Monthly Archives: October 2016

Plan would give retirement savers more time

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By Bankrate

give retirement savers more time

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., proposes to change some aspects of the way people must take retirement withdrawals from tax-deferred accounts. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

I admit it. I’m thinking about retirement. Of course, I’ve been thinking about retirement since I was 30.

Back then, my retirement thoughts were (mostly) about socking away money for my post-career years. Now they’re about how to take that money out so that I can enjoy the type of retirement I want.

The tax code makes some withdrawal decisions for retirement savers. If you have a traditional IRA or other tax-deferred account like a 401(k) workplace plan, you must take what are known as required minimum distributions once you hit age 70 1/2.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., thinks that age trigger needs to be changed.

RMD details

Required minimum distributions, or RMDs in Internal Revenue Service acronym-speak, is the amount you must take out of tax-deferred retirement accounts each year once you hit that septuagenarian half-birthday.

The reason is obvious. Uncle Sam is tired of waiting to collect taxes on all that retirement money that’s been sitting untouched, in many cases for decades.

The specific withdrawal amounts are a percentage of your total tax-deferred retirement account balances, based on your age.

What if you don’t need or want to touch your traditional IRA or similar account when you get into your 70s? Tough.

Fail to take your annual RMD and you’ll be hit with a penalty that’s 50% of what you should have withdrawn.

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Waiting longer on RMDs

Wyden, who is the ranking Democrat on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, wants to push back the RMD age.

In a proposal that Wyden is calling the Retirement Improvements and Savings Enhancements, or RISE, Act, he proposes bumping up the RMD age to 71 in 2018.

The age mandating retirement account distributions then would be increased to 72 in 2023, 73 in 2028 and, thereafter, would be adjusted based on actuarial estimates of increases in life expectancy.

“The ‘required minimum distribution’ age of 70.5 years has remained unchanged since the early 1960s,” says Wyden. Since then, life expectancy has risen, but the target withdrawal age for retirement accounts has not moved. Wyden’s proposal essentially is a life-expectancy inflation adjustment.

No RMDs for smaller amounts

Wyden also thinks it’s unfair to force savers to deplete their retirement savings within a certain time frame when they don’t have huge sums in their tax-deferred accounts.

The RISE Act would exempt owners of traditional IRAs and similar RMD-affected accounts from the mandatory withdrawal rules if balances in their retirement plans come to less than $150,000.

This flexibility, says Wyden, will let owners of small retirement accounts use that money as they need during their older years.

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Tell Wyden what you think

Wyden acknowledges that some already are questioning some of his proposals.

For example, there is concern from plan managers that the $150,000 exemption level would be hard to administer.

So Wyden is seeking public input on this and other portions of the RISE Act.

The measure, he notes, is not a formal piece of legislation (yet). Rather, it’s a discussion draft. It is being circulated specifically to get reaction, review and comment. “The responses will be reviewed and, if appropriate, incorporated into legislation,” says Wyden.

You can email your thoughts on the RISE Act to Retirement_Savings@finance.senate.gov. If you prefer snail mail, address your thoughts to Wyden at Senate Committee on Finance, 219 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510.

Bankrate also would like to hear from you on not only the RISE proposal discussed here, but other retirement savings issues. Do you find tax laws help you sock away cash for your golden years? Or are the retirement account tax rules too complicated or restrictive?

Keep up with federal and state tax news, as well as find filing tips, calculators and more at Bankrate’s Tax Center.

Paul S. Herman CPA, a tax expert for individuals and businesses, is the founder of Herman & Company, CPA’s PC in White Plains, New York.  He provides guidance and strategies to improve clients’ financial well-being.

Clinton, Trump Restate Tax Policies In Final Debate

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

By Tax-News presidential-1311753_960_720

On October 19th, in their third and final debate before the US election, Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton restated their widely different tax policies, without providing any new detail.

In reply to a question on tax policy, Clinton plugged her policies to provide the funds to grow the economy and “support middle class families,” by having “the wealthy pay their fair share.” She repeated, however, that she would “not raise taxes on anyone making $250,000 or less [and] not add a penny to the [federal] debt.”

By contrast, she said, Trump’s plan “advocates for the largest tax cuts we’ve ever seen. … His whole plan is to give the biggest tax breaks ever to the wealthy and to corporations, adding $20 trillion to our debt. … It truly will be trickle-down economics on steroids. … We tried that. It has not worked.”

Trump countered that her plan “to raise taxes is a disaster. … We’re going to cut taxes massively. We’ll cut business taxes massively. They’re going to start hiring people. We’re going to bring the $2.5 trillion [in deferred US multinational foreign earnings] that’s offshore back into the country. We’re going to start the [economic growth] engine rolling again.”

He also pointed out that he would re-negotiate the US’s “horrible” existing trade agreements, under which “jobs are being sucked out of our economy.” He called the North American Free Trade Agreement “one of the worst deals ever. …Our jobs have fled to Mexico.” He again accused Clinton (which she strenuously denied) of wanting to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty.

Protecting taxpayer confidentiality

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

By Bankrate

Protecting taxpayer confidentiality

Lawyers are held to higher standards than CPAs. Above, actor Bob Odenkirk, who stars as Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul, promised confidentiality to his client Walter White in Breaking Bad. Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Fans of television’s favorite ethically challenged criminal lawyer Saul Goodman know that despite his many questionable actions, he definitely respects attorney-client privilege. He told Breaking Bad’s meth-making kingpin Walter White upon their first encounter, “Put a dollar in my pocket” to become a client and ensure that anything said between the two remained confidential.

Does the same apply to accountants? The question came up after the New York Times talked with Donald Trump’s apparently chatty former tax accountant.

Follow the (tax) code

Technically, accountants do not have the same legal constrictions, or protections depending on your point of view, as lawyers when it comes to client privacy.

But the Internal Revenue Code specifically says it is illegal to disclose a taxpayer’s information without that filer’s consent.

Section 7216 of the code says that as a general rule, any person who is “in the business of preparing, or providing services in connection with the preparation of, returns of the tax” is prohibited from “knowingly or recklessly” disclosing “any information furnished to him for, or in connection with, the preparation of any such return.”

Costly penalties for violations

That code section then notes that if a tax professional uses such taxpayer information “for any purpose other than to prepare, or assist in preparing, any such return,” that person has committed a federal misdemeanor and could, upon conviction, be fined as much as $1,000 or a receive a jail term of up to 1 year or both, plus court costs.

In addition to the criminal sanctions for improper disclosure of a person’s tax info cited in Section 7216, the U.S. Code also covers civil treatment of such releases in section 6713.

Under this section, improper use of tax info could bring a penalty of $250 for each such disclosure, with a maximum penalty per year of $10,000.

Specific CPA guidance

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, or AICPA, is the primary member association for the accounting profession. As such, it sets ethical standards for its members.

When asked about its member CPAs’ nondisclosure responsibilities to clients, the AICPA cites the U.S. code sections that address this issue.

The AICPA also has established its own ethical standards for the profession.

Its code of professional conduct specifically states that “a member in public practice shall not disclose any confidential client information without the specific consent of the client.”

Keep your mouth shut

Of course, such a stance does not, notes the AICPA, affect in any way an accountant’s obligation to comply with a validly issued and enforceable subpoena or applicable laws and government regulations.

But basically, when you share your tax information with an accountant and it’s all above board, you should expect that information to remain between just you and your accountant.

Or, as Amit Chandel, a CPA in Brea, California, told me: “We may not have attorney client privilege, but we have ethical standards to uphold and a fiduciary duty to keep our mouth shut most off the time.”

Are you comfortable sharing your tax details with your tax pro? Would you consider switching your tax preparation tasks to an attorney to get tighter client confidentiality coverage?

Paul S. Herman CPA, a tax expert for individuals and businesses, is the founder of Herman & Company, CPA’s PC in White Plains, New York.  He provides guidance and strategies to improve clients’ financial well-being.

Any U.S. tax advice contained in the body of this website is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.