October Extended Due Date Just Around the Corner

Article Highlights:

  • October 15 is the extended due date for filing federal individual tax returns for 2018.
  • Late-filing penalty
  • Interest on tax due.
  • Other October 15 deadlines.

If you could not complete your 2018 tax return by the normal April filing due date and are now on extension, that extension expires on October 15, 2019. Failure to file before the extension period runs out can subject you to late-filing penalties.

There are no additional extensions (except in designated disaster areas), so if you still do not or will not have all of the information needed to complete your return by the extended due date, please call this office so that we can explore your options for meeting your October 15 filing deadline.

If you are waiting for a K-1 from a partnership, S-corporation, or fiduciary return, the extended deadline for those returns is September 16 (September 30 for fiduciary returns). So, you should probably make inquiries if you have not received that information yet.

Late-filed individual federal returns are subject to a penalty of 5% of the tax due for each month, or part of a month, for which a return is not filed, up to a maximum of 25% of the tax due. If you are required to file a state return and do not do so, the state will also charge a late-file penalty. The filing extension deadline for individual returns is also October 15 for most states.

In addition, interest continues to accrue on any balance due, currently at the rate of 5% per year. This rate is subject to adjustment quarterly.

If this office is waiting for some missing information to complete your return, we will need that information at least a week before the October 15 due date. Please call this office immediately if you anticipate complications related to providing the needed information, so that a course of action may be determined to avoid the potential penalties.

Additional October 15, 2019 Deadlines – In addition to being the final deadline to timely file 2018 individual returns on extension, October 15 is also the deadline for the following actions:

  • FBAR Filings – Taxpayers with foreign financial accounts, the aggregate value of which exceeded $10,000 at any time during 2018, must file electronically with the Treasury Department a Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). The original due date for the 2018 report was April 15, but individuals have been granted an automatic extension to file until October 15, 2019.
  • SEP-IRAs – October 15, 2019 is the deadline for a self-employed individual to set up and contribute to a SEP-IRA for 2018. The deadline for contributions to traditional and Roth IRAs for 2018 was April 15, 2019.
  • Special Note – Disaster Victims – If you reside in a Presidentially declared disaster area, the IRS provides additional time to file various returns and make payments.

Please call this office for extended due dates of other types of filings and payments and for extended filing dates in disaster areas.

Who Claims the Children You or Your Ex-Spouse?

Article Highlights:

  • Custodial Parent
  • Dependency Release
  • Joint Custody
  • Tiebreaker Rules
  • Child’s Exemption
  • Head of Household Filing Status
  • Tuition Credit
  • Child Care Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Earned Income Tax Credit

If you are a divorced or separated parent with children, a commonly encountered but often misunderstood issue is who claims the child or children for tax purposes. This is sometimes a hotly disputed issue between parents; however, tax law includes some very specific but complicated rules about who profits from the child-related tax benefits. At issue are a number of benefits, including the children’s dependency, child tax credit, child care credit, higher-education tuition credit, earned income tax credit, and, in some cases, even filing status.

This is actually one of the most complicated areas of tax law, and inexperienced tax preparers or taxpayers preparing their own returns can make serious mistakes, especially if the parents are not communicating well. If parents will cooperate with each other, they often can work out the best tax result overall, even though it may not be the best for them individually, and compensate for it in other ways.

Physical Custody (Custodial Parent) – If a family court awards physical custody of a child to one parent, tax law is very specific in awarding that child’s dependency to the parent with physical custody, regardless of the amount of child support provided by the other parent. However, the custodial parent may release that dependency to the non-custodial parent for tax purposes by completing the appropriate IRS form. The release can be granted on a yearly basis or for multiple years at one time. But once made, it is binding for the specified period.

CAUTION – The decision to relinquish dependency should not be taken lightly, as it impacts a number of tax benefits.

Joint Custody – On the other hand, if the family court awards joint physical custody, only one of the parents may claim the child as a dependent for tax purposes. If the parents cannot agree between themselves as to who will claim the child and the child is actually claimed by both, the IRS tiebreaker rules will apply. Per the tiebreaker rules, the child is treated as a dependent of the parent with whom the child resided for the greater number of nights during the tax year; or if the child resides with both parents for the same amount of time during the tax year, the parent with the higher adjusted gross income will claim the child as a dependent. Parents in the process of divorcing should be aware that for tax purposes, the IRS’s rules as to who can claim a child’s dependency takes precedence over what a divorce decree says or what a judge may have ruled. So, for example, if the family court awards full custody of a child to Parent A but says that Parent B can claim the child as a tax dependent, the IRS’s position is that the child is a tax dependent of Parent A unless Parent A releases the dependency to Parent B, as explained above.

Child’s Exemption Allowance –While there is no longer (through 2025) a monetary tax deduction (also referred to as an exemption allowance) for a dependent child, it still matters who claims the child as a dependent because certain tax credits are only available to the taxpayer claiming the child as a dependent.

Head of Household Filing Status – An unmarried parent can claim the more favorable head of household, rather than single, filing status if he or she is the custodial parent and pays more than half of the costs of maintaining, as his or her home, a household that is the child’s principal place of abode for more than half the year. This is true even when the child’s dependency is released to the non-custodial parent.

Tuition Credit – If the child qualifies for either the American Opportunity or the Lifetime Learning higher-education tax credit, the credit goes to whoever claims the child as a dependent. Credits are significant tax benefits because they reduce the tax amount dollar-for-dollar, while deductions reduce income to arrive at taxable income, which is then taxed according to the individual’s tax bracket. For instance, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) provides a tax credit of up to $2,500, of which 40% is refundable. However, both education credits phase out for higher-income taxpayers. For instance, the AOTC phases out between $80,000 and $90,000 for unmarried taxpayers and $160,000 and $180,000 for married taxpayers.

Child Care Credit – A nonrefundable tax credit is available to the custodial parent for child care while the parent is gainfully employed or seeking employment. To qualify for this credit, the child must be under the age of 13 and be a dependent of the parent. However, a special rule for divorced or separated parents provides that if the custodial parent releases the child’s exemption to the non-custodial parent, the custodial parent can still qualify to claim the child care credit, and it cannot be claimed by the noncustodial parent.

Child Tax Credit – A $2,000 credit is allowed for a child under the age of 17. That credit goes to the parent claiming the child as a dependent. However, this credit phases out for higher-income parents, beginning at $200,000 for unmarried parents and $400,000 for married parents filing jointly.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – Lower-income parents with earned income (wages or self-employment income) may qualify for the EITC. This credit is based on the number of children (under age 19 or a full-time student under age 24) the custodial parent has, up to a maximum of three children. Releasing the dependency of a child or of children to the noncustodial parent will not disqualify the custodial parent from using the children to qualify for the EITC. In fact, the noncustodial parent is prohibited from claiming the EITC based on the child or children whose dependency has been released by the custodial parent.

As you can see, some complex rules apply to the tax benefits provided by the children of divorced parents. It is highly recommended that you consult this office to prepare your return. If you are the custodial parent, you should also consult with this office before deciding whether to release a child as a tax dependent.

Tax Issues That Arise When Converting a Home into a Rental

Article Highlights:

  • Reason for Conversion
  • Basis
  • Depreciation
  • Cash Flow versus Tax Profit or Loss
  • Passive Losses
  • Home Gain Exclusion

There are many reasons to convert a home into a rental, such as to ensure that a prior home produces income and appreciation after the owner buys a new home; to maximize the tax benefits for an elderly person who can no longer live alone by delaying the sale of that person’s home; and to ensure that a home provides value when its owner takes a temporary job assignment in a different location. Some homeowners even mistakenly think that, when a home has declined in value, converting it into a rental can allow them to deduct that loss. Regardless of why an individual makes such a conversion, a number of tax issues come into play as a result of that decision.

Basis – The basis of the converted property is a good starting point for examining these conversion-related tax issues. The basis is the starting value that is used to calculate gains or losses for tax purposes. The basis is also used to determine the amount of depreciation that can be claimed. Generally, for depreciation purposes, a property’s depreciable basis on the date of the conversion is the lower of its adjusted basis (the original cost, plus the value of any improvements, minus the deducted casualty losses) or its fair market value (FMV).

Example #1: A home’s original purchase cost was $250,000; the homeowner later added a room at a cost of $50,000. At the time of the conversion, there are no casualty losses, so the home’s adjusted basis is $300,000 ($250,000 + $50,000). By comparison, the property’s FMV is $350,000, so the depreciable basis for the rental is the lower of the two amounts: $300,000.

 

Example #2: If, on the date of the conversion, a home has the same adjusted basis as in Example #1, but its FMV is only $225,000, then the depreciable basis used for the rental is equal to $225,000, as that is the lower of the two amounts.

When a home’s FMV is less than its adjusted basis on the date of conversion, as in Example #2, the rental has dual bases:

(1) If the rental is subsequently sold for a loss, the basis for loss is the FMV on the date of the home’s conversion. Because losses from the sale of personal-use properties (such as homes) are not deductible, this rule prevents homeowners whose homes have declined in value from converting them into rentals in order to claim tax losses.

(2) If the rental home is subsequently sold for a profit, the basis for the gain is the property’s adjusted basis.

Depreciation – Depreciation is an allowance that both accounts for wear and tear and provides a systematic way for the owner to recover the initial investment in the property. This is necessary because tax law doesn’t allow homeowners to deduce the entire cost of a residential rental at one time. Despite this statutory allowance for the depreciation of residential rentals, real properties have historically appreciated rather than depreciated, so this allowance typically provides a significant tax advantage (i.e., a write-off). Here is how to determine the depreciation for a residential rental: First, reduce the basis by the value of the surrounding land (as land is not depreciable) to get the value of the improvements to the home; then, multiply that value by .03636 (the depreciation rate). Generally, the value of the land is based on a property-tax statement. For example, if a property-tax statement values an entire property at $240,000 and its land at $80,000, then 1/3 of the basis ($80,000 / $240,000) is allocated to land; the remaining 2/3 is allocated to improvements. Thus, if the basis is $300,000, then the depreciable improvements are valued at $200,000 (2/3 × $300,000), and the annual depreciation deduction is $7,272 (.03636 × $200,000).

Rental Cash Flow versus Taxable Profit or Loss – Cash flow is the net amount after subtracting expenses from rental income, and the taxable profit or loss is the rental income minus any allowable tax deductions. Of course, higher cash flow is always better, but it is particularly important to avoid having a rental with a negative cash flow. The following example compares cash flow to taxable income.

COMPARISON OF CASH FLOW AND TAXABLE INCOME
 Income/Expense Cash Flow ($) Taxable Income ($)
Rental Income 30,000 30,000
Mortgage Payment <23,000>
Mortgage Interest <20,700>
Real Property Tax <2,400> <2,400>
Insurance <1,800> <1,800>
Maintenance & Repairs <400> <400>
Gardening <800> <800>
Depreciation <7,272>
Total Expenses  <28,400> <33,372>
Cash Flow   1,600 
Taxable Income <3,372> 

The major difference between cash flow and taxable income is that cash flow includes the deduction for the entire mortgage payment (not just the interest) but does not include the deduction for depreciation. In the above example, the rental has $1,600 in positive cash flow for the year but also has a passive loss (tax write-off) of $3,372.

Passive Losses – Losses from residential rental real estate are classified as passive and can only offset passive income; deductions from passive losses are also limited to $25,000 per year for most taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) of $100,000 or less. This limit is then ratably phased out for AGIs up to $150,000. Thus, taxpayers’ ability to benefit from a tax write-off on a rental is dependent upon their AGIs. The good news is that the passive losses in excess of this limit carry over to future years and can be used to offset other passive income in those years; in addition, any unused carryforward amount and any passive losses in the sale year are deductible in full once the rental is sold.

Home Gain Exclusion – IRC Section 121 allows homeowners to exclude up to $250,000 of gains from a home sale if they owned and used that home (as their primary residence) for at least 2 of the 5 years prior to the sale date. The amount that can be excluded jumps to $500,000 for married couples who are filing jointly – provided that both have used the property as a primary residence for 2 out of the prior 5 years and at least one has owned the property for 2 out of the prior 5 years. This is a very important consideration because, once a home is converted into a rental, the homeowner(s) will lose the ability to exclude gains after 3 years (because at that point, it is no longer possible to meet the 2-out-of-5-years qualifications).

Even when a homeowner sells a rental property after its conversion but before the exclusion expires, any depreciation that was claimed during the rental period must be recaptured as taxable income.

As shown above, there are many important tax issues related to converting a home into a rental, even aside from the problems related to acting as a landlord. Please call this office if you need assistance with these tax issues or would like help deciding whether to convert a home into a rental.

Make a Tax-deductible Donation for Hurricane Disaster Relief

With Hurricane Dorian set to make landfall as a devastating storm on the east coast, the Dream Center response team is set to deploy at a moment’s notice.
The Dream Center has been responding to disasters all across the United States and around the world for over 10 years. Bringing aid to Texas, Florida, California and the East Coast with rescues, shelter, food, clothing, and restoration.

Dana and I are so blessed to be part of the efforts the Dream Center has established throughout the years and we’re excited to introduce the new Mobile Response Unit. This mobile response unit is ready for immediate deployment. In the field, this truck turns into a multi-purpose operations center allowing the team to assist Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue Teams, Mobile Feeding Programs, and Medical Teams.

We invite you to partner with us and make a tax-deductible donation to the Dream Center so that they can to continue the efforts of disaster relief response throughout the country. The truck is currently positioned in Florida and ready to move into Georgia and the Carolina’s to help those in need.

Your support is much appreciated! To donate click on the following link: https://www.dreamcenter.org/

Please contact [email protected] for more information

2019 Business Due Dates

September 16 – S Corporations

File a 2018 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120S) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you requested an automatic 6-month extension. Provide each shareholder with a copy of K-1 (Form 1120S) or a substitute Schedule K-1.

September 16 – Corporations 

Deposit the third installment of estimated income tax for 2019 for calendar year

September 16 –  Social Security, Medicare and withheld income tax

If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.

September 16 – Nonpayroll Withholding/

If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.

September 16 – Partnerships

File a 2018 calendar year return (Form 1065). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 5-month extension. Provide each partner with a copy of K-1 (Form 1065) or a substitute Schedule K-1.

September 30 – Fiduciaries of Estates and Trusts

File a 2018 calendar year return (Form 1041). This due date applies only if you were given an extension of 5 1/2 months. If applicable, provide each beneficiary with a copy of K-1 (Form 1041) or a substitute Schedule K-1.

Scammers are getting more creative: watch for these new phone and email rip-offs

We’re not out to steal their money — just their time. When fraudsters call to say we’re about to be arrested for tax debt, our Social Security number has been “suspended,” or a loved one is in trouble, we play along.

This gives us valuable insight into how the scams operate, while wasting the time these jerks could spend victimizing more vulnerable people.

We have our work cut out for us. Government-imposter frauds have scammed people out of at least $450 million since 2014, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Interestingly, people ages 20 to 59 are more likely to report being defrauded this way than those 60 and over, but older people tend to lose more money. The median individual reported loss was $960, but it was $2,700 for people 80 and older, the FTC said in a July report.

You don’t have to engage with the bad guys to help thwart them. Answering the phone when scam artists call can put you on a “sucker list” that will prompt more calls.

But you can sign up for free “watchdog alerts” from AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, report scam attempts to the FTC and warn loved ones about the latest schemes, such as these three.

Government impostors

Fraudsters are nothing if not flexible. As media coverage of IRS-imposter calls increased last year, scammers switched to impersonating Social Security investigators. The crooks often use software to spoof caller ID services into showing phone numbers for the Social Security Administration or its fraud hotline.

Doug Shadel, AARP’s lead researcher on consumer fraud, recently pretended to take the bait. He returned a robocall from a group of these impersonators and was told the FBI was about to arrest him for opening 25 fraudulent bank accounts. To help the “investigators,” Shadel was advised to move all the money in his legitimate bank accounts to prepaid cards issued by “government-certified” stores such as Apple, Target, CVS or Walgreens. Then, Shadel was supposed to give the caller the cards’ serial numbers so the information could be added to his “file” — allowing the bilkers to steal the money.

Details of these scams might seem absurd, but con artists are exceptionally good at creating an atmosphere of fear and urgency so you’ll react emotionally, Shadel says.

“Once you’re in that state of fear, it swamps all reason,” he says.

Variations on this scheme include warnings that your Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity or that your help is needed to investigate a crime, such as immigration fraud. Know this: Social Security numbers can’t be suspended, investigators typically don’t enlist civilians, and government agencies don’t call out of the blue, says Kathy Stokes, director of AARP’s fraud prevention programs.

“Anyone calling from the government saying there’s a problem and you owe money is a scam,” she says.

Source: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/scammers-get-more-creative-watch-for-these-new-phone-and-email-rip-offs-2019-08-16?mod=personal-finance

Is It Time for a Payroll Tax Checkup?

Article Highlights:

  • Tax Reform
  • Underpayment Penalties
  • W-4 Modifications for 2020
  • Withholding Estimator
  • Penalty Abatement

Was your 2018 federal tax refund less than normal, or – worse yet – did you actually owe tax despite usually getting a refund? If so, this was primarily due to the last-minute passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act at the end of 2017. Because the law was only passed late in the year, the IRS did not have adequate time to adjust its W-4 form and the related computation tables to account for all of the changes in the law. Thus, even if your taxes were lower for the year, the lack of adjustments to the W-4 and payroll-withholding tables meant that you likely had lower withholding and higher take-home pay for 2018. The bottom line is that, because your withholding was lower than it should have been, either your refund was lower than normal or you actually ended up owing money instead of getting a refund.

This situation surprised many taxpayers, some of whom faced financial hardships because they depended on their federal refunds to cover other expenses, such as home property taxes.

Throughout 2018, the IRS issued nearly weekly warnings that the W-4 form and its corresponding withholding tables did not properly account for the tax reform’s changes, which caused the 2018 withholding amounts to be, in many cases, inappropriate. The problem was so widespread that Congress asked the IRS to waive underpayment penalties for taxpayers who ended up with a balance due but who had prepaid at least 80% of their 2018 tax liabilities. (Normally, taxpayers need to prepay 90% of their tax liabilities to avoid this penalty.)

Unfortunately, this problem will not be solved in time for the 2019 returns. Despite the problems in 2018, the IRS is waiting until 2020 to implement a new W-4 and to revise the accompanying computations so as to accommodate the tax reform’s changes. As a result, the problem of insufficient withholding will persist for many taxpayers in 2019.

We are now over halfway through 2019, so it may be a good time to double-check your withholding and projected tax amounts in order to prevent another unpleasant surprise at tax time. If you are conversant with tax terminology, you can use the IRS’s newly updated withholding estimator to do so. This online tool helps you to determine whether your employer is withholding the right amount of tax from your paychecks. However, be careful, as the results are only as good as the information that you put into the withholding estimator. You also have to estimate your income for the year from various sources.

Regarding the underpayment penalty, there are two points to consider. First, if you filed early in 2018 you and had tax due, then you may have paid an underpayment penalty because you hadn’t prepaid enough tax through either withholding or estimated tax payments. As mentioned earlier, the IRS allowed a special exception to the underpayment penalty for those who prepaid at least 80% of their 2018 tax liabilities. However, it didn’t establish the 80% penalty waiver until well into March, so those who filed early may have paid a penalty that they did not end up being liable for. To determine if you paid a penalty, look at line 23 of your 2018 Form 1040. If there is an amount on that line but you met the 80% minimum for the underpayment exception, you will be receiving a refund from the IRS. The IRS announced on August 14th that they will be automatically refunding the penalty to all qualifying taxpayers. There is no need to contact the IRS to apply for or request the waiver.

Second, don’t count on the IRS again lowering the underpayment penalty for this year; it has given fair warning to taxpayers, who have had many months to review and adjust their tax withholding amounts. If you need to increase your 2019 withholding, you should do so soon; the end of the year will be here before you know it, and spreading out the adjustment over a longer period results in the least amount of pain in your budget.

If you are self-employed or otherwise pay an estimated tax, if you have a complicated return, or even if you would just prefer to have a professional perform your tax checkup, please give us a call to make an appointment.

How to Write Off Worthless Stock

Article Highlights:

  • Tax Loss for a Security Sold or That Is Worthless
  • Proving Worthlessness
  • Selling a Worthless Stock by Year-end
  • Brokers May Accommodate Clients
  • Capital Loss Deduction

If you are like most investors, you occasionally will pick a loser that declines in value. Sometimes, a security can even become worthless when the issuing company goes out of business.

Gains and losses for securities, including stock, stock rights, bonds, debentures, and similar debt instruments, are not recognized for tax purposes until the securities are sold or become worthless. If the security is sold for a loss, the date of loss is easily determined since it is the sale date. However, for worthless stocks, it is not that easy to determine the date of loss, and taxpayers cannot just pick the year they want to for claiming the loss.

The IRS says a stock is worthless when a taxpayer can show that the security had value at the end of the year preceding the deduction year and that an identifiable event caused a loss in the deduction year. Just because an issuing company has filed bankruptcy does not necessarily mean its stock is worthless in that year. The company could be in reorganization, or the stock might not be worthless until a later year.

Whatever you do, don’t wait until it’s too late to take your loss. If the IRS challenges the loss and the security is found to have become worthless in an earlier year, the current year’s loss will be denied. Your only recourse at that point is to amend your prior year’s return to claim your loss, provided the three-year statute of limitation has not expired. If the loss is claimed too early, the IRS will also deny it (making you wait until a subsequent year when the stock actually becomes worthless).

Talk to your broker before the end of the year if you have holdings that have lost all, or nearly all, of their value and you want to be able to claim your investment in them as a loss on your 2019 return. Most brokerage firms will purchase worthless stock for a nominal amount (one cent) just to provide closure for their clients. This is probably the best solution for tax purposes. The sale will appear on Form 1099-B issued by the broker, and then you won’t have to debate with the IRS over when the stock became worthless.

As a reminder, losses from sales of capital assets such as stock are first used to offset any capital gains on the return for the year of the sale. If the amount of the gain isn’t enough to absorb all of the losses, up to $3,000 ($1,500 if married filing separate) can be used to offset other types of income. If there is still capital loss remaining, it is carried forward to the next tax year and, if necessary, to future years, until it is used up.

Tax Ramifications of Disposing of a Vehicle

Article Highlights:

  • Trading in a Vehicle
  • Selling a Vehicle
  • Gifting a Vehicle
  • Donating a Vehicle to Charity

If you are buying a new car, are you wondering what to do with the old one? You actually have a number of options, some of which have tax implications and some of which don’t. These options include trading the car in with the dealer, selling it to a third party, donating it to a charity, gifting it to someone, or even keeping it as a second car. Here are the details for each. Note: This article does not discuss in detail how to treat the disposition of a vehicle used for business.

Trade-In – Although you may be able to get more for your car by selling it yourself, trading the car in with the dealer eliminates the hassle of selling the vehicle and is the option selected by many people when they purchase a new car. Prior to the passage of the tax reform, if a vehicle was used partially for business and the disposition of that vehicle would have resulted in a gain, it was better to trade the vehicle in because the tax law allowed the gain to be deferred. However, that is no longer an option, and now, whether you trade in your vehicle or sell it to a third party, it is treated as a sale.

If a car has been used 100% for personal purposes (no business use), whether you trade it in or sell it generally makes no difference since, except in rare cases, the vehicle will have declined in value and there would be no gain from the transaction. When there is a loss from the sale of personal-use property, tax law does not allow the loss to be deducted. On the other hand, the law says that when a personal-use item such as a vehicle is sold for a profit, the profit is taxable.

Sell the Vehicle – In this Internet age, a variety of online sites exist with firms that will let you know the value of your used vehicle; an example is Kelly Blue Book. There are also used car dealers that will buy your car and relieve you of all the DMV transfers and sales tax issues. Of course, you can sell it yourself through online sites such as Craigslist or perhaps by just placing a “for sale” sign in the car, in which case you need to make sure the title is properly transferred so you have no future liability. You also need to be cautious of potential buyers, to make sure someone does not try to scam you with a hot check or the promise of a future payment. In most states, vehicle sales are “as is” sales, provided you do not attempt to conceal a material defect.

Gift It to Someone – It is quite common for individuals to gift their old car to a child, a family member, or an acquaintance. There are no gift tax ramifications as long as the fair market value (FMV) of the vehicle is less than the annual gift tax exclusion amount ($15,000 for 2019). Where a married couple jointly makes the gift, the annual gift tax exclusion applies to each spouse; thus, the vehicle’s value could be as much as $30,000 without any tax ramifications. If the vehicle’s FMV exceeds those limits, a gift tax return is required. The gift is not allowed as a charitable contribution on the former owner’s income tax return, even if the person to whom the car is given is “needy.”

Donate the Vehicle to Charity – You’ve probably seen or heard ads urging you to donate your car to charity. But donating a vehicle may not result in a big tax deduction or any deduction at all. A few years back, this was a popular type of charitable donation promoted by many charities. However, vehicle donations were so abused by taxpayers claiming values higher than what the vehicles were worth that Congress had to step in. The result is a number of rules that, in some cases, limit the amount of the charitable deduction to $500.

The deduction is limited for motor vehicles (as well as for boats and airplanes) contributed to charity whose claimed value exceeds $500 by making it dependent upon the charity’s use of the vehicle and imposing higher substantiation requirements.

If the charity sells the vehicle without any “significant intervening use” to substantially further the organization’s regularly conducted activities or without any major repairs, the donor’s charitable deduction can’t exceed the gross proceeds from the charity’s sale of the vehicle. Examples of qualifying significant intervening use include delivering meals every day for a year or driving 10,000 miles during a one-year period while delivering meals.

The gross proceeds limitation on a donor’s auto contribution deduction doesn’t apply if the charity sells it at a price significantly below FMV (or gives it away) to a needy individual. This exception applies only if supplying a vehicle to a needy individual directly furthers the donee’s charitable purpose of relieving the poor and distressed or the underprivileged who need a means of transportation. In this case, the fair market of the vehicle is used to determine the amount of the contribution.

Additionally, a deduction for donated vehicles whose claimed value exceeds $500 is not allowed unless the taxpayer substantiates the contribution with a contemporaneous written acknowledgement from the donee. To be contemporaneous, the acknowledgment must be obtained within 30 days of either (1) the contribution or (2) the disposition of the vehicle by the donee organization. The donor must include a copy of the acknowledgment with the tax return on which the deduction is claimed.

Acknowledgement by the donee organization must include whether the donee organization provided any goods or services in consideration of the vehicle as well as a description and a good -faith estimate of the value of any such goods or services or, if the goods or services consist solely of intangible religious benefits, a statement to that effect. Form 1098-C incorporates all of the required acknowledgement elements for the donee (charitable organization) to complete. The donor is required to attach copy B of the 1098-C to his or her federal tax return when claiming a deduction for contribution of a motor vehicle, boat, or airplane.

Foreign Account Reporting Requirements

U.S. citizens and residents with a financial interest in or signature or other authority over any foreign financial account need to report that relationship by filing FinCEN Form 114 if the aggregate value of the accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the year. The due for 2018’s report was April 15, 2019, with an automatic 6-month extension to October 15, 2019. Failure to file can result in draconian penalties. Form 114 is filed electronically with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) BSA E-Filing System and not as part of the individual’s income tax filing with the IRS.

Keep in mind that “financial account” includes securities, brokerage, savings, checking, deposit, time deposit, or other accounts at a financial institution. Commodity futures and options accounts, mutual funds, and even non-monetary assets such as gold are also included. It becomes a “foreign financial account” if the financial institution is located in a foreign country. If you own shares of a foreign stock or a mutual fund that invests in foreign stocks, and the stock or fund is held in an account at a financial institution or brokerage located in the U.S., this is not considered a foreign financial account, and the FBAR rules don’t apply to it. An account maintained with the branch of a foreign bank physically located in the U.S. also is not a foreign financial account.

You may have an FBAR requirement and not even realize it. For instance, perhaps you have relatives residing in a foreign county and they have put you on their bank accounts in case something happens to them. If the combined value of those accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the year, you will need to file the FBAR. Or if you are gambling on the Internet, that online casino may be located in a foreign country, and if your account exceeds the $10,000 limit at any time during the year, you will have an FBAR reporting requirement.

You may also have an additional requirement to file IRS Form 8938, which is similar to the FBAR requirement but applies to a wider range of foreign assets with a higher dollar threshold. If you are married and you and your spouse file a joint return, you must file Form 8938 if the value of certain financial assets exceeds $100,000 at the end of the year or $150,000 at any time during the year. If you live abroad, the thresholds are $400,000 and $600,000, respectively. For other filing statuses, the thresholds are half of those amounts. The penalty for failing to file the 8938 is $10,000 per year, and if the failure continues for more than 90 days after you receive an IRS notice of failure to file, the penalty can go as high as $50,000.

As you can see, not complying with the foreign account reporting requirements can have some very nasty repercussions. Please call our office with questions or if you need assistance in meeting your foreign account reporting obligations.