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The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has adopted the primary beneficiary test for determining whether interns of for-profit employers count as employees under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The FLSA requires for-profit employers to pay employees for their work. Interns and students, however, may not be "employees" under the FLSA—in which case the FLSA does not require compensation for their work. In ruling on FLSA cases, courts have previously used the primary beneficiary test to examine the "economic reality" of the intern-employer relationship to determine which party is the "primary beneficiary of the relationship." On January 5, 2018, the DOL announced its adoption of the primary beneficiary test for purposes of its enforcement of the FLSA.

The primary beneficiary test includes the following seven factors:

  1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee—and vice versa.
  2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.
  3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern's formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
  4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern's academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
  5. The extent to which the internship's duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
  6. The extent to which the intern's work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
  7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

If analysis of these circumstances reveals that an intern is an employee, then he or she is entitled to both minimum wage and overtime pay under the FLSA.

To read the DOL statement in its entirety, click here. To read a fact sheet on the issue from the DOL, click here.

TCJA allows $10,000 per year of 529 plan account funds to be used for elementary or secondary school tuition.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has made some changes to qualified tuition programs ("QTPs," also commonly known as "529 plans") that you might be interested in. These changes take effect for 529 plan distributions after 2017.

As you know, a 529 plan distribution is tax-free if it is used to pay "qualified higher education expenses" of the beneficiary (student). Before the TCJA made these changes, tuition for elementary or secondary schools wasn't a "qualified higher education expense," so students/529 beneficiaries who had to pay it couldn't receive tax-free 529 plan distributions.

The TCJA provides that qualified higher education expenses now include expenses for tuition in connection with enrollment or attendance at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school. Thus, tax-free distributions from 529 plans can now be received by beneficiaries who pay these expenses, effective for distributions from 529 plans after 2017.

There is a limit to how much of a distribution can be taken from a 529 plan for these expenses. The amount of cash distributions from all 529 plans per single beneficiary during any tax year can't, when combined, include more than $10,000 for elementary school and secondary school tuition incurred during the tax year.

As you can see, the new 529 plan rules might be beneficial to you. If you wish to discuss the impact of them on your particular situation, please give us a call or complete the form below.

Under TCJA, for post-2018 divorces and separations, alimony won't be deductible by the payor, and it won't be taxable to the recipient.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has made changes to the tax treatment of alimony that you will be interested in. These changes take effect for divorces and legal separations after 2018.

Current Rules

Under the current rules, an individual who pays alimony may deduct an amount equal to the alimony or separate maintenance payments paid during the year as an "above-the-line" deduction. (An "above-the-line" deduction, i.e., a deduction that a taxpayer need not itemize deductions to claim, is more valuable for the taxpayer than an itemized deduction.)

And, under current rules, alimony and separate maintenance payments are taxable to the recipient spouse (includible in that spouse's gross income).

TCJA Rules

Under the TCJA rules, there is no deduction for alimony for the payer. Furthermore, alimony is not gross income to the recipient. So for divorces and legal separations that are executed (i.e., that come into legal existence due to a court order) after 2018, the alimony-paying spouse won't be able to deduct the payments, and the alimony-receiving spouse doesn't include them in gross income or pay federal income tax on them.

TCJA rules don't apply to existing divorces and separations. It's important to emphasize that the current rules continue to apply to already-existing divorces and separations, as well as divorces and separations that are executed before 2019.

Some taxpayers may want the TCJA rules to apply to their existing divorce or separation. Under a special rule, if taxpayers have an existing (pre-2019) divorce or separation decree, and they have that agreement legally modified, then the new rules don't apply to that modified decree, unless the modification expressly provides that the TCJA rules are to apply. There may be situations where applying the TCJA rules voluntarily is beneficial for the taxpayers, such as a change in the income levels of the alimony payer or the alimony recipient.

TCJA doubles the child tax credit and allows a new lower credit for other dependents.

Under pre-Act law, the child tax credit was $1,000 per qualifying child, but it was reduced for married couples filing jointly by $50 for every $1,000 (or part of a $1,000) by which their adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeded $110,000. (The threshold was $55,000 for married couples filing separately, and $75,000 for unmarried taxpayers.) To the extent the $1,000-per-child credit exceeded your tax liability, it resulted in a refund up to 15% of your earned income (e.g., wages, or net self-employment income) above $3,000. For taxpayers with three or more qualifying children, the excess of the taxpayer's social security taxes for the year over the taxpayer's earned income credit for the year was refundable. In all cases the refund was limited to $1,000 per qualifying child.

Starting in 2018, the TCJA doubles the child tax credit to $2,000 per qualifying child under 17. It also allows a new $500 credit (per dependent) for any of your dependents who are not qualifying children under 17. There is no age limit for the $500 credit, but the tax tests for dependency must be met. Under the Act, the refundable portion of the credit is increased to a maximum of $1,400 per qualifying child. In addition, the earned threshold is decreased to $2,500 (from $3,000 under pre-Act law), which has the potential to result in a larger refund. The $500 credit for dependents other than qualifying children is nonrefundable.

The Act also substantially increases the "phase-out" thresholds for the credit. Starting in 2018, the total credit amount allowed to a married couple filing jointly is reduced by $50 for every $1,000 (or part of a $1,000) by which their AGI exceeds $400,000 (up from the pre-Act threshold of $110,000). The threshold is $200,000 for all other taxpayers. So, if you were previously prohibited from taking the credit because your AGI was too high, you may now be eligible to claim the credit.

In order to claim the credit for a qualifying child, you must include that child's Social Security number (SSN) on your tax return. Under pre-Act law you could also use an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) or adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN). If a qualifying child does not have an SSN, you will not be able to claim the $2,000 credit, but you can claim the $500 credit for that child using an ITIN or an ATIN. The SSN requirement does not apply for non-qualifying-child dependents, but you must provide an ITIN or ATIN for each dependent for whom you are claiming a $500 credit.

The changes made by the Act should make these credits more valuable and more widely available to many taxpayers.

If you have children under 17, or other dependents, and would like to determine if these changes can benefit you, please give us a call or complete the following form.

 

TCJA severely cuts personal casualty and theft loss deductions. 

Before the TCJA, individuals could claim as itemized deductions certain personal casualty losses, not compensated by insurance or otherwise, including losses arising from fire, storm, shipwreck, or other casualty, or from theft. There were two limitations to qualify for a deduction:

  1. A loss had to exceed $100; and
  2. Aggregate losses could be deducted only to the extent they exceeded 10% of adjusted gross income.

Severe Cutback

For tax years 2018 through 2025, the personal casualty and theft loss deduction isn't available, except for casualty losses incurred in a federally-declared disaster. So, a taxpayer who suffers a personal casualty loss from a disaster declared by the President under section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, still will be able to claim a personal casualty loss as an itemized deduction, subject to the $100-per-casualty and 10%-of-AGI limitations mentioned above. Also, where a taxpayer has personal casualty gains, personal casualty losses can still be offset against those gains, even if the losses aren't incurred in a federally declared disaster.

Insurance Check Needed

The casualty loss deduction helped to lessen the financial impact of casualty and theft losses on individuals. Now that the deduction generally won't be allowed, except for declared disasters, you may want to review your homeowner, flood, and auto insurance policies to determine if you need additional protection.

Please call us or complete the form below if you wish to discuss how this change or any of the many other changes in the TCJA could affect your particular tax situation, and the possible planning steps you might consider in response.

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RBSK Payroll Partners