Forbes Publishes Contributor Piece by John O. McManus, “Year-End Tax Planning Strategies Due To Trump’s Election”

John O. McManus, founder of McManus & Associates, penned the article below, which was published by Forbes and Next Avenue:

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Personal Finance

Year-End Tax Planning Strategies Due To Trump’s Election

By John O. McManus, Next Avenue Contributor 

12/19/2016

The election of Donald Trump, in addition to Republican control of the House and Senate, bodes well for significant tax reform during early 2017. For some people, this can present major opportunities for reducing taxes for 2016 by making some key year-end tax planning moves.

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DailyFinance Shares How McManus Helped Clients Avoid Estate Planning Nightmares

Daily FinanceEstate planning nightmares don’t just exist in dreams. Writing for DailyFinance, Reporter Michele Lerner relays several real-life horror stories that arose—and certainly have been replicated in similar forms far and wide—due to families neglecting to have detailed conversations about inheritance plans. “According to the 2014 Intra-Family Generational Finance Study by Fidelity Investments,” Lerner writes, “64 percent of parents older than 55 who have at least $100,000 in investable assets and their adult children over 30 aren’t on the same page about when the right time is to have conversations about estate planning.”

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McManus Interviewed by Best-Selling Author Gail Liberman for “Managing Your Fortune” Column

palm beach daily newsGail Liberman—personal finance columnist for Dow Jones Retirement Weekly and the Palm Beach Daily News, contributing editor for Financial Advisor magazine, and best-selling author (her latest book is “Quick Steps to Financial Stability” – Que/​Penguin)—recently chatted with John O. McManus, founding principal of McManus & Associates and a top AV-rated tax and estate planning attorney, for her column “Managing Your Fortune.” As part of her regular spot for the Palm Beach Daily News, Liberman’s piece “Need a revocable living trust?” explores the commonly-heard recommendation from financial gurus to implement one of these planning vehicles.

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Conference Call: “Top 10 Signposts to Guide Planning for Estates under $10MM”

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) delivered transfer tax certainty, large indexed transfer tax exemptions, and portability. Taking into account new norms, McManus & Associates, an estate planning law firm based in the Tri-State Area, today released a new installment in its free Educational Focus Series, “Top 10 Signposts to Guide Planning for Estates under $10MM.” During a conference call for clients, the firm’s Founding Principal and top AV-rated Attorney John O. McManus shed light on estate planning strategies that should be considered today following recent changes to federal and state laws.

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McManus Makes Back-to-Back Appearances in Two-Day Tax Series from Forbes

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Alexandra Talty

Alexandra Talty, contributor for Forbes who covers personal finance and travel, recently spoke with McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus for tax tips that she could pass along to her readers. McManus’ thoughts appeared back-to-back in Talty’s two-day series that highlights “some shocking employee deductions as well as hitting some basics for first-time tax filers.”

Talty’s first article, “Surprising Tax Reimbursements for Employees,” addresses the importance of crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s come tax season. As emphasized by McManus in the story:

“Document, document, document with details, details, details. The IRS is looking at it as a smell test,” says John O. McManus, founding principal of McManus & Associates. “The longer you take to respond back to them [if you are audited], the more they think you are contriving or making it up. You have to be very reactive when they are calling on things.  This demonstrates that you are always buttoned up.”

McManus advises, “Every year, presume you will be audited, so keep everything.”

Today’s article, Talty’s second day of tax coverage, focused on those “lucky enough to be self-employed or property owners.” Her piece, “Freelancing Tax Write-Offs You Might Be Missing,” offers interesting tips to bear in mind for tax day, such as how to write off cruises and conferences.

An educational vacation is a great way to kill two birds with one stone – but how can you be sure you’re covered if the IRS comes knocking? From McManus:

 “I do believe it is essential to keep a copy of the agenda,” advises John O. McManus, founding principal of McManus & Associates. “Then the IRS can connect that it makes sense for you to be on the cruise for that purpose or that you needed to attended the seminar.”

Tax write-offs that help you see the world? Just say, “bon voyage,” pack your bags and go!

To read more helpful hints for self-employed Americans, check out Talty’s story in full here. And for tax planning help that transcends April 15th, give McManus & Associates a call at 908-898-0100.

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Conference Call: “Top 10 Estate Planning Considerations to Complete Before Year-End”

Yesterday, McManus & Associates held a client conference call reviewing several immediate strategies that clients should consider employing before year-end. With the proposed tax reforms listed in President Obama’s budget, certain planning strategies are in the crosshairs and may not be around for long. Although legislation next year could be made retroactive to January 1, 2014, if you act before the end of 2013 such changes will not affect your planning. Get inside the castle walls now.

During the half-hour call, the firm shares effective strategies and highlights maintenance items required to ensure one’s family wealth remains protected. Below are the 10 questions that will be answered by listening to the recording.

LISTEN HERE: “Top 10 Considerations for Estate Planning with Life Insurance”

  1. Laws could change with new revenue debates. Have you made lifetime gifts in trust? Created a grantor trust?
  2. Have you made sure to operate your family LLC/Limited partnership as a legitimate business? What should you do before year-end?
  3. What should you give away? Are you planning to make annual exclusion gifts, gift appreciated securities etc? Have you prepared Crummey notices?
  4. Should you create lifetime trusts for your children? Have you given your trustees a limited power of appointment?
  5. What can you prepay? What should you prepay? Home, deductibles, medical expenses, major year-end purchases?
  6. Have you crossed any major milestones this year? Do you have children who turned 18 this year? Do the fiduciaries and guardians named in your documents still reflect your current wishes? Are your powers of attorney up to date?
  7. Have you made contributions to your family foundation and/or donated to charity?
  8. Are you over 70 ½? How to use Required Minimum Distribution to your advantage.
  9. Create GRATs or QPRTs. Given the current interest rates what should you consider?
  10. How should you consider harvesting capital gains, timing long-term losses?

Give us a call at 908-898-0100. We can help you identify which strategies you should implement now before the calendar rolls over to 2014.

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Conference Call: Top 10 Considerations for Estate Planning with Life Insurance

Whether as a wealth replacement strategy combined with philanthropic giving or as a safeguard to cover expenses and taxes, use of life insurance in your estate plan can provide significant protection to your loved ones. This useful planning tool has several unique benefits, which should be considered in every wealth transfer plan. John O. McManus, founding principal of McManus & Associates, recently held a conference call with clients to review the most important considerations when planning with Life Insurance.

LISTEN HERE: “Top 10 Considerations for Estate Planning with Life Insurance”

Find answers to the questions below and more by listening to the free recording.

1. If a life insurance policy is owned by a trust, what is the ongoing maintenance required for the strategy to succeed most effectively?
2. What are Cristofani beneficiaries and how can they make a life insurance trust even more gift tax efficient?
3. How can insurance be utilized to facilitate a business succession plan?
4. Term, whole life, 2nd to die, from a layman’s standpoint, what are the unique benefits of each?
5. How can ownership and beneficiary designations for a life insurance policy affect the taxable assets of the estate?
6. How do non-citizens avoid qualified domestic trust requirements with a life insurance trust?
7. What are some strategies to avoid the 3-year look back period when existing insurance is transferred to a trust?
8. Annual exemption gifts can fund a life insurance trust gift tax free, but what about generation skipping tax issues? How is the trust affected?
9. When the terms of an irrevocable trust do not reflect the wishes of the parties, what options are available?
10. How to use life insurance as a wealth replacement strategy with charitable giving.

McManus & Associates would be happy to discuss how these strategies apply to you and yours. Give us a call at (908) 898-0100.

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CPA Practice Advisor: “Estate planning after the fiscal cliff: Top 10 Steps”

CPA Practice Advisor today published an article utilizing the guidance that McManus & Associates recently offered to clients via a conference call on next steps in light of the fiscal cliff deal. A quote from the firm’s founding Principal John O. McManus in the piece, titled “Estate planning after the fiscal cliff: Top 10 Steps”:

Many Americans will experience significant income tax increases as a result of the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal, but there is good news with respect to the estate tax. The newly established permanent estate tax gives wealth planners certainty that has been lacking for more than a decade – but what if Connecticut’s law encourages other states to also create a gift tax even lower than the federal exemption amount? The fact that they could do it retroactively is a real concern.

The story goes on to say:

The firm has offered the following tips:

Post-Fiscal Cliff Estate Planning: Top 10 Questions Answered in Light of the Deal

1.  The new tax rates and exemption amounts are set. What can you expect to pay for estates over $5.25MM?

a. Federal estate tax rate moves up from 35% to 40% with the exemption amount now at $5.25MM, which will be adjusted annually for inflation.
b. The Lifetime Gift Exemption amount (the total that can be given during one’s lifetime, separate from the much smaller Annual Exemption gifts) has been unified with the Estate Tax Exemption amount at $5.25MM.
c. For income tax purposes, individuals earning in excess of $400K and couples filing jointly earning in excess of $450K will be taxed at 39.6%, which does not include the new 3.8% tax on investment income, capital gains and dividends that was enacted to fund Obamacare.
d. Anyone earning less than $400K will continue at the ‘Bush era’ tax rates. However, the payroll tax for Social Security has been restored from 4% to 6% so paychecks will be smaller.
e. Two limits on tax exemptions and deductions will be reinstated: Personal Exemption Phase-out will be set at $250K, and the Itemized Deduction Limitation kicks in at $300K.

2. What are the estate-tax “traps” to be wary of?

a. The exemption amounts for state estate taxes are much lower than the federal exemption amount. While no federal estate tax will be paid on an estate up to $5.25MM, a large state estate tax liability could be due in certain states.
b. For anyone owning Real Property in a state that is outside of one’s primary residence, one’s heirs will have to endure the arduous and often expensive process of out of state probate, or ancillary probate in addition to probate in one’s state of primary residence. Employing a Revocable Living Trust can eliminate the need to undertake probate in multiple states.

3. Lifetime gifts in excess of $2MM in CT are subject to tax; is this a warning for similar gift limitations in other states?

a. When the federal lifetime gift exemption amount jumped to $5MM, the state of Connecticut passed legislation to tax any gifts made over $2MM.
b. With the precedent set and with states looking for additional income, it is possible that others states will follow. Additionally, such laws can be made retroactive.

4. With the new permanency in the estate tax exemption, which taxpayers should make gifts over $5.25MM and pay gift tax (a strategy widely used for many prior generations)?

a. With some certainty that estate tax will not evaporate and the $5.25MM exemption amount will remain unchanged, individuals will now employ taxable gifts again.
b. Taxpayers whose net worth continues to grow in excess of $5.25MM will look to transfer assets and pay the gift tax.
c. Gifts made during one’s lifetime will enjoy a more favorable tax treatment, will suffer less shrinkage due to taxes, will avoid state estate taxes and will enjoy future growth free of any state and gift tax.

5. For estates below $5.25MM, who should employ trusts in their wills?

a. Trusts provide a greater level of asset protection, so one can be assured that, in the event of reversals in life including divorce (the single largest creditor attack on wealthy families), trust assets will be protected and can continue to grow tax-free and provide for heirs.
b. Flexibility in trusts even allows access to trust assets via a power to appoint and to remove trustees. Trusts protect the value and future growth of any discounted assets and can employ generation skipping tax free.
c. Trusts also allow for the minimization of state estate taxes.

6. What is meant by “spousal portability” and “unification” of the exemption amounts? Does this eliminate the need for certain planning?

a. Portability allows the surviving spouse to utilize any remaining portion of their deceased spouse’s Federal Estate Tax exemption amount. To elect portability, the executor handling the estate of the spouse who died must file an estate tax return (Internal Revenue Service Form 706), even if no tax is due. This return is due nine months after death.
b. Unification: The federal exemption amount for estate tax and lifetime gifting has been unified. That means both exemption amounts will be set at $5.25MM this year and adjust annually for inflation.
c. For tax efficiency purposes, married couples now enjoy the ability to pass to loved ones $10.5MM free of estate tax.

7. The Generation Skipping Tax Exemption amount is also set at $5.25MM; who should take advantage of it?

a. Assets in trust not used by loved ones can skip to the next generation tax-free. Such a skip would normally constitute a generation-skipping tax event, which imposes a 40% tax.
b. The GST exemption employed in trust can avoid taxes for transferees for 100 years or more, including all the growth in the portfolio.
c. The most widespread use of the GST exemption is for wealthy individuals whose children already enjoy enough assets, will be earning enough assets, or will inherit enough assets to assure the greatest likelihood the trust assets will not be spent during the children’s lifetimes.

8. Looking forward to March 2013 and the “debt ceiling” debates, what detrimental effect could such negotiations have on state estate taxes?

a. Regarding revenue to individual states, the high federal estate tax exemption amount will ultimately reduce the states’ future estate tax revenue due to lifetime gifts.
b. Previously, there was a state “pick-up” estate tax that allowed states to collect estate tax from the federal government without additionally charging the estate of the decedent. This was accomplished by giving taxpayers a dollar-for-dollar credit for any state estate taxes paid. The credit expired, which caused most pick-up taxes to automatically expire.
c.  It is possible that states will construct new methods to make up for budget shortfalls, particularly if the debt ceiling debates carry on.

9. What are the trust and non-trust estate planning strategies that married and single persons should undertake in 2013?

a. Foundations: With increased taxes, gifts to charity have a greater tax-deductible value. Gifts to foundations allow full deduction in the year of the gift, whereas transfers out of foundation can be as small as 5% on an annual basis, allowing assets in the foundation to continue to grow.
b. Charitable trust: These enable one to make gifts to charity and receive immediate deductions. One can continue to receive income from the charitable gift for a period of time. Gifts can also be made where the charity gets a distribution each year and the loved ones receive the remainder.
c. Family mission planning: The family mission and preparing heirs for inheritances will be a critical to ensure that conflict is minimized and harmony maximized, to ensure motivation to grow the assets and to support charitable endeavors.

10. What critical gift tax consequences must be avoided for gifts made in 2012? When does the statute of limitations clock begin?

a. The final step to ensure the completion of any gift you have made to a trust is the timely filing of a gift tax return. Avoid professionals who do not have expertise in making significant gifts into trust.
b. Filing of a complete return starts the 3-year clock with the federal government. Once the statute of limitations has run, the IRS can no longer audit the return.
c. If a return is prepared but does not meet the specific adequate disclosure requirement, the statute of limitation does not begin to run.

To listen to the full recording of the conference call upon which the CPA Practice Advisor article is based click here.

The piece closes with another quote from McManus:

Several valuable opportunities emerged as part of the ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations that pleasantly surprised the estate planning community, but we’re not completely out of the woods – the ‘debt ceiling’ debates, for example, are just around the corner. Keeping track of how the ever-evolving legal landscape impacts wealth preservation is a full-time job, but one that we’re here to help with.

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Bankrate.com: “Are these tax proposals fair?”

Jennie Phipps, who has been reporting on retirement for six years, recently spoke with McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus about estate and retirement planning strategies and based an article for Bankrate.com on the conversation.

In her story, titled “Are these tax proposals fair?” Phipps highlights five estate and retirement planning strategies at which the Obama Administration has taken aim, according to McManus. As she notes in her piece:

Some of the people who are using these strategies as they approach retirement have lots of money to manage. But those using these approaches also include small-business owners and farmers eager to pass their enterprises on to their children without burdening them with a huge tax bill, McManus says.

Phipps summarizes what the government proposes to do to collect more taxes from money passed down via estates and tasks readers with deciding whether the proposals are fair. She calls out the following:

  1. Lower the estate tax exemption.
  2. Retool intentionally defective grantor trusts.
  3. Tax grantor retained annuity trusts, or GRAT.
  4. Limiting generation-skipping transfer tax exemptions to 90 years.
  5. Taxing grantor trusts when Dad still manages the money.

Phipps’ article expands on all five; read more here: http://www.bankrate.com/financing/retirement/are-these-tax-proposals-fair/

The story closes with thoughts from John:

McManus says he believes that taxing estates at 45 percent is unfair and counterproductive. “We are proposing to penalize hardworking people who aren’t making millions. Having to pay a punitive amount in taxes takes away the motivation to start up a business.”

Please give our office a call at (908) 898-0100 if we can help with questions.

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