You can reduce taxes and save for retirement by contributing to a tax-advantaged retirement plan. If your employer offers a 401(k) or Roth 401(k) plan, contributing to it is a taxwise way to build a nest egg.

If you’re not already contributing the maximum allowed, consider increasing your contribution rate between now and year end. Because of tax-deferred compounding (tax-free in the case of Roth accounts), boosting contributions sooner rather than later can have a significant impact on the size of your nest egg at retirement.

pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters spilling out of a clear glass jar; used for a blog post about saving on taxes with a 401(k) plan

With a 401(k), an employee elects to have a certain amount of pay deferred and contributed by an employer on his or her behalf to the plan. The contribution limit for 2019 is $19,000. Employees age 50 or older by year end are also permitted to make additional “catch-up” contributions of $6,000, for a total limit of $25,000 in 2019.

The IRS just announced that the 401(k) contribution limit for 2020 will increase to $19,500 (plus the $6,500 catch-up contribution).


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One of the most laborious tasks for small businesses is managing payroll. It’s critical you not only withhold the right amount of taxes from employees’ paychecks, but also that you pay them over to the federal government on time.

a teal sticky note with the words "sign here" on top of a tax withholding document; for a blog post about payroll tax penalty for small businesses

If you willfully fail to do so, you could personally be hit with the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty, also known as the 100% penalty. The penalty applies to the Social Security and income taxes required to be withheld by a business from its employees’ wages. Since the taxes are considered property of the government, the employer holds them in “trust” on the government’s behalf until they’re paid over.

The reason the penalty is sometimes called the “100% penalty” is because the person liable for the taxes (called the “responsible person”) can be personally penalized 100% of the taxes due. Accordingly, the amounts the IRS seeks when the penalty is applied are usually substantial, and the IRS is aggressive in enforcing it.


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If you’re planning to sell assets at a loss to offset gains that have been realized during the year, it’s important to be aware of the “wash sale” rule.

a person holds a cell phone with the screen showing a graph and "$3,812.57" in their left hand and in the background is a laptop with another graph with green and red lines; portrayal of selling securities and avoiding wash sale rule

How the Rule Works
Under this rule, if you sell stock or securities for a loss and buy substantially identical stock or securities back within the 30-day period before or after the sale date, the loss can’t be claimed for tax purposes. The rule is designed to prevent taxpayers from using the tax benefit of a loss without parting with ownership in any significant way.


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On Tuesday, September 17, 2019, Tropical Storm Imelda made landfall in Texas. Over the course of a few days, several cities in the Gulf Coast region endured heavy rain, which left various areas, streets and highways underwater. The PKF Texas office and our team members were safe, however, other Texans unfortunately were impacted by Imelda.

As an employer, you must pay federal unemployment (FUTA) tax on amounts up to $7,000 paid to each employee as wages during the calendar year. The rate of tax imposed is 6% but can be reduced by a credit (described below).

a conference room with long vertical windows and 20 chairs with wheels sitting around a table; photo used in blog post about unemployment tax costs for businesses

Most employers end up paying an effective FUTA tax rate of 0.6%. An employer taxed at a 6% rate would pay FUTA tax of $420 for each employee who earned at least $7,000 per year, while an employer taxed at 0.6% pays $42.


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One of the worst things that can happen to a not-for-profit organization is to have its tax-exempt status revoked. Among other consequences, the not-for-profit may lose credibility with supporters and the public, and donors will no longer be able to make tax-exempt contributions.

man in a business suit putting a silver coin into a pink porcelain piggy bank, next to stacks of coins, avoiding excess benefit transactions to keep tax-exempt status

Although loss of exempt status isn’t common, certain activities can increase your risk significantly. These include ignoring the IRS’s private benefit and private inurement provisions. Here’s what you need to know to avoid reaping an excess benefit from your organization’s transactions.


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As we head toward the gift-giving season, you may be considering giving gifts of cash or securities to your loved ones. Taxpayers can transfer substantial amounts free of gift taxes to their children and others each year through the use of the annual federal gift tax exclusion. The amount is adjusted for inflation annually. For 2019, the exclusion is $15,000.

long shiny red ribbon tied tied on top of white wrapping paper with red and green holiday season messages, symbolizing gift tax rules

The exclusion covers gifts that you make to each person each year. Therefore, if you have three children, you can transfer a total of $45,000 to them this year (and next year) free of federal gift taxes. If the only gifts made during the year are excluded in this way, there’s no need to file a federal gift tax return. If annual gifts exceed $15,000, the exclusion covers the first $15,000 and only the excess is taxable. Further, even taxable gifts may result in no gift tax liability thanks to the unified credit (discussed below).

Note: this discussion isn’t relevant to gifts made from one spouse to the other spouse, because these gifts are gift tax-free under separate marital deduction rules.


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You may have Series EE savings bonds that were bought many years ago. Perhaps you store them in a file cabinet or safe deposit box and rarely think about them. You may wonder how the interest you earn on EE bonds is taxed.

two documents with tax withholding information, possibly about series ee savings bonds

And if they reach final maturity, you may need to take action to ensure there’s no loss of interest or unanticipated tax consequences.


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