Posts filed under Tax Preparation

Can I Write Off My New Car?

This time of year, we get a lot of questions about tax deductions for vehicle purchases. Can I write off my new car? The full amount? Does it make sense to purchase a vehicle now before the end of the year? 

Like any areas of tax law, vehicle write offs can unfortunately be a little complex. Here, we'll provide a quick run through to explain when new vehicles qualify for deductions and how much you can expect to expense. 

When I can deduct my new vehicle as a business expense?

You can deduct your vehicle (or part of your vehicle) as a business expense if it’s used mostly for your business. Seems pretty simple, but exactly how much you can write off varies depending on the type of vehicle and its use. So let’s dig a little deeper.

How much I can deduct?

If you purchase a business vehicle that by its nature is not suited for personal travel (ambulance, hearse, cargo vehicles without seats, taxis, vehicles with seats for over nine passengers), you can generally write off the whole thing. This doesn’t mean you can purchase a hearse, claim the full expense, and then use it as your personal vehicle. Personal use will still trump the kind of vehicle you purchase.

If you have a passenger vehicle (car, truck, van) and use it for business purposes more than 50% of the time, you’re able to claim a portion of your expenses the year it was purchased and made available for use.

  • Cars - up to $3,160 for regular depreciation
  • Trucks and vans - up to $3,460 for regular depreciation

Under Section 179 of the tax law, there’s a specific depreciation break for certain passenger vehicles with a gross weight between 6,000 and 14,000 lbs. If these vehicles are financed and meet proper conditions, you can qualify for expensing up to $25,000 the first year. Regular depreciation can also be taken depending on the cost of the vehicle. 

Here’s a list of vehicles that qualify under Section 179, although this list is not exhaustive:

  • Audi: Q7 TDI
  • BMW: X5, X6
  • Buick: Enclave
  • Cadillac: Escalade
  • Chevy: Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe, and Traverse
  • Dodge: Durango and Ram pickup
  • Ford: Expedition, Explorer, all F-Series pickups, Transit vans
  • GMC: Acadia, Yukon, all Sierra pickups 
  • Infiniti: QX56
  • Jeep: Grand Cherokee
  • Land Rover: LR4, HSE, Sport
  • Lincoln: MKT, Navigator
  • Mercedes: GL 350 diesel, ML350, R350
  • Nissan: Armada NV, Pathfinder 4-wheel drive, Titan
  • VW: Touareg hybrid

In past years, there’s been an opportunity for additional deductions through bonus depreciation. Bonus depreciation for 2015 is not yet available, but this could change before the end of the year.

Here’s a look at last year’s numbers, which included bonus depreciation:

  • Cars - additional $8,000 bonus depreciation (for a max of $11,160 in deductions) 
  • Trucks and vans not qualifying for section 179 - additional $8,000 bonus depreciation (for a max of $11,460 in deductions) 
  • Vehicles qualifying for Section 179 - additional bonus deprecation for up to half of the remaining cost of the car (up to $8,000), plus regular depreciation

    For example: The first year depreciation for a Nissan Armada costing $40,000 could be like this:
    • $25,000 per Section 179
    • Plus bonus deprecation of half of the remaining amount, not to exceed $8,000. 
      • $40,000 less $25,000 = $15,000 remaining
      • Half of $15,000 = $7,500 bonus depreciation
      • $25,000 plus $7,500 = $32,500 total
    • Plus $1,500 for regular depreciation. 
      • Totaling $34,000

(Please remember that as of this writing bonus deprecation is not available for 2015.) 

If your vehicle is used for business 100% of the time, you can likely claim maximum deduction figures. But if only 75% of its use is for business, your deduction will decrease by the appropriate percentage. 

For example, if you purchased a new car in 2014 and used it for business 75% of the time, you were were able to take $2,370 in standard deductions regular deprecation (3,160 x 75%) and $6,000 in bonus depreciation ($8,000 x 75%) for a total of $8,370 in deductions. 

These were the basic figures for first-year depreciation on new vehicles in 2014, and, again, the decision on 2015 bonus depreciation will be made within the coming months. 

If you have specific questions, talk to a qualified tax professional. There might be nuances to your finances that affect the numbers we’ve crunched here. Our team is available to listen to your questions and help explain your tax situation so it’s easier to understand.

Posted on November 9, 2015 and filed under Tax Preparation, Personal Finance.

When should I hire a CPA to file my taxes?

This year, you might find yourself wondering when you should stop filing your own taxes and work with a CPA. Maybe your taxes are getting too complicated. Maybe you’re always worried about missing things. Maybe it’s just causing unnecessary stress. 

But how do you know if it’s worth it? 

You might find there are some unexpected benefits to working with a tax professional for yourself, your business, or your family. So take a look at a few common situations that signal it might be time to hire a CPA. 

If you’re expecting a credit through the Affordable Care Act 

The Affordable Care Act brought new credit opportunities into the tax return landscape for 2014. But it also made filing your taxes more complicated. 

If you bought health insurance through the health insurance marketplace, you might receive a tax credit if you meet certain criteria. The marketplace system uses a projection of your anticipated tax situation to estimate your credit, but you won’t know your true eligibility or potential amount until you file your return.

Also, when you applied for insurance there were different options for how you’d like to receive your credit, whether you wanted your monthly premiums lowered or wanted to receive the funds along with your income tax return. Depending on what you selected, there are different implications for how to file your taxes. 

Overall, the credit adds five new tax forms to your filing process, which will likely make the task more challenging. 

If you’re spending too much time on your taxes

Every year, it’s a good exercise to assess how much time you spend on your taxes versus how much you think your time is worth. 

If you spend more than two consecutive weekends on your taxes, it might make good financial sense or improve your general well-being to free up that time and hand off your tax prep to a professional. 

This is especially true if you’re self-employed. Calculate your hourly rate against how much time you spend filing your taxes. Then get a quote from a few CPAs to compare. You might decided it’s more practical to use your limited time generating business or making more money rather than doing your tax work yourself. 

If finances cause tension in your household 

Finances can create a lot of friction in a relationship. If you’re married, filing joint taxes can often raise the tension. 

It could be that fine-combing through the details of your finances brings on additional stress. Or you might simply have a hard time working on a complex, math-related project together because of personality differences or conflicting opinions about how to interpret tax laws. 

Some spouses decide it’s better to sit down with a CPA who can guide them through the process, ask good questions, and help them understand their tax situation together. As you learn more about your financial options and become more comfortable with the process, you might find it also improves your financial conversations at home and eases your stress. 

If your tax situation is growing more complex 

Your tax situation can change considerably year to year. Maybe you purchased a rental property, started a new business, or received an inheritance. Big life changes make filing your taxes more challenging, especially when these changes are new and you’re still trying to understand how they impact your finances. 

Complex tax returns usually involve one of these situations: 

When you have more assets and tax considerations, you might be missing opportunities for credits. 

A CPA can help you understand the changes and ask good questions to make sure you explore all possible reductions. You might also learn about changes you should make for the next year to put yourself in a better tax situation. Ultimately, learning with a CPA by your side will make you feel more confident and comfortable managing your finances. 

These are just a few of the situations that might indicate when you could benefit from the help of a CPA. And there are likely more. So if you want to ease the stress of tax season or if you want to feel in control of your finances by better understanding your tax situation, talk to Tom’s team today.

Posted on January 14, 2015 and filed under Filing Taxes, Tax Preparation.

Preparing Documents for Your 2012 Taxes

This is a great week to start gathering your tax documents. Start with this list of tax deduction documents... (See a more complete list of tax documents.)

  • Health care expenses (doctors, dentists, health insurance, eye care, medicine)
  • Real estate taxes
  • Motor vehicle registration
  • Mortgage interest paid (1098)
  • Gifts to charity
  • Last year's tax preparation fees
  • Job-related expenses (union dues, job education, uniforms)
  • Loss of property due to casualty or theftGambling losses

We've found a link to the IRS site that provides advice on choosing a tax preparer.  We are happy to be enjoying our 10th year as Bulger CPA and 25+ years in the tax preparation business.

Posted on January 23, 2013 and filed under Tax Preparation, Filing Taxes.