Small Business Tax Strategies

Question: I am 62, married and plan to retire in June. I know that I can start collecting 80 percent of my Social Security benefits this year, but I’ll also be taxed on those benefits. Should I hold off collecting benefits until I reach 65 or later to avoid the tax? Or should I start taking benefits now because of the new Social Security proposals? (I’m in the 28 percent tax bracket.) – J.H., Columbus, Ohio

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Q: We run our business as an LLC (a husband and wife partnership) and have a SIMPLE retirement plan. The company deducts the contributions it matches for employees. Can it also deduct the matches for my husband and me? L.J.S.

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Q: In a recent issue, you said that both engineering and architectural services qualify as "manufacturers" for purposes of the new manufacturing deduction (see 3/21/05 issue). Can you tell me if a laboratory that does tests (for physicians) created from raw materials qualifies for the deduction as this type of service? J.V.M., Md.

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Q: We own several acres of land in a rural area. The land includes a small house that will become our principal residence. If we sell off part of the land (but hang on to the house indefinitely), can we avoid gains taxes under the home-sale-gain exclusion rules? B.M., Burlington, Vt.

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Q: I’m 60 years old and have a traditional IRA with $250,000 in it. I also have a Roth IRA in its third year. Can I roll over the traditional IRA to a Roth and use $150,000 of NOLs to offset any tax that must be paid? B.W.

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Q: I’m confused about the gift-tax exclusion. My accountant told me I can give away $11,000 a year, but my brother says the actual exclusion is $1 million. Who is right? N.S., Memphis, Tenn.

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If you’re like most small business owners, your spouse does odds and ends around the office and pitches in when you need help. This is particularly true in the summer months when other employees take vacation leave.

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If you’re planning to hire your spouse, he or she (and your company) still must pay federal employment taxes on the wages. But don’t let that scare you away from putting your spouse on the payroll. By shifting salary from your pocket to your spouse’s pocket, you can successfully pay less in employment taxes than if you earned all the income yourself.

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The sheer complexity of the tax code causes many people to put their faith in anyone who promises tax-reduction magic. That’s why the IRS rings its warning bell each spring, identifying the top tax scams being pitched by unscrupulous tax promoters.

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If your company owns a weekend retreat where you like to enjoy the great outdoors, you probably know that the IRS’s "entertainment facility" rules typically prevent you from deducting depreciation and related expenses for the place, even if you entertain clients there.

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