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What’s Inside
More give in the gift tax
Don’t neglect estate planning
Moving your business to a low-tax state
Tax calendar

Factoid : Bountiful bequests

The IRS has clarified that the 2018 indexed federal estate tax exemption amount is $11.18 million, not the original estimate of $11.2 million.

Did you know?

Recognizing tax burdens, the U.S. areas with the highest cost of living are Manhattan, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Brooklyn, in that order. Among 253 locations studied, total taxes as a percentage of gross income range from 25% (Casper, WY) to 45% (Manhattan, NY). In lower cost areas such as Memphis, Oklahoma City, and Cincinnati, gross income under $75,000 could provide a standard of living requiring over $300,000 in Manhattan and more than $200,000 in San Francisco.

Source: Wahrheit Ventures (more…)

What’s inside

IRS okays home equity deductions
Buck market volatility with a retirement bucket plan
Coping with summer vacations at your small business
Tax calendar

Factoid : Winning streak

The median U.S. house price reached $241,700 in early 2018, marking 72 consecutive months of year-on-year price gains.

Did you know?

In 2017, total U.S. household consumer debt reached $13 trillion. Non-mortgage debt (car loans, student loans, credit cards, and so on) was reported by 71% of American workers. Only 31% of workers with non-mortgage debt were saving outside the workplace for retirement, compared with 69% of workers without non-mortgage debt.

Source: LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute. (more…)

What’s inside

The new tax law will change divorce tactics
Stretching for yield…carefully
No tax deductions for business entertaining
Tax calendar

 Factoid : Global expansion

The broadest global expansion in seven years occurred during 2017, with economic growth in 120 countries that accounted for three-fourths of world economic output.

 

Did you know ?

Among Baby Boomers (age 52 and older), 46% considered delaying retirement beyond the original target date in 2017. In 2015, the percentage was 47%. By comparison, 41% of Millennials (age 18–35) considered such a delayed retirement in 2017, up from 30% in 2015.

Source: T. Rowe Price

 

Article : The new tax law will change divorce tactics

When couples divorce, financial negotiations often involve alimony. The tax rules regarding alimony were dramatically changed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, but existing agreements have been grandfathered. In addition, the old rules remain in effect for divorce and separation agreements executed during 2018. Next year, the rules will change, and the roles will be reversed.

Under divorce or separation agreements executed in 2018, and for many years in the past, alimony payments have been tax deductible. Moreover, these deductions reduce adjusted gross income, so they may have benefits elsewhere on a tax return. While the spouse or former spouse paying the alimony gets a tax deduction, the recipient reports alimony as taxable income.

 

Shifting into reverse

Beginning with agreements executed in 2019, there will be no tax deduction for alimony. As an offset, alimony recipients won’t include the payments in income.

Example 1: Joe and Kim Alexander get divorced in 2018. Joe expects to be in a 35% tax bracket in the future, whereas Kim anticipates being in a 22% bracket. Suppose that the proposed agreement has Joe paying $3,500 a month ($42,000 a year) in alimony.

Joe will save $14,700 in tax (35% times $42,000), but Kim will owe $9,240 (22% times $42,000). Net, the couple will save over $5,000 per year in taxes. This type of calculation will affect the negotiations, as it has in the past. Assuming the relevant rules are followed, it may make sense to tip the agreement toward Joe paying alimony to Kim, perhaps in return for other considerations.

Example 2: Assume that the Alexanders’ neighbors, Len and Marie Baker, have identical finances. They divorce in 2019. If Len pays $42,000 a year in alimony, he will get no deduction and won’t get the $14,700 in annual tax savings that Joe did in example 1. Marie, on the other hand, will pocket $42,000, tax-free, without the $9,240 tax bill faced by Kim in example 1.

 

Moving things along

Just as people shouldn’t “let the tax tail wag the investment dog,” so taxes shouldn’t dominate divorce or separation proceedings. However, it’s also true that taxes shouldn’t be ignored. If you are in such a situation, our office can help explain to both parties the possible savings available from executing an agreement during 2018, rather than in a future year.

The new rules will be in effect beginning in 2019. With no alimony deduction and a tax exemption for alimony income, it may be desirable to consider after-tax, rather than pre-tax, income when making decisions. Speaking very generally, there may be less cash for the couple to use after-tax.

Keep in mind that, as of 2019, not all states will have alimony tax laws that conform to the new federal rule. Your state may still offer tax deductions for alimony payments and impose income tax on alimony received. That’s all the more reason to look at after-tax results when calculating a divorce or separation agreement.

Getting personal

The impact of the new TCJA on spousal negotiations may go beyond the taxation of alimony. Among other provisions to consider, the TCJA abolishes personal exemptions. As a tradeoff, the standard deduction was almost doubled (see CPA Client Bulletin, April 2018).

In some past instances, divorcing spouses would agree that the high bracket party would claim the children’s personal exemptions, which effectively were tax deductions, in return for some other consideration. Now those exemptions don’t exist, so they shouldn’t be part of divorce negotiations. If you previously entered into an agreement that included the treatment of children’s personal exemptions, you may want to consult with counsel to see about possible revisions.

Trusted advice

Defining alimony

 

Payments to a spouse or former spouse must meet several requirements to be treated as alimony for tax purposes. The following are some key tests:

• The payments are made under a divorce or separation agreement.

• There is no liability to continue the payments after the recipient’s death.

• The payments aren’t treated as child support or a property settlement.

• The payments are made in cash (including checks or money orders).

 

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What’s inside

Special report on tax planning under the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017

Patience is prudent
Know your true tax rate 
Rethinking retirement contributions
Regard Roth conversions carefully
Are state and local taxes reasons for relocation?
Positive prognosis for medical deductions
Home equity hassle
New tax deduction for pass-through entities
Tax calendar

  (more…)

As of 01/01/18 we are happy to announce that the firm of O’Neal and Associates, CPA’s is now part of the Smith, Adcock And Company family. Ed, Jessica, Carole and the O’Neal clients are welcome additions to Smith Adcock.

Ed, Jessica and Carole will continue to provide the high level of service O’Neal and Associates has provided in the past, now coupled with the additional services and backing Smith, Adcock can provide.

 

What’s Inside

Investing In 2018: Dividend Stocks
Investing In 2018: Defensive Funds
Small Companies Need Plans for Natural Disasters
Tax Calendar

Factoid: Slippery Slope

From late 2007 to late 2017, oil prices fell from over $100 a barrel to under $50 a barrel.

Did You Know ?

In 2017, the national median cost of home health aide services was $21.50 an hour. Annualized, based on 44 hours of care per week for 52 weeks, that’s nearly $50,000 a year. Costs are highest in North Dakota (around $64,000 a year) and lowest in Louisiana ($35,000).

Source: Genworth 2017 Annual Cost of Care Survey

Article: Investing In 2018: Dividend Stocks

As of this writing, it appears that 2018 may be a difficult year for investors. Yields on bonds, bank accounts, money market funds, and other savings vehicles are extremely low, with questionable prospects for substantial increases. Stock market indexes, on the other hand, are at or near record levels.
In essence, relatively low-risk places to put your money this year appear to offer scant returns. Equity markets have been rising since early 2009, so the chance of a pullback may be just as great as the possibility of solid gains.
Given this environment, where might investors go for opportunities for respectable returns with some protection against a steep decline? One possibility is in the stock market.

Paying dividends

Equity markets are notoriously difficult to predict. Nevertheless, dividend paying stocks might tilt the risk-reward odds in your favor. During recent bear markets, dividend payers generally fared better than those that didn’t pay dividends.
This seems reasonable because dividend paying companies may be enterprises that generate ample cash flow—enough to distribute some profits to investors. Companies in strong financial condition could be favored by investors in stormy economic weather, and the prospect of ongoing dividend payouts might stem panicked selling.

Floor and ceiling

Whereas dividend paying stocks may offer some protection during down markets, they also might deliver solid returns. The yield on the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 Index currently is nearly 2%. That’s the yield for the broad index, so some of the large companies included in the index have dividend yields of 3% or more. When an investment starts with such a payout, it’s less likely to fall into negative territory and is already on the way to possible robust returns.

Dividends can grow, too. Indeed, many public companies have long histories of raising their payouts.

Example: Nancy King is a widow who depends on investment income for her lifestyle. She invests $50,000 in shares of GHI Corp., currently paying a 4% dividend, or $2,000 a year. If GHI raises its annual dividend to $2,500 over the next few years, Nancy will collect a 5% return on her initial investment.

In addition, qualified dividends (see Trusted Advice box) receive favorable tax treatment. Nancy, in a low tax bracket in our example, could owe 0% on qualified dividends. Other taxpayers owe 15% or, for those in the highest ordinary tax bracket, 20%. These rates are lower than ordinary income tax rates. The Trump Administration’s tax reform framework, released in the fall of 2017, does not mention the possibility of ending this tax break.

Go with a pro

It’s true that dividend paying stocks can offer many advantages. However, investing in equities carries risks; even the most established company, with excellent management, can see its share price tumble in a broad selloff. Selecting individual dividend paying stocks can require thorough research and portfolio monitoring.

Therefore, many investors prefer to invest in mutual funds or ETFs that focus on dividend stocks. There are dozens of such funds available, with portfolio managers who are responsible for stock selection. Other funds track a custom index of dividend paying stocks. Dividend stock funds tend to fall into two broad categories:

  • High payout. Some funds are designed to pay higher yields than the S&P 500, perhaps 3% or 4%. They may use “dividend capture” strategies, buying funds just before a dividend payout. High dividends may be appealing, but a robust payout can indicate a relatively low share price due to concerns about the company’s growth prospects.
  • Dividend growth. These funds may have yields similar to the S&P 500 or lower. However, the stocks they hold are chosen because the companies have enjoyed growing earnings along with rising dividends and are considered likely to continue such profitability.

Quality counts

Dividend oriented investors may hold individual stocks, specialized funds, or a combination. They aim to own successful, profitable companies that will provide a steady stream of cash flow, bull market or bad. There’s no magic about dividend paying stocks and there have been instances in which a dividend cut has been followed by a plunging stock price. Still, buying successful companies that pay appealing dividends is one way to approach equity investing this year, with current prices at lofty levels.

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