Payroll Tax Cut Temporarily Extended into 2012

The Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 temporarily extended the two percentage point payroll tax cut for employees, continuing the reduction of their Social Security tax withholding rate from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent of wages paid through February 29, 2012. This reduced Social Security withholding will have no effect on employees’ future Social Security benefits.

The IRS warned employers that they should implement the new payroll tax rate as soon as possible in 2012 but not later than January 31, 2012.  If however any extra Social Security tax is withheld in January of 2012, the employers should make an offsetting adjustment in workers’ pay as soon as possible but not later than March 31, 2012.

Workers do not need to do anything else; employers and payroll companies should handle the withholding changes.

Recapture Provision

The Act also includes a new “recapture” provision, which applies only to those employees who receive more than $18,350 in wages during the two-month period (the Social Security wage base for 2012 is $110,100, and $18,350 represents two months of the full-year  amount). This provision imposes an additional income tax on these higher-income employees in an amount equal to 2 percent of the amount of wages they receive during the two-month period in excess of $18,350 (and not greater than $110,100).

This additional recapture tax is an add-on to income tax liability that the employee would otherwise pay for 2012 and is not subject to reduction by credits or deductions.  The recapture tax would be payable in 2013 when the employee files his or her income tax return for the 2012 tax year. This may change, however, since there is a possibility of a full-year extension of the payroll tax cut being discussed for 2012.

IRS May Issue Additional Guidance

The IRS will closely monitor the situation in case future legislation changes the recapture provision.  The IRS also promises to issue additional guidance as needed to implement the provisions of this new two-month extension, including revised employment tax forms and instructions and information for employees who may be subject to the new “recapture” provision.

For most employers, the quarterly employment tax return for the quarter ending March 31, 2012 is due on April 30, 2012.

Tax Consequences of Converting a Rental Property into a Primary Residence

Do you own a residential rental property that you plan to convert into your primary residence? Are you wondering if by doing so, you could still qualify for the capital gains exclusion on sales of a primary residence, when you do eventually sell? This article will examine these questions, and will explain some of the basic tax rules involved in turning a rental property into a primary residence.

The Capital Gains Exclusion for Sale of a Primary Residence- General Rules

In general, under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 121, taxpayers who reside in a primary residence, and who have both owned and lived (or used as a primary residence) in a home for at least two years within a five year period may qualify for the full capital gains exclusion of $500,000 on a joint filed tax return ($250,000 per spouse). However, taxpayers must not have already claimed this exemption within the past two years. Typically, each spouse of a married couple must meet both requirements in order to get the full exclusion. Certain exceptions may be available if the requirements are not met, depending upon the taxpayer’s circumstances. You will need to consult a tax attorney on this issue.

In converting a residential rental property into a primary residence, it should be noted that any depreciation taken while the property was a rental will not qualify for the capital gains exclusion, and will instead be subject to depreciation recapture. Depreciation deducted before May 6, 1997 will reduce the adjusted basis of a rental property, whereas depreciation deducted after that date will be taxed as a capital gain.

Non-qualified use of a Rental Property

In 2008, Congress amended IRC section 121, with the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, to add a limitation of the capital gains exclusion due to “nonqualified” use of a converted rental-to-primary residence. “Qualified” use is defined as any use of the property as a primary residence. “Non-qualified” use is defined as any use of the property other than as a primary residence, such as as a second home, a vacation property, a rental or investment property, or use of the property in a trade or business.

In general, the effect of the change is to limit the amount of capital gains exclusion to an allocation formula dependent upon non-qualified and qualified use of the property. For example, if the property is held for ten years and then sold, and for six of those years it was used as non-qualifying property, then 6/10 of the capital gain, would not be excluded. However, subject to certain exceptions, non-qualified use prior to January 1, 2009 will be ignored for purposes of the section

Contact Sherayzen Law Office For Tax Planning With Respect to Rental-Primary Residence Tax Planning

Taking advantage of the IRC section 121 capital gains exclusion may require detailed knowledge of the relevant tax rules and careful tax planning. Obviously, this article only provides some general background information for education purposes and should NOT be relied upon as a legal advice. Rather, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office to set up a consultation to discuss your particular fact situation. Our experienced tax firm will help you determine whether you may be able to take advantage of the IRC section 121 and how to do it.