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Tax Alerts
Tax Briefing(s)

As 2015 winds down, another temporary extension of the tax extenders appears almost certain. Despite talk in early 2015 about finding a permanent solution to the on-again, off-again extenders, the arrival of November brings a short window for Congress to extend these tax breaks. The expected late passage of these popular tax breaks also adds uncertainty to year-end tax planning as well as possibly causing a delay to the start of the 2016 filing season.

Small businesses received some welcomed news in October with passage of the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees (PACE) Act. The new law revises the definition of small employer for purposes of market reforms under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The PACE Act is intended to help protect small businesses from potential health care premium increases. At the same time, many small businesses wait for expected relief from potential penalties for stand-alone health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) deemed not to comply with the ACA.

After acknowledging earlier this year that hackers breached one of its popular online apps, the IRS has promised more identity theft protections in the 2016 filing season. The IRS, along with partners in the tax preparation community, has identified and tested more than 20 new data elements on returns to help detect and prevent identity-theft related filings. The agency is also working to prevent criminals from accessing tax-time financial products.

As the calendar approaches the end of 2015, it is helpful to think about ways to shift income and deductions into the following year. For example, spikes in income from selling investments or other property may push a taxpayer into a higher income tax bracket for 2015, including a top bracket of 39.6 percent for ordinary income and short-term capital gains, and a top bracket of 20 percent for dividends and long-term capital gains. Adjusted gross incomes that exceed the threshold for the net investment income (NII) tax can also trigger increased tax liability. Accordingly, traditional year-end techniques to defer income or to accelerate deductions can be useful.

For a business to start writing off the cost of depreciable equipment and property, it is necessary that the equipment be placed in service. To write off costs in 2015, the equipment must be placed in service by December 31, 2015. The "placed-in-service" requirement applies, for example, for taking depreciation, especially first-year bonus depreciation, under Code Sec. 168, expensing of the cost of property under Code Sec. 179, and other write-offs such as the investment tax credit under Code Sec. 46.

As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of November 2015.

The actual date a business asset is placed in service is important because it affects when depreciation may be claimed for tax purposes. Depreciation begins in the tax year that an asset is placed in service. The placed-in-service date is especially important in the case of end-of-tax year acquisitions.

More small businesses get into trouble with the IRS over payroll taxes than any other type of tax. Payroll taxes are a huge source of government revenue and the IRS takes them very seriously. It is actively looking for businesses that have fallen behind in their payroll taxes or aren't depositing them. When the IRS finds a noncompliant business, it hits hard with penalties.

No, parking tickets are not deductible. Internal Revenue Code Sec. 162 (a) provides that no deduction is allowed for fines or penalties paid to a government (U.S. or foreign, federal or local).

The AMT is difficult to apply and the exact computation is very complex. If you owed AMT last year and no unusual deduction or windfall had come your way that year, you're sufficiently at risk this year to apply a detailed set of computations to any AMT assessment. Ballpark estimates just won't work

You've waited until the last minute to fill out your income tax return. Instead of owing more taxes to the IRS, as you feared, you discover that you're entitled to a big refund. You breathe a sigh of relief.

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