Once you reach the age of 73, you are obligated to take annual Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your retirement accounts. The calculation of your RMD involves dividing the value of each Traditional IRA by a life expectancy factor set by the IRS. It is necessary to compute the RMD for each individual IRA, but you have the option to withdraw the total RMD amount from either one specific IRA or a combination of multiple IRAs. However, RMDs from Qualified Retirement Plans or Inherited IRAs must be calculated separately and can only be withdrawn from their respective accounts. Roth IRAs do not require RMDs unless you have established an inherited/beneficiary IRA.

Your initial RMD must be taken by April 1 of the year following your 73rd birthday, and subsequent RMDs must be withdrawn by December 31 of each subsequent year. Failure to take your RMD results in a penalty. Under the new SECURE 2.0 regulations, effective for RMDs in 2023, the penalty for missing an RMD is reduced from 50% to a 25% excise tax on insufficient or late withdrawals. If the RMD is corrected promptly, the penalty can be further reduced to 10%.

The total amount of your RMD is subject to taxation as ordinary income at your personal federal income tax rate, with potential state taxes also applicable. Nondeductible IRA contributions are not taxed, but any earnings are subject to taxation if you have filed an IRS Form 8606. It is important to adhere to the RMD deadlines to avoid penalties and ensure compliance with the tax regulations outlined by the IRS.

The fundamental principle governing the taxability of funds received from the resolution of legal disputes, including lawsuits, adheres to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 61. This section stipulates that all income is subject to taxation unless specifically exempted by another section of the code. IRC Section 104 provides an exemption from taxable income concerning lawsuits, settlements, and awards. However, it’s imperative to assess the circumstances surrounding each settlement payment to ascertain the purpose for which the money was received since not all settlement amounts are exempt from taxes. The pivotal question is: “What was the settlement intended to compensate for?”

IRC Section 61 outlines that all amounts from any source are considered part of gross income unless a distinct exception exists. For damages, the two primary exceptions are amounts paid for specific discrimination claims and amounts paid due to physical injury.

IRC Section 104 explains that gross income excludes damages received on account of physical injuries. IRC Section 104(a)(2) allows taxpayers to exclude from gross income “the amount of any damages (other than punitive damages) received (whether by suit or agreement and whether as lump sums or as periodic payments) on account of personal injuries or physical sickness.

Regulation Section 1.104-1(c) defines damages received on account of personal physical injuries or physical sickness as an amount received (other than workers’ compensation) through the prosecution of a legal suit or action, or through a settlement agreement entered into instead of prosecution.

Awards and settlements can be categorized into two groups to determine their taxability: claims related to physical injuries and claims related to non-physical injuries. The IRS consistently asserts that compensatory damages, including lost wages, received on account of personal physical injury are excluded from gross income, with the exception of punitive damages.

Damages received for non-physical injuries such as emotional distress, defamation, and humiliation, while generally part of gross income, are not subject to Federal employment taxes. Mental and emotional distress arising from non-physical injuries is only excluded from gross income if received on account of physical injury or physical sickness.

Punitive damages are not exempt from gross income, except in cases involving wrongful death where state law mandates only punitive damages in wrongful death claims.

Employment-related lawsuits stemming from wrongful discharge or contractual breaches may lead to compensatory damages for economic loss. These damages, like lost wages, business income, and benefits, are not excluded from gross income unless a personal physical injury caused the loss.

Discrimination suits based on age, race, gender, religion, or disability can result in compensatory, contractual, and punitive awards, none of which are exempt. Dismissal pay, severance pay, or other payments for involuntary termination of employment are generally considered wages for federal employment tax purposes.

In some instances, the characterization of payments in a settlement agreement can influence their exclusion from taxable income. The IRS typically respects the parties’ intent and may consider the settlement agreement’s language to determine reporting requirements for Form 1099 in case of ambiguity regarding taxability.

Tax matters can be as intricate as a spider’s web, with various threads entangling unsuspecting individuals. Among the intricacies lie two distinct concepts that are often misunderstood or confused – the Injured Spouse and Innocent Spouse provisions. In this blog post, we’ll shed light on these terms, explore their differences, and clarify when each may come into play.

Understanding Injured Spouse and Innocent Spouse

Injured Spouse

The term “Injured Spouse” is not as ominous as it sounds. In the context of taxes, it refers to a situation where a joint tax refund is offset or reduced because of the debts owed solely by one spouse. These debts can include unpaid taxes, past-due child support, or federal non-tax debts. When an individual believes their share of the refund is being unfairly used to satisfy the other spouse’s debts, they can file Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, to request their portion of the refund.

Innocent Spouse

On the other hand, “Innocent Spouse” pertains to a scenario where one spouse may be relieved of responsibility for the understatement of taxes on a joint return. This typically occurs when one spouse inaccurately reports income, claims erroneous deductions, or engages in fraudulent activity without the knowledge of the other spouse. In such cases, the innocent spouse can seek relief from the IRS through Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief.

Key Differences

Injured Spouse: Focuses on the fair allocation of a joint tax refund when one spouse has debts.

Innocent Spouse: Relieves a spouse from liability for errors, inaccuracies, or fraud committed by the other spouse on a joint tax return.

Triggering Events

Injured Spouse: Triggered when a joint tax refund is offset or reduced due to the other spouse’s outstanding debts.

Innocent Spouse: Triggered when one spouse seeks relief from tax liabilities arising from errors or fraudulent activities of the other spouse.

Forms Used

Injured Spouse: Filed using Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, to claim the portion of the joint refund.

Innocent Spouse: Filed using Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, to seek relief from joint tax liabilities.

Time Limitations

Injured Spouse: Can be filed as soon as the taxpayer realizes their refund is at risk and even after the return has been filed.

Innocent Spouse: Generally, has a two-year time limit from the date the IRS first attempts to collect the tax.

While the terms “Injured Spouse” and “Innocent Spouse” might sound similar, they represent distinct concepts in the realm of taxation. Understanding these differences is crucial for individuals facing challenges related to joint tax returns, debts, and potential liabilities. Whether safeguarding your share of a tax refund or seeking relief from an unwitting partner’s tax discrepancies, being aware of these provisions empowers taxpayers to navigate the complexities of the tax system with clarity and confidence.

In 2024, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is set to launch a no-cost tax filing initiative, which will be piloted in 13 states during the upcoming filing season. This move toward free online tax filing has the potential to reshape the tax-filing process for millions of Americans.

Four states, namely Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and New York, will integrate their state taxes into this system, known as Direct File. Taxpayers in nine additional states without state income tax, which include Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming, may also have the opportunity to participate.

This initial pilot on a limited scale will enable the IRS to assess the expenses, advantages, and operational complexities associated with offering a voluntary Direct File option to taxpayers. The IRS will use the data collected during the pilot to determine how to address challenges for future iterations of the program.

Participation in the pilot will be available to taxpayers with relatively straightforward returns, and eligibility is expected to encompass:

Types of Income: W-2 wage income, social security, railroad retirement income, unemployment compensation, and interest income of $1,500 or less.

Tax Credits: Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for Other Dependents.

Deductions: Standard deduction, student loan interest, and educator expenses.

Direct File will be user-friendly on mobile devices, involve an interview-based approach, and be offered in both English and Spanish. It will initially roll out to a select group of eligible taxpayers and will later be expanded. Taxpayers in the 13 eligible states will still have the option to use other tax preparation programs.

Recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced a large increase in the annual limit that people may contribute to health savings accounts (HSAs).

Families will be able to make an HSA contribution of up to $8,300 starting in 2024, while individuals can make an HSA contribution of up to $4,150. In comparison to the prior year, which set the maximum contributions at $7,750 for families and $3,850 for individuals, these restrictions are higher.

Older married couples can save up to $10,300 annually with the option to contribute an additional $1,000 for those who are 55 years and older. This sum has increased from the current year’s $9,750. A couple might build up more than $100,000 in their HSA accounts over the course of the ten years leading up to retirement.

Many Americans underutilize and frequently misunderstand HSAs. People must not be enrolled in Medicare and have a high-deductible health plan that complies with HSA requirements in order to be eligible to contribute.

HSAs offer better tax advantages relative to 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts (IRAs), which both allow for the utilization of medical expenses. The growth of funds within HSAs, as well as withdrawals used to pay for qualified medical costs, are all tax-free.

Medicare Part B premiums, which in 2023 may amount to roughly $4,000 for a married couple with an income of up to $194,000, are among the list of allowable medical expenses. Deductibles, copayments, dental and vision charges, hearing fees, even long-term care expenditures are included in this category.

Account holders can instantly benefit from a tax break by making deposits into an HSA and using the money for medical costs. The benefit of being able to invest the money prior to using it is another perk.

Limits for 2024: HSA contribution caps are boosted by $100 to $200 every year to keep up with inflation. The family maximum limit did, however, increase by $450 in 2023 and an additional $550 in 2024 as a result of strong inflation.

Americans held over $112.5 billion in about 37 million HSA accounts as of January 2023. Notably, Americans pay close to $400 billion per year on personal healthcare costs after taxes.

Investment Choice: Unlike the majority of 401(k) plans, which invest employees’ money automatically, frequently in target-date funds that include equities and bonds, HSAs require members to actively pick where they want their money to be invested. This usually happens when the basic bank deposit account reaches a specific amount, frequently $1,000.

Individuals who invested in their HSAs at the end of 2022 had an average total balance of $16,397 (including deposits and investments). The average HSA amount for those who only had deposit accounts and no investments was $2,445.

Owe taxes to the IRS?

If you owe taxes to the IRS and you are unable to pay, it can be a stressful and overwhelming situation. However, it’s important to understand that there are options available to you.

File Your Tax Return on Time

First and foremost, it’s important to file your tax return on time, even if you can’t pay the full amount of taxes owed. This is because the failure-to-file penalty is much higher than the failure-to-pay penalty. If you don’t file your tax return on time, you will be subject to a penalty of 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month your return is late, up to a maximum of 25%. In contrast, the failure-to-pay penalty is only 0.5% of the unpaid taxes per month.

By filing your tax return on time, you can avoid the failure-to-file penalty and reduce the amount of penalties and interest you will owe in the long run.

Explore Payment Options

If you can’t pay the full amount of taxes owed, the IRS offers several payment options to help you resolve your tax debt. These options include:

Installment Agreement: This is a payment plan that allows you to pay your tax debt in monthly installments. You can apply for an installment agreement online or by mail using Form 9465. Depending on the amount owed, you may need to provide financial information to the IRS to qualify for an installment agreement.

Offer in Compromise: This is a settlement option that allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount owed. To be eligible for an offer in compromise, you must demonstrate that you are unable to pay the full amount owed and that paying the full amount would cause financial hardship.

Temporary Delay: If you are unable to pay your tax debt due to a temporary financial hardship, you may be eligible for a temporary delay of the collection process. This will give you time to get back on your feet financially before the IRS resumes collection activity.

Currently Not Collectible: If you are unable to pay your tax debt and your financial situation is unlikely to improve in the near future, you may be eligible for a Currently Not Collectible status. This will temporarily suspend collection activity until your financial situation improves.

Consider Hiring a Tax Professional

Dealing with the IRS can be complicated and stressful, especially if you owe a significant amount of taxes. Hiring a tax professional can help you navigate the complex tax system and negotiate with the IRS on your behalf. A tax professional can also help you determine which payment option is best for your specific situation.

Stay in Communication with the IRS

If you can’t pay your taxes, it’s important to stay in communication with the IRS. Ignoring the problem will only make it worse. If you don’t pay your taxes or make arrangements to pay, the IRS can take collection action against you, such as placing a lien on your property or garnishing your wages.

By staying in communication with the IRS, you can show that you are willing to resolve your tax debt and avoid further collection activity.

If you can’t pay the IRS, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. By filing your tax return on time, exploring payment options, considering hiring a tax professional, and staying in communication with the IRS, you can resolve your tax debt and avoid further collection activity. Remember, the longer you wait to resolve your tax debt, the more penalties and interest you will owe in the long run.

Form 1040 Tax Credits

The Form 1040 is the primary form used by taxpayers to report their annual income and tax liability to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and it is important to be aware of the various tax credits that may be available to claim on it. Tax credits are deductions from the amount of taxes owed to the government and can greatly reduce a taxpayers’ overall tax liability.

One of the most well-known tax credits available is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This credit is designed to help low- and moderate-income taxpayers, and the amount of the credit varies based on the taxpayer’s income level and number of qualifying children. For the 2022 tax year, the maximum credit for those with no children is $543, and for those with one child is $3,618.

Another tax credit available for the 2022 tax year is the Child and Dependent Care Credit. This credit is available to taxpayers who pay for child care or dependent care expenses in order to work or look for work. The credit is based on a percentage of the expenses paid, up to a maximum credit of $3,000 for one child or $6,000 for two or more children.

The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) is a credit for qualified education expenses paid for an eligible student for the first four years of higher education. This credit can be claimed for 100% of the first $2,000 spent and 25% of the next $2,000, with a limit of $2,500 per student.

The Saver’s Credit, also known as the retirement savings contributions credit, is a credit available to low- and moderate-income taxpayers who make contributions to certain types of retirement plans, such as an IRA or 401(k). The credit is based on a percentage of the contributions made, up to a maximum credit of $1,000 for married couples filing jointly and $500 for single filers.

In conclusion, there are several tax credits available to taxpayers that can greatly reduce their overall tax liability. By being aware of these credits and claiming them correctly, taxpayers can reduce the amount of taxes they owe and increase their refund. As always, consult with a tax professional or use tax preparation software to ensure that you are aware of all of the tax credits for which you may be eligible, and to ensure that you are claiming them correctly.

The IRS this week announced higher federal income tax brackets and standard deductions for 2023 amid skyrocketing inflation. For the tax year 2023, the agency raised the income requirements for each group.

According to inflation adjustments issued by the agency on Tuesday, individual income over $578,125 and married couples’ income over $693,750 would be subject to the 37% top marginal tax rate starting in 2023. These limits will increase 7% from 2022.

The standard deduction will increase by nearly 7% to $27,700 for married couples and $13,850 for single people.

The criteria for married couples in each of the six tax categories below the top 37% bracket are all double then those of individual taxpayers. The rates apply to taxable income, or income that has been reduced by deductions. The 10% tax bracket increases to $11,000 for people in 2023, the 12% bracket increases to $44,725; the 22% bracket increases to $95,375; the 24% bracket increases to $182,100; the 32% bracket increases to $231,250; and the 35% bracket increases to the top-bracket threshold.

The Social Security Administration published the inflation adjustment for the Social Security payroll tax for 2023, which will be levied on incomes up to $160,200 rather than $147,000 for 2022.

When an individual’s income reaches $200,000 and a married couple’s income reaches $400,000, the maximum child tax credit, which is still $2,000, starts to phase down. A maximum of $3,000 may be deducted from ordinary income in the form of capital losses. State and local tax deductions are still only allowed up to $10,000.

For the final six months of 2022, the Internal Revenue Service announced an increase in the optional standard mileage rate. Optional standard mileage rates can be used to calculate the deductible costs of using a car for business and certain other activities. The normal mileage rate for business travel will be 62.5 cents per mile in the final six months of 2022, up 4 cents from the rate in place at the start of the year. The revised prices will go into effect on July 1, 2022.

The IRS made this special adjustment for the last six months of 2022 in acknowledgment of recent fuel price hikes. The IRS is changing the regular mileage rates to better reflect the recent increase in fuel prices. The IRS is aware that a variety of exceptional issues relating to gasoline costs have come into play, and they are taking this extraordinary action to assist taxpayers, businesses, and others that utilize this rate.

While fuel prices play an important role in mileage calculations, other factors such as depreciation, insurance, and other fixed and variable costs also play a role. Instead of recording actual costs, the optional business standard mileage rate is used to calculate the deductible costs of driving an automobile for business purposes. The federal government and many businesses use this rate as a baseline for calculating mileage reimbursements for their employees.

Rather than using the regular mileage rates, taxpayers can always calculate the actual expenditures of driving their vehicle.

The tax code has a credit for dependent-care expenses for children under age 13 when the care was provided, and it also can apply to expenses for others of any age who are incapable of caring for themselves—such as an elderly relative. In most years—including 2022—many filers get a credit for 20% of up to $3,000 of eligible expenses for one dependent, or up to $6,000 of expenses for two or more. For very low earners, the credit can be as high as 35% of these expenses. 

Just for 2021, however, Congress greatly expanded the Child and Dependent Care credit substantially  making it more generous and potentially refundable, up to $4,000 for one qualifying person and $8,000 for two or more qualifying persons. This means an eligible taxpayer can receive this credit even if they owe no federal income tax. Your federal income tax may be reduced by claiming the Credit for Child and Dependent Care expenses on your tax return.

A qualifying person generally is a dependent under the age of 13, a spouse or dependent of any age who is incapable of self-care and who lives with you for more than half of the year.

You may be eligible to claim the child and dependent care credit if you paid expenses for the care of a qualifying individual to enable you and your spouse, if filing a joint return to work or actively look for work and you or your spouse if filing a joint return lived in the United States for more than half of the year. However, special rules apply to military personnel stationed outside of the United States.