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Small Businesses Can Help Employees Save for Retirement, too.

Many small business owners run their companies as leanly as possible. This often means not offering what are considered standard fringe benefits for midsize or larger companies, such as a retirement plan. If this is the case for your small business, don’t give up on the idea of helping your employees save for retirement in a tax-advantaged manner. When you’re ready, there are a couple account-based options that are relatively simple and inexpensive to launch and administrate. SEP IRAs Simplified Employee Pension IRAs (SEP IRAs) are individual accounts that small businesses establish on behalf of each participant. (Self-employed individuals can also establish SEP IRAs.) Participants own their accounts, so they’re immediately 100% vested. If a participant decides to leave your company, the account balance goes with them — most people roll it over into a new employer’s qualified plan or traditional IRA.

What are the advantages for you?

SEP IRAs don’t require annual employer contributions. That means you can choose to contribute only when cash flow allows. In addition, there are typically no setup fees for SEP IRAs, though participants generally must pay trading commissions and fund expense ratios (a fee typically set as a percentage of the fund’s average net assets). In 2024, the contribution limit is $69,000 (up from $66,000 in 2023) or up to 25% of a participant’s compensation. That amount is much higher than the 2024 limit for 401(k)s, which is $23,000 (up from $22,500 in 2023). What’s more, employer contributions are tax-deductible. Meanwhile, participants won’t pay taxes on their SEP IRA funds until they’re withdrawn.

There are some disadvantages to consider.

Although participants own their accounts, only employers can make SEP IRA contributions. And if you contribute sparsely or sporadically, participants may see little value in the accounts. Also, unlike many other qualified plans, SEP IRAs don’t permit participants age 50 or over to make additional “catch-up” contributions.

SIMPLE IRAs

Another strategy is to offer employees SIMPLE IRAs. (“SIMPLE” stands for “Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees.”) As is the case with SEP IRAs, your business creates a SIMPLE IRA for each participant, who’s immediately 100% vested in the account. Unlike SEP IRAs, SIMPLE IRAs allow participants to contribute to their accounts if they so choose. SIMPLE IRAs are indeed relatively simple to set up and administer. They don’t require the sponsoring business to file IRS Form 5500, “Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan.” Nor must you submit the plan to nondiscrimination testing, which is generally required for 401(k)s. Meanwhile, participants face no setup fees and enjoy tax-deferred growth on their account funds. Best of all, they can contribute more to a SIMPLE IRA than they can to a self-owned traditional or Roth IRA. The 2024 contribution limit for SIMPLE IRAs is $16,000 (up from $15,500 in 2023), and participants age 50 or over can make catch-up contributions to the tune of $3,500 this year (unchanged from last year). On the downside, that contribution limit is lower than the limit for 401(k)s. Also, because contributions are made pretax, participants can’t deduct them, nor can they take out plan loans. Then again, making pretax contributions does lower their taxable income. Perhaps most important is that employer contributions to SIMPLE IRAs are mandatory — you can’t skip them if cash flow gets tight. However, generally, you may deduct contributions as a business expense.

Is now the time?

Overall, the job market remains somewhat tight and, in some industries, the competition for skilled labor is fierce. Offering one of these IRA types may enable you to attract and retain quality employees more readily. Some small businesses may even qualify for a tax credit if they start a SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA or other eligible plan. We can help you decide whether now is the right time to do so. © 2024

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New Option for Unused Funds in a 529 College Savings Plan

With the high cost of college, many parents begin saving with 529 plans when their children are babies. Contributions to these plans aren’t tax deductible, but they grow tax deferred. Earnings used to pay qualified education expenses can be withdrawn tax-free. However, earnings used for other purposes may be subject to income tax plus a 10% penalty.

What if you have a substantial balance in a 529 plan but your child doesn’t need all the money for college? Perhaps your child decided not to attend college or received a scholarship. Or maybe you saved for private college, but your child attended a lower-priced state university. What should you do with unused funds? One option is to pay the tax and penalties and spend the money on whatever you wish. But there are more tax-efficient options, including a new 529-to-Roth IRA transfer.

Nuts and bolts Beginning in 2024, you can transfer unused funds in a 529 plan to a Roth IRA for the same beneficiary, without tax or penalties. These rollovers are subject to several rules and limits: Transfers have a lifetime maximum of $35,000 per beneficiary. The 529 plan must have existed for at least 15 years. The rollover must be through a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer. Transferred funds can’t include contributions made within the preceding five years or earnings on those contributions. Transfers are subject to the annual limits on contributions to Roth IRAs (without regard to income limits). For example, let’s say you opened a 529 plan for your son after he was born in 2001.

When your son graduated from college in 2023, there was $30,000 left in the account. In 2024, under the new option, you can begin transferring funds into your son’s Roth IRA. Since the 529 plan was opened at least 15 years ago (and no contributions were made in the last five years), the only restriction on rollover is the annual Roth IRA contribution limit. Assuming your son hasn’t made any other IRA contributions for 2024, you can roll over up to $7,000 (if your son has at least that much earned income for the year). If your son’s earned income for 2024 is less than $7,000, the amount eligible for a rollover will be reduced.

For example, if he takes an unpaid internship and earns $4,000 during the year from a part-time job, the most you can roll over for the year is $4,000. A 529-to-Roth IRA rollover is an appealing option to avoid tax and penalties on unused funds, while helping the beneficiaries start saving for retirement. Roth IRAs are a great savings vehicle for young people because they’ll enjoy tax-free withdrawals decades later. Other options Roth IRA rollovers aren’t the only option for avoiding tax and penalties on unused 529 plan funds.

You can also change a plan’s beneficiary to another family member. Or you can use 529 plans for continuing education, certain trade schools, or even up to $10,000 per year of elementary through high school tuition. In addition, you can withdraw funds tax-free to pay down student loan debt, up to $10,000 per beneficiary. It’s not unusual for parents to end up with unused 529 funds.

Contact us if you have questions about the most tax-wise way to handle them. © 2024

 

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Medical Expense “Bunching”: Maximize Your 2024 Savings

As you file your 2023 tax return, start thinking about how you can boost itemized deductions for 2024. You may be able to “bunch” medical expenses so you exceed the 7.5% of adjusted gross income necessary to deduct some costs.

Say, for example, you’ve already scheduled surgery that will involve out-of-pocket expenses but still fall short of the deductible threshold. Think about scheduling elective procedures, such as dental work or Lasik surgery, and making qualified purchases (https://bit.ly/4brS5Vc ) that will push you over the threshold. Note that only the expenses over that amount and that aren’t covered by insurance or paid through a tax-advantaged account will be deductible.

Contact one of our experts for more tax planning help!

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A Reminder for Businesses:

A reminder for businesses: Use IRS Form 8300 to report cash transactions of $10,000 or more within 15 days of a transaction. If you file electronically, forms are delivered to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Paper forms are submitted to the IRS.

You also generally should provide written statements to parties whose names you’ve reported by January 31 of the year following the transactions. However, if a transaction you report is suspicious, don’t provide a statement to the individual involved.

Although you aren’t required to file Form 8300 for cash transactions of less than $10,000, the IRS encourages you to report suspicious transactions of any amount.

Contact us if you have any questions.

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IRS Simplifies Notices: Enhanced Clarity for Taxpayers

Have you ever been perplexed when reading an IRS letter you received in the mail? You’re not alone. The IRS is attempting to simplify and clarify its letters by launching the Simple Notice Initiative. The new program will review and redesign hundreds of documents with an immediate focus on the most common notices that individual taxpayers receive. The redesign work will accelerate during the 2025 and 2026 filing seasons, expanding into notices going to businesses. During the last year, the IRS reviewed and redesigned 31 notices in time for this year’s tax season.

If you receive a letter from the IRS and don’t understand it, we’d be pleased to help. Contact ATA. 

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Corporate Transparency Act Imposes New Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting Obligations

Effective January 1, 2024, U.S. and foreign entities doing business in the U.S. may be required to disclose information regarding their beneficial owners to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). This requirement is being implemented under the beneficial ownership information (BOI) reporting provisions of the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) passed by Congress in 2021.

 

Who is Impacted?

Companies are required to report BOI information only when they meet the definition of a “reporting company” and do not qualify for an exemption. A domestic reporting company would generally include a corporation, limited liability company (LLC), and companies created by filing documents with a secretary of state, such as a limited liability partnership, business trust, and other limited partnerships. The term “foreign reporting company” generally includes entities formed under the law of a foreign country that are registered to do business in any U.S. state.

Reporting companies created or registered to do business in the U.S. after January 1, 2024, must file an initial report disclosing the identities and information regarding their beneficial owners within 30 days of creation or registration (FinCEN has recently proposed extending this deadline to 90 days). A beneficial owner is broadly defined as any individual who, directly or indirectly, either exercises substantial control over a reporting company or owns or controls at least 25% of the ownership interests of a reporting company. Reporting companies are required to file a BOI report electronically through a secure filing system, FinCEN’s BOI E-Filing System, which began accepting reports on January 1, 2024.

Reporting companies created or registered to do business in the U.S. prior to January 1, 2024, are required to file an initial report by January 1, 2025. Once the initial report is filed, an updated BOI report must be filed within 30 days of a change. The failure to make required BOI filings may result in both civil (monetary) and criminal penalties.

 

Who is Exempt?

There are 23 specific types of entities that are exempt from the new BOI reporting requirement.  Most exemptions apply to entities that are already subject to substantial federal reporting requirements, such as some public companies, banks, securities brokers and dealers, insurance companies, registered investment companies and advisors, and pooled investment companies.

An exemption is also available for a “large operating company,” generally defined as a company with more than 20 full-time employees, a physical office within the U.S., and more than USD 5 million in gross receipts or sales from U.S. sources (as shown on a filed federal income tax or information return).

 

Practical Challenges

Every company doing business in the U.S. will need to determine whether it is subject to BOI reporting or whether an exemption applies. Because many of the exemptions depend on an entity’s legal status under various statutes (e.g., the Securities Exchange Act, the Investment Company Act), coordination and confirmation with counsel may be necessary. Further, companies that are eligible for exemption will need to implement processes to continuously assess eligibility for the exemption.

Companies that are subject to BOI reporting will need to implement processes to identify its beneficial owners and gather the information necessary to file the required BOI report. For some entities, operating agreements, subscription agreements, and similar documents may need to be reviewed to take into account the new BOI disclosure obligations. Further, because the definition of beneficial owners includes not only shareholders but senior officers and important decision-makers within the reporting company, processes to identify changes in leadership or key management will need to be considered to comply with BOI reporting obligations going forward.

 

Next Steps

The new BOI reporting requirements are mandated under Title 31 of the U.S. Code. The new rules include the legal requirements of who must file, exemptions from filing, and the information to be reported. Because the information to be reported on this form arises from determinations that are primarily legal in nature, companies should begin working with their counsel to proactively assess their filing obligations under the new BOI reporting rules.

Contact us if you have questions.

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Key 2024 Inflation-Adjusted Tax Amounts for Individuals

The IRS recently announced various 2024 inflation-adjusted federal tax amounts that affect individual taxpayers. Most of the federal income tax rate bracket thresholds are about 5.4% higher than for 2023. That means that you can generally have about 5.4% more income next year without owing more to the federal government.

Standard deduction

Here are the inflation-adjusted standard deduction numbers for 2024 for those who don’t itemize: $14,600 if you’re single or use married filing separate status (up from $13,850 in 2023). $29,200 if you’re married and file jointly (up from $27,700). $21,900 if you’re a head of household (up from $20,800). Older taxpayers and those who are blind are entitled to additional standard deduction allowances. In 2024 for those age 65 or older or blind, the amounts will be: $1,550 for a married taxpayer (up from $1,500 in 2023) and $1,950 for a single filer or head of household (up from $1,850 for 2023). For an individual who can be claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer’s return, the 2024 standard deduction will be the greater of: 1) $1,300 (up from $1,250 for 2023) or 2) $450 (up from $400 for 2023) plus the individual’s earned income, not to exceed $14,600 (up from $13,850 for 2023).

Ordinary income and short-term capital gains

Here are the 2024 inflation-adjusted bracket thresholds for ordinary income and net short-term capital gains: 10% tax bracket: $0 to $11,600 for singles, $0 to $23,200 for married joint filers, $0 to $16,550 for heads of household; Beginning of 12% bracket: $11,601 for singles, $23,201 for married joint filers, $16,551 for heads of household; Beginning of 22% bracket: $47,151 for singles, $94,301 for married joint filers, $63,101 for heads of household; Beginning of 24% bracket: $100,526 for singles, $201,051 for married joint filers, $100,501 for heads of household; Beginning of 32% bracket: $191,951 for singles, $383,901 for married joint filers, $191,951 for heads of household; Beginning of 35% bracket: $243,726 for singles, $487,451 for married joint filers and $243,701 for heads of household; and Beginning of 37% bracket: $609,351 for singles, $731,201 for married joint filers and $609,351 for heads of household.

Long-term capital gains and dividends

Here are the 2024 inflation-adjusted bracket thresholds for net long-term capital gains and qualified dividends: 0% tax bracket: $0 to $47,025 for singles, $0 to $94,050 for married joint filers, and $0 to $63,000 for heads of household; Beginning of 15% bracket: $47,026 for singles, $94,051 for married joint filers, and $63,001 for heads of household; and Beginning of 20% bracket: $518,901 for singles, $583,751 for married joint filers and $551,351 for heads of household.

Gift and estate tax

The annual exclusion for gifts made in 2024 will be $18,000 (up from $17,000 for 2023). That means you can give away up to $18,000 to as many individuals as you wish without incurring gift tax or using up any of your unified federal gift and estate tax exemption. In 2024, the unified federal gift and estate tax exemption will be $13,610,000 (up from $12,920,000 for 2023). For gifts made in 2024, the annual exclusion for gifts to a noncitizen spouse will be $185,000 (up from $175,000 in 2023).

Conclusion

This article only covers some of the inflation-adjusted tax amounts. There are others that may potentially apply, including: alternative minimum tax parameters, kiddie tax amounts, limits on the refundable amount of the Child Tax Credit, limits on the adoption credit, IRA contribution amounts, contributions to your company’s retirement plan and health savings account amounts. Various other inflation-adjusted amounts may affect your tax situation if you own an interest in a sole proprietorship or a pass-through business. Contact us with questions. © 2023

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Don’t Forget to Empty Out Your Flexible Spending Account

If you have a tax-saving flexible spending account (FSA) with your employer to help pay for health or dependent care expenses, there’s an important date coming up. You may have to use the money in the account by year-end or you’ll lose it (unless your employer has a grace period). As the end of 2023 gets closer, here are some rules and reminders to keep in mind.

Health FSA

A pre-tax contribution of $3,050 to a health FSA is permitted in 2023. This amount will be increasing to $3,200 in 2024. You save taxes in these accounts because you use pre-tax dollars to pay for medical expenses that might not be deductible. For example, expenses won’t be deductible if you don’t itemize deductions on your tax return. Even if you do itemize, medical expenses must exceed a certain percentage of your adjusted gross income in order to be deductible. Additionally, the amounts that you contribute to a health FSA aren’t subject to FICA taxes. Your employer’s plan should have a list of qualifying items and any documentation from a medical provider that may be needed to get reimbursed for these expenses.

FSAs generally have a “use-it-or-lose-it” rule, which means you must incur qualifying medical expenditures by the last day of the plan year (December 31 for a calendar year plan) — unless the plan allows an optional grace period. A grace period can’t extend beyond the 15th day of the third month following the close of the plan year (March 15 for a calendar year plan).

What if you don’t spend the money before the last day allowed? You forfeit it. Take a look at your year-to-date expenditures now. It will show you what you still need to spend.

What are some ways to use up the money? Before year end (or the extended date, if permitted), schedule certain elective medical procedures, visit the dentist or buy new eyeglasses.

Dependent care FSA

Some employers also allow employees to set aside funds on a pre-tax basis in dependent care FSAs. A $5,000 maximum annual contribution is permitted ($2,500 for a married couple filing separately). FSAs are for: A child who qualifies as your dependent and who is under age 13, or A dependent or spouse who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care and who has the same principal place of abode as you for more than half of the tax year.

Like health FSAs, dependent care FSAs are subject to a use-it-or-lose-it rule, but the grace period relief may apply. Therefore, it’s a good time to review your expenses to date. Other rules and exceptions may apply. Your HR department can answer any questions about your specific plan.

Contact us with any questions you have about the tax implications. © 2023

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IRS Delays New $600 Form 1099-K Reporting Threshold Until 2024

The IRS has announced a delay in releasing the $600 Form 1099-K reporting threshold for third-party settlement organizations. Calendar year 2023 will now be considered a transition year and third parties (including payment apps and online marketplaces) won’t be required to report transactions unless a taxpayer receives more than $20,000 and has more than 200 transactions in 2023.

In addition to delaying the release of the new form until 2024, the IRS said it plans to boost the reporting threshold to $5,000. It decided on the delay after an outcry from taxpayers, tax advisors, and payment processors complaining that releasing the new form in 2023 would lead to confusion and disruption.

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Bank Wire

Doing business with marijuana-related businesses: Handle with care

As an increasing number of states legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use — or both — the marijuana business is booming. For community banks, lending to or accepting deposits from marijuana-related businesses (MRBs) represents a lucrative opportunity, but it can also be risky. Marijuana continues to be classified as a controlled substance under federal law, so banks that do business with MRBs may risk being charged with aiding and abetting a federal crime.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network have issued guidelines that offer some comfort to banks. For example, the guidance states that banks won’t be prosecuted if they conduct thorough due diligence on MRBs, monitor them for money-laundering activities, and comply with certain other requirements. However, many banks will understandably be wary of doing business with MRBs until federal legislation is enacted that normalizes relations between state-licensed MRBs and financial institutions. Stay tuned.

New interagency guidance on managing third-party risk

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Reserve have finalized their “Interagency Guidance on Third-Party Relationships: Risk Management,” which was proposed in 2021. The new guidance promotes consistency in the agencies’ supervisory approach to third-party risk management. (Previously, each agency had its own guidance.)

The guidance maps out the third-party risk management life cycle — planning, due diligence and third-party selection, contract negotiation, ongoing monitoring, and termination — and describes risk management principles applicable to each stage. The guidance also clarifies that a bank’s risk management program should focus on critical activities, while noting that not all third-party relationships are equally critical or present the same level of risk to a bank’s operations.

Watch out for “digital redlining”

Various federal laws and regulations protect consumers from unfair and discriminatory practices by banks. They include the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Dodd-Frank Act, which authorizes the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to prosecute “unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices.”

Federal banking regulators are particularly concerned about redlining. This is a form of illegal disparate treatment whereby a lender provides “unequal access to credit, or unequal terms of credit, because of the race, color, national origin, or other prohibited characteristic(s) of the residents of the area” in which the credit seeker lives or the mortgaged residential property is located. A bank may expose itself to allegations of “digital redlining” if, for example, it offers more favorable credit terms for products offered through certain channels — such as websites or social media platforms — that are less likely to be used by minorities. Banks should review their marketing materials and online activities with this in mind.

© 2023

Contact us with questions.