Monday, August 24, 2020

Qualified Tuition Program - 529 plans

If you have a child (or a grandchild) who's going to attend college in the future, you've probably heard about qualified tuition programs, also known as 529 plans (for the Internal Revenue Code section that provides for them), which allow prepayment of higher education costs on a tax-favored basis.
There are two types of programs: prepaid plans, which allow you to buy tuition credits or certificates at present tuition rates, even though the beneficiary (child) won't be starting college for some time; and savings plans, which depend on the investment performance of the fund(s) you place your contributions in.
You won't get a federal income tax deduction for the contribution, but the earnings on the account aren't taxed while the funds are in the program. You can change the beneficiary or roll over the funds in the program to another plan for the same or a different beneficiary without income tax consequences.
Distributions from the program are tax-free up to the amount of the student's "qualified higher education expenses." These include tuition (including up to $10,000 in tuition for an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school), fees, books, supplies, and required equipment. Reasonable room and board is also a qualified expense if the student is enrolled at least half-time.
Distributions from a 529 plan can also be used to make tax-free payments of principal or interest on a loan to pay qualified higher education expenses of the beneficiary or a sibling of the beneficiary.
Distributions in excess of qualified expenses are taxed to the beneficiary to the extent that they represent earnings on the account. A 10% penalty tax is also imposed.
Eligible schools include colleges, universities, vocational schools, or other postsecondary schools eligible to participate in a student aid program of the Department of Education. This includes nearly all accredited public, nonprofit, and proprietary (for-profit) postsecondary institutions.
However, "qualified higher education expenses" also include expenses for tuition in connection with enrollment or attendance at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school.
A school should be able to tell you whether it qualifies.
The contributions you make to the qualified tuition program are treated as gifts to the student, but the contributions qualify for the gift tax exclusion amount ($15,000 for 2020, adjusted annually for inflation). If your contributions in a year exceed the exclusion amount, you can elect to take the contributions into account ratably over a five-year period starting with the year of the contributions. Thus, assuming you make no other gifts to that beneficiary, you could contribute up to $75,000 per beneficiary in 2020 without gift tax. (In that case, any additional contributions during the next four years would be subject to gift tax, except to the extent that the exclusion amount increases.) You and your spouse together could contribute $150,000 for 2020 per beneficiary, subject to any contribution limits imposed by the plan.
A distribution from a qualified tuition program isn't subject to gift tax, but a change in beneficiary or rollover to the account of a new beneficiary may be.
If you'd like to further discuss how the qualified tuition program might help to meet your child's future college costs, please contact us.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Small Employer Health Insurance Credit for Taxable Employers

Did you know there is a tax credit available for certain small employers providing health insurance coverage for their employees? The credit is specifically targeted to help certain small businesses that primarily employ moderate- income workers and lower-income workers. The credit can offset a taxable employer's regular tax liability or its alternative minimum tax (AMT) liability.

The amount of the credit is generally 50% of the employer's nonelective contributions. The amount of the credit is subject to a phase out (described below).

An employer qualifying for the credit (i.e., an eligible small employer or ESE) has to meet all of the following requirements:

(1)  The employer can't have more than 25 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) for the tax year. An employer's FTEs are determined by dividing the total hours worked by all employees during the year by 2,080 (rounded down to the nearest whole number).
(2)  The average annual wages of the employees can't exceed $55,200 in tax years beginning in 2020. The average annual wages are determined by dividing the total wages he employer pays by then number of its FTEs and then rounding that number down to the nearest $1,000.
(3) The employer has to contribute at least 50% of the premiums for the employees' health insurance coverage on a uniform basis.
The amount of the credit gradually phases out if the number of an ESE's FTEs exceeds ten, or if the average annual wages of the employees exceed a dollar limitation ($27,600 in tax years beginning in 2020), as adjusted for inflation. Under the phase out, the full amount of the credit is available only to an employer with ten or fewer FTEs and whose employees have average annual wages of less than $27,600 in tax years beginning in 2020. However, an employer with exactly 25 FTEs or average annual wages exactly equal to $55,200 is not in fact eligible for the credit in tax years beginning in 2020. Since the eligibility rules are based in part on the number of FTEs, not the number of employees, in certain circumstances, a business that uses part-time help can qualify for the credit even if it employs more than 25 individuals.

For purposes of determining whether an employer is an ESE and determining the amount of the credit, self-employed individuals, including partners and sole proprietors, 2% shareholders of an S corporation, and 5% owners of the employer and certain relatives of these individuals are not treated as employees for purposes of the small employer health insurance credit. There are also special rules that apply to seasonal workers, leased employees, and employees who have more than 2,080 hours of service during a tax year.

The credit is only available if the ESE purchases health insurance coverage for its employees through a small business health options program exchange (SHOP Exchange). Also, the credit is only available for a maximum coverage period of two consecutive tax years beginning with the first year in which the employer or any predecessor first offers one or more qualified health plans to its employees through the SHOP exchange. The maximum two-year coverage period does not take into account any tax years beginning before 2014. Thus, an ESE can potentially qualify for the credit for six tax years, four years before 2014 and two years after that date.

An employer is entitled to an ordinary and necessary business expense deduction equal to the amount of the employer contribution minus the dollar amount of the credit. For example, if an ESE pays 100% of the cost of its employees' health insurance coverage and the amount of the tax credit is 50% of that cost, the employer can claim a deduction for the remaining 50% of the premium cost. Any unused credit can be carried back for one year (but not before 2010) and forward for 20 years to offset future taxes.

Please contact us if you have any questions concerning the credit or if we can assist you in determining whether your business can benefit from claiming the credit.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Will You Be Impacted By the President’s Executive Order?


The President issued an executive order and three memoranda recently. Currently, the effect of these orders is unknown due to possibly being legally challenged and/or becoming irrelevant if Congress can pass a new relief package quickly, although negotiations surrounding a relief package have been stalled. The issues addressed include:

          Additional $400/week unemployment assistance  - if receiving at least $100/week of state unemployment and unemployment is due to COVID-19
·         Student loan deferral on Department of Education loans through December 31, 2020
·         Directs certain government organizations to work to help minimize evictions and foreclosures
·         Deferral of the employee portion of Social Security tax on wages (under a certain threshold)

LWH is continuing to monitor the situation to determine how the order/memoranda will impact clients.