It’s All Taxable, Unless…

All of your income is taxable! This is the premise of the United States Government. However, provisions are addressed through tax legislation that allows certain types of income to be partially taxable or fully exempt from taxation. How do you know which income is tax-free? Is it unpatriotic to pay the least amount of income taxes you lawfully owe? 

Well, lets get one thought out of your mind. Judge Learned Hand, U.S. Court of Appeals in the early 20th century, is credited with stating “nobody owes any public duty to pay more [taxes] than the law demands.” What is fair in our system? The U.S. tax system is based on the honor of its citizens and their willingness to remit taxes timely for the efficient function of the government.

The Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, provides us guidance in the treatment of assets and monies received during the course of the year. For those of us employed, the compensation received from our employers is taxable. However, what about the gift received from Aunt Sally? Is there a limit to what she can give you? Good news! As a beneficiary, or donee, of a gift, of any size, you owe no federal or state income taxes. That means, you could receive a gift of $10,000,000 and owe no income tax. Wow! If that is true, why do we pay tax on other income that is not “earned” during employment?

Section 61 of the Internal Revenue Code states, “… gross income means all income from whatever source derived…” For an item of income to be exempt from taxation, the item must meet specific criteria within the Internal Revenue Code. How does anyone make sense of all of this legal speak? It is critical to understand your tax situation since this expenditure is one of the largest allocations of most individual’s annual budget.

Does this mean your Social Security Benefits are taxable? The answer is maybe. If your income from sources, other than the Social Security Administration, exceeds $25,000 as a single filer or $32,000 as a joint filer, you may have to pay tax on a portion of your benefits. To illustrate the changes in tax laws, the process used by Congress to create revenue for the federal government, in tax years prior to 1987, individuals were not taxed on their Social Security Benefits. Tax laws change, literally, daily.

The solution to this income tax conundrum is to seek a tax adviser that not only understands the tax laws but specializes in planning. Our role as wealth advisors, for our clients, is to provide guidance on the critical areas of their finances that may impair the clients’ abilities to live a life by design. Don’t simply sign your returns each year and send them off hoping for the best. To gain more confidence in your tax responsibilities, seek out a CPA and Certified Financial Planner practitioner that understands the interaction between your planning for the future and the impact of taxation on your investments and income. You can truly take control of your taxes. In the words of Nike, JUST DO IT!

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