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2021 Advance Child Tax Credit - What You Need To Know

Posted by Rachel Santana Posted on Aug 02 2021

2021 Advance Child Tax Credit – What You Need to Know                


For many eligible families, direct deposits or checks were sent out in July 2021 and will continue monthly.  This payment is up to $300 per month for kids under 6 and $250 per month for kids 6-17 years old.  Many struggling families are grateful for the monthly payments, but just like the other stimulus-related payments from the government, this must be accounted for on you 2021 tax return.  The payments will probably lower down your refund or could even cost you significant dollars at tax time.

The Child Tax Credit was $2,000 per child and has been raised to $3,000-$3,600 (dependent on age and of course income). 

The monthly payment is an advance on the credit.  This means at tax time, if a family received all payments during the year, they will receive less at tax time with their refund.

To add to the confusion, if you get more than you’re eligible for, then you will have to pay it back.

Those who share custody of children need to be very careful, especially in the cases where the child moves back and forth between returns (even / odd years).  The credit will automatically go to whoever claimed the child(ren) on their taxes in 2020.  Those who are alternating and do not claim the kids in 2021 will then owe the advance back with their tax return.

Only one parent can claim the credit for each child.  It cannot be split.

If you believe you will owe the payments back, or generally owe money and do not want to owe more at tax time, there is a way to opt out of the credit.  To do so, visit the Child Tax Credit Update Portal and follow the directions for opting out of receiving these payments. 

The deadline to opt out for the month is around the 1st of each month as the payments go out on the 15th.

If you have not received the advance on the credit and you are eligible, then the credit will be added on to your 2021 tax return.  You are not losing the credit.  It is just delayed.

Keep in mind that the amounts received during the year will need to be provided to your accountant at tax time as the credit will have to be reconciled.  If the advance reported is not correct, then your return will be held up. 


Child Tax Credit - More Valuable Than Ever

Posted by Rachel Santana Posted on Aug 19 2019

Child Tax Credit
By Rachel Santana, EA
Partner at Hamilton and Phillips PA

Most taxpayers with children under the age of 17 saw an increase in their tax refund in tax year 2018.  This is because the Child Tax Credit, which was $1,000 per child, doubled to $2,000 per child.  This was huge in that a family with two younger children would have seen a $2,000 increase on their bottom line.

In addition, the effect could be much bigger as this credit had phased out when a single person earned $75,000 or more a year ($110,000 for married couples).  However, under the new tax law effective 2018, this phase-out now starts at $200,000 for a single individual and $400,000 for joint filers.

This means that a married couple earning $150,000 per year and two young children would have an increased credit / refund of $4,000.  That is a huge benefit.

As this credit becomes more significant, it is important to understand when this credit goes away.  

In order for a child to qualify as a dependent, they must be under the age of 19 at year-end, or they must be a full time student (for at least five months of the tax year) and under the age of 24 at year-end.  They can be any age if totally and permanently disabled.  They must share your residence for more than half of the year (not required if living on campus in college).

However, even though they are your dependent and meet the criteria above, the valuable Child Tax Credit is only available until the child turns 17.  In the year that they turn 17 years of age, the Child Tax Credit goes away and they become eligible (per above) for the much less valuable Dependent Credit ($500).

It is important to be aware of this change and expect that your tax bill will increase or refund be lowered once your child turns 17.  Good luck is the result of good planning.

Etsy - Whether hobby or business, what are the sales tax rules?

Posted by Rachel Santana Posted on Oct 04 2018


Whether you consider Etsy a hobby or an endeavor at a for-profit business, the Florida Department of Revenue considers it potentially subject to sales tax.

If you are an on-line seller, then you are required to collect and remit sales tax from your customers in the state of Florida.  Not everyone realizes that sales tax rates vary by county.   Because you could have customers in many different counties, the Florida Department of Revenue recommends collecting and remitting a flat 7.5%.

Oh yes, the tax is due on the whole amount including shipping.

In addition, even if you did not sell online but participate in a craft show where your goods are in “competition” with others, then you are required to collect and remit.

If this only happens 1-2 times per year, then you can apply for a “special event sales tax number” which is good for just that 3 day period and allows you to collect / remit / file, and be done with sales tax after that trade show.

However, if this activity occurs more than 1-2 times per year, even if you are not selling online, you are advised to get a permanent sales tax number.

The nice part is you can buy supplies that go into the finished product tax-free by just showing your tax certificate at Michaels, Walmart, etc.

Now that you are armed with this knowledge – go forth, sell, and be profitable.

Rachel Santana, EA, Partner

Hamilton and Phillips LLC



Tax Credits For College

Posted by Rachel Santana Posted on July 05 2017


We are often asked about college tax credits. 


One of the largest credits on the books is the American Opportunity Credit which tops out at $2,500 each year.


In order to qualify for this credit, the family income cannot exceed $180,000 ($90,000 if single).


This credit allows for a 100% return of the first $2,000 spent, plus 25% of the next $2,000 spent.  The money must have been paid during the taxable year for tuition, fees, and required course materials.


Colleges and Universities will provide students with a form 1098-T in January, and that form is needed in order to prepare your tax return.  This form reflects tuition only, so in addition, you must provide your accountant with the amount paid for books and required course materials including calculators, tablets, or laptops.


This credit is only good for the first four years of college (undergraduate degree).


There are other vehicles which might help with expenses beyond the four years such as the Lifetime Learning Credit or Tuition and Fees Deduction.


In order to claim the American Opportunity Credit, you must complete a Form 8863 and attach that to your 1040.


Any benefit from scholarships and 529 Plans must also be taken into account.


IRS Penalties on 1040 Tax Returns

Posted by Rachel Santana Posted on July 06 2016

We are often asked about penalties that the IRS assesses for filing late, paying late, etc.


The penalty for filing a return late is 5% of the tax owed per month. This is called the failure to file penalty. Thankfully, it is capped after 5 months, but that totals up to 25% of the total tax due which is quite hefty. There is also a minimum penalty of 100% of the tax due or $135.


If there was no tax due, then there is no penalty assessed. The IRS is happy to hold your refund for additional time of course.


An extension is a way to avoid a failure to file penalty, and that gets you an additional 6 months to file making your return due not April 15th, but October 15th.


It is possible to have late filing penalties forgiven. In fact, I called the IRS just yesterday and they forgave nearly $1,400 in penalties for a taxpayer, but habitual late filers will receive no mercy.


There is also a failure to pay penalty, so do not file an extension if you will owe money unless you send that payment in with the extension. The failure to pay penalty is ½ of 1% of your unpaid taxes, and even if you set up an installment agreement, that continues to accrue. It maxes out at 25% of your total tax due.


So, it is expensive to owe the IRS. My best advice? File on time and never fall behind. If you do, then call us to help you set up an installment plan and start whittling that debt down.


Can I Claim Them As A Dependent?

Posted by Rachel Santana Posted on Aug 24 2015

We are so frequently asked, “Who can I claim as my dependent?”, and hope this clarifies it for you.

The IRS states that a dependent must be either your “qualifying child” or your “qualifying relative” and must meet certain tests in order for you to claim them.

There are 5 tests to qualify a child:

Relationship – must be your child, brother, sister, descendant of one of these, or a foster child

Residence – Must share your residence for more than half the year

Age – Must be under 19 or under 24 and a full time student for at least months, or totally disabled

Support – Must not have provided more than half of their own support during the year

Joint Support – The child cannot file a joint return with someone else


There are 4 tests that will qualify a relative as a dependent:

They are not the “qualifying child” of another taxpayer

Gross Income – Dependent has gross income of less than $3,950 (2014 Number)

Total Support – You provide more than half of the total support for the year

Member of Household or Relationship – The person must live with you all year or be a relative


Common Questions:

My girlfriend lived with me all year and didn’t work.  Can she be my dependent?

Yes because she lived in your home and did not make more than $3,950 for the year.

My parents live in their own home and only have social security income.  Can I claim them ?

Yes if you provide more than half of their support, social security by itself is not taxable and they are then your dependents for tax purposes.


We hope that this is food for thought and answers some questions.

Rachel B Santana, EA

Hamilton and Phillips PA

Obamacare - It Could Cost You Money At Tax Time

Posted by Rachel Santana Posted on Jan 09 2014

We have received so many questions regarding Obamacare as it has been termed.  We wanted to address the concerns of our clients and try to explain a bit how this can affect you at tax time.

Individuals with unaffordable health care can elect to use the government exchange.  These exchanges are supposed to help qualified individuals find coverage that fits their budget and potentially gives them financial assistance to help with the cost of coverage beginning in 2014.

As we all know, the exchange maintains a website and allows individuals to compare information on health plans.  The exchange offers four levels of essential benefits coverage which includes bronze, silver, gold and platinum with the higher level plans costing the participants more.

The required contribution is the premium for the applicable plan, reduced by the allowable premium assistance credit (PAC) for the taxable year. 

The PAC is a refundable credit that helps subsidize the purchase of health insurance and is available to applicable taxpayers.  The criteria to qualify for the PAC includes meeting an income test which places the household income between 100 and 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) for the taxpayer’s family size.

In order to qualify for PAC, individuals report household income to an exchange and then enroll in a health plan through the exchange.  The financial information provided is used to calculate the applicable individual’s share of the premium.

This credit is on a sliding scale and as the household income increases, the taxpayer’s required share of contribution increases and the credit goes down.  Because it is based on an estimate, here-in lies the problem.

If 2013 were a bad year for you, you may decide to enroll in the exchange and would qualify for the credit.  However, if your income increases for 2014, you would then owe some or all of the credit back.  Below is a good example.

Amy is single and purchases health insurance on the exchange.  In 2013, her MAGI was 200% of the poverty line or $23,000.  However, in 2014, she had a better year and earned $35,000.  At tax time, her additional tax due would be $1,250 because she received too much health insurance subsidy during the year.  As the size or your family increases, so does the potential to receive a larger credit and therefore a larger potential pay-back at tax time if your income increases.  Beware!!!!

Rachel Santana, EA

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

Posted by Rachel Santana Posted on Nov 07 2013

If you are going to accept a job working out of the country, this exclusion will become your favorite part of the tax code.

It is available to US Citizens and resident aliens who live and work abroad.  It allows you to exclude all or part of your foreign salary from income when you file your U.S. tax return.  It also allows you to exclude costs for personal services and certain foreign housing expenses.

There are several ways to qualify, but the most common is based on time.  You must be present in a foreign country or countries for at least 330 full (24-hour) days during a period of 12 consecutive months.  What does this mean?  You work in the foreign country for a full year (it doesnâ??t have to be a calendar year) and come home for a couple of weeks at Christmas and a couple of weeks mid-yearâ?¦ you still qualify. 

The amount you can exclude (2013) is $97,600 per qualifying person. 

The exclusion is claimed using Form 2555, and you absolutely need our help to fill this form out as it is complicated and often confusing, but the exclusion is absolutely worth it.

Another important fact to remember is that you cannot take a foreign tax credit or deduction on any of the income excluded.  This would be considered double-dipping and would result in the exclusion being revoked.  Finally, the exclusion is not available to US Government Employees working abroad.

This exclusion could save you up to $38,064 in real tax dollars (bottom line) based on your income tax rate.  If you are or have the potential to be employed outside of the United States, then come and talk to us first.  We can help.


Cancellation of Debt: Short Sale vs Foreclosure

Many changes have taken place over the last few years.  Eight years ago, we became experts on 1031exchanges which allow you to defer paying taxes on gains when selling a property.  So many clients were selling real estate at a gain, we looked for ways to minimize, defer, or alleviate their tax burden resulting from these sales. However, the world is a changing place. 


One of our most common questions now is, ?What is the tax consequence of my house being foreclosed on / short sold?.  We have had so many clients with 1099-Cs issued to them over the last couple of years.  Again, we have become experts, but in a different area. 


First, if you are significantly upside down on your home, you are probably considering letting the property go back to the mortgage holder.  Are there tax consequences?  Absolutely, but we can help.


Between a short sale and a foreclosure, short sales are usually your best option.  This occurs when you can find a buyer for your home and the bank agrees to settle for less money than you owe.  Ultimately, the bank is short.  The bank cancels the debt and agrees not to pursue you or lay claim to your personal assets for the difference.  In case of foreclosure, there is no guarantee that the bank will not continue to pursue you and put liens against your other assets. 


Where do we come in, and how does this affect your tax bill at year-end? 


Cancelled debt is considered income for tax purposes.  If this home was your residence and you did not take cash out while you owned the property, then you may be able to exclude the cancelled debt from income using code section 108(a)(1)(E).  Even if you took cash out, but used that cash to improve the property, then this exclusion may also work for you.  However, the ability to exercise that exclusion as of now is set to expire at the end of 2013.   


Bankruptcy is another option which may allow you to exclude the income, but it should be filed prior to losing the property. 


In addition, some people find relief under the insolvency exclusion which means that at the time you lost the home, your liabilities exceeded your assets.  Insolvency involves a complicated calculation and should include your retirement accounts and the home that was relinquished along with the debt on that home.


We have become experts in the area of foreclosures, short sales, and cancellation of debt.  If you have questions in any of these areas, then let us help you. 


Rachel Santana, EA

Tax Accountant

Hamilton & Phillips PA




Should My Business Be Set up as a Sole Proprietor, LLC, or S Corporation

Posted by Rachel Santana Posted on June 27 2013

Most business owners start out as a Sole Proprietor.  It is the easiest entity to work within.  It is for single-owner businesses.  The business does not have to be registered each year, and more importantly, it does not need a separate tax return filed each year.  Business activity is simply reported on a Schedule C as part of the individual?s personal income tax return (1040).


It is important to know that at tax time, the individual will owe income tax on the net profit from their business.  In addition, they will also owe what is commonly referred to as self-employment-tax.  This is comprised of 12.4% (of net profit) due in for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare.  This seems very high, and it is high because as a business owner, you are not only required to pay in 7.65% of your earnings, but match them as your own employer.  Again, keep in mind that this is above and beyond the income tax that is due.


An LLC is a business structure that is formed to limit the liability of the member(s) who own the business.  The business can file taxes as a sole proprietor, partnership or corporation.  However, there are limited opportunities / time frames in which the election must be made to be treated as a corporation and a filing is required with the IRS.  An LLC can have a foreign partner, but an S Corp cannot.  These entities are great for someone purchasing rental property to allow for asset protection and isolate that property.  This entity may or may not need an additional tax return depending on the number of partners and the elections made which would be an additional fee.  It is also required to be renewed with the state each year for a fee.


An S Corporation is a corporation that makes an S Election which is a special designation with the IRS.  This entity must file it?s own tax return (1120S), but does not pay it?s own taxes.  Instead, the profit or loss from the corporation is passed on to the shareholders and reported on their own individual tax returns via a K-1 form issued by the corp.  This entity allows the business to pay out only a portion of the profit as salary, the amount determined by what is ?reasonable compensation?.  This amount is subject to the roughly 15% of self-employment / payroll tax eluded to in the paragraph above, and the remainder of the income flows thru in the form of investment income on the K-1 only subject to income tax.  The corporation needs it?s own tax return which is an additional fee.  There are fees for payroll, whether using a bookkeeper or payroll company, and this entity also has to be renewed with the state every year for a fee.


To summarize above, there are instances in which each of the above entities are best and this is governed by individual circumstances of the business.  Hamilton and Phillips can help you to figure out the best entity for your business.  We also form LLCs, Corporations, Partnerships, etc... We look forward to helping you.

Foreign Corporations and Taxation Savings

Posted by Rachel Santana Posted on May 31 2013

We recently had a client with a unique situation. 

In the case where a US Shareholder was partnered with a foreign partner in a business venture.  The foreign partner was required to have 39.6% withheld on all of his earnings even though the earnings were not generated in the US nor was he a US resident. 

While there was no difference in the taxes paid by the US Partner as all worldwide earnings by US Citizens are subject to taxation in the US, there was a huge difference to his foreign partner.  By opening a corp in another country that does not tax income generated outside of that country even if the corp is housed there, we are able to pass the foreign partner his earnings at gross and then they are simply subject to taxation in his country of residence.

We always learn thru experiences and circumstances surrounding clients, and this resulted in huge tax savings.  We will continue to build on this knowledge looking for ways to implement these tax saving strategies into situations that our clients face. 

Rachel Santana

Landlords Beware - Keep Detailed Records on Rental Properties

Posted by Rachel Santana Posted on Oct 25 2012
I like to share experiences with our clients that we learn from throughout the year.  A new client that came to us this year was pulled for an audit covering 2009 & 2010.  He had three rentals and though he knew the audit would be a distraction, he did not think he had much to worry about.  What he learned:
1.)  Any expenses incurred prior to the home being available and advertised for rent must be capitalized, not expensed meaning that the repairs, etc are depreciated over the life of the dwelling which is 27.5 years for a rental home.
2.)  Any repair bills must be detailed as to what is being done so that the auditor can distinguish  between a repair and an improvement.
3.)  The break-down of the home on the depreciation schedules between land and house must follow the % on the tax appraiser's website unless there was an appraisal done at the time the property became a rental breaking down the dwelling and land.
4.)  All write-offs require a receipt, not just a credit card statement, and the address of the property should be written on the receipt.  The auditor wants to see what was purchased and will also want to know why.
5.)  If you use a management company, make sure that they don't have full authority to screen and decide on tenants.  That decision must be the owners in order to establish that they "actively participate" in managing the property.

This audit was an excruciating experience for this client and it is not over. I am hoping that this will help us to better prepare all of our clients that own rental property to be successful if they find themselves before an auditor.

Welcome to Our Blog!

Posted by Admin Posted on Oct 25 2012
This is the home of our new blog. Check back often for updates!