United States: Uncertainty Over Expired Tax Breaks Complicates Year-End Tax Planning

Last Updated: December 9 2015
Article by Brad Cless

Year-end tax planning this year will be just as complicated as it was last year because of uncertainty surrounding many expired tax breaks for individuals and businesses. Tax legislation signed into law last December extended several expired breaks, but only through the end of 2014.

While Congress mulls legislation to extend (or even make permanent) some expired tax provisions, it's difficult to predict what will be included in the final bill. Fortunately, although there are some year-end tax planning strategies that can't be implemented until after tax legislation is signed into law, there are still many that can be implemented now.

Take advantage of planning strategies for individuals

Individuals often can reduce their tax bills by deferring income to the next year and accelerating deductible expenses into the current year. To defer income, for example, you might ask your employer to pay your year-end bonus in early 2016 rather than in 2015.

And to accelerate deductions, you might pay certain property taxes early or increase your IRA or qualified retirement plan contributions to the extent that they'll be deductible. Such contributions also provide some planning flexibility because you can make 2015 contributions to IRAs, and certain other retirement plans, after the end of the year.

Remember that, when you use a credit card to pay expenses or make charitable contributions this year, you can deduct them on your 2015 return even if you don't pay your bill until next year.

Other year-end tax planning strategies to consider include:

Offsetting capital gains. If you've sold stocks or other investments at a gain this year — or plan to do so — consider offsetting those gains by selling some poorly performing investments at a loss.

Reducing capital gains is particularly important if you're subject to the net investment income tax (NIIT), which applies to taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) over $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly). The NIIT is an additional 3.8% tax on the lesser of 1) your net income from capital gains, dividends, taxable interest and certain other sources, or 2) the amount by which your MAGI exceeds the threshold.

In addition to reducing your net investment income by generating capital losses, you may have opportunities to bring your MAGI below the applicable NIIT threshold by deferring income or accelerating certain deductions.

Charitable giving. If you plan to make charitable donations, consider donating highly appreciated stock or other assets rather than cash. This strategy is particularly effective if you own appreciated stock you'd like to sell but you don't have any losses to offset the gains.

Donating stock to charity allows you to dispose of the stock without triggering capital gains taxes, while still claiming a charitable deduction. Then you can take the cash you'd planned to donate and reinvest it in other securities.

Monitoring expired tax breaks. Keep an eye on Congress. If certain expired tax breaks are extended before the end of the year, you may have some last-minute planning opportunities. Expired provisions include tax-free IRA distributions to charity for taxpayers age 70½ and older, the deduction for state and local sales taxes, and the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses.

Prepare for possible revival of expired business breaks

Year-end tax planning for businesses often focuses on acquiring equipment, machinery, vehicles or other qualifying assets to take advantage of enhanced depreciation tax breaks. Unfortunately, the following breaks were among those that expired on December 31, 2014:

Enhanced Section 179 expensing election. Before 2015, Sec. 179 permitted businesses to immediately deduct, rather than depreciate, up to $500,000 in qualified new or used assets. The deduction was phased out, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, to the extent qualified asset purchases for the year exceeded $2 million. Because Congress failed to extend the enhanced election beyond 2014, these limits have dropped to only $25,000 and $200,000, respectively.

50% bonus depreciation. Also expiring at the end of 2014, this provision allowed businesses to claim an additional first-year depreciation deduction equal to 50% of qualified asset costs. Bonus depreciation generally was available for new (not used) tangible assets with a recovery period of 20 years or less, as well as for off-the-shelf software. Currently, it's unavailable for 2015 (with limited exceptions).

Lawmakers may restore enhanced expensing and bonus depreciation retroactively to the beginning of 2015, but they probably won't take any action until late in the year. In the meantime, how should you handle qualified asset purchases?

  • If you need equipment or other assets to run your business, acquire it regardless of the availability of tax breaks.
  • For less urgent asset needs, consider spending up to $25,000 — the amount you'll be able to expense regardless of whether Congress extends the expired breaks.
  • For additional planned asset purchases, consider taking a wait-and-see approach and be prepared to act quickly if and when "tax extenders" legislation is signed into law.

Keep in mind that, to take advantage of depreciation tax breaks on your 2015 tax return, you'll need to place assets in service by the end of the year. Paying for them this year isn't enough.

Other expired tax provisions to keep an eye on include the research credit, the Work Opportunity credit, Empowerment Zone incentives and a variety of energy-related tax breaks.

Follow traditional year-end strategies for businesses

As always, consider traditional year-end planning strategies, such as deferring income to 2016 and accelerating deductible expenses into 2015. If your business uses the cash method of accounting, you may be able to defer income by delaying invoices until late in the year or accelerate deductions by paying certain expenses in advance.

If your business uses the accrual method of accounting, you may be able to defer the tax on certain advance payments you receive this year. You may also be able to deduct year-end bonuses accrued in 2015 even if they aren't paid until 2016 (provided they're paid within 2½ months after the end of the tax year).

But deferring income and accelerating deductions isn't the best strategy in all circumstances. If you expect your business's marginal tax rate to be higher next year, you may be better off accelerating income into 2015 and deferring deductions to 2016. This strategy will increase your 2015 tax bill, but it can reduce your overall tax liability for the two-year period.

Finally, consider switching your tax accounting method from accrual to cash or vice versa if your business is eligible and doing so will lower your tax bill.

Be mindful of the ACA's information reporting deadlines

Something else to think about on the tax front as we approach year end is the upcoming deadline for the Affordable Care Act's information reporting provisions for applicable large employers (ALEs). ALEs — generally those with at least 50 full-time employees or the equivalent — must report to the IRS information about what health care coverage, if any, they offered to full-time employees.

The reporting deadline is February 28 (March 31, if filed electronically) of the year following the calendar year to which the reporting relates. Smaller employers that are self-insured or part of a "controlled group" ALE will also have reporting obligations.

With the deadline approaching, now is the time for affected employers to begin assembling the necessary information. The compliance obligation will likely require a joint effort by the payroll, HR and benefits departments to collect the relevant data.

The IRS has developed new forms for this type of information reporting: Form 1094-C, "Transmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Information Returns," and Form 1095-C, "Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage." (A non-ALE self-insured employer should file Forms 1094-B and 1095-B.)

Don't let uncertainty paralyze your planning efforts

Uncertainty over expired tax breaks has been an issue with year-end tax planning for the past few years. Nevertheless, most steps to reduce your 2015 tax bill must be taken before year end. We can guide you through the uncertainty by helping you to implement the strategies available today and to be in a position to act quickly when tax legislation is signed into law.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Baker Newman Noyes
Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A.
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Baker Newman Noyes
Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A.
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions