If you’re a crypto investor or user, you may have noticed something new on your tax return this year. And you may soon notice a new form reporting requirements for digital assets.
Check the box
Beginning with tax year 2022, taxpayers must check a box on their tax returns indicating whether they received digital assets as a reward, award or payment for property or services or whether they disposed of any digital assets that were held as capital assets through sales, exchanges or transfers. If the “yes” box is checked, taxpayers must report all income related to the digital asset transactions.
New information form
Under the broker information reporting rules, brokers must report transactions in securities to both the IRS and investors. Transactions are reported on Form 1099-B. Legislation enacted in 2021 extended these reporting rules to cryptocurrency exchanges, custodians and platforms and to digital assets such as cryptocurrency. The new rules were scheduled to be effective for returns required to be filed, and statements required to be furnished, for post-2022 transactions. But the IRS has postponed the effective date until it issues new final regulations that provide instructions.
In addition to extending this reporting requirement to cryptocurrency, the legislation also extended existing cash reporting rules (for cash payments of $10,000 or more) to cryptocurrency. That means businesses that accept crypto payments of $10,000 or more must report them to the IRS on Form 8300. These rules apply to transactions that take place in 2023 and later years.
Existing rules and new reporting for digital assets
Currently, if you have a stock account, whenever you sell securities, you receive a Form 1099-B. On the form, your broker reports details of transactions, such as sale proceeds, relevant dates, your tax basis for the sale and the gain or loss.
The 2021 legislation expanded the definition of “brokers” who must furnish Forms 1099-B to include businesses that regularly provide services accomplishing transfers of digital assets on behalf of another person. Thus, once the IRS issues final regulations, any platform where you buy and sell cryptocurrency will have to report digital asset transactions to you and the IRS.
These exchanges/platforms will have to gather information from customers, so they can issue Forms 1099-B. Specifically, they will have to get customers’ names, addresses and phone numbers, the gross proceeds from sales, capital gains or losses and whether they were short-term or long-term.
Note: It’s not yet known whether exchanges/platforms will have to file Form 1099-B (modified to include digital assets) or a new IRS form.
Cash transaction reporting
Under a set of rules separate from the broker reporting rules, when a business receives $10,000 or more in cash, it must report the transaction to the IRS, including the identity of the person from whom the cash was received. This is done on Form 8300. For this reporting requirement, businesses will have to treat digital assets like cash.
Form 8300 requires reporting information including address, occupation and taxpayer identification number. The current rules that apply to cash usually apply to in-person payments in actual cash. It may be difficult for businesses seeking to comply with the reporting rules to collect the information needed for crypto transactions.
What you should know
If you use a cryptocurrency exchange or platform, and it hasn’t already collected a Form W-9 from you, expect it to do so. In addition to collecting information from customers, these businesses will need to begin tracking the holding periods and the buy-and-sell prices of digital assets in customers’ accounts. Contact us for more information in your situation.
If your small business has a retirement plan, and even if it doesn’t, you may see changes and benefits from a new law. The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement 2.0 Act (SECURE 2.0) was recently signed into law. Provisions in the law will kick in over several years. SECURE 2.0 is meant to build on the original SECURE Act, which was signed into law in 2019.
Here are some provisions that may affect your business. Retirement plan automatic enrollment. Under the new law, 401(k) plans will be required to automatically enroll employees when they become eligible, beginning with plan years after December 31, 2024. Employees will be permitted to opt out. The initial automatic enrollment amount would be at least 3% but not more than 10%. Then, the amount would be increased by 1% each year thereafter until it reaches at least 10%, but not more than 15%. All current 401(k) plans are grandfathered. Certain small businesses would be exempt.
Part-time worker coverage. The first SECURE Act requires employers to allow long-term, part-time workers to participate in their 401(k) plans with a dual eligibility requirement (one year of service and at least 1,000 hours worked or three consecutive years of service with at least 500 hours worked). The new law will reduce the three-year rule to two years, beginning after December 31, 2024. This provision would also extend the long-term part-time coverage rules to 403(b) plans that are subject to ERISA.
Employees with student loan debt. The new law will allow an employer to make matching contributions to 401(k) and certain other retirement plans with respect to “qualified student loan payments.” This means that employees who can’t afford to save money for retirement because they’re repaying student loan debt can still receive matching contributions from their employers into retirement plans. This will take effect beginning after December 31, 2023.
“Starter” 401(k) plans. The new law will allow an employer that doesn’t sponsor a retirement plan to offer a starter 401(k) plan (or safe harbor 403(b) plan) that would require all employees to be default enrolled in the plan at a 3% to 15% of compensation deferral rate. The limit on annual deferrals would be the same as the IRA contribution limit with an additional $1,000 in catch-up contributions beginning at age 50. This provision takes effect beginning after December 31, 2023.
Tax credit for small employer pension plan start-up costs. The new law increases and makes several changes to the small employer pension plan start-up cost credit to incentivize businesses to establish retirement plans. This took effect for plan years after December 31, 2022.
Higher catch-up contributions for some participants. Currently, participants in certain retirement plans can make additional catch-up contributions if they’re age 50 or older. The catch-up contribution limit for 401(k) plans is $7,500 for 2023. SECURE 2.0 will increase the 401(k) catch-up contribution limit to the greater of $10,000 or 150% of the regular catch-up amount for individuals ages 60 through 63. The increased amounts will be indexed for inflation after December 31, 2025. This provision will take effect for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2024. (There will also be increased catch-up amounts for SIMPLE plans.)
Retirement savings for military spouses. SECURE 2.0 creates a new tax credit for eligible small employers for each military spouse that begins participating in their eligible defined contribution plan. This became effective in 2023.
These are only some of the provisions in SECURE 2.0. Contact us if you have any questions about your situation. © 2023
On December 23, 2022, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. The sprawling year-end spending “omnibus” package includes two important new laws that could affect your financial planning: the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) 2.0 Act (also known as SECURE 2.0) and the Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act.
Bolstering retirement savings
The original SECURE Act, enacted in 2019, was a significant bipartisan law related to retirement savings. In the spring of 2022, with an eye toward building on the reforms in that law, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Securing a Strong Retirement Act. Despite strong bipartisan support, the bill stalled. Then, the U.S. Senate introduced its own retirement legislation, dubbed the Enhancing American Retirement Now Act.
SECURE 2.0 incorporates provisions from both bills and addresses a wide array of areas that make major changes to retirement planning, including:
Required minimum distributions (RMDs). The first SECURE Act generally raised the age at which you must begin to take RMDs — and pay taxes on them — from traditional IRAs and other qualified plans, from 70½ to 72. The new law increases the age to 73, starting January 1, 2023, and boosts it to 75 on January 1, 2033. This change allows people to delay taking RMDs and paying tax on them.
The law also relaxes the penalties for failing to take full RMDs, reducing the 50% excise (or penalty) tax to 25%. If the failure is corrected in a “timely” manner, the penalty would drop to 10%.
Catch-up contributions. Beginning January 1, 2025, individuals who are ages 60 to 63 can make catch-up contributions to 401(k) plans and SIMPLE plans up to the greater of $10,000 or 50% more than the regular catch-up amount. The increased amounts are indexed for inflation after 2025. (The annual dollar limit on catch-up contributions is $7,500 for 2023, up from $6,500 for 2022.)
The law also changes the taxation of catch-up contributions, though, which could reduce the upfront tax savings for those who max out their annual contributions. Catch-up contributions will be treated as post-tax Roth contributions. Previously, you could choose whether to make catch-up contributions on a pre- or post-tax basis. An exception is provided for employees whose compensation is $145,000 or less (indexed for inflation).
Qualified charitable distributions (QCDs). QCDs have gained in popularity as a way to satisfy RMD requirements while also fulfilling philanthropic goals. With a QCD, you can distribute up to $100,000 per year directly to a 501(c)(3) charity after age 70½. You can’t claim a charitable deduction, but the distribution is removed from taxable income.
Under the new law, you also can make a one-time QCD transfer of up to $50,000 through a charitable gift annuity or charitable remainder trust (as opposed to directly to the charity). The law also indexes for inflation the annual IRA charitable distribution limit of $100,000.
Automatic enrollment. Beginning in 2025, new 401(k) plans must automatically enroll participants when they become eligible. However, the employees may opt out. The initial contribution amount is at least 3% but no more than 10%. Then, the amount is automatically increased every year until it reaches at least 10% but no more than 15%. Existing plans are exempt, and the law provides exceptions for small and new businesses.
Annuities. Annuities can help reduce retirees’ risk of depleting their savings before they die. But RMD regulations have interfered with the availability of annuities in qualified plans and IRAs. For example, the regulations prohibit annuities with guaranteed annual increases of only 1% to 2%, return of premium death benefits and period-certain guarantees. SECURE 2.0 removes these RMD barriers to annuities.
The law also makes qualified longevity annuity contracts (QLACs) — inexpensive deferred annuities that don’t begin payment until the end of the individual’s life expectancy — more appealing. Among other things, it repeals the 25% cap on the maximum annuity purchase and allows up to $200,000 (indexed for inflation) from an account balance to be used to purchase a QLAC.
Matching contributions on student loan payments. The law also aims to help employees who miss out on their employers’ matching retirement contributions because their student loan obligations prevent them from making retirement contributions. It allows them to receive matching contributions to retirement plans based on their qualified student loan repayments. Employers can make matching contributions to 401(k) plans or SIMPLE IRAs. These provisions are effective for contributions made for plan years beginning January 1, 2024.
Part-time employee eligibility. SECURE 2.0 lowers the hurdles for long-term, part-time employees to participate in 401(k) plans. They’ll still need to work at least 500 hours before becoming eligible but they’ll have to work for only two consecutive years, rather than the three years required by the first SECURE Act. The provision takes effect for plan years beginning January 1, 2025.
Small business tax credits. To incentivize small businesses to establish retirement plans, SECURE 2.0 creates or enhances some tax credits. For example, it increases the startup credit from 50% to 100% of administrative costs for employers with up to 50 employees. An additional credit is available for some non-defined benefit plans, based on a percentage of the amount the employer contributes, up to $1,000 per employee.
Tax-free rollovers from 529 plans to Roth IRAs. The new law permits a beneficiary of a 529 college savings account to make direct rollovers from a 529 account in his or her name to a Roth IRA without tax or penalty. This provides an option for 529 accounts that have a balance remaining after the beneficiary’s education is complete. The 529 account must have been open for more than 15 years and other rules apply. The provision is effective for distributions beginning in 2024.
Cracking down on certain tax shelters
The retirement provisions in the omnibus law are partially offset by the law addressing conservation easements. Current law generally allows taxpayers to claim a charitable deduction for qualified donations of real property to charity. According to the IRS, though, promoters have twisted the relevant tax provision to develop abusive “syndicated” conservation easements that use inflated appraisals and partnership arrangements to reap “grossly inflated” deductions.
Going forward, the Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act disallows charitable deductions for qualified conservation contributions if the claimed deduction exceeds 2.5 times the sum of each partner’s relevant basis in the partnership making the contribution. An exception is granted if the contribution meets a three-year holding period test, substantially all of the partnership is owned by family members or the contribution relates to the preservation of a certified historic structure.
More to come
These are only some of the provisions in the new law. The entire omnibus law is sure to generate additional questions and guidance. We’ll keep you apprised of the developments that could affect your financial health.
In today’s tough job market and economy, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) may help employers. Many business owners are hiring and should be aware that the WOTC is available to employers that hire workers from targeted groups who face significant barriers to employment. The credit is worth as much as $2,400 for each eligible employee ($4,800, $5,600 and $9,600 for certain veterans and $9,000 for “long-term family assistance recipients”). It’s generally limited to eligible employees who begin work for the employer before January 1, 2026.
The IRS recently issued some updated information on the pre-screening and certification processes. To satisfy a requirement to pre-screen a job applicant, a pre-screening notice must be completed by the job applicant and the employer on or before the day a job offer is made. This is done by filing Form 8850, Pre-Screening Notice and Certification Request for the Work Opportunity Credit.
Which new hires qualify?
An employer is eligible for the credit only for qualified wages paid to members of a targeted group. These groups are:
Other rules and requirements
There are a number of requirements to qualify for the credit. For example, there’s a minimum requirement that each employee must have completed at least 120 hours of service for the employer. Also, the credit isn’t available for certain employees who are related to or who previously worked for the employer.
There are different rules and credit amounts for certain employees. The maximum credit available for the first-year wages is $2,400 for each employee, $4,000 for long-term family assistance recipients, and $4,800, $5,600 or $9,600 for certain veterans. Additionally, for long-term family assistance recipients, there’s a 50% credit for up to $10,000 of second-year wages, resulting in a total maximum credit of $9,000 over two years.
For summer youth employees, the wages must be paid for services performed during any 90-day period between May 1 and September 15. The maximum WOTC credit available for summer youth employees is $1,200 per employee.
A beneficial credit
In some cases, employers may elect not to claim the WOTC. And in limited circumstances, the rules may prohibit the credit or require an allocation of it. However, for most employers hiring from targeted groups, the credit can be beneficial. Contact us with questions or for more information about your situation.
Does your business need real estate to conduct operations? Or does it otherwise hold property and put the title in the name of the business? You may want to rethink this approach. Any short-term benefits may be outweighed by the tax, liability and estate planning advantages of separating real estate ownership from the business.
Businesses that are formed as C corporations treat real estate assets as they do equipment, inventory and other business assets. Any expenses related to owning the assets appear as ordinary expenses on their income statements and are generally tax deductible in the year they’re incurred.
However, when the business sells the real estate, the profits are taxed twice — at the corporate level and at the owner’s individual level when a distribution is made. Double taxation is avoidable, though. If ownership of the real estate were transferred to a pass-through entity instead, the profit upon sale would be taxed only at the individual level.
Separating your business ownership from its real estate also provides an effective way to protect it from creditors and other claimants. For example, if your business is sued and found liable, a plaintiff may go after all of its assets, including real estate held in its name. But plaintiffs can’t touch property owned by another entity.
The strategy also can pay off if your business is forced to file for bankruptcy. Creditors generally can’t recover real estate owned separately unless it’s been pledged as collateral for credit taken out by the business.
Estate planning options
Separating real estate from a business may give you some estate planning options, too. For example, if the company is a family business but some members of the next generation aren’t interested in actively participating, separating property gives you an extra asset to distribute. You could bequest the business to one heir and the real estate to another family member who doesn’t work in the business.
Handling the transaction
The business simply transfers ownership of the real estate and the transferee leases it back to the company. Who should own the real estate? One option: The business owner could purchase the real estate from the business and hold title in his or her name. One concern is that it’s not only the property that’ll transfer to the owner, but also any liabilities related to it.
Moreover, any liability related to the property itself could inadvertently put the business at risk. If, for example, a client suffers an injury on the property and a lawsuit ensues, the property owner's other assets (including the interest in the business) could be in jeopardy.
An alternative is to transfer the property to a separate legal entity formed to hold the title, typically a limited liability company (LLC) or limited liability partnership (LLP). With a pass-through structure, any expenses related to the real estate will flow through to your individual tax return and offset the rental income.
An LLC is more commonly used to transfer real estate. It’s simple to set up and requires only one member. LLPs require at least two partners and aren’t permitted in every state. Some states restrict them to certain types of businesses and impose other restrictions.
Separating the ownership of a business’s real estate isn’t always advisable. If it’s worthwhile, the right approach will depend on your individual circumstances. Contact us to help determine the best approach to minimize your transfer costs and capital gains taxes while maximizing other potential benefits.
If your business doesn’t already have a retirement plan, now might be a good time to take the plunge. Current retirement plan rules allow for significant tax-deductible contributions.
For example, if you’re self-employed and set up a SEP-IRA, you can contribute up to 20% of your self-employment earnings, with a maximum contribution of $61,000 for 2022. If you’re employed by your own corporation, up to 25% of your salary can be contributed to your account, with a maximum contribution of $61,000. If you’re in the 32% federal income tax bracket, making a maximum contribution could cut what you owe Uncle Sam for 2022 by a whopping $19,520 (32% times $61,000).
Other small business retirement plan options include:
Depending on your circumstances, these other types of plans may allow bigger deductible contributions.
Deadlines to establish and contribute
Thanks to a change made by the 2019 SECURE Act, tax-favored qualified employee retirement plans, except for SIMPLE-IRA plans, can now be adopted by the due date (including any extension) of the employer’s federal income tax return for the adoption year. The plan can then receive deductible employer contributions that are made by the due date (including any extension), and the employer can deduct those contributions on the return for the adoption year.
Important: The SECURE Act provision didn’t change the deadline to establish a SIMPLE-IRA plan. It remains October 1 of the year for which the plan is to take effect. Also, the SECURE Act change doesn’t override rules that require certain plan provisions to be in effect during the plan year, such as the provisions that cover employee elective deferral contributions (salary-reduction contributions) under a 401(k) plan. The plan must be in existence before such employee elective deferral contributions can be made.
For example, the deadline for the 2021 tax year for setting up a SEP-IRA for a sole proprietorship business that uses the calendar year for tax purposes is October 17, 2022, if you extend your 2021 tax return. The deadline for making the contribution for the 2021 tax year is also October 17, 2022. However, to make a SIMPLE-IRA contribution for the 2021 tax year, you must have set up the plan by October 1, 2021. So, it’s too late to set up a plan for last year.
While you can delay until next year establishing a tax-favored retirement plan for this year (except for a SIMPLE-IRA plan), why wait? Get it done this year as part of your tax planning and start saving for retirement. We can provide more information on small business retirement plan alternatives. Be aware that, if your business has employees, you may have to make contributions for them, too.
If you own your own company and travel for business, you may wonder whether you can deduct the costs of having your spouse accompany you on trips.
The rules for deducting a spouse’s travel costs are very restrictive. First of all, to qualify, your spouse must be your employee. This means you can’t deduct the travel costs of a spouse, even if his or her presence has a bona fide business purpose, unless the spouse is a bona fide employee of your business. This requirement prevents tax deductibility in most cases.
If your spouse is your employee, then you can deduct his or her travel costs if his or her presence on the trip serves a bona fide business purpose. Merely having your spouse perform some incidental business service, such as typing up notes from a meeting, isn’t enough to establish a business purpose. In general, it isn’t sufficient for his or her presence to be “helpful” to your business pursuits — it must be necessary.
In most cases, a spouse’s participation in social functions, for example as a host or hostess, isn’t enough to establish a business purpose. That is, if his or her purpose is to establish general goodwill for customers or associates, this is usually insufficient. Further, if there’s a vacation element to the trip (for example, if your spouse spends time sightseeing), it will be more difficult to establish a business purpose for his or her presence on the trip. On the other hand, a bona fide business purpose exists if your spouse’s presence is necessary to care for a serious medical condition that you have.
If your spouse’s travel satisfies these tests, the normal deductions for business travel away from home can be claimed. These include the costs of transportation, meals, lodging, and incidental costs such as dry cleaning, phone calls, etc.
A non-employee spouse
Even if your spouse’s travel doesn’t satisfy the requirements, however, you may still be able to deduct a substantial portion of the trip’s costs. This is because the rules don’t require you to allocate 50% of your travel costs to your spouse. You need only allocate any additional costs you incur for him or her. For example, in many hotels the cost of a single room isn’t that much lower than the cost of a double. If a single would cost you $150 a night and a double would cost you and your spouse $200, the disallowed portion of the cost allocable to your spouse would only be $50. In other words, you can write off the cost of what you would have paid traveling alone. To prove your deduction, ask the hotel for a room rate schedule showing single rates for the days you’re staying.
And if you drive your own car or rent one, the whole cost will be fully deductible even if your spouse is along. Of course, if public transportation is used, and for meals, any separate costs incurred by your spouse wouldn’t be deductible.
Contact us if you have questions about this or other tax-related topics.
If you’re married, you may wonder whether you should file joint or separate tax returns. The answer depends on your individual tax situation.
In general, it depends on which filing status results in the lowest tax. But keep in mind that, if you and your spouse file a joint return, each of you is “jointly and severally” liable for the tax on your combined income. And you’re both equally liable for any additional tax the IRS assesses, plus interest and most penalties. That means that the IRS can come after either of you to collect the full amount.
Although there are “innocent spouse” provisions in the law that may offer relief, they have limitations. Therefore, even if a joint return results in less tax, you may want to file separately if you want to only be responsible for your own tax.
In most cases, filing jointly offers the most tax savings, especially when the spouses have different income levels. Combining two incomes can bring some of it out of a higher tax bracket. For example, if one spouse has $75,000 of taxable income and the other has just $15,000, filing jointly instead of separately can save $2,499 on their 2021 taxes, when they file this year.
Filing separately doesn’t mean you go back to using the “single” rates that applied before you were married. Instead, each spouse must use “married filing separately” rates. They’re less favorable than the single rates.
However, there are cases when people save tax by filing separately. For example:
One spouse has significant medical expenses. Medical expenses are deductible only to the extent they exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI). If a medical expense deduction is claimed on a spouse’s separate return, that spouse’s lower separate AGI, as compared to the higher joint AGI, can result in larger total deductions.
Some tax breaks are only available on a joint return. The child and dependent care credit, adoption expense credit, American Opportunity tax credit and Lifetime Learning credit are only available to married couples on joint returns. And you can’t take the credit for the elderly or the disabled if you file separately unless you and your spouse lived apart for the entire year. You also may not be able to deduct IRA contributions if you or your spouse were covered by an employer retirement plan and you file separate returns. And you can’t exclude adoption assistance payments or interest income from series EE or Series I savings bonds used for higher education expenses.
Social Security benefits may be taxed more. Benefits are tax-free if your “provisional income” (AGI with certain modifications plus half of your Social Security benefits) doesn’t exceed a “base amount.” The base amount is $32,000 on a joint return, but zero on separate returns (or $25,000 if the spouses didn’t live together for the whole year).
The decision you make on filing your federal tax return may affect your state or local income tax bill, so the total tax impact should be compared. There’s often no simple answer to whether a couple should file separate returns. A number of factors must be examined. We can look at your tax bill jointly and separately. Contact us to prepare your return or if you have any questions.
A business may be able to claim a federal income tax deduction for a theft loss. But does embezzlement count as theft? In most cases it does but you’ll have to substantiate the loss. A recent U.S. Tax Court decision illustrates how that’s sometimes difficult to do.
Basic rules for theft losses
The tax code allows a deduction for losses sustained during the taxable year and not compensated by insurance or other means. The term “theft” is broadly defined to include larceny, embezzlement and robbery. In general, a loss is regarded as arising from theft only if there’s a criminal element to the appropriation of a taxpayer’s property.
In order to claim a theft loss deduction, a taxpayer must prove:
Facts of the recent court case
Years ago, the taxpayer cofounded an S corporation with another shareholder. At the time of the alleged embezzlement, the other original shareholder was no longer a shareholder, and she wasn’t supposed to be compensated by the business. However, according to court records, she continued to manage the S corporation’s books and records.
The taxpayer suffered an illness that prevented him from working for most of the year in question. During this time, the former shareholder paid herself $166,494. Later, the taxpayer filed a civil suit in a California court alleging that the woman had misappropriated funds from the business.
On an amended tax return, the corporation reported a $166,494 theft loss due to the embezzlement. The IRS denied the deduction. After looking at the embezzlement definition under California state law, the Tax Court agreed with the IRS.
The Tax Court stated that the taxpayer didn’t offer evidence that the former shareholder “acted with the intent to defraud,” and the taxpayer didn’t show that the corporation “experienced a theft meeting the elements of embezzlement under California law.”
The IRS and the court also denied the taxpayer’s alternate argument that the corporation should be allowed to claim a compensation deduction for the amount of money the former shareholder paid herself. The court stated that the taxpayer didn’t provide evidence that the woman was entitled to be paid compensation from the corporation and therefore, the corporation wasn’t entitled to a compensation deduction. (TC Memo 2021-66)
How to proceed if you’re victimized
If your business is victimized by theft, embezzlement or internal fraud, you may be able to claim a tax deduction for the loss. Keep in mind that a deductible loss can only be claimed for the year in which the loss is discovered, and that you must meet other tax-law requirements. Keep records to substantiate the claimed theft loss, including when you discovered the loss. If you receive an insurance payment or other reimbursement for the loss, that amount must be subtracted when computing the deductible loss for tax purposes. Contact us with any questions you may have about theft and casualty loss deductions.
In recent weeks, some Americans have been victimized by hurricanes, severe storms, flooding, wildfires and other disasters. No matter where you live, unexpected disasters may cause damage to your home or personal property. Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), eligible casualty loss victims could claim a deduction on their tax returns. But there are now restrictions that make these deductions harder to take.
What’s considered a casualty for tax purposes? It’s a sudden, unexpected or unusual event, such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake, fire, act of vandalism or a terrorist attack.
More difficult to qualify
For losses incurred through 2025, the TCJA generally eliminates deductions for personal casualty losses, except for losses due to federally declared disasters. For example, during the summer of 2021, there have been presidential declarations of major disasters in parts of Tennessee, New York state, Florida and California after severe storms, flooding and wildfires. So victims in affected areas would be eligible for casualty loss deductions.
Note: There’s an exception to the general rule of allowing casualty loss deductions only in federally declared disaster areas. If you have personal casualty gains because your insurance proceeds exceed the tax basis of the damaged or destroyed property, you can deduct personal casualty losses that aren’t due to a federally declared disaster up to the amount of your personal casualty gains.
Special election to claim a refund
If your casualty loss is due to a federally declared disaster, a special election allows you to deduct the loss on your tax return for the preceding year and claim a refund. If you’ve already filed your return for the preceding year, you can file an amended return to make the election and claim the deduction in the earlier year. This can potentially help you get extra cash when you need it.
This election must be made by no later than six months after the due date (without considering extensions) for filing your tax return for the year in which the disaster occurs. However, the election itself must be made on an original or amended return for the preceding year.
How to calculate the deduction
You must take the following three steps to calculate the casualty loss deduction for personal-use property in an area declared a federal disaster:
Important: Another factor that now makes it harder to claim a casualty loss than it used to be years ago is that you must itemize deductions to claim one. Through 2025, fewer people will itemize, because the TCJA significantly increased the standard deduction amounts. For 2021, they’re $12,550 for single filers, $18,800 for heads of households, and $25,100 for married joint-filing couples.
So even if you qualify for a casualty deduction, you might not get any tax benefit, because you don’t have enough itemized deductions.
These are the rules for personal property. Keep in mind that the rules for business or income-producing property are different. (It’s easier to get a deduction for business property casualty losses.) If you are a victim of a disaster, we can help you understand the complex rules.
October 15 is the deadline for individual taxpayers who extended their 2019 tax returns. (The original April 15 filing deadline was extended this year to July 15 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) If you’re finally done filing last year’s return, you might wonder: Which tax records can you toss once you’re done? Now is a good time to go through old tax records and see what you can discard.
The general rules
At minimum, you should keep tax records for as long as the IRS has the ability to audit your tax return or assess additional taxes, which generally is three years after you file your return. This means you potentially can get rid of most records related to tax returns for 2016 and earlier years.
However, the statute of limitations extends to six years for taxpayers who understate their adjusted gross income (AGI) by more than 25%. What constitutes an understatement may go beyond simply not reporting items of income. So a general rule of thumb is to save tax records for six years from filing, just to be safe.
Keep some records longer
You need to hang on to some tax-related records beyond the statute of limitations. For example:
*Keep the tax returns themselves indefinitely, so you can prove to the IRS that you actually filed a legitimate return. (There’s no statute of limitations for an audit if you didn’t file a return or if you filed a fraudulent one.)
*Retain W-2 forms until you begin receiving Social Security benefits. Questions might arise regarding your work record or earnings for a particular year, and your W-2 helps provide the documentation needed.
*Keep records related to real estate or investments for as long as you own the assets, plus at least three years after you sell them and report the sales on your tax return (or six years if you want extra protection).
*Keep records associated with retirement accounts until you’ve depleted the accounts and reported the last withdrawal on your tax return, plus three (or six) years.
Other reasons to retain records
Keep in mind that these are the federal tax record retention guidelines. Your state and local tax record requirements may differ. In addition, lenders, co-op boards and other private parties may require you to produce copies of your tax returns as a condition to lending money, approving a purchase or otherwise doing business with you
. Contact us if you have questions or concerns about recordkeeping. © 2020