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Merriman’s Guide to Reducing Your Tax Bill


Do you wish you could have done more to lower your tax bill or increase your refund for 2017? The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will have a major impact on many families, so it’s especially important to re-evaluate your tax strategies this year.

Check out our latest eBook for things you can do now to save on your tax bill in 2018. Topics include:

     Highlights from tax reform

     Itemized deductions – what’s left?

     New strategies to consider

     Classic strategies that still work

Download a free copy today!

Think Twice Before Moving Into Your Rental To Avoid Taxes

Many families hold on to and rent out their former residences with the goal of moving back in the future. Some plan to move back into the rental full-time for at least two years prior to selling to take advantage of the gain exclusion of $500,000 ($250,000 if single), which can wipe out all or most of the gain on the property. This was allowed at one time, but that’s not quite the case anymore.

Depreciation Recapture

One of the benefits of having a rental is the ability to claim depreciation on the property, which allows you to offset rental income that would otherwise be taxed as ordinary income. The depreciation you take reduces your basis in the property, potentially resulting in more capital gains when you ultimately sell the property. If you sell the property for a gain, the amount up to the depreciation you took is taxed at the maximum recapture rate of 25%. Any remaining gains are taxed at the lower long-term capital gains rate.

When the Property Sells for a Loss

If you sell your home for a loss, whether it’s currently a rental or is now your primary residence, you aren’t subject to depreciation recapture or other gains taxes. Due to depreciation decreasing your cost basis in the property each year until it reaches zero, it’s more common that sales of former rental homes result in gains. read more…

Protect Your Identity Before It’s Too Late

In the aftermath of the Equifax data breach and many others, households have been left in a scramble to protect themselves. With all the paid identity theft protection services available, it’s hard to know which one is best and whether it makes sense to pay the monthly costs.

Furthermore, out-of-pocket losses for victims of identity theft are minimal, often less than a few hundred dollars. Retailers and credit card companies end up footing the bill.

What’s important to keep in mind is that if your identity is stolen and used improperly, your true loss is how much time you must give up to resolve the matter. Working with your financial institutions, credit bureaus and government agencies to clear the matter up can take anywhere from 20 hours to well over 100 hours. It can even take years to clear up the harm it did to your credit report. This plus the grief and paranoia caused by the whole experience is the real damage. read more…

Should I Do a Roth Conversion?

With all the recent changes to the U.S. tax code, it’s a good time to revisit different tax planning strategies. One strategy I’m often asked about is whether a Roth conversion is a good idea. The universal answer to that question is “maybe.” Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple rule of thumb that applies to everyone. There are many factors that need to be examined, and my goal is to tell you the most common reasons you might want to do a Roth conversion.

Before I do that, it’s important to note a particular change in our tax code with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017. In the past, a recharacterization was done if you needed to “undo” the Roth conversion. You can still recharacterize any Roth conversions done in 2017, but starting in 2018 and beyond, this is no longer allowed for Roth conversions. An exception is if you make a Roth contribution, and then learn that you earned too much income during that year. A recharacterization will still be allowed in this case so that you’re not subject to the excess contribution penalty tax. read more…

Not All CFPs Are Equal

I recently met with a prospective client, looking to hire a financial planner. She saw a TV ad from the CFP Board about hiring a professional planner. She visited their website and realized she didn’t know how to differentiate between them all. She wanted to ensure that the planner would help her look at all aspects of her financial life, and she realized that just because someone was a CFP® it didn’t mean they all operated in the same fashion. Her search was proving to be more difficult than she had anticipated.

It’s true, not all CFP® professionals are created equal. This article discusses why you might want to seek out a CFP® and some common differences to help you in your search. It’s important to educate yourself on what financial planning really means and to ask a lot of questions before deciding who to hire.

When looking to hire a financial professional, one of the most desirable credentials is the Certified Financial Planner™, or CFP®, designation. The CFP® mark indicates the highest standard in financial planning because CFP® professionals must meet certain educational requirements, pass a lengthy examination and have at least 6,000 hours of work experience for the standard pathway to certification. They must also adhere to specific standards of ethics and practice as outlined by the CFP Board.

Sounds great, right? The problem is that many financial professionals who have the CFP® designation use it as a marketing tool. There’s been a big marketing push to hire those with a CFP® by the CFP Board, and consequently financial firms are encouraging more of their advisors to obtain the CFP®. While there’s an educational benefit to anyone with the CFP®, it doesn’t always carry over into the work they do for their clients. read more…

How to Give to Your Favorite Causes AND Reduce Your Tax Bill for 2018

We often give to charities on the spur of the moment during fundraising drives or at an event like a gala, rather than having a charitable giving plan. Giving by check (otherwise called checkbook philanthropy) is generally the default for these spur of the moment donations. With the doubling of the standard deduction from the recent tax reform, the tax benefit of such gifts has been reduced or eliminated as most households won’t have enough deductions to itemize.

By having a plan, we can work to reduce your tax bill, while still giving to your favorite causes. read more…

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