Tax breaks for businesses from the 2012 American Taxpayer Relief Act

In addition to the lofty package of tax relief for individuals, the recently enacted 2012 American Taxpayer Relief Act extends a host of important tax breaks for businesses. We’ve put together a list to give you an overview of its impact. For more detailed information and to determine how it will affect your business, give us a call at 561-798-9988.

The following depreciation provisions are retroactively extended by the Act:

  • Fifteen-year straight line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant buildings and improvements, and qualified retail improvements.
  • Seven-year recovery period for motor sports entertainment complexes.
  • Accelerated depreciation for business property on an Indian reservation.
  • Increased expensing limitations and treatment of certain real property as Section 179 property;
  • Special expensing rules for certain film and television productions; and
  • The election to expense mine safety equipment.

The new law also extends and modifies the bonus depreciation provisions with respect to property placed in service after Dec. 31, 2012, in tax years ending after that date.

The following business credits and special rules are also extended:

  • The research credit is modified and retroactively extended for two years through 2013.
  • The temporary minimum low-income tax credit rate for nonfederally subsidized new buildings is extended to apply to housing credit dollar amount allocations made before Jan. 1, 2014.
  • The housing allowance exclusion for determining area median gross income for qualified residential rental project exempt facility bonds is extended two years.
  • The Indian employment tax credit is retroactively extended for two years through 2013.
  • The new markets tax credit is retroactively extended for two years through 2013.
  • The railroad track maintenance credit is retroactively extended for two years through 2013.
  • The mine rescue team training credit is retroactively extended for two years through 2013.
  • The employer wage credit for employees who are active duty members of the uniformed services is retroactively extended for two years through 2013.
  • The work opportunity tax credit is retroactively extended for two years through 2013.
  • Qualified zone academy bonds are retroactively extended for two years through 2013.
  • The enhanced charitable deduction for contributions of food inventory is retroactively extended for two years through 2013.
  • Allowance of the domestic production activities deduction for activities in Puerto Rico applies for the first eight tax years of the taxpayer beginning after Dec. 31, 2005, and before Jan. 1, 2014.
  • Exclusion from a tax-exempt organization’s unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) of interest, rent, royalties, and annuities paid to it from a controlled entity is extended through Dec. 31, 2013.
  • Treatment of certain dividends of regulated investment companies (RICs) as “interest-related dividends” is extended through Dec. 31, 2013.
  • Inclusion of RICs in the definition of a “qualified investment entity” is extended through Dec. 31, 2013.
  • The exception under subpart F for active financing income (i.e., certain income from the active conduct of a banking, financing, insurance or similar business) for tax years of a foreign corporation beginning after Dec. 31, 1998, and before Jan. 1, 2014, for tax years of foreign corporations beginning after Dec. 31, 2005, and before Jan. 1, 2014.
  • Look-through treatment for payments between related controlled foreign corporations (CFCs) under the foreign personal holding company rules is extended through Jan. 1, 2014.
  • Exclusion of 100% of gain on certain small business stock acquired before Jan. 1, 2014.
  • Basis adjustment to stock of S corporations making charitable contributions of property in tax years beginning before Dec. 31, 2013.
  • The reduction in S corporation recognition period for built-in gains tax is extended through 2013, with a 10-year period instead of a 5-year period.
  • Various empowerment zone tax incentive, including the designation of an empowerment zone and of additional empowerment zones (extended through Dec. 31, 2013) and the period for which the percentage exclusion for qualified small business stock (of a corporation which is a qualified business entity) is 60% (extended through Dec. 31, 2018).
  • Tax-exempt financing for New York Liberty Zone is extended for bonds issued before Jan. 1 2014.
  • Temporary increase in limit on cover over rum excise taxes to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is extended for spirits brought into the U.S. before Jan. 1, 2014.
  • American Samoa economic development credit, as modified, is extended through Jan. 1, 2014.

For additional information, contact either Steve Leone, CPA, sleone@templetonco.com or Emma Pfister, CPA,epfister@templetonco.com.

2013 Tax Planning

People get ready.

More individuals will be snared by the alternative minimum tax (AMT), and various deductions. Other tax breaks will be unavailable. As a result of expiring Bush-era tax cuts, individuals will face higher tax rates next year on their income, including capital gains and dividends, and estate tax rates will also be higher. AMT became problematic this year because exemptions have dropped and fewer personal credits can be used to offset them.

Additionally, a number of tax provisions expired at the end of 2011 or will expire at the end of 2012. For example, rules that expired at the end of 2011 include:

  • Research credit for businesses.
  • Election to take an itemized deduction for state and local general sales taxes instead of the itemized deduction permitted for state and local income taxes.
  • Above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition expenses.
  • Rules that expire at the end of 2012 include:
  • Generous bonus depreciation allowances and expensing allowances for business.
  • Expanded tax credits for higher education costs.


Remember, these adverse tax consequences are by no means a certainty as Congress and President Obama could extend the Bush-era tax cuts for some or all taxpayers and retroactively “patch” the AMT for 2012. This would increase exemptions and availability of credits, revive some favorable expired tax rules and extend those that are slated to expire at the end of this year. 

But – this is not the time for inaction. The prospect of higher taxes next year makes it even more important to engage in year-end planning now.

We’ve put together a list of considerations for individuals and businesses that will guide you through these challenges. While not all actions will apply to your particular situation, many of these moves may benefit you. For further explanation or clarification, please call us at 561-798-9988.

Year-End Tax Planning Moves for Individuals

• Increase your FSA. Set aside more for next year in your employer’s health flexible spending account (FSA). Next year, the maximum contribution to a health FSA is $2,500. Remember – you will no longer be able to set aside amounts to get tax-free reimbursements for over-the-counter drugs, such as aspirin and antacids. 
• Make HSA contributions. If you became eligible to make health savings account (HSA) contributions late this year (even in December), you can make a full year’s worth of deductible HSA contributions even if you were not eligible to make HSA contributions for the entire year. 
• Realize losses on stock while preserving your investments. There are several ways this can be done. For example, you can sell the original holding then buy back the same securities at least 31 days later. It would be advisable for us to meet to discuss year-end trades you should consider making. 
• Sell assets before year-end. If you are thinking of selling assets that are likely to yield large gains, such as inherited, valuable stock, or a vacation home in a desirable resort area, make the sale before year-end while still paying attention to the market. 
• Sell and repurchase stock. You may own appreciated-in-value stock and want to lock in a 15% tax rate on the gain, but you think the stock still has plenty of room to grow. In this situation, consider selling the stock and then repurchasing it. You’ll pay a maximum tax of 15% on long-term gain from the stock you sell. You also will wind up with a higher basis (cost, for tax purposes) in the repurchased stock. 
• Make contributions to Roth IRAs. Roth IRA payouts are tax-free and immune from the threat of higher tax rates, as long as they are made after a five-year period, and on or attaining age 59-½, after death or disability, or for a first-time home purchase. 
• Convert traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs. This will help you avoid a possible hike in tax rates next year. Also, although a 2013 conversion won’t be hit by the 3.8% tax on unearned income, it could trigger that tax on your non-IRA gains, interest, and dividends. Conversions, however, should be approached with caution because they will increase your adjusted gross income [AGI] for 2012. 
• Take required minimum distributions from retirement plans. This is applicable if you have reached age 70-½. Failure to take a required withdrawal can result in a penalty equal to 50% of the amount of the RMD not withdrawn. If you turn age 70-½ this year, you can delay the first required distribution to 2013, but if you do, you will have to take a double distribution in 2013—the amount required for 2012 plus the amount required for 2013. Think twice before doing this. 
• Deduct your medical expenses. This year, unreimbursed medical expenses are deductible to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your AGI, but in 2013, for individuals under age 65, these expenses will be deductible only to the extent they exceed 10% of AGI. 
• Shelter gifts. Make gifts sheltered by the annual gift tax exclusion before the end of the year to save gift and estate taxes. You can give $13,000 in 2012 to each of an unlimited number of individuals but you can’t carry over unused exclusions from one year to the next. 

Year-End Tax Planning Moves for Business Owners

• Consider stock redemption. If your business is incorporated, consider taking money out of the business through a stock redemption. The buy-back of the stock may yield long-term capital gain or a dividend, depending on a variety of factors. But either way, you’ll be taxed at a maximum rate of only 15% if you act this year. Wait until next year and your long-term gains or dividends may be taxed at a higher rate if reform plans are instituted or the Bush-era tax cuts expire. Contact us for help on executing an effective pre-2013 corporate distribution. • Hire a veteran. If you are thinking of adding to payroll, consider hiring a qualifying veteran before year-end to qualify for a work opportunity tax credit (WOTC). Under current law, the WOTC for qualifying veterans won’t be available for post-2012 hires. The WOTC for hiring veterans ranges from $2,400 to $9,600, depending on a variety of factors (such as the veteran’s period of unemployment and whether he or she has a service-connected disability). 
• Put new business equipment and machinery in service. This will allow you to qualify for the 50% bonus first-year depreciation allowance. Unless Congress acts, this bonus depreciation allowance generally won’t be available for property placed in service after 2012. (Certain specialized assets may, however, be placed in service in 2013.) 
• Make expenses qualifying for the business property expensing option. The maximum amount you can expense for a tax year beginning in 2012 is $139,000 of the cost of qualifying property placed in service for that tax year. The $139,000 amount is reduced by which the cost of qualifying property placed in service during 2012 exceeds $560,000 (the investment ceiling). For tax years beginning in 2013, unless Congress makes a change, the expensing limit will be $25,000 and the investment ceiling will be $200,000. 
• Buy a SUV. If you are in the market for a business car, and your taste runs to large, consider buying heavy SUVs (those built on a truck chassis and rated at more than 6,000 pounds gross (loaded) vehicle weight). Due to a combination of favorable depreciation and expensing rules, you may be able to write off most of the cost this year. Next year, the write off rules may not be as generous. 

These considerations are just the beginning to creating a plan that will work for you. Whether you are planning for your family or business, contact us to discuss these options further.

Health care

Health care continues to be one of the more contemptuous issues our country faces. And no wonder, in 2011 alone, the U.S. spent $8,400 per person compared to the next highest-spending country, Norway at $5,352.

Since 2002, family premiums for employer-sponsored health care have increased by a whopping 97 percent placing the cost burdens on employers and workers.

The drivers of these cost increases include an aging Baby Boomer generation that is creating more patients and more treatments, a need for long term care for chronic illnesses, more sophisticated treatments and technology, and increasing inefficiencies, malpractice and administrative costs.

On March 23, 2010 President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as ObamaCare) into law. This law, while intending to offer more affordable health care to individuals and families, requires much employer compliance and action.

Overall the Act requires most U.S. citizens and legal residents to have health insurance by creating state-based American Health Benefit Exchanges through which individuals can purchase coverage, with premium and cost-sharing credits. These credits are available to individuals and families with income between 133-400 percent of the federal poverty level.

Separate Exchanges will also be created that will allow small businesses to purchase coverage. Employers will be required to pay for penalties for employees who receive tax credits for health insurance through an Exchange, with exceptions for small employers. New regulations on the health plans in these Exchanges will also be imposed in the individual and small group markets. Medicaid will also be expanded to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

As this law moves into action and even if it is repealed, one thing is certain – change. It’s clear that quality, price and service are often sacrificed in the current health care model. So the change will have to come from employers, providers, physicians, payers and insurers. This is how:

• Employer driven change – 60 percent of the under 65 population have insurance through their employers and all are negatively impacted by escalating costs and inadequate quality. As a result, educating those employees is a must as well as focusing more on wellness and prevention.

• Provider/Physician change – Health care providers will go from a fee-based model to a newer value-based model and focus on being more accountable in their care. There will be consolidation and newer business models that require increased use of data analytics and clinical intelligence.

• Payer/Insurer change – By moving the focus away from claims processing to more collaboration in an effort to improve care and manage costs. There will also be a shift from administrator to supplier of data analytics/clinical intelligence.

So the question becomes for employers – are you going to pay or play ObamaCare?

Play means employers offer minimum essential coverage to all of your full-time employees.

Pay is an excise tax if you do not offer minimum essential coverage (or any coverage) and at least one of your full-time employees is certified as having enrolled in coverage through a state health exchange for which he or she received a premium tax credit or cost sharing reduction. This tax is applicable to employers with 50 or more full-time employees on average per business day. The monthly penalty (non deductible) is $166.67 (1/12 of $2,000) times the total number of full-time employees for the month minus 30.

What to do?

Look at your workforce Employers need to evaluate their workforce and look at their employees (both full-time and part-time) and see if any could be reclassified as employees for purposes of the mandate.

Business structure Employers also need to understand if their current business structure or model could cause the company to be subject to the employer mandate – and see if there are circumstances under which they could restructure to avoid the mandate.

Learn about Health Insurance Exchanges Examine the relationship between the employer mandate and the individual mandate and how the health insurance Exchanges that will be put in place in 2014 will provide opportunities for some employers and many individuals to acquire such coverage.

Florida recently returned $1 million planning grant to the federal government and has set up a non-ACA compliant health care initiative. However, if the state doesn’t set up an ACA compliant exchange, the federal government will.

Employers need to act now and consider an overall benefit redesign with an emphasis on better employee health. They should also set up and access information systems and reporting for compliance and start discussions with payers and providers that consider risk sharing.

Though overturning ObamaCare would mean relief from this compliance burden and potential penalties, it doesn’t necessarily change the need for an employer’s strategic evaluation of their workforce, business structure, overall plan design and employee communications.

This work upfront can save you a lot of heartache and expense down the road.

 For more information, please e-mail info@templetonco.com.

Court Rules Gifts of Limited Partnerships Qualify for Annual Exclusion

At the beginning of June 2012, the Tax Court ruled that gifts of family limited partnership interests qualified for the gift tax annual exclusion, which is currently $13,000 per donee per year.

The Estate of George Wimmer involved a family limited partnership that was funded with marketable securities. Wimmer made gifts of limited partnership interests but the IRS disallowed annual exclusions for the gifts.

As many of you know, when you give a gift to a beneficiary, you are allowed a $13,000 exemption before you have to include that gift as being subject to gift tax. Many people are setting up limited liability companies, family limited partnerships and other vehicles to get discounts of those interests and then gift those interests to a family member. Understandably, when those people make that gift they want to take that $13,000 as a deduction from the value – many times even creating their gift to equal the $13,000.

Seems reasonable, right? The IRS, however, challenges this saying that the gift does not meet the definition of a present interest because there is no immediate benefit that is being given to the beneficiary to the gift. Many times to get the maximum discount on the values the partnership or LLC agreement will severely restrict the aspects of the interest that can be used by the beneficiary – they can’t sell it, they can’t transfer it, or cash may be restricted in terms of distributions.

The IRS successfully argues that as a result, the donor isn’t really giving the beneficiary anything – at least not in a current expectation of value. And because of this, the IRS has made it difficult for a taxpayer to use the $13,000 exemption.

As tax planners, this has been difficult, as many of our clients want that $13,000 exemption. So we’ve worked to find the answer as to what will qualify as a present interest when taxpayers are gifting these limited partnership and LLC interests.

The Wimmer case made it clear that you still have to confer a present value, but where the IRS will argue in this case that they did not qualify, the Court looked at the history and said, wait a second – there are securities in this company and they have been able to distribute interest and dividends every year – which makes this gift a present interest. You either confer a transferable value or you confer an income interest and in this case the beneficiaries were able to demonstrate they were able to have an income interest.

The result turned out favorably for taxpayers as now we can structure a gift that will reasonably expect them to get a $13,000 annual exclusion to every gift they make to their beneficiaries – whoever they are. It gives some certainty to taxpayers who want to make these gifts yet it’s important for people to realize they will still have to give something that is defined by a present interest.

Additionally, this $13,000 exemption is separate from the $5 million gift tax exemption that is expiring this year. And while the $13,000 may pale in comparison, it can be very useful and valuable especially if you are someone who has a lot of beneficiaries.

Estate tax relief is substantial, but temporary

New provisions in the 2010 Tax Relief Act are substantially reducing estate, gift and generation-skipping (GST) taxes through December 31, 2012.

The rundown

The 2010 Tax Relief Act brought the estate tax back to life in 2011 and 2012 and is imposed at the top rate of 35 percent of the estate’s value after the first $5 million per individual.

At these new levels, a vast majority of estates (all but an estimated 3,500 nationwide in 2011) will not be subject to any federal estate tax. A 55 percent tax with a $1 million exemption would have resulted in about 43,540 taxable estates in 2011.  Here’s a bit of history: except for the temporary repeal of the estate tax in 2010, the estate tax rate has not been less than 45 percent since 1931.

The GST tax is an additional tax on gifts and bequests to grandchildren when their parents are still alive. The 2010 Tax Relief Act lowers GST taxes for 2011 and 2012 by increasing the exemption amount from $1 million to $5 million and reducing the rate from 55 percent to 35 percent.

The new law also gave heirs of decedents who died in 2010 a choice of which estate tax rules to apply – 2010’s or 2011’s. This is important to note because although there was no estate tax in 2010, some inherited assets are subject to higher capital gains tax under the 2010 rules, which actually raises the tax burden for some heirs. Under the 2011 rules, heirs will be allowed to inherit assets with a $5 million exemption from both estate and GST and an unlimited step-up in the basis of assets to their current market value.  However, heirs of wealthy decedents may find it more beneficial to elect the 2010 law – limited step-up in the basis of assets and no estate tax.

A new portability feature has also been introduced. This means any exemption that remains unused as of the death of a spouse who dies after Dec. 31, 2010 and before Jan. 1, 2013 is generally available for use by the surviving spouse in addition to his or her own $5 million exemption for taxable transfers made during life or death. Previously, the exemption of the first spouse to die would be lost if not used.

These rules are temporary – ending on Dec. 31, 2012. In 2013, the top rate is slated to be 55 percent with the exemption at $1 million. Although it is possible, according to Trust & Estates, that current law will be changed and the baseline estate and gift tax assumptions outlined in the Obama Administration’s Budget Proposal, will prevail. Should this be the case, a $3.5 million estate tax exclusion amount beginning Jan. 1, 2013 would be applied.

At one point in time the gift and estate tax were unified, sharing a single exemption and were subject to the same rates. But it hasn’t been that way for a while. In 2010, the top gift tax rate was 35 percent and the exemption was $1 million. For gifts made after Dec. 31, 2010, the gift tax and estate tax are reunified and the overall $5 million exemption applies.

What do these changes mean to you?

This means there is a small window of opportunity to take advantage of these tax changes.

The time to assess your current estate plan is now.

We understand that estate and related gift planning is no small consideration and requires complete and thorough analysis. One important step in the estate and gift planning process is to determine the property you are willing to transfer out of your estate. This gift is not limited to cash or marketable securities and often will comprise little of each of these depending upon the composition of assets found in your estate. In addition to identifying the assets eligible for gifting, it is important to structure the transaction so the property or asset is protected from creditors.

It is also important to consider evaluating alternative transfers and their impact on your personal goals and tax savings. Keep in mind that you can take an asset and transfer it out into an entity – this could be an existing already-held company, a portfolio, or real estate.

Valuations play a major role during this process. Because of the $5 million extension, expiring portability and low values, the time to revamp your estate plan is now. When we are talking about transferring assets out of an estate, we are concerned about the value that we place on that asset. Low real estate values and interest rates are conducive to a low valuation. This fares well because we can ultimately transfer more asset for less value. All these factors benefit individuals looking to do estate planning.

For more information on these changes, contact H. Thomas Wagner, Jr., at 561-798-9988 or twagner@templetonco.com.