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2020 Tax Season for 2019 Tax Returns

Tax Returns for 2019 (GET READY!)....

Happy New Year! And yes, it's that time of year again! As we start another new year, it is time for our annual income tax planning reminder letter. In the last two years we have seen many individual tax changes that may have reduced some deductions, increased others and dramatically changed your tax return. There are still a number of tax planning tools available and in this letter,  we will remind you of a few.
Before I go into the planning tips, please be aware that for many of you, we will be sending you an electronic organizer directly to your portal with us, on www.vimlantax.com. We would have sent you an email notification regarding that. If you do not have a portal and want one, please let us know. The organizer will allow you to enter your tax data as well as allow you to upload your tax forms, all for upload to us. Yes, we are doing away with the old excel-based questionnaires, but if you would like that, please let us know, and we will email that to you.
Immediate AND long-lasting planning tips:
  • Some employers allow you to deposit your health savings account amounts through a cafeteria or 125 plan. If available to you, this is the best way to put your own money in because of the additional tax savings available by avoiding Social Security tax. You are probably too late to do much for this year but make this your 2020 New Year’s resolution.
  • Fewer Americans are now able to itemize deductions because of the huge benefit received from the increased standard deduction. That doesn’t mean that you still can’t do anything though. One simple tool to get the best “bang for your buck” would be to practice what we call bunching of charitable contributions. This trick guides you to make charitable contributions every other year so that you double up and get a deduction in some years without giving it up in others. Simply make your 2020 contributions as early as possible in 2020, and then make your 2021 contributions at the very end of 2020 so that you “bunch” all your amounts in one year to potentially get the best itemized deduction amount.
  • Because there is no longer any deduction for work related expenses you must carefully read your employer’s handbook to see if they offer a reimbursement program for job-related expenses like licenses, dues, uniforms, supplies, etc.
  • If you are considering selling some old stock investments you might want to consider giving them directly to charity and avoiding writing checks to charity because you are able to deduct the full fair market value of the stock you give away in most cases.
  • While we are at it, if you are over 70 and ½ and have an IRA you should not be writing checks to charity, instead you should be using the “Direct IRA to charity” tool to avoid tax issues while qualifying for the required distribution rule.
  • One of our annual overall planning tools is to advise “debt free at 65”. This life-long goal is a basic element of financial and tax planning that is constantly overlooked in today’s era of 30-year mortgages and cheap re-financing options. With the greatly reduced itemized deduction availability of home mortgages it is more powerful than ever!
  • Ever since the advent of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), we continue to worry about unreported foreign investments, and we suggest you very carefully consider whether you have control over a foreign checking account or hold stock outside the United States. These must be reported or they essentially face 50% penalties each year. Some example forms are the 8938 and the FinCen 114.
  • While we are talking about it, remind yourself that your Social Security benefit is based on your highest 35 years of earnings, so taking some time away from the workforce, or aggressively writing off business expenses can really have a long-term negative effect on retirement.
  • Because state tax deductions and credits are often totally different than Federal items, we want to remind you to please completely fill out any organizer we provide for your return.
If you are considering retirement, starting a small business, selling an investment or business, or a college savings program we strongly suggest you contact us for a planning meeting for these items, as well as for any of the ideas discussed in this year end letter. We do appreciate your business.
Thank You!
 
Milan Madhani, CPA

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