Archive for the ‘Social Security’ Tag

Back to Basics Part XXXV – Form 8959 Additional Medicare Tax and Form 8960 – Net Investment Income Tax

Originally published in the Cedar Street Times

March 25, 2016

Forms 8959 and 8960 are two relatively new forms that started with the 2014 tax year.  These are two of quite a number of tax increases that are being used to help fund ObamaCare.  Both of these forms affect people with income in excess of $200,000 for Single filers or 250,000 for Married Filing Jointly.

Form 8959 is the Additional Medicare Tax.  It is an additional 0.9% Medicare Part A tax on combined W-2 and self-employment wages in excess of the above stated thresholds.  Note that it is not based on  W-2 box 1 taxable wages, but on Medicare wages which are often higher for most people.  Pretax deductions such as contributions to retirement plans are included in Medicare wages, whereas they are not included in box 1 taxable wages.

Employers have to start collecting this additional tax once your wages hit the thresholds.  However, if you changed jobs during the year, the second employer will not withhold until the wages your earn with that employer reaches the thresholds.  This means that you could owe additional tax when you file your tax returns for the shortfall, since the new employer and old employer do not communicate to coordinate this tax.  For self-employed people, you would of course be sending in quarterly estimates of your income and self-employment tax liability, and the calculation of this new tax would be made on your income tax returns at year-end.

The Form 8960 is the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT).  Once your income meets the thresholds previously discussed, you will also have an additional 3.8% tax on all investment related income.  This would include income sources such as interest income, dividend income, annuities, rents, royalties, capital gains distributions from mutual funds and capital gains from the sale of investments such as stocks and bonds.  Even real estate professionals would be subject to NIIT on their own rental real estate activities, unless they meet the material participation test specifically in rental real estate, which is a separate test from time spent in real estate sales activities, for instance.

If you own an interest in a business and you are not materially participating in the business, this income will also be subject to the net investment income tax.  Material participation generally means 500 hours or more during the year.  The sale of rental property and even second homes are also subject to NIIT.  If you sell an interest in a partnership or s-corporation and do not materially participate in the business, you will also be subject to NIIT on any gains from those sales.  Investment income from your children that are taxed on your returns through Form 8814 are also subject to NIIT.

Wages, unemployment compensation, alimony, Social Security benefits, tax-exempt interest income, income subject to self-employment taxes, and income from qualified retirement plan distributions are specifically excluded from the tax.

There are also some deductions that can be used to offset NIIT.  These expenses included investment interest expense, investment advisory and brokerage fees, expenses related to rental and royalty income, tax preparation fees, fiduciary expenses (in the case of an estate or trust) and state and local income taxes.

Regarding trusts and estate, it is important to note that the thresholds for NIIT are much lower.  Due to the compressed income tax bracket structure, NIIT kicks in when the trust or estate reaches the highest income tax bracket at only $12,300 of income (2015).  This provides additional incentive for trustees to push income out to the beneficiaries since many trusts will be subject to NIIT, but the beneficiaries are often not subject due to the much higher thresholds for individuals.

Planning can be an important tool to lower the impact of NIIT.

If you have questions about other schedules or forms in your tax returns, prior articles in our Back to Basics series on personal tax returns are republished on my website at www.tlongcpa.com/blog .

Travis H. Long, CPA, Inc. is located at 706-B Forest Avenue, PG, 93950 and focuses on trust, estate, individual, and business taxation. Travis can be reached at 831-333-1041. This article is for educational purposes.  Although believed to be accurate in most situations, it does not constitute professional advice or establish a client relationship.

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American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012

Originally published in the Cedar Street Times

January 11, 2013

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was signed into law January 2, 2013.  There was lots in the bill, but I am going to hit on a few that are notable and others that having meaning to a lot of people.  I think making the Alternative Minimum Tax patch permanent and indexed for inflation was a huge victory for many taxpayers.  That patch has been kicked down the road for years.  The indexing will certainly alleviate concerns of a similar problem down the road.  Many middle class people do not realize they were on the cusp of paying thousands of dollars more on their 2012 tax returns due in April without this fix.

The estate tax exemption being set permanently at $5 million and also indexed for inflation is huge, especially for Californians that own property.  In a lot of ways, this simplifies estate planning for most individuals and will bring into question the need of the typical A-B split for many people that currently have it.  Having a B trust, or bypass trust, would require additional tax work in the future, so the ability to eliminate it, could be worth the cost of amending your trust.  Family dynamics may of course still dictate a B trust is prudent.

Various other temporary provisions we have been enjoying that were made permanent included marriage penalty relief for joint filers, better rules for student loan interest deductions and dependent care credit rules.

Quite a few things were extended but not made permanent.  A big one was extending the exclusion from income of cancelled debt on personal residences for another year.  This could be a lifesaver for those still struggling with mortgages that are “underwater.”  Deductions for grade school teacher expenses and an above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses were other items extended through 2013.  More important than the deduction for tuition was the extension of the American opportunity tax credit through 2018 which saves taxpayers up to $2,500 each year as a result of education costs.  Enhanced provisions of the child tax credit were also extended through 2018.

Small businesses have had the luxury of writing off high dollar amounts of many capital asset purchases through code section 179.  This was slated to return to $25,000, but has been extended through 2013 at $500,000.  Bonus depreciation and accelerated expensing of qualified leasehold, restaurant and retail improvements on a 15 year schedule instead of returning to a 39.5 year schedule was also extended.

Bush-era tax rates and capital gains rates have been retained for everyone but the wealthy.  For people making over $400,000, their marginal bracket rose from 35% to 39.6%, and their capital gains tax went from 15% to 20%.  There is also a new 3.8% medicare tax on investment income for people generally making over $200,000 and a new hospital insurance tax of .9% for people generally making over $200,000.  Itemized deduction phaseouts have also returned for high income earners.

Everyday wage earners will be negatively impacted by the return of a 6.2% tax for Social Security rather than 4.2% tax we have had for the past two years, as they will see two percent less in their paychecks as a result.  Another negative impact for people with high uninsured medical expenses, is that the threshold for medical itemized deductions has moved from 7.5% of your adjusted gross income to 10%.  Individuals 65 and up will still enjoy the 7.5% rate for another three years.

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.

Are Social Security Benefits Taxable? If So, Why?

Originally published in the Pacific Grove Hometown Bulletin

October 5, 2011

If you answered both “No,” and “Partially,” you are correct.  This seemingly simple question actually requires a full page of number crunching to determine the correct answer on your tax returns and will result in anywhere from zero to 85 percent being taxable.  If you go to my website http://www.tlongcpa.com/Financial-Tools and look in the income section there is a calculator that will do it for you!

Otherwise, below is a quick rule of thumb to determine where you fall on the tax ladder.  Stick this in your Social Security file.

First, take half the Social Security benefits you earned for the year and add to that all your other income including tax exempt interest (Add back certain income exclusions such as foreign income and adoption benefits).  We will call this modified income.

“No”

If your modified income is less than $32K and you are married filing joint (MFJ) then none of your Social Security will be taxable.  For everyone else, if your modified income is under $25K, then nothing will be taxable (exception – married filing separate and lived with spouse will always result in 85 percent of all Social Security benefits taxed regardless of other income).

“Partially”

If you do not want to do much head scratching and you want to estimate conservatively, here is my advice: If your modified income is between $32K and $44K as MFJ ($25K-$34K for everybody else), assume 50 percent of your total Social Security benefits are taxable.  If over those ranges, assume 85 percent of your total benefits are taxable.

If you want to be a pencil pushing tax hero here is what you do: If your modified income is between $32K and $44K as married filing joint ($25K-$34K for everybody else), 50 percent of the amount above $32K MFJ ($25K others) is the taxable amount of your Social Security benefits, capped at 50 percent of your Social Security benefits.  If your modified income is above those ranges, then your taxable Social Security benefits will be the lesser of A) 85 percent of your Social Security benefits OR B) 85 percent of your modified income above $44K MFJ, ($34K others) plus the lesser of 1) $6,000 MFJ ($4,500 others) or 2) 50 percent of your Social Security benefits.

Why is it taxed?

Most people want to know why the government taxes Social Security benefits, especially considering that you already paid income taxes on your Social Security contributions through the years.  To an extent, Social Security benefits are double taxed as a result.  We do need to remember, however, that Social Security is not just a retirement plan, but includes Medicare Parts B and D, disability, survivor’s benefits and many other social programs we may benefit from if needed.  Prior to 1983, Social Security benefits were not taxed.  In the late 1970s and early 1980s the government realized the system would soon be bankrupt because of added promises and demographics, so laws were passed to reform Social Security, including taxation of benefits.  Hmmm.  Kind of sounds like the same debate we are having again…  However you slice it, the bottom line is that it is not sustainable in its current form and we will have to cut benefits, raise taxes, or go further in debt.  I surmise it will be a combination of all three.

There may be a few other circumstances and specific rules that affect you, and you should consult with a qualified tax professional regarding your tax situation if you need an exact answer.  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. He can be reached at 831-333-1041.