A generous gift and estate tax exemption means only a small percentage of families are currently subject to federal estate taxes. But it’s important to consider state estate taxes as well. Although many states tie their exemption amounts to the federal exemption, several states have exemptions that are significantly lower — in some cases $1 million or less.

Moving out of state isn’t necessarily the answer

One way to avoid this tax burden is to retire in a state that imposes low or no estate taxes. But moving to a tax-friendly state doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve escaped taxation by the state you left. Unless you’ve cut all ties with your former state, there’s a risk that the state will claim you’re still a resident and are subject to its estate tax.

Even if you’ve successfully established residency in a new state, you may be subject to estate taxes on real estate or tangible personal property located in the old state (depending on that state’s tax laws). And don’t assume that your estate won’t be taxed on this property merely because its value is less than the exemption amount. In some states, estate taxes are triggered when the value of your worldwide assets exceeds the exemption amount.

Establishing residency in your new state

If you’re relocating to a state with low or no estate taxes, learn about the steps you can take to terminate residency in the old state and establish residency in the new one. Examples include acquiring a residence in the new state, obtaining a driver’s license and registering to vote there, receiving important documents at your new address, opening bank accounts in the new state and closing old ones, and moving cherished personal possessions to the new state.

If you own real estate in the old state, consider transferring it to a limited liability company or other entity. In some states, interests in these entities may be treated as nontaxable intangible property.

Before putting up the “for sale” sign and moving to lower-tax pastures, consult with us about addressing your current and future states’ estate taxes in your estate plan.

© 2021 Covenant CPA

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (ACFE’s) Report to the Nations: 2020 Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse provides ample evidence that some fraud detection methods are better than others. In general, passive methods, such as accidental discovery or notification by police, coincide with longer-running schemes and higher financial costs. To nab dishonest employees quickly and limit losses, your company needs to be proactive.

Shorten time, minimize costs

Active methods include IT controls, data monitoring and analysis, account reconciliation, management review, surprise audits and internal audit. These methods can significantly lower fraud durations and losses.

For example, frauds detected by IT controls had a median duration of six months and a median loss of $80,000. Those found through account reconciliation ran for a median of seven months and totaled a median loss of $81,000. By comparison, fraud detected through notification by police or stumbled upon by accident had a median duration of 24 months. When companies learned about a scheme from law enforcement, the median loss was $900,000.

Surprise audits and proactive data monitoring and analysis can be especially effective ways to fight fraud. On average, victim organizations without these antifraud controls in place reported more than double the fraud losses, and their frauds lasted more than twice as long as frauds at victim organizations with these controls in place. Yet only 37% of the organizations in the ACFE study had implemented surprise audits or data monitoring and analysis.

Tips are most effective

The leading fraud detection method, tips, could be considered active or passive. But there’s no arguing that this method is effective — particularly when organizations offer employees and other stakeholders confidential fraud hotlines. Organizations that had hotlines for reporting misconduct detected fraud by tips more often (49% of cases) than those without hotlines (31% of cases).

To ensure that tips are used as an active detection method, your organization should set up a hotline and promote its use. Increasingly, companies offer other reporting forms, including email and Web-based submissions. Also, the ACFE has found that in 33% of cases where a tip was made, the whistleblower reported suspicions to a supervisor or other person in a position of authority.

Budget-friendly options

Even if your organization’s budget is tight and you think you have few resources to commit to fraud prevention, know that there’s always something you can do. Active methods can be surprisingly low cost and they certainly are less expensive than being defrauded. Contact us for more information.

© 2021 Covenant CPA

If you own a valuable piece of art, or other property, you may wonder how much of a tax deduction you could get by donating it to charity.

The answer to that question can be complex because several different tax rules may come into play with such contributions. A charitable contribution of a work of art is subject to reduction if the charity’s use of the work of art is unrelated to the purpose or function that’s the basis for its qualification as a tax-exempt organization. The reduction equals the amount of capital gain you’d have realized had you sold the property instead of giving it to charity.

For example, let’s say you bought a painting years ago for $10,000 that’s now worth $20,000. You contribute it to a hospital. Your deduction is limited to $10,000 because the hospital’s use of the painting is unrelated to its charitable function, and you’d have a $10,000 long-term capital gain if you sold it. What if you donate the painting to an art museum? In that case, your deduction is $20,000.

Substantiation requirements 

One or more substantiation rules may apply when donating art. First, if you claim a deduction of less than $250, you must get and keep a receipt from the organization and keep written records for each item contributed.

If you claim a deduction of $250 to $500, you must get and keep an acknowledgment of your contribution from the charity. It must state whether the organization gave you any goods or services in return for your contribution and include a description and good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services given.

If you claim a deduction in excess of $500, but not over $5,000, in addition to getting an acknowledgment, you must maintain written records that include information about how and when you obtained the property and its cost basis. You must also complete an IRS form and attach it to your tax return.

If the claimed value of the property exceeds $5,000, in addition to an acknowledgment, you must also have a qualified appraisal of the property. This is an appraisal that was done by a qualified appraiser no more than 60 days before the contribution date and meets numerous other requirements. You include information about these donations on an IRS form filed with your tax return.

If your total deduction for art is $20,000 or more, you must attach a copy of the signed appraisal. If an item is valued at $20,000 or more, the IRS may request a photo. If an art item has been appraised at $50,000 or more, you can ask the IRS to issue a “Statement of Value” that can be used to substantiate the value.

Percentage limitations 

In addition, your deduction may be limited to 20%, 30%, 50%, or 60% of your contribution base, which usually is your adjusted gross income. The percentage varies depending on the year the contribution is made, the type of organization, and whether the deduction of the artwork had to be reduced because of the unrelated use rule explained above. The amount not deductible on account of a ceiling may be deductible in a later year under carryover rules.

Other rules may apply

Donors sometimes make gifts of partial interests in a work of art. Special requirements apply to these donations. If you’d like to discuss any of these rules, please contact us.

© 2021 Covenant CPA

Too often, people planning their estates focus on tax and asset-protection issues and overlook long-term health care needs. But the high cost of long-term care (LTC) can quickly devour resources you need to maintain your lifestyle during retirement and provide for your children or other heirs after your death. Here are a few insurance options available to help cover the costs of long-term care.

LTC insurance

An LTC insurance policy supplements your traditional health insurance by covering services that assist you or a loved one with one or more activities of daily living (ADLs). Generally, ADLs include eating, bathing, dressing and transferring (in and out of bed, for example).

LTC coverage is relatively expensive, but it may be possible to reduce the cost by purchasing a tax-qualified policy. Generally, benefits paid in accordance with an LTC policy are tax-free. In addition, if a policy is tax-qualified, your premiums may be deductible (as medical expenses) up to a specified limit.

To qualify, a policy must:

  • Be guaranteed renewable and noncancelable regardless of health,
  • Not delay coverage of pre-existing conditions more than six months,
  • Not condition eligibility on prior hospitalization,
  • Not exclude coverage based on a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or similar conditions or illnesses, and
  • Require a physician’s certification that you’re either unable to perform at least two of six ADLs or you have a severe cognitive impairment, which has lasted or is expected to last at least 90 days.

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of tax-qualified policies. The primary advantage is the premium deduction. But keep in mind that medical expenses are deductible only if you itemize and only to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Thus, some people may not have enough medical expenses to benefit from this advantage. Also weigh any potential tax benefits against the advantages of nonqualified policies, which may have less stringent eligibility requirements.

Hybrid insurance

Also known as “asset-based” policies, hybrid policies combine LTC benefits with whole life insurance or annuity benefits. These policies have several advantages over standalone LTC policies. For example, their health-based underwriting requirements typically are less stringent, and their premiums are usually guaranteed — that is, they won’t increase over time.

Most important, LTC benefits, which are tax-free, are funded from the death benefit or annuity value. So, if you never need to use the LTC benefits, those amounts are preserved for your beneficiaries.

Employer-provided plans

Employer-provided group LTC insurance plans offer significant advantages over individual policies, including discounted premiums and “guaranteed issue” coverage, which covers eligible employees (and, in some cases, their spouse and dependents) regardless of their health status. Group plans aren’t subject to nondiscrimination rules, so a business can offer employer-paid coverage to a select group of employees.

Employer plans also offer tax advantages. Generally, C corporations that pay LTC premiums for employees can deduct the entire amount as a business expense, even if it exceeds the deduction limit for individuals.

Contact us to learn more about the various LTC insurance options.

© 2021 Covenant CPA

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