You may have heard that there are new rules on estate taxes as a result of the new tax law enacted in early 2013. Effective Jan. 1, 2013, the top tax rate on estates rose to 40% from 35%, but no tax will be imposed on the first $5.25 million of an estate (adjusted for inflation to $5.34M million in 2014). While this sounds high, and you may think that the estate tax doesn’t affect you or your family, you may be surprised. Estate planning should definitely be a priority.

Contact us now to discuss all your questions about estate planning and the steps you can take to minimize the potential estate tax burden to your beneficiaries.

Do you work at home or have a home-based business? If so, you should be aware that the IRS has created a simpler option for calculating the deduction for the business use of your home. The new option makes recordkeeping easier because, instead of maintaining records of specific home office expenses, you can use a standard rate per square foot. The rate is $5 per square foot (up to a maximum of 300 sq. feet or $1,500) for qualifying business use space in place of taking a pro rata percentage of items such as mortgage interest, taxes and repairs.

Keep in mind there are good and bad aspects to this “simpler” method. The new method gives you back your full interest and tax deduction on schedule A, but you will lose your depreciation and loss carryover deductions. Of course, you must still use your home office regularly and exclusively for business. This may be a welcome relief for some taxpayers, but it might not be the best choice for others. Is it the right choice for you? Please contact us for answers to all your financial questions.

The phone rings. The caller says they are from the Internal Revenue Service and they claim you owe taxes and must submit payment through a wire transfer or prepaid debit card. Or you receive an email supposedly from the IRS asking you to share your bank account, credit card or Social Security number. What should you do?

The sad truth is that many scammers pretend to be IRS agents as part of identity theft or other criminal activity. If you receive a surprising or suspicious communication purportedly from the IRS, we would urge you to call us immediately. We can help you identify a bogus request for information and work with you to respond to a legitimate IRS contact. You can also call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040 to verify any communication you receive.

Many people make donations to charities whose work they support, but if you are planning to take a tax deduction for your gift, you must have the proper paperwork. Assembling the right documentation can also be tricky because the requirements vary based on whether the donation is cash and on the value of your gift. If you donate less than $250 in cash, for example, a canceled check, credit card statement or similar record may be sufficient, but if you give more, you will need a written acknowledgement from the charity. An additional tax form—and possibly an appraisal—may be needed for non-cash donations, depending on their value. Of course, the organization itself must also qualify as a charity under IRS rules.

We can offer advice that will make it possible for you to fund the causes you believe in and qualify for the deductions you deserve. We can also help you incorporate charitable giving into your long-term tax and estate planning. Be sure to contact us with all of your questions on charitable giving or any other financial concern.

You may find a little less in your tax refund this year if you are subject to the new 3.8% net investment income tax that went into effect at the beginning of 2013. It applies to married couples filing jointly with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) over $250,000 and single people with MAGI above $200,000 (trusts and estates are also affected). It kicks in if you have net investment income, which includes interest, dividends, capital gains and rental and royalty income, among other items.

If this income raised your tax bite for 2013, then it’s not too late to begin planning strategies to minimize this and other taxes for 2014. Be sure to contact us to talk about your best tax and financial planning options for the coming year.