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In May, the Minnesota Legislature passed a tax bill that brings the state’s tax code into conformity with several, but not all, federal tax changes enacted between December 16, 2016 and December 31, 2018, including some provisions from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).   We will examine many of these provisions in depth in our Tax Season Newsletter however we wanted to be sure to communicate important changes that may impact your year-end planning and the records you maintain for 2019.


New Standard Deduction

Minnesota has adopted the larger standard deduction put in place by the TCJA.  They also adopted the limitations to the medical deduction (must be more than 10% of your adjusted gross income), capped the real estate and personal property tax deduction at $10,000 and eliminated all miscellaneous deductions except for unreimbursed employee business expenses in excess of 2% of your adjusted gross income. 

The standard deduction for 2019 on federal and MN is:

Single                                                           $12,200
Married Filing Jointly                                    $24,400
Married Filing Separately                             $12,200
Head of Household                                      $18,350

Taxpayers over age 65 and/or blind have an additional deduction depending on their filing status

As you can see, it is much more likely that you will NOT itemize on either your federal or MN return.  So what does this mean for deductibility of charitable contributions and recordkeeping? 


Charitable Contributions

One unique element of Minnesota tax law is that fifty percent of any charitable contributions in excess of $500 per year can be deducted if you do NOT itemize on your MN return.  This means that you should continue to maintain appropriate documentation and records regarding your charitable contributions regardless of whether or not you anticipate itemizing.


Medical Expenses

Unless you have extraordinary medical expenses, it is unlikely that you will need to itemize your medical deductions.  Our recommendation is to keep receipts throughout the year but determine at tax time if the total is likely to be greater than 10% of your adjusted gross income before spending time summarizing those receipts. 


Employee Business Expenses

The same analysis applies if you have unreimbursed employee business expenses.  The total must be greater than 2% of your adjusted gross income before they are deductible.


We will continue to analyze the state’s tax changes and monitor communications from the Department of Revenue.  We will update you as we learn more about the new law and its impact on your Minnesota tax liability.   Please reach out if you have questions regarding your situation.     

                                                                                                                                                                    September 2019                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         



The federal income tax is a pay-as-you-go tax.  Taxpayers pay the tax as they earn or receive income during the year.  You can avoid a surprise at tax time by checking your withholding amounts from your wages, pensions and/or annuities.

The amount withheld depends on the amount of income being taxed and three types of information communicated to your employer and/or pension administrator:

  • Filing Status – either the single rate or the lower married rate (Married taxpayers can elect the status “Married, but withhold at higher single rate”)

  • Number of withholding allowances claimed – each allowance claimed reduces the amount withheld

  • Additional withholding – you can request an additional amount to be withheld from each check

Note: You must specify a filing status and number of withholding allowances on form W-4.  You cannot specify only a dollar amount of withholding or a percentage. 

The IRS recommends that everyone do a withholding checkup as early as possible in 2019.  Though especially important for anyone who owed on their 2018 taxes, it’s also important for anyone whose refund was larger or smaller than expected.  By changing your withholding now, you are more likely to get the refund you want or reduce your balance due next year. 

In addition, you should always have us check your withholding when a major life event occurs or when your income changes significantly.  Check your withholding when:

  • The tax law changes

  • Your prior year tax return results were unacceptable

  • Life changes occur:

    • Lifestyle – marriage, divorce, changes in dependents (birth or adoption of a child, children graduating from college, parents moving in, etc) home purchase, retirement, Chapter 11 bankruptcy, etc.

    • Wage income – you or your spouse start or stop working or start or stop a second job.

    • You have significant taxable income not subject to withholding – interest, dividends, capital gains, self-employment income and IRA distributions

    • Itemized deductions or tax credit changes – medical expenses, taxes, mortgage interest, charitable deductions, dependent care expenses, education credits, child tax credits, other dependent credits, earned income tax credit

Be sure to contact us to help you check your withholding.  We’ll need year-to-date information from all your sources of income as well as information regarding any changes in your situation from 2018.  Our normal hourly billing rates apply to our withholding checkups.

                                                                                                                                                        June 2019




It’s important to consider taxes as they affect all aspects of your financial life.  As you reach the age when you are required to take distributions from your retirement accounts, we’d like to remind you it is possible to combine that requirement with your charitable giving strategy to potentially save money on your taxes.

If you are over 70 ½ you can donate DIRECTLY from your IRA to a qualified charity and reap significant tax benefits.  It is very important that the donation goes directly from your IRA custodian to your chosen charity.   Amounts given in this way do not have to be reported as income.  They also can’t be used as a charitable donation deduction.  It is often beneficial to keep your adjusted gross income as low as possible.  For example, your taxable social security depends on your adjusted gross income. 

Fred is 75 and single.  He does not itemize deductions.  His pension income is $10,000, Social Security income of $24,000 and interest and dividends of $2,000.  His required minimum distribution (RMD) for 2018 is $4,000.  Fred does not need the RMD for cash flow purposes and would like to donate it to his church and Neighbors Inc.  If Fred takes out the RMD and writes checks totaling $4,000 to his church and Neighbors, his taxable income will be $4,400 (including $2,000 of taxable Social Security).  On the other hand, if he directs his IRA custodian to send checks directly to his church and Neighbors for his $4,000 RMD, his taxable income will be $0 (and none of his Social Security will be taxable).

Important things to remember with this strategy: 

· The monies must not come to you first!  Some brokerage firms offer a checkbook that can be used to write checks directly from your IRA, others require you to make a formal request to them to issue the checks to the charity. 

· You are not required to donate all of your RMD — you can choose how much to donate up to the maximum amount of $100,000 per year. 

· You must be over 70 ½ to use this tool.

                                                                                                                                                  October 9, 2018





With the passing of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), some deductions that have been available in the past are no longer available. One of these deductions is miscellaneous itemized deductions. Covered under this umbrella are investment advisor fees. Though unfortunate from a tax standpoint, it may still be the best way to have your advisor manage your investments. If you have taken advisor fees as part of your itemized deductions in the past, you may want to consider talking to your financial planner.


Other Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions

The other miscellaneous itemized deduction we see most often is unreimbursed business expenses, such as business mileage or items required to be used in a trade or business, but not paid for by the employer. If this change impacts your return, it may be a good idea to request your employer reimburse you for these expenses under an accountable reimbursement plan.  This way, taxpayers get covered, tax-free, for the costs they pay out of pocket and the business gets to deduct the expense.


Regardless of the final guidance, the new tax laws will add to the complexity of preparing returns, which may also result in longer preparation times.

                                                                                                                                                         July 24, 2018




The IRS initiates most contact with taxpayers through regular mail delivered by the US Postal Service.  In some very special circumstances, the IRS may show up at your door, but you will have received a letter in the mail prior to their visit, so their visit shouldn't be a surprise.

The IRS does NOT demand people use prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer to make a payment.  They will NEVER ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone.  Neither will the IRS threaten to bring in the local police, immigration officers, or other law enforcement agencies to arrest people for not paying.  The IRS is not able to revoke a license or immigration status.

Remember to stay vigilant.  Criminals continue to impersonate IRS employees & call taxpayers in aggressive and sophisticated ways.  If you receive any such calls, just hang up the phone.  Do not try to engage the caller.

                                                                                                                                                           July 20, 2018