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Small Business Tax Strategies

Q: I have two IRAs that I established years ago. One was started for deductible contributions when I was young; the other has nondeductible contributions. Now that I’m over age 591/2, I want to withdraw some of that money. Can I withdraw money only from the nondeductible IRA? R.R.S., Key Biscayne, Fla.

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The first piece of our audit series explained how you can breeze through an IRS "correspondence audit" conducted through the mail. But the stakes are considerably higher—as is the stress level—if you’re tapped for an IRS "office audit."

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An experienced tax adviser can provide a security blanket if you’re intimidated by the process. And he or she won’t likely take the "bait" if the auditor goes on a fishing trip.

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In the waning days of summer, President Bush signed the highly anticipated Energy Tax Incentives Act of 2005. The massive new energy law contains almost $15 billion in tax cuts designed to encourage conservation, expand domestic energy production and develop alternative energy sources.

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Do your employees need special tools for their jobs? Typically, you provide the tools that workers need or you reimburse employees for tools they must buy on their own. If you handle everything correctly, those reimbursements are tax-free to employees and tax-deductible for you.

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With gasoline prices shooting through the roof, the IRS took the unusual step last month of increasing the standard mileage rate deduction for the final four months of the year.

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Starting in 2006, taxpayers will be able to give cash gifts of up to $12,000 to each recipient without facing gift-tax issues. That’s up from $11,000 this year. Married couples can give twice as much.

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"Passive activity loss" (PAL) rules say that losses from passive activities are limited to annual passive activity income. In general, rental real estate is treated as a passive activity.

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Q: My daughter is a college freshman and I bought her a new laptop through the school. Does that qualify for a tax-free withdrawal? C.K., Syracuse, N.Y.

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Q: I bought stock for about $5,000 and gave it to my son when it was worth $4,000. Now the stock has fallen further and is worth about $3,500. My broker says my son will only have a $500 loss (not $1,500) if he sells it. Is that true? E.B., Miami

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