Some of your medical expenses may be tax deductible, but only if you itemize deductions and have enough expenses to exceed the applicable floor for deductibility. With proper planning, you may be able to time controllable medical expenses to your tax advantage. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) could make bunching such expenses into 2018 beneficial for some taxpayers. At the same time, certain taxpayers who’ve benefited from the deduction in previous years might no longer benefit, because of the TCJA’s increase to the standard deduction.

The Changes
Various limits apply to most tax deductions, and one type of limit is a “floor,” which means expenses are deductible only to the extent that they exceed that floor (typically a specific percentage of your income). One example is the medical expense deduction.

Because it can be difficult to exceed the floor, a common strategy is to “bunch” deductible medical expenses into a particular year where possible. The TCJA reduced the floor for the medical expense deduction for 2017 and 2018 from 10% to 7.5%. So, it might be beneficial to bunch deductible medical expenses into 2018.

Medical expenses that aren’t reimbursable by insurance or paid through a tax-advantaged account (such as a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account) may be deductible.

However, if your total itemized deductions won’t exceed your standard deduction, bunching medical expenses into 2018 won’t save tax. The TCJA nearly doubled the standard deduction. For 2018, it’s $12,000 for singles and married couples filing separately, $18,000 for heads of households, and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly.

If your total itemized deductions for 2018 will exceed your standard deduction, bunching nonurgent medical procedures and other controllable expenses into 2018 may allow you to exceed the applicable floor and benefit from the medical expense deduction. Controllable expenses might include prescription drugs, eyeglasses and contact lenses, hearing aids, dental work, and elective surgery.

Planning for Uncertainty
Keep in mind that legislation could be signed into law that extends the 7.5% threshold for 2019 and even beyond.

Today many employees receive stock-based compensation from their employer as part of their compensation and benefits package. The tax consequences of such compensation can be complex — subject to ordinary-income, capital gains, employment and other taxes. But if you receive restricted stock awards, you might have a tax-saving opportunity in the form of the Section 83(b) election.

Convert Ordinary Income to Long-term Capital Gains
Restricted stock is stock your employer grants you subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture. Income recognition is normally deferred until the stock is no longer subject to that risk (that is, it’s vested) or you sell it.

At that time, you pay taxes on the stock’s fair market value (FMV) at your ordinary-income rate. The FMV will be considered FICA income, so it also could trigger or increase your exposure to the additional 0.9% Medicare tax.

But you can instead make a Section 83(b) election to recognize ordinary income when you receive the stock. This election, which you must make within 30 days after receiving the stock, allows you to convert future appreciation from ordinary income to long-term capital gains income and defer it until the stock is sold.

The Section 83(b) election can be beneficial if the income at the grant date is negligible or the stock is likely to appreciate significantly. With ordinary-income rates now especially low under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), it might be a good time to recognize such income.

Weigh the Potential Disadvantages
There are some potential disadvantages, however:

  • You must prepay tax in the current year — which also could push you into a higher income tax bracket or trigger or increase the additional 0.9% Medicare tax. But if your company is in the earlier stages of development, the income recognized may be relatively small.
  • Any taxes you pay because of the election can’t be refunded if you eventually forfeit the stock or sell it at a decreased value. However, you’d have a capital loss in those situations.
  • When you sell the shares, any gain will be included in net investment income and could trigger or increase your liability for the 3.8% net investment income tax.

It’s Complicated
As you can see, tax planning for restricted stock is complicated. Let us know if you’ve recently been awarded restricted stock or expect to be awarded such stock this year. We can help you determine whether the Section 83(b) election makes sense in your specific situation.

Jen:  This is the PKF Texas Entrepreneur’s Playbook.  I’m Jen Lemanski, this week’s host, and I’m here today with Danielle Supkis Cheek, a director on our Entrepreneurial Advisory Services Team.  Welcome back to the Playbook, Danielle.

Danielle:  Thank you.

Jen:  So our Entrepreneurial Advisory Services Team tends to work with startups quite a bit, and I know you’ve got a lot of – your background is in the startup space – what’s your advice for them to get their accounting started off [on] the right foot for bankers, financials, all that kind of stuff?

Danielle:  That’s a big area.

Jen:  It is.

Danielle:  For either pre-revenues or startup companies and those with not a lot of operation experience, it can be a really overwhelming task in the first place.  Usually you need to start with some kind of model, because you don’t actually have any revenues or any transactions to actually account for, and then it all the way moves to once they start having transactions and the accounting.  So in the more pre-idea stage on that modeling aspect my biggest piece of advice is really to think through every single step of your day, and make sure every single step of that day – once you’re in your future operations – is accounted for somehow in your model.  So if you’re showing up to an office, there should be rent on your books somewhere or in your model.

Continue Reading Tax and Accounting Tips for Startups

If your business has made repairs to tangible property, such as buildings, machinery, equipment and vehicles, you may be eligible for a deduction on your 2014 income tax return. But you must make sure they were truly “repairs,” and not actually “improvements.”

Why? Costs incurred to improve tangible property must be depreciated over a period of years. But costs incurred on incidental repairs and maintenance can be expensed and immediately deducted. Distinguishing between repairs and improvements can be difficult, but a couple of IRS safe harbors can help:

Routine maintenance safe harbor. Recurring activities dedicated to keeping property in efficient operating condition can be expensed. These are activities that your business reasonably expects to perform more than once during the property’s “class life,” as defined by the IRS.

Small business safe harbor. For buildings that initially cost $1 million or less, qualified small businesses may elect to deduct the lesser of $10,000 or 2% of the unadjusted basis of the property for repairs, maintenance, improvements and similar activities each year. (A qualified small business is generally one with gross receipts of $10 million or less.)

Contact us to ensure that you’re taking all of the repair and maintenance deductions you’re entitled to.

If you’ve cashed in some big gains this year, consider looking for unrealized losses in your portfolio and selling those investments before year end to offset your gains. This can reduce your 2014 tax liability.

But if you want to minimize the impact on your asset allocation, keep in mind the wash sale rule. It prevents you from taking a loss on a security if you buy a substantially identical security (or an option to buy such a security) within 30 days before or after you sell the security that created the loss. You can recognize the loss only when you sell the replacement security.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the wash sale rule and still achieve your goals:

  • Immediately buy securities of a different company in the same industry or shares in a mutual fund that holds securities much like the ones you sold.
  • Wait 31 days to repurchase the same security.
  • Before selling the security, purchase additional shares of that security equal to the number you want to sell at a loss; then wait 31 days to sell the original portion.

For more ideas on saving taxes on your investments, please contact us.

On Wednesday, January 23rd, PKF Texas and Regions Bank hosted an International Business Forum.   During the Forum moderated by Russ Capper, panelists Hector Escobar, Frank Landreneau, Steve Recobs and Joe Ringer discussed what companies need to know if they are doing or want to do business internationally.  Below are  key takeaways from each panelist. Part of the value of being a client of PKF Texas is receiving invitations and summaries like these with information which can have an impact on your business. We welcome your feedback and suggestions of future interests!

Hector Escobar Regions BankHector Escobar
Global Trade Expert, Regions Bank

  • Cash in advance is not as predominant in the market as it once was, mainly due to the recession. Letters of credit are growing in use for companies doing business overseas, especially for government backed loans.
  • Banks only deal with documents so be sure to thoroughly check for discrepancies, as it may mean the difference when securing the loan. If there are discrepancies, the bank won’t be able to pay you.

Frank Landreneau
Director, International Tax, PKF Texas

  • The IC-DISC tax incentive is beneficial for middle market closely held companies who are exporting goods and services overseas. Companies have to meet certain criteria to qualify, but it’s worth exploring. One of the strongest benefits is reduced tax rates.
  • Exporting is usually the first step companies take when looking to do business internationally. It takes very little infrastructure in the foreign jurisdiction to get started. Be aware of triggers which could create a taxable presence in the country you are expanding to.

Steve Recobs
Director, U.S. Commercial Service, Houston Texas

  • Entrepreneurs need to understand the country and the culture of where they are looking to do business. The U.S. Commercial Service frequently helps companies vet vendors and research markets. Located on or near almost every U.S. Embassy, they can help develop an export plan, assist with the due diligence process and even make client connections.
  • If you’re working with vendors in foreign markets, you need to be sure you’re in compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Make sure you know your buyers and do your research on legal ways to do business in the country you’re targeting. The U S Commercial Service web page www.Export.gov is an great resource for learning more about a variety of exporting topics.

Joe Ringer
Senior Export Finance Manager, Southwest Regional Office – Ex-Im Bank

  • Most small and mid-size business exporters need export working capital and/or short term export credit insurance. Ex-Im Bank, as the official export credit agency of U.S. government, provides a 90% guarantee to lenders, who in turn provide exporters with Export Working Capital. Ex-Im Bank has a pilot program called Global Credit Express to fund up to $500,000 for qualified small business exporters.
  • Exporters can apply directly to Ex-Im Bank or through a registered Ex-Im Bank insurance broker for any of its insurance products. These products allow exporters to sell on open account terms in 145 countries. Therefore helping the exporter to be more competitive in the international marketplace.