The Alternative Minimum Tax and You! – Part 2

In my last post (The Alternative Minimum Tax and You! – Part 1), I addressed the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) as it applies to individuals. A little known fact is that businesses, like individuals, can be subject to the AMT. Although the purpose is the same (i.e., assure that taxpayers with certain types of income and deduction structures pay at least a minimum amount of tax) the way in arriving at the AMT is slightly different. This post will address the AMT as it applies to tax-paying corporations (C Corporations). It does not apply to pass-through entities such as S Corporations or Partnerships, because the AMT is calculated at the individual level.

Not All Businesses Are Alike:

Unlike individuals, some corporations are exempt from the AMT. A corporation that qualifies as a “small corporation” is exempt from the AMT.
To be classified as a small corporation, the entity must:

  • Be in its first year of existence, (i.e., the current tax year is the year the entity began operations), or
  • The company was treated as a small corporation for all prior tax years beginning after 1997, and
  • The company’s gross receipts did not exceed an average of $7.5 million for the preceding 3 tax years
    ($5 million if the entity has been in existence for 3 years or less)

After determining that the corporation is subject to the AMT, the taxpayer will complete Form 4626 with the Form 1120. Form 4626 is organized similar to Form 6251 for individuals. It begins with the corporation’s taxable income, and then adds back (i.e., takes away) various  adjustments and preferences, such as:

  • Differences in depreciation
  • Differences in gains and losses
  • Depletion
  • Intangible drilling costs
  • Adjusted Current Earnings adjustments (ACE)

After the corporation accounts for these adjustments and preferences, it will arrive at it’s Alternative Minimum Taxable Income (AMTI).
Corporations are afforded an exemption if their income falls in a certain range, typically $40,000. The AMTI is then multiplied by 20% to arrive at the AMT.

Just like individuals, if the AMT exceeds the corporation’s regular tax, then they must pay the higher amount.

Because corporation’s do not receive the same preferential treatment of gains being taxed at a lower rate like individuals, the biggest factor in a corporation’s AMT calculation is depreciation. A corporation needs to be mindful when capitalizing depreciable property that a large difference between the tax and AMT depreciation methods could subject the corporation to a higher tax rate. Some assets, when capitalized using the 200% double-declining method of depreciation can only be depreciated using the 150% MACRS method for AMT purposes. This will cause the AMT depreciation expense to be lower than the tax depreciation, resulting in an addition to taxable income in arriving at AMTI.


Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

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The Alternative Minimum Tax and You! – Part 1

The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for individuals, enacted by Congress in 1969, is becoming less of an alternative for some taxpayers. The AMT was originally targeted at approximately 150 taxpayers that had high Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), but paid zero tax due to the types of income and structuring of deductions. In effect, under the current structure the AMT almost guarantees that once taxpayers reach a certain level of income, their effective tax rate will be at least 26% or higher.

The IRS Shaking AMT Money From a Taxpayer

The AMT is calculated by both businesses and individuals, but under different circumstances. In this post I will discuss the AMT as it applies to individuals (In the next post I will talk about how the AMT applies to businesses).

Individuals Subject to AMT

Individuals calculate their share of the AMT on Form 6251. That taxpayer begins with their AGI after itemized deductions, and then adds back the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • State and local income, real estate, and property taxes
  • Miscellaneous deductions

The taxpayer must also add back or reduce by the difference between their income tax and AMT amounts for the following:

  • Investment interest expense
  • Depletion
  • Basis in exercised incentive stock options
  • Depreciation expense

Taxpayers may also have to report AMT adjustments passed through on K-1’s from their other activities (partnerships, trusts, or S-corporations).

Once all of these adjustments have been considered, the taxpayer arrives at their Alternative Minimum Taxable Income (AMTI). Taxpayers are allowed an exemption amount, which has been indexed for inflation thanks to acts by Congress at the end of 2012. The exemption amounts for 2015 are $53,600 for Single filers ($53,900 in 2016), $83,400 ($83,800 in 2016) those taxpayers who are Married and File Jointly and $41,700 ($41,900 in 2016) for Married taxpayers who file separately ($23,800 for Estate and Trusts in case you were wondering [$23,900 in 2016]). The exemption amount is subtracted from AMTI, and the resulting amount is multiplied by either 26% or 28% depending on whether the amount is above or below $185,400 ($186,300 in 2016) for Married Filing Jointly or $92,700 ($93,150 in 2016) if Married and filing separately.
If income is above that amount, it is multiplied by 28%, and 26% if not.

Once the AMT is calculated, it is compared to the regular tax calculated on the taxpayer’s Form 1040. This is where the AMT earns the name “Alternative”. Once the taxpayer compares their AMT to their regular tax, the higher amount becomes their income tax.


Why does the AMT work? Because it attacks two types of tax situations and makes them less beneficial.

First, the AMT trues up the tax rate for taxpayers that have high incomes from sources that are not taxed at regular tax rates, such as long-term capital gains, qualified dividends, and tax-exempt interest. If a taxpayer has $10 million in AGI, but it consists completely of long-term capital gains and qualified dividends, their “regular” tax rate is only 20% (in 2015) as opposed to 39.6% (in 2015). The AMT would require this taxpayer to pay a higher rate due to their high income.

Second, the AMT penalizes taxpayers with certain higher-than-normal deductions. As I mentioned above, one deduction added back for AMT purposes is state and local taxes from Schedule A. For a taxpayer living in an income tax state (a state that has their own income tax, such as New York, New Jersey, or North Carolina but not Florida), a deduction is allowed on their Federal return for state tax payments made during the calendar year. The difference
between paying the state 4th quarter estimated tax payment on December 31 instead of January 15 of the following year is that the payment will be allowed as a deduction Schedule A in the year of payment. However, making that payment before year-end will not matter if the taxpayer will be subject to AMT, because those amounts will be added back.

A Monopoly 'Go to Jail' Card

Can It Be Avoided?

Unfortunately, the AMT is a “Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200” situation. One simple way to forego the calculation is for the
taxpayer’s income after itemized deductions to stay below the AMT exemption amounts. Also, if the majority of the taxpayer’s income is taxed at regular rates, the AMT will not be a problem because the regular tax will most likely exceed the AMT. If a taxpayer, because of their types of income, will be subject to the AMT, they should try to avoid certain deductions (if possible) in order to minimize their AMTI. Simple planning maneuvers such as paying state taxes on January 15 of the following year and staggering the exercise of incentive stock options can minimize the amount of AMT adjustments in a given year. Taxpayers with depreciable property can elect depreciation methods that do not create large tax to AMT differences.

In all, if you are (or think you are) subject to the AMT, contact us at (845) 344-1040 or visit our web site => (open year-round) and we will help you with the impact the AMT could have on your situation, and what measures can be taken in order to minimize the AMT’s impact.

For those of you who have businesses or are planning to enter the world of entrepreneurship, stay tuned for the next post.

In – The Alternative Minimum Tax and You – Part 2 – I will address the AMT as it pertains to businesses.


Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

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Merry Christmas!

On behalf of SOLID TAX SOLUTIONS and THE TAX NOOK I want to wish all of you a safe, happy and Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Oh, I almost forgot…………I have a Christmas card for you  —————–>Your Christmas Card!


Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

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Categories: Uncategorized

Understanding Taxes on Year-End Bonuses

As the year winds down people (hopefully) are receiving their year-end bonus. It’s also at this time of year that I am oftentimes asked “I just got my bonus check and they took so damn much out in taxes. Why?”

Well let me try to clear this up.

There is generally some confusion as to how year-end bonus income is taxed. Many people mistakenly believe that the bonus they receive from their employer during the holiday season is taxed at a higher rate than regular income. Others believe that a year-end bonus could bump them into a higher income tax bracket, resulting in their being subject to a higher tax rate on their total income for the year. Fortunately, however, neither scenario is necessarily true.

Bonus Income is the Same as Regular Income

As far as the IRS is concerned, bonus income is the same as your regular income. Any bonus income that you receive is added to your W-2 income, and is calculated in the total income you report to the IRS on your federal tax return forms. Employers often treat bonus income differently in terms of how they withhold taxes from the payment. That is why some people have the mistaken believe that a bonus will increase their taxes.

While a year-end bonus may technically put you into a higher tax bracket, you must realize that since you are taxed on an incremental basis, you won’t be taxed at a higher rate for all of your earnings last year. So, for example, if you look at the
2015 Tax Brackets for taxes due April 18, 2016 (or April 19, 2016 if you live in Maine or Massachusetts) and your filing status is single, you’ll see that the 10% tax bracket is up to $9,225 in earnings. This means that if you earn $9,225, your tax rate is 10%, and if you earn more than that – let’s say $30,000 – you will be placed into the 15% tax bracket, meaning that you still pay 10% on the earnings up to $9,225 and then you pay 15% on the earnings from $9,226 to  $30,000. Therefore, your actual tax rate is not 15%, but rather a combination of the different rates for the tax brackets that you fall into throughout the year.

So, yes, it is possible that your year-end or holiday bonus can push you into a higher tax bracket, but that does not mean that you will pay more money on the income that you earned earlier in the year.

How Employers Handle Bonus Income

Another reason why people think that they will be taxed at a higher rate on the bonuses that they receive is because more money may be withheld by the employer for taxes.
However, it is all dependent upon the employee’s final income at the end of the year. A person who makes 90% of his income in bonuses compared to someone who makes 10% of his income in bonuses and earns the same amount of money with the same filing statuses and deductions will still actually pay the same taxes.

Regardless of which of the following three methods for withholding federal taxes from bonus income an employer uses, your bonus income and regular pay are added together and   reported the same on your income tax return. If you overpay taxes, you receive a refund; if you underpay, you will owe more money when you file:

  1. The bonus can be included in the employee’s paycheck. The sum of the regular paycheck and the bonus payment are added together, and the standard withholding is calculated. The amount of tax already withheld from the regular income payment is subtracted, and the difference is withheld from the bonus.
  2. The employer can elect to withhold 25% federal income taxes from the bonus, and 35% for any bonuses over $1 million.
  3. The bonus can be included in the employee’s paycheck with no difference between the two types of income, and taxes are calculated based on the total amount of the pay and bonus combined.

It may seem like your bonus check is being taxed more money than you are used to – and even cause you to fear receiving a bonus. While you may see more money withheld from your bonus pay than you are used to seeing from your regular paycheck, keep in mind that it will all even out when you file your income taxes.

Exceptions for Hedge Fund and Investment Managers

Hedge fund managers and other investment managers who receive bonuses are considered to receive “carried interest.” So if an investment manager receives a bonus from investment gains, they are taxed at a top tax rate of 23.8% (long-term capital gains rate topping out at 20% plus 3.8% net investment income tax), which is generally lower than their marginal tax rates that the rest of their income is taxed on.


Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

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Categories: Income Tax

Highways, Taxes, and Passports……….Oh My!

Are you planning a trip outside of the United States? Well, make sure that you go down your checklist to make sure that you have everything in place before you head off on that trip: Itineraries, tickets and reservation confirmations, cell phones and chargers, back taxes and your passport.

Whoa, wait a minute, Bruce. What were the last two on the list you ask? Back taxes and your passport? Eh?

Well since you’re wondering, there is a definite connection.

As I mentioned in my last post, President Obama recently signed into law (December 4, 2015) the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or the “FAST Act.” The purpose of the bill was to provide long-term funding for transportation projects, including new highways. But also stuffed into the bill were a few new tax laws: one (which I talked about in my last post), a requirement that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) use private debt collection companies and another that requires the Department of State to deny a passport (or renewal of a passport) to a seriously delinquent taxpayer or revoke any passport previously issued to a seriously delinquent taxpayer. I will talk about the latter requirement in this post.

A Picture of Two United States Passports

So, to start with, the IRS has not been charged with revoking passports. That’s not within their scope of duties.The administration of passports has been and remains the responsibility of the Department of State.

Currently, the Secretary of State may refuse to issue or renew a passport for a number of reasons, including delinquent child support obligations. Procedurally, the names of noncustodial parents who owe more than $2,500 in back child support are submitted to the Department of State from an individual state; the Department will then deny the applicant a U.S. passport until the debt is satisfied. There was no similar rule which applied to delinquent federal taxes………………until now.

Under the new law, the Secretary of State is required to deny a passport or turn down the renewal of a passport to a seriously delinquent taxpayer. The Secretary of State is also permitted to revoke any passport previously issued to a seriously delinquent taxpayer. The new law also authorizes the Secretary of State to deny a passport if the passport applicant fails to provide a Social Security Number (SSN) or provides an incorrect or invalid SSN (but only if the wrong SSN was provided “willfully, intentionally, recklessly or negligently”). Exceptions are permitted for emergency or humanitarian circumstances, such as if there’s a need for the applicant to return to the United States.

So, what the heck is a “seriously delinquent debt” you ask? For purposes of the new law, a “seriously delinquent tax debt” is defined as “an unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax liability” when a debt greater than $50,000, including interest and penalties, has been assessed and a notice of lien or a notice of levy has been filed. The $50,000 threshold will be adjusted each year for inflation and cost of living – but overall, it’s a pretty low threshold. The limit is not a per year limit but a cumulative total: if you’ve ever owed money to the IRS, you know that with penalties and interest, the amount you owe can add up pretty quickly. The result? This has the potential to affect a lot of taxpayers. Fortunately though, exceptions will apply if the tax debt is subject to an Offer-in-Compromise (OIC) or an installment agreement or if collection action has been suspended because the taxpayer has requested a Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing or has made an application for innocent spouse relief. However, just how effective IRS will be in ensuring that taxpayers on the list aren’t subject to any of those exceptions remains to be seen.

Since the Department of State doesn’t have access to an individual’s tax records, how exactly will the Secretary know which taxpayers are subject to the new law? As with child support delinquencies, the names of the affected taxpayers have to be turned over. In this case, because of the way that privacy laws work, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue must certify to the Secretary of the Treasury a list of names that meet the criteria. The Secretary of the Treasury is then authorized to transmit that information to the Secretary of State. Any names on that list are ineligible for a passport. If your name is on the list, you will also be separately notified.

What if there’s a mistake? There is a provision for “reversal of certification” under the new law. The IRS is required to notify the Secretary of the Treasury who will then notify Secretary of State if the original certification was made in error or if the tax debt is fully satisfied or ceases to be “a seriously delinquent tax debt.” And because the potential for a lengthy reversal process exists, the law also provides a limited right to seek injunctive relief by a taxpayer who is wrongly certified.

Since disclosure and process are so important here, the new law insists that the IRS follow its normal examination and collection procedures and allow taxpayers the chance to exercise their full administrative rights. To alert taxpayers, there’s also a provision that additional notice of the potential loss of a passport is included in collections communications. So in theory, this is a good idea – but if you’ve ever received a letter from the IRS, you know that it’s very much full of notices. Most taxpayers can’t decipher all of the information and generally tend to ignore them. Hopefully, the additional notice requirements will be sufficient.

This isn’t the first time Congress has considered such a proposal. Two years ago, the House introduced a similar bill; it never got anywhere. But tucked away in the 1,301 page highway bill, it sailed through with virtually no amendments. The new law is effective immediately.

You can read the text of the law here (it downloads as a pdf). You’ll find the passport provision at Section 32101: Revocation Or Denial Of Passport In Case Of Certain Unpaid Taxes (it’s on page 1113).

If this new law will affect you, SOLID TAX SOLUTIONS can help. Just give us a call at
(845) 344 – 1040.


Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

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Categories: Tax Debt

Back Taxes and Fixing Highways……Oh, What a Mix!

Well, well, well. Talk about strange bedfellows.

Recently, (December 4, 2015), President Obama signed into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or the “FAST Act”. It provides long-term funding for transportation projects, including new highways, over a period of ten years. And as you would expect in a bill targeting highways and infrastructure, it also requires the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to use private debt collection companies.

Oh wait minute! You didn’t expect that? Well of course you didn’t. Because tax policy, in my opinion, has no business being jammed into an already extremely large bill of
1,301 pages mainly focused on highways
(here are all 1,301 pages of the FAST Act in case you are looking for a nice weekend read).
But that isn’t anything new for Congress. Is it?

But lo and behold there it is, at Section 32102 of the FAST Act: REFORM OF RULES
(I’ll save you a little
trouble; Section 32102 is on page 1,124 of 1,301. See the link in the prior paragraph).

So why “reform” you might ask? Under current law, the IRS already has the authority to use private debt collection companies to locate and contact taxpayers owing outstanding tax liabilities and to arrange payment of those taxes.
But historically, farming out collection hasn’t worked out to well for the IRS.

Under the new law, there’s little in the way of discretion: the IRS is required to use private debt collection companies to collect “inactive tax receivables.” Inactive tax receivables are defined as any tax debt that has been:

  • removed from the active inventory for lack of resources or inability to locate the taxpayer;
  • for which more than 1/3 of the applicable limitations period has lapsed and no IRS employee has been assigned to collect the receivable; or
  • for which, a receivable has been assigned for collection, but more than 365 days have passed without interaction with the taxpayer or a third-party for purposes of furthering the collection.

For purposes of the law, a tax receivable is any outstanding assessment which the IRS includes in potentially collectible inventory.

Debts which are not eligible for collections from private debt collection companies include those that are subject to a pending or active Offer-In-Compromise (OIC) or installment agreement as well as innocent spouse cases. Also excluded are cases currently under examination, litigation, criminal investigation, or levy and those subject to appeal as well as any taxpayer who has been identified as deceased, a minor under the age of 18, in a designated combat zone, or a victim of identity theft. The bill also allows for procedural discretion for matters involving taxpayers in presidentially declared disaster areas.

The language regarding disclosure is, of course, sufficiently vague. Private debt collection companies “may” – not must – identify themselves to taxpayers as IRS contractors, as well as the subject and reason for the contact. Disclosures are “permitted only in situations and under conditions approved by the Secretary.”

Categories: Tax Debt

Which Clothing Items are Exempt from Sales Tax in New York State?

I just finished writing an article today (December 2, 2015) on our Facebook page
( – or just click on the Facebook icon located in the right sidebar of this page) about certain qualifying items of clothing that are exempt from New York State sales tax and, for certain counties, exempt from local sales tax.

So basically, clothing, footwear, and items used to make or repair exempt clothing sold for less than $110 per item or pair are exempt from the New York State 4% sales tax, the local tax in localities (New York City and 8 other counties) that provide the exemption, and the ⅜% Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (MCTD) tax within exempt localities in the MCTD.

The following two charts list examples of exempt and taxable clothing, footwear, and items used to make or repair exempt clothing (Happy Holiday Shopping!).


Exempt Items
Aerobic clothing
Antique clothing (for wear)
Arm warmers
Athletic supporters
Athletic or sport uniforms or
clothing (but not equipment such as mitts,
helmets and pads)
Bathing caps
Bathing suits
Beach caps and coats
Belt buckles
Bibs (baby)
Boots (climbing, fishing, riding, ski,
Bridal gowns and veils (unless rented)
Coats and wraps
Corset laces
Diapers (adult – including disposable)
Diapers (children – including disposable)
Dress shields
Ear muffs
Eyeglasses (prescription – including
goggles, safety and sun glasses)
Formal clothing (unless rented)
Fur clothing
Garters/garter belts
Gloves (batting, bicycle, dress [unless
rented], garden, golf, ski, tennis, work)
Graduation caps and gowns (unless
Gym suits
Hand muffs
Hosiery (pantyhose, peds, etc.)
Jogging suits
Lab coats
Leg warmers
Pants (slacks, jeans, etc.)
Prom dress (unless rented)
Rain wear
Receiving blankets
Religious clothing
Rented uniforms (unless formal wear/
Riding pants
Scout uniforms
Shawls and wraps
Shoes (ballet, bicycle, bowling,
cleated, football, golf, jazz/dance, soccer,
track, etc.)
Shoe inserts
Shoe laces
Shoulder pads for dresses,
jackets, etc. (but not athletic or sport
protective pads)
Shower caps
Ski masks
Sports clothing and uniforms (but not
equipment such as mitts, helmets, and
Support hosiery
Sweat bands
Sweat suits
Tuxedos (unless rented)
Uniforms (occupational, military, scouting,
Wet and dry suits
Yard goods and notions1
Taxable Items
Antique clothing (collectible, not for wear)
Bobby pins
Crib blankets
Elastic ponytail holders
Goggles (nonprescription)
Hair bows
Hair clips
Handbags and purses
Headbands (sweatbands are exempt)
Helmets (sport, motorcycle, bicycle, etc.)
Ice skates
In-line skates
Key cases
Mitts (baseball fielder’s glove, hockey, etc.)
Party costumes
Personal flotation devices
Protective masks (athletic, sport, or
Roller skates
Safety glasses (nonprescription)
Sewing accessories (not an integral part of
clothing such as chalk, instruction books,
knitting needles, measuring tapes, needles,
patterns, scissors, pins, thimbles)
Shin guards and padding
Shoulder pads (football, hockey, etc.)
Sunglasses (nonprescription)
Watch bands
Yard goods and notions1


1 Note: Yard goods and notions (fabric, thread, yarn, buttons, snaps, hooks, zippers and like items) which are used or consumed to make or repair exempt clothing which become a
physical component part of the clothing are generally exempt.


Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

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Categories: Sales Tax