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April, 2018

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

John F. Kennedy

April's arrived, along with 4 tax moves to make now
Welcome April, the Internal Revenue Service favorite month. It's when millions of us file our returns and, despite the billions of dollars in refunds that are sent (eventually), many filers also settle up with Uncle Sam. Those folks who owe tend to be the ones who enter April with tax tasks still to complete.
If you're one of the procrastinators, here are some things your absolutely must do by Tuesday, April 17, again because the Emancipation Day federal holiday is celebrated in the IRS headquarters' home of Washington, D.C. That's two more days than usual, but not enough if you've been putting off your taxes. But here are four things you absolutely, positively need to do this critical tax month. Read more.

Conservation and Preservation Easements Offer Huge Tax Benefits
Conservation and preservation easements offer taxpayers some of the largest charitable contribution deductions to be had under the U.S. tax code. This fact is extraordinary when one considers that no property actually changes hands under such an agreement. Rather, the owner of the land, building or art collection in question maintains his or her ownership but pledges, to the greatest extent possible, to preserve the resource in its present state. Read more.

Tax deductions even if you don't itemize for 2017 and 2018
The larger standard deduction under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that took effect this year has gotten a lot of attention. One of the big pluses, cite fans of the new nearly doubled standard deduction amounts, is that more people will claim them instead of itemizing tax deductible expenses. But regardless of whether you itemize now, plan to under the new tax law or never ever messed with a Schedule A and don't plan to start, there still are some tax deductions you can claim. Read more.

IRS Official Audit Rate Down But The "Real" Audit Rate Is The Problem
The Internal Revenue Service audited only 0.6% of 2016 individual income tax returns, according to its 2017 Data Book. That means your chance of an official audit was about 1 in 160.
The National Taxpayer Advocate, an IRS watchdog, begs to differ. The way it defines “audit,” your chance of hearing from the IRS is more like 1 out of 16. Read more.

Direct Deposit Your Tax Refund Into Retirement Savings
Last year, three out of four tax filers got refunds from the IRS, averaging $2,782, as of 3rd quarter ($2,895 by year-end). Where did all that money go? American taxpayers report using their refunds primarily to pay down debt, build up rainy day bank accounts and make big purchases. But there’s another option: deposit your refund directly into an individual retirement account. Read more.

How the new 2018 tax law makes planned giving more powerful
Many have worried about the negative impact of the new tax law on charitable giving. A higher standard deduction means fewer itemizers. Non-itemizers can’t use charitable tax deductions. But, the new tax law makes charitable giving more attractive for many high wealth and high income donors. For those still using them, charitable deductions became more valuable because: (1) effective combined income tax rates rose for many in higher tax states due to the cap on state tax deductions, (2) marginal federal income tax rates rose for those in the bubble range of $200,000 to $416,700 for individuals, (3) Pease amendment cuts to charitable deductions were eliminated, and (4) income limitations on charitable deductions for gifts of cash were raised from 50% to 60%. Beyond this, other changes have made gifts of appreciated assets – and all the planned giving vehicles using appreciated assets – much more attractive than last year. Read more.

Six tax refund myths busted
Dealing with taxes is tough enough, but when folks get the wrong information, things can go really bad really fast. That happens every filing season. Someone's uncle who works down the hall from a tax attorney says this. A neighbor's accountant brother says that. And, of course, there's the internet, probably the greatest single source of, to borrow a phrase, fake tax news.
The 2018 filing season is in full swing; it officially opened on Jan. 29, with Free File taking submissions since Jan. 12. Most of the folks who've already filed did so because they're expecting refunds. With those early filers already wondering where their tax cash is, the Internal Revenue Service and I want to clear up some of the more common tax myths regarding refunds that have cropped up yet again. Read more.

1031 and done | The collector's curse
One little discussed change in the new tax law are the broad changes to code section 1031. The provision that allows like kind exchanges for similar types of property has been amended to eliminate exchanges for anything other than real property. This will present many opportunities for the giving of tangible and intangible personal property for those that become familiar with the new rules. Read more.

Estate planning opportunities under the new tax law
In addition to overhauling the taxation of income of partnerships, corporations, and individuals, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017 ushered in significant changes to the wealth transfer tax system. These changes will create major new opportunities to minimize the tax cost of transferring wealth, beginning in 2018.
In states with estate tax laws that are independent from the federal law, the increased federal estate tax exemption could create an unintended state estate tax liability, depending on how your estate planning documents were drafted. Clients who live in, or own property in, the following states, among others, should be cognizant of potential changes in state laws that may arise. Read more.

Maximizing the many medical expenses that are still tax deductible
If you're still young, which to me is an ever-shifting definition that now includes folks in their 40s, here's a warning. Get ready to see more doctors as you age.
I know of what I blog. Although I'm young at heart, I'm finally there. My morning was full of physicians. And I'll deal with doctors again in a few weeks, both for follow-up exams and when I file my 2017 tax return.
Tax breaks for medical costs: Taxes is one of the few positive things about increased medical expenses. (Good test results are the other, but this is a tax, not medical, blog.) Read more.

For more information or a confidential discussion of your charitable options, please email or call Danielle Ruddy at 717-232-7509.

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