Tax and financial advice from the Silicon Valley expert.

Ideas and information about planning for your family’s financial future

A Social Security benefit when both spouses were at least age 62 on 1/1/2016

Under a grandfather rule, married couples who were both at least age 62 on January 1, 2016 are eligible for a procedure called a “restricted application” to increase their Social Security benefits.  The spouses must also meet other qualifications for spousal benefits to use the procedure, which I’m not going to explain here.

The Social Security benefit increases by 8% each year after the individual reaches “full retirement age” until reaching age 70, usually for a total potential 32% increase.  (For individuals born from 1945 to 1954, full retirement age is age 66.)

If you are trying to provide the highest possible survivor benefit, you will usually want to defer applying for benefits for the higher-earning spouse until age 70.

Lower-earning spouses can always apply for worker benefits under their own account and later apply for potentially higher spousal benefits after their higher-earning spouses apply for benefits under their own account.

When a restricted application is made, the higher-earning spouse initially applies only for spousal benefits under the lower-earning spouse’s account.  Retirement credits continue to accrue on the higher-earning spouse’s account and that spouse applies for worker benefits on his or her own account at age 70.

For example, John was born on April 8, 1953.  His full retirement age benefit at age 66 is $2,500 per month.  Jill was born on December 30, 1952.  Her full retirement age benefit at age 66 is $800 per month.

Jill applies for worker benefits at age 66 on December 30, 2018.  Her benefit is $800 per month.

John makes a restricted application for spousal benefits at age 66 on April 8, 2019, for a benefit of $400 per month (disregarding cost of living adjustments for all computations.)

John applies for worker benefits on his own account at age 70 on April 8, 2023, for a benefit of $3,300 per month.

Jill applies for spousal benefits during April 2023 for a benefit of $1,250 per month (one-half of John’s primary insurance amount of $2,500).

You can’t apply for spousal benefits until your spouse applies for worker benefits.

When the low-income spouse applies for spousal benefits after reaching full retirement age, that spouse receives one-half of the high-income spouse’s primary insurance amount (the worker benefit that spouse would receive at full retirement age without any increases for deferred retirement credits), even if the high-income spouse hasn’t reached full retirement age, and even when the high-income spouse applies for benefits later than full retirement age.

This explanation only covers the highlights.  You might want to go over your details with a financial planner who understands Social Security benefit planning.

Also, be extra careful when making a restricted application for benefits to avoid accidentally making a regular application.

I hope this information is helpful for you or somebody that you know.  Feel free to share a link for this blog post.

Are you a winner or loser under tax reform?

Many Americans are probably wondering whether they will pay more or less taxes under proposals released by President Trump and the tax-writing committees of Congress.

If you listen to President Trump’s sales presentations for the plan, everyone will be better off, but it ain’t necessarily so.

The proposals are still rather sketchy.  The taxable income amounts for which the various tax brackets will apply haven’t even been announced.  Here is my speculation about who are some of the winners and who are some of the losers under the proposals.  Since a combination of factors may apply, each family will need their own computations of tax before and after the changes when the details of the plan are ultimately released if Congress is successful in passing tax reform legislation.

Winners

U.S. corporations with accumulated earnings “parked” offshore.  U.S. multinational corporations haven’t brought their cash from offshore subsidiaries to the U.S. to avoid having them taxed.  Under the tax proposal, they would be able to repatriate the cash at low tax rates, payable over up to five years.  This could make the cash available to pay as dividends to U.S. shareholders to make investments in the U.S.  It could also be just a transfer from a foreign bank to a U.S. bank.

U.S. multinational corporations.  Under the proposal, dividends paid to U.S. corporations from offshore subsidiaries that are at least 10% owned by the U.S. corporation would be tax exempt.  U.S. corporations would no longer be subject to tax on their worldwide income, but only their U.S. operations.

U.S. business owners.  The maximum corporate tax rate would be reduced from 38% to 20%.  The maximum tax rate for individuals on business income would be reduced from 39.6% to 25%.  Investments in depreciable assets (equipment) other than structures (buildings) would be currently deductible for at least five years.

Employees with incentive stock options.  The exercise of incentive stock options isn’t subject to the regular tax, but is currently taxable under the alternative minimum tax.  Since the alternative minimum tax would be repealed, the exercise of incentive stock options would be deferred until the stock is sold or there is another disqualified disposition.  The original tax benefit of incentive stock options would be restored.

Healthy retired empty nesters.  Many of these taxpayers already use the standard deduction.  Their standard deductions will increase under the tax proposals, likely resulting in a tax reduction.

Very wealthy families.  The federal estate tax would be repealed.  Very few Americans are currently subject to the federal estate tax at death.  The exemption equivalent for 2017 is $5.49 million per individual, or nearly $11 million for a married couple.  The federal estate tax rate is 40% for the excess.  (Note there is no proposal to repeal the federal gift tax!)

High income individuals.  The maximum income tax rate would be reduced from 39.6% to 35%.  The additional 3.8% tax on net investment income is also proposed to be repealed.

Losers

Very large families.  The personal exemption would be repealed.  The rationale is the larger standard deduction would cover the elimination of the personal exemption, but it is a flat amount.  The dependent exemption for 2017 is $4,050.  With the $12,700 standard deduction for married couples for 2017, a family of three would have a combined deduction of $24,850 — exceeding the proposed standard deduction for married couples of $24,000.

Single parent families.  It appears the head of household filing status, a very significant tax break for single parent families, would be eliminated.

People who live in states with high income taxes.  States with high income tax brackets include California, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota and others.  (Note many of them are “blue” states.)  The deduction for state income taxes would be repealed.

People who pay high real estate taxes.  The deduction for real estate taxes would be repealed, eliminating a significant tax benefit of home ownership.

People in nursing homes.  Since the medical deduction would be eliminated, people who are uninsured or underinsured and pay for long-term care will lose a signficant tax benefit.  (For many of them, their medical expenses eliminates most of their taxable income.)

Employees with employee business expenses.  Employee business expenses are an itemized deduction that would be repealed.

Corporations that issue bonds or borrow money.  The deduction for interest expense for C corporations would be partially limited.

People who pay high legal fees.  Some legal fees now qualify to be deducted as miscellaneous itemized deductions.  This deduction would be repealed.

People who have high investment management expenses.  Investment management expenses for taxable investments are miscellaneous itemized deductions.  This deduction would be repealed.

Tax return preparers.  Actually, pluses and minuses.  Taxpayers will be totally confused by the tax law changes and will seek help in sorting them out.  Many tax returns will be simpler to prepare, resulting in lower fees.  Tax professionals will need to approach planning more from a financial planning point of view.  Tax return preparers who serve high net worth clients will still have plenty of business.  These clients will still have complex tax issues to deal with

Let your representatives in Congress know what you think about these proposals.  Here is a web site with contact information:  https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

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How can a business valuation specialist save taxes for your business or family?

The interview on Financial Insider Weekly to be broadcast in San Jose and Campbell  on Thursday, August 24, is with James Brown, ASA, CFP(R) of Perisho, Tombor & Brown.   Our interview subject is “The role of the business valuation specialist.”  The interview will be broadcast at 6:30 p.m. Pacific Time on CreaTV, Comcast Channel 15 in San Jose and Campbell, and will be broadcast as streaming video at the same time at www.creatvsj.org. Note the change in day and time.  You can find broadcast times for other San Francisco Bay Area cities and past episodes at www.financialinsiderweekly.com.

After eight years of production, this is the final broadcast of a new interview for Financial Insider Weekly.  Thank you to the public access television stations that broadcast the show and to the viewers for watching it.  You will find a wealth of financial information under past episodes at www.financialinsiderweekly.com.

What tax rules apply to the sale of a principal residence?

The interview on Financial Insider Weekly to be broadcast in San Jose and Campbell  on Friday, July 28, is with G. Scott Haislet, CPA and attorney at law.   Our interview subject is “Sale of a principal residence.”  The interview will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time on CreaTV, Comcast Channel 15 in San Jose and Campbell, and will be broadcast as streaming video at the same time at www.creatvsj.org. You can find broadcast times for other San Francisco Bay Area cities and past episodes at www.financialinsiderweekly.com.

What should you know about California real estate change of ownership?

The interview on Financial Insider Weekly to be broadcast in San Jose and Campbell  on Friday, July 21, is with G. Scott Haislet, CPA and attorney at law.   Our interview subject is “Real estate reassessment change of ownership in California.”  The interview will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time on CreaTV, Comcast Channel 15 in San Jose and Campbell, and will be broadcast as streaming video at the same time at www.creatvsj.org. You can find broadcast times for other San Francisco Bay Area cities and past episodes at www.financialinsiderweekly.com.

What life insurance basics should you know?

The interview on Financial Insider Weekly to be broadcast in San Jose and Campbell  on Fridays, June 23 and 30, is with Peggy Martin, CLU, ChFC of The Family Wealth Consulting Group.   Our interview subject is “Life insurance basics.”  The interview will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time on CreaTV, Comcast Channel 15 in San Jose and Campbell, and will be broadcast as streaming video at the same time at www.creatvsj.org. You can find broadcast times for other San Francisco Bay Area cities and past episodes at www.financialinsiderweekly.com.

What should you know about long-term care insurance?

The interview on Financial Insider Weekly to be broadcast in San Jose and Campbell  this Friday, June 16, is with Peggy Martin, CLU, ChFC of The Family Wealth Consulting Group.   Our interview subject is “Long-term care insurance.”  The interview will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time on CreaTV, Comcast Channel 15 in San Jose and Campbell, and will be broadcast as streaming video at the same time at www.creatvsj.org. You can find broadcast times for other San Francisco Bay Area cities and past episodes at www.financialinsiderweekly.com.

More information about the “Elder Care Journey”

The interview on Financial Insider Weekly to be broadcast in San Jose and Campbell on Friday, April 28 is with Janis Carney,  attorney at law of Carney Elder Law.   Our interview subject is “The Elder Care Journey, Part 3 of 3.”  The interview will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time on CreaTV, Comcast Channel 15 in San Jose and Campbell, and will be broadcast as streaming video at the same time at www.creatvsj.org. You can find broadcast times for other San Francisco Bay Area cities and past episodes at www.financialinsiderweekly.com.

What should you know about caring for senior family members?

The interview on Financial Insider Weekly to be broadcast in San Jose and Campbell on Fridays, April 7 and 14, is with Janis Carney,  attorney at law of Carney Elder Law.   Our interview subject is “The Elder Care Journey, Part 1 of 3.”  The interview will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time on CreaTV, Comcast Channel 15 in San Jose and Campbell, and will be broadcast as streaming video at the same time at www.creatvsj.org. You can find broadcast times for other San Francisco Bay Area cities and past episodes at www.financialinsiderweekly.com.

Tax and financial advice from the Silicon Valley expert.