Avoid underpayment penalties

Check the total taxes you’ve already paid in for the year through withholding from your wages and/or quarterly estimated payments. Are you underpaid? Consider adjusting your withholding for the final months of 2015 or increasing your remaining quarterly estimate. If you employ household workers, include the payroll taxes you’ll owe for them in your calculations. Call us for assistance.

Breakeven analysis helps with business choices

Breakeven analysis is an important and useful tool in business. Whether you’re starting a new business, expanding current operations, contemplating an acquisition, downsizing, or approaching banks and other potential lenders, you’ll want to know your breakeven.

Breakeven is defined as the point at which costs equal income – no profit, no loss. It’s an excellent starting point for finding out where your business is and where it can go. Breakeven is the first step in planning future growth. It shows how much sales volume you need to cover fixed and variable expenses. Once your company has reached breakeven, all gross profit beyond that point goes directly to improving the bottom line.

Of course, breakeven analysis has limitations. For example, it ignores the importance of cash flow and makes the assumption that fixed and variable expenses will stay within the parameters used to calculate the breakeven point. Despite these shortcomings, breakeven can help with business planning.

Here’s how to calculate your business’s breakeven.

First, review your annual financial statement to learn your fixed and variable expenses. Fixed expenses are those that don’t generally vary in relation to sales volume. Rent, for example, usually stays constant no matter the amount of your sales. The same is typically true for depreciation, utilities, and insurance.

Variable expenses are the cost of goods sold and other costs of sales, such as direct labor and sales commissions.

What about costs that are part fixed and part variable? Split these into separate categories based on your knowledge of your business.

Decide when to start social security benefits

Whether you should take social security retirement benefits at the earliest possible date or defer benefits until reaching normal retirement age (or even age 70), depends on several factors. For example, you’ll want to consider your overall health and life expectancy, your plans to earn income before reaching normal retirement age, anticipated returns on your other investments, and, surprisingly, your guess about the future of the social security program. As you can tell, the decision isn’t one-size-fits-all.

For instance, say your savings won’t cover ongoing expenses and you need to rely on social security income to make ends meet. In that case, deferring social security benefits may not be an option for you.

But if your financial circumstances offer more financial flexibility, deferring your benefits can be an advantage. For each year you delay (up to age 70), the payouts increase. In addition, if you plan to earn significant income between age 62 and your normal retirement age (65-67, depending on the year you were born), putting off your social security benefits may make sense. That’s because any benefits in excess of specified limits ($15,720 in 2015) will be reduced. You’ll lose $1 of benefits for every $2 in earnings above the limits. Note that you won’t lose any social security benefits (regardless of earnings) once you reach full retirement age.

On the other hand, let’s say you’ve accumulated a healthy balance in your 401(k) and expect that account to generate a good annual return. Under this scenario, you might be better off leaving your retirement savings alone and taking your social security benefits early to cover living expenses.

Or perhaps your family has a history of health problems and you don’t realistically expect to live into your 80s. Again, taking social security benefits at age 62 might be a good choice.

For help with this important decision, please give us a call.

Items on your 2014 return can affect 2015 planning

As year-end approaches, remember to check your 2014 federal income tax return for items that can affect your 2015 planning. Here are three to look for.

Capital loss carryover. If your capital losses exceeded your capital gains in 2014, you may be able to carry any unused loss to future years. You can apply the loss against 2015 capital gains as well as up to $3,000 of other income – a benefit to remember when you’re rebalancing your portfolio over the next few months.

Tip: Keep track of your capital loss carryforward for alternative minimum tax planning and projections. In some cases, this amount can be different from the carryforward calculated for your regular income tax.

Charitable contribution carryover. Was your charitable donation deduction limited for 2014 or prior years? You may have a carryover that you can use if you’re going to itemize on your 2015 tax return.

Tip: Take this carryover into consideration when planning your 2015 donations so you don’t lose the benefit of older unused amounts. Charitable contribution carryforwards have a five-year life.

Net operating loss carryover. If your business had a loss in 2014, you had to make an election to carry the entire loss forward to 2015. Otherwise, the general rule of carrying the net operating loss back two years applies, with the remainder carried forward 20 years.

Give us a call to schedule a tax planning appointment. We’re ready to help you get the most benefit from these and other carryovers, such as investment interest, tax credits, and passive activity losses.

Take time for tax planning

Take time to review your 2015 tax situation while there are still a few months to make adjustments. Can you benefit from bunching your itemized deductions? Will increasing your retirement plan contributions cut your tax bill? An investment in a tax review could make a significant difference in your final tax bill for the year.