The Washington Post Names KWC To 2018 Top Workplaces List

Top Workplaces_150x150KWC has been awarded a 2018 Top Workplaces honor by The Washington Post. The list is based solely on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey.

“We are thrilled to be named as one of the Top Workplaces by The Washington Post,” said Steve Travis, Managing Principal of KWC. “The firm’s success is wholly the result of the collaborative spirit of our staff. This award is confirmation of their enthusiasm for our firm and our commitment to making it a great work environment.”

The Top Workplaces survey is administered by research partner Energage, LLC (formerly WorkplaceDynamics), a leading provider of technology-based employee engagement tools. The anonymous survey measures several aspects of workplace culture, including alignment, execution, and connection, just to name a few.

“Top Workplaces is more than just recognition,” said Doug Claffey, CEO of Energage. “Our research shows organizations that earn the award attract better talent, experience lower turnover, and are better equipped to deliver bottom-line results. Their leaders prioritize and carefully craft a healthy workplace culture that supports employee engagement.”

Supreme Court Spotlights Employee Status: Exempt or Not?

Thousands of cases are appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court every year, but usually fewer than 100 get a full-blown hearing and ruling. One case that made it through in the current court term is Encino Motorcars v. Navarro. On the surface, this case looks at whether car dealer service advisors are exempt or nonexempt. But the larger issue affecting jobs of all kinds involves just how narrowly the relevant law — the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) — can be interpreted when determining between exempt status and nonexempt. (more…)

Timing and Taxes: Two Critical Issues when Buying or Selling a Home

You might be in a rush to buy or sell a home before summer starts or interest rates increase even more. But, first, it’s important to review the tax rules related to home sales and deductions for mortgage interest, property taxes and work-related moving expenses. Beware: Some rules have changed under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). (more…)

Capital Gains Rates Before and After the New Tax Law

Are you confused about the federal income tax rates on capital gains and dividends under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)? If so, you’re not alone. Here’s what you should know if you plan to sell long-term investments or expect to receive dividend payments from your investments. (more…)

Congress Raises 401(k) Hardship Withdrawal Limits

Most 401(k) plans permit hardship withdrawals, though plan sponsors aren’t required to allow them. As it stands today, employees seeking to take money out of their 401(k) accounts are limited to the funds they contributed to the accounts themselves, and only after they’ve first taken a loan from the same account. Loans must be repaid, of course. The theory behind the loan requirement is that employees would be less apt to permanently deplete their 401(k) accounts with hardship withdrawals.

Thanks to the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) enacted in February, the rules change, beginning in 2019. Under the BBA, the employees’ withdrawal limit will include not just amounts they have contributed. It also includes accumulated employer matching contributions plus earnings on contributions. If an employee has been participating in your 401(k) for several years, this modification could add substantially to the amount of funds available for withdrawal in the event of a legitimate hardship.

Liberalized Participation Rule

In addition to the changes above, the BBA also eliminates the current six-month ban on employee participation in the 401(k) plan following a hardship withdrawal. This is good news on two fronts: Employees can stay in the plan and keep contributing, which allows them to begin recouping withdrawn amounts right away. And for plan sponsors, it means they won’t be required to dis-enroll and then re-enroll employees after that six-month hiatus.

One thing that hasn’t changed: Hardship withdrawals are subject to a 10% tax penalty, along with regular income tax. That combination could take a substantial bite out of the amount withdrawn, effectively forcing account holders to take out more dollars than they otherwise would have in order to wind up with the same net amount.

For example, an employee who takes out a $5,000 loan from his or her 401(k) isn’t taxed on that amount. But an employee who takes a hardship withdrawal and needs to end up with $5,000 will have to take out around $7,000 to allow for taxes and the 10% penalty.

Hardship Criteria

The BBA also didn’t change the reasons for which hardship withdrawals can be made. Here’s a reminder of the criteria, as described by the IRS: Such a withdrawal “must be made because of an immediate and heavy financial need of the employee and the amount must be necessary to satisfy the financial need.” That can include the need of an employee’s spouse or dependent, as well as that of a non-spouse, non-dependent beneficiary.

The IRS goes on to say that the meaning of “immediate and heavy” depends on the facts of the situation. It also assumes the employee doesn’t have any other way to meet the needs apart from a hardship withdrawal. However, the following are examples offered by the IRS:

  • Qualified medical expenses (which presumably don’t include cosmetic surgery);
  • Costs relating to the purchase of a principal residence;
  • Tuition and related educational fees and expenses;
  • Payments necessary to prevent eviction from, or foreclosure on, a principal residence;
  • Burial or funeral expenses; and
  • Certain expenses for the repair of damage to the employee’s principal residence.

The IRS gives two examples of expenses that would generally not qualify for a hardship withdrawal: buying a boat and purchasing a television.

Finally, a financial need could be deemed immediate and heavy “even if it was reasonably foreseeable or voluntarily incurred by the employee.”

Deadline Extension

Another important and somewhat related change in 401(k) rules was included in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that took effect this year; it pertains to plan loans. Specifically, prior to 2018, if an employee with an outstanding plan loan left your company, that individual would have to repay the loan within 60 days to avoid having it deemed as a taxable distribution (and subject to a 10% premature distribution penalty for employees under age 59-1/2).

The TCJA changed that deadline to the latest date the former employee can file his or her tax return for the tax year in which the loan amount would otherwise be treated as a plan distribution. So, for example, if an employee with an outstanding loan of $5,000 left your company and took a new job on Dec. 31, 2017, that individual would have until April 15 (or, with a six-month fling extension, Oct. 15) 2018 to repay the loan.

Alternatively, the former employee could make a contribution of the same amount owed ($5,000, in this example) to an IRA or the former employee’s new employer’s plan, assuming the new plan permitted it. In effect, that $5,000 contribution to a new plan would be treated the same as a rollover from the old plan.

While this new flexibility might seem like a boon to plan participants, it could also represent a financial trap. Employees typically aren’t accumulating enough dollars to put themselves on track to retire comfortably at a traditional retirement age. Therefore, although you can’t prevent a plan participant from taking advantage of the new rules if they qualify, you can redouble your efforts to help employees understand the importance of thinking of their retirement savings as just that — savings for retirement, and not a “rainy day” fund.

Health Savings Account Limits for 2018

With Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), individuals and businesses buy less expensive health insurance policies with high deductibles. Contributions to the accounts are made on a pre-tax basis. The money can accumulate year after year tax free, and be withdrawn tax free to pay for a variety of medical expenses such as doctor visits, prescriptions, chiropractic care and premiums for long-term-care insurance. (more…)

New Law Eases the Individual Alternative Minimum Tax

Unfortunately, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) retains the individual Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). But there’s a silver lining: The AMT rules now reduce the odds that you’ll owe the AMT for 2018 through 2025. Plus, even if you’re still in the AMT zone, you’ll probably owe less AMT than you did under the old rules. (more…)

Important Changes for Individuals in the New Tax Law

For individual taxpayers, the new tax law — commonly known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) — includes many expected changes, some unexpected ones and some that didn’t make the final cut.

Here are the most important things that individual taxpayers need to know about the TCJA, which was signed into law on December 22, 2017. Except where noted, these changes are effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026.

Changes to Individual Rates and Brackets

For 2018 through 2025, the TCJA retains seven tax rate brackets, but six of the rates are lower than before. The tax brackets for ordinary taxable income are as follows:

taxchart_1

 

 

In 2026, the rates and brackets that were in place for 2017 are scheduled to return.

Taxes on Long-Term Capital Gains and Dividends

The TCJA retains the current tax rates on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends. For 2018, the rate brackets for adjusted net capital gains are:

taxchart_2

 

Adjusted net capital gains are net capital gains plus qualified dividends less gains required to be taxed at 25% and 28%. These brackets are almost the same as what they would have been under prior law. The only change is the way the 2018 inflation adjustments are calculated.

Individual Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)

Despite discussion by Congress to repeal the individual AMT, the new law retains it. But, starting in 2018, the exemption deductions will increase significantly and the exemptions will be phased out at much higher income levels.

Under prior law, the AMT exposure for many individuals was caused by high itemized deductions for state and local taxes and multiple personal and dependent exemption deductions. Those tax breaks are disallowed under the AMT rules.

Under the new law, many individuals who owed the AMT under prior law will be off the hook in 2018. Why? In addition to higher AMT exemption deductions and higher exemption phaseout thresholds, the TCJA 1) limits deductions for state and local taxes, and 2) eliminates personal and dependency exemptions.

Standard Deduction and Personal and Dependency Exemptions

A big decision for individual taxpayers will be: Should I itemize deductions or take the standard deduction? Under the new law, many more taxpayers are likely to take the standard deduction, rather than itemize deductions. Why? The TCJA significantly increases the standard deduction amounts, starting in 2018, to:

  • $12,000 for singles (up from $6,350 for 2017),
  • $24,000 for married couples who file jointly (up from $12,700 for 2017), and
  • $18,000 for heads of households (up from $9,350 for 2017).

Additional standard deduction amounts for elderly and blind individuals are still allowed.

Unfortunately, the TCJA eliminates personal and dependency exemptions. (Under prior law, personal and dependency exemptions would have been $4,150 each for 2018.)

Deductions for State and Local Taxes

Under prior law, if you itemize deductions, you’re allowed to deduct an unlimited amount of personal state and local income and property taxes. You also have the option of forgoing any deduction for state and local income taxes and, instead, deducting state and local general sales taxes.

Starting in 2018, the TCJA limits the deduction for state and local income and property taxes to a combined total of $10,000 ($5,000 for married people who file separately). Foreign real property taxes can no longer be deducted. However, you can still opt to deduct state and local general sales taxes instead of state and local income taxes.

Important note: The TCJA specifically says that you can’t claim a 2017 deduction for prepaid state or local income taxes that are imposed for a tax year beginning after December 31, 2017. The IRS has also issued an advisory stating that prepayments of anticipated property taxes that haven’t been assessed prior to 2018 aren’t deductible in 2017. In addition, prepaying state and local property taxes to lower your tax bill for 2017 could backfire if you are subject to the AMT.

Tax Breaks for Homeowners

Under prior law, individual taxpayers are allowed to deduct interest on up to $1 million of mortgage debt to buy a first or second residence. The mortgage debt ceiling is reduced to $500,000 for married people who file separately. Under prior law, individuals could also deduct interest on up to $100,000 of home equity debt.

Starting in 2018, the TCJA allows you to deduct interest on up to only $750,000 of mortgage debt incurred to buy a first or second residence ($375,000 for those who use married filing separately status). However, this change doesn’t affect home acquisition mortgages taken out under binding contracts in effect before December 16, 2017, as long as the home purchase closes before April 1, 2018.

So, the limits allowed under the prior law ($1 million or $500,000 for married people who file separately) continue to apply to home acquisition mortgages that were taken out when the prior law was in effect — even if these loans are refinanced after 2017 (as long as the refinanced loan principal doesn’t exceed the old loan balance at the time of the refinancing).

What about home equity loan interest? Starting in 2018, the TCJA eliminates the provision that allows interest deductions on up to $100,000 of home equity loan balances.

In addition, the TCJA preserves the home sale gain exclusion. This valuable tax break allows you to potentially exclude from federal income tax up to $250,000 of gain from a qualified home sale, or $500,000 if you’re married and file jointly. Both the House and Senate versions of the tax bill originally included restrictions related to this break, but none of the proposed changes made the final cut.

Medical Expense Deductions

The new law expands the deduction for medical expenses to cover costs in excess of 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2017 and 2018. (Under prior law, the threshold for deducting medical expenses was 10% of AGI.) After 2018, the deduction threshold is scheduled to return to 10% of AGI.

Education Tax Breaks

The TCJA leaves all of the existing education-related tax breaks in place. It also allows you to take tax-free distributions of up to $10,000 per year from a Section 529 plan to cover tuition at a public, private, or religious elementary or secondary school, starting in 2018.

Child and Dependent Tax Credits

Under prior law, many households were ineligible for the $1,000 child tax credit, because they made too much money. But next year, more families will be eligible for this credit — which will help offset the elimination of the dependency exemptions — and it will double.

Starting in 2018, the maximum child tax credit increases to $2,000 per qualifying child, and up to $1,400 can be refundable. (In other words, lower-income taxpayers can collect up to that amount even if they don’t owe any federal income tax.) The income levels at which the child tax credit is phased out will also increase significantly (to $400,000 for married couples who file jointly). So, almost all taxpayers with under-age-17 children will qualify for this break. In addition, a new $500 nonrefundable credit is allowed for qualified dependents, such as:

  • A qualifying 17- or 18-year-old,
  • A full-time student under age 24,
  • A disabled child of any age, and
  • Other qualifying (nonchild) relatives if all the requirements are met.

Roth Conversion Reversals

Starting in 2018, you won’t be able to reverse the conversion of a traditional IRA into a Roth account. Under prior law, you had until October 15 of the year after an ill-advised conversion to reverse it and thereby avoid the conversion tax bill.

Need help?

The TCJA represents a major tax overhaul. It will take time and effort to understand its full effect on your personal tax situation. Your tax advisor can help you take advantage of beneficial changes and avoid pitfalls. And stay tuned for more articles about additional aspects of the new law.

Other Noteworthy News

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is 479 pages long and covers a lot of ground. Here are some lesser-known aspects of the new law that might affect you personally.

Adoption. The TCJA retains the tax breaks for adoption expenses.

Alimony. Starting in 2019, taxpayers can no longer deduct alimony payments if they’re required to by a divorce agreement entered into after December 31, 2018. Recipients of affected alimony payments will no longer have to include them in taxable income, as they currently do. (The current tax treatment stays in place for divorce agreements entered into on or before December 31, 2018, however.)

Gift and estate taxes. Starting in 2018, the unified federal gift and estate tax exemption will increase to roughly $11.2 million or $22.4 million for a married couple.

“Green” vehicles. The TCJA retains the tax credit of up to $7,500 for new qualified plug-in electric vehicles.

Moving expenses. Starting in 2018, deductions for most miscellaneous itemized expenses and moving expenses (with an exception for members of the military in certain circumstances) are eliminated. Tax-free employer reimbursements for moving expenses are also eliminated.

Personal casualty and theft losses. Starting in 2018, itemized deductions for personal casualty and theft losses are eliminated, except for personal casualty losses incurred in federally declared disaster areas.

“Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” Proposed Legislation and Its Impact on Our Clients

by Stephen G. Travis, Managing Principal

I spent time perusing the 429 page document released yesterday. Information and thoughts on how these proposals would impact our clients at KWC are below. I want to emphasize that taking any action on the proposed legislation at this point would most likely not be prudent. We saw what happened with the ACA (Obamacare) repeal, so it is entirely unknown what, if any, of these provisions will ever become the law of the land. But for CPAs it is interesting reading. (more…)

Equifax Data Breach – Steps to Consider

by Steve Travis – Managing Principal

The recent Equifax data breach is now considered the largest credit data breach in history. It affects almost half of the entire U.S. population. Chances are, if you live in the U.S. and you have a credit card, you are most likely affected. (more…)