Standard mileage rates go down for 2017

Have you noticed the price of gas? So has the IRS – and the reimbursement rate for business mileage has gone down as a result. The new rate for 2017 is 53.5¢ per mile, down from the 2016 rate of 54¢ per mile.

The rate for medical and moving mileage also decreased. Effective January 1, the standard rate is 17¢ per mile, down from last year’s 19¢. The charitable mileage rate remains 14¢.

Some federal income tax refunds may be temporarily delayed

In general, you can expect your federal refund to be issued approximately 21 days after your electronically filed tax return has been accepted. However, identity theft is still a major problem, and the IRS continues to implement new strategies to protect taxpayer data. For example, if you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit on your 2016 individual federal income tax return, your refund will be held until February 15.

Save yourself some stress. Start your year-end tax review now

An important part of our service to you is to help identify actions you can take before year-end to minimize your personal 2016 federal income tax bill. Accelerating or delaying income and deductions, contributing to retirement plans, and taking investment losses are just a few of the strategies you might want to consider. Here’s a checklist to help you get started.

  • Max out your 401(k) before year-end. For 2016, you can set aside $18,000 if you’re under age 50. If you’re 50 or older, you can contribute $24,000.
  • Get your investment planning in order. Year-end sell decisions, either to rebalance your portfolio at the lowest tax cost or to offset gains and losses, are only one aspect of investment planning. Another is keeping good records for the reinvested dividends of stocks you sell in 2016. Reinvested dividends add to your cost basis and reduce taxable gain or increase the deductible loss on the sale. Finally, consider the wash sale rule. This rule disallows a current-year loss when you purchase substantially identical securities within a 61-day period. If you plan to sell stocks to secure a loss, and intend to buy the stock back, don’t wait until the last moment.
  • Make gifts before year-end. The use-it-or-lose-it tax-free gifting allowance is $14,000 per donee for 2016. Remember, gifts to individuals are not tax-deductible.
  • Contribute to your Health Savings Account. Within limits, contributions are tax-deductible and can be used tax-free to pay unreimbursed medical expenses.
  • Keep an eye on the “kiddie tax.” This tax on your dependent child’s unearned income in excess of certain limits applies when your child is under age 19 (under age 24 if a full-time student).

We have more planning strategies to save you tax dollars. Contact us for a year-end review.

Insurance enrollment begins this month

Beginning this month, you can sign up for a new 2017 health insurance policy on the health insurance Marketplace. You can also change or renew the policy you purchased during the last enrollment period. Even if your current policy has an automatic renewal feature, you’ll want to verify that you’re getting the best deal, and that you are still eligible for the federal premium tax credit.

What if you didn’t sign up last winter and didn’t have health insurance coverage in 2016? You may owe a penalty on your 2016 federal income tax return. The penalty is calculated in one of two ways: as a percentage of your income, or on a per-person basis. You pay whichever is higher.

For 2016, the penalty is 2.5% of your annual household income, up to a maximum of the national average premium for a Bronze plan. The per-person penalty is $695 per adult and $347.50 per child under 18 (up to a maximum per-family penalty of $2,085).

Can your business survive these seven potential disasters?

Disasters, natural or otherwise, could ultimately lead to your company’s demise. Fortunately, advance planning can keep you on track. Here are seven scenarios to be prepared for.

  1. A natural disaster. To paraphrase the old saying, you can talk about the weather, but there’s not much you can do about it – except have a plan in place in the event a natural disaster damages your business premises. Two tips: Maintain adequate insurance and store valuable business data at a secure off-location site.
  2. A key employee quits. Cross-training can avoid business interruptions if a key employee leaves unexpectedly. You might also want to consider asking key employees to sign a reasonable non-compete agreement to protect confidential information. Typically, these agreements prohibit an employee from working for a competitor for a certain period.
  3. An employee embezzles company funds. To safeguard your business assets, divide responsibilities so one person doesn’t have complete control over the books. Set up a system of checks and balances.
  4. Your biggest customer leaves. To keep your business from going under, update your marketing plan, stay in touch with former customers, establish an emergency budget, and diversify your revenue stream.
  5. You become disabled. “Key-person” disability insurance can provide funding to keep your business afloat. The policy may also cover employees who are vital to operations.
  6. Your company or partnership splits up. Draft a buy-sell agreement to ensure a smooth transition due to the sale of a business interest, including a forced sale on the death of one of your shareholders or partners. The agreement can establish the terms of a buy-out and set a value for the respective business interests.
  7. Your computer system crashes. Extra hardware, such as tablets or laptops, regular off-site backups, and cloud storage for important documents can avoid a crisis when your computer fails.

Stay ahead of the deadline for 2016 required minimum distributions

If you’re over 70½ and are required to take distributions from your IRA or other retirement account, remember that you must take your 2016 required minimum distribution by December 31. Due to year-end holidays and transfer time constraints, getting the process started now can avoid a last-minute rush, as well as a steep penalty of 50% of the amount not taken.

If this year’s distribution is your first, you have a one-time option of waiting until the beginning of April 2017 to start taking withdrawals. Just remember, waiting means you’ll have two taxable distributions next year.

Contact us for details.

Time to renew Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers

Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) are nine-digit numbers issued by the IRS so certain taxpayers who do not have a social security number can file a tax return. According to the IRS, approximately 11 million people have received an ITIN. Now, some of these numbers may need to be renewed. ITINs that have not been used on a federal income tax return for three consecutive years will expire on December 31 of the third consecutive year. Under current rules, ITINs not used on a tax return during 2013, 2014, or 2015, will expire on December 31, 2016. In addition, ITINs issued before 2008 will expire on December 31, 2016, even if they have been used on a tax return.

Tax filing reminders

  • September 15 – Third quarter installment of 2016 individual estimated income tax is due.
  • September 15 – Filing deadline for 2015 tax returns for calendar-year corporations that received an automatic extension of the March filing deadline.
  • September 15 – Filing deadline for 2015 tax returns for partnerships that received an extension of the April filing deadline.
  • October 1 – Generally, the deadline for businesses to adopt a SIMPLE retirement plan for 2016.
  • October 17 – Deadline for filing 2015 individual tax returns on extension.
  • October 17 – Deadline for reconverting a Roth IRA to a regular IRA.

IRS sets 2017 HSA limits

The IRS announced inflation-adjusted limits for deductible contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs) for 2017. For family coverage, the contribution limit will be $6,750, and for individual coverage, the limit will be $3,400. If you’re age 55 or older, you can contribute an additional $1,000 during 2017. HSAs combine high-deductible health insurance plans with pretax contributions to a healthcare savings account. The savings account funds can be withdrawn tax-free to pay unreimbursed medical expenses.

FSA or HSA? Choosing between health accounts

Are you confused about your choices for paying medical expenses under your employer’s benefit plan? Here are differences between two types of commonly offered accounts: a health savings account (HSA) and a health care flexible spending account (FSA).

Overview. An FSA is generally established under an employer’s benefit plan. You can set aside a portion of your salary on a pretax basis to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses. An HSA is a combination of a high-deductible health plan and a savings account in which you save pretax dollars to pay medical expenses not covered by the insurance.

Contributions. For 2016, you can contribute up to a maximum of $2,550 to an FSA. Typically, you have to use the funds by the end of the year. Why? Unused amounts are forfeited under what’s commonly called the “use it or lose it” rule. However, your employer can adopt one of two exceptions to the rule.

If you are single, the 2016 HSA contribution limit is $3,350 ($6,750 for a family). You can add a catch-up contribution of $1,000 if you are over age 55. You do not have to spend all the money you contribute to your HSA each year. You can leave the funds in the account and let the earnings grow.

Earnings. FSAs do not earn interest. Your employer holds your money until you request reimbursement for qualified expenses. HSAs are savings accounts, and the money in the account can be invested. Earnings held in the account are not included in your income.

Withdrawals. Distributions from both accounts are tax- and penalty-free as long as you use the funds for qualified medical expenses.

Portability. Normally, your FSA stays with your employer when you change jobs. Your HSA belongs to you, and you can take the account funds with you from job to job. That’s true even if your employer makes contributions to your HSA for you.

Because you generally can’t contribute to both accounts in the same year, understanding the differences can help you make a decision that best fits your circumstances. Contact us for help as you consider your benefit choices.

Could you qualify for a partial home-sale exclusion?

Generally, when you’re single, you can exclude up to $250,000 of gain from the sale of a home ($500,000 if you’re married filing jointly) when the home is used as a primary residence for two years in a five-year period that ends on the date of sale. Tax law also provides for a partial exclusion when the time and ownership requirements are not met, if the primary reason for the sale is unforeseen circumstances. “Unforeseen” means events you could not have reasonably anticipated before buying the home and moving in. How flexible is the definition? Recently, the IRS allowed a partial exclusion when a family living in a two-bedroom, two-bath condominium gave birth to another child and needed a larger residence before the two-year rule was met.

Consider these financial tips in troubling economic times

Reacting badly to bad national economic events can turn a challenging situation into a devastating one. When troubling headline news comes your way, consider these tips before making financial moves.

  • Don’t be an average investor. Economists have noted that even in good times average investors usually fail to benefit fully from a market upswing. The reason: not staying invested for the duration of the cycle. Average investors tend to bail out when the future looks troubling, in essence “locking in” losses. Good investing techniques can be as much about mental toughness as about financial acumen.
  • Focus on costs. Periods of economic uncertainty are a good time to focus on costs, especially in a low-return environment. Make sure you’re not overpaying for fund management or sales commissions. And be mindful of tax costs, which can have a negative effect on overall returns. If you decide to sell a stock in a taxable account, consider choosing one you have held for more than one year to qualify for the long-term capital gain tax rate. A market downturn might provide an opportunity to harvest capital losses to help offset previous gains.
  • Revisit your tax planning. Unfavorable economic news might require a tweak to your tax planning. Lower anticipated income could justify reduced estimated tax payments or income tax withholding. If you’re retired, consider deferring retirement account withdrawals or changing the type of investments you were planning to liquidate. A review of your tax situation is always a smart move.

The bottom line: Don’t make a bad economic situation worse. Contact our office for help in navigating the current financial environment.

IRS grants more time to benefit from this tax credit

When you hire workers from specified groups that typically experience high unemployment, you may qualify for a tax break known as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. You typically have 28 days after the worker’s first day to complete paperwork for this federal income tax credit. However, for certain workers hired between January 1, 2015, and August 31, 2016, the 28-day rule has been extended until September 28, 2016. The extended date gives you an opportunity to review personnel files for credit-eligible employees. Contact us to learn how the credit can help save tax dollars.

The part-year withholding method can increase your paycheck

If you’re starting your first job this fall, you probably want to avoid overpaying your federal income tax. Consider asking your employer to use a special formula known as the part-year withholding method to calculate the amount of federal income tax withheld from your wages. To be eligible, you have to use the calendar year as your tax year, and you must not expect to be employed for more than 245 days during the year.

Get organized and improve your business

The art of placing information in a logical order, more prosaically called organization, is key to the efficiency of your business, which can in turn increase productivity. Fortunately, you can master the art of organization by making habits out of simple techniques. Here are suggestions.

  • Organize your tax records. Create a filing system to collect the documentation needed to take advantage of tax breaks, such as credits for hiring certain workers and accelerated depreciation methods for business assets. For example, for asset purchases, retain receipts, and make sure the details include the type of equipment, the date and amount of the purchase, the date you began using the equipment, and a schedule of additional related costs, such as set-up costs, that might be eligible for capitalizing. For ordinary deductible business expenses, such as car expenses, travel costs, professional magazines, meeting and association fees, and seminar and training expenses, establish an electronic or paper filing system to store receipts.
  • Organize your electronic records. Is your email cluttered with so many messages you don’t know where to look for what you need? Aim to make your inbox hold only the current day’s emails. Delete non-critical emails. Electronically sort critical messages into folders to eliminate time-wasting searches. To reduce the daily deluge, cancel automatic messages that are no longer useful.
  • Organize your paper records. Are your file cabinets – the ones that hold real paper – stuffed to overflowing? Review and shred outdated documents. If the information might be needed later, scan it into computer files. Consider using document management software. Organize your desk by shredding documents with sensitive information and scanning older papers into computer files. The most efficient method is to scan, file, and shred as soon as you are finished with a document. If you don’t have time, consider assigning document organization to specific employees and making it a task to be completed on a daily basis.
  • Organize your future. Address succession planning for your critical employees well before a crisis occurs. Document daily responsibilities, skills needed to complete essential tasks, and the location of all paper and electronic files. Appoint and cross-train backup staff.

You’re already busy, and you may believe that organizing your records will take more time than you have. But think about why you feel as though your day is overloaded. Is one reason because you’re spending your efforts searching through a disorganized office? In that case, mastering the art of organization may save you not only time, but money as well. Contact us for more suggestions.

Avoid penalties by keeping accurate information return records

Did you file all required information returns for 2015 and earlier years? Information returns include Forms 1099, the forms you complete when you pay for certain business expenses such as rent or services performed by an independent contractor. August is a good time to review your filing compliance because this is the time of year the IRS typically begins sending notices for prior year information returns with missing and incorrect taxpayer identification numbers, and the penalties for errors continue to rise.

If you get a notice, you may be able to get penalties waived by proving you acted in a responsible manner before and after the error. One way to do this is to document your request for a taxpayer identification number from the vendor or other payee. You may also need to begin withholding income tax known as backup withholding from payments. Contact us for more information.

Plan for the fate of your digital assets

An important step in estate planning is creating an inventory of your assets. Your executor – the person you designate in your will to carry out your last wishes – uses the inventory to make sure all of your property passes to your heirs. That includes your digital assets. Documenting these along with more traditional effects can help ensure your final wishes are honored and your estate is administered correctly. Here’s what to keep in mind as you compile a list of your digital assets.

Passwords. In order to review financial accounts with banks, brokerages, or other businesses, your executor will need your current password. If you protect passwords with an encrypted program, include the master access key. Most importantly, keep your list updated when you change passwords.

Be comprehensive. Add web addresses, user names, and passwords for non-financial accounts such as your email and online storage sites to your inventory. Why? These accounts can be essential for retrieving invoices, statements, and other paperwork for which you’ve chosen electronic-only delivery.

Remember the non-digital. The physical assets you use to access your digital data include your phone, tablet, and computer. For these assets, your executor will need passwords and file names. Also list the location and encryption information for off-site or standalone storage devices such as flash or other external drives.

Individual states are moving toward adopting laws that allow your estate representative to manage your digital assets. If your state has not yet taken steps to address the issue, you may be able to add wording to your will or have your attorney prepare an authorization for release of the information. In either case, keeping track of your online financial activity can make assembling an inventory of your digital assets a simple process. Please contact us for more information and tips.

Will you be ready for the new overtime pay rules?

In May, the Department of Labor updated the rules for paying overtime. Under the new rules, salaried employees who earn less than $913 per week ($47,476 per year) will be eligible for overtime pay. That’s double the annual exempt amount of $23,660 from previous rules. In addition, the total annual pay for an exempt highly compensated employee is $134,004 (up from $100,000 previously). These amounts will be updated automatically every three years beginning in 2020.

The changes take effect December 1, 2016, which means you need to begin reviewing your payroll now, as penalties and fines can be assessed for noncompliance. One important step is to begin tracking hours for your salaried employees. You’ll also want to review your payroll practices so you can determine the best options for your business as you get ready to implement the new rules.

Follow these steps to a comfortable retirement

Planning can help you achieve a comfortable retirement. Here are five suggestions to consider.

  1. Start a retirement savings program as early as possible and contribute regularly. The longer and more consistently you contribute, the larger your nest egg will become, even before the compounding provided by growth and earnings. Regular, reasonable deposits wisely invested will easily outgrow sporadic and insignificant contributions.
  2. Deposit your funds in tax-deferred accounts. Invest in tax-deferred accounts to the greatest extent possible. If your employer offers a tax-deferred plan, such as a 401(k), contribute as much as you can, particularly if the plan provides matching funds. Investigate individual options, such as IRAs, for additional planning opportunities. Why? One of the advantages of tax-deferred accounts is that investments that aren’t reduced by taxes will grow and compound at a faster rate. Other advantages include the ability to control your withdrawal rate and the amount of any accompanying tax, and the opportunity to postpone recognition of taxable income until retirement, when you’ll likely be in a lower tax bracket.
  3. Establish an investment As funds within your retirement accounts accumulate, you’ll have to decide how to invest them. Establish an investment plan as early as possible. Then follow your plan consistently, revising only enough to keep matters on course, correct for deviations, and respond to unexpected events.
  4. Track your portfolio and rebalance as needed. Maintain a balance among growth, income, and short-term investments, and adjust the ratios as you age. The standard rules of thumb: When you’re under forty, consider investing more heavily in moderately aggressive growth vehicles. In your forties and fifties, you might want to become more conservative, shifting your balance toward income-generating investments such as high-dividend stocks.
  5. Once you’re retired, plan withdrawals so your funds will last the rest of your life. To avoid running out of funds, plan for a long retirement. Postpone withdrawals as long as possible, and pay them out carefully. Calculate a workable percentage to withdraw from your portfolio on an annual basis. Assume your funds will need to last at least thirty years. Continue to revisit your investments each year to monitor and rebalance as needed.

A successful retirement plan requires forethought, discipline, and monitoring. Wherever you are in the process, we’re here to help.

Are you at risk of an audit?

According to recent statistics, budget cuts, staff attrition, and a heavy workload for IRS employees mean your chances of undergoing a tax audit are less than 1%. Does that sound like a non-event to you? Don’t be lured into a false sense of security. The statistic is a blended rate covering many types of incomes and taxpayers. Here are some of the reasons returns were audited.

  • No adjusted gross income (AGI). For AGI of zero, audit risk jumped to over 5%. The IRS benchmarks AGI because it is total income including losses from businesses and investments.
  • Large adjusted gross income. Audit risk was nearly 2% for returns with AGI over $200,000. Audit risk climbed to 16% when AGI was $10 million or more.
  • International returns. Due to a focus on offshore tax evasion, the audit rate of international returns was almost 5%.
  • Estate taxes. Approximately 8.5% of estate returns were audited. Gross estates of $10 million or more were tagged with a 27% audit risk.
  • Corporate returns. Small corporations experienced up to a 2% audit risk. The risk for large corporations with assets over $20 billion was 85%.
    Be aware that even if you don’t fit into any of these categories, your return may still be selected for audit. That’s one reason it’s essential to keep good records to support all deductions and credits you claim on your tax return for at least three years after filing. Examples of required recordkeeping include:
  • When you deduct expenses for meals and entertainment, the written evidence must show who was in attendance and what business was discussed.
  • A home office deduction must be supported by evidence showing your home office is used regularly and exclusively as the principal place of business.
  • Certain non-business property that you gift, donate, or intend to distribute through your estate requires an appraisal.

Contact us for more information about tax audit issues.

Form 5500 filing reminder – and changes to note

August 1, 2016, is the deadline for filing retirement or employee benefit returns (5500 series) for plans on a calendar year. (The usual due date of July 31, 2016, is a Sunday.)

You’ll also want to note two IRS updates regarding Form 5500. First, the compliance questions are optional. Form 5500 includes new compliance questions for 2015 tax years (returns with a due date of August 1, 2016, for calendar year filers). Because the questions were not approved by the Office of Management and Budget, the instructions for Form 5500 say plan sponsors should skip them when completing the form.

Also, some Form 5500-EZ filers will need to file electronically. If you’re required to file at least 250 returns of any type with the IRS, including information returns (for example, Form W-2 and Form 1099), you may need to electronically file Form 5500-EZ for calendar year 2015.

Start your midyear planning with these tax savers

As you get ready for midyear tax planning, keep these lesser-known tax breaks in mind.

Residential energy credit. You can claim a 10% energy credit for qualified improvements (up to a lifetime maximum of $500) when you improve your home with insulation, windows, and certain types of roofing. This credit is presently set to expire after 2016.

Commercial building energy deduction. The above-the-line deduction for energy efficiency improvements to lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, and hot water systems in your commercial building is currently available through December 31, 2016.

Straight-line depreciation for certain qualified assets. The 15-year straight-line depreciation deduction for qualified leasehold, restaurant, and retail improvements is now permanent.

Contact us for more suggestions for reducing your 2016 federal income tax bill.

Is your business using social media tools?

According to a recent survey by a technology company, email, websites, and social media are the top three digital marketing tools used by businesses. Lack of an online presence means your company may be missing opportunities to connect with customers. If you’re neglecting your internet marketing, consider outsourcing the task to a virtual assistant, or assigning an employee to handle website maintenance and social media accounts. Still feeling overwhelmed by the idea? Remember that online marketing is a complement to traditional methods of reaching customers. Start small. Even a basic website will help you engage, network, and interact. Let us know if we can help.

Easy ways to ruin your credit score

Investor Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” The same maxim applies to good credit. Stellar credit scores don’t happen overnight or by accident. Instead, you have to exercise financial discipline, sometimes for years. The reward: lenders who are willing to offer mortgages and car loans at favorable interest rates.

Unfortunately, like a good reputation, a strong credit score can easily be ruined. Here are three simple ways to devastate your credit score.

  • Max out your credit cards and continually fail to make required payments. Your credit score is a number, generally between 300 and 850 (worst to best), that lenders use when deciding whether to extend credit. About 35% of your credit score is based on your payment history. Paying late or paying less than required minimums can wreak havoc on your score and may signal to lenders that you’re overextended.
  • Cosign a loan for an irresponsible friend. There’s a reason your pal needs a cosigner – and it isn’t due to being a good credit risk. When you cosign for a loan, the status of the loan will appear on your credit report. Adding insult to injury, if your friend defaults, you’re responsible for the unpaid balance.
  • Close or open credit card accounts in quick succession. Either move can adversely affect the ratio of how much you owe in relation to your credit limits. As this ratio climbs, your credit score will tend to sink. Say, for example, you have three credit cards and each has a $1,000 limit. You carry a balance of $500 on one of those accounts. That’s a credit utilization ratio of $500 to $3,000 or about 17%. If you close one of the accounts, the ratio will jump to 25% ($500/$2,000). Though you haven’t accumulated more debt, your credit score may be hurt.

Be careful with your credit. Negative events can impact your rating for a long time, making lenders reluctant to offer you money.

Keep up with section 179 depreciation changes

Did you know that a recent law made changes to the section 179 expensing election for 2016? These modifications took effect as of January 1. Here’s what to consider as you make asset purchasing decisions this year.

  • Change #1. Beginning in 2016, section 179 is indexed for inflation. This year, the basic section 179 expensing limit will be $500,000. That limit is reduced dollar-for-dollar once your purchases exceed $2,010,000.
  • Change #2. The definition of “section 179 property” now permanently includes computer software and real property such as qualified leasehold and retail improvements and restaurant property. That means you can elect to use section 179 expensing when you purchase those assets.
  • Change #3. You may be able to deduct more of qualified leasehold and retail improvements and restaurant property in 2016. Beginning this year, the law eliminated the $250,000 cap on the amount of section 179 you could claim for this property.
  • Change #4. Beginning in 2016, air conditioning and heating units are eligible for section 179 expensing.

Contact us for help in maximizing the section 179 deduction for your business asset purchases.

Are bad business debts a tax deduction?

If you’re in business long enough, you’ll run into a customer who doesn’t pay you. Despite your best efforts, you may conclude that you’ll never receive the money. Do you have a tax-deductible bad debt? The answer depends in part on whether you operate your business using the cash or accrual method of accounting.

Cash. When you use the cash method, you report taxable income when you receive it and deduct expenses when they are actually paid. While this makes your bookkeeping simple, you get no direct deduction for a bad debt. Since the income was never received, it was never reported or taxed. However, you will still be able to indirectly deduct the labor, merchandise, and overhead used to provide for the goods or services that were delivered but not paid for.

Accrual. Under the accrual method, you report income when you send an invoice to the customer. Expenses are deducted when they are due, regardless of when you pay them. This method is more complicated than the cash method, since you must track accounts receivable and accounts payable. However, because you report taxable income when you bill your customers, you have a bad debt deduction that you can claim as an operating expense if your customers fail to pay.

For more information about accounting for bad debts, contact us.

April is a busy month for taxes

Is your tax return finished? If not, this year you have an extra day – or two – to file. April 18, 2016, is the due date to file your 2015 individual federal income tax return and pay any balance due. If you live in Maine or Massachusetts, you have until Tuesday, April 19, to file and pay.

Here’s why. The normal due date – Friday, April 15 – is Emancipation Day. That’s a holiday in the District of Columbia, so the tax filing deadline shifts to Monday, April 18. However, Monday, April 18, is also a holiday (Patriots Day) in Maine and Massachusetts. That means if you live in either of those states, your deadline moves to April 19. The extended due dates apply whether you file electronically or on paper.

Here are other major mid-April deadlines.

  • The above due dates also apply to filing an automatic extension for your 2015 individual income tax return if you can’t file by the deadline. You don’t need to explain to the IRS why you need more time and the automatic extension gives you until October 17, 2016, to file your return. An extension does not, generally, give you more time to pay taxes you still owe. To avoid penalty and interest charges, taxes must be paid by the April deadline.
  • Filing 2015 partnership returns for calendar year partnerships.
  • Filing 2015 income tax returns for calendar year trusts and estates.
  • Filing 2015 annual gift tax returns.
  • Making 2015 IRA contributions.
  • Paying the first quarterly installment of 2016 individual estimated tax.
  • Amending 2012 individual tax returns (unless the 2012 return had a filing extension).
  • Original filing of a 2012 individual income tax return to claim a refund of taxes. If you have tax refunds due for prior years, the refund is lost unless you file a return to claim it.

Tax-exempt organizations have an upcoming filing requirement

Tax-exempt organizations are required to file annual reports with the IRS. Those with gross receipts below $50,000 can file an e-Postcard (Form 990-N) rather than a longer version of Form 990.

The deadline for nonprofit filings is the 15th day of the fifth month after the year-end. For calendar-year organizations, the filing deadline for 2015 reports is May 16, 2016.

A tax return is required to claim an insurance premium credit

If you or a family member enrolled in a qualified health plan offered through a government insurance marketplace, such as HealthCare.gov, you may be eligible for a federal tax credit. The amount of the credit varies depending on your household income and can be claimed on your tax return. Alternatively, you have the option to receive all or part of the credit in advance in the form of payments to your insurer that reduce your health insurance premiums.

Either way, you need to file a federal income tax return. That’s the case even if you’re usually not required to file. In the case of advance payments, failing to file your tax return can prevent you from receiving the credit in future years.

To make sure you received the correct amount of the credit, or to claim it, attach Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit, to your return.

For questions or filing assistance, please contact our office.

Simple steps can lead to growing savings

You’ve probably heard the expression, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Ben Franklin’s simple guidance has provided the foundation for savings plans for generations of Americans. His advice remains sound today, but economic conditions and financial demands may cause your savings to get off track.

Getting back on track – and sooner rather than later – is important. Why? You can reap benefits thanks to the effects of time. The earlier you put cash into a prudent savings plan, the more time can help increase its value. If you’re having problems getting started, Ben Franklin is credited with another saying that applies: “Be honest with yourself.” Have recent economic events slowed or stopped your savings efforts? Have constant changes to tax laws and the magnitude of investment choices added to your confusion? If your answer to either question is yes, it is time for both an attitude and a strategy change. Here are suggestions.

  • Set goals. Receipt of a sum of money – such as a tax refund – is a good time to make financial resolutions, including improving your savings self-discipline. Start by deciding how much you want to accumulate and how long you have to do it.
  • Save more money. Next, resolve to put money into a savings account on a regular basis. Consider automatic withdrawals from your paycheck or checking account to make this happen. You can also take advantage of tax-deferred retirement plans and employer-matched savings plans. This includes IRAs and retirement plans at work, such as SIMPLE and 401(k) plans. Using these plans to save may generate additional cash from the saver’s tax credit or an employer’s matching contribution.
  • Control spending. Finally, resolve to be more prudent with expenditures. Establishing a spending budget is a good place to start. Watching your savings grow and knowing you’ll be able to pay for an important future goal is rewarding.

We can help you set financial goals and assist you in devising a savings plan to meet them. Contact us for a financial checkup.