How Your Income Affects Your Premium Tax Credit

You are allowed a premium tax credit only for health insurance coverage you purchase through the Marketplace for yourself or other members of your tax family. However, to be eligible for the premium tax credit, your household income must be at least 100, but no more than 400 percent of the federal poverty line for your family size. An individual who meets these income requirements must also meet other eligibility criteria.

The amount of the premium tax credit is based on a sliding scale, with greater credit amounts available to those with lower incomes.  Based on the estimate from the Marketplace, you can choose to have all, some, or none of your estimated credit paid in advance directly to your insurance company on your behalf to lower what you pay out-of-pocket for your monthly premiums.  These payments are called advance payments of the premium tax credit.  If you do not get advance credit payments, you will be responsible for paying the full monthly premium.

If the advance credit payments are more than the allowed premium tax credit, you will have to repay some or all the excess.  If your projected household income is close to the 400 percent upper limit, be sure to consider the amount of advance credit payments you choose to have paid on your behalf.  You want to consider this carefully because if your household income on your tax return is 400 percent or more of the federal poverty line for your family size, you will have to repay all of the advance credit payments made on behalf of you and your family members.

For purposes of claiming the premium tax credit for 2014 for residents of the 48 contiguous states or Washington, D.C., the following table outlines household income that is at least 100 percent but no more than 400 percent of the federal poverty line:

 Federal Poverty Line for 2014 Returns
100% of FPL . 400% of FPL
One Individual $11,490 up to $45,960
Family of two $15,510 up to $62,040
Family of four $23,550 up to $94,200

The Department of Health and Human Services provides three federal poverty guidelines: one for residents of the 48 contiguous states and Washington D.C., one for Alaska residents and one for Hawaii residents. For purposes of the premium tax credit, eligibility for a certain year is based on the most recently published set of poverty guidelines at the time of the first day of the annual open enrollment period for coverage for that year. As a result, the premium tax credit for 2014 is based on the guidelines published in 2013. The premium tax credit for coverage in 2015 is based on the 2014 guidelines. You can find all of this information on the HHS website.

Use our Interactive Tax Assistant tool to find out if you are eligible for the premium tax credit. For more information, see the instructions to Form 8962 and the Questions and Answers on the Premium Tax Credit on IRS.gov/aca.

6 Advantages of Real Estate Investing for Savvy Entrepreneurs

I’ve had numerous conversations with entrepreneurs lately who have come to the conclusion that they need to start diversifying their business profits into more than just a savings account. If this is you – pay close attention.

Being a real estate investor isn’t always glamorous but it is one of the best ways to build wealth over the long-haul, especially for the entrepreneurial-minded. Here are six reasons why you should consider investing in rental properties.

1. Cash flow.

Many people invest in rental properties simply because of the cash flow – the extra money that is left after all the bills have been paid. The cash flow can provide ongoing, monthly income that is mostly passive, allowing you to spend your time building a business, traveling or reinvesting in more real estate.

Cash flow from real estate is stable and far more predictable than most other businesses. That’s great for entrepreneurs enduring the ups and downs of start-up life. The cash flow can help float you though the bad times and live well during the good times.

2. Tax benefits.

Let me ask you a quick question: if you earn $100,000 at your own business and I earn $100,000 through rental properties, who get’s to keep more?

That’s right: I do. Because the government rewards rental property owners.

Not only is the cash flow received from your rentals not subject to self-employment tax, the government offers tax benefits including depreciation and significantly lower tax-rates for long-term profits.

3. The loan pay down.

When you buy a rental property using a mortgage, your tenant is actually the one paying the mortgage payment, thus increasing your net worth each month. Because of the loan pay down a rental property is essentially a savings account that grows automatically, without you depositing money each month.

Today you might owe $200,000 on a rental property, but next year you might only owe $195,000 because the tenant is making the payment for you, making you $5,000 richer. Thirty years down the road, or whatever the term of your loan, it’s paid down to $0. You own a significant asset that you can sell or continue renting, all thanks to your tenant paying the mortgage.

4. Appreciation.

While the loan is being paid down the value of real estate, generally, goes up. Yes, I know, recessions do happen. Values do go up and down. People buy at the wrong time of the market.  I get it.

However…

Over time, values do climb higher and higher. That’s why I’m not in this real estate game just for a year or even a decade. I’m in this for life. I know my properties will continue to climb so that 30 years from now, everything will be worth far more than I’m paying for it today.

5. A hedge against inflation.

Can you imagine paying ten dollars for a gallon of milk? Or five dollars for a candy bar? While those prices seem exorbitant to you, this is the future because of inflation. Inflation is the process by which prices increase due to the value of money decreasing.

While most people fear inflation, as a rental property owner, I look forward to it!

When the price of a gallon of milk hits ten bucks a gallon, guess what else is going to shoot through the roof? Everything, including rents and property values! The one thing that won’t increase, however, is my fixed-rate mortgage payment. As inflation pushes the cost of living higher and higher, my cash flow will only increase. This is why real estate is often called “a hedge against inflation.” When inflation hits – I’m ready!

6. Control.

I don’t like my destiny tied to a board room on Wall Street or a nervous CEO in Silicon Valley.

This is why I choose to invest most of my income in real estate, knowing that I am the one who is responsible for my success or failure.

  • If I want a better deal, I need to hustle to find it.
  • If the rental market gets more competitive, I can compensate by increasing my advertising.
  • If values drop, I can choose to wait it out or improve the property to drive the value back up.

In other words, I get to control the situation, and my financial future, with my own two hands. And that suits me just fine.

Don’t think that just by owning some rentals you are instantly going to begin building wealth. Real estate is powerful – but only if you work it right.

You must learn how to find great deals, how to evaluate a real estate investment, and how to finance any properties you want to buy. Additionally, you must treat it like a business and nurture it as it matures. It’s likely not going to be totally passive up front, but as millions of individuals throughout history have discovered, the payoff is well worth the journey.

Boost Your Tax Knowledge with a Free Learning Program from the IRS

The IRS has a free program for anyone who wants to learn about taxes. “Understanding Taxes” is available 24/7 on IRS.gov. It was designed by the IRS and teachers to help you learn the “how’s” and “why’s” of taxes. The program can make learning about federal taxes as easy as A-B-C.
o Accessible (web-based)
o Brings learning to life
o Comprehensive
Here are six more reasons to study up on it:
1. Lessons on IRS.gov. Teachers and students will find that the nearly 40 lessons on IRS.gov are easy, relevant and fun!
2. User friendly site map. You can quickly look through the program and skip to the part you want.
3. Tutorials, tests and more. A series of tax tutorials guide you through the basics of tax preparation. Another feature is a chance to test your knowledge through tax trivia. There’s also a glossary of tax terms.
4. Customize to fit your style. If you’re a teacher, you can make the interactive program fit your style. Use your own lesson plans and plan your own activities. It’s easy to add to your school’s curriculum.
5. No need to register. You don’t need to register or login to use the program. You can take a break and return to where you left off whenever you choose. Just take note of the page and lesson number before you leave the page.
6. The how’s and why’s of taxes. Learn the basic concepts of taxes. Self-paced modules offer a step-by-step approach to tax preparation. The lessons are also a great way to learn about the history and theory of taxes in the USA.
You may use the program anytime during the year. Visit IRS.gov and type “Understanding Taxes” in the search box. The application contains lessons and practice problems based on 2014 tax law.
For more current tax law training, visit Link and Learn Taxes on IRS.gov. The IRS will update this program later this year. The Web address is http://apps.irs.gov/app/vita/. You can also find it if you type “Link and Learn” in the search box.
Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

What Information Must a Health Coverage Provider Report to the IRS

For purposes of the health care law, the information that health coverage providers, including employers that provide self-insured coverage, report to the IRS includes the following:
• The name, address, and employer identification number of the provider
• The responsible individual’s name, address, and taxpayer identification number – or date of birth if a TIN is not available
• If the responsible individual is not enrolled in the coverage, providers may, but are not required to, report the TIN of the responsible individual
• The name and TIN, or date of birth if a TIN is not available, of each individual covered under the policy or program and the months for which the individual was enrolled in coverage and entitled to receive benefits
• For coverage provided by a health insurance issuer through a group health plan, the name, address, and EIN of the employer sponsoring the plan, and whether the coverage is a qualified health plan enrolled in through the Small Business Health Options Program – known as SHOP – and the SHOP’s identifier
A taxpayer identification number is an identification number used by the IRS in the administration of tax laws. Taxpayer identification numbers include Social Security numbers.
Reporting of TINs for all covered individuals is necessary for the IRS to verify an individual’s coverage without the need to contact the individual.
If health coverage providers are unable to obtain a TIN after making a reasonable effort to do so, the provider may report a covered individual’s date of birth in lieu of a TIN. A health coverage provider will not be subject to a penalty if it demonstrates that it properly solicited the TIN.
In addition to the information it reports to the IRS for each covered individual listed on the information return, a health coverage provider must include a phone number for the provider’s designated contact person – if any – that the individual recipient of the statement can contact for answers to questions about information on the statement.
For information about when and how to report this information, see our Questions and Answers on Information Reporting by Health Coverage Providers on IRS.gov/aca.

Medicaid Estate Recovery: Barrier to Medicaid Enrollment

With more people becoming eligible for Medicaid, one question repeatedly comes up: “will receiving Medicaid coverage jeopardize my family home?” Depending on the circumstances, the answer can be complicated. But states can do much to make it less complex.

The fact is that states can recover against the estates of some Medicaid beneficiaries, but only after the beneficiary passes away, and only in certain circumstances. Federal law actually requires that states try to recover from the estates of Medicaid beneficiaries who received nursing facility services and/or home and community-based services when they were age 55 or older. In other words, federal law sets the floor for Medicaid estate recovery by states.

Complicating matters is that states have the option to recover for more than what is federally required. States may recover from individuals age 55 and older for any items or services covered under the state’s Medicaid plan. California is one of just a few states that has taken the option to recover for all covered services provided to individuals age 55 and older. Currently, a bill is moving through the state legislature to limit recovery to only what is federally required. Last year, a similar bill received unanimous support from the California legislature, but was vetoed by the governor due to budgetary concerns.

It is important to keep in mind that there are exceptions to when a state can recover and from whom it can do so. For example, Medicaid estate recovery cannot occur during the lifetime of a surviving spouse or when there is a surviving child under age 21 or a blind or disabled child of any age. Also, states must establish procedures for waiving estate recovery when it would cause an undue hardship. Yet many states do not have clear undue hardship policies, leading to increased denials and making it difficult for family members to figure out who qualifies for a hardship waiver and in which circumstances.

State policy makers should also realize that, for the next couple of years, states will not keep recovered claims for the Medicaid expansion population and after 2016 will still keep only a small amount. When states recover from the estates of former Medicaid beneficiaries, they return to the federal government the portion that represents the federal share of expenditures on an individual’s Medicaid covered services. Since services provided to the Medicaid adult expansion population are 100 percent federally funded for the first three years (2014-16), and almost fully federally funded thereafter, states will have to return to the federal government the full amount collected (and in future years close to the full amount). States are essentially serving as a collection agency for the federal government.

Many have identified estate recovery rules as a potential barrier to enrollment in Medicaid. Individuals may be hesitant to enroll in Medicaid because they own a home that they want to leave to their adult children when they pass away. Advocates must urge states to limit estate recovery to what is federally required, and advocate for clear exceptions policies to ensure that individuals and families feel comfortable enrolling in Medicaid and getting the care that they need.

Key Tax Tips on the Tax Effects of Divorce or Separation

Income tax may be the last thing on your mind after a divorce or separation. However, these events can have a big impact on your taxes. Alimony and a name change are just a few items you may need to consider. Here are some key tax tips to keep in mind if you get divorced or separated.
• Child Support. If you pay child support, you can’t deduct it on your tax return. If you receive child support, the amount you receive is not taxable.
• Alimony Paid. If you make payments under a divorce or separate maintenance decree or written separation agreement you may be able to deduct them as alimony. This applies only if the payments qualify as alimony for federal tax purposes. If the decree or agreement does not require the payments, they do not qualify as alimony.
• Alimony Received. If you get alimony from your spouse or former spouse, it is taxable in the year you get it. Alimony is not subject to tax withholding so you may need to increase the tax you pay during the year to avoid a penalty. To do this, you can make estimated tax payments or increase the amount of tax withheld from your wages.
• Spousal IRA. If you get a final decree of divorce or separate maintenance by the end of your tax year, you can’t deduct contributions you make to your former spouse’s traditional IRA. You may be able to deduct contributions you make to your own traditional IRA.
• Name Changes. If you change your name after your divorce, notify the Social Security Administration of the change. File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can get the form on SSA.gov or call 800-772-1213 to order it. The name on your tax return must match SSA records. A name mismatch can delay your refund.
Health Care Law Considerations
• Special Marketplace Enrollment Period. If you lose your health insurance coverage due to divorce, you are still required to have coverage for every month of the year for yourself and the dependents you can claim on your tax return. Losing coverage through a divorce is considered a qualifying life event that allows you to enroll in health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace during a Special Enrollment Period.
• Changes in Circumstances. If you purchase health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace you may get advance payments of the premium tax credit in 2015. If you do, you should report changes in circumstances to your Marketplace throughout the year. Changes to report include a change in marital status, a name change and a change in your income or family size. By reporting changes, you will help make sure that you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance. This will also help you avoid getting too much or too little credit in advance.
• Shared Policy Allocation. If you divorced or are legally separated during the tax year and are enrolled in the same qualified health plan, you and your former spouse must allocate policy amounts on your separate tax returns to figure your premium tax credit and reconcile any advance payments made on your behalf. Publication 974, Premium Tax Credit, has more information about the Shared Policy Allocation.
For more on this topic, see Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals. You can get it on IRS.gov/forms at any time.
Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.
Additional IRS Resources:
• Publications 590-A, Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)
• Publication 555, Community Property
• Publication 974, Premium Tax Credit
• Publication 5152: Report changes to the Marketplace as they happen English | Spanish

The Lifestyle Choices That Affect Alzheimer’s Risk

There are no guarantees when it comes to aging, but a new study helps clarify the lifestyle choices that affect our risk for Alzheimer’s disease, for better and for worse. The team from the University of California, San Francisco culled thousands of previous studies on Alzheimer’s risk and protective factors, and arrived at 323 studies that provided high-quality data. They found, as other studies have, that there are some key elements that are largely within our power to integrate or avoid, in order to reduce the risk of the brain disease that affects some 5 million people in the U.S. today.
The factors that appear to be protective against Alzheimer’s include many of the things that we already know to be good for us: Eating a healthy diet; healthy intake of folate, vitamin C, and vitamin E; coffee consumption; fish consumption; light-moderate drinking; and staying cognitively active. There were also some links between medications and reduced Alzheimer’s risk, including estrogen, cholesterol lowering drugs (statins), blood pressure meds, and anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
The nine factors associated with higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s were:
• Obesity
• Depression
• Carotid artery narrowing
• Low educational attainment
• High levels of homocysteine (a compound that builds up, in part when B vitamin levels are low)
• High blood pressure and low blood pressure
• Frailty
• Current smoking (in the Asian population)
• Type 2 diabetes (in the Asian population)

Many of the connections have been known for some time, but it’s helpful to have them confirmed by newer, large-scale analyses. Keep in mind, of course, that the study only arrives at correlations between these factors and Alzheimer’s – it doesn’t prove that one or more actually cause or prevent the other. And genetic factors still play a strong role in the development of Alzheimer’s. But the researchers say that assuming causality is at play, if the population avoided the nine risk factors listed above, up to two-thirds of Alzheimer’s cases could also be avoided. That’s quite a high percentage. We may not be able to do all good things for ourselves all the time, but when it comes to the brain, the more we can do, the better.

Alice G. Walton ,CONTRIBUTOR

. Medicare Premiums Expected to Rise Steeply for Some, Stay Unchanged for Most

Most Medicare enrollees can expect to pay the same amount for their Medicare Part B coverage (the portion of Medicare that pays for doctors’ services and outpatient care) in 2016 as they do this year ($104.90), according to estimates from the latest Medicare trustees report. But about 1 in 7 enrollees will face a dramatic increase. In 2016, about 70 percent of Medicare enrollees will be protected from an increase because of a “hold harmless” provision in federal law that says their Medicare premium cannot go up from one year to the next by more than the increase in their Social Security benefit. Government officials currently estimate there will be no cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits next year because inflation has been so low. For about 30 percent of Medicare enrollees, premiums are expected to rise steeply. About 14 percent of enrollees will pay these premiums themselves. The rest will not be directly affected because they are enrolled in Medicaid or a Medicare Savings Program and their premiums are paid by their state. Three groups will see increases:
• People who newly enroll in Part B in 2016 (about 5 percent of Medicare enrollees);
• Medicare enrollees who do not receive a Social Security check — for example, enrollees who delay claiming Social Security benefits because they continue to work (about 3 percent of Medicare enrollees); and
• Higher-income enrollees (people with income above $85,000 or couples with income above $170,000) who pay higher premiums (about 6 percent of Medicare enrollees)

For these enrollees not protected by the hold harmless provision, the Part B standard monthly premium will be $159.30 in 2016, a 52 percent increase. Higher-income enrollees who pay higher premiums will also see a 52 percent increase; their 2016 monthly premiums will be between $223 and $509.80, depending on income. The rise is especially steep because the total increase in premium revenue required in 2016 will be spread among only the 30 percent of enrollees who are not protected by the hold harmless provision, rather than among all enrollees.

IRS Offers Easy-to-Use Online Tools

When you need tax help, the IRS has many online tools that are easy to use. You can e-file your tax return free, check your refund’s status or get your tax questions answered. Use our tools on IRS.gov any time of day or night. Here’s a list of popular self-help tools that millions have used to get free tax help:
• IRS Free File. You can use IRS Free File to prepare and e-file your federal tax return for free. Free File will do much of the work for you with brand-name tax software or Fillable Forms. If you still need to file your 2014 tax return, Free File is available through Oct. 15. The only way to use IRS Free File is through the IRS website.
• Where’s My Refund? Checking the status of your tax refund is easy when you use Where’s My Refund? You can also use this tool with the IRS2Go mobile app.
• Direct Pay. Use IRS Direct Pay to pay your tax bill or pay your estimated tax directly from your checking or savings account. Direct Pay is safe, easy and free. The tool walks you through five simple steps to pay your tax in one online session. You can also use Direct Pay with the IRS2Go mobile app.
• Online Payment Agreement. If you can’t pay your taxes in full, apply for an Online Payment Agreement. The Direct Debit payment plan option is a lower-cost hassle-free way to pay your tax each month.
• Withholding Calculator. Did you get a larger refund or owe more tax than you expected the last time you filed your tax return? If so, you may want to change the amount of tax withheld from your paycheck. The Withholding Calculator tool can help you determine if you need to give your employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. The tool can also help you fill out the form. Give the new form to your employer to make the change.
• Interactive Tax Assistant. If you need to know about 2014 taxes, you should try the Interactive Tax Assistant tool to get what you need. If you do not have qualifying health insurance coverage, the tool can help. For instance, you can find out if you must make an individual shared responsibility payment or if you are eligible for an exemption, when you file your income tax return. You can also use the tool to find out if you are eligible for the premium tax credit.
• IRS Select Check. If you want to deduct your gift to charity, the organization you give to must be qualified. Use the IRS Select Check tool to see if a group is qualified.
• Tax Map. The IRS Tax Map gives you a single point to get tax law information by subject. It integrates your topic with related tax forms, instructions and publications into one research tool.