Archive for the ‘Medicare’ Tag

Back to Basics Part III – More Sch. A

Originally published in the Cedar Street Times

November  14, 2014

Two weeks ago we discussed the purpose of schedules and forms in a tax return and then began a discussion on Schedule A – Itemized Deductions.  We discussed that itemizing deductions is an option if you have more than what the IRS allots as a standard deduction to everyone for things like medical expenses, taxes, charitable donations, and other miscellaneous deductions.  This week we are going to look more closely at the different types of deductions that you can itemize on Schedule A and how these deductions can get a shave and a haircut and look like less than when you started.

The first section on Schedule A covers out-of-pocket medical expenses (not reimbursed by insurance).  Things like doctors, dentists, chiropractors, Christian Science practitioners, hospital bills, prescription drugs (not over the counter), eyeglasses, contacts, copays, etc. all fit into this category.  Health insurance is also deductible here unless it is for self-employed people, in which case it can get potentially better treatment as an adjustment to income on page one of the 1040 instead.  Health insurance would include your Medicare payments which most people see deducted from their Social Security checks.

Sometimes people are surprised to learn that substantial expenditures on your home can be deductible if done to improve accessibility – such as widening doors and bathrooms, installing ramps, hand rails, etc. (there are a number of rules to be aware of, however).  You can also deduct medical related miles at 23.5 cents per mile and even deduct overnight travel expenses if you must drive to a hospital that is not local, for instance. The problem with medical expense deductions is that for the vast majority of people, none of the expenses even make it towards counting as an itemized deduction. 

You have to have in excess of 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (the bottom number on page one of your 1040) in medical expenses before a single dollar counts.  So, if your adjusted gross income is $100,000, and you have $10,500 of out-of-pocket medical expenses, only $500 counts towards your itemized deductions.  If you or your spouse are over 65 you have a 7.5 percent threshold through 2016, and then you will jump to ten percent as well.  A really nice planning opportunity around this dilemma is having a health savings account in connection with a high deductible plan.  It has the ability to effectively convert some or all of your nondeductible medical expenses to deductible expenses.  Ask your tax preparer or insurance agent about this.

The second section on Schedule A covers deductible taxes you have paid. This includes state income taxes you paid during the year, SDI withholdings from your CA paycheck, real estate taxes on your personal residence(s), personal property taxes assessed on value such as annual vehicle taxes (license fee on your CA DMV renewal), boat, aircraft, etc.  Remember, as a cash basis taxpayer, these (as with generally all income and expenses on your tax returns) count in the year you actually pay them (or charge them in the case of a credit card), so it doesn’t matter what year they are supposed to cover – just look at when they were paid.  There has been an option in past years to deduct sales taxes you paid during the year if they were greater than the state income taxes you paid, but that is currently not an option for 2014, unless Congress takes action.

In two weeks we will continue our discussion regarding Schedule A.

Prior articles are republished on my website at

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.

Health Insurance Tax Credit for 2014

Originally published in the Cedar Street Times

December 13, 2013

You have probably heard that there is a possible tax credit for the new health insurance requirement that takes effect January 1, 2014.  If you have health insurance available through your employer that does not exceed 9.5% of your household income (for your single coverage alone, exclusive of your family), or you have certain government plans like Medicare or Medicaid, you are not eligible for the credit.  For others that can go through Covered California, our state health insurance exchange, your income will determine your eligibility.  It is important to know the income thresholds for your family size because the poorly designed structure of the credit could mean the complete loss of the credit if you are even $1 over the threshold.

For instance, a family of four which includes a mother and father age 45 and two children in high school with total household income of $94,199 (using 2013 figures) in Pacific Grove, California, would qualify for a $629 per month tax credit, or $7,548 for the year.  If they made $1 more of income, $94,200, they would receive absolutely nothing.  This being the case, they would be better off taking an extra three or four weeks of unpaid time off from work, just to be able to qualify for the credit!

The credit is available to households making as much as four times the federal poverty line.  If you make under the poverty line you are not eligible for the credit, but eligible for Medicaid (MediCal in California) instead.  If you make between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line, the credit is determined on a nice sliding scale based on your income, age, zip code, and family size.  The problem is that there is a cliff once you get over 400% that makes you completely ineligible for the credit.  The 2014 poverty line figures are not yet released, but can be found at when available.

Using 2013 information, the critical thresholds at 400% are as follows based on the number of members in the family: one family member – $45,960, two family members – $62,040, three family members – $78,120, four family members – $94,200, five family members – $110,280, and adding $16,080 for each additional family member.  California residents can visit and enter in their family size, age of adults, zip code, and expected household income to determine the tax credit and premium options for the state healthcare exchange very easily.

The family size includes you, your spouse, and your dependents (whether or not actually related).  Household income includes the income for you and your spouse (if married, you must file a joint return to get the credit), as well as any income of dependents IF those dependents had a filing requirement ($6,200 of earned income or $1,000 of unearned income in 2014).  Although there is not a lot of clear guidance by the IRS at this point, it appears if they are under the filing requirement, none of their income is counted (this is another cliff!).  This means you would need to make sure your dependents do not make over these amounts if it would push you over the threshold.  More specifically the income included for you and your dependents is your adjusted gross income modified to include any tax-exempt income, nontaxed Social Security benefits, and any foreign earned income excluded.

Based on your 2012 income, you may be eligible to receive advance payments on your credit.  However, this will be reconciled on your 2014 tax return, and you will either have additional funds paid to you, or worse, have to pay back (subject to a cap) some or even all of the credit if it turns out you were ineligible based on your actual income in 2014.

Prior articles are republished on my website at

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.

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

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.