IRS complies with President Trump’s Executive Order -- will not reject tax returns without health care disclosure

02-20-2017Tax Information

After President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order, the IRS announced that it will not reject tax returns just because a taxpayer has not indicated on the return whether the taxpayer had health insurance, was exempt, or made a shared-responsibility payment under Sec. 5000A of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

  • The PPACA requires taxpayers who do not maintain minimum essential health coverage for each month of the year and who do not qualify for an exemption to pay a shared-responsibility payment with the filing of their Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.
  • Although the health insurance information requirement has been in effect for a few years, the IRS accepted returns that did not contain the information

Myths on Trust Taxation

02-11-2017Tax Information

I periodically get inquiries from individuals who think they can avoid income taxes because they have a trust.  Trusts are often very good tools to protect your assets; but not always a good tool for simple tax planning strategies.  Trusts generally have much lower deductions, compressed marginal tax rates, and a much lower threshold for the net investment income tax.  Thus, a trust may incur higher income taxes than an individual may pay.


Some Tax Forms Arizona Department of Revenue are Incorrect

01-31-2017Tax Information

The Arizona Department of Revenue announced on January 30, 2017 that it sent out some incorrect 1099-G forms for 2015 taxpayers that received refunds.

The erroneous forms included information from the 2014 tax year, and did not include the correct information from the 2015 tax year.

You can still file your 2016 income tax return – Please use your actual 2015 tax return if your 1099-G document is different.

The Basics of Medicare

11-29-2016Health Care

Medicare is a federal system of health insurance for people over 65 years of age and for certain younger people with disabilities.  Medicare pays for much of the cost of hospital stays and doctor’s office visits for people age 65 and older.  But what does that mean and what do you need to know?

  • There are different parts to Medicare:
    • Medicare Part A is hospital care.  Most people don't pay a premium for Medicare Part A.  Medicare Part A has a $1,316 deductible if you are hospitalized, and additional costs apply if your hospital stay exceeds 60 days.
    • Medicare Part B is medical insurance that covers doctor's visits and outpatient services.  The standard Medicare Part B premium is $134 per month in 2017, but it is primarily new enrollees and those who haven’t yet claimed Social Security who will pay this amount.  Most Social Security recipients will pay $109 per month for Medicare Part B in 2017 because Medicare premiums are prevented by law from increasing faster than Social Security payments for existing recipients. Premium costs are also higher for retirees with a modified adjusted gross income above $85,000 for individuals and $170,000 for couples.  There is a $183 Medicare Part B deductible in 2017, after which you will be charged 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for most services. There’s no annual limit on out-of-pocket expenses.

Proposed Revisions to Tuition Tax Credits and Deductions

08-03-2016Tax Information

The Internal Revenue Service has proposed revisions to tuition tax credits and deductions for individual tax payers.  The changes are meant to be in alignment with the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH).

Key things to know:

  • No deduction or credit will be allowed unless there is a 1098-T, Tuition Statement, received from the eligible educational institution.
  • An exception will be made for items not included on the form (e.g. required course materials that qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit)
  • Form 0198-T should be received by January 31 of the following year
  • Reporting will be more specific for qualified tuition and related expenses paid in one year that relate to the academic period beginning in the first three months of the next calendar year.  The prepaid amount would be explicitly stated

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Investors


In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey identifies key habits successful people share to achieve their goals.  Here is my attempt to drill these habits down for investors.

Habit 1: Be Proactive (Be Ready for Financial Emergencies)
About 47 percent of respondents in the Federal Reserve’s 2014 household survey said they wouldn’t be able to cover an emergency $400 expense without selling something or borrowing money.  So start by setting aside money for an emergency fund before saving for retirement.  In a financial emergency, too many people tap into their retirement fund early and pay a penalty.  (And your credit card is not your emergency savings fund!)


Identity Theft

06-22-2016Debt & Credit

Approximately 13 million Americans were identity fraud victims in 2015— and identity thieves have stolen $112 billion during that same time.  This is according to Javelin Strategy and Research.

How can you avoid identity theft?

  1. Check your credit report three times per year. The only free site is, so if you get a report from each credit bureau—TransUnion, Equifax and Experian—you can get one every four months, then start over the next year.

Maximize Your HSA in 2016

02-16-2016Tax Information

With individual income tax season under way, I am seeing a number of clients with a high-deductible health insurance plan and a Health Savings Account (HSA).  Here are some ways to make the most of your money this year.
In 2016, those with individual high-deductible plans can deposit $3,350 into an HSA, while those with a family plan can contribute a maximum of $6,750. In either case, an extra $1,000 catch-up contribution is allowed for those age 55 or older.

  • Open and fund your HSA today.  High-deductible health plans can require policyholders to pay thousands out of pocket before insurance coverage kicks in. To soften the blow, the federal government allows those with qualified plans to open HSAs and pay their out-of-pocket expenses with tax-free money.  However, the tax savings only applies to expenses paid after the HSA was opened. You don’t need to fully fund it immediately -- or ever.  Pay into it what you can.
  • Your HSA can be an investment tool.  Some HSA accounts work as simple savings accounts and offer a minimal interest. Others let you invest money in mutual funds, just as you would in a 401(k) or IRA. 

IRS E-file system temporarily shut down

02-04-2016Tax Information

The Internal Revenue Service reported it suffered a "hardware failure" on Wednesday afternoon, which left many of its tax processing systems unavailable Wednesday night, the agency announced in a statement.

The agency stopped accepting electronically filed tax returns because of the problem. The outage could affect refunds, but the agency said it doesn't anticipate "major disruptions."

The IRS is still assessing the scope of the outage and indicates nine out of 10 taxpayers will receive their refunds within 21 days.  The website remains available, but "Where's My Refund" and other services are not working.


Trusts for Creative Spenders

02-01-2016Children & Students

Trusts can be quite useful for protecting children. However, for some children, the trust serves an additional function: It protects the principal from being rapidly spent by a child. These trusts have a specific name—they are called "spendthrift" trusts.

A spendthrift trust allows a parent to protect a certain amount of inheritance. If you have a circumstance like this, it may be appropriate to transfer inheritance outright to some of your children and the same amount of property into a spendthrift trust for the "creative spender" child.


How To Avoid The 10% Penalty On IRA Distributions


If you take money out of a retirement account (IRA, 401(k), 403(b), etc.) before reaching the age of 59½, you typically must pay income taxes on the withdrawal plus an additional 10% early withdrawal tax unless an exception applies.

If they apply, these exceptions may save you the 10% penalty if you have to tap into your retirement accounts early.

  1. Death or Disability- If someone in your family becomes permanently disabled, your retirement may be the last place that you want to draw funds.  There are options to get money out of your IRA penalty free should disability or death happen in your family.

Retirement Plan Changes for 2016


Here are some of the important ways retirement benefits will change in 2016.

IRA and 401(k) Limits – The 2016 contribution limits for 2016 for IRAs (Traditional pre-tax of after-tax Roth IRAs) increases to $18,000 with a $6,000 catch-up contribution for individuals aged 50 and over.

Saver’s credit.  The adjusted gross income (AGI) limit increases to $30,750 for individuals and to $61,500 for married couples. This tax credit is available to low and moderate income families that save for retirement.  It can be worth 10%-50% of your retirement contribution up to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples.