Articles Posted in Tax Implications

The New Tax Bill

At the end of last year, Congress passed the most significant tax reform since 1986 and unsurprisingly, it aroused many controversies. Its supporters are convinced that the bill is a big success for workers, pointing out positive changes already in effect, such as Wal-Mart raising its employee’s hourly rate. On the other side of the barricade, the opponents fear that the bill will have quite the opposite effect —that it will better benefit the company shareholders rather than its employees (numerous buybacks were announced in December). In the following months, we may witness attempts on the state level to mitigate some of the effects of the new federal law. While it is too soon to evaluate whether the bill will bring about the desired economic growth long-term, it is the right time to get acquainted with the most significant changes. Importantly, none of these changes will affect the 2017 taxes.

Individuals:

The provisions applicable to individuals are temporary and will expire at the end of 2025, at which time the brackets will return to the old rates, unless Congress extends this period. The rates will still be distributed into seven brackets based on income. Rates for six of the brackets have been lowered and accordingly, most of us will benefit from this. However, some who were in the 33% bracket may now find themselves in the 35% bracket.

Old rates: 10% 15% 25% 28% 33% 35% 39.6%

 

New rates: 10% 12% 22% 24% 32% 35% 37%
Income from (Individuals): $0 $9,526 $38,701 $82,501 $157,501 $200,001 $500,001
Income from (Couples): $0 $19,051 $77,401 $165,001 $315,001 $400,001 $600,001

 

Another benefit is that the personal deductions were nearly doubled to: $12,000 for single filers, $18,000 for head of households, and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. On the other hand, the $4,450 deduction you could claim for yourself, your spouse, and each of your dependents, was eliminated. In sum, this may completely negate the new benefits for some families. Deductions for the elderly and for those who are blind stay in place and the tax credit for children under 17 was doubled to $2,000. The new law also allows parents to take a $500 credit for each non-child dependent they’re supporting.

The deductions for state and local income and property taxes will be newly capped to $10,000 and foreign real property taxes will no longer be deductible at all. Also, the deductions for itemized interest expense from mortgage debt (to acquire a first or second residence) were lowered from $1 million to $750,000. This change will not affect old mortgages that will be refinanced under the new law, as long as the old loan balance is not exceeded at the time of refinancing. The current up to $100,000 deduction for the interest on home equity loans will no longer be allowed.

Corporations and Businesses

As opposed to the changes affecting individuals, most of the corporate provisions are permanent. The corporate tax rate has been slashed from 35% to 21%. This deduction will not apply to some specific service industries, such as health, law, and professional services. However, single filers with income below $157,500 and joint filers with income below $315,000 can claim this deduction fully on income from service business. This provision is, like in the case of individual tax rates, only temporary.

American corporations will no longer be required to pay corporate taxes on money earned abroad if the corporation stays abroad. Once the income is brought back to the United States, it will be taxed at a new, considerably lower, rate of 15.5% on cash assets and 8% on non-cash assets.

Pass-through businesses such as S corporations and limited liability companies will benefit from the tax deduction as well. This might motivate people to either incorporate their businesses or to disguise their personal income as business income. However, the incorporation may not be the right choice for everyone and people should be cautious, as the bill incorporates some provisions to prevent income mischaracterization. If the owner or partner in a business will draw salary from it, it would be subject to ordinary income tax. Moreover, the bill also limits the income, which qualifies for the deduction. Nevertheless, it seems that the system will not be bullet-proof and will benefit the passive owners over the active ones.

If you are interested in learning how the new tax bill may affect you or your estate please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Chepenik Trushin LLP, who are ready, willing, and able to assist you with your estate planning needs. Bart Chepenik, 305-613-3548. Brad Trushin, 305-321-4946. Offices 305-981-8889.

Other Sources

Introduction:

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/17/how-democrats-can-neutralize-gop-tax-law-commentary.html

https://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2018/01/15/tax-law-bonuses-wages-trump-000617

Individuals:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertberger/2017/12/17/the-new-2018-federal-income-tax-brackets-rates/#fd26309292a3

http://money.cnn.com/2017/12/15/news/economy/gop-tax-plan-details/index.html?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2017/12/20/news/economy/republican-tax-reform-everything-you-need-to-know/index.html

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-new-tax-law-2017-12-20

Corporations:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2017/12/22/what-tax-reform-means-for-small-businesses-pass-through-entities/#68335fd66de3

https://www.fool.com/taxes/2018/01/03/heres-who-got-the-biggest-tax-rate-break-from-corp.aspx

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/01/16/business/ive-always-wondered-tax-bill-2017/corporations-pay-effective-rate-corporate-tax

https://www.vox.com/2017/12/20/16790040/gop-tax-bill-winners

https://www.inc.com/zoe-henry/final-tax-bill-impacts-businesses-2017.html

https://hbr.org/ideacast/2017/12/breaking-down-the-new-u-s-corporate-tax-law

Great news for Creditors! Up to 20 years to enforce a domesticated foreign judgment

Over 30 years ago, Florida enacted the Florida Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (FEFJA) providing a simplified procedure for domesticating foreign judgments.  In other words, FEFJA allows a judgment from any other US state or the US federal government to be recognized and enforced as if it were a Florida judgment.  Until recently, Florida creditors remained uncertain as to one crucial aspect of this important mechanism – what is the “expiration date” of a domesticated foreign judgment?

To understand the implications of this issue, we must look to the applicable statute of limitations.  Under Florida law, the expiration date for a judgment or decree issued by a Florida court is 20 years.  Fla. Stat. 95.11(1).  Contrarily, a judgment or decree of any court of the United States, any other state or territory in the United States, or a foreign country, expires after only five years.  Fla. Stat. 95.11(2).  Therefore, the question as to which of these time limitations apply to a domesticated foreign judgment clearly bears far-reaching consequences.

MORE MONEY, MORE PROBLEMS? 6 DO’S AND DONT’S OF ESTATE PLANNING AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

At the end of last year it seemed as if every day there was a new report of a celebrity dying unexpectedly. As fans around the world mourned the death of some of Hollywood’s most iconic figures, reports of their estate planning, or lack thereof, also filled the headlines.

Prince: Intestacy and streaming music rights collide

Estate Planning: Income Tax Strategies

            Law firms have had to take a spike in income tax rates, a decline in the estate tax rate, and an increasing annual estate tax exemption threshold into account in devising estate planning strategies. There has been a decreasing gap between the income tax rates and estate tax rates: estate tax has moved to a maximum rate of 40% and a $5.45 million exclusion in 2016, from a 55% percent tax rate and a $675,000 exclusion in 2001; the maximum tax rate on ordinary income is 39.6%, up from a low of 35 percent in 2003; the maximum long-term capital gains tax rate increased to 20% from 15% in that same time frame. Furthermore, in 2013 an additional 3.8% surtax was added for net investment of individuals, estates, and trusts over statutory threshold amounts in certain cases. While these numbers might make you think that estate planning is only necessary for the super wealthy, financial planners advise that it is not. Taxes are just one consideration of estate planning: it is critical to plan for an orderly transfer of assets or for other circumstances such as incapacitation.

The capital gains tax rate – the long-term rate of 20% plus the 3.8% surtax – is significant because it affects the basis of assets. When a decedent dies, her beneficiaries get the benefit of a step-up in basis, which is appreciated assets held in the decedent’s estate are readjusted to fair market value at the time of inheritance. Through this mechanism, the beneficiary receives an income tax advantage because she is not liable for the capital gains tax on any appreciation that occurs up to the point she inherits the asset.

Is Investing Homestead Sale Proceeds Okay?

Florida Constitution provides protection from forced sale to homestead property from most creditors. Art. X, § 4, Fla. Const. The protection covers not only the physical homestead property but also the proceeds from the sale of the homestead, provided the proceeds are reinvested in another homestead property. In a scenario where you invest the homestead sale money in securities and then buy another homestead with it, does the money retain homestead protection?

The Florida Supreme Court answered this question in the affirmative in a recent 2016 decision JBK Assocs. v. Sill Bros., 191 So. 3d 879 (Fla. 2016). In that case, JBK Associates, Inc. (“JBK”) obtained a final judgment against Mr. Sill for $740,487.22.  Mr. Sill had consequently opened a brokerage account with Wels Fargo and deposited the sale proceeds from the marital home of Mr. Sill and his ex-wife. The account was titled “FL Homestead Account” and was split into three sub-accounts, one containing cash and two containing mutual funds and unit investment trusts.

Florida: A Safe Haven for Surviving Spouses in Probate

          Marriage is one of the most sacred and respected institutions in our society.  Both state and federal governments provide benefits to encourage marriage with beneficial incentives. Florida provides several benefits for surviving spouses as illustrated in Florida’s Constitution and Probate Code. This article reviews some of those benefits but is not an exhaustive list.

First, surviving spouses receive protection under Florida’s Homestead Exemption.  The Florida Constitution prohibits a decedent from freely devising his or her homestead, when the decedent is survived by a spouse or minor child. Art. X, § 4 (c), Fla. Const.  However, the decedent can devise a homestead to his surviving spouse if there is no minor child. § 732.4015 (1), Fla. Stat. (2010).  If a decedent tries to devise a homestead to someone other than a surviving spouse or minor child under a will, then the homestead property will be transferred to the decedent’s surviving spouse and the decedent’s descendants, with the surviving spouse receiving a life estate in the homestead and the descendants receiving a remainder, per stirpes at the decedent’s death.§ 732.401 (1), Fla. Stat. (2012).  Alternatively, “the surviving spouse may elect to take an undivided one-half interest in the homestead as a tenant in common, with the remaining undivided one-half interest vesting in the decedent’s descendants in being at the time of the decedent’s death, per stirpes.”  § 732.401 (2), Fla. Stat. (2012).  To receive the homestead exemption, “an individual must have an ownership interest in a residence that gives the individual the right to use and occupy it as his or her place of abode.”  In re Alexander, 346 B.R. 546, 551 (Bankr. M.D. Fla. 2006).

FIRPTA: Increased Withholding and Other Changes

Most professionals have familiarity with the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (“FIRPTA”), especially those that have foreign clients investing in U.S. real estate. On December 18, 2015, the President signed into law the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (“PATH Act”).  The PATH Act significantly alters FIRPTA withholding for foreign persons disposing of investments in U.S. real estate.  Realtors, accountants, closing agents and title companies need to familiarize themselves with the changes.

The PATH Act increases the FIRPTA withholding rate from 10 percent to 15 percent on certain dispositions and distributions of United States Real Property Interests (“USRPIs”).[1]  Similarly, the withholding rate for the transfer of a partnership interest or the beneficial interest in a trust or estate has been increased from 10 percent to 15 percent.[2]  The new withholding rate applies to all such dispositions that take place after February 16, 2016.[3]  However, the new FIRPTA rules allow for a 10 percent withholding rate where the amount realized on the disposition of property being used as a residence is between $300,000.00[4] and $1 million.[5]  In other words, if a foreign person sells his or her personal residence for $999,000.00 the amount to be withheld shall be $99,900.00.  However, if the foreign person sells his or her personal residence for $1,000,100.00, the amount to be withheld on the sale shall be $150,015.00.  The amount withheld is offset by the gain on the disposition of the USRPI and is refundable to the extent the amount withheld exceeds the underlying tax liability.[6]  The increased FIRPTA withholding rate is not an actual increase in tax, but a means of ensuring compliance with U.S. tax law.  An exemption found in the old rule remains in place, providing that a foreign person is not subject to FIRPTA withholding where the property sold is used as a residence and the amount realized does not exceed $300,000.00.[7]