Tax and Financial News May 2019
HSA Accounts and Their Incredible Long-term Benefits
Pretty much everyone has heard about 401(k) plans, but beyond these – Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) also can be great retirement vehicles. HSAs are tax-advantaged savings accounts for those with high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). The idea is that since those with HDHPs generally have lower premiums but higher out-of-pocket expenses, they need a way to save for such expenses.
Few eligible taxpayers take full advantage of HSAs. The Employee Benefit Research Institute estimated a few years ago that out of the approximately 17 million people eligible, only about 13.8 million opened HSA accounts, leaving almost 20 percent without one. The survey also revealed that very few people maximize their contributions – and nearly everyone takes current distributions, leaving balances far lower than they could be otherwise.
Why Does This Matter?
The HSA’s tax advantages make it a great way to save for retirement and in some ways it is even better than using a retirement account. For example, you can make tax-deductible contributions either via payroll deductions or on your own; the account grows tax-free on interest, dividends and capital gains; and withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are tax-free. In contrast to a 401(k) or IRA, HSAs do not require withdrawals at a certain age, allowing the account to remain untouched and growing tax-free for the rest of your life. Now let’s look at some considerations to fully take advantage of HSAs.
Max Your Contributions Before It’s Too Late
HSA contributions are only tax-deductible before a certain age; once you qualify for Medicare this tax advantage ends. Once you are eligible for Medicare you technically no longer must have an HDHP and therefore aren’t allowed to make deductible contributions anymore. Once you reach 55 years old, catch-up contributions of an additional $1,000 per year are allowed for each the taxpayer and spouse, if married.
Look at Your HSA as an Investment Tool
While HSAs weren’t intended to be investment accounts, treating it like one is the best way to benefit from the tax advantages. Get in the mindset of treating your HSA contributions as “untouchable,” and pay your medical expenses with money from outside the account.
Aside from maximizing what you put in and taking out as little as possible, you need to invest HSA funds wisely. Consider an investment strategy similar to what you use for other retirement assets, within the context of your entire portfolio.
Also remember that while your employer might make it easy to open your HSA account with a certain administrator or even set you up with a default provider, you ultimately have say over where to keep your HSA money. An HSA is more like an IRA than a 401(k)s in this respect, so look around for a plan that offers high-quality, low-cost investment options.
Maximize Your HSA Assets in Retirement
By waiting until retirement to use your HSA funds, you enable those assets to grow tax free with the potential to use the funds tax free as well. You’ll still will be able to use the funds tax free only for qualified medical expenses, but what qualifies as a medical expense is expansive.
For example, in addition to the typical items, tax-free HSA withdrawals can be used to pay for portions of the premiums for certain long-term care insurance policies, in-home nursing care, retirement community fees that include certain types of care, and nursing home fees.
Another thing to note is that since there are no required minimum distributions, you’ll never need to worry about being forced to withdraw the money.
HSAs are largely overlooked as investment tools even though their unique tax advantages make them excellent choices. Obviously, you don’t want to hoard HSA funds at the expense of ignoring your health care, but if you have the means to fund your HSA and pay your medical expenses before retirement with other money, you can reap the benefits in years to come. Lastly, keep in mind that these strategies are all based on current federal tax law. While most states follow federal tax law regarding HSAs, not all do.
General Business News May 2019
How to Budget for Estimated Tax Payments
According to a March 22 Internal Revenue Service News Release, 2018 federal tax filers might be able to have any penalties for an underpayment of estimated tax removed. This could be possible if they’ve paid at least 80 percent of their 2018 tax obligations through either quarterly estimated payments, income tax withholdings or a combination of both during the 2018 calendar year.
This new level was established after the 90 percent payment requirement was reduced to 85 percent of estimated tax obligations on Jan. 16. With paying estimated taxes a legal requirement for many taxpayers, let’s examine how this works for individuals and business entities.
Individuals and Organizations Responsible to Pay Estimated Taxes
For the most part, corporations are required to pay estimated taxes if they project owing taxes of at least $500 as part of their tax return filing.
When it comes to other entities, including sole proprietors, partners, shareholders of S-corps and individuals, estimated tax payments are required if there is an expected tax obligation of at least $1,000 with their yearly filing.
Obligations for Estimated Payments
As income is earned, so must taxes be paid through either estimated or withholding tax remittances to the IRS.
Estimated tax payments might be necessary for workers who have not had enough withholdings taken from a variety of earnings. It can come from salaries or pension payments, or from interest or dividend payments, alimony, capital gains or sweepstakes winnings. Self-employed individuals are required to pay estimated taxes to help cover any applicable alternative minimum tax obligations, along with self-employment taxes and income taxes.
If there’s not enough tax paid via withholding and/or estimated taxes, or if they are paid late, there could be a penalty assessed. This is regardless of if a refund is due the taxpayer when a tax return is filed.
When Estimated Tax Payments May Not Be Required
For those who receive compensation in the form of wages or a salary, employers can work with their employees to withhold the appropriate amount to lessen the chances of estimated tax obligations. Other scenarios that can provide an exemption of paying estimated taxes are when no taxes were due the previous year (or not legally required to file a return), and the applicant was a resident or American citizen for the entire year and the past tax year consisted of 12 months.
Making Estimated Tax Payments
Required four times every calendar year, estimated taxes can be paid weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. It doesn’t matter the frequency of payments, as long as the estimated taxes are remitted by the due date.
While there are different requirements for workers in certain industries, such as fishermen and farmers, for those filers who fail to pay what’s required of their taxes, be it estimated or withholding, the IRS can assess a penalty. However, if the taxpayer meets one of the following criteria – based on the lowest figure – they can expect to avoid a penalty:
- Has a tax obligation of less than $1,000 (after factoring in credits and withholdings)
- Has already satisfied 90 percent of tax obligations for the existing tax year
- Has already paid the same amount in taxes owed the previous tax year
However, with the recent IRS news release, for 2018 at least, the 80 percent threshold has been established. Other ways filers might be able to get amnesty from this penalty include if the person becomes deceased; retires once they turn 62 years old; or develops a disability within the tax year when the estimated tax payments are due. The under-payment of estimated taxes must be “due to reasonable cause” and not purposely trying to avoid payment.
Determining and paying estimated taxes is not a one-size-fits-all requirement by the IRS, but it’s a legal requirement for millions of Americans and those living and working in the United States.
What’s New in Technology May 2019
What To Expect From 10G Data Speed
When it comes to smartphones, speed and connectivity is generally referenced by generation. For example, the industry is currently focused on creating 5G networks.
However, in the cable industry the G refers to gigabits. Over the past two years, this industry has expanded the availability of 1 gigabit broadband Internet from 4 percent to 80 percent of U.S. households. Now that the foundation for gigabit expansion exists, the cable industry is looking to increase speeds by tenfold and make it accessible to more homes and businesses globally.
The new focus is on 10G technology, which also is expected to reduce transfer latency, provide greater security and enhance the ability to host a wide range of immersive skills and applications – even those that haven’t been conceived yet. Internet service providers (ISP) are currently preparing the infrastructure necessary to enable a seamless and secure 10G online experience for computers.
A Bit Versus a Byte
What might not be clear to consumers is the difference between a gigabit and gigabyte, also known as a bit and a byte. A bit refers to the rate of transferring data: 1 gigabit transmits 1 billion bits per second. Even 1 gigabit represents extremely fast bandwidth that, for user purposes, means no log time when streaming video, downloading music or playing video and virtual reality games,
For example, 1 gigabit can download an entire two-hour HD movie in less than 60 seconds. It also offers the bandwidth to enable multiple downloads simultaneously and allow multiple users to surf and interact on the internet at the same time on various devices.
In contrast, a byte is the measurement for storage available on a computing device. The data itself is measured in bytes, and bytes are delivered in single bits at a time. For reference, 1 gigabyte of memory holds about 312 MP3 songs or 535 e-books.
Therefore, to maximize both storage and speed, it’s important to have a high capacity to store data (bytes) and impressive speed (bits) so that vast amounts of data can transmit quickly.
Small Business Benefits
While larger companies have dozens to hundreds of employees with a wide range of job responsibilities, many small businesses tend to be focused on a just a few. And those few can be significantly impacted by a lagging network. For this reason, deploying faster computer speed can make a big difference in the time it takes to search data, retrieve records, run point-of-sale systems and transmit financial transactions. Even the most basic mom and pop shops will benefit from this enhancement of speed and storage capacity.
For professional services firms, where time is indeed measured by money, 10G has the potential to revolutionize their business model by reducing expenses, enhancing the customer service experience and maximizing staff productivity.
10G, which has been described as the next great leap for broadband, is not an insular achievement. It is part of a larger cable broadband technology platform designed to process exponentially more data from more devices at 10 times the speed of what we expect today. Combined with enhanced reliability and security features, 10G is projected to launch a myriad of new immersive technologies and digital experiences that will revolutionize the way businesses are run.