Janell A. Israel & Associates

1585 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1604, Honolulu, Hawaii 96814 Phone: 808-942-8817

May 2015 Tax Newsletter


What's New in Taxes:

IRS Tax Audits Cut By Budget Issues


The IRS reports that its enforcement budget has been cut by $254 million, a 5% reduction from the previous year. As a result, the agency expects to cut the number of individual and business audits it conducts


In 2014 the IRS audited 0.86 percent of individual taxpayers and 26% of large corporations. Though audit statistics show a decline in examinations, the IRS contacts many more taxpayers with questions about their returns. Once statistics include these taxpayer contacts, the 2014 return examination rate is closer to 4% or one in every 25 returns filed.



Watch Out For The "Dirty Dozen"


Each year the IRS publishes a "Dirty Dozen" list of tax-related scams. Here's the list for 2015.


 *Phone scams. Con artists impersonating IRS employees may call you, demanding money or promising a refund if you "confirm" your social security number. Remember – a legitimate IRS call will always be preceded by written correspondence from the agency.


 *Phishing. Thieves commonly use fake e–mails and websites to steal personal information. Your response: Never click on unfamiliar links or attachments. The IRS won't e–mail you without first sending a notice to your physical address.


 *Identity theft. Your financial identity may be stolen through phone scams, phishing, misuse of information provided to businesses, or dumpster diving. Protect your social security number and other personal information, and avoid providing such data whenever possible.:


 * Return preparer fraud. Un­­scrupulous tax preparers may use your information to create inflated refund claims or steal your identity. If a pre­parer's representations or demeanor makes you uncomfortable, take your business elsewhere.


 * Hiding income offshore. The IRS has been stepping up enforcement actions against undeclared offshore accounts. You're allowed to maintain such accounts, but you're required to report them.


 *Inflated refund claims. Avoid return preparers who promise refunds up front, or who base fees on a percentage of your refund. Be sure your refund will be mailed to your address or deposited directly into your bank account.


 *Fake charities. Fake charities are used to steal your money, your identity, or both. Use the "Exempt Organizations Select Check" feature at www.irs.gov to determine whether a charity is legitimate.


 *Fake documents. If a return preparer suggests filing false Forms 1099 or using fake documents for any purpose, walk away.


 *Abusive tax shelters. Abusive shelters use structures ranging from phony entities with no real assets to complex multi-entity conglomerates with offshore accounts. Be careful of investments that emphasize tax avoidance over growth or earnings.


 *Falsifying income to claim credits. This scam involves reporting nonexistent income in order to claim tax credits. This is tax fraud – and you should never agree.


 *Unwarranted claims for fuel tax credits. Fuel tax credits are generally limited to off-highway business use, such as farming. If you don't qualify, don't let anyone talk you into claiming them.


 *Frivolous tax arguments. Beware of anyone who urges you to rely on "innovative" legal theories to justify non-payment of taxes. The Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to levy an income tax and the tax remains enforceable until Congress repeals it.



New Business:

Make Time For Midyear Tax Planning


It's time to do a review of your business planning. Here are five ideas to consider.


1. Establish a retirement plan if you don't already have one. Examining the choices now gives you time to select the best plan for your business and to get the paperwork completed. Then you'll be set to make contributions as your cash flow allows—and to take the deduction on your 2015 tax return. Another plus: you may be able to claim a credit on this year's tax return for the costs of establishing the plan.


2. Hire your kids. If your child is under age 18 and works for your unincorporated business, there are no social security or Medicare taxes on the child's pay. Wages paid to the child are also deductible. Just make sure the compensation is reasonable for the work actually performed.


3. Track your business driving. For 2015, the rate for business–related mileage is 57.5 cents per mile, and you can deduct actual costs for parking fees and tolls in addition to mileage. Keep detailed records to substantiate your deduction.


4. Deduct equipment purchases. You can expense up to $25,000 of business equipment purchased this year.


5. Start a business. Planning to acquire or start a business this year? Keep good records of your costs to get the business off the ground, including advertising costs, legal fees, and accounting expenses. Up to $5,000 of these expenses could be deductible on your 2015 tax return.


To discuss the tax–saving ideas best suited for your business, give us a call.



Is It Smart To Use Retirement Savings To Pay Off A Mortgage?


In these days of high unemployment and declining home values, people are searching for ways to regain control over their financial lives. For many, that includes paying off debts as quickly as possible. After all, if you no longer have a mortgage, the banker can't foreclose on your house. If your credit card balances are zero, the collection agency will stop calling. If you've retired your auto loan, the repo guy won't be knocking on your front door.


But sometimes paying off debts — especially a mortgage — shouldn't be your first priority. For example, it's wise to establish an emergency fund to keep from going further into debt when you encounter the inevitable bumps on life's journey. Also, if your employer matches contributions to your retirement account, it makes sense to contribute up to the matching amount before paying off debts. That's because an employer match represents a very high return on your investment. And the longer your money is invested, the longer it has to grow. With a relatively conservative return of 6%, your money will double in about 12 years and double again in 24 years.


By withdrawing retirement funds to pay off a low-interest mortgage, you lose the opportunity to earn a return on those withdrawals. Let's say you pull $100,000 from your retirement account to pay off a 5% fixed-rate mortgage. If you plan to retire in 24 years and the return on your investments averages 6%, that $100,000, if left in the account, could have grown to $400,000 by your retirement date. Withdraw the money now and that earning power is lost forever. You're giving up a return of 6% to pay off a debt that costs less than 5% (when tax-deductible interest is factored into the equation). In addition, withdrawals from tax-advantaged retirement accounts can generate enormous tax consequences. If you're under age 59½, expect to pay a 10% penalty (in addition to general income taxes) on that $100,000. That means you'll need to withdraw substantially more than $100,000 to pay off your mortgage today.


Generally speaking, it's prudent to establish an emergency fund, contribute to retirement accounts (at least up to the matching percentage offered by your employer), and pay off high-interest credit cards and loans - before you consider raiding a 401(k) account to pay off the mortgage.


All information is believed to be from reliable sources, however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The information contained in this newsletter is provided by Mostad& Christensen, Inc. The information is of a general nature and should not be acted upon in your specific situation without further details and/or professional assistance. For more information on anything in this newsletter, or for assistance with any of your tax, business, or financial strategy concerns, contact our office.

Securities and advisory services offered through National Planning Corporation (NPC), Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Mosted& Christensen, Janell Israel & Associates and NPC are separate and unrelated companies. NPC does not provide tax or legal advice.

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