Tax Changes for 2015-16

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By Robert Whirley CPA

[Whirley & Associates, LLC]

Alpharetta, GA

Doctors – Be Aware!

As tax filing season rapidly approaches I wanted to provide you with a few key items to note for 2015 and 2016.  If you are interested I can send you my full list of tax changes for 2015 and 2016 – I warn you, it’s 19 pages long – and this is only my short list.

Welcome to the New Year 2016! 

  • For 2015, the standard mileage rate for business travel is 57.5¢ (54¢ for 2016).
  • The simplified per diem rates for post-Sept. 30, 2015 travel are $275 for high-cost areas and $185 for all other localities (up from $259 and $172).
  • For 2015 and 2016, a HDHP for health savings account (HSA) purposes is a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,300 for individual coverage and $2,600 for family coverage. Maximum out-of-pocket expenses can’t exceed $6,450 for individual coverage for 2015 ($6,550 for 2016) and $12,900 for family coverage for 2015 ($13,100 for 2016). The maximum annual HSA deductible contribution is the sum of the monthly contribution limits, based on eligibility and health plan coverage on the first day of the month. The monthly limit is 1/12 of the indexed amount for self-only coverage ($3,350 for 2015 and 2016) and for family coverage ($6,650 for 2015 and $6,750 for 2016).
  • Enhanced expensing—in the form of increased limitations and treatment of certain real property as Code Sec. 179 property—was made permanent, as was the ability to revoke a Code Sec. 179 election without IRS’s consent.
  • The mileage rate for use of a car for qualified medical transportation is 23¢ per mile for expenses paid or incurred in 2015 (19¢ for 2016).
  • Bonus first-year depreciation was retroactively extended through 2019 with a number of modifications, including a gradual reduction over that time (50% for qualified property placed in service in 2015 through 2017, 40% for 2018, and 30% for 2019).
  • The de minimis safe harbor for taxpayers that don’t have an applicable financial statement was raised from $500 to $2,500. – For items expensed as miscellaneous supplies.
  • For contributions by individuals (including ranchers and farmers), the increased charitable deduction for qualified conservation easements was made permanent.
  • 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant buildings and improvements, and qualified retail improvements was made permanent.
  • Education Tax Breaks:
  • The American Opportunity tax credit (AOTC) was made permanent. It was also made subject to heightened verification processes and paid-preparer due diligence requirements in order to reduce the number of improper payments.
  • The up-to-$250 above-the-line deduction for teachers’ out-of-pocket classroom-related expenses was made permanent.




The above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses was retroactively extended through 2016.

  • Starting in 2015, the definition of “qualified higher education expenses” for Sec. 529 qualified tuition programs includes certain computer and technology-based costs.
  • For tax years beginning after June 29, 2015, taxpayers must receive a Form 1098-T from the educational institution containing all required information in order to claim the AOTC, the above-the-line deduction for higher education expenses, or the Lifetime Learning Credit.
  • For 2015 and 2016, the AOTC phases out at the same level of modified AGI—over $80,000 ($160,000 for a joint return).
  • For 2015 and 2016, the maximum AOTC/Hope Scholarship Credit is $2,500.
  • For 2015, the Lifetime Learning credit phases out for taxpayers with modified AGI in excess of $55,000 ($110,000 for a joint return). For 2016, the corresponding figures are $55,000 and $111,000.
  • For 2015, the higher education exclusion for savings bond income phases out ratably for taxpayers with modified AGI between $77,200 and $92,200 ($115,750 to $145,750 for joint filers). For 2016, the corresponding ranges are $77,550 to $92,550, and $116,300 to $146,300.
  • For 2015 and 2016, the deduction for interest paid on qualified higher education loans phases out ratably for taxpayers with modified AGI between $65,000 and $80,000 ($130,000 and $160,000 for joint filers).


Just days into 2016 and you’re also facing pressures bearing down on your payroll operations. Are you ready to meet them? For example:

  • You’re not done with tax year 2015 … yet. There are FUTA credit reductions to determine and budget for, the impact of tax extenders legislation to consider (including retroactive reinstatement of parity between mass transit benefits and parking benefits), and more.
  • Major tax reform is probably off the table for now. But don’t let that fool you. New federal laws increase payroll tax penalties, change the due dates for your corporate returns and yank passports from individuals with tax debts. Of course, Payroll will bear the brunt of these new laws.
  • The IRS has issued a raft of payroll tax regulations, and proposed regulations from the Department of Labor will ratchet up the amount employees must earn to be exempt from overtime. Finally, the IRS and its sister agencies continue to issue guidance on compliance with the Affordable Care Act.
  • There’s a key FLSA case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Word on the street is that it may continue to permit class action lawsuits for unpaid overtime.


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One Response

  1. New Exempt Employee Salary Minimum

    As you may know, the Department of Labor has a new overtime rule which takes effect Dec 1, 2016.

    To summarize, if an employee is being treated as an exempt employee (not receiving overtime) then their annual salary must be at least $913 per week (or $47,476 annually).

    If employers have employees that they need to change by Dec. 1, 2016 the choices are:

    1. Raise the worker’s annual salary to at least $47,476
    2. Switch them to an hourly rate and pay them overtime after 40 hours per week
    3. Keep the salary the same but limit the hours to under 40 per week

    It is interesting to note that this change will increase the wages for more than 4.2 million Americans (including 84,000 MA workers) by either a salary raise or overtime when they work more than 40 hours.

    Here are a few links from the DOL:

    Andrew Schwartz CPA


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