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Recent Tax Court decision could wreak ha

Glover v. Comm, a recent tax court decision, presents several issues to Merchant Mariners. Mr. Glover worked for Reinauer Transportation. His tugs pushed oil coastwise as far as Virginia. The tugs wou

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Recent Tax Court decision could wreak havoc on Mariners

State Taxes and Mariners

Suz asked this question So, what about if you live in one state (TN) and work as a merchant mariner in another state (HI), 45 days on/45 days off rotation? Do you pay HI state taxes, or does the payro

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State Taxes and Mariners

Mariner Tax Update January 2011

E-Filing alert! How many times have you read that mariners cannot E-File? How many websites have posted this. Year after year. And then all of a sudden preparers start proclaiming “mariners can

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Mariner Tax Update January 2011

Employee vs. Non-Employee LLC and S-Corp

I’ve been a client of yours for a few years now and I had a general tax question concerning my wife’s job status. She currently works full time for a marketing firm in “Deleted”

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Employee vs. Non-Employee LLC and S-Corp Planning for Mariners and their families

Maritime Tax Preparers and the Alternati

What they don’t want you to know… This video points out the tremendous effect of the AMT on merchant mariners. Seamen taking business deductions and offsets may very well be realizing litt

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Maritime Tax Preparers and the Alternative Minimum Tax

Medical Deductions, Fertility Treatment, and FSA Alternatives

1
by on October 12, 2010 at 12:25 am

Should I Save My Medical Receipts?

Quick answer – hopefully not! Medical expenses have to exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI) before they have the ability to start counting.

If your AGI was $100,000, you would need $7,500 in medical expenses before you could take a tax deduction. KEEP IN MIND – this doesn’t mean you will be deducting the entire amount. Only the amount that EXCEEDS the limitation. So in this case, medical deductions totaling $7,501 would allow a $1 deduction.

When are deductions likely?

  • On a very low income year. Ironically, income would probably be so low that you wouldn’t recognize a substantial benefit.

A low income year can lower the AGI threshold. AKA 7.5% of $20,000 is $1,500. This is a much easier amount to surpass. When examining disabled and elderly taxpayers, remember some income is not used in arriving at AGI – certain amounts of Social Security, disability, etc…

  • Taxpayers do not have medical insurance

A very tricky situation. If I was personally not paying expenses, this would be my last to go. If you are in this situation where you cannot afford insurance you should check with your State to see what assistance programs they may have available. More and more States are requiring all residents to maintain adequate health insurance. They have programs that provide assistance for those who cannot afford it on their own.

If you’re on unemployment, you should also check to see if there are cobra or other medical insurance subsistence programs available.

  • Taxpayers incur a substantial amount of uninsured medical expenses within a year

Generally these are elective surgeries or similar. A common high level expense is fertility treatments. Bills can pile up in the tens of thousands. Most medical insurance programs do not cover these expenses. This is one scenario where you may be able to recognize a medical deduction within a high income year…

Tips and tricks

  • Remember – a big stack of bills does not mean you have a deductible medical expense. It means you have bills you haven’t paid. Unless you have paid the expenses or have a secured loan they will most likely not be deductible.
  • A surrogate is not a medical expense. This is becoming more common these days. A surrogate mother will carry a child to term. Since the surrogate did not have an ailment (she was able to bear children) it is not deductible.

Best financial medical defense is the FSA

If you know you are going to incur substantial medical expenses (your deductible is $3,000 and you’re going to have a baby that year) use your FSA. An FSA (flexible spending account) allows you to set aside earned income to cover certain medical expenses. This income circumvents Federal, State, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. This is a huge benefit! My average client saves 30-35 cents on a dollar with their FSA

Keep in mind that FSA’s are a use it or lose it system. If you haven’t spent the money by the end of the allocated expense period you lose it. So never allocate more than you’re certain you’ll spend. As FSA rules and regs become more lax, there are more and more items that they can be used to purchase. OTC drugs, acupuncture, perhaps reiki. Look to your plan provider regarding availability and allowable expenses. Federal regs give the individual employers a great deal of leeway in administering the plans.

Home Ownership Advantages

0
by on October 3, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Should Mariners Buy A House?

Jim gives a quick overview of the tax advantages of home ownership.

Don’t forget that these benefits aren’t just from a primary residence. Investment properties have the same properties in general.

Investment properties are not the same as rental properties. Be sure to check out our articles examining the cost benefit of rentals and how they differ from other properties.

No Brainer – FSA Dependent

1
by on June 18, 2010 at 1:21 am

Easy tax money

If deciding between the dependent care credit and using the FSA is keeping you up at night – I’ve got great news for you!!! It’s bedtime. 99.999% of the time it makes way more sense to use the FSA account.

What is a Dependent FSA?

The Dependent FSA is similar to the medical FSA in that you are allowed to circumvent Federal, State, and payroll (social security and medicare) taxes. You can allocate $5,000 into your FSA. One dependent will generally produce effective tax savings in the range of $1,000-$1,400. There aren’t any pesky phase out limitations to worry about as well.

VS Dependent Care Credit

The dependent care credit allows for a credit offset of $600 per child (with limitations). Cash credits are generally king. But in this instance we’re able to circumvent several taxes while lowering our AGI (these deductions are usually after AGI is calculated “known as from AGI”).

What are the drawbacks?

This is essentially a no brainer as far as tax maneuvers go. The biggest drawback is that you have to offset dependent care eligibility with the FSA offset. Still, 99.999% of the time it’s better.

Advantages?

Besides the obvious tax savings you’re lowering your AGI. This can reduce the impact if you’re in one of those pesky phase out positions where you are losing child or other tax credits. It can also effect AMT phase outs and exemption allocations.

Unfortunately…

Well I have to add this in… Even though we almost always effectively save more, there’s an issue. We as taxpayers tend to base our savings on our refund. Problem being that payroll will lower your withholding when you contribute to your FSA. Meaning your refund will most likely not be better (it actually might be less)….

FSA factors for Mariners to consider

First – there are unfortunately very few maritime employers who have implemented flexible spending accounts. And if they’re not available, there’s no option.

Second – Multiple States… Say you live in New Hampshire. You sail foreign. Your spouse works in Massachusetts. Both employers offer FSA’s. Who Pays in? THE SPOUSE DOES… Not because we’re mean. Simply because your spouse has to file a non-resident return in Massachusetts every year. Meaning they’ll be able to offset that pesky State tax where you will not.

Third – State Employees… Flashback – (My dad had a sign that said “A Taxpayer is someone who doesn’t have to pass a civil service exam to work for the government….”) Joking aside, many State employees aren’t required to pay into Social Security and Medicare. Meaning if one spouse does, you’re losing a 7.5% offset. Always determine what Federal and State retirement systems you are paying into.