Tax Guru – Ker$tetter Letter

Helping real people win the tax game.

Archive for September, 2006

Accountant’s Review With QB 2007

Posted by taxguru on September 30, 2006

I haven’t received my copies of the 2007 QuickBooks programs yet. I’m assuming they will be here some time this coming week. I have been looking over some of the announcements and descriptions of new features. One in particular caught my attention.

Since we have most of our clients using various versions of QuickBooks, we normally have them submit their data via the Accountant’s Review function. As anyone who has worked with these special files can attest, it is frustrating to have to deal with the restrictions the program places on the files the clients send. It’s also frustrating when clients make changes to data in time periods for which we’ve already finished the tax returns.

According to this description from Intuit, we will be able to do more with the files clients send us.

Exchange, review and adjust a range of transactions in the client’s prior period accounting using the All New Accountant’s Copy and they can continue working in their ongoing QuickBooks files. After your receive the Accountant’s Copy from the client you can:

Add, edit and delete most transactions in the prior period

Add new transactions

Add and edit the chart of accounts

Add new customers, vendors and items

While you work in the Accountant’s Copy clients can continue to work in their QuickBooks files but are restricted from making changes to the periods you are working on. Send your adjustments back to clients, and then they can review and automatically integrate them into their files.

Since these improvements will only be effective for the 2007 and future programs, it will become increasingly frustrating to have to continue working with client files created using earlier versions. For some reason, many of our clients are still using the QB 2002 and 2004 programs.


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Posted by taxguru on September 30, 2006

Changes in Charitable Deductions Hidden in New Tax Law: Effects on Deductions for Charitable Gift-Giving by Individual Donors – Good recap of the new changes, from the latest issue of Intuit ProConnection Newsletter.   Includes a link to a doc file that you can use to notify clients of these changes.

 

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Posted by taxguru on September 29, 2006

Some interesting article in the most recent issue of Accounting Today.

Choosing the right structure for a surviving spouse’s IRA

2006 legislation enhances many attributes of IRAs
 

Despite critics, IRS moves on with private collections – This article includes a link to a sample letter you can use if you are among the “lucky” 12,500 taxpayers chosen to work with the new free-lancers, but prefer to stick with the good old IRS (“the devil you know, etc”).  
 

Wrangle over tax gap fix continues – Includes a few good quotes about how it is impossible to accurately measure the true tax gap, a controversial point I have been trying to make for decades.


Study: Grants better than tuition tax breaks – File this earth-shattering news under “Duh.”  Tax free 100% reimbursements are always better than any kind of tax credits or deductions.


Report: IRS snafu cost over $300M – Nothing new here either. The computer expertise of the geniuses at IRS continues to confound, amaze and cost us taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in waste.  The big difference between how this kind of screw-up is handled with government employees is that those responsible will be promoted; while a private industry company would fire such incompetents. 

 

Confession may be good for the soul – and the taxpayer

 

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Calif. Real Estate Withholding

Posted by taxguru on September 29, 2006

 

Q-1:

Subject: Re: How long to wait for a refund?

Kerry,
Nice to know, but for me it came about 18 months too late.  No longer live in CA and sold my former home and had the state withhold a massive wad of my money even though I knew I would owe no taxes and they had to give it all back eventually.
Irksome since the IRS didn’t require any withholding at time of sale (my profits fit the primary residence sale exemption – but for out of staters CA still requires withholding).

A-1:

Your email brought up a couple of issues that obviously need clarifying.

California has always had an exemption from the withholding for those sellers who qualify for the Federal Section 121 exclusion.  All you needed to do was file Form 593-C with the closing agent (title company) and indicate that you meet the Section 121 rules and no tax would be withheld.  Your personal professional tax advisor should have told you about that before you closed your sale if your Realtor or the escrow agent didn’t.  This information is also readily available on the FTB’s website.

Hopefully, you have already filed the 540-NR and recovered the money, which became an interest free loan that you provided for the State of California.

A little history lesson.  The California withholding requirement for real estate sales by non-residents was instigated a number of years after a similar law was passed by the Feds requiring a withholding of 10% of the gross sales price from sales of real estate by non-residents of the USA.  The state withholding rate was officially established as one-third the federal rate; thus the 3.333%. 

The concept and motivation for both the Federal and State withholding requirements were the same; to snatch some money up front in an attempt to “motivate” non-resident sellers to “voluntarily” file income tax returns reporting those sales.  Non-resident sellers were always required to file those tax returns long before the  withholding rules were established.  However, when there was no money snatched ahead of time, there was less incentive for sellers to file the required tax returns.  It was always the intent to withhold more money that would actually be due so that sellers would have to file to recover the overpayments.

I hope this helps you better understand the situation. 

Thanks for writing.

Kerry Kerstetter

Q-2:

First off, please ignore the subject line.  I just hit “reply” to an earlier line of conversation we had rather than retype your email and forgot to change the subject line.
 
Anyway, I did go over the withholding requirement with my tax preparer (and he’s good, not some H&R Block fly by nighter).  For some reason having to do with the fact that we only qualified for a partial 151 deduction due to not meeting the 2of5 year requirement but having unforseen circumstances, the CA forms would not let us avoid the withholding.  It was odd I recall.  I think possibly the CA forms said we had to be residing there presently to qualify but if we qualify under 151 with IRS, then we don’t have to pay taxes.  It was a bit of a catch 22.  I could probably dig out the paperwork and find exactly what the issue was if you’re curious.
 
Oh, thanks for the history lesson.  I’m interested in history, but for the tax code I usually say we should just scrap it all and start from the beginning.  I think if a flat tax ever passed it would only take about 20 years of “exceptions” to get us right back here again.

A-2:

While it’s water under the bridge for you now, I did just check Form 593-C and its instructions and it does appear that you could have claimed a full exemption from the withholding by checking the YES box next to Question 1 in part II.  The instructions specifically mention the fact that sellers may not have lived there a full two years if selling due to employment, health or unforeseen circumstances and the home would still qualify for the Section 121 tax free exclusion.

Your tax advisor may have interpreted this differently or there may have been another relevant factor involved that would have disqualified you from the exemption.

It’s obviously too late to matter for you; but I hope others can learn from this.

Kerry Kerstetter

 

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Corporate Privacy

Posted by taxguru on September 29, 2006


Q:

Subject: Thanks for you website!
 
Dear Mr. Kerstetter,
 
Thank you for the information you provide on your website…I found it very helpful in making decisions for the corporation I am forming.
 
In the “Choosing a Corporate Name” section you touch on the privacy factor a corporation offers. I will be working from home to start and move into an office as company begins to grow. Can I use my home address or should I use a mail service to collect mail for the corporation until it has an office?
 
Thanks!


A:

If you are trying to remain anonymous as the owner of the corp, you should consider using a PO box or other mail forwarding service.

If that kind of privacy isn’t critical, using your home address for your corp would be fine and is done quite frequently.

As always, you should be working with a team of professional tax and legal advisors to make sure you do everything properly for your goals and unique circumstances.  There are far too many ways to screw things up by trying to analyze and handle everything on your own.

Good luck.

Kerry Kerstetter

 

 

 

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Why our rulers need our tax dollars…

Posted by taxguru on September 28, 2006

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The ultimate non-cash donation

Posted by taxguru on September 27, 2006

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Trusting Uncle Sam with our money…

Posted by taxguru on September 26, 2006


(Click on image for full size)

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Change in Calif. Real Estate Withholding

Posted by taxguru on September 25, 2006

Spidell has this announcement of an upcoming (as of 1/1/07) and very welcome change in the rules for tax withholding from real estate sales.

“Allows sellers of real estate to elect to withhold tax in an amount not less than the maximum tax rate multiplied by the reportable gain (9.3% for personal income tax purposes and 8.84% for corporations) instead of 3-1/3% of the sales price of the real property.”

Allowing the tax to be based on the actual gain rather than the gross sales price should more closely match the withheld amount to the actual tax. This was long overdue.

UpdateCCH covers this new option.

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Posted by taxguru on September 25, 2006

U.S. Charity Chiefs’ Pay Averaged $327,575 in 2005, Study Says – Why it’s best to donate to locally run charities that don’t have huge expensive bureaucracies.

 

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