Trump Tax Bill Passes – Act Now: Top 10 Year-End Tax Planning Strategies

With President Trump having signed the GOP tax bill today, new tax planning opportunities are now available – but you must take advantage of many of them within the next nine days, before 2018. John O. McManus, founder of top-rated estate planning law firm McManus & Associates, makes the following time-sensitive recommendations in light of tax reform and the reduction of income tax rates:

  1. Accelerate your income tax deductions. Certain itemized deductions, i.e. income tax and real estate tax deductions, will be capped at $10,000. Pay your January estimated taxes in December; make your January mortgage payment in December; deduct any unreimbursed medical expenses; make your 2018 charitable donations in 2017. Some commentators suggest prepaying property taxes that have been assessed, such as the 2/1/18 and 5/1/18 installments – but it depends on the state. Also, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants has opined that CPAs should advise clients that payments in 2017 of state tax liabilities projected for 2018 are not deductible on their 2017 federal income tax returns. You should be mindful of the fact that these additional payments could cause you to be subject to the alternative minimum tax, which results in you losing the benefits of these state and local taxes.
  2. Prepay in 2017 any business entertainment expenses, such as sports tickets or green fees, and membership dues for clubs organized for business. The final tax reform bill disallows these expenses; it will continue to allow the deduction of 50% for food and beverages associated with a trade or business.
  3. Postpone/defer receipt of income until 2018 to take advantage of the lower tax rates.
  4. Review your potential capital expenditures. Under the final tax reform bill, until January 1, 2023, a business will be able to expense 100% of the cost of the non-real estate property as first-year additional depreciation (bonus depreciation). (There is the possibility that 100% expensing may be available for property placed into service after September 27, 2017). Starting in 2023, the allowance of 100% is phased out by 20% each year.
  5. While rates are higher in 2017, make gifts to charities and family foundations with appreciated assets. Because of the lower limitation of 20% of AGI for appreciated stock to a foundation, you should split your gift between this year and next.
  6. Consider gifting low-basis stock instead of selling to raise cash for gifting that could lead to gains.
  7. Fund a charitable remainder trust with concentrated positions in appreciated securities in order to diversify without adverse tax consequences associated with selling appreciated securities.
  8. Harvest your losses to offset capital gains.
  9. Establish and fund qualified plans. Consider making a gift of up to $5,500 to either a traditional or Roth IRA for your children or grandchildren who are not funding their own IRAs, but have enough earned income to report.
  10. Contribute up to $28,000 gift-tax free per married couple ($30,000 for gifts made in 2018) to a 529 Plan, which grows free of income tax. The final tax reform bill will allow withdrawals for private, elementary and secondary school expenses up to $10,000 per year.
  11. Make annual exclusion gifts to chosen loved ones of $28,000 per married couple ($30,000 for gifts made in 2018).
  12. Make gifts into trusts for children/grandchildren.
  13. Make unlimited gifts directly to educational institutions and medical facilities.
  14. Make distributions of income from trust accounts and estate accounts to lower the income tax liability. Estates and trusts are taxed at the highest income tax rate (and a lower threshold at which the 3.8% Medicare surtax applies). Therefore, it may make sense to distribute income to the beneficiaries to be taxed at the beneficiaries’ lower income tax rates.

“Trump’s new tax bill creates tax planning opportunities before year-end,” commented McManus. “Find time for last-minute tax planning as soon as you finish your last-minute holiday shopping.”

For trusted advice on tax and estate planning, call McManus & Associates at 908-898-0100. Learn more about the award-winning firm at www.mcmanuslegal.com.

Conference Call: Year-End Boot Camp

There are a limited number of days left in 2017. McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus recently discussed imperatives before year-end for the firm’s clients, in light of significant current events, concerns, and considerations, and amidst a changing tax and economic environment. Listen to the call below, as well as review the list of topics that are covered. 

 

1.Tax Reform –  How will potential estate tax repeal impact you?

2. Estate Freezes – You have exhausted much of your lifetime gift exemption; how can a GRAT aid in shifting wealth in a tax-effective manner?

3. Low Interest Rates and the Market – How does the continued low-interest rate environment support the transfer of investments to the next generation?

4. Leveraging Existing Trusts – How can you deploy previously gifted assets to participate in other estate tax minimization strategies?

5. Family Limited Partnerships – What actions should you be taking in light of the new Partnership Audit rules?

6. Estate Tax – Can estate tax be eliminated if you have taken full advantage of all wealth transfer opportunities but still have a sizable net worth?

7. Asset Protection – Are you confident in your protections against exposure to personal and professional liability?

8. Life Insurance – How does premium financing of life insurance by a family member or bank shift wealth and minimize tax?

9. Planning with Basis – Can you take advantage of upstream gifting to an older family member to minimize capital gains tax?

10. Compliance – Are you certain that you have met the IRS requirements for reporting gifts that you have made in 2016 and prior to 2016?

Conference Call: 10 Precautions for Protecting the Benefits of Your Private Foundation

Interested in protecting your estate and maximizing the impact of your charitable giving? Then establishing a Private Foundation is worth your consideration.

A Private Foundation provides the ability to retain control over the administration and investment of assets that have been recognized as important for future grant-making. By making gifts from your Foundation to charities in increments over time, you can extend your influence over the ongoing use of your gifts.

While there are many advantages of Private Foundations, there are also often-overlooked pitfalls (see below), which McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus recently discussed with clients, as part of the firm’s educational focus series. To listen, click here:

 

1. Using care when compensating family members through the foundation
2. Beware the penalties for self dealing
3. How to address office sharing with family offices
4. Promptly addressing misuse of foundation funds or income
5. Why you should avoid legally binding pledges
6. How to protect the founder’s mission
7. When to seek legal advice
8. How to exercise expenditure responsibly
9. Identifying any benefits from joint investments or co-ownership
10. Using caution with ticketing and fundraising events.

For guidance on the creation or management of a Private Foundation, contact McManus & Associates at 908-898-0100.

The New York Times Highlights John O. McManus as Trusted Philanthropic Advisor

This week, The New York Times published the story, “Want to Help? Do Your Research Before You Donate,” which highlights John O. McManus as a trusted philanthropic advisor. As noted by the article, John recently challenged the firm’s foundation clients to think beyond the borders of their typical charitable intent and to consider a new initiative: the needs of those suffering in the most recent natural disasters. From the article:

Dr. Granowitz was on a business trip when the hurricane struck. He watched on television the images of devastation. The day he returned home, he got a call from John O. McManus, a lawyer who advises Dr. Granowitz on philanthropic giving through his family foundation.

“He said, ‘What are you doing about charity relief in Puerto Rico?’” said Dr. Granowitz, who is chief medical officer for a major pharmaceutical corporation. “I said, ‘Frankly, John, nothing yet.’ He said, ‘Well, get off the stick and do something!’”

This client worked with McManus & Associates to combine his own philanthropic mission with the immediate need of the people of Puerto Rico. In the story, The Times follows the charitable gift from its source to the distribution warehouse in San Juan.

Two key pieces:

  • In times of need, please think beyond your typical charitable beneficiaries. From The New York Times article:

Mr. McManus said the focus of his clients’ charitable giving includes organizations affiliated with the nursing profession and those that serve older people.

  • Take time to research these gift initiatives to ensure that your new charitable investments provide the “hoped for” yield. Also from the story:

Communicating directly with donors, showing the effect their dollars have had, is more than just a way to verify that the recipients have used the money. “We’ve found that people want to meet someone with the organization, and they want to hear the stories, the so-called ‘mission moments’ which give examples of their work,” Mr. McManus said.

McManus & Associates would love to help you think through your family foundation’s strategy, or if you are now ready to establish a family foundation, we are here to guide you through its creation.

Most importantly, if we can assist you to refine your own relief effort in the recently devastated areas of Houston, Puerto Rico, Northern California, Mexico City, or the tragedies in Las Vegas, New York City, or the First Baptist Church in Texas, please contact McManus & Associates at 908-898-0100; we’re happy to make the process easier.

7 Immediate Steps to Protect Your Information from Being Misused due to the Equifax Data Breach

If you are one of the 143 million American consumers whose names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers and other personal identifying information was exposed in the data breach at Equifax, which stretched from mid-May through July of this year, here are seven immediate steps to stop the hackers from further victimizing you:

1.    Determine whether your information may have been exposed. Using a secure computer and an encrypted network connection, go to https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/ and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Doing so will reveal whether you are among those affected by the breach.

2.    Sign up for a year of free credit monitoring from TrustedID Premier, which will be offered by the above site after completing step one. All U.S. consumers – whether their information was obtained or not – can enroll. The deadline is November 21, 2017.

3.    Systematically review your existing bank, credit card and insurance accounts for fraudulent transactions. If any unrecognized charges appear, contact your bank, credit card company or insurance provider immediately to report the issue.

4.    Visit annualcreditreport.com to check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion for free. If you see any accounts or activity that you don’t recognize, identify theft could be the culprit, and you should go to IdentityTheft.gov to learn more about what to do.

5.    Consider placing a security freeze or a credit freeze on your report, which locks down your credit. According to the Federal Trade Commission, this “lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.” Note: Scammers can still make changes to your existing accounts, despite a security freeze.

6.    Alternatively, consider creating a fraud alert to flag creditors that you may be a victim of identity theft, and they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name is really you. Creditors will still be able to get a copy of your credit report as long as they take steps to verify your identity. This may prevent a scammer from opening new accounts in your name, but this alert is not likely to stop abuse of your existing accounts.

7.    File your taxes as soon as possible to avoid tax identity theft, which is when someone uses your Social Security number to steal your tax refund or to get a job. Being proactive and filing first (before a fraudster) eliminates this vulnerability.

For additional guidance related to management of your wealth, visit www.mcmanuslegal.com or call 908-898-0100.

McManus Weighs in on Self-Directed IRAs for NerdWallet

Andrea Coombes, whose stories on retirement, investing, taxes and other topics have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, San Francisco Chronicle and other outlets, recently wrote an article on an investing strategy for the bold-hearted. Her piece, “Self-Directed IRAs: An Option for Expert Investors,” sheds light on the benefits and risks of self-directed IRAs.

Coombes spoke with McManus & Associated Founding Principal John O. McManus for his take. From the story:

The two main reasons investors take on the risks of self-directed IRAs are higher expected returns and the opportunity for diversification.

“If you understand investments, particularly in certain segments, you can take advantage of higher yields and maybe less volatility,” says John O. McManus, who has invested in real estate and other assets through a self-directed IRA for about 15 years. McManus founded the estate-planning firm McManus & Associates in New York and New Providence, New Jersey.

His self-directed IRA also lets McManus invest in companies that aren’t publicly traded, which “a mutual fund will not allow you to do,” he says. But, he warns, “This is not a game for the unsophisticated.”

Head over to NerdWallet to learn more about the advantages and drawbacks of self-directed IRAs. For guidance on your overall wealth management strategy, contact McManus & Associates at 908-898-0100.

McManus & Associates Named Boutique Firm of the Year Finalist for Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners Awards

McManus & Associates, a top-rated estate planning law firm celebrating 25 years of success, today announced that it has been named a Boutique Firm of the Year Finalist by the international Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) for the organization’s 2017/18 Private Client Awards. STEP is a prestigious, invitation-only worldwide organization of estate planners who advise international families on their global interests.