30 Nov THE YEAR END TANGO
Margaret A.M. Heine
is the principal counsel at Heine Law Group in Fullerton, California. She is licensed in California and Washington and has authority to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States and the United States Court of International Trade.
THE YEAR END TANGO
As we approach the end of another year, it’s time to take stock of those last minute tasks to save us money and put our legal affairs in order. Take this time to review your estate planning documents. Do you have a Durable Power of Attorney for finances and health care? Is your will still reflecting your wishes and desires? Do you have all of your assets transferred to your trust? Are your beneficiaries up-to-date on insurance policies, bank accounts, stocks, retirement accounts? If you don’t have a trust, should you get one? These are just the basic reviews that should be done every year.
How can you save tax dollars in 2023? Some very easy techniques are available to everyone. Maximize your contributions to 401Ks, Roth IRA, IRAs, Health Savings Accounts, and Charitable donations. Health Savings Accounts are a great way to put aside money for medical expenses, which can grow tax free if used for medical expenses after age 65. Did you take your Required Minimum Distribution? If you are over age 50, did you utilize a catch up contribution to your IRA or 401K of up to $7500? If you are over 70 ½ you can utilize a charitable donation of up to $100,000 to offset gains from IRAs or other investments? Also look to see if you want to make any gifts in 2023 which will be non-taxable to you and the recipient.
A few articles ago we spoke about 529 College Savings Plans, Custodial IRAs for any working child. These are still great vehicles to utilize the $17,000 tax exempt gift available in 2023. $17,000 per gift per recipient per donor, allows for wealth to pass tax free to the recipient, and has no taxable impact on the donor. In 2024, the exemption amount will increase to $18,000 per gift per recipient or $36,000 per married couple to a gift recipient. As before, gifts on behalf of a person paid directly to an education institution and medical providers remain exempt from gift tax. Just note that any gifts in excess of the yearly exemption, is subject to a gift tax return (IRS Form 709), and these gifts would be deducted from the lifetime exemption. Well worth it considering that the exemption amounts are so high now.
Do you have assets which have significantly increased in value, and you can afford to pass them to your beneficiaries this year? There is no federal tax on estates of $13,610,000 less lifetime gifts in 2024. That is up from 2023 rates, and provides a way to transfer gifts to beneficiaries that have large gains, but not realize those gains. For example, real estate, stock accounts, things to be converted to cash at a later date. These exemption rates are only in existence until the end of 2025, when pursuant to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, the increased exemption rates will return to pre-act levels.
In the latest IRS news releases, there are several changes coming in 2024 including tax filing dates for several groups of individuals or businesses. First, the IRS announced that they are going digital for most correspondence, non tax forms, responses to notices, and proof of eligibility for certain programs or credits. Instead of writing and mailing responses, taxpayers will now be allowed to answer electronically and upload documentation required.
They are also updating the “Where’s My Refund” services to provide more information to an inquiry regarding the status of a return. The IRS has also committed that every telephone call during tax season will be answered within 5 minutes. That does remain to be seen, doesn’t it?
The IRS has opened or reopened 50 in person IRS offices in 2023 to better serve taxpayers. Unfortunately, there are no in person office in CA, NV, OR, WA, AZ or NV.
Coming in 2024 is an easier way to file taxes, Direct File. This will allow electronic filing of tax returns for free. Only federal tax returns can be filed on the system. If you are eligible for this service, you will receive a notice from the IRS directly you on use of the system.
In another improvement, the IRS will direct tax credits for qualifying new owners of clean vehicles a transfer of their credit to an authorized dealer in order to purchase a new clean vehicle. The intent is for the credit to be utilized as part of the down payment of the vehicle.
The IRS has also announced several extensions for the filing of tax returns, quarterly payments, and payroll and business taxes in several circumstances.
The latest is for any business or person whose business or residence is in Israel, the West Bank or Gaza, or is a hostage, injured or killed as a result of the terrorist attack in Israel, you will have until October 7, 2024 to file your federal returns, quarterly payments, or make retirement contributions or rollovers instead of the normal filing dates.
There are a number of other filing date changes for victims of various floods, hurricanes, typhoons, storms and drought. The IRS relief is based on areas declared disaster areas by the Federal Government. The areas include parts of California, Georgia, Florida, and Guam. If you fall within the declared disaster area, you do not need to request an extension; it is automatically granted based on your residence address as stated on your tax returns. A full list of the areas and persons affected can be found at IRS.GOV.
In a quick employment law update for 2024, there are many changes coming, but these 3 changes take effect on January 1, 2024. Under SB616 Employers must give workers 5 days of sick leave or 40 hours of sick leave. SB848 extends bereavement leave to both parties for any “reproductive failure”—meaning, miscarriage, stillbirth, IVF or IUI failures among other reproductive events. The employer is barred from asking or requiring any documentation from the affected person, and the law caps the leave at a maximum of 20 days in a year.
Bolstering the pro-cannabis movement in the State, Under the California Fair Employment & Housing Act, AB2188, provides that employers are limited in ways they can test for cannabis use in workers. The new exemptions do not apply to those in the construction or building trades or if it is a federal contractor. Under the new provision, an employer can only check for cannabis use by means of testing for psychoactive cannabis metabolites. This is bolstered by SB700 which prohibits employers from asking about cannabis use in applications or interviews, and prohibits them from using any information from criminal histories for infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies related to cannabis.
2024 has many more surprises and changes awaiting us. Please check with your accountant, CPA, or tax consultant when making changes to your financial programs for tax planning. See IRS.GOV for more information on specific information on IRS programs and credits. Remember, this article is informational only, does not constitute legal advice, and should always be independently verified and reviewed by a professional in the particular area addressed.