Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 Standard Mileage Rates for Business, Medical and Moving Announced

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2016 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 54 cents per mile for business miles driven, down from 57.5 cents for 2015
  • 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down from 23 cents for 2015
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations
The business mileage rate decreased 3.5 cents per mile and the medical, and moving expense rates decrease 4 cents per mile from the 2015 rates. The charitable rate is based on statute.

The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How Do I Compute Payroll Taxes as an Employer

A business that has employees must withhold income taxes on payments to each employee. Each employee must first fill out Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, and provide it to the employer. On the form the employee can claim exemptions, such as the personal exemption or an exemption for a spouse or child, and determine the number of withholding allowances for the employee. Based on that information, the employer calculates the employee’s income tax withholding for the year.

The employer next must select a withholding method. The amount of taxes withheld can be determined using the percentage method; the wage bracket method; the alternative formula table method; or any other method that produces substantially the same amount as the wage bracket method. These methods are based upon tables produced by the IRS and available in IRS publication Circular E, Employer’s Tax Guide.

Percentage Method

The employer must select one of eight tables, based on the payroll period used by the employer, such as weekly, monthly, annually, etc. If the employer does not use a payroll period, it should use the daily or miscellaneous table. Each table is divided into two parts: one for single people, and one for married people.

After determining the appropriate table, the employer must determine the amount of wages to use as the base calculation. This amount is determined by subtracting the number of withholding allowances from the employee’s total gross wages for the payroll period. The result is net wages subject to withholding. The result is used in the withholding tables to determine the withholding amount.

Wage Bracket Method

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Year-End IRA Reminders

Individual Retirement Accounts, or IRAs, are important vehicles for you to save for retirement. If you have an IRA or plan to start one soon, there are a few key year-end rules that you should know. Here are the top year-end IRA reminders:
  • Know the contribution and deduction limits.  You can contribute up to a maximum of $5,500 ($6,500 if you are age 50 or older) to a traditional or Roth IRA. If you file a joint return, you and your spouse can each contribute to an IRA even if only one of you has taxable compensation. You have until April 18, 2016, to make an IRA contribution for 2015. In some cases, you may need to reduce your deduction for your traditional IRA contributions. This rule applies if you or your spouse has a retirement plan at work and your income is above a certain level.
  • Avoid excess contributions. If you contribute more than the IRA limits for 2015, you are subject to a six percent tax on the excess amount. The tax applies each year that the excess amounts remain in your account. You can avoid the tax if you withdraw the excess amounts from your account by the due date of your 2015 tax return (including extensions).
  • Take required distributions.  If you’re at least age 70½, you must take a required minimum distribution, or RMD, from your traditional IRA. You are not required to take a RMD from your Roth IRA. You normally must take your RMD by Dec. 31, 2015. That deadline is April 1, 2016, if you turned 70½ in 2015. If you have more than one traditional IRA, you figure the RMD separately for each IRA. However, you can withdraw the total amount from one or more of them. If you don’t take your RMD on time you face a 50 percent excise tax on the RMD amount you failed to take out.
  • IRA distributions may affect your premium tax credit. If you take a distribution from your IRA at the end of the year and expect to claim the PTC, you should exercise caution regarding the amount of the distribution.  Taxable distributions increase your household income, which can make you ineligible for the PTC.  You will become ineligible if the increase causes your household income for the year to be above 400 percent of the Federal poverty line for your family size. In this circumstance, you must repay the entire amount of any advance payments

Monday, December 28, 2015

Tax Extenders for the 2015 Tax Year

On December 18, 2015, the President signed into law the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act). The new law extends several tax provisions retroactive to the beginning of 2015, and also makes some provisions permanent.

The list that follows identifies tax extender items that have been reinstated retroactive to January 1, 2015, along with a brief description of the provision.

Additional Child Tax Credit. The refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit had an income threshold amount of $10,000, indexed for inflation. The extender legislation permanently sets the threshold at an unindexed $3,000, which will allow for a higher credit for taxpayers who qualify.

Enhanced American Opportunity Tax Credit (Hope Credit). The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) is an enhanced version of the Hope Credit, allowing a credit of up to $2,500 for four years of post-secondary education. The new law makes the enhanced AOTC permanent.

Enhanced Earned Income Credit (EIC). As an extender item, the EIC credit amount was temporarily increased for taxpayers with three or more children, and the marriage penalty was reduced by increasing phaseout ranges. The new law makes the enhanced EIC permanent.

Educator expenses. The new law makes the adjustment to income for qualified expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers permanent. The law also indexes the current expense cap of $250 for inflation beginning in 2016.

State and local general sales taxes. The provision allowing an itemized deduction for state and local general sales taxes instead of state and local income taxes on Schedule A, Form 1040, expired and was extended several times in the past. The new law makes the provision permanent.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Holidays from NFS


Your friends at Northeast Financial Strategies want you to know how much your loyalty and friendship are appreciated this year and in all years past. At the holiday season, our thoughts turn gratefully to those who have made our success possible. It is in this spirit we say ... thank you and best wishes for the holidays and a happy new year.

From all of us here at NFS, THANKS!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2016 Tax Season Opens Jan. 19 for Nation’s Taxpayers

WASHINGTON ― Following a review of the tax extenders legislation signed into law last week, the Internal Revenue Service announced today that the nation’s tax season will begin as scheduled on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016.

The IRS will begin accepting individual electronic returns that day. The IRS expects to receive more than 150 million individual returns in 2016, with more than four out of five being prepared using tax return preparation software and e-filed. The IRS will begin processing paper tax returns at the same time. There is no advantage to people filing tax returns on paper in early January instead of waiting for e-file to begin.

“We look forward to opening the 2016 tax season on time,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “Our employees have been working hard throughout this year to make this happen. We also appreciate the help from the nation’s tax professionals and the software community, who are critical to helping taxpayers during the filing season.”

As part of the Security Summit initiative, the IRS has been working closely with the tax industry and state revenue departments to provide stronger protections against identity theft for taxpayers during the coming filing season.

The filing deadline to submit 2015 tax returns is Monday, April 18, 2016, rather than the traditional April 15 date. Washington, D.C., will celebrate Emancipation Day on that Friday, which pushes the deadline to the following Monday for most of the nation. (Due to Patriots Day, the deadline will be Tuesday, April 19, in Maine and Massachusetts.)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

New MA Gambling Deduction and Withholding Requirements

MA DOR TIR 15-14 explains the new MA gambling deduction as well as gambling tax reporting and withholding requirements.

The new MA gaming deduction is restricted to MA based casino and racing losses to the extent that they can be matched to MA source casino and racing winnings. MA casino winnings are taxed as MA sourced income for residents and non-residents alike. MA defines gaming occasions and record keeping requirements the same as the IRS.

Although much attention is paid to gambling establishments, make note that TIR 15-124 also identifies beano gaming and raffles. Within ten days of an event, information returns must be filed with DOR with names and addresses when winnings exceed the threshold for that activity. A 5% MA withholding rate is required when state lottery winnings exceed $600, bingo $1,200, slots $1,200, keno $1,500, beano $500 and table games $5,000.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Thank You Wrentham First Responders


This holiday season, show your appreciation for Wrentham's First Responders with a lawn sign or thank you card! Ask your kids to get involved with drawings or other art projects for Wrentham's Police, Fire and EMTs!
Cards and/or artwork can be dropped off during regular business hours at Cataldo's Hardware in downtown Wrentham, or Northeast Financial Strategies (NFS) at Wampum Corner. A card-only collection box is also available at the Sheldonville Post Office. Cards and artwork should be submitted by Friday, December 18 and will be delivered to the WPD/WFD the week of Christmas.
An order form will be available soon for lawn signs! Please stay tuned!

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Medicare Open Enrollment: Five Things You Need to Do

Routines help keep us focused, organized, and even healthy. However, if your health routine doesn’t include preparing for Medicare’s Open Enrollment, now’s the time to kick-start a new healthy habit.

If you have a Medicare health or prescription drug plan, you should review and compare coverage options. The Open Enrollment runs through December 7 and is the time you can make changes to your plan. Even if you’re happy with your current coverage, you might find a better fit for your budget or your health needs. If you miss an Open Enrollment deadline, you’ll most likely have to wait a full year before you can change your plan.

Here are five things every Medicare beneficiary can do to get in the Medicare Open Enrollment routine.

1. Review your plan notice. Be sure to read any notices from your Medicare plan about changes for next year, especially your “Annual Notice of Change” letter. Look at your plan’s information to make sure your drugs are still covered and your doctors are still in network.

2. Think about what matters most to you. Medicare health and drug plans change each year and so can your health needs. Do you need a new primary care doctor? Does your network include the specialist you want for an upcoming surgery? Does your current plan cover your new medications? Does another plan offer the same value at a lower cost? Take stock of your health status and determine if you need to make a change.

3. Find out if you qualify for help paying for your Medicare. Learn about programs in your state to help with the costs of Medicare premiums, your Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductibles, coinsurance and co-payments, and Medicare prescription drug coverage costs. Visit Medicare.gov or make an appointment with a local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselor if you need help.