Sullivan & Company - Certified Public Accountants 4709 Montgomery Lane #201 - Bethesda, MD, 20814 Phone: 301-657-8080

       

 

Financial Services by Sullivan & Company

Kathy Grow EA/IAR

Financial services are now offered at Sullivan & Co., CPAs.  The story WHY:

 

You may wonder why your accounting firm wants you to invest with them. Years ago, CPAs were not allowed to venture into the investment world, but it always bothered us to see how poorly our clients were treated at their broker. It is not that the broker was not nice or attentive; it was the quality of the investments and, oftentimes, the lack of understanding for how the investments were going to affect the client in the future.

 

The amount of commissions and fees were oftentimes much larger than the client realized. Principles taught in universities were ignored by greedy advisors. Some forward thinking CPAs worked hard to get the accounting industry to see that we could, at the least, counsel our clients so that their investing experience was successful.

 

Our function is to work with you in all areas of your financial life. We prepare your tax returns and financial statements, of course, but there's a lot more decisions you make that we should be involved in. These include: succession planning for business owners such as HOW TO:

1) Sell your business

2) Retire comfortably

3) Handle your finances now that you are divorced or widowed

4) Provide for loved ones if you die

5) Pay for the education of your children

6) Determine if a trust is right for you

7) Minimize estate taxes

 

Worse than hearing that the IRS is going to audit is the call from a client who has plunged into an investment, whether stocks, bonds or another home without consulting us first.

 

Sometimes these decisions have unfortunate results and are difficult or impossible to undo. So, in response to this need, your CPA firm has well trained accountants and financial services professionals to help you navigate the financial world..

For a free review of your investments, give me a call at 301 657-8080 X 135.

 


 

 

Paul Sullivan, CPA

Sullivan & Company

 

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This Month's Feature Articles

- 2012 Tax Changes for Individuals
- 2012 Tax Changes for Businesses
- 3 Ways to Spend Wisely in December

Tax Tips

- Tax Credit for Employers Hiring Veterans This Year
- IRS Provides Relief for Hurricane Sandy
- Are Your Social Security Benefits Taxable?



 

   Listen to our 4th Quarter Tax Change Update Video - Click Here 

 

2012 Tax Changes For Individuals

 

Here's what individuals and families need to know about tax changes for 2012.

From personal deductions to tax credits and educational expenses, many of the tax changes relating to individuals remain in effect through 2012 and are the result of tax provisions that were either modified or extended by the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 that became law on December 17, 2010.

Personal Exemptions
The personal and dependent exemption for tax year 2012 is $3,800, up $100 from 2011.

Standard Deductions
In 2012 the standard deduction for married couples filing a joint return is $11,900, up $300 from 2011 and for singles and married individuals filing separately it's $5,950, up $150. For heads of household the deduction is $8,700, up $200 from 2011.

The additional standard deduction for blind people and senior citizens in 2012 is unchanged from 2011, remaining at $1,150 for married individuals and $1,450 for singles and heads of household.

Income Tax Rates
Due to inflation, tax-bracket thresholds will increase for every filing status. For example, the taxable-income threshold separating the 15-percent bracket from the 25-percent bracket is $70,700 for a married couple filing a joint return, up from $69,000 in 2011.

Estate and Gift Taxes
The recent overhaul of estate and gift taxes means that there is an exemption of $5.12 million per individual for estate, gift and generation-skipping taxes, with a top rate of 35%. The annual exclusion for gifts remains at $13,000.

Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
AMT exemption amounts for 2012 have reverted to 2000 levels and will remain significantly lower than in 2011 unless Congress takes action before year-end: $33,750 for single and head of household fliers, $45,000 for married people filing jointly and for qualifying widows or widowers, and $22,500 for married people filing separately.

Marriage Penalty Relief
For 2012, the basic standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly is $11,900, up $300 from 2011.

Pease and PEP (Personal Exemption Phaseout)
Pease (limitations on itemized deductions) and PEP (personal exemption phase-out) limitations do not apply for 2012, but like many other tax provisions, are set to expire at the end of the year.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)
FSA (Flexible Spending Arrangements) are limited to $2,500 per year starting in 2013 and indexed to inflation after that and applies only to salary reduction contributions under a health FSA.  However, IRS guidance issued this year recognizes that the term "taxable year" refers to the plan year of the cafeteria plan, which is typically the period during which salary reduction elections are made.

Specifically, in the case of a plan providing a grace period (which may be up to two months and 15 days), unused salary reduction contributions to the health FSA for plan years beginning in 2012 or later that are carried over into the grace period for that plan year will not count against the $2,500 limit for the subsequent plan year.

Further, the IRS is providing relief for certain salary reduction contributions exceeding the $2,500 limit that are due to a reasonable mistake and not willful neglect and that are corrected by the employer.

Long Term Capital Gains
In 2012, long-term gains for assets held at least one year are taxed at a flat rate of 15% for taxpayers above the 25% tax bracket. For taxpayers in lower tax brackets, the long-term capital gains rate is 0%.

Individuals - Tax Credits

Adoption Credit
In 2012 a credit of up to $12,650 is available for qualified adoption expenses for each eligible child. The available adoption credit begins to phase out for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) in excess of $189,710 and is completely phased out for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income of $229,710 or more.

Child and Dependent Care Credit
If you pay someone to take care of your dependent (defined as being under the age of 13 at the end of the tax year or incapable of self-care) in order to work or look for work, you may qualify for a credit of up to $1,050 or 35 percent of $3,000 of eligible expenses.

For two or more qualifying dependents, you can claim up to 35 percent of $6,000 (or $2,100) of eligible expenses. For higher income earners the credit percentage is reduced, but not below 20 percent, regardless of the amount of adjusted gross income.

Child Tax Credit
The $1,000 child tax credit has been extended through 2012 as well. A portion of the credit may be refundable, which means that you can claim the amount you are owed, even if you have no tax liability for the year. The credit is phased out for those with higher incomes.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
For tax year 2012, the maximum earned income tax credit (EITC) for low and moderate income workers and working families rises to $5,891, up from $5,751 in 2011. The maximum income limit for the EITC rises to $50,270 (up from $49,078 in 2011). The credit varies by family size, filing status and other factors, with the maximum credit going to joint filers with three or more qualifying children.

Individuals - Education Expenses

Coverdell Education Savings Account
You can contribute up to $2,000 a year to Coverdell savings accounts in 2012. These accounts can be used to offset the cost of elementary and secondary education, as well as post-secondary education.

American Opportunity Tax Credit
For 2012, the maximum Hope Scholarship Credit that can be used to offset certain higher education expenses is $2,500, although it is phased out beginning at $160,000 adjusted gross income for joint filers and $80,000 for other filers.

Employer Provided Educational Assistance
Through 2012, you, as an employee, can exclude up to $5,250 of qualifying post-secondary and graduate education expenses that are reimbursed by your employer.

Lifetime Learning Credit
A credit of up to $2,000 is available for an unlimited number of years for certain costs of post-secondary or graduate courses or courses to acquire or improve your job skills. For 2012, The modified adjusted gross income threshold at which the lifetime learning credit begins to phase out is $104,000 for joint filers, up from $102,000, and $52,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $51,000.

Student Loan Interest
For 2012 (same as 2011), the $2,500 maximum student loan interest deduction for interest paid on student loans is not limited to interest paid during the first 60 months of repayment. The deduction begins to phase out for married taxpayers filing joint returns at $125,000, and phases out completely at $155,000, an increase of $5,000 from the phase out limits for tax year 2011. For single taxpayers, the phase out ranges remain at the 2011 levels.
Individuals - Retirement

Contribution Limits
For 2012, the elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $16,500 to $17,000. For persons age 50 or older in 2012, the limit is $22,500 (up from $22,000 in 2011). Contribution limits for SIMPLE plans remain at $11,500 for persons under age 50 and $14,000 for persons age 50 or older in 2012. The maximum compensation used to determine contributions increases to $250,000.

Saver's Credit
In 2012, the AGI limit for the saver's credit (also known as the retirement savings contributions credit) for low-and moderate-income workers is $57,500 for married couples filing jointly, $43,125 for heads of household, and $28,750 for married individuals filing separately and for singles.

Please contact us if you need help understanding which deductions and tax credits you are entitled to. We are always available to assist you.  To talk or ask me questions, call me, Paul Sullivan, at 240-316-3531.
 

 


 

How is Your Retirement Planning Going?
by Kathy Grow, EA/IAR - Sullivan & Co. CPAs

You’ve seen the articles everywhere. The old opportunities for preparing for retirement have seemingly vanished. If you were age 50 in 1960, you could confidently assert:

- We are in our peak earning years.
- The kids are grown and out of the house.
- We’ve made more than our folks did and it shows.
- The equity in our house will provide a good nest egg.
- I have a company pension plan for my retirement.
- I will receive social security.
- Our cost of living will be lower once we retire.

None of these are true for most people age 50 in 2012. So, what have you done to prepare?

 

If you’re an employee, you should be contributing as much as possible to your 401(k). If you’re an employer, you should be sure your firm has a 401(k) and that it is new enough that it allows you to sock away the max each year.

Is that it? Are you done? Can you sleep easy now? NO

There are other strategies and investments to consider so that you are prepared. The most obvious is to consider adding a Roth or Traditional IRA. I have other ideas that won’t fit all, but may fit you. Give me a call at (240) 316-3564 so we can discuss your own situation and see if we can’t come up with at least one idea that you can act on today.

If you are the type of person that likes to learn & do research I would also suggest you listen to an audio recording of a recent conference call we did on this subject titled the Top 13 Mistakes Made By Retirement Plan Investors.

There are more than 13 mistakes but these are the top ones people tend to make that can EASILY be avoided with a little time and planning.

Bill Isaacs, CPA our Tax Department Manager was on the call with some other Sullivan & Company staff and we walked through these mistakes in detail.

And as always if you have any questions about accounting or investments and how they effect you or your business, please give me a call at (240) 316-3564. We can help guide you in the right direction.

 

Kathy Grow, EA/IAR

 


 

Remember you can call our offices if you have any questions about these or any other accounting, tax, financial planning or insurance related issues, at 301-657-8080. 

 

Regards, Paul Sullivan, CPA

President, Sullivan & Company

 

 

 

 

Sullivan & Company, CPAs | 4709 Montgomery Lane | Bethesda, MD 20814 www.eSullivan.net | email: pSullivan@eSullivan.net | Like Us on Facebook

Direct: 240-316-3531 | Main no.: 301-657-8080 Ext 102 | Fax: 301-657-9055