News & Articles

Navigate the Tax Rules for Boats and RVs

Posted on Mon, Apr 08, 2019

Will you be cruising the waters on your boat or camping out in your RV this year? Besides the pleasure you can enjoy through your personal property, you may also be eligible for tax breaks, if certain requirements are met.

Following is a brief rundown of four prime tax-saving opportunities.

1. Chartering activities. It's common for some boat owners to charter out their vessels for sightseeing or fishing excursions when they're not being used personally. In other words, this becomes a sideline business that allows you to recoup some of your expenses.

Notably, you can use expenses to offset the taxable income from chartering activities, including the cost of fuel, repairs, insurance, supplies, equipment, mooring and storage, and even fishing gear or binoculars. Plus, you're entitled to a generous depreciation allowance for the vessel itself.

Of course, your deductions are based on the percentage of boat use that's business-related. For example, if you charter out the boat 50% of the time, you can deduct 50% of the expenses.

Finally, be aware that you could run into troubled tax waters if the activity is treated as a hobby, rather than a business. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), hobby expenses are generally disallowed for 2018-2025. Also, a business operation may trigger other tax consequences (for example, self-employment tax for a sole proprietor).

2. Mortgage interest. Typically, you can deduct mortgage interest on a qualified residence, like the main place where you live, but you're also entitled to interest deductions on a second home, like a vacation home. Surprisingly, the "residence" can also be a boat or a RV.

To qualify for this tax break under the tax code, the boat or RV must have sleeping, cooking and toilet facilities. So, if your boat has a galley, sleeping quarters and a head, you should be in the clear. You can't just barbecue on a boat's deck or throw a sleeping bag down below. Most RVs have the requisite facilities for this deduction.

Keep in mind that the TCJA imposes new limits on mortgage interest deductions for itemizers. It lowers the threshold for new acquisition debt from $1 million to $750,000, but prior loans are grandfathered. It also generally eliminates the deduction for home equity debt.

3. Charitable donations. Maybe you want to upgrade your boat or RV or your passion for boating or camping is waning. In any event, you might decide to donate the boat or vehicle to charity. Assuming certain requirements are met and you itemize deductions, this could provide a tax windfall.

As a general rule, you can deduct the current fair market value (FMV) of the boat or RV on the date of the donation. For instance, if you bought the RV for $80,000 years ago and it's now worth $50,000, you deduct $50,000 on your personal return.

But don't leave matters to chance. Obtain an appraisal from an independent professional. An appraisal is required anyway for property donations above $5,000.

Other special rules may come into play. For instance, the charity must use the boat or RV to further its tax-exempt function. Deal with a qualified charitable organization that is experienced with these types of donations.

4. Sales tax. Depending on your situation, you may be able to deduct the sales tax you pay when you purchase a boat or RV, although the rules have been complicated by the TCJA.

Previously, you could deduct all of your state and local property taxes, plus either your state and local income tax or sales tax. But now the total annual deduction for state and local tax (SALT) payments is limited to $10,000 for 2018-2025.

If you opt to write off sales tax instead of income tax as part of your annual SALT deduction, be aware that you can use either the actual tax paid, based on records, or an amount from a convenient IRS table. Generally, the actual expense method will produce a bigger deduction. Caveat: If you choose the table amount, you can add on sales tax from certain "big-ticket items" — like boats and vehicles!

To Summarize

These are just four ways you may benefit tax-wise from boats or RVs. At other times, you might use the property as transportation for hire or even claim home office deductions if you qualify under the strict letter of the law. Moral of the story: Be aware of all the tax-saving possibilities for these prized possessions.

Read More

Tags: Sales Tax, Tax Credit, Charitable Donations, Mortgage

How the Current Tax Law Affects Charitable Giving from IRAs

Posted on Mon, Mar 04, 2019

For charitable donors, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provided some tax breaks and took away others. Here's what charity-minded individuals need to know.

Read More

Tags: IRA Distributions, Charitable Giving, Charitable Donations, Charitable Contributions, IRA

Ensure You Qualify for Charitable Donation Deductions

Posted on Thu, Jul 12, 2018

Giving to charity can provide you with a warm feeling as well as a nice tax break. But you've got to itemize deductions on your tax return. And, like most tax breaks, charitable deductions come with a number of rules you must follow to actually claim the write-off. Here are the details.

Read More

Tags: Charitable Giving, IRS, Charitable Donations

Maximize the Tax Deductions Available for Your Generosity

Posted on Mon, Oct 23, 2017

The reporting requirements for claiming charitable contributions of cash on your tax return can be strict. If you don't follow them, your deductions may be disallowed by the IRS. You should also be aware that stringent rules also apply to donations of non-cash property.

Read More

Tags: Individual Taxes, Gifts, Deductions, Charitable Donations

IRS Guidance on Leave-Sharing Programs to Help Hurricane Harvey Victims

Posted on Mon, Sep 11, 2017

The IRS recently announced special tax relief for leave-based donation programs set up by employers to assist victims of Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Harvey.

Basics of Employer Programs

Under a leave-based donation program, an employer can allow its employees to forgo their vacation, sick, or personal time off in exchange for cash payments made by the employer to charitable organizations. Under IRS regulations, leave-based charitable donations are ordinarily included in the donating employee's income. In addition, the opportunity to elect such contributions raises the concern that eligible employees might be taxed on income that could have been donated because the ability to make the contribution triggers "constructive receipt."

IRS Relief

The new IRS guidance addresses both concerns:

  • Cash payments that employers make to qualified tax-exempt organizations in exchange for vacation, sick, or personal leave that their employees elect to give up won't constitute income to the employees if the payments are made before January 1, 2019, for the relief of victims of Hurricane Harvey or Tropical Storm Harvey.

    Such payments don't need to be included in Box 1, 3, or 5 of the employee's Form W-2.
  • The opportunity to make a leave donation won't result in constructive receipt of income. Employees who participate in these programs can't deduct the value of the donated leave on their income tax returns. Reason: Such deductions would involve "double-dipping" because the donated time off already would have been excluded from their incomes.

    Employers cannot claim a charitable deduction for the value of the forgone leave. However, they will be permitted to deduct the contributions as trade or business expenses without regard to the charitable contribution restrictions under the tax code.

This guidance closely resembles the relief for leave-based donation programs that the IRS has issued after other recent disasters, including last year's severe storms and flooding in Louisiana and Hurricane Matthew.

If you need more information about leave-based donation programs, consult with your EHTC Tax Advisor or employee benefits advisor.

Read More

Tags: Employers, IRS, Charitable Donations

Save on Taxes While Doing Good

Posted on Wed, Jun 28, 2017

If you own assets that have appreciated significantly over the years, you may be able to profit more by giving them away than by selling them.

Read More

Tags: Charitable Giving, Charitable Donations, Charitable Contributions, Trusts, Beneficiary Designations

It's Time to Review Your Financial Planning Options

Posted on Mon, Aug 29, 2016
Fall is a good time to pause and review your financial planning strategy. A lot can happen in a year. If your personal life, market conditions or tax laws have changed, you may need to revise your long-term financial plans. Here are some retirement and estate planning considerations that may be worthwhile.

Read More

Tags: Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, Gifts, Charitable Giving, Charitable Donations, Roth IRA Conversion

7 Tax-Savvy Ways to Give to Charity

Posted on Wed, Aug 03, 2016

Charitable giving is on the rise. And the momentum is expected to continue, given the natural disasters and human tragedies that have happened in recent months.

Read More

Tags: Charitable Donations, Charitable Contributions, Volunteer

Last-Minute Tax Savings: Hurry Before Time Runs Out

Posted on Mon, Dec 07, 2015

Another tax year is drawing to a close. But there's still time for individual taxpayers to trim their tax liabilities for 2015 and beyond, before the New Year begins. Here are 10 eleventh-hour moves that you can still make before the clock strikes midnight on January 1.

Read More

Tags: Tax, Roth IRA, Charitable Donations, College Expenses, RMD

Are You Ready to Play the Charitable Giving Game?

Posted on Sun, Oct 19, 2014

Are you looking for a way to lower your 2014 tax bill? Qualified charitable contributions may help lower taxable income -- and, as an added bonus, allow you to support worthwhile causes. Approximately 40 percent of charitable giving occurs from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve, according to the not-for-profit watchdog Charity Navigator. So now is a good time to review giving trends and the IRS substantiation requirements.

Read More

Tags: EHTC Article, Charitable Donations, Newsletter, Articles, Charitable Contributions, Taxes