Michael Gray, CPA’s Option Alert #106

An irregular alert for issues relating to employee stock options

November 7, 2012
© 2012 by Michael Gray, CPA
ISSN 1931-2768

(If you find this information valuable, please pass it on to a colleague!)

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It’s time for year-end tax planning

With the coming holidays and continuing education days, Michael Gray will have very limited availability for year-end tax planning meetings. Reserve your appointment now by calling Dawn Siemer on Monday, Wednesday or Friday at 408-918-3162.

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Take income during 2012?

The usual mantra of tax planning is to defer income. Considering the Bush tax cuts are now scheduled to expire after 2012, raising the maximum federal tax rate for long-term capital gains from 15% to 20% and for ordinary income from 35% to 39.6%, and the new 3.8% Medicare tax for investment income, including capital gains when taxpayers filing married, joint have adjusted gross income over $250,000 and singles have adjusted gross income over $200,000, you might want to take income by exercising stock options or selling stock during 2012.

If you want to discuss this further, call your tax advisor or Michael Gray at 408-918-3161, or join the live or telephone seminars about year-end tax planning for employee stock options below.

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Live seminar by Michael Gray, CPA scheduled for December

Michael Gray will be giving a live seminar during December 2012. On December 7, he will be speaking about “Year End Tax Planning For Employee Stock Options.” The seminars will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Hobee’s Restaurant in the Pruneyard, in Campbell. Lunch is included. The fee for participants is $97.

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Stock Options telephone seminar by Michael Gray, CPA on November 30

Michael Gray will be giving a telephone seminar, “Year-End Tax Planning For Employee Stock Options”, Friday, November 30 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time. The fee for participants is $97.

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Income from exercising NQSOs and relocation benefits weren’t subject to RRTA tax

A U.S. District Court granted summary judgment to BNSF and its employees for over $20 million in refunds for overpaid Railroad Retirement Tax Act taxes. (The Railroad Retirement Tax Act established a retirement program for railroad workers that is administered by the federal government.)

BNSF is the successor from the merger of Burlington Northern Railroad Company and The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company.

The refund related to nonqualified stock options (NQSO) was allowed because the definition of compensation subject to the RRTA tax is “any form of money remuneration paid to an individual for services rendered as an employee to one or more employers.” (Internal Revenue Code Section 3231(e).)

The IRS said that, since Congress specifically excluded ordinary income from the disqualified disposition of an incentive stock option (ISO) from the tax in 2004, it must have intended for ordinary compensation income from the exercise of a NQSO to be subject to the tax. The Court distinguished NQSOs from ISOs, because the stock of the ISO must generally be sold or converted to cash in order to realize ordinary income from a disqualified disposition.

The refund related to relocation expenses was under an exception for amounts paid as an advance, reimbursement or allowance for traveling or other bona fide and necessary expenses incurred or reasonably expected to be incurred in the business of the employer. (Internal Revenue Code Section 3231(e)(1)(ii).) The Court agreed with BNSF that the reimbursed expenses related to the business of BNSF. The employees were required to relocate during 1994 through 1998, in part relating to the consolidation and restructuring of operations relating to the merger or the promotion or transfer of an employee.

This ruling will only apply to railroad businesses subject to the RRTA. The definition of compensation for other employment taxes includes income from the exercise of vested NQSOs.

(BNSF Railway Company v. Unites States, 2012-2 USTC 50,643, October 25, 2012.)

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Social security wage ceiling increased for 2013

The ceiling for social security withholding for 2013 will increase to $113,700 from $110,100 for 2012. Unless Congress takes action, the social security rate will increase from 4.2% for 2012 to 6.2% for 2013.

As part of Health Care Reform, a 0.9% Medicare surtax will apply for singles with wages exceeding $200,000 and for married couples earning more than $250,000 in wages. The surtax will only apply for employees, not employers.

The threshold at which the “nanny tax” applies to household employees will remain at $1,800.

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Many retirement account thresholds increase for 2013

The IRS has announced a host of retirement account contribution changes for 2013.

  • The maximum 401(k) and 403(b) contributions will increase from $17,000 for 2012 to $17,500 for 2013.
  • The maximum compensation for computing certain retirement account benefits will increase from $200,000 for to $255,000 for 2013.
  • The catch-up contribution for individuals age 50 and above for 401(k)s, 457s, 403(b)s and SEPs is unchanged at $5,500.
  • The maximum contribution for defined contributions plans (such as profit sharing plans) is increased from $50,000 for 2012 to $51,000 for 2013.
  • The annual benefit limit for a defined benefit plan will increase from $200,000 for 2012 to $205,000 for 2013.
  • The maximum IRA contribution will incease from $5,000 for 2012 to $5,500 for 2013.
  • When taxpayers participate in a retirement plan at work, the deductible IRA contribution will phase out from $59,000 to $69,000 for singles ($58,000 – $68,000 for 2012) and $95,000 to $115,000 for married persons filing joint returns ($92,000 – $112,000 for 2012).
  • The maximum contribution to a SIMPLE plan will increase from $11,500 for 2012 to $12,000 for 2013.
  • The AGI limit for the saver’s credit for 2013 will increase from $28,750 in 2012 to $29,500 for 2013 for singles, and $from $57,500 in 2012 to $59,000 for 2013 for married persons filing joint returns.

(IR-2012-27.)

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Gift tax annual exclusion will increase for 2013

The gift tax annual exclusion per donor, per donee for “present interest” gifts will increase from $13,000 for 2012 to $14,000 for 2013.

(Rev. Proc. 2012-41.)

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Attention tax return preparers

It’s time for sending engagement letters to your clients. Be sure you also have written consent for initiating additional services for your clients. See this web page: www.taxtrimmers.com/threat.shtml.

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Community public access television needs our help.

Public access television is a vital part of our educational outreach to various communities. These are usually nonprofit, charitable organizations, like public television stations. Unlike those stations, most of the programming for the public access stations comes from local producers.

This programming includes the local arts, productions by students at local schools, community outreach by churches, independent local producers discussing current social issues, educational programming by local providers like ourselves and much more. In other words, public access television makes a unique, important contribution to the communities it serves.

With the difficult times we are experiencing, many public access stations are facing severe financial challenges, and might not survive without more community financial support. I urge you to consider making a donation to your local public access television station. Here is a link for a list of public access television stations in California: http://www.communitymedia.se/cat/linksca.htm.

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Financial Insider Weekly broadcast schedule for November and December.

Financial Insider Weekly is broadcast in San Jose and Campbell on Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Pacific Time. You can watch it on Comcast channel 15 for San Jose and Campbell. The show is broadcast as streaming video at the same time at www.creatvsj.org.

Here are the scheduled interviews for November and December:

November 9, 2012, Kathleen Wright, attorney, American Red Cross, “Financial preparation for a disaster”
November 16, 2012, Emmett Carson, PhD, CEO, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, “How to promote community giving as a family value”
November 23, 2012, Phil Price, EA, The Price Company, “Qualified Retirement Plans for closely-held business”
November 30, 2012, William Mahan, attorney, of counsel to Gates Eisenhart Dawson, “Tax and financial considerations of title”
December 7, 2012, William Mahan, attorney, of counsel to Gates Eisenhart Dawson, “Why you need a will”
December 14, 2012, William Mitchell, CPA, “I’m being audited by the IRS! What should I do?”
December 21, 2012, William Mitchell, CPA, “I don’t agree with my IRS audit report. What should I do?”
December 28, 2012, William Mitchell, CPA, “I owe back taxes to the IRS! What should I do?”

Financial Insider Weekly is also broadcast as follows:

  • Sunday at 5:30 a.m. on Comcast Channel 27 in Santa Cruz County and on Charter Communications Channel 73 in Watsonville and Capitola
  • Monday at 1:30 p.m. in San Mateo County on PenTV, Comcast Channel 26 and Astound Channel 27
  • Monday at 3:30 p.m.on Comcast Channel 27 in Santa Cruz County and on Charter Communications Channel 73 in Watsonville and Capitola
  • Monday at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Pacific Time on cable channel 19 in Morgan Hill and broadcast on the internet at the same time as streaming video at www.mhat.tv
  • Monday at 6:30 p.m. on Midpeninsula Media Center, Comcast Channel 28 in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Stanford, Menlo Park & Atherton
  • Monday at 7:30 p.m. on Comcast channel 15 in Saratoga
  • Tuesday at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Pacific Time on cable channel 19 in Morgan Hill, Broadcast on the internet at the same time as streaming video at www.mhat.tv
  • Tuesday at 9 p.m. on Comcast channel 26 and AT&T U-verse channel 99 in Marin County.
  • Wednesday at 3 p.m.on Comcast channel 27 in Santa Cruz County and on Charter Communications Channel 73 in Watsonville and Capitola
  • Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Comcast channel 28 in Hayward, Alameda and Fremont and on AT&T U-Verse Channel 99, Hayward public access TV 28 in California
  • Thursday at 5:30 p.m. on Comcast channel 27 in Santa Cruz County and Charter Communications channel 73 in Capitola and Watsonville
  • Friday at 11:30 a.m. on Comcast channel 27 in Santa Cruz County and Charter Communications channel 73 in Watsonville and Capitola
  • Friday at 1:30 p.m. in San Mateo County on PenTV, Comcast Channel 26 and Astound Channel 27
  • Friday at 3:30 p.m. on KCAT, Comcast channel 15 in Los Gatos
  • Friday at 4 p.m. on cable channel 15 in Cupertino, Los Altos and Mountain View.
  • Friday at 6 p.m. on Comcast and Astound channel 29 in San Francisco, online streaming video at www.bavc.org, “public access TV”
  • Friday at 8 p.m. on Comcast channel 28 in Hayward, Alameda and Fremont and on AT&T U-Verse Channel 99, Hayward public access TV 28 in California
  • Saturday at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Midpeninsula Media Center, Comcast Channel 28 in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Stanford, Menlo Park & Atherton
  • Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on Comcast channel 26 and AT&T U-verse channel 99 in Marin County.

Past episodes of Financial Insider Weekly are posted on YouTube. One way to watch them is to go to our web site, www.financialinsiderweekly.com, and click on “Past Episodes.”

Let me know any ideas that you have for topics or guests. Guests will usually have to be located in or near the Silicon Valley in California.

Hope you can watch or record the show. Please tell your friends about it!

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Michael Gray regrets he can no longer answer emails personally. He will answer selected questions in this newsletter. Email your questions to mgray@stockoptionadvisors.com.

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Follow me on social media!

If you enjoy Twitter, please follow me at twitter.com/michaelgraycpa. I would especially appreciate retweets of our messages announcing episodes of Financial Insider Weekly.

I’m also on Facebook and Linked In. You can also follow me on other social media sites, www.facebook.com, www.linkedin.com/in/michaelgraycpa, and Google+.

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Check out my blog.

I have also started a blog at michaelgraycpa.com. Check it out!

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Do you know about our other newsletters?

For general tax developments, tax planning ideas, business development ideas and book reviews, subscribe to Michael Gray, CPA’s Tax & Business Insight.

We are now offering our real estate tax newsletter, Michael Gray, CPA’s Real Estate Tax Letter, free of charge. Like this newsletter, we will talk about new developments, have reports on special tax concerns, and answer questions and answers. To subscribe and read a sample issue, visit realestatetaxletter.com.

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IRS Circular 230 Disclosure:

As required by U.S. Treasury Regulations, you are hereby advised that any written tax advice contained in this communication was not written or intended to be used (and cannot be used) by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

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Consult with a tax advisor

For our readers who aren’t tax advisors, this newsletter is intended to alert you about tax issues that could affect you. It is not a substitute for advice from a professional tax advisor. You will find that getting advice from a qualified advisor is a worthwhile investment.

Tax advisors should view the newsletter as an alert to become aware of issues relating to employee stock options for further research and study.

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Subscribe to Michael Gray, CPA’s Option Alert!

To receive the next issue of Michael Gray, CPA’s Option Alert with more employee stock option tax developments and answers to questions from our readers automatically via email, subscribe by filling out the form below.

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(Michael Gray is the author of Secrets of Tax Planning For Employee Stock Options, Stock Grants and ESOPs.)

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