April 15 Disasters -- Reasons To See A CPA Before Tax Time


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David M. Kaufmann, CPA

Voice: 720.493.4804

Email: contact2@kaufmann-cpa.com

Physical Address:

1466 Adobe Falls Way
Fruita, CO 81521

Mailing Address:

PO Box 700
Fruita, CO 81521-0700

I am keeping a running list of situations that justify seeing your CPA before tax time.  A meeting with a CPA could have prevented these problems. This list will get longer with time!

I would be glad to discuss issues that might have tax consequences.  Programs like TurboTax can do 90% of all tax returns.  I don't want to do your tax return, if you are happy with using TurboTax.  I have no problem with meeting with you merely for a consultation.

What Happened: Dick and Jane are going through a "friendly" divorce.  They want to keep legal and professional fees to a minimum. (I don't have a problem with that, in itself.) Dick withdrew 1/2 of his pension plan to pay Jane.  At tax time, Dick will pay tax and penalties on the pension funds that were paid to Jane.

What Should Have Happened: If Dick would have discussed the situation with a CPA, the CPA would have shown Dick a way to tax-free give Jane 1/2 of his pension.  The meeting with the CPA would have cost a tiny fraction of what Dick ended up paying in tax and penalties.

What Happened: Matt, who is in his 20s, pulled $10,000 out of his 401(k) plan as part of a down payment for his first house.  On April 15th he had to pay a $1,000 penalty for taking the money out of his 401(k) plan too early.

What Should Have Happened: If Matt would have discussed the situation with a CPA, the CPA would have told Matt to first rollover the $10,000 from his 401(k) plan to a traditional IRA.  Matt would then pull $10,000 out of the IRA for the down payment.  Result: No $1,000 penalty.

What Happened: Mom is on her death bed.  She makes a gift of her home to her son.  Mom dies the day after gifting the house.  Mom originally paid $150,000 for the house.  When she dies, the house was worth $200,000.  Right after Mom dies Son sells the house for $200,000.  Son has to pay tax on $50,000 ($200,000 - $150,000).  When the Son received the gift of the house, the cost basis to him is the same as the cost basis to his Mom, $150,000.

What Should Have Happened: Mom should have indicated in her will that Son inherits the house.  If the Son inherits the house, his cost basis is the value at the date of death, $200,000, not his Mom's basis of $150,000.  If Son inherits the house, the gain is zero, not $50,000.

What Happened: Bill and Sally make over $150,000.  Through good financial decisions they were able to pay off their mortgage.  Since they no longer have enough deductions to itemize, they purchased a rental property to lower their taxes.  They were planning on the rental deductions to make up for the lost mortgage interest deduction.  At tax time, they learned that they cannot take any rental deductions because of "passive loss" rules.

What Should Have Happened: Bill and Sally should have known about the "passive loss" rules before purchasing the rental.  If they counted on rental deductions to pay for the rental property, they should have never purchased that property.

What Happened: Ben moved, but kept his previous house.  He planned to rent it out.  He made significant repairs BEFORE the old house became a rental property. Ben was not able to deduct the repairs.

What Should Have Happened: Ben should have been told what steps he needed to do to hold the property out as a rental, BEFORE starting the repairs.  It is important to document how and when the property was held out for rental.

What Happened: Matt got layed off, and decided into research a new business.  Matt spent over $4,000 on a feasibility study, and decided not to start the business.  Feasibility studies when you don't start a business are NEVER deductible.

What Should Have Happened: Matt should have been warned that feasibility studies are not deductible if a business is not started.  There are things that Matt could have done to make a feasibility study deductible.  An hour or less with a CPA could have taken care of that.

What Happened: George picked up a consulting job over the summer.  It brought in over $20,000.  Now George owes both income tax and self employment tax.  There could be penalties involved.

What Should Have Happened: George should have met with a CPA to plan payments to cover the income and self employment tax.  George could have been told what he could deduct to reduce the income and self employment tax.  It would also be helpful to put away with each payment he received a percent for taxes.  That way, April 15 will not cause a financial shock.

What Happened: Chuck needs more money to live on.  He took a $100,000  distribution from his IRA to cover additional expenses for this year and a few more years.  Since Chuck is not 59, he was hit with a $10,000 early distribution penalty.

What Should Have Happened: Chuck should have had a CPA set him up to make "substantially equal distributions" over 5 years or more.  That would have eliminated the penalty.

What Happened: Last year Tom purchased a mountain condo to rent out most of the time. The rest of the time he would use it personally. His golfing buddy said that Tom could get up to $25,000 of rental deductions that could reduce his taxes. That year he had close to $25,000 of rental expenses. None were deductible. None reduced his taxes.  He has to wait until he sells the property to deduct the rental expenses.

What Should Have Happened: Tom should have checked with a CPA to see if the rental expenses were deductible. They were not deductible for two reasons. First, the average rental duration was 6 days. Short-term rental properties do not qualify for the $25,000 rental deduction. Second, he made too much money with his salary to get the $25,000 deduction.

What Happened: Janet purchased a condominium that her mother was living in. Janet's mother paid Janet rent. Since Janet is a wonderful daughter, she let Mom pay only 50% of the rent that she would charge to someone else. Janet figured that the rental loss would help reduce your taxes. Renting to a relative at a lower than normal rate is the worst of both worlds. The rental income is taxable. Rental expenses are not deductible.

What Should Have Happened: Do not rent to a relative unless the rent payment is the same amount that a non-relative would pay. Janet should have discussed this plan with a CPA before purchasing the condominium.

What Happened: Dad wants to help Son purchase a new home. Dad makes a $200,000 loan to Son.  Dad charges Son the same interest rate that the Son would have to pay for mortgage. The Son plans to deduct the interest on his tax return as if it were a mortgage. The IRS later audit's the Son's tax returns, and the Son loses all of the interest deductions because the loans were not mortgages. Regardless of the Son's loss of mortgage deductions, Dad has to report the interest on the loan as income.

What Should Have Happened: Either Dad or Son should have discussed this loan arrangement with a CPA. The CPA would have advised Dad and Son how the loan should have been created.

These are just some examples of what can happen, if a person does not consult a skilled tax professional before an important transaction happens.

If you have questions about this, do not hesitate to contact us at 720-493-4804.

Circular 230 Notice:

The information contained here are simplifications of complex subjects. We recommend that you talk to a CPA about this issue.

To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that (i) any tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.