Archive for the ‘earned income credit’ Tag

Unmarried with Children – Head of Household

Originally published in the Cedar Street Times

March 8, 2013

Article on Unmarried People Living Together with Children

I cannot write the title of this article without thinking about the 80s and 90s sitcom, Married with Children, about a dysfunctional American family starring Ed O’Neill, Katey Sagal, David Faustino, and Christina Applegate.  With all the problems the Bundy family had in its 11 years on television, one thing they did not have to deal with were tax determinations when you are unmarried with children!

When I speak of unmarried people, I am not referring to divorced individuals, but people who have never been married.  Different rules apply to divorced and legally separated individuals, and I am not speaking from that perspective.

Many questions arise about who gets to claim dependency exemptions, child tax credits, head of household filing status, dependent care expenses, etc. in situations where unmarried people are living together with children.  This article could not begin to scratch the surface of the issues that exist as there are so many situations that could yield different tax results. In this issue I am going to focus on the head of household filing status.

For an unmarried individual to claim head of household, he or she has to maintain a household for more than half the year that is the principal residence of an unmarried qualifying child (or qualifying relative) for dependency exemption purposes.

A qualifying child is someone who must generally be under 19 (24 if full-time student).  The person must also be your child, step-child, sibling, step-sibling, or a descendant of any of these, or an adopted or foster child.  The child cannot provide over half of his or her own support, and the child cannot file a joint return.

Unmarried parents often both meet the criteria to consider a shared biological child a qualifying child, and then they can decide who will claim the qualifying child for the dependency exemption.  (If they cannot decide, tie-breaker rules exist.)  Whoever claims the child as a dependent gets the child tax credits, credit for child and dependent care expenses, exclusion for dependent benefits, earned income credit, and the possibility of filing as head of household.  You cannot split up the benefits between parents.

If there is more than one shared biological child, one parent may be able to claim one child as a dependent and the other may be able to claim a different child as a dependent.  Or maybe one or both have children from prior partners that live with them and could qualify them as well.  (Side note: if unmarried person A earned less than $3,800 (2012) and lived for the entire year with unmarried person B in the household maintained by B, then A could be a dependent of B as a “qualifying relative,” as well as any of A’s children that lived with A and B and are supported by B.  This also qualifies B for head of household.)

Let us assume both unmarried people living together each have a qualifying child.  Can they both claim head of household?  If their households are maintained in separate dwellings, the answer is almost always yes.  But what if they live under the same roof?  Can you maintain separate households in the same house?

The answer to this depends on whether they are acting as a family unit or not.  IRS Chief Counsel Memorandum SCA (Service Center Advice) 1998-041 addresses this issue and basically says that all facts  and circumstances are considered, and if you are conducting your lives like a single family, then only one individual can file with the head-of-household status, and the other must file single.   But if you are basically like roommates sharing dwelling costs (but not bedrooms!), and lead separate lives with your own respective children, then you could be considered as each maintaining your own household, and then both people can file as head of household.  If you share a biological child as well, it will be nearly impossible for you to make this argument.  But never say never!

Prior articles are republished on my website at www.tlongcpa.com/blog.

IRS Circular 230 Notice: To the extent this article concerns tax matters, it is not intended to be used and cannot be used by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law.

Travis H. Long, CPA is located at 706-B Forest Avenue, PG, 93950 and focuses on trust, estate, individual, and business taxation. He can be reached at 831-333-1041.

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Your Future Tax Return: Romney Versus Obama

Originally published in the Cedar Street Times

November 2, 2012

If tax positions would sway your Tuesday vote, here is what Obama and Romney would like to see.  Keep in mind, however, you don’t always get what you want!

Tax brackets: Romney reduce to 80% of current levels. Obama keep the same as 2012 except allow top bracket to split into two higher brackets like pre-2001. (Romney, Current 2012 Rates, Obama, 2013 rates if no congressional action ) (8%, 10%, 10%, 15%), (12%, 15%, 15%, 15%), (20%, 25%, 25%, 28%), (22.4%, 28%, 28%, 31%), (26.4%, 33%, 33%, 36%), (28%, 35%, 36% and 39.6%, 39.6%)

Capital gains, interest, dividends: Romney reduce tax rate to zero for AGI below $200K.  15% max if AGI above $200K. Obama increase long-term capital gains rate to 20% max and up to 39.6% on dividends – leave interest taxed at ordinary bracket rates.

2013 3.8% Medicare surtax on net investment income and existing 0.9% medicare surtax for married filers over $250K AGI and others over $200K: Romney repeal.  Obama keep.

Itemized deductions: Romney cap itemized deductions (maybe $17,000-$50,000 cap) and maybe eliminate completely for high income.  Obama reduce your itemized deductions by 3% of your AGI in excess of $250K married, $225K HOH, $200K single, and $125K MFS (up to 80% reduction of itemized deductions) and limit the effective tax savings to 28% even if you are in a higher bracket.

Income exclusions: Romney keep as is. Obama cap the effective tax savings to 28% on exclusions from income for contributions to retirement plans,  health insurance premiums paid by employers, employees, or self-employed taxpayers, moving expenses, student loan interest and certain education expenses, contributions to HSAs and Archer MSAs, tax-exempt state and local bond interest, certain business deductions for employees, and domestic production activities deduction.

AMT: Romney repeal. Obama keep but set exclusion to current levels and index for inflation.

2009 expanded Child Tax Credit, increased Earned Income Credit, and American Opportunity Credit: Romney – Allow to expire as scheduled 12/31/12.  Obama – Make permanent.

Buffett Rule: Romney “Not gonna do it.” Obama households making over $1 million should not pay a smaller percentage of tax than middle income families.  This is accomplished by raising the rates on capital gains and dividends as discussed earlier.

Temporary two percent FICA cut you have been enjoying in 2011 and 2012: Both candidates favor allowing to expire at 12/31/12.

Estate tax: Romney repeal.  Obama set at $3.5 million and index for inflation with top rate of 45% on excess.

Top corporate tax rates: Romney 25%. Obama – keep at 35% for 2013 but maybe reduce to 28% in the future.

Corporate international tax: Romney don’t tax U.S. companies on income earned in foreign countries. Obama discourage income shifting to foreign countries.

Corporate tax preferences: Romney extend section 179 expensing another year, create temporary tax credit, expand research and experimentation credit. Obama increase domestic manufacturing incentives, impose additional fees on insurance and financial industries, reduce fossil fuel preferences.

Prior articles are republished on my website at www.tlongcpa.com/blog.

IRS Circular 230 Notice: To the extent this article concerns tax matters, it is not intended to be used and cannot be used by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law.

Travis H. Long, CPA is located at 706-B Forest Avenue, PG, 93950 and focuses on trust, estate, individual, and business taxation. He can be reached at 831-333-1041.

I’m Having a Baby!

Originally published in the Pacific Grove Hometown Bulletin

Decembery 7, 2011

Well, not me, technically, but my wife is.  After 12 years of wedded bliss, we are entering the baby business.  Like most future parents we are excited, but being a CPA takes it to a whole new level of joy!  There are so many planning opportunities around children.

Planning can start well before birth or even years before conception.  For example, the highly tax savvy high school senior could think, “Someday, I am going to have a family of my own.  Knowing the high cost of college I am about to incur, I should really start saving for my future child’s education now to maximize tax-deferred growth!  That raucous week in Cancun is really a waste of money, anyway.”  Instead this high schooler opens a section 529 plan and names his older sister’s child as a beneficiary.  After four years in a frat house, a year traveling after school, a few years bouncing around finding himself, falling in love, getting married, and finally having a child, this new parent then renames the beneficiary to his own child with a ten-year jump start on tax deferred education saving!

What about the expense of having the child?  This natural process which has gone on quite successfully for a few million years or so at no cost, mostly outdoors in the dirt, can now be quite pricey, and sterile.  It may cost $5,000 if you use a midwife or $25,000 in a hospital!  You will likely go over your deductible and insurance will pick up the rest.  A great option is to have a high deductible health plan going forward with a health savings account.  This setup makes virtually all of your family medical expenses deductible whereas people with traditional plans are stuck itemizing with a 7.5 percent of AGI floor – meaning most people do not get any tax benefit.  It also allows the deductibility of more types of expenses and alternative care.

Next, there is the additional exemption deduction to get excited about – we are talking $3,700!  You are also eligible for child tax credits – up to a $1,000 per child.  And if you are low income, the child may help qualify you for a larger earned income credit: up to $3,094 with one child or $5,751 with three or more!  Child tax credits and earned income credits can be refundable – meaning, even if you do not pay a dime in tax, the federal government will “refund” the money to you anyway – but having children is not a great way to get rich.   For advanced tax planning, you aim to have your child near the end of December and still receive the exemption and credits for the whole year.  No expense, but full benefit – brilliant!

Do not forget about dependent care credits and education credits either.  Dependent care credits will save you up to $1,050 for one child or $2,100 for two or more children.   Education credits for college age children such as the Hope credit can save you up to $2,500 in tax.

My favorite planning opportunity which I have yet to implement with a client is baby modeling.  If you can get your baby into print or TV commercials, then I feel you would have a strong case to say the baby has earned income.  Maybe the “talent’s” agent, a.k.a. mom or dad, would need to be paid out a heavy agent fee since it really required a lot of work on their part – but then again, I am sure that many famous actors and actresses have to be babied by their agents too!  Once your baby has earned income, you can establish a Roth-IRA for retirement!  Think about 18-22 years of additional investment compounding!  (Call me if you have a child in this situation – I want to put this in action!!)

So when is our baby due – LATE April…we hope!

Prior articles are republished on my website at www.tlongcpa.com/blog.

IRS Circular 230 Notice: To the extent this article concerns tax matters, it is not intended to be used and cannot be used by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law.

Travis H. Long, CPA is located at 706-B Forest Avenue, PG, 93950 and focuses on trust, estate, individual, and business taxation. He can be reached at 831-333-1041.