New Tax Deduction for Pass-Through Entities

Many small businesses are passthrough entities, including S corporations, partnerships, sole proprietorships, LLCs, and LLPs. The label indicates that all business earnings are passed through to the owners’ personal income tax returns. Thus, they avoid the corporate income tax.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 contains a new tax benefit for pass-throughs. This provision is complex, but it is relatively straightforward for taxpayers with taxable income below $157,500 in 2018, or $315,000 on a joint return. Such business owners may qualify for a tax deduction that equals 20% of their qualified business income.

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Tax Reform Makes Home Equity Debt Less Attractive

A key component of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is the expansion of the standard deduction. In 2018 standard deductions are $24,000 (married couples filing jointly), $18,000 (heads of household), and $12,000 (all others). These amounts are almost double the respective standard deductions in 2017. However, personal exemptions were eliminated. The new tax law also trims some itemized deductions. Taxpayers can either itemize or use the standard deduction, so some shift to the standard deduction is likely.

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Tax Reform: Know Your New Tax Rate

It has been widely reported that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 lowers federal income tax rates for many people. The highest tax rate, for example, has fallen from 39.6% to 37%. However, there are some quirks in the new tax rates, and some people will actually face higher rates. For example, an unmarried person who had $220,000 of taxable income in 2017 would have been in the 33% tax bracket. With that same income in 2018, this taxpayer will face a 35% tax rate. To find your new tax bracket, refer to the table below.

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Two Five-Year Tests for Roth IRAs

The pros and cons of Roth IRAs, which were introduced 20 years ago, are well understood. All money flowing into Roth IRAs is after-tax, so there is no upfront tax benefit. As a tradeoff, all qualified Roth IRA distributions can be tax-free, including the parts of the distributions that are payouts of investment earnings. […]

Weighing the Risks of Bond Funds

Many people invest in the bond market through funds because individual bonds can be difficult for non-professionals to analyze, and the trading prices for the small transactions typical of individual investors are often relatively high. When you invest through a fund, experienced portfolio managers make the buy and sell decisions, and your are able to take advantage of the more favorable trade prices that institutional investors enjoy.

Additionally, bond funds may hold dozens or even hundreds of different issues, reducing investors’ exposure to weakness in any one bond. Investing in bond funds rather than individual bonds can reduce risk in the fixed-income portion of your portfolio, but there still are possible pitfalls to consider. […]

Deducting Employee Business Expenses

If you work for a business, you might incur certain expenses that are related to your job. In some cases, those expenses can be substantial. As of this writing, in late 2017, Congress is considering legislation that would eliminate miscellaneous itemized deductions, but it appears that they will be available on 2017 returns. That said, you may be able to deduct such expenses incurred last year when you file your 2017 federal income tax return.

The process of claiming this deduction for employee business expenses might not be simple. You must go through several steps, and you’ll need relevant records to substantiate the deduction if you’re challenged by the IRS. […]

Solving The Annuity Puzzle

Americans hold billions of dollars in annuities, yet they are widely misunderstood. Used properly, an annuity can serve valuable purposes in personal financial planning. On the other hand, some types of annuities are widely criticized, even scorned, by some financial advisers. […]

Investing In 2018: Dividend Stocks

As of this writing, it appears that 2018 may be a difficult year for investors who seek relatively safe investments. Yields on bonds, bank accounts, money market funds, and other savings vehicles are extremely low, with questionable prospects for substantial increases. In essence, relatively low-risk places to put your money this year appear to offer scant returns.

Stock market indexes, on the other hand, are at or near record levels. But equity markets have been rising since early 2009, so the chance of a pullback in the broader stock market 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 dividend paying stocks. […]

Small Companies Need Plans for Natural Disasters

From East Coast to West Coast, hurricanes and wild fires recently created huge losses of lives, property, and emotional wellbeing. In the middle of the United States, crippling natural disasters can range from blizzards to river flooding to tornadoes. News reports naturally focus on homes and families, but local businesses also are among the victims.

There may be little a small company can do when it’s in the path of record winds or a wall of flames. However, there are steps a business owner can take when things are calm to reduce the impact of catastrophic conditions in the future. […]

Year-End Thank You Gifts From Business Owners

During the holiday season, it’s natural for business owners to think about giving something to key individuals. On your list might be your employees, customers, suppliers, or others who helped your business during 2017. If you haven’t already made plans, do so quickly so the gifts may be distributed before year-end. Lavish gifts may make Read more about Year-End Thank You Gifts From Business Owners[…]