  • A right to forbearance for homeowners who are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 emergency.

If you don’t have a federally-backed mortgage, you may still find that your mortgage servicer offers relief options. If you are renting from an owner who has a federally-backed mortgage, the CARES Act provides for a suspension or moratorium on evictions. Visit the CFPB website for more details.

Student Loans

If you have a student loan held by the federal government (most Direct loans taken out since 2010, including Parent PLUS loans), your loan payments will be postponed with no interest until September 30, 2020, thanks to the CARES Act. The waiver will happen automatically — you don’t have to request it — and will be applied retroactively to March 13.

If you’re not sure what kind of loan you have, you can ask your servicer or log in to StudentAid.gov and look at your lender. If the lender is the Department of Education, then it’s a federally-held loan that is eligible for deferral. If the lender shows as Chase Bank or Sallie Mae, for example, it’s still a federal loan, but it’s not eligible for the CARES Act waiver. For these kinds of student loans, you’ll need to contact your student loan servicer directly and inquire about a forbearance or economic hardship deferment. You can also apply for an income-based repayment plan or a zero-dollar payment plan. (Visit StudentPandemicAid.com for a look at options.)

Credit Cards & Other Loans

Anticipating the need, many credit card issuers have already set up programs for customers affected by the coronavirus emergency. Visit their websites first for any information posted there, then be prepared when you call to explain:

  • Your employment situation;
  • Your current income, expenses and assets;
  • How much you can afford to pay; and
  • When you’re likely to be able to restart regular payments.

Credit Bureaus

The three main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) are also making adjustments during the crisis. For example, lenders must notify the bureaus if a customer has been placed in a special program, such as a forbearance or deferred payment plan. These programs will not hurt consumers’ credit reports. Remember that you can check your credit report for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Take Action Today

If your income is taking a hit right now, take the time to review your bills and invoices. Then set up a budget that reduces your expenses to meet your new financial reality. Cancel or pause subscriptions for things like gym memberships and season tickets. Transfer credit card balances to lower-rate cards, when possible. But most of all, contact your lenders to let them know of your financial situation. And keep in mind that it may take a while to get a customer service agent on the phone, as they’re especially busy right now.

If your income is taking a hit right now, contact your lenders to let them know of your financial situation. Keep in mind that it may take a while to get a customer service agent on the phone, as they’re especially busy right now.

What You Need to Know About Unemployment

What You Need to Know About Unemployment

Thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, unemployment payment amounts will increase, more folks will qualify, and benefits will be available longer.

Previously, only those workers who receive W-2s from their employer qualified for unemployment benefits. However, with the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) through the CARES Act, folks who are self-employed, gig workers, 1099 independent contractors or have a limited work history can now also file for unemployment benefits.

The normal unemployment application is being modified for these types of workers and is now available on the Georgia DOL website. If you have already filed a claim with the GDOL and will be eligible to potentially receive benefits under this program, you do NOT have to refile your claim. Instead, you will be sent an email with a link to provide additional information for the PUA Program.

Other Important Details

GDOL expects to start distributing an additional $600 from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation next week. This would be added on top of Georgia’s existing unemployment benefits package, which ranges from $55 to $365 weekly. So, the most someone could receive weekly is $965 with the federal and state packages combined.

  • The Georgia DOL time period for receiving unemployment benefits has been extended from 14 weeks to 26 weeks.
  • With the CARES Act, the time period could increase 13 more weeks.
  • UI recipients can earn up to $300 per week before earnings begin to count against their benefits.
  • If your employer files the unemployment claim for you (the preferred method), you should receive your first payment within a week or so. If you file a claim yourself, it could take up to three weeks.
  • Payments will arrive via a “Way2Go” Debit MasterCard that has been sent to you or by direct deposit.

You can visit the GDOL website to access an application and follow step-by- instructions and video tutorials on applying for unemployment.

The Georgia Department of Labor processed 390,132 unemployment claims during the week of March 29-April 4 — more claims in seven days than were processed in all of 2019! And the U.S. Department of Labor announced that around 10% of the total American workforce are currently unemployed.

When Will You Get Your Stimulus Money?

When Will You Get Your Stimulus Money?

The first round of stimulus money should start arriving this week for those who already have direct deposit set up with the IRS. But that’s just the beginning … the process could take several months to get money to every taxpayer — more than 100 million of us!

Also, it will likely take longer if a check must be mailed to you. So if you don’t already have direct deposit set up with the IRS, you can do so on the IRS’s website here.

While most taxpayers will receive the maximum of $1,200 each, the amount you receive depends on the amount of your adjusted gross income from either your 2018 or 2019 taxes. You can use this calculator to figure out how much you’ll receive.

Note that the IRS plans to mail a letter to your last known address within 15 days after the payment is made to verify you have indeed been paid. The letter will provide information on how the payment was made and how to report a missing payment.

Keep Those Returns Coming!

Although the tax-filing deadline has been extended to July 15, we recommend completing your return as soon as you are able. (It may help you get your stimulus check sooner, too!) We’re continuing to work in the office full-time, so you’re welcome to drop off your paperwork anytime. We have a dropbox outside our office door. Or you may simply email it to us at jackie@premiercpaservices.com.

Have You Renewed Your LLC or Corporation Yet?

If you plan to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program, note that you must have a current business registration, which shows your company is in good standing with the State. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the 2020 annual registration period has been extended an extra month, now ending on May 1, 2020. Note that if your registration has not been renewed for two years, the State may dissolve your business entity! This will require a trip to your attorney and additional fees to make your company active again. You can check your company’s status at the Georgia Secretary of State website here. You can now register your business for one, two or three years.
CARES Act – What Does It Mean for You?

CARES Act – What Does It Mean for You?

We have received a record number of calls regarding the new Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which President Trump signed into law on March 27, 2020. This $2 trillion economic stimulus legislation aims to provide relief for individuals and businesses that have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Here’s a look at some of the key provisions and how they may affect you. We’ll be happy to answer your questions as best we can — just call us at 706-632-7850 or email us.

Recovery Rebate: Taxpayers will receive a direct, one-time payment of up to $1,200 per individual (taxpayers filing jointly will receive $2,400), plus an additional $500 per child under 17. The payments will be available for those with incomes up to $75,000 for singles, $112,500 for heads of household and $150,000 for married couples, and will phase out above those amounts (by $5 for every $100 earned). The payment will be based on your 2019 tax return (2018 if you have not yet filed) to determine the amount. However, if you are eligible for a larger rebate based on your 2020 income, you will receive it in the 2020 tax-filing season. While the funds should be directly deposited into your account within 3 weeks, there are no specific details available on this yet. Some seniors and others who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the stimulus payment. (more details here)

Coronavirus Testing: All testing and potential vaccines for COVID-19 will be covered at no cost to patients.

Retirement Funds: The law waives the 10% early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 for coronavirus-related purposes (retroactive to January 1, 2020). Withdrawals are still taxed, but taxes are spread out over three years, or you have a three-year period to repay the withdrawal. Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from IRAs and 401(k) plans (typically beginning at age 72) are now suspended. What’s more, the 401(k) loan limit has been increased from $50,000 to $100,000.

Charity: A new provision provides an above-the-line deduction for charitable contributions, as well as changing the limits on charitable contributions.

Unemployment: The law provides $250 billion for an extended unemployment insurance program that expands eligibility and offers workers $600 per week for four months — beyond what the State of Georgia program will pay. It also extends unemployment insurance benefits for an additional 13 weeks through December 31, 2020, after state UI benefits end for eligible workers, including the self-employed, independent contractors and gig economy workers.

Emergency SBA Loans: The Small Business Administration currently has two major loan programs in response to COVID-19. A business can apply for both the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program AND Paycheck Protection Program IF there are different use of proceeds for each program. Funds from these loans cannot be comingled. (more details here and below)

> Emergency Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL): This loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue. The funds cannot be used for business expansion, bonuses and other expenses that are not related to revenue shortfall from the coronavirus emergency. Small businesses and private nonprofits are also eligible to apply for an emergency advance of up to $10,000, which does not need to be repaid (even if the EIDL application is denied). The $10,000 advance will be made available within three days of application, and may be used for any regular operational business expenses related to the loss of revenue from the disaster, such as payroll, sick leave, inventory, production costs, rents or mortgages, etc. (apply here)

> Paycheck Protection Program: The law allocates $350 billion to help small businesses (fewer than 500 employees) make payroll and cover other expenses from February 15 to June 30. Small businesses may take out loans up to $10 million and can cover employees making up to $100,000 per year. Loans may be forgiven if a firm uses the loan for payroll, interest payments on mortgages, rent and utilities, and would be reduced proportionally by any reduction in employees retained compared to the prior year and a 25% or greater reduction in employee compensation. (more details here)

Additional Small Business Relief: The law allows employers to delay the payment of their portion of 2020 payroll taxes until 2021 and 2022. In addition, the 80% new operating loss rule is lifted, and losses can now be carried back five years. The excess loss limitation rules for pass-through entities are suspended. What’s more, employers can take advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits designed to immediately and fully reimburse, dollar-for-dollar, the cost of providing coronavirus-related leave to their employees. (more details here

Important Changes to Your 2019 Taxes & Tax Forms

Important Changes to Your 2019 Taxes & Tax Forms

Several years later, the 2017 Tax Cut & Jobs Act continues to impact our taxes and the tax return forms we use. Keep these changes in mind when filing this year:

Standard Deductions — The standard deduction is a specified amount that’s subtracted from your AGI to help determine your taxable income. In many cases, it makes sense to use the Standard Deduction instead of itemizing. See the chart here for the 2019 rates.

Itemizing Considerations — To benefit from itemizing, your personalized deductions should be more than your standard deduction. This may be the case if you pay a mortgage, have high medical bills and/or make extensive charitable donations. If you choose to itemize, note that the 5% AGI limit on medical expenses has expired; the floor is now 10% for 2019. Also:

  • The maximum deduction for charitable cash donations to qualified organizations is 60% of your AGI.
  • Deductible mortgage interest is capped for loans up to $750,000.
  • Moving expenses are no longer deductible for job relocation, unreimbursed employee expenses or employer-subsidized parking and transportation reimbursement.
  • Deductions for casualty and theft losses, tax preparation costs and other miscellaneous deductions are no longer available.
  • Alimony payments are no longer deductible (and if you receive alimony, you don’t have to claim it as income anymore).

Health Insurance Penalty — This rule has been repealed; there is no longer a penalty if you do not have health insurance coverage.

Capital Gains/Losses — In general, taxes on capital gains are lower unless you’re among those in the highest income brackets. Updated from last year, total capital gains (or losses) are once again directly entered on Form 1040 (Line 6) and not on Schedule 1.

Senior-friendly — A new tax return with a large, easy-to-read font has been created for taxpayers born before January 2, 1955 (IRS Form 1040-SR: US Tax Return For Seniors). It includes a standard-deduction chart, though Schedule A is still available for itemizing deductions as needed.

Of course, the deadline for filing your taxes has NOT changed! But we’re here to help you make sure they’re done correctly and on time. Just drop off your materials by March 27 so we can meet the April 15, 2020, tax-filing deadline. Or, let us know if we need to file an extension for you by calling 706-632-7850 or emailing us today.

Sources: Credit.com, Forbes

The information provided here by Premier CPA Services PC is for general information only. It does not constitute legal, accounting, tax or other professional advice or services, and is presented without any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the information. Please contact us for information as it relates to your circumstances.
Georgia Ranks as the #9 Lowest-Cost State to Retire

Georgia Ranks as the #9 Lowest-Cost State to Retire

According to a recent study by GOBankingRates, Georgia ranks as one of the best states to retire if you’re trying to stretch your nest egg.

If you have $100,000 saved, for example, you can expect to live off that for 877 days in Georgia (roughly 2-1/2 years). The study considered the average total expenditures for people aged 65 and over, as well as the cost of living index in each state.

The cheapest state to retire is Mississippi (946 days), while the most expensive is Hawaii (428 days). The national average is 780 days, which equates to nearly $48,000 in annual expenditures.

Are You Ready to Retire?

Retiring in Georgia can be a good choice if your retirement savings are less than you’d like. More than half of American workers (52%) say they’re behind where they should be in saving for retirement, according to a study by Bankrate.com. Just 16% say they are right on track, and 11% feel they are ahead of where they should be in terms of saving. Another 20% of respondents say they don’t know if they’re on track or not. And a full 38% say they have never had a retirement account at all!

“Getting your retirement savings on track begins by fully utilizing your tax-advantaged retirement savings options, such as a workplace 401(k) and supplementing that with an IRA,” said Bankrate’s chief financial analyst, Greg McBride, CFA. “Aim to save at least 10% — and ideally 15% — of your income specifically for retirement. The best time to start is ‘today,’ and the worst time to start is ‘someday.’”

The tendency to be behind on retirement savings is highest among households with an annual income between $30,000-$49,999, with 62% responding that they are behind where they should be. That figure falls to 52% for households earning an income under $30,000 per year, and 48% for households with incomes of $80,000 or more.

We Can Help

No matter where you are in your retirement savings timeline, we can help you get started — or keep going — so you can retire wherever you want to and not worry about your savings running out. Call us today!

Sources: Yahoo! Money, GO BankingRates, BankRate

The information provided here by Premier CPA Services PC is for general information only. It does not constitute legal, accounting, tax or other professional advice or services, and is presented without any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the information. Please contact us for information as it relates to your circumstances.
New Tax Changes May Affect Your Retirement Savings

New Tax Changes May Affect Your Retirement Savings

President Trump signed into law in December a bill to keep the federal government funded. As part of that bill, several new tax changes were enacted, include some major changes to retirement plan rules.

The new “SECURE” Act is designed to encourage retirement savings and to simplify administrative requirements for small businesses. For the most part, these are positive changes and good news if you’re saving for retirement. Some of the key changes include:

  • Increasing the age after which required minimum distributions from certain retirement accounts must begin from age 70½ to age 72.
  • Repealing the maximum age for IRA contributions, which was formerly 70½.
  • Allowing penalty-free distributions from qualified retirement plans and IRAs to help pay for births and adoptions.
  • Allowing qualified home healthcare workers to contribute to a defined contribution plan or IRA.
  • Making it easier for long-term, part-time employees to participate in elective deferrals.
  • Making it easier for small businesses to offer multi-employer plans by allowing otherwise completely unrelated employers to join in the same plan.

One change that could create some substantial tax consequence is the requirement that non-spouse beneficiaries of IRAs and qualified retirement plans withdraw all money from inherited accounts within 10 years. This rule takes effect for accounts inherited after January 1, 2020.

Other Tax Changes Made

In addition to the retirement plan adjustments noted above, the new law also:

  • Allows certain expenses associated with registered apprenticeship programs to count as qualified higher education expenses for 529 accounts.
  • Repeals the excise tax on certain high-cost employer health plans (the Cadillac tax), the medical device excise tax and the annual fee on health insurance providers — all of which were part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but had been postponed or suspended.
  • Extends several expired tax provisions, including those relating to the discharge of qualified principal residence indebtedness income; the treatment of mortgage insurance premiums as qualified residence interest; the continuance of the 7.5% (instead of 10%) adjusted-gross-income floor for medical expense deductions; and an above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses.
  • Extends through 2020 several tax credits that were scheduled to expire, including a new markets tax credit, an employer credit for paid family and medical leave, the work opportunity credit, and the credit for health insurance costs of eligible individuals.
  • Provides tax relief for victims of various disasters occurring in 2018, 2019, and through January 19, 2020.

Give Us a Call: 706-632-7850

To take full advantage of the changes under this recent legislation, schedule an appointment to come in and talk with Jackie or Donna. We can review your personal situation and provide guidance for some smart financial moves.

We’re also booking appointments for tax filing beginning in January, so call us if you’re ready to get started!

(Source: Journal of Accountancy)

Important & Interesting Dates to Note for 2020

JAN 15: 4th Quarter Estimated Tax Payments due for 2019

JAN 31: Final date for employers to send W-2 and 1099 forms

FEB 2: Super Bowl LIV (Miami)

FEB 29: Leap Day

MAR 8: Daylight Savings Time begins

MAR 24: Georgia Presidential Primary

APR 1: Census Day (By this date, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census)

APR 15: Tax Day

APR 22: Earth Day 50th Anniversary

JUL 24-AUG 9: Summer Olympics (Tokyo)

OCT 15: Tax Filing Extension Deadline

NOV 1: Daylight Savings Time ends

NOV 3: Election Day

The information provided here by Premier CPA Services PC is for general information only. It does not constitute legal, accounting, tax or other professional advice or services, and is presented without any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the information. Please contact us for information as it relates to your circumstances.
Year-End Checklist for Your Personal Finances

Year-End Checklist for Your Personal Finances

With just a few weeks left, take a look at this checklist to make sure you’re ready for the new year:

1 — Take Your RMDs: If you’re 70½ or older, you’ll need to take required minimum distributions from your qualified retirement accounts by December 31 — or face a penalty equal to 50% of the sum you failed to withdraw. If you turned 70½ this year, you have until April 1, 2020, to take your first RMD.

2 — Fund Your HSA: For 2019, you can sock away as much as $3,500 before taxes in a Health Savings Account. For families, the figure is $7,000, and those age 55 and older can contribute an additional $1,000 as a catch-up contribution.

3 — Spend Your Flex Money: Unused funds in a Flexible Spending Account are typically forfeited at year’s end, so make sure to tap them for eligible health and medical expenses by December 31. Check whether your plan offers a grace period or allows you to carry over some funds to the following year.

4 — Contribute to a 529: If you’re using a 529 for education savings, make your allowable contributions by December 31 in order to take advantage of any Georgia income tax benefits or to be eligible for the federal gift-tax exclusion.

5 — Max Out Your 401(k): Take a look at your current 401(k), and make sure you’re contributing the maximum amount possible … or at least matching the amount your employer is putting in for you. Not only will you save on your taxes, you’ll be generating retirement income for the future.

6 — Consider Capital Gains: Any capital losses you realize before December 31 can be used to offset any gains. If your net losses exceed your gains, you can offset an additional $3,000 of ordinary income — any losses beyond that limit can be carried forward to future tax years.

7 — Convert Your IRA: If you want to convert a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA, it must be done by December 31. While you’ll have to pay tax on any income associated with the traditional IRA, you’ll be able to withdraw the funds tax-free at retirement. And, because a Roth IRS does not require RMDs, you can access the funds as you need them (after age 59½).

8 — Donate to Charity: If you itemize your deductions, you can still deduct your charitable donations. And if you don’t, you can still get that “feel good” feeling of helping out an organization in need!

If you have any questions about making these moves, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll be happy to help you work out the details.

Meet the Team: Jackie Self, CPA

Jackie Self is the owner of Premier CPA Services, which she started as Jackie Seabolt CPA in May 2011. Jackie was the sole CPA at the firm until hiring Donna Hills in 2018. Jackie received her CPA license in 2008 after earning an AA from Truett McConnell and a BS in Accounting from Kennesaw State University.

Before starting Premier CPA Services, Jackie worked as a CPA for Randy Kramer & Associates. She has more than 20 years of experience in tax, accounting, financial reviews and planning. She uses Quickbooks, Thompson Reuters Accounting & Tax, Microsoft Word and Excel.

Jackie enjoys speaking at events to inform the public about tax advantages and rules. She is the Past Chairman of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, the Past President & Treasurer of the Blue Ridge Rotary Club, and Treasurer of the Fannin County Scholarship Foundation.

Jackie currently lives on a small farm in the Dial community with her husband Jamie. She enjoys being a wife and mother of two boys and one girl (plus three dogs and two cats). She loves to travel, and her favorite book/movie is Gone with the Wind.

2020 Tax Season Updates Announced

2020 Tax Season Updates Announced

Over the last couple weeks, the IRS has announced a few updates that will apply to the 2020 tax-filing season (for returns processed in 2021). Keep these changes in mind while planning your finances.

Retirement Plan Contribution Limits Increased

» The limit on elective deferral contributions to Sec. 401(k) plans, Sec. 403(b) plans, most Sec. 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan increases to $19,500 in 2020, up from $19,000 in 2019. If you’re 50+, the catch-up contribution limit increases to $6,500 in 2020, up from $6,000 in 2019.

» The maximum deductible IRA contribution for 2020 remains at $6,000. If you also have a workplace retirement plan, your ability to deduct your IRA contribution is phased out depending on your adjusted gross income (AGI):

  • $65,000-$75,000 for singles and heads of household
  • $104,000 to $124,000 for married couples filing jointly, where the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan
  • $196,000 and $206,000 for married couples filing jointly, where the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is NOT covered by a workplace retirement plan but is married to someone who is.

» If you contribute to a Roth IRA, the phaseout range for determining the maximum contribution increases to $196,000 to $206,000 for married couples filing jointly, and $124,000 to $139,000 for singles and heads of household.

» The AGI limit for the Retirement Savings Contribution Credit (Saver’s Credit) also increases slightly for 2020: $65,000 for married couples filing jointly, $48,750 for heads of household, and $32,500 for single taxpayers and for married individuals filing separately.

Inflation Adjustments and Tax Table Changes

» The Standard Deduction increases to $24,800 for married individuals filing joint returns or surviving spouses, $18,650 for heads of household, and $12,400 for unmarried individuals (other than surviving spouses) and married individuals filing separate returns.

» The Earned Income Tax Credit (for taxpayers with three or more children) increases to $6,660, up from $6,557 in 2019. The Adoption Tax Credit also increases to $14,300, up from $14,080 in 2019.

» The 2020 exemption amounts for the Alternative Minimum Tax rises to $113,400 for married individuals filing joint returns and surviving spouses, $72,900 for unmarried individuals (other than surviving spouses), $56,700 for married individuals filing separate returns, and $25,400 for estates and trusts.

» The Sec. 179 depreciation deduction for small businesses increases to $1,040,000, with a phaseout threshold of $2,590,000.

» The Sec. 199A income deduction threshold for a qualified trade or business increases to $326,600 for married individuals filing joint returns, and $163,300 for married individuals filing separate returns, single individuals, and heads of household.

For more details on these updates, or help planning your finances in relation to these changes, please give us a call today.

The information provided here by Premier CPA Services PC is for general information only. It does not constitute legal, accounting, tax or other professional advice or services, and is presented without any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the information. Please contact us for information as it relates to your circumstances.
A Matter of Choice: Understanding Georgia’s QEE Tax Credit

A Matter of Choice: Understanding Georgia’s QEE Tax Credit

If you are passionate about school choice, you’ll want to know about Georgia’s Qualified Education Expense (QEE) Tax Credit. Launched in 2008, the program allows individuals, married couples and businesses to claim a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on their Georgia income taxes for donations to qualified preK – 12 schools. Specially designated Student Scholarship Organizations (SSOs) use the contributions to award scholarships so that students can attend private schools chosen by their parents. Several local institutions qualify, including:

  • Fannin Christian Learning Center
  • Josephine Edwards Christian School
  • Mountain Area Christian Academy
  • North Georgia Christian Academy

Currently, Georgia taxpayers can make contributions up to the following limits:

  • Up to $1,000 for single individuals;
  • Up to $1,250 for married individuals;
  • Up to $2,500 for married couples filing jointly;
  • Up to 75 percent of their Georgia income tax liability for “C” corporations; and
  • Up to $10,000 for members of limited liability corporations (LLCs), shareholders in Subchapter “S” corporations, and partners in partnerships.

The amount of tax credit is limited to the donor’s tax liability or actual donation amount, whichever is less.

To earn the credit, go to the GaSSO website and complete the 2020 Tax Credit Form (georgiasso.us/pledge-form) by December 31, 2019. GaSSO will then file your form electronically with the Georgia Department of Revenue, which must pre-approve your donation, as there are only a limited amount of tax credits available each year ($100 million).

If you have a student attending MACA, you can apply for a scholarship for your child through GaSSO. Click this link for the application form: georgiasso.us/scholarship-application-form

Start Saving for College, Too!

Georgia’s Path2College 529 Plan (www.path2college529.com) offers significant tax advantages for those saving for future higher education expenses. Contributions grow tax-deferred, and withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses are tax-free. Funds may be used at virtually any college or university in the United States, and many abroad.

Contributions up to $2,000 per year, per beneficiary, are eligible for a Georgia state income tax deduction for those filing a single return; and $4,000 per year, per beneficiary, for those filling a joint return. The Path2College 520 Plan currently offers seven investment options, and may be opened with as little as $25.

If you’re considering participating in the QEE Tax Credit program and/or Path2College 529 Plan, just let us know and we can provide more details on the potential tax savings.

Do You Need a Sales Tax Permit?

If you’re starting a new business — whether retail, rental or even a home-based business — you may need to charge sales tax. Essentially, anyone selling tangible items in the state of Georgia needs a sales tax permit.

You can easily register your business at the Georgia Tax Center website (gtc.dor.ga.gov/_/#1) by clicking on “Register a New Georgia Business.” Before you do, make sure you have some basic information handy, including:

  • Business name, address, etc.
  • Business type
  • Business history (including any previous state IDs)
  • Business ownership details (including any partners)
  • Withholding information

Note that there is no cost to apply for a sales tax permit in Georgia (there may be other business registration fees). You will not need to renew the permit, though you will need to update it if your address or other information changes. Online registration is quick — your actual permit will arrive in the mail within days after you register.

If you have any questions about your sales tax status or need help registering, give us a call. We can also handle your sales tax payments for you, saving you the time and hassle.

The information provided here by Premier CPA Services PC is for general information only. It does not constitute legal, accounting, tax or other professional advice or services, and is presented without any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the information. Please contact us for information as it relates to your circumstances.
What Else Can We Do for You?

What Else Can We Do for You?

Many of you meet with Donna or I at tax time, when you’re closing out your year — or trying to figure out why your tax bill suddenly went up! But there are plenty of other times throughout the year that we can help — and maybe save you some money! Here are just a few:

#1 – Home-Related Issues

Because we are intimately familiar with your finances, we can help you understand how buying or selling a home will impact your income, taxes and financial strategies. This also applies to renting out your home or cabin, whether it’s through a local property management company or via Airbnb or VRBO. There are many tax considerations that go into renting, including paying sales & lodging taxes and earning additional income.

#2 — Children

If you’re having a child (or adopting one), you know that your expenses will be impacted. But so will your taxes, most likely in a positive way. We can help you maximize any tax credits or exemptions you may be entitled to, as well as guide you on college savings through tax-advantaged vehicles like 529 plans.

#3 — Marriage or Divorce

While these are both very personal events, you’ll find the government is more involved than you realize! Changes in your life situation will obviously change your tax filing status and could put you in a different tax bracket. In the case of divorce, we can help you understand the tax implications of future alimony payments before you go into negotiations.

#4 — Large Purchases

If you’re considering a major purchase (e.g., boat, RV, home addition), we can help you consider the best ways to pay for it. For example, if you’re selling stock to make the purchase, will you be liable for capital gains? Is a home equity loan your best option for remodeling your home? And which home remodeling receipts do you need to save?

#5 — New Job

If you’re considering a new career opportunity, keep us in the loop. We can help you determine proper withholding amounts, as well as possible write-offs and deductions, such as mileage, education expenses and 401(k) contributions.

#6 — New Business

Many of our clients are business owners, whether they’ve purchased an existing business or are starting from scratch. We can help you make some smart decisions with regard to business loans, employee payroll and taxes, budgeting for expenses and getting started with software like Quickbooks. We can also help you choose the most-advantageous entity for your new business — LLC, an S Corp or a C Corp.

Remember, we are your CPAs all year long, not just at tax time. Please call or schedule an appointment today, and let us help you make those important decisions in ways that benefit you, your family and your business!

 Jackie & Donna

Georgia Business Tax Climate

Georgia currently ranks 33rd on the Tax Foundation 2019 Index. However, the state’s business tax climate can be expected to improve and Georgia taxpayers should see lower tax rates next year once reform kicks in.

Click on image to enlarge.

The information provided here by Premier CPA Services PC is for general information only. It does not constitute legal, accounting, tax or other professional advice or services, and is presented without any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the information. Please contact us for information as it relates to your circumstances.
How Do the Fed Rate Cuts Effect You?

How Do the Fed Rate Cuts Effect You?

In July, the Federal Reserve lowered the federal funds rate by 25 basis points, to a range of 2% to 2.25%. This is the first time the Fed has lowered interest rates since 2008, in the midst of the global financial crisis. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has signaled the possibility of another rate cut as soon as next month. In fact, President Trump is seeking a cut of as much as 1%.

Typically, such a rate cut is a preventive measure designed to keep the economy on track. Lower rates put more money into the economy, encouraging businesses to invest and consumers to spend and borrow. While lower interest rates do help, they don’t help everyone. Here’s who stands to benefit the most — and who could suffer a hit:

Home Buyers: Mortgage rates were already trending lower, so the Fed’s move is good news if you’re in the market for a mortgage or refi. You’ll also see a little relief if you have an adjustable-rate home equity loan or line of credit.

Credit Cardholders: If you’re carrying a balance (nearly half of all cardholders do), you may see a slightly lower APR, depending on your credit card issuer. A lower APR could help, considering the average U.S. household pays more than $1,150 in interest each year.

Savers: Expect interest rates on savings accounts, money market accounts and CDs to decline. This might be a good time to rate-shop savings accounts and lock in a rate with a CD.

Investors: Lower interest rates generally boost the stock market. However, investors tend to get nervous if the Fed cuts rates repeatedly, because it may indicate a recession is looming.

(Sources: NPR, Bankrate.com, CNBC)

Did You Know?

The U.S. Mint’s online store offers a variety of unique products, including:

Uncut sheets of paper currency in $1, $2, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations.

An engraved print of the Gettysburg Address that includes a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln.

$1 coins for the new American Innovation Coin Program.

Gold Congressional Medals honoring the Native American Code Talkers from WWI and WWII.

2019 coin sets commemorating a birth, a birthday or other special occasion.

Visit the website to order online.

 

The information provided here by Premier CPA Services PC is for general information only. It does not constitute legal, accounting, tax or other professional advice or services, and is presented without any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the information. Please contact us for information as it relates to your circumstances.
Georgia Loves Its Retirees!

Georgia Loves Its Retirees!

The Peach State is among the top 10 tax-friendly states for retirees, as ranked by Kiplinger in 2017. Social Security income is exempt from Georgia state taxes, as is up to $35,000 of most types of retirement income for anyone age 62 to 64. When you hit 65, the exemption rises to $65,000 per taxpayer.

Eligible retirement income includes pensions and annuities, interest, dividends, net income from rental property, capital gains, royalties, pensions, annuities and the first $4,000 of wages and other earned income. Many Georgia seniors can also claim property tax exemptions above and beyond normal homestead exemptions.

Social Security Tax-Smarts

Just because Social Security benefits aren’t taxed at the state level in Georgia doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Uncle Sam is probably going to want a bite, and the amount subject to taxes will be calculated on a sliding scale based on your income.

Coordination Is Everything

Because the tax rules focus so much on income, it’s important to coordinate when you start taking Social Security benefits. You’ll want to weigh when to take benefits with when you expect to receive income from other sources.

For example, you might be tempted to start taking benefits as early as possible — even if you’re still working. The gotcha here is that the wage income you’re earning in that paycheck can easily bump you over the income thresholds at which your benefits will become taxable. Even worse, you’re likely to be in a higher tax bracket because you’re still working, so the tax hit will be a double whammy. Waiting to claim benefits until after you’ve quit working may be smarter, but it really all depends on your financial situation.

One Size Does Not Fit All

The best retirement income strategy varies based on your individual circumstances, so it’s impossible to give one-size-fits-all advice. But we can help you think through your situation — including how to navigate the Social Security taxation rules and how to reduce the amount you have to pay to Uncle Sam. Just call the office to make an appointment today.

(Source: smartasset.com/retirement/georgia-retirement-taxes)

Visit SSA.Gov
You can get a good estimate of your future Social Security benefits by looking at your most recent Social Security statement. To check it online, you’ll just need to create an account at www.ssa.gov. There’s a ton of valuable information here in addition to benefit estimates.

Social Security Fast Facts

Did you know …

  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law on August 14, 1935.
  • Ida M. Fuller, a retired legal secretary in Vermont, was the first person to collect Social Security; her check, paid on January 1, 1940, was for $22.54.
  • As of December 31, 2018, about 176 million people were paying Social Security taxes, and about 63 million were receiving monthly Social Security benefits.
  • To qualify for Social Security retirement benefits, you must be at least 62 and have paid into the system for 10+ years.
  • The longer you wait to collect Social Security (up to age 70), the higher the monthly benefit you’ll receive.
  • Your spouse and/or ex-spouse may be eligible for benefits based on your earnings record.
  • Social Security may provide benefits to your spouse and younger children in the event of your death.
  • If you can’t work due to a long-term disability, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.