Tax Guide for Investors

Big Change in the 401k Rollover Rules

September 23, 2014

We don’t often get a change this big in an area as important as 401k rollovers. The IRS released guidance completely revising the way we treat rollovers when your 401k or similar account includes after-tax dollars. Ed Slott, author of Ed Slott’s 2014 Retirement Decisions Guide, praised the guidance, saying, “The IRS has made it easier for many people to make their retirement savings more tax-efficient.”

What’s the big deal? Previously it was difficult to separate pre-tax dollars from after-tax dollars when taking money from an employer plan. Now it’s a snap, which means you can send pre-tax dollars to a traditional IRA for a tax-free rollover while sending after-tax dollars to a Roth IRA for a tax-free conversion. This is a big win for people with retirement savings. Use the link below for a full explanation

details: Isolating Basis for a Roth Conversion

Inflation Adjustments for 2015

September 22, 2014

inflation-rate-of-changeThe August inflation numbers, which came out September 17, are the last ones needed to adjust most of the tax figures that change annually, including the tax rate schedules. The IRS hasn’t published the adjusted figures, but we “did the math” and updated our Reference Room to give you an advance look at the 2015 numbers. Highlights include an increase in the personal exemption amount from this year’s $3,950 to a round $4,000. The IRA contribution limit (under age 50) will remain at $5,500. (The 401k contribution limit depends on September inflation numbers, so that information isn’t available yet.) The annual gift tax exclusion amount will be unchanged at $14,000.

Inflation for the twelve-month period ending in August was 1.7%.

Interpretation of Stock Vesting Rule

January 5, 2014

Compensation in stock and optionsThe Tax Court recently rejected an IRS attempt to treat stock as vested based on a provision in the regulations dealing with termination for cause. The court found that the employment agreement used the word “cause” with a different meaning than in the regulation.

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Share Identification Under Attack

January 3, 2014

Taxation of InvestorsOne of the oldest rules in the tax law allows investors to choose which shares are being sold when disposing of part of their holdings in a particular stock. Both President Obama and Dave Camp, Republican Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, have proposed doing away with this important rule. Our new article in the Journal of Taxation of Investments (subscription required) explains why repeal of share identification would be a policy blunder, accomplishing nothing and creating unnecessary problems for investors. Why aren’t more people objecting to these proposals?

read more: In Defense of Share Identification

Clergy Housing Allowance Exemption Unconstitutional

December 30, 2013

Court rulingsSection 107 of the Internal Revenue Code provides a tax exemption for a housing allowance provided to a “minister of the gospel.” In a decision virtually certain to be overturned, a federal judge has found the exemption unconstitutional.

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IRS Announces Tax Season Start Date

December 22, 2013

Filing your taxesThe IRS has announced that it will begin accepting 2013 income tax returns on January 31, 2014. Here’s what’s strange about that particular date.

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Roth Guide Updated

December 22, 2013

Roth retirement accountsOur free online guide to Roth retirement accounts has been fully updated. This extensive guide offers much of the information covered in Go Roth!, our book on the subject.

details: Roth IRA and Other Roth Retirement Accounts

Standard Mileage Rates for 2014

December 6, 2013

The IRS is out with the standard mileage rates for 2014. Here are the main points, quoted from the IRS announcement:

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 56 cents per mile for business miles driven
  • 23.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The business, medical, and moving expense rates decrease one-half cent from the 2013 rates.  The charitable rate is based on statute.

Estate Planning Smarts

November 19, 2013

Our favorite book on estate planning is now available in an updated and expanded third edition. Estate Planning Smarts by Deborah L. Jacobs is now firmly established as the leading book on the subject, both for individuals planning their own finances and for finance professionals who want a thorough, readable treatment of the subject. In our review of the first edition we called this book a category killer, because it would be so hard for anyone to improve on it. Jacobs showed we were wrong, as she improved on her own work.

The new edition covers the important changes made by the 2012 tax law as well as the implications of the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision on same-sex marriage and the IRS pronouncement on how it would implement that decision.

to learn more: Estate Planning Smarts website

Covered Call Strategy Was Not Trading

November 14, 2013
By Kaye A. Thomas

The tax law differentiates between investors and traders. The tax rules that apply to traders are generally more favorable, but only a tiny percentage of all the people who buy and sell stocks and other securities satisfy all the requirements for this treatment. A recent case raises the question whether a taxpayer pursuing a covered call strategy can qualify as a trader.
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