Prepaying property taxes related to the current year but due the following year has long been one of the most popular and effective year-end tax-planning strategies. But does it still make sense in 2018? The answer, for some people, is yes — accelerating this expense will increase their itemized deductions, reducing their tax bills. But for many, particularly those in high-tax states, changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) eliminate the benefits. What’s changed? The TCJA made two changes that affect the viability of this strategy. First, it nearly doubled the standard deduction to $24,000 for married couples filing jointly, $18,000 for heads of household, and $12,000 for singles and married couples filing separately, so fewer taxpayers will itemize. Second, it placed a $10,000 cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions, including property taxes plus income or sales taxes. For property tax prepayment to make sense, two things must happen: 1. You must itemize (that is, your itemized deductions must exceed the standard deduction), and 2. Your other SALT expenses for the year must be less than $10,000. If you don’t itemize, or you’ve already used up your $10,000 limit (on income or sales taxes or […] Details
Many years ago, “performance management” was a supervisor giving orders to an employee and the employee trying to follow them. But as the workplace has evolved and employers have sought to get a greater return on investment in human resources, the concept of performance management has become much more complex. Today, performance management is a formal and multifaceted system for setting goals, soliciting feedback, generating documentation and ensuring accountability for productivity outcomes. As you might imagine, anything so intricate has a high risk of malfunction or even outright failure. One way to guard against such disappointment — whether your organization is launching its initial performance management system or relaunching it after major renovations — is to conduct a pilot program. People and time Because employee trust and confidence help generate cooperation, the pilot program should start with employees and managers who believe in the benefits of change. This group can pinpoint problems and help improve the system. In short, they’re its champions. The performance management system, amended through their feedback, will be more likely to disarm the skeptical or those clinging to old performance-management styles. Another critical aspect of a pilot program is time. Organizations often spend a substantial amount […] Details
Will you be age 50 or older on December 31? Are you still working? Are you already contributing to your 401(k) plan or Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) up to the regular annual limit? Then you may want to make “catch-up” contributions by the end of the year. Increasing your retirement plan contributions can be particularly advantageous if your itemized deductions for 2018 will be smaller than in the past because of changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Catching up Catch-up contributions are additional contributions beyond the regular annual limits that can be made to certain retirement accounts. They were designed to help taxpayers who didn’t save much for retirement earlier in their careers to “catch up.” But there’s no rule that limits catch-up contributions to such taxpayers. So catch-up contributions can be a great option for anyone who is old enough to be eligible, has been maxing out their regular contribution limit and has sufficient earned income to contribute more. The contributions are generally pretax (except in the case of Roth accounts), so they can reduce your taxable income for the year. More benefits now? This additional reduction to taxable income might be especially […] Details
As we approach the end of 2018, it’s a good idea to review the mutual fund holdings in your taxable accounts and take steps to avoid potential tax traps. Here are some tips. Avoid surprise capital gains Unlike with stocks, you can’t avoid capital gains on mutual funds simply by holding on to the shares. Near the end of the year, funds typically distribute all or most of their net realized capital gains to investors. If you hold mutual funds in taxable accounts, these gains will be taxable to you regardless of whether you receive them in cash or reinvest them in the fund. For each fund, find out how large these distributions will be and get a breakdown of long-term vs. short-term gains. If the tax impact will be significant, consider strategies to offset the gain. For example, you could sell other investments at a loss. Buyer beware Avoid buying into a mutual fund shortly before it distributes capital gains and dividends for the year. There’s a common misconception that investing in a mutual fund just before the ex-dividend date (the date by which you must own shares to qualify for a distribution) is like getting free money. In […] Details
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