Friday, December 30, 2011

Congress Messing With Mortgage Market...Again

Washington lawmakers, who began 2011 with sweeping plans to shrink the U.S. government’s role in mortgage finance, are heading into 2012 after enacting policies that expand it.
An 11th-hour payroll tax cut extension signed into law last week will for the first time divert funds directly from Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac, the two mortgage-finance companies under U.S. conservatorship, to pay for general government expenses.
That move came after two others that also could increase government involvement: Lawmakers allowed a tax break on private mortgage insurance to expire and raised loan limits for mortgages insured by theFederal Housing Administration. Advocates of private mortgage finance say they are concerned that using fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is setting a precedent that will keep the government in the mortgage business for a decade or more.
“The goal was, at the beginning of the year, how do we wind these down?” said Edward Pinto, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based research organization that favors limited government. “And at the end of the year we have further entrenched them and made it more difficult to wind them down, which is classic Washington.”
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (FMCC), today directed the companies to increase fees on new mortgages by an average of 10 basis points, or .1 percentage point, effective April 1, to comply with the law.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Phew! It’s Done. Now What?

    As expected Congress finally passed the much debated bill that extended the tax breaks for another two years, extended unemployment benefits for another 13 months and added some additional tax breaks and considerations for business. The deal cut between President Obama and Senate Republicans some weeks ago was pretty much a done deal but there was an opportunity for the opponents to register their displeasure before the deal went down. Now that the politicians have finished with this the focus now shifts to what this really means for the growth of the economy in 2011 and beyond.
     An assessment of this law will preoccupy analysts and voters for the next few years as there will be two issues to consider. The first is whether the extension of breaks and benefits will really do much for the economy. Even if the answer to this question is positive, there will be a second set of concerns over whether the $1 trillion effort is worth it given what this will do to make the deficit that much worse. Those who fought the measure were pretty diverse in terms of their opposition  and most of the debate was less about really defeating the bill and more about staking out some future political positions. The economic critique was a little more pointed.

Analysis: There was no significant economic objection to the notion that this law would benefit the economy in the short term. How could it not? If the tax breaks had not been extended, the average tax payer would have been out between $1,500 and $3,000 dollars next year and that is not an inconsequential sum of money. A loss of unemployment benefits would have stripped some two million people of their assistance and that is cash no longer in private hands. Granted, the money would not have simply vanished and it would have been spent by the government in some way but when the economy is still faltering it is usually a better idea to get the private sector moving.
    The economists made their case on the basis of what is better in the long run and there were two schools of thought. To those who put deficit control at the top of the list, the whole notion of offering tax breaks and extending unemployment to a record number of months is folly and just puts off the inevitable day of reckoning. The assertion is that contending with the deficit is never going to be pleasant or popular and putting it off just ensures that it will be a bigger problem later.
     The other position is that dangling these tax cuts as political fuel every couple of years creates chaos in the business community. The executive and the strategist need to know what to expect in the years to come and it matters what the tax bill will be. The same is true for the individual. It serves little purpose to bring an issue this important back every couple of years. If the tax cut is a good idea it should be made permanent and it is isn’t, it should have been allowed to expire. - Courtesy Kentucky Society of CPA's.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

IRS Issues Final Regs on EITC Due Diligence

The IRS on Monday issued final regulations with the due-diligence requirements for tax return preparers who prepare tax returns on which taxpayers claim the earned income tax credit (EITC). The new rules require tax return preparers to submit Form 8867, Paid Preparer’s Earned Income Credit Checklist, to the IRS.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Business Costs for 2012 Expected to Rise, WSJ Says

The Wall Street Journal is predicting that the cost of doing business will rise again in 2012 and businesses might have difficulty passing along those increases to customers. That might be good news for the Federal Reserve, but it isn't good news for business, the Journal says.

"Within their monthly surveys, the Fed banks of New York and Philadelphia added special questions about cost expectations for 2012. Although each bank asked slightly different questions, the results were similar. Businesses expect to pay more for labor and supplies, but energy inflation should ease.
Employee benefits, especially health care coverage, are expected to be the biggest cost headache next year.

"New York respondents expect overall benefits, on average, to rise 6.1% next year. Philadelphia respondents see their health care benefits alone rising 7.3%.

"Wages are anticipated to rise 2.8% in New York state, and 2.1% around the City of Brotherly Love.
Energy costs are seen rising about 2.9% in New York and 1.8% in Philly. That’s a relief–or maybe wishful thinking–from the 2011 experience. Nationally, yearly energy inflation is running more than 10%.

"The question for the inflation outlook is how much of the higher costs will businesses be able to pass along to their customers. The evidence is sparse but suggests, not much. Only the New York Fed asked about expected selling prices. Respondents on average hope to raise their prices by just 1.8%.

"Of course, the lack of pricing power reflects the fact that consumers are still quite bargain-conscious. That in turn is the result of the small pay raises businesses have given out and–as the surveys show–plan to dole out again next year.

"Without more cash in their pockets, consumers will resist higher prices except for staples, such as food and energy. Consequently, the Fed can rest easy; inflation will not be a problem next year. The central bank can continue to focus on promoting economic growth.

"Most businesses will not be so lucky. Companies have been able to offset some of this year’s cost-price squeeze through higher productivity. But that trend looks played out. As a result, expect more downward pressure on profit margins in 2012." from the Wall Street Journal

Friday, December 2, 2011

U.S. Sweeping Financial Reform Act Has Implications Around the Globe

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the Dodd-Frank Act) passed in July is the single most sweeping financial regulatory reform in the United States since the securities acts of 1933 and 1934. Its scope is wide and broad but its implications are grey and murky. While American companies and industries sort through the 2,300 pages of the Dodd-Frank Act to find out what the new legislation means for them, the international implications have gone largely unexplored.
The Act significantly changes the U.S. federal regulatory framework as it relates to many types of financial services companies, especially banks and other deposit-taking institutions, both foreign and domestic. For example, it permits the Federal Reserve to terminate activities of U.S. branches, agencies or commercial lending subsidiaries of a non-U.S. entity if the Federal Reserve determines that the home country has not adopted appropriate systems to mitigate risk and if it may present a systemic risk to the U.S.
Added Responsibilities for SEC
The law also expands the scope of new responsibilities for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Congress has asked the SEC, among other things, to constantly monitor and oversee all domestic as well as international proposals and developments inclusive of the insurance industry and accounting profession. The SEC has to report back to Congress annually about all new proposals that affect the financial industry and how they affect the stability therein. These new requirements have increased some concern that coordinating everything on a global level may lead to a high margin of error.
Serious concerns were raised by the AICPA and others regarding government oversight of accounting standard-setting bodies in earlier stages of the legislation. Congress modified the original language to direct the Financial Stability Oversight Council to review and, as appropriate,  “submit comments” to the SEC and any standard-setting body with respect to an existing or proposed accounting principle, standard or procedure. In earlier versions, the Council was given increased power to directly influence standards. The AICPA successfully advocated for preserving an independent board to monitor these standards.  
PCAOB to Inspect Foreign Audit Firms
Additionally, Dodd-Frank amended the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), granting the authority for the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) to now inspect foreign audit firms that practice in the U.S. or have U.S. clients. For example, any registered public accounting firm (domestic or foreign) that relies, in whole or in part, on the work of a foreign public accounting firm in issuing an audit report, performing audit work or conducting an interim review must:
  • Produce the foreign firm’s audit work papers and all related documents if the SEC or PCAOB requests them; and
  • Secure the foreign firm’s agreement to produce those documents as a condition of relying on the work of that firm.
The general international impact of Dodd-Frank is on external auditors and preparers who must comply with SOX, as amended by the Dodd-Frank Act, because they are employed or engaged by international/global public companies that list on U.S. exchanges. Read More

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Here are some tax planning opportunities for small businesses and their owners. Have a look and let me know if you have any questions.

1 Available first-year depreciation and expensing of capital assets purchased for business use have reached historical highs.  For the remainder of 2011, most tangible business property purchased new (original use) is eligible for a 100% first-year bonus depreciation deduction.  Absent further action from Congress, bonus depreciation will revert to a 50% first-year deduction in 2012 and there has even been talk of repealing bonus depreciation altogether.  Also, the annual limitation on expensing business property (IRC Section 179) placed in service in 2011 is $500,000 with an overall investment cap of $2,000,000.  These annual limits are slated to revert to $139,000 and $560,000, respectively, in 2012.  The moral of this story is that if your business needs equipment, then you should strongly consider buying before the end of the year.
2  Growing businesses that may be looking to hire a new employee or two before should be mindful of the work opportunity tax credit that is available to employers who hire qualifying workers (generally the unemployed and certain veterans) to fill new positions before the year’s end.
3 The brave self-employed out there, if they have not already done so, should investigate and consider self-employed retirement plan options.  Although making that annual retirement plan contribution can be a cash flow burden, remember that as much as 40% of that tax-deferred payment is tax savings you would have paid anyway.
4  Unfortunately, many businesses are projecting a 2011 bottom-line loss.  Contrary to popular belief, losses present their own unique set of tax planning opportunities.  Owners of business entities that are expecting to receive “pass-through” losses in 2011 should consult their tax advisor about basis limitations and opportunities to ‘generate’ basis before year-end.

[Please note that the ideas and information presented herein may not provide benefit to each and every taxpayer.  The reader should take caution to discuss any tax strategy, not just those listed above, with his or her tax advisor prior to implementation.]



The end of the 3rd quarter has passed, and similar to last year, the volatile political landscape has your tax advisor reaching for a crystal ball rather than a copy of the Internal Revenue Code.  Nonetheless, numerous tax planning opportunities remain viable for individual taxpayers, a few of which are listed below.

1 Health Savings Accounts (HSA) have become increasingly popular with employers and employees alike.  Employers enjoy reduced costs of group health insurance plans, and employees benefit from paying medical expenses for themselves and dependents with pre-tax dollars.  Remember that it is not too late to maximize your 2011 HSA contribution.  Even if you become eligible under your employer’s plan in November or December, you can still maximize your 2011 contribution.
2  Take advantage of the $3,000 annual allowance for deduction of capital losses by selling a few of those loser stocks you’ve been holding onto (an oldie, but a goodie).  Remember that you can restore your investment position by repurchasing the same stock after 31 days.  Talk to your broker or advisor, and don’t let this simple deduction get away from you in 2011.
3  If you converted a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA earlier in the year and the value of the investments held by the Roth have since declined in value, you can avoid overpaying tax on the original conversion by “recharacterizing” the conversion back to a traditional IRA.
4  Homeowners are eligible for a non-refundable credit up to $500 for qualifying energy efficient improvements made to their principal residence before the end of the year.
5  There will be no tax (yes, you read that right) on the gain realized upon the sale of qualified small business stock issued by a corporation that meets certain requirements (see your tax advisor), that is purchased before January 1, 2012 and held more than five years.
6  If you are age 70-1/2 or older, and will be forced to take a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your IRA, but don’t necessarily need the cash, consider coordinating with the custodian of your account to make a charitable donation directly from your IRA.  This approach, rather than taking the distribution and then making the charitable contribution, can provide substantial tax savings to seniors without substantial itemized deductions.

[Please note that the ideas and information presented herein may not provide benefit to each and every taxpayer.  The reader should take caution to discuss any tax strategy, not just those listed above, with his or her tax advisor prior to implementation.]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Time's Running Out!

If you filed an extension for your 2010 income taxes, your deadline is October 17.  That's Monday, so don't forget!
-Michael Meier

Monday, September 19, 2011

Have you ever asked yourself . . .

Where will my property go upon my death?
Who can handle my affairs if I were disabled?
Who will make medical decisions for me if I am unable to do so?
Who will care for my children upon my death or disability? 

These are questions everyone should consider, no matter their age or income. This
seminar will provide an overview of the answers to these questions, as well as explain
ways to ensure what you want to happen does in fact happen if the unfortunate occurs.
If learning the answers to these questions interests you, then . . .

You're invited to . . .
Introduction to Estate Planning and Wealth Management
Thursday, September 22, 2011
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

5050 Norton Healthcare Boulevard
Louisville, Kentucky 40241
Complimentary cocktails and hors d' oeuvres will be served.
RSVP TODAY! 502-896-2999 Ext. 108

Monday, August 29, 2011


The Budget Control Act of 2011
The final act of the debt ceiling melodrama in Washington, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) (“BCA”) seeks to increase the debt ceiling in two separate phases.  Phase one is an automatic $400 billion increase, to be followed by an additional $500 billion so long as Congress doesn’t pass a disapproval resolution.  Phase one is coupled with a mandatory $917 billion in deficit reduction for fiscal years 2012 – 2021.
Phase two involves a second increase to the debt ceiling of $1.5 trillion and provides a mandate for creation of a Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (“JSCDR”).  The JSCDR is to consist of twelve members of Congress, six from each house, with membership to be divided equally among republicans and democrats.  The JSCDR must identify at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction for fiscal years 2012-2021.  If the JSCDR fails to achieve its mandate, then the debt ceiling will automatically increase by $1.2 trillion, and a corresponding $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction that will occur pursuant to pre-selected spending cuts to begin in 2013.

Tax Increases vs. Spending Cuts

The emergent issue faced by the JSCDR appears to be whether it will accomplish its deficit reduction goal through spending cuts or tax increases.  However, the magnitude of reduction called for by the BCA makes use of spending cuts alone impractical, so in all likelihood the measures adopted by the JSCDR will include some of both.  So, what does this all mean?

Well for one thing, the now infamous Bush tax cuts will be reappearing in headlines.  The primary issue here will be whether allowing these tax cuts to expire should be considered a tax increase, because in truth, the tax code would only be reverting to its codified form.  There will also be talk of closing “loopholes” in the tax code, eradicating LIFO accounting for business inventories, and probably even some more “radical” tax reform measures such as a federal sales tax.

The imposition of a value-added tax (“VAT”) has been gaining some traction politically.  A VAT works something like a sales tax, except that it shifts the source of taxation from retailers to manufacturers, and potentially, service providers.  From a very broad perspective, then, each “producer” in our economy bears the burden of taxation based upon its “value added” to a product or service that is eventually sold to consumers.

A more simplistic alternative that has been proposed is the reduction of corporate income tax rates.  While at first this may not sound like a tax increase, the proponents of this approach argue that reducing corporate taxes will allow corporations to hire additional employees, thereby expanding the overall income tax base and raising tax revenues. Those against this option argue (perhaps rightfully so) that corporations will glutton themselves on additional profits rather than hire more employees, and continue to increase reliance on automated manufacturing processes and foreign outsourced labor.

You may be wondering what your President has to say about this.  The White House has not been bashful about taking a stance in favor of tax increases to solve the deficit issue.  Specifically, the White House as promoted the following measures:
·       Terminate LIFO accounting for business inventories, raising an estimated $60-70 billion in tax revenues over 10 years.
·       Place a cap on itemized deductions for individuals with adjusted gross income (AGI) over $200,000 and families with AGI over $250,000, raising an estimated $300 billion over 10 years.
·       Levy ordinary income tax rates on carried interest, raising an estimated $20 billion over 10 years.
·       Repeal oil and gas company breaks, such as the allowance for claiming a deduction under the percentage depletion method.
·       Change the required MACRS useful life for depreciation of corporate jets from five to seven years.


Realistically, if the United States plans to realize nearly $2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next ten years then the American taxpayer is going to wind up paying at least part of the tab.  The only real questions are how, when, and how much.  These issues will be hotly debated over the coming months, and are of great importance to the global economy.  In these tumultuous times, citizens should consult their tax advisor on a regular basis to ensure that they are prepared for whatever the tax outcomes of this deficit reduction “crisis” should be.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Estate Planning & Wealth Management Information Session Scheduled

Neikirk, Mahoney & Co. and UBS Financial Services will be co-hosting an Estate Planning & Wealth Management Information Session on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at Corbett’s restaurant in Louisville, KY. 

Guests should arrive at 6:30pm for cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres, to be followed by a brief presentation of basic estate planning and wealth accumulation strategies. This session is specifically geared to benefit interested persons in their 30’s and 40’s who for the first time in their lives may be in need of a comprehensive plan. 

Those interested in attending should RSVP to Jeffrey Mahoney at (502) 896-2999, extension 108.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Estimated Quarterly Tax Payments

Estimated quarterly income tax payments for the third quarter of 2011 are due on September 15, 2011. Remember to schedule a tax planning appointment so we can help you avoid underpaying your 2011 estimated taxes.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Due Dates for Extended Tax Returns

The due dates for extended tax returns are quickly approaching. Extended business entity tax returns must be filed by Thursday, September 15th to avoid late filing penalties.  Individual taxpayers with a 2010 extension have until Monday, October 17th to file timely.