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Last-Minute Tax Strategies to Benefit Your Upcoming Return

Whether you’re bookkeeping for the year-end or preparing your 2015 individual or business tax return, use these final couple of days to capitalize on your annual earnings.

Use U.S. Mail and Save Your Receipt When Making Charitable Contributions. If you’re still in the holiday spirit and plan to donate to charity, date and send your check using U.S. mail by December 31 for a 2015 deduction.

The gifts don’t need to arrive by the year-end unless you opt for a private delivery service. If the private delivery arrives January 1 or later, you’ll receive only a 2016 write-off.

When sending these contributions, request certified mail and a return receipt to verify the shipping date, especially for large donations.

Also, if you charged the gifts to a credit card, they’re deductible the year the transaction posts, not when you pay the bill. If you’re contributing via text message, the IRS says you can deduct these funds the year you send the text.

If you’re donating IRA assets, make sure the charity receives the transfer by December 31.

Small Businesses: Take Advantage of Renewed Depreciation Breaks. These breaks could expedite deductions for certain business tools, especially for owners expecting a lower 2016 tax bracket. Consider delaying purchases if you expect a higher tax bracket next year.

Be sure to actually use these expense items in 2015 if you want to write them off in this calendar year.

If you bought a vehicle strictly for business in 2015, the depreciation benefits aren’t as strong as in the past. A vehicle weighing more than 6,000 pounds may qualify for an 80% write-off this year. Check with your tax professional before taking this deduction.

Trade Your Shares to Balance Realized Capital Gains and Losses. Sell owned shares as late as December 31 to benefit your 2015 gains or losses. Even if the trade doesn’t settle until 2016, the day you trade shares determines the sale year for most stocks, bonds, and mutual and exchange-traded funds.

Note: if you bought the same or similar security 30 days before or after a sale, your tax benefit of a loss will be postponed. This rule doesn’t apply to gains.

Withdraw Your Required Annual IRA Assets Now. Since April 1 marks the first payout deadline for owners turning 70-and-a-half, your money must be removed by December 31 to allow a 1099-R form for 2015.

Remember Major Life Changes. If you were married or divorced in 2015, change your marital status by the year-end. If you’re expecting, cross your fingers that “Taxpayer Jr.” is born December 31 or earlier, as you’ll qualify for dependent deductions or child tax credits for 2015.

Finally, we’ll leave you with this interesting fact: If you turn 65 years old on January 1, 2016, you qualify for an extra standard deduction up to $1,550 for 2015, since your “tax code birthday” is the day before your actual birthday.

If the end of the year is approaching too fast and you need help with some of these tax accounting issues, contact the Patrick & Robinson CPAs team: or (904) 396-5400.

Happy New Year!

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