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Small Business Tax Strategies

Did you set up a charitable remainder trust (CRT) at the height of the bull market? If so, your returns may have slipped lately as the market fluctuates. You may be rethinking your idea of setting up a CRT in the first place.

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1. Keep receipts, not a list 2. No deduction for ‘common’ products

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You may have amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars in your retirement savings accounts, or maybe even a million or more. When you finally tap into that money, you’ll be taxed on the withdrawal at rates that could reach a staggering 35 percent, plus any state income taxes due.

But you can defer the tax hit for a while longer—perhaps forever—by transferring (or "rolling over") the money into a traditional IRA or a qualified plan. The problem: Rollovers aren’t always simple maneuvers; they include some twists you need to be aware of.

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Q: I’m having a problem with my 2004 return, so I had to file an extension. My wife and I separated last year, and we’re filing separate returns. I’m in the 25 percent tax bracket. If she claims the standard deduction as a head of household, do I need to do the same? B.S.F., Norfolk, Va.

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Q: One of my business associates says top-heavy requirements exist for employee group insurance plans as well as 401(k) plans. Is that true? J.A., Monterey, Calif.

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Q: My tax preparer said I didn’t need to enter my Roth IRA contribution on my tax return. It seems odd that I wouldn’t have to tell the IRS about this. Is he right? E.M., Madison, Wis.

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Q: In a recent article, you said people could deduct mortgage interest on a refinanced loan up to the amount of the original loan balance. (See 2/7/05 issue.) Isn’t the limit the outstanding amount of the loan before the refinancing? M.L., New York

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Q: I bought Intel shares at different times and prices during the past few years. At the end of February and the first few weeks in March, I sold all those shares (and incurred some losses). All the stock sales occurred within 30 days. Can I still claim the losses? Norristown, Pa.

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If you’re selling your share of the family-owned business, you have plenty of reasons to offer relatives, who are current owners, first shot at buying your portion.

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For some people, waiting until mid-April to file their individual income tax returns simply represents a bad case of procrastination. Others hold out so they can keep their money until the last possible moment. Whatever your reason, if you haven’t filed yet, you can still cut your 2004 tax bill with a few timely tactics and tax-smart choices.

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