Category Archives: Personal Accounting

Articles and tips related to personal accounting by James. E. George, CPA

The IRS does not care what your Divorce Decree says!

The IRS does not care what your Divorce Decree says!

Every year at tax time, we encounter a variety of situations relating to divorced spouses claiming their children. In prior years, there were various ways used to justify who claimed which child. Sometimes the spouses agreed who claimed who and sometimes they didn’t. For years, the state court systems would approve divorce agreements that specified which spouse claimed which children in which years. This led to the popular odd year/even year approach. Over the years, other ways were used to decide which spouse claimed which children. This led to much confusion and litigation. The Treasury department has come under increasing pressure in recent years to develop standard rules that apply in all cases in determining the criteria for divorcing spouses claiming their mutual offspring.

Finally, about three years ago the Treasury department issued guidelines that are mandatory, and the IRS is taking a hard stance on enforcing these rules. It boils down to this: The custodial parent claims the children by default. If the divorce decree or separation agreement specifies both spouses have joint custody, the spouse with whom the children sleepover the most gets to claim the children. Taxpayers who assert the children stay with both spouses equally are philosophically incorrect. There are an odd number of days in a year, one spouse or another will have a majority, even if it is by one day.

A state-sanctioned divorce decree or separation agreement is a state document. Since federal law overrules state law, the Treasury regulations take precedent over any state court divorce documents. The IRS is also not bound by its provisions in any way. Your attorneys can write anything they want into the divorce agreement, but the Treasury regulations override it!

If a spouse who does not have custody gets granted the right to claim a child as a dependent in a divorce document, the custodial spouse must waive their right to claim that child in writing. This is done by executing a form 8332 and attaching it to your income tax return when it is filed. The custodial spouse may waive their right to claim a child forever, or for one year at a time. The rules for claiming dependent children are a little clearer now. It doesn’t matter what your divorce lawyer writes into your documents. The IRS doesn’t have to abide by it.

Employing your child could be a win-win strategy

Employing your child could be a win-win strategy

I met with one of my higher income clients this morning to discuss tax saving ideas. She operates a business out of her home to keep the overhead low. This year her income has increased about 20 percent and it looks like the growth will continue for the foreseeable future. We discussed a number of… Continue Reading

Tax-Related Telephone Scams

Tax-Related Telephone Scams

This week our area has been hit with an increased number of tax-related scam telephone calls. They are starting to sound much more realistic than similar scams in prior years. Usually the caller will identify themselves as a member of an enforcement division of either the IRS or Maryland State Police. They will inform you… Continue Reading

Many New Tax Law Changes are Just Around the Corner!

Many New Tax Law Changes are Just Around the Corner!

Last week I spent three fantastic days at the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum! Many new tax laws and changes to the tax forms are slated for the next filing season. The amount of new information, procedural changes and tax form modifications discussed was at times, overwhelming. The increasing number and types of new tax scams… Continue Reading

Casual gamblers may lose big under new tax code

Casual gamblers may lose big under new tax code

The new tax law will cause many casual gamblers to incur bigger losses than before! Prior to 2018 you could deduct your losses up to the amount of your winnings. You did this by claiming your losses as itemized deductions. The new tax law for 2018 doubles the standard deduction. This will cause many taxpayers… Continue Reading

Potomac Edison customers get increased recycling incentive thru July

Potomac Edison customers get increased recycling incentive thru July

Do you read the “junk mail” inserts included with your electric bill? If not, you may have missed an opportunity to be paid for recycling your old refrigerator or freezer. From now until July 31, 2018 Potomac Edison is offering a $75 credit for any working refrigerator or freezer recycled through their Appliance Recycling Program.… Continue Reading

New Tax Laws and your Home Equity Loan or Credit Line

New Tax Laws and your Home Equity Loan or Credit Line

The 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limits the deduction for home equity loans and home equity credit lines. The media has done a poor job of informing the public about this issue. Many of the newspaper and radio accounts have indicated there is no provision for deducting interest paid on equity loans and credit… Continue Reading

New Tax Warning to Employees

New Tax Warning to Employees

Employees beware! The new withholding tax tables that have been published may cause your employers to under withhold the federal tax from your paychecks. If your employer utilizes these new tables, they are doing nothing wrong. However, the tables incorporate the tax cuts under the new law by lowering the withholding amounts. While this gives… Continue Reading

Alimony Payments Under the New Tax Law

Alimony Payments Under the New Tax Law

For any divorce decree that becomes final after 12/31/18, the alimony payments will no longer be deductible by the payor or taxed as income to the recipient. This only applies to new divorce decrees. Any alimony arrangement that exists prior to 2019 will be grandfathered into the new provisions. As a tax planning move, if… Continue Reading

Health Insurance is Still Required!

Health Insurance is Still Required!

Many clients I have spoken with since tax season have incorrectly assumed the requirement to have health insurance coverage has been repealed. This is only partially correct. The requirement to carry health insurance on one’s self and every dependent in their household has been repealed, but not until 2019! For 2018, you still must have… Continue Reading

Can you afford to retire?

Can you afford to retire?

Since the end of tax season, I have met with two new clients who are considering starting their own businesses. We discussed the benefits and disadvantages of many aspects of self-employment. I found it interesting that neither considered having a pension to be of high importance. More and more people seem to be retiring early… Continue Reading

Hired Guns

Hired Guns

When you operate a seasonal business, your workload is concentrated into a few months out of the year. The very nature of this beast makes it difficult to assemble a talented workforce. Most experienced employees desire year-round income. This limits the business to finding seasonal help. Every year we experience a backlog at the review… Continue Reading

Employees’ Business Expenses Must be Documented

Employees’ Business Expenses Must be Documented

A deduction is available for money an employee spends to perform their duties in the course of their employment if they are unreimbursed by their employer. This includes mileage, licenses, union dues, education and out of pocket expenses. The expenses must be incurred as a condition of employment or utilized in the performance of the… Continue Reading

Business Tip: Customers Don’t Want Equal Treatment

Business Tip: Customers Don’t Want Equal Treatment

The advice we give our clients is personalized to their situation and circumstances. No two clients are the same. We may recommend one course of action for you and the opposite for your neighbor. The key is to listen to your client. Learn their goals and question any limitations to achieving them. Customers don’t want… Continue Reading

Beware of Tax-Related Identity Theft Scams

Beware of Tax-Related Identity Theft Scams

Deceitful communications come via phone, email, postal mail, and sometimes even a knock on your door. It’s important to know that the IRS does occasionally contact taxpayers, but when they do, it’s most often by mail. Sometimes the IRS needs to verify a taxpayer’s identity and will do so by sending a Letter 5071C. This… Continue Reading

Make 2018 Your Business’ Best Year

Make 2018 Your Business’ Best Year

All of us here at James E. George, CPA would like to wish you and yours a very happy and prosperous new year! At this time of reflecting on the past and planning for the future, I’d like to suggest making 2018 the year you get your business finances in order. Not just for your… Continue Reading

How Do I Handle My Mother’s Estate?

QUESTION: Dear Taxman – I am the administrator of my Mother’s estate. All she owned at the time of her death was her car, her house and a few investments which were all sold at a loss. Am I required to file an estate income tax return? ANSWER: Dear Reader – An estate tax return, form… Continue Reading

Claiming Dependents

QUESTION: Dear Taxman – My Daughter graduated from college in May of this year. She started working in September and expects to make about eleven thousand dollars this year. Can we still claim her as a dependent for this year? ANSWER: Dear Reader: To claim her as a dependent in any year, she must have been a… Continue Reading

Donations to Non-Profits

QUESTION: Dear Taxman – I donate money to different non-profit organizations. Every year my Tax Preparer deducts some but not all of them. I thought donations to all non-profit groups were tax deducible. ANSWER: Dear Reader – Non-profit groups don’t pay income taxes on money you give them. That does not mean you get a… Continue Reading

Charitable Deductions

QUESTION: Dear Taxman – Every week I place cash in the collection plate at church. I recently heard I cannot deduct it since I have no banking record. Is that true? ANSWER: Dear Reader – As of August 16, 2006 a receipt from the donee organization or a bank record such as a cancelled check… Continue Reading