Have you noticed the increasing number of advertisements expounding the merits of reverse mortgages? Smiling celebrities advise seniors that their lives could improve immensely if they simply harvested the available equity in their homes. Take an expensive trip, remodel your home, or just have fun with the extra money. They can make it sound pretty appealing.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Are your beneficiary designations up to date? Do you even know which accounts have beneficiaries and who you've designated? It's easy to lose track. But it's important to keep them current. Here's why.
When you designate a beneficiary for an account, that person inherits the assets in the account, regardless of what your will might say. That's why updating your will periodically might not be enough. Typically, you'll have beneficiaries for each of your IRAs, your 401(k) or other retirement plans, annuities, and insurance policies.
Your designations could be out of date just because of life's changes. Since you made your initial choices, you might have married, had children, or divorced. Some of the beneficiaries you chose could have died, divorced, or married. Their circumstances could have changed so you no longer want them to be the beneficiary.
Also, the tax laws change frequently, and they can have an impact on your choices. Choosing the wrong beneficiary, or failing to name a contingent beneficiary, can affect the long-term value of your IRA assets after you die. That's why it's important to review your choices with tax consequences in mind.
Here's how to update your designations. At a minimum, you should have copies of your beneficiary designations in one place. If you don't, call the trustees of your retirement accounts and your insurance agent, and request copies.
Then review the documents and decide what changes you'd like to make. Make an appointment to review your decisions with your tax and estate planning advisor. Discuss matters such as naming secondary beneficiaries and naming your estate as a beneficiary (sometimes not a good idea).
Finally, send your changes to the account trustee, ask for a confirmation, and keep copies in your records.
Friday, December 23, 2011
When planning gifts for children on your holiday list, you might want to think beyond the traditional retail offerings. Consider financial gifts that can bestow benefits for many years to come.
Some financial gift options you might consider:
* U.S. savings bonds. Savings bonds are used by many families to introduce children to the savings concept. I bonds are indexed for inflation and can provide relatively attractive rates of return.
* IRAs (regular or Roth). For 2011, you can contribute the lower of $5,000 or the earned income of the child. An early financial start can produce amazing benefits from compounded interest accumulated over several decades.
* Stocks or mutual funds. Equities are a good way to introduce a child to the investment world.
* Collectible stock certificates. Vibrant framed certificates are available for many companies. A Disney, Dream Works, or Coca-Cola stock certificate can provide a colorful reminder of the importance of investing for the future.
* Collectibles. Postage stamps or coin collection kits can provide years of enjoyment and form the basis for some life-long hobbies. An interesting gift idea is an official U.S. mint proof coin set for the year the child was born.
Please call us at (518) 798-3330 if you would like to review the tax issues related to any of these financial gift options, especially if you are considering a larger amount.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
On November 21, 2011, President Obama signed the "Three Percent Withholding Repeal and Job Creation Act" into law.
This new law repeals three percent withholding on certain payments to government contractors. The law, H.R. 674, was amended to include the "Vow to Hire Heroes Act" which provides tax credits to employers who hire unemployed veterans.
The law creates the “Returning Heroes Tax Credit” and the “Wounded Warriors Tax Credit.” Employers may qualify for a credit of up to $5,600 for hiring a veteran who has been looking for employment for more than six months. A credit of up to $2,400 applies for veterans who have been unemployed for more than four weeks but less than six months. Employers who hire an unemployed veteran with service-connected disabilities who has been looking for work for more than six months may be eligible for a tax credit of up to $9,600.
The credits apply to new hires after November 21, 2011, through December 31, 2012. For more information about the new law, contact our office at (518) 798-3330.
Friday, December 16, 2011
* Early this month check the amount of 2011 tax you have prepaid through withholding and quarterly estimates. If you've underpaid, consider increasing your withholding before year-end. Withholding is considered to have been paid evenly throughout the year. This could prevent your being charged underpayment penalties for 2011.
* Avoid the marriage penalty. If a wedding or divorce is in your plans, be aware that your marital status as of December 31 determines your tax status for the whole year. Changing the dates of a year-end event may save taxes. Even though recent tax laws provided some relief from the marriage penalty, they did not eliminate it.
* Plan for losses. Check your basis in any S corporation in which you are a shareholder and where you expect a loss this year. Be sure you have sufficient basis to enable you to take the loss on your tax return.
* Use this year's annual gift tax exclusion. If you make annual gifts to family members or others, make sure you complete your gifts for 2011 by December 31.
* Squeeze in planned equipment purchases before December 31. Taxpayers must usually deduct the cost of business property over several years. A special election allows taxpayers to expense up to $500,000 of new and used property purchased and put into service in 2011. Also check into the 100% bonus depreciation allowance for new equipment purchases.
Property such as machinery, equipment, and furnishings qualify. Be careful with special rules that apply to automobiles and personal computers.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Thinking of selling a security before December 31 to take advantage of a capital loss? To make sure the loss is deductible, refrain from buying a substantially identical security during the 61-day period that begins 30 days before you sell and ends 30 days after. Such a purchase would violate the "wash sale rule" and make your loss nondeductible.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
Claim the last of the residential energy credit. Install certain energy efficient property in your home by year-end (such as insulation, doors, and windows) and get a federal tax credit of up to $500. That's the aggregate total credit, including amounts you claimed in prior years. The credit is scheduled to expire after December 2011.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
A law signed by President Obama on November 21, 2011, creates new tax credits for hiring military veterans. A "Returning Heroes Tax Credit" of up to $5,600 per employee is available to employers who hire veterans who have been looking for work for more than six months. A credit of up to $2,400 applies for veterans who have been unemployed for more than four weeks, but less than six months. A "Wounded Warriors Tax Credit" provides a credit of up to $9,600 for hiring veterans with service-related disabilities who have been looking for work for more than six months. Contact us at (518) 798-3330 if you need more information.