Most individual tax rates go down under the TCJA

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) generally reduces individual tax rates for 2018 through 2025. It maintains seven individual income tax brackets but reduces the rates for all brackets except 10% and 35%, which remain the same. It also makes some adjustments to the income ranges each bracket covers. For example, the 2017 top rate of 39.6% kicks in at $418,401 of taxable income for single filers and $470,701 for joint filers, but the reduced 2018 top rate of 37% takes effect at $500,001 and $600,001, respectively. Below is a look at the 2018 brackets under the TCJA. Keep

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Make the holidays bright for you and your loved ones with annual exclusion gifts

As the holiday season quickly approaches, gift giving will be top of mind. While gifts of electronics, toys and clothes are nice, making tax-free gifts of cash using your annual exclusion is beneficial for both you and your family. Even in a potentially changing estate tax environment, making annual exclusion gifts before year end can still benefit your estate plan. Understanding the annual exclusion The 2017 gift tax annual exclusion allows you to give up to $14,000 per recipient tax-free without using up any of your $5.49 million lifetime gift tax exemption. If you and your spouse “split” the gift,

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A charitable remainder trust can provide a multitude of benefits

If you’re charitably inclined but concerned about having sufficient income to meet your needs, a charitable remainder trust (CRT) may be the answer. A CRT allows you to support a favorite charity while potentially boosting your cash flow, shrinking the size of your taxable estate, reducing or deferring income taxes, and enjoying investment planning advantages. How does a CRT work? You contribute stock or other assets to an irrevocable trust that provides you — and, if you desire, your spouse — with an income stream for life or for a term of up to 20 years. (You can name a

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Who should own your life insurance policy?

If you own life insurance policies at your death, the proceeds will be included in your taxable estate. Ownership is usually determined by several factors, including who has the right to name the beneficiaries of the proceeds. The way around this problem is to not own the policies when you die. However, don’t automatically rule out your ownership either. And it’s important to keep in mind the current uncertain future of the estate tax. If the estate tax is repealed (or if someone doesn’t have a large enough estate that estate taxes are a concern), then the inclusion of your

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ABCs of HSAs: How an HSA can benefit your estate plan

One health care arrangement that has been soaring in popularity in recent years has been the pairing of a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with a Health Savings Account (HSA). The good news is that not only does an HSA provide a tax-advantaged way to pay for health care costs, but it also can help you achieve your estate planning goals. How does it work? An HSA can be offered by an employer, or an individual can set up his or her own account, similar to an IRA. Contributions to an employer-sponsored HSA are pretax and may be made by employers,

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Is now the time for a charitable lead trust?

Families who wish to give to charity while minimizing gift and estate taxes should consider a charitable lead trust (CLT). These trusts are most effective in a low-interest-rate environment, so conditions for taking advantage of a CLT currently are favorable. Although interest rates have crept up in recent years, they remain historically low. 2 types of CLTsA CLT provides a regular income stream to one or more charities during the trust term, after which the remaining assets pass to your children or other noncharitable beneficiaries. If your beneficiaries are in a position to wait for several years (or even decades)

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Will Congress revive expired tax breaks?

Most of the talk about possible tax legislation this year has focused on either wide-sweeping tax reform or taxes that are part of the Affordable Care Act. But there are a few other potential tax developments for individuals to keep an eye on. Back in December of 2015, Congress passed the PATH Act, which made a multitude of tax breaks permanent. However, there were a few valuable breaks for individuals that it extended only through 2016. The question now is whether Congress will extend them for 2017. An education break One break the PATH Act extended through 2016 was the

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The stretch IRA: A simple yet powerful estate planning tool

The IRA’s value as a retirement planning tool is well known: IRA assets compound on a tax-deferred (or, in the case of a Roth IRA, tax-free) basis, which can help build a more substantial nest egg. But if you don’t need an IRA to fund your retirement, you can use it as an estate planning tool to benefit your children or other beneficiaries on a tax-advantaged basis by turning it into a “stretch” IRA. Stretching the benefitsTurning an IRA into a stretch IRA is simply a matter of designating a beneficiary who’s significantly younger than you. This could be, for

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Prepaid funeral plans may not provide peace of mind

The cost of a funeral has increased steadily during the past two decades. In fact, once all funeral-related costs are factored in, the typical traditional funeral service will cost an average family $8,000 to $10,000. To relieve their families of the burden of planning a funeral, many people plan their own and pay for them in advance. Unfortunately, prepaid funeral plans are fraught with potential traps. Avoiding the pitfalls of prepaid plansSome plans end up costing more than the benefits they pay out. And there may be a risk that you’ll lose your investment if the funeral provider goes out

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Keep real estate separate from your business’s corporate assets to save tax

It’s common for a business to own not only typical business assets, such as equipment, inventory and furnishings, but also the building where the business operates — and possibly other real estate as well. There can, however, be negative consequences when a business’s real estate is included in its general corporate assets. By holding real estate in a separate entity, owners can save tax and enjoy other benefits, too. Capturing tax savings Many businesses operate as C corporations so they can buy and hold real estate just as they do equipment, inventory and other assets. The expenses of owning the

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