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PERSONAL FINANCIAL ACCOUNTING AND INCOME TAXATION FOR DOCTORs

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[The Ethical Pursuit of Tax Reduction and Avoidance]

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[By Perry D’Alessio CPA]

The objective of tax planning is to arrive at the lowest overall tax cost on the activities performed.  In as much as physicians constitute 14% of the so-called and maligned “one-percenters” [$388,905 earned-not passive income/year]; this essay will address some methods and strategies to reduce federal and state income taxes. It is applicable to all physicians and medical professionals; as independent practitioners or employees.

So, how much in income taxes do the wealthy pay? The top 10 percent of taxpayers paid over 70 percent of the total amount collected in federal income taxes in 2010, the latest year figures are available, according to the Tax Foundation, a think tank that advocates for lower taxes. That’s up from 55 percent in 1986. The remaining 90 percent bore just under 30 percent of the tax burden. And, 47 percent of all Americans pay hardly anything at all.

Realize, that’s just federal income tax and doesn’t include payroll tax for Social Security and Medicare (which the vast majority of people pay), plus state taxes and all of the other taxes we face. When you add them all together; using figures from the Tax Policy Center and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Earners in the top 1 percent pay about 43 percent of their incomes in tax. People in the middle quintile pay 25 percent while the poorest fifth pays 13 percent.

Finally, before you assume these one- and 10-percenters are living on luxury yachts and in million-dollar mansions, consider how little money it takes to be a top wage earner.

According to 2011 IRS data, the top 1 percent have adjusted gross incomes of $388,905 per year or more. To be in the top 10 percent, you need an adjusted gross income of just $120,136 or more. These are good incomes to be sure, but definitely not enough to be out work, or the medical office, for more than a few weeks each year.

***

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Now consider the following more specifically:

  • 42 percent of all federal tax revenue came from individual income taxes in 2010 and it has been the largest single source of revenue since 1950.
  • Individuals paid more than $2.2 trillion in 2010.
  • Bush-era tax cuts have finally expired, giving us the 20th century tax rates with the top income tax rate of 39.6%, we have not seen rates this high in almost 15 years.
  • 39.6% tax rate kicks in at $400,000 for individual taxpayers and $450,000 for married couples filing jointly.
  • Taxpayers who make over $200,000 ($250,000 for married taxpayers) will be subject to the Medicare surtax. If that’s you, Medicare surtax will be tacked on to your wages, compensation, or self-employment income over that amount. The amount of the surcharge is .9%. 
  • Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) new as of 2013; if you have both net investment income and modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of at least $200,000 for an individual taxpayer and $250,000 for taxpayers filing as married an additional 3.8 percent of the net investment income is an added tax. 

ASSESMENT

So, where do you fall on this schematic, doctor?

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ABOUT

Perry D’Alessio has twenty years’ experience in public accounting. He specializes in the taxation of closely held businesses and their owners, as well as high wealth individuals. He has a broad range of experience that includes individual, corporate, partnership, fiduciary, estate, and gift taxation. Business development has also been a focus. Particularly in the Healthcare and Fitness Industry, he worked with successful entities whose emphasis was on growth through development of strategic relationships and unit building.  Mr.  D’Alessio received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting from Baruch College. He is a Certified Public Accountant in New York. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA). He served on several New York State Society tax committees including: PCAOB and HealthCare. Mr. D’Alessio presents at financial and medical associations throughout the region, and authored a book chapter in the “Financial Management Strategies for Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations” for the Institute of Medical Business Advisors, Inc.

Conclusion

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Understanding Healthcare Employment Benefits that are NOT Taxed at Full Economic Value

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On Entirely Legal AUTOMOBILE Employment Fringe Benefit Strategies 

[By Perry Dalessio CPA]

perry-dalessio-cpaWhen an employment fringe benefit does not qualify for exclusion under a specific statute or regulation, the benefit is considered taxable to the recipient.  It is included in wages for withholding and employment-tax purposes, at the excess of its fair market value over any amount paid by the employee for the benefit.

Examples:

For example, hospitals often provide automobiles for use by employees. Treasury regulations exclude from income the value of the following types of vehicles’ use by an employee:

  • Vehicles not available for the personal use of an employee by reason of a written policy statement of the employer
  • Vehicles not available to an employee for personal use other than commuting (although in this case commuting is includable)
  • Vehicles used in connection with the business of farming [in which case the exclusion is equal to the value of an arbitrary 75% of the total availability for use, and the value of the balance may be includable or excludable, depending upon the facts (Treas. Regs. § 1.132-5(g)) involved)]
  • Certain vehicles identified in the regulations as “qualified non-personal-use vehicles,” which by reason of their design do not lend themselves to more than a de minimus amount of personal use by an employee [examples are ambulances and hearses].
  • Vehicles provided for qualified automobile demonstration use
  • Vehicles provided for product testing and evaluation by an employee outside the employer’s work place

If the employer-provided vehicle does not fall into one of the excluded categories, then the employee is required to report his personal use as a taxable benefit. The value of the availability for personal use may be determined under one of several approaches.

jag346_SWHT

Assessment

Under any of the approaches, the after-tax cost to the employee is substantially less than if the employee used his or her own dollars to purchase the automobile and then deducted a portion of the cost as a business expense.

Conclusion

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How the IRS’s Nonprofit Division Got So Dysfunctional

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The IRS Controversy

By Kim Barker and Justin Elliott

ProPublica, May 17, 2013, 5:14 p.m.

The IRS division responsible for flagging Tea Party groups has long been an agency afterthought, beset by mismanagement, financial constraints and an unwillingness to spell out just what it expects from social welfare nonprofits, former officials and experts say.

The controversy that erupted in the past week, leading to the ousting of the acting Internal Revenue Service commissioner, an investigation by the FBI, and congressional hearings that kicked off Friday, comes against a backdrop of dysfunction brewing for years.

Moves launched in the 1990s were designed to streamline the tax agency and make it more efficient. But they had unintended consequences for the IRS’s Exempt Organizations division.

Checks and balances once in place were taken away. Guidance frequently published by the IRS and closely read by tax lawyers and nonprofits disappeared. Even as political activity by social welfare nonprofits exploded [1] in recent election cycles, repeated requests for the IRS to clarify exactly what was permitted for the secretly funded groups were met, at least publicly, with silence.

All this combined to create an isolated office in Cincinnati, plagued by what an inspector general this week described [2] as “insufficient oversight,” of fewer than 200 low-level employees responsible for reviewing more than 60,000 nonprofit applications a year.

A Major Mistake

In the end, this contributed to what everyone from Republican lawmakers to the president says was a major mistake: The decision by the Ohio unit to flag for further review applications from groups with “Tea Party” and similar labels. This started around March 2010, with little pushback from Washington until the end of June 2011.

“It’s really no surprise that a number of these cases blew up on the IRS,” said Marcus Owens, who ran the Exempt Organizations division from 1990 to 2000. “They had eliminated the trip wires of 25 years.”

Of course, any number of structural fixes wouldn’t stop rogue employees with a partisan ax to grind. No one, including the IRS [3] and the inspector general [4], has presented evidence that political bias was a factor, although congressional and FBI investigators are taking another look.

But what is already clear is that the IRS once had a system in place to review how applications were being handled and to flag potentially problematic ones. The IRS also used to show its hand publicly, by publishing educational articles for agents, issuing many more rulings, and openly flagging which kind of nonprofit applications would get a more thorough review.

All of those checks and balances disappeared in recent years, largely the unforeseen result of an IRS restructuring in 1998, former officials and tax lawyers say.

“Until 2008, we had a dialogue, through various rulings and cases and the participation of various IRS officials at various ABA meetings, as to what is and what is not permissible campaign intervention,” said Gregory Colvin, the co-chair of the American Bar Association subcommittee that dealt with nonprofits, lobbying, and political intervention from 1991 to 2009.

“And there has been absolutely no willingness in the last five years by the IRS to engage in that discussion, at the same time the caseload has exploded at the IRS.”

IRS

Stone Walling

The IRS did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Social welfare nonprofits, which operate under the 501(c)(4) section of the tax code, have always been a strange hybrid, a catchall category for nonprofits that don’t fall anywhere else. They can lobby. For decades, they have been allowed to advocate for the election or defeat of candidates, as long as that is not their primary purpose. They  also do not have to disclose their donors.

Social welfare nonprofits were only a small part of the exempt division’s work, considered minor when compared with charities. When the groups sought IRS recognition, the agency usually rubber-stamped them. Out of 24,196 applications for social welfare status between 1998 and 2009, the exempt organizations division rejected only 77, according to numbers compiled from annual IRS data books.

Into this loophole came the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January 2010, which changed the campaign-finance game [5] by allowing corporate and union spending on elections.

Sensing an opportunity, some political consultants started creating social welfare nonprofits geared to political purposes. By 2012, more than $320 million in anonymous money poured into federal elections.

A couple of years earlier, beginning in 2010, the Cincinnati workers had flagged applications of tiny Tea Party groups, according to the inspector general, though the groups spent almost no money in federal elections.

Main Question

The main question raised by the audit is how the Cincinnati office and superiors in Washington could have gotten it so wrong. The audit shows no evidence that these workers even looked at records from the Federal Election Commission to vet much larger groups [6] that spent hundreds of thousands and even millions [7] in anonymous money to run election ads.

The IRS Exempt Organizations division, the watchdog for about 1.5 million nonprofits, has always had to deal with controversial groups. For decades, the division periodically listed red flags that would merit an application being sent to the IRS’s Washington, D.C., headquarters for review, said Owens, the former division head.

In the 1970s, that meant flagging all applications for primary and secondary schools in the south facing desegregation. In the 1980s, during the wave of consolidation in the health-care industry, all applications from health-care nonprofits needed to be sent to headquarters. The division’s different field offices had to send these applications up the chain.

“Back then, many more applications came to Washington to be worked — the idea was to have the most sensitive ones come to Washington,” said Paul Streckfus, a former IRS lawyer who screened applications at headquarters in the 1970s and founded the industry publication EO Tax Journal [8] in 1996.

Because this list was public, lawyers and nonprofits knew which cases would automatically be reviewed.

“We had a core of experts in tax law,” recalled Milton Cerny, who worked for the IRS, mainly in Exempt Organizations, from 1960 to 1987. “We had developed a broad group of tax experts to deal with these issues.”

In the 1980s, the division issued many more “revenue rulings” than issued in recent years, said Cerny, then head of the rulings process. These revenue rulings set precedents for the division. Revenue rulings along with regulations are basically the binding IRS rules for nonprofits.

“We would do a revenue ruling, so the public and agents would know,” Cerny said. “Over the years, it apparently was felt that a revenue ruling should only be published at an extraordinary time. So today you’re lucky if you get one a year. Sometimes it’s less than that. It’s amazing to me.”

Other checks and balances had existed too. Not only were certain kinds of applications publicly flagged, there was another mechanism called “post-review,” Owens said. Headquarters in Washington would pull a random sample every month from the different field offices, to see how applications were being reviewed. There was also a surprise “saturation review,” once a year, for each of the offices, where everything from a certain time period needed to be sent to Washington for another look.

So internally, the division had ways, if imperfect, to flag potential problems. It also had ways of letting the public know what exactly agents were looking at and how the division was approaching controversial topics.

For instance, there was the division’s “Continuing Professional Education,” or CPE, technical instruction program. These articles were supposed to be used for training of line agents, collecting and putting out the agency’s best information on a particular topic — on, say, political activity [9] by social welfare nonprofits in 1995.

“People in a group would write up their thoughts: ‘Here’s the law,’” said Beth Kingsley, a Washington lawyer with Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg who’s worked with nonprofits for almost 20 years. “It wasn’t pushing the envelope. It was, ‘This is how we see this issue.’ It told us what the IRS was thinking.”

The system began to change in the mid-1990s. The IRS was having trouble hiring people for low-level positions in field offices like New York or Atlanta — the kinds of workers that typically reviewed applications by nonprofits, Owens said.

In Cincinnati

The answer to this was simple: Cincinnati.

The city had a history of being able to hire people at low federal grades, which in 1995 paid between $19,704 and $38,814 a year — almost the same as those federal grades paid in New York City or Chicago. (Adjusted for inflation, that’s between $30,064 and $59,222 now.)

“That was well below what the prevailing rate was in the New York City area for accountants with training,” Owens said. “We had one accountant who just had gotten out of jail — that’s the sort of people who would show up for jobs. That was really the low point.”

So in 1995, the Exempt Organizations division started to centralize. Instead of field offices evaluating applications for nonprofits in each region, those applications would all be sent to one mailing address, a post-office box in Covington, Ky. Then a central office in Cincinnati would review all the applications.

Almost inadvertently, because people there were willing to work for less than elsewhere, Cincinnati became ground zero for nonprofit applications.

For the time being, the checks remained in place. The criteria for flagged nonprofits were still made public. The Continuing Professional Education text was still made public. Saturation reviews and post reviews were still in place.

But by 1998, after hearings in which Republican Senator Trent Lott accused the IRS of “Gestapo-like” tactics, a new law mandated the agency’s restructuring. In the years that followed, the agency aimed to streamline. For most of the ‘90s, the IRS had more than 100,000 employees. That number would drop every year, to slightly less than 90,000 [10] by 2012.

Change Will Come

Change also came to the Exempt Organizations division.

The IRS tried to remove discretion from lower-level employees around the country by creating rules they had to follow. While the reorganization was designed to centralize power in the agency’s Washington headquarters, it didn’t work out that way.

“The distance between Cincinnati and Washington was such that soon Cincinnati became a power center,” said Streckfus, the former IRS lawyer.

Following reorganization, many highly trained lawyers in Washington who previously handled the most sensitive nonprofit applications were reassigned to focus on special projects, he said.

Owens, who left the IRS in 2000 but stayed in touch with his old division, said the focus on efficiency meant “eliminating those steps deemed unimportant and anachronistic.”

In 2003, the saturation reviews and post reviews ended, and the public list of criteria that would get an application referred to headquarters disappeared, Owens said. Instead, agents in Cincinnati could ask to have cases reviewed, if they wanted. But they didn’t very often.

“No one really knows what kinds of cases are being sent to Washington, if any,” Owens said. “It’s all opaque now. It’s gone dark.”

By the end of 2004, the Continuing Professional Education articles stopped [11].

Recommendations [12] from an ABA task force for IRS guidelines on social welfare nonprofits and politics that same year were met with silence.

Even the IRS’s Political Activities Compliance Initiative, which investigated [13] complaints of charities engaged in politics — primarily churches — closed up shop in early 2009 after less than five years, without any explanation.

Both before and after the changes, the Exempt Organizations division has been a small part of the IRS, which is focused on collecting money and chasing delinquent taxpayers.

US capitol

IRS Employee Count in 2012

Rulings and Agreements, the division that handles applications of all nonprofits, accounted for less than 0.5 percent of all IRS employees in 2012.

Source: IRS Data Books [14], IRS Exempt Organizations Annual Report [15]

Of the 90,000 employees at the agency last year, only 876 worked in the Exempt Organizations’ division, or less than 1 in 1,000 employees.

Of those, 335 worked in the office that actually handles applications of nonprofits.

Most of those — about 300 — worked in Cincinnati, Streckfus estimates. The rest were at headquarters, in Washington D.C.

In Cincinnati, the employees’ primary job was sifting through the applications of nonprofits, making determinations as to whether a nonprofit should be recognized as tax-exempt. In a press release [16] Wednesday, the IRS said fewer than 200 employees were responsible for that work.

In 2012, these employees received 60,780 applications. The bulk of those — 51,748 — were from groups that wanted to be recognized as charities.

But the number of social welfare nonprofit applications spiked from 1,777 in 2011 to 2,774 in 2012. It’s impossible to say how many of those groups indicated whether they would engage in politics, or why the number of applications increased. The IRS said Wednesday that it “has seen an increase in the number of tax-exempt organization applications in which the organization is potentially engaged in political activity,” including both charities and social welfare nonprofits, but didn’t specify any numbers.

Total 501(c)(4) [17] Nonprofit Applications from 2002 to 2012

From 2011 to 2012, applications increased by more than 50 percent.

Source: IRS Data Books [14]

On average, one employee in Cincinnati would be responsible for going through roughly one application per day.

Some would be easy — say, a local soup kitchen. But to evaluate whether a social welfare nonprofit has social welfare as its primary purpose, the agent is supposed to use a “facts and circumstances” test. There is no checklist. Reviewing just one social welfare nonprofit could take days or weeks, to look through a group’s website, track down TV ads and so forth.

“You’ve got 60,000 applications coming through, and it’s hard to do that with the number of agents looking at them,” said Philip Hackney [18], who was in the IRS’s chief counsel office in Washington between 2006 and 2011 but said he wasn’t involved in the Tea Party controversy. “The reality is that they cannot do that, and that’s why you’re seeing them pick stuff out for review. They tried to do that here, and it burned them.”

As we have previously reported, last year the same Cincinnati office sent ProPublica [19] confidential applications from conservative groups. An IRS spokeswoman said the disclosures were inadvertent.

The Commissioner Speaks

Mark Everson, IRS commissioner for four years during the George W. Bush administration, said he believed the fact that the division is understaffed is relevant, but not an excuse for what happened. “The whole service is under-funded,” he pointed out.

And Dan Backer, a lawyer in Washington who represented six of the groups held up because of the Tea Party criteria, said he doesn’t buy the notion that low-level employees in Cincinnati were alone responsible.

“It doesn’t just strain credulity,” Backer said. “It broke credulity and left it laying on the road about a mile back. Clearly these guys were all on the same marching orders.”

The inspector general’s audit was prompted last year after members of Congress, responding to complaints by Tea Party groups, asked for it.

Like former officials interviewed by ProPublica, the audit suggests that officials at IRS headquarters in Washington were unable to manage their subordinates in Cincinnati. When Lois Lerner, the Exempt Organizations division director in Washington, learned [20] in June 2011 about the improper criteria for screening applications, she instructed that they be “immediately revised.”

But just six months later, Cincinnati employees changed [21] the revised criteria to focus on “organizations involved in limiting/expanding government” or “educating on the Constitution.” They did so “without executive approval.”

“The story people are overlooking is: Congress is complaining about underpaid, overworked employees who are not adequately trained,” said Bryan Camp, a former attorney in the IRS chief counsel’s office.

Assessment

In the end, after all the millions of anonymous money spent by some groups to elect candidates in 2012, after all [22] the groups [23] that said in their applications that they would not spend money to elect candidates before doing exactly that, after the Cincinnati office flagged conservative groups, the IRS approved almost all the new applications. Only eight applications were denied.

Source: http://www.propublica.org/article/how-irs-nonprofit-division-got-so-dysfunctional

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Deducting Un-Reimbursed Professional Expenses

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Tax expenses must be”ordinary” and “necessary”

By Andrew D. Schwartz CPA http://www.schwartzaccountants.com

Andrew SchwartzAccording to the IRS, to be deductible, the expenditure must be both “ordinary” and “necessary” in connection with your medical profession or specialty.

The Definition

The IRS defines “ordinary” as common and accepted in a particular profession and “necessary” as helpful and appropriate for a particular profession.

The List

Here’s a list of 16 professional expenditures commonly incurred by young or mature health care professionals:

  • Automobile expenses
  • Beepers and pagers
  • Books/library
  • Cellular telephones
  • Computer purchases
  • Education, examinations & licenses
  • Equipment & instruments
  • Job search
  • Malpractice insurance
  • Meals & entertainment
  • Parking & tolls
  •  Professional dues, journals & subscriptions
  • Psychoanalysis as part of training
  • Supplies
  • Travel & lodging
  • Uniforms & cleaning

Assessment

Please note: Employees, like hospitalists, may not deduct professional expenses that are eligible for reimbursement from their employer.

Conclusion

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Change in Distribution of Income Among Tax Filers 1996-2006

A Congressional Research Services White Paper

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As tax season draws near, here is an important essay from CRS, by:

Thomas L. Hungerford

[Specialist in Public Finance]

Assessment

Link: http://taxprof.typepad.com/files/crs-1.pdf

Conclusion       

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Financial Planning and Risk Management Strategies for Physicians

Financial Planning Handbook for Physicians and Advisors

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Remember Tax Deadline Day is April 18th 2011

Tax Emancipation Day is April 15th 2011

By Dr. Gary L. Bode MSA, CPA, PC

In the 2011 tax filing season, taxpayers have until Monday, April 18 to file their 2010 tax returns and pay any tax due. Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls this year on Friday, April 15. By law, District of Columbia holidays impact tax deadlines in the same way that federal holidays do; therefore, all taxpayers will have three extra days to file this year. Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until October 17 to file their 2010 tax returns.

Who Must Wait to File

For most taxpayers, the 2011 tax filing season starts on schedule. However, tax law changes enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama in December mean some people need to wait until mid to late February to file their tax returns in order to give the IRS time to reprogram its processing systems. The IRS recently announced February 14, 2011 as the start date for processing these delayed tax returns.

Some taxpayers, including those who itemize deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A, will need to wait until February 14, 2011 to file. This includes taxpayers impacted by any of three tax provisions that expired at the end of 2009 and were renewed by the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 enacted December 17, 2010. Those who need to wait to file include:

  • Taxpayers Claiming Itemized Deductions on Schedule A. Itemized deductions include mortgage interest, charitable deductions, and medical and dental expenses as well as state and local taxes. In addition, itemized deductions include the state and local general sales tax deduction that was also extended and that primarily benefits people living in areas without state and local income taxes.
  • Taxpayers Claiming the Higher Education Tuition and Fees Deduction. This deduction for parents and students, covering up to $4,000 of tuition and fees paid to a post-secondary institution, is claimed on Form 8917. However, the IRS emphasized that there will be no delays for millions of parents and students who claim other education credits, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit extended last month and the Lifetime Learning Credit.
  • Taxpayers Claiming the Educator Expense Deduction. This deduction is for kindergarten through grade 12 educators with out-of-pocket classroom expenses of up to $250. The educator expense deduction is claimed on Form 1040, Line 23 and Form 1040A, Line 16.

Assessment

In addition to extending those tax deductions for 2010, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act also extended those deductions for 2011 and a number of other tax deductions and credits for 2011 and 2012, such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the modified Child Tax Credit. The Act also provides various job creation and investment incentives, including 100% expensing and a 2% payroll tax reduction for 2011. Those changes have no effect on the 2011 filing season.

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Conclusion

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On the Proposed Tax Cuts

Senate Debate on Extending 2001/2003 Tax Cuts

By Children’s Home Society of Florida Foundation

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The Senate Finance Committee conducted a hearing on July 14, 2010 to discuss the potential extension of tax cuts. In the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (JGTRRA), there were tax reductions for nearly all Americans. The tax reductions continue through 2010, but are set to be repealed on January 1, 2011.

Proposals

The White House has proposed to extend these tax cuts for single persons with incomes under $200,000 ($250,000 for couples), but to increase the capital gain rate and top income tax brackets. Under the White House plan, the capital gain rate will increase from 15% to 20%, the 33% bracket increases to 36% and the 35% tax bracket is raised to 39.6%.

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=income+tax&iid=238905″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/238905/thinkstock-single-image/thinkstock-single-image.jpg?size=500&imageId=238905″ width=”337″ height=”506″ /]

The Senate

Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) opened the hearing by stating, “Americans are struggling to make ends meet, and we need to do all we can to put more money back in the hands of workers, middle-class families and small businesses so our economy can grow. I support extending the middle-class tax cuts permanently, as soon as possible, so working families can keep more of their hard-earned money.”

Sen. Baucus and the White House are both advocating a permanent extension of the tax cuts for low and middle-income taxpayers, with an increase in taxes for those in the upper brackets.

Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee Charles Grassley (R-IA) has repeatedly expressed concern about the increase of taxes on small business owners. He noted, “To those who are pushing the higher marginal rates, I say the burden is on you to show that you are not harming our primary job creators.” Sen. Grassley has noted that two-thirds of new jobs in the past decade have been created by the small business owners who will be subject to the higher taxes.

Editor’s Note: The hearings on taxes are the first step in creation of a tax bill. Because the failure to act this year would result in repeal of all of the tax cuts, it is probable that there will be a tax bill prior to the end of 2010. However, with the shortened legislative calendar due to the fall elections, the tax bill is quite likely to be deferred until after the election.

Conclusion

Douglas Holtz-Eakin is President of the American Action Forum and was formerly the Congressional Budget Office Director. He testified that approximately one-half of the $1 trillion in business income that will be reported in 2011 will be subject to the higher 36% and 39.6% tax brackets. In his opinion these higher rates will reduce the willingness of small businesses to hire new employees.

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Tax Efficient Investing

Friends and ME-P Readers,

By Sean G. Todd; Esq, M.Tax, CPA, CFP®

Summer is here for sure in Atlanta—90 degrees plus day after day. I’ve been enjoying the fresh sweet corn, a BLT and a large glass of sweet tea at dinner—now that is a fine meal. Why do I share this with you — because at mid-year, I think from time to time we have to step back from all that we are involved in, concerned with, and what we think is important to actually appreciate all that we have and not overlook the small things. Which brings me to the topic of this Medical Executive-Post and not overlooking the small things—like taxes. As a physician-investor, you have to keep an eye on the impact taxes have on your investment portfolio because it is what you keep after taxes that counts.

Of the Markets

During my last post—I indicated that I was not sure if the recent reprieve in the markets was sustainable. And, we did experience a mild reversal recently. But, did you know that doing nothing is actually doing something? I’m pretty certain that the past investment strategies are not going to work going forward and I share these with ME-P readers as to why I believe this is true; and how best to position your portfolio going forward. Other professionals agree—the rules have changed — have you changed anything? Let’s move on to the real reason you continue to read our posts: To be able to make the right long-term decision during these difficult times. In this post we need to focus on the importance of tax-efficient investing.  We are confident that you and your friends and colleagues whom you choose to share this ME-P will benefit from the information discussed, as well.

Why Tax Efficient Investing is Important

Physicians and all investors have experienced some turbulent times over the last 12 months and it appears more rough waters lie ahead. As a physician-investor, you are unable to control the markets but there are certainly things you can control and should. One of these is taxes. Given the level of government spending, additional tax revenues will be needed which equates to higher taxes. You cannot plan your taxes on April 15th but you have to implement a tax strategy plan during the year so you can capture the benefit on April 15th. With increased taxes on the horizon, tax-efficient investment is going to be more important than ever. Brokers or the 1-800 do-it-yourself brokerage firms are not licensed to give you tax advice, but CPAs and EAs, are. The old saying goes, “It’s not what you make, but what you keep after taxes that counts”. This statement will become even more important going forward.

Returns Lost to Taxes

Have you thought of the impact on your portfolio that taxes have on your investment returns? Good financial advisors should as these are still some of the most important decisions you face as an investor.

Take for example a physician-investor in the top tax bracket earned an average return of 15% on actively managed mutual funds in a taxable account from 1981 to 2001. After taxes, average return dwindled to roughly 12% – which means our investor lost an average of 2.4% in return to taxes (the numbers reflect a compound rate of return). Investment return lost to taxes don’t just affect mutual fund investors — you have to look at your entire holdings in your taxable accounts and how you manage your investments, because, investors in individual stocks and bonds are vulnerable too. Like I indicated, you do have a lot of control over your taxes and should actively control them given the significant impact on your total investment return. Something for consideration: Diversification and asset allocation are great tools for helping to reduce portfolio volatility, but we’re still going to be subject to the short-term whims of the market, no matter how diligent we might be in setting up our portfolios and selecting our individual investments. One of the areas that we have the greatest degree of control is the area of tax-efficient implementations. Doesn’t it make sense that where we can exercise the most control, we do so?

Tax-Efficient Investing is More Important than Ever

Work with me here. If we assume that over the next 20 years annual compound returns for the broad stock market average between 8% and 10%, and bonds average about half that, then average portfolio returns would be less than what we enjoyed over the last 20 years. What this actually means is that any return lost to taxes will be a much bigger deal. In other words, losing 2.4% per year to taxes may not have seemed like much if you were making 15-20% annual returns. But if you only expect to make 9% on your investments, keeping as much of that return as possible, can be vital to achieving your long-term goals. The real impact– 2.4% tax impact will cause you to lose 26% of your 9% gain. Thinking you got a 9% gain but your real after-tax gain is only 6.6%. This is a big annual difference and a significant compound difference.

The second reason tax efficiency is more important than ever is because of the changes to the tax rules in 2003. A notable provision: the 15% tax rate on qualified dividend income. Often a missed opportunity! Previously it might have made sense to hold dividend-paying stocks in a tax-deferred account such as an IRA instead of a taxable account. Either way, dividends were taxed at your ordinary income tax rate between 28% and 39.6% prior to 2001. The thought was the IRA offered tax-deferred potential growth.

Currently, qualified dividends in a taxable account are taxed at a maximum rate of 15%. Those save dividends would be taxed at the ordinary rate—currently as high as 35% when withdrawn from your tax-deferred account. As a result, the value of putting dividend-paying stocks in taxable accounts has grown significantly.

What Investments Go Where?

I need to speak in general terms here, investment that tend to lose less of their return to income taxes are good selections to go into taxable accounts. With that said the opposite should be true: Investments that lose more of their return to taxes could go into tax-deferred accounts. Here’s where tax-smart investors might want to place their investments.

Taxable Accounts Tax-Deferred accounts – Traditional IRAs, 401(k)s and deferred annuities
Ideally place…
Individual Stocks you plan to hold more than one year Individual stocks you plan to hold one year or less
Tax-managed stock funds, index funds, low turnover stock funds Actively managed funds that generate significant short-term capital gains
Stocks or mutual funds that pay qualified dividends Taxable bond funds, zero-coupon bonds, inflation protected bonds or high yield bond funds
Municipal bonds, I bonds Reits

DISCLOSURE: This assumes you hold investments in both types of accounts. A different set of rules would apply if you held all your investments in a taxable account or a tax-deferred account.

In general, holding tax-efficient investment in taxable account and less tax-efficient investment in tax-advantaged account should add value over time. It appears that the above serves as a simple set of guidelines to go by but there are additional considerations before making the above allocation.

Additional Considerations

Reallocation of your Portfolio

To maintain your strategic asset allocation will cause additional tax drag on return, to the extent you rebalance in taxable accounts. You may want to focus on your rebalancing efforts on your tax-advantaged accounts, including your taxable accounts only when necessary. Keep in mind, adding new money to underweighted asset classes in also a tax-efficient way to help keep your portfolio allocation in balance.

Active Trading

Active trading by individuals or by mutual funds, when successful tends to be less tax efficient and better suited for tax-advantaged accounts. A caveat: Realized losses in your tax-advantaged accounts cannot be recognized to offset realized gains on your tax return.

Liquidity Preference

If an investor wanted liquidity, then they might be holding bonds in their taxable accounts, even if it makes more sense to form a tax perspective to hold them in tax advantaged accounts. In other situations, it may be impractical to implement all of your portfolio’s fixed income allocation using taxable bonds in tax-advantaged accounts. If so, compare the after-tax return on taxable bonds to the tax-exempt return on municipal bonds to see which makes the most sense on an after-tax basis.

Estate Planning Issues

One cannot overlook the estate planning issues in deciding which account will hold a given type of investment. Also, what is the philanthropic intent of the doctor or investor? Stocks held in taxable accounts receive a step-up in cost basis at death (something heirs greatly appreciate) which is not the same for tax-advantaged accounts. Additionally, highly appreciated stocks held in taxable accounts more than a year might be well-suited for charitable giving.

Roth IRA

This type of account might just be an exception to all of the above. The rules are different when investors involve a Roth IRA. Since qualified distributions are tax free, assets you believe will have the greatest potential for higher return are best placed inside a Roth IRA, when possible.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated. Tell us what you think. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, be sure to subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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Meet Dr. Gary L. Bode CPA MSA CMP™ [Hon]

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Introducing our Newest Thought-Leader

Dr. Gary Bode; CPA, MSA, CMP

[By Ann Miller RN MHA]

The Medical Executive-Post is proud to introduce Dr. Gary L. Bode as our newest thought-leader for healthcare financial modernity. Dr. Bode was the Chief Financial Officer [CFO] for a private mental healthcare facility, and previously the Chief Executive Officer [CEO] of Comprehensive Practice Accounting, Inc, in Wilmington, NC. The firm specialized in providing tax solution to medical professionals. Dr. Bode was a board certified practitioner and managing partner of a multi-office medical group practice for a decade before earning his Master’s of Science degree in Accounting [MSA] from the University of North Carolina. He is a nationally known forensic health accountant, financial author, educator and speaker.

A Multi-Faceted Healthcare Financial Expert

Areas of expertise include producing customized managerial accounting reports, practice appraisals and valuations, restructurings and innovative financial accounting, as well as proactive tax positioning and tax return preparation for healthcare facilities. Currently, Dr. Bode is Chief Accounting and Valuation Officer (CAVO) for the Institute of Medical Business Advisors, Inc. He is also a Certified Medical Planner™ http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org  He provides litigation support in his areas of expertise and has been previously accepted as a legal expert witness www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com

Assessment

Gary has promised to publish his most exciting ideas and innovative work on our blog. He is also available for private consulting engagements and related professional work on an ad-hoc, or interim basis. So, let’s give a warm ME-P “shout-out” to Dr. Gary L Bode; our newest thought-leader.   

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Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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Tax Tips for Under or Unemployed Medical Professionals

Status Still Possible for Physicians and Nurses

By Sean G. Todd, Esq., M. Tax, CFP©, CPA

Tax Attorney

Certified Public Accountant
Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner

Terminated, reduced-in-force, or out of work in 2009? As the April 15th tax deadline approaches, medical professionals and all other under/unemployed folks might have questions regarding their tax returns – unchartered waters for many. More people than ever before may be experiencing the effects of losing their jobs for the first time, or receiving unemployment benefits, and are uncertain about the tax consequences that relate to all this. So, in these difficult times, give some consideration to working with a professional to help you make the right decisions.   

Labor Department Reports

The US Labor Department report issued on February 6, 2009 showed that nearly 2.6 million jobs were lost over the course of 2008, the highest yearly job loss total since 1945. The official unemployment rate is at 7.2%, a 16 year high, according to the labor department. For your assistance, I’ve prepared some of the most common questions along with the answers. Here are several questions and answers to help you through this stressful time.

1. Do I have to still pay my taxes if I was out of work in 2008?

More likely than not! The IRS requires anyone who received a W-2 from their employer and made at least $8,950 (if you’re single and under 65 years old), or made at least $400 if you’re self employed, to file a tax return. These are the baseline cutoff numbers. If you’re anticipating a tax refund, you must file – even if you didn’t work at all. The IRS will not just send you a refund – you must file and claim your refund. Despite being unemployed, you still are required to file your taxes – often times a new level of frustration begins during this already confusing and frustrating time.    

2. Will I have a tax liability? 

It depends. It depends on a variety of factors since every taxpayer’s tax situation is unique, based on the facts and circumstances of the taxpayer. Some factors may impact a person’s filing requirement such as: if you only had unemployment compensation throughout the year, you may owe some tax on the checks you received. A severance package could also give you a tax bill, as could dividends and interest from investment income. Other factors which also need to be considered would include tax deductions and other life changes as a result of being unemployed: out-of-pocket medical expenses; sale of your home as a result of downsizing or even independent contractor income you might have received.

3. Do I have to include my unemployment checks in taxable income?

In a word, yes. Unemployment compensation is included as taxable income for federal purposes and most state tax returns. When applying for unemployment, we recommend that you elect tax withholding. You can choose whether you want federal and/or state income taxes automatically taken out of your unemployment benefits. If you choose to withhold, federal income taxes are withheld at a 10% rate, while the state rate varies. But since many cash-strapped Americans opt not to withhold – come April they may have to pay up during an already stressful time when extra cash is often times not available. So if you are not electing any tax withholding, a tax bill may be an unwelcome surprise when you file your 2008 return.

4. What if I “took” money from my 401(k)?

The answer depends on the definition of “took”. If you took a loan from your 401(k), exclude this from taxable income. You may owe taxes if you took money out of a retirement plan or 401(k) to supplement your unemployment checks. That counts as income and is taxable too. The taxes are in addition to a 10% penalty on early withdrawals if you’re below the age of 59-1/2. A special election is available to many taxpayers to avoid this 10% penalty on early withdrawals which many do not know about – costing even more in taxes. 

5. What if I did some supplemental work as an independent contractor?

In the attempt to continue to earn an income after being unemployed, you might have done some freelance or project work. Being unemployed allowed you the flexibility to become self-employed. That is the positive side of things – you earned income. Here is the negative side: if you earned some income doing odd jobs or consulting services while unemployed, you’re subject to income tax AND self-employment tax on that income. To report that supplemental work, taxpayers must include a Schedule C with their income tax return, which details the income and expenses for the year. This is where we see a lot of errors – individuals do not prepare schedule C for this type of earnings. If you earned over $30,000 and are now unemployed – you may go to www.lostmyjobtaxprep.com for an exclusive offer.  If you earned more than $600 during one of the projects, expect to receive tax form 1099 and you must include that as taxable income on your income tax return. Also note that if you made less than $600, then you will not be issued a 1099 but are still required to report this income as well on your tax return.

6. Relocated for the new job?

If the new job required you to relocate for the position, you may be able to deduct the moving expenses not reimbursed by your new employer. But there’s a distance test you must meet to qualify for the deduction. The new job site has to be 50 miles further than the distance from your old residence was from the old job, according to Tom Ochsenschlager, vice president of taxation for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants [AICPA]. This basically prevents you from trying to deduct a move within the same metropolitan area.

7. Are my job search expenses deductible?

Those who were on the job hunt last year can utilize the tax code to their benefit and qualify for a larger refund. There are a slew of tax deductions available. In fact, many of the expenses incurred while looking for a job can be deducted, which can result in some serious tax savings.

Tax Checklists

As readers and subscribers to the Medical Executive-Post are aware, there is a quality initiative in clinical medicine that promotes the use of checklists. So, here is a good, but partial list of those things you need to keep track of:

  • Anything you spend on creating, printing and mailing your resume is deductible.
  • Anything you spend on a career coach or headhunter.
    Any long distance, cell or fax charges directly associated with your job search.
  • Transportation costs such as a bus, taxi, train or plane to an interview is deductible.
  • Mileage costs accrued when you drive to interviews and even to the unemployment office. [Between Jan. 1, 2008, and June 30, 2008, taxpayers can claim 50.5 cents per mile, between July 1, 2008 and Dec. 31 2008 taxpayers can claim 58.5 cents per mile].
  • All job related parking fees and tolls; and,
  • All meals and lodging if the interview was out of town.

Link: https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/a-homer-simpson-moment-of-clarity-on-medical-quality

Further Explanations

You cannot deduct the cost of the “new interview suit” as it does not qualify as a uniform. Also forget about deducting the value of your time as the IRS deems it to be worthless for tax deduction purposes. So too, forget about deducting your new Coach “briefcase” and matching “interview” shoes – they too are disallowed.  It’s the responsibility of each taxpayer to keep receipts related to any of these expenses in order to substantiate them when filing. In a self-serving interest, we always recommend consulting a professional tax preparer for help.  

Two New Websites

There are two websites especially beneficial for individuals who have lost their jobs and are concerned about protecting their 401(k) account. Individuals who are still employed can benefit from the information provided on the site as well.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated.

Speaker:If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com 

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