7 Milestones In Life That Trigger Taxes: Birth, Marriage, Work, Homeownership and More




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


You were blissfully unaware of it, but taxes became a part of your life on the day you were born.

From that beginning as a spanking-new tax break for Mom and Dad, taxes have had an important role in all your major life events, from getting a job, saying “I do,” buying and selling homes, having kids of your own and even retiring.

In some cases, the involvement of the IRS is not such a good thing.

But in many ways, the tax code can be your best friend. You just need to know how it applies to your personal circumstances so you can take advantage of it. Read on to learn more about tax breaks for life’s big events.

Getting Your First Job

Uncle Sam gets a portion of your paycheck via payroll taxes. You do, however, have a bit of a say in how much comes out of your pay by adjusting your withholding.

If you have too much withheld, you’ll get a refund when you file. That’s not necessarily bad, but wouldn’t you rather have your own money year-round instead of giving the IRS an interest-free loan?

On the other hand, if you don’t have enough taken out, you could face a major tax bill, and possible underwithholding penalties, at filing time. Ask your boss for a new Form W-4 so you can run the numbers and adjust your withholding. You can change your withholding amount as often as you need to get your tax amount just right.

Your job likely offers several tax breaks. If your employer provides health care coverage, your medical insurance is a tax-free benefit to you. You’ll find out how much that’s worth on your W-2 earnings statement.

A flexible spending account, or FSA, also might be part of your job benefits. Here you can save pretax dollars to pay for medical care not covered by insurance.

You also want to take advantage of your workplace’s tax-deferred 401(k) retirement plan.

And if you move to take a job, even your first one, you can write off many of your relocation costs.

Getting Married

Uncle Sam probably wasn’t a guest at your wedding, but he becomes a big part of your life when you are a married taxpayer.

Most couples filed jointly because it generally produces the best tax result.

If both partners work, coordination of employer fringe benefits after marriage is key, says Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting.

Reassess your individual retirement accounts. Your new combined income could affect your retirement contributions. Income limits apply to tax-free Roth accounts and also to how much of a traditional IRA contribution you can deduct if you or your spouse put money into a workplace retirement plan.

Marriage also is one of the changes in family circumstances that allows you to revisit your tax-favored FSA. Newlyweds also should reevaluate how much each has withheld from their paychecks.

And what about your once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon? The tax code’s annual gift exclusion amount for 2017 is $14,000, the same as it was for 2016. It’s usually adjusted annually for inflation.

That means both a well-to-do mom and dad could give each newlywed $28,000 or a combined total of $56,000 to the wedded couple. That definitely would pay for an extravagant post-ceremony getaway.

Having Children

Congratulations on your new baby. Let Uncle Sam help cover some of your growing family’s costs.

A dependent youngster is an added exemption. Kids also allow parents to claim the child-tax credit as long as the youngster was 16 at the end of the tax year. Large families might be able to get money back from the IRS via the refundable additional child-tax credit.

If your family grew via an adoption, there’s a tax credit to cover some of the many costs of that process.

Working parents can use the child- and dependent-care credit to pay for some of the costs of caring for their kids while they are on the job.

And the tax code also offers several ways to save and pay for higher education costs, including 529 college savings plans, the Coverdell Education Savings Account and the American opportunity and lifetime learning tax credits.

Starting a Business

Once you decide it’s time to break out of the corporate cubicle and start a new business, the tax code can help.

Filing is relatively easy for sole proprietors. They report their income as part of their annual individual tax filing by attaching Schedule C to Form 1040. Schedule C also offers many ways for individual entrepreneurs to write off many of their business expenses.

Among the deductible small-business costs are home office expenses. Business use of a vehicle also is deductible, as are health insurance premiums and contributions to self-employed retirement plans. New businesses also are allowed to deduct thousands in certain startup costs.

If you have kids, putting them to work in your sole proprietorship could be a tax-smart move. Depending on how much you pay them, they might not owe income taxes and you can deduct the salary as a business expense.

But starting a business is not all about tax breaks. Sole proprietors also must pay self-employment taxes. These are the equivalent of the payroll taxes collected from wage-earning employees. As both the employer and employee, a sole proprietor has to pay the boss and worker components of Social Security and Medicare taxes.

And running your own business usually means you must file more tax forms, including estimated tax payments four times a year.

Buying a Home

Your home is probably your biggest investment. Homeownership also provides many tax breaks.

Interest paid on a primary residence mortgage up to $1 million is deductible as an itemized expense. If you take out a home equity loan or line of credit, interest on those loans up to $100,000 also is deductible. Even the interest on a second home is tax-deductible.

Property tax you pay on your main house — and any other residences you own — also is deductible.

The tax benefit of a home is even better when you sell it. Up to $250,000 in sales gain ($500,000 for married joint filers) on your home is tax-free, as long as you owned the property for two years and lived in it for two of the five years before the sale.

Many home improvements, such as structural additions, kitchen modernization and landscaping, can increase the basis in your home. This is essentially your investment in the home. A larger basis means less profit that might be taxable.

And some home upgrades, such as installing solar energy systems, also will get you an immediate tax credit to help offset the high cost of this type of improvement.

Dealing with Divorce

As with marriage, your filing status is determined on the last day of the tax year. If your divorce is final on Dec. 31, then you are considered unmarried for the full year.

One of the stickiest divorce issues is child custody. The parent who has physical custody of the children for most of the year usually gets to claim them as dependents. That means that parent gets the exemption, child-tax credit and child-care tax credit savings.

One spouse typically is granted sole ownership of the family home. This could, however, pose a problem for the solo owner. When the lone ex sells the property, the amount of profit exempt from capital gains is just $250,000 versus the $500,000 that married filing jointly homeowners can exclude. Because of that, some couples sell the house before they divorce and split the tax-free profits.

Similarly, take into account the cash the recipient partner will net after taxes when dividing other marital assets.

And note that alimony has tax implications for both ex-spouses. It is taxable income to the recipient and can be deducted by the paying ex. Child support, however, offers no tax breaks to the paying ex, as it is not deductible. However, to the recipient, it isn’t taxable.


Your golden years will be more enjoyable if you take advantage of the many tax breaks afforded by retirement plans.

A traditional IRA contribution could produce a tax deduction when you file your tax return. Remember, though, that you’ll have to pay taxes on this account when you start taking out money in retirement.

With a Roth IRA, you put in already-taxed money, but that means eventual distributions from a Roth are tax-free. The biggest drawback to a Roth is that you can’t open or contribute to a Roth if you make a lot of money. However, regardless of your income, you can convert a traditional IRA to a Roth.

Workplace retirement plans, usually known as 401(k)s or Roth 401(k)s, offer similar retirement saving options, but with a nice bonus. Many employers match some of your plan contributions, which helps your retirement savings grow more quickly.

Social Security benefits generally are tax-free as long as you don’t have a lot of other income.

And if you do have to file a tax return when you’re older, you can claim a larger standard deduction amount simply because you’re age 65 or older.

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.

Getting Divorced: FAQs Part 2

Scarsdale CPA Paul Herman has all the answers to your personal finance questions! Continuing our “Getting Divorced: FAQs Part 1” discussion, the following are more frequently asked questions and answers regarding divorce and your finances.:
▼ During a divorce, what are the legal issues that must be handled?

Make an agreement with your spouse to plan for the legal issues that will be dealt with in the future, such as division of property, alimony or support payments and child custody. Divorce FAQS from Scarsdale Accountant


The amount of time and money that will be spent trying to reach a legal solution will be lessened dramatically if this can be done, either with the help of lawyers or court. The following are general tips to face the legal aspects of divorce:

  • If there are important issues with regards to child custody, alimony or assets, find your own attorney.
  • Use referrals from other professionals, trusted friends or the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers to find a good matrimonial lawyer.
  • Verify that the agreement of divorce approaches all topics such as insurance coverage, life health and auto.
  • On IRA accounts, life insurance policies, pension plans, 401(k) plans, and other retirement accounts make sure to modify the beneficiaries.
  • Update your will.
▼ How does the division of property in a divorce work?

Each state has their own laws regarding the division of property between ex-spouses. When it comes to applying those laws, matrimonial judges have a great amount of flexibility.

Whether or not an attorney represents you, you should make sure to have done the following:

  • Learn how the laws of your state function with respect to property division.
  • Make sure to have the papers to confirm that property owned separately during the marriage has been kept separate.
  • Be prepared to report any non-financial contributions to the marriage that you have made – such as any non-financial contributions to his/her financial success or spousal support while he/she went to school.
  • Be willing to report any need for alimony or child support.

Consider having the divorce agreement supply you with funds if you have not worked outside of the home during the marriage.

▼ With a divorce, what are the tax implications?

Upon completion of a divorce, individual tax returns will be filed. There are a few areas that may result in tax consequences. The following are the most common:

  • Child Support
    It is not taxable to the recipient and is not deductible by the payer. If it is specially designated as child support in a divorce agreement or lessened by the occurrence of a contingency relative to the child, meaning a child reaches a specified age, it is considered as a payment.
  • Alimony
    It is taxable to the recipient and deductible by the payers. It is known as a payment in accordance with a divorce agreement other than child support or when allocated in the decree as something other than alimony. In a separation agreement, similar treatment is in accordance with separate maintenance payments. Payments may not end upon death of the recipient and may not be front-loaded.
  • Property Settlements
    When in accordance with the divorce or separation, they are not taxable. In the event of transfers of assets amongst spouses, they do not become taxable income, gains, loses, or deductions. The recipient spouse gets the cost basis of the property. Your spouse may provide you with an equal share of the property based on a fair market value, but be careful with the lower basis. In the end, it can produce a taxable gain at the asset’s sale.
 When retirement plans or IRAs are divided in a divorce, what happens?

If in accordance with the qualified domestic relations order or other order of the court in the case of an IRA, these plans are separated as non-taxable. However, this is the case only if the assets stay in the retirement account or IRA. Once the funds are allocated, they will be taxed to the recipient. The payer does not get the benefit of a deduction and the recipient does not have taxable income when divided.

 Is the cost of getting a divorce a deduction?

Typically no, although specific fees paid for income or estate tax advice due to the divorce may be deductible. The fees used to decide the alimony amount or to collect the alimony may be deducted. These would be subject to the 2% limitation under the miscellaneous item deductions.

▼ Am I entitled to deduct the dependency exemption of a child after divorce?

Typically, the custodial parent has the right to the deduction. This is normally discussed in divorce agreement negotiations. If agreed to in writing, the non-custodial parent may have the deduction.

Scarsdale accountant Paul Herman is here to help you with all your personal finance needs. Please contact us for all inquiries and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Armonk NY, Bedford Hills NY, Harrison NY, Katonah NY, Scarsdale NY, Purchase NY, Rye NY, Greenwich CT and beyond.

Getting Divorced: FAQs Part 1

Scarsdale CPA Paul Herman has all the answers to your personal finance questions! While nobody likes to think they will go through one in their lifetimes, the fact is that 40-50% of all marriages end up in divorce. The best way to arm yourself in case a divorce ever does happen to you is by getting to know the following frequently asked questions and answers:
▼ Is it possible to financially prepare for divorce?

A plan for the termination of the financial partnership of the marriage is crucial if you are thinking of divorce. All financial assets and liabilities that have been acquired during the years of marriage will need to be divided. If children play a role, the support that will be paid to the custodial parent in the future should be taken into account.

The time put into organizing this will be worth it in the long run. The following are a few steps to consider:

  • Prepare an inventory of your financial situation that will help you in two ways:
    1. It will aid in determining how debts accumulated during the marriage will be paid off. (It is best to try and get all the joint debt (credit card debt) paid off before the divorce. To come to an agreement as to the method for paying them off, it is smart to make a list of the debts. )
    2. It will give you an introductory look at the information needed to divide the property.
  • Prepare a list of all assets, whether joint or separate, that includes:
    • Your residence(s)
    • The value of any brokerage accounts
    • Your valuable antiques, jewelry, luxury items, collections, and furnishings
    • The current balance in all bank accounts
    • Your autos
    • The value of investments, including any IRAs
  • Locate copies of the last two or three years’ tax returns. These will be beneficial later.
  • Know the exact quantity of salary and miscellaneous income brought home by your spouse and you.
  • Obtain all papers regarding insurance, life, health, pension, and other retirement benefits.
  • Make a list of debts that are owed both separately or jointly, including mortgage, credit card debt, auto loans and other liabilities.
▼ How should credit card accounts be dealt with during a divorce?

As soon as you know you are going to be getting a divorce, immediately cancel all joint accounts.

Regardless of who accumulated the bill, creditors can legally try to collect payment from either party on the joint credit card or other credit account. You will be responsible for payment as long as your name appears on the joint accounts.

The agreement that is reached during the divorce may state who must pay the bills. From the creditor’s point of view, both your spouse and you are responsible as long as the joint account stays open.

Divorce FAQs from Scarsdale Tax Preparers

Get to know these FAQs to prepare yourself in the case of a divorce.

The creditor will attempt to receive payment from who they think are most likely to pay while reporting late payments to the credit bureaus in both names. Due to the irresponsibility of the co-signer, your credit history could be harmed.

You may be required to pay the remaining balance in full upon closure of the account. If this is the case, ask the creditor to distribute the outstanding balance to separate accounts.

 What can I do when my current or former spouse’s bad credit affects me?

It is possible to separate yourself from your spouse on your credit report, if the spouse’s credit is hurting yours. If you can prove that he/she opened the shared accounts prior to marriage and that he/she pays the bills, you might succeed in convincing the creditor that the damaging information is relevant to your spouse and not you.

It may take persistence to demonstrate that the credit history in question doesn’t reflect your own.

▼ After a divorce, what happens to my credit history?

If the name on your account changes, lenders may appraise the application and credit line to decide if your qualifications meet the credit standards. You may be asked to reapply.

To avoid inconvenience, maintain credit in your own name. Preserving your own, separate, credit history makes things easier in the future. In an emergency, if you need credit, it will be available.

Avoid using your spouse’s name – i.e. , Mrs. Peter Johnson – for purpose of credit.

Get an update on your credit report. Be sure that your name, as well as your spouse’s, is being reported correctly. If you would like to use your spouse’s credit history to your benefit, simply write a letter to the credit agency and request that both names be put on the account.

Find out if there is any incomplete or inaccurate data in your account. Send the credit bureau a letter asking them to correct this information. They need to confirm receipt within a normal time period and inform you when the mistake is fixed.

Improving your own credit history in your name should be simple if you have been sharing accounts with your spouse. Make a call to a major credit bureau and ask for copies of your account information. Get in touch with the issuers of the cards with whom you share accounts with your spouse and request to have your name on the account as well.

Scarsdale accountant Paul Herman is here to help you with all your personal finance needs. Please contact us for all inquiries and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Mt. Kisco NY, Larchmont NY, Scarsdale NY, Rye Brook NY, Pound Ridge NY, Stamford CT and beyond.

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.