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In the labyrinth of financial planning and tax-saving strategies, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) emerge as a multifaceted tool that remains underutilized and often misunderstood. An HSA is not just a way to save for medical expenses; it’s also a powerful vehicle for retirement savings, offering unique tax advantages. This article delves into who qualifies for an HSA, the tax benefits it offers, and how it can serve as a supplemental retirement plan.

Qualifying for a Health Savings Account – At the heart of HSA eligibility is enrollment in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). As of the latest guidelines, for the tax year 2024, an HDHP is defined as a plan with a minimum deductible of $1,600 for an individual or $3,200 for family coverage. The plan must also have a maximum limit on the out-of-pocket medical expenses that you must pay for covered expenses, which for 2024 is $8,050 for self-only coverage and $16,100 for family coverage. But having an HDHP is just the starting point. To qualify for an HSA, individuals must meet the following criteria:

These criteria ensure that HSAs are accessible to those who are most likely to face high out-of-pocket medical expenses due to the nature of their health insurance plan, providing a tax-advantaged way to save for these costs.

It should also be noted that unlike IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement plans, it is not necessary to have earned income to be eligible for an HSA.

Tax Benefits of Health Savings Accounts – HSAs offer an unparalleled triple tax advantage that sets them apart from other savings and investment accounts:

The combination of these benefits makes HSAs a powerful tool for managing healthcare costs now and in the future.

HSAs as a Supplemental Retirement Plan – While HSAs are designed with healthcare savings in mind, their structure makes them an excellent supplement to traditional retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s. Here’s how:

To maximize the benefits of an HSA as a retirement tool, consider paying current medical expenses out-of-pocket if possible, allowing your HSA funds to grow over time. This strategy leverages the tax-free growth of the account, potentially resulting in a substantial nest egg for healthcare costs in retirement or additional income for other expenses.

Establishing and Contributing to an HSA – Opening an HSA is straightforward. Many financial institutions offer HSA accounts, and the process is like opening a checking or savings account. An individual can acquire a Health Savings Account (HSA) through various sources, including:

When choosing where to open an HSA, it’s important to consider factors such as fees, investment options, ease of access to funds (e.g., through debit cards or checks), and customer service.

Once established, you can make contributions up to the annual limit, which for 2024 is $4,150 for individual coverage and $8,300 for family coverage. Individuals aged 55 and older can make an additional catch-up contribution of $1,000.

What Happens If I Later Become Ineligible – If you have an HSA and then later become ineligible to contribute to it—perhaps because you’ve enrolled in Medicare, are no longer covered by a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), or for another reason—several key points come into play regarding the status and use of your HSA:

Therefore, while you can no longer contribute to an HSA after losing eligibility, the account remains a valuable tool for managing healthcare expenses.

Health Savings Accounts stand out as a versatile financial tool that can significantly impact your tax planning and retirement preparedness. By understanding who qualifies for an HSA, leveraging its tax benefits, and recognizing its potential as a supplemental retirement plan, individuals can make informed decisions that enhance their financial well-being.

Whether you’re navigating high-deductible health plans or seeking additional avenues for tax-efficient savings, an HSA may be the key to unlocking substantial long-term benefits.

Call us at Cray Kaiser at (630) 953-4900 to discuss your situation and how an HSA might be beneficial for you.  

If you’ve been thinking about ways to save on medical expenses, now may be the perfect time to open a Health Savings Account (HSA). Thanks to persistent inflation, the IRS recently announced historic bumps to contribution limits for HSAs, making planning for health savings more beneficial than ever.

What is an HSA?

Established in 2003 as part of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are a type of medical savings account with tax advantages. Individuals contribute pre-tax income to savings accounts that may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses. Funds in an HSA roll over from year to year, meaning it is possible to establish significant reserves for future medical costs while saving money by lowering your taxable income.

HSA funds can be used for a variety of qualified medical expenses, including office visits, dental care, eyeglasses, over-the-counter medications, and more. Funds may even be used for costs related to healthcare, like transportation expenses.

Who Qualifies for an HSA?

HSAs are available to those enrolled in High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHP). HDHPs are defined as a plan where the deductible is higher than the average, as determined by the IRS. For 2024, an HDHP includes any plan “with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,600 for self-only coverage or $3,200 for family coverage, and for which the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $8,050 for self-only coverage or $16,100 for family coverage.”

In addition to being enrolled in an HDHP, you may not be enrolled in Medicare and must not be claimed as dependent on someone else’s tax return.

Contribution Limit Increases

For 2024, the IRS has raised the contribution limit for an individual to $4,150, an increase of $300 from the previous year, and $8,300 for family coverage, an increase of $550 from 2023. These amounts represent the largest yearly adjustments since the accounts’ inception and reflect rising healthcare-related expenses due to ongoing inflation.


HSAs can provide advantages in both the short term, by lowering your taxable income, and in the long term, by helping establish a cushion for future medical expenses. Increased contribution limits make HSAs more beneficial than ever. If you have any questions about HSAs or tax-advantaged medical savings accounts, please call Cray Kaiser at (630) 953-4900 or contact us here.

Over the past three years, Cray Kaiser has continued to assist clients on the buy-side and sell-side of their transactions, even amidst the challenges of COVID-19. As key advisors to these transactions, we observed some best practices in getting your team ready to buy or sell.

On the Buying Front

Whether you have acquired a business over the tenure of your company or are looking to expand your footprint, there are nuances to buying a business and readying yourself for the process.

Selling your company may be the single largest transaction of your career. You’ve created a legacy for your clients and employees and will be leaving them in the hands of your buyer. So, preparing for this event may take longer than you think.

On the Selling Front

Whether you are looking to expand your footprint or sell to the right synergetic buyer, these best practices can help you prepare for the process and keep you on track throughout what is bound to be an emotional transaction (for either side!). Should you have any questions or need assistance in your process, Cray Kaiser is here to help. You can contact us here or call us at (630) 953-4900.

When you’re in the midst of building or growing a business, the last thing on your mind is what happens if the owner suddenly dies. How does the business move forward if this tragic circumstance occurs?

If the business was established as a partnership and the surviving partner has equity in the business, then a buy-sell agreement can provide a quick solution, particularly if an insurance policy has been set up specifically to facilitate the buyout. Working with an experienced attorney or accountant when establishing the business generally helps to ensure that there is a plan in place, whether there’s a partnership or not. Unfortunately, that is not often the case.

The absence of the driving force behind a business affects employees, customers, and family members who may have relied on the organization for income. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, you need to know the steps and options available to you, and how best to approach the many issues that will arise.

The First Decision: Whether to Save the Business or Not

The initial reaction to the death of a business owner may be to try to keep the business going. However, that is not always the best nor the smartest answer. Every situation is different, and decisions need to be made from a practical standpoint rather than an emotional one.

If the business owner was a professional and the entire entity was dependent upon them, their strengths, skills, and personality, then no amount of good intentions is likely to save the business. For instance, continuing to run a medical practice with a new physician will result in some patients staying on, while the majority are likely to move to another practice. The exception to this would be where there was already a partnership, or an heir of the business owner is able to assume their responsibilities in a way that makes the clientele comfortable. But even that transition represents a risk, as the time between the death and resetting the business is likely to be filled with costs for which revenue is not being generated.

Deciding whether to preserve and continue a business requires planning, realism, and perhaps most important of all, capital. Unless the estate has the funds available to keep things afloat while a new plan is agreed to, the challenges are likely to mount.

In the absence of a contingency plan with funds set aside to support it, the business owner’s estate is free to decide to walk away from the business. In many cases, the value of the operation may have rested almost exclusively on the deceased individual’s popularity and relationships with clientele, and when that is the case, the decision is clear, though often painful. Walking away from a business can feel like a second death, and it is easy to feel compelled to try to save the owner’s creation – but doing so can lead to financial losses that make the death feel even more painful.

Who is in Charge?

The first step in the process is ensuring there is a clear understanding of who the decision-maker is. If the owner held the business in his or her own name, the Estate will likely be the new owner. In that case, the Executor of the Estate would become the personal representative of the estate. If Trusts are involved a Trustee may be the lead. It’s important to work with legal counsel to review relevant documents to ensure there is an understanding of who can work on the deceased owner’s behalf.

Control of the Business’ Bank Accounts

One of the most important things that a newly assigned curator will take charge of is the business’ bank accounts, especially if the deceased owner is the only signatory. Banks will not allow checks to be written or withdrawals to be made without an authorized person’s signature and will freeze all accounts once they learn of a business owner’s death. This may result in bills not being paid and employees not receiving paychecks. These limitations will lead to services or goods not being provided to the business’ customers. Once legal control of the business has been established, whether permanent or temporary, the bank needs to be made aware of the new person’s identity and must be provided with legal documents that prove their authority. This may involve having the personal representative name themselves the new president – in the interim, inform the bank of the change and provide a new signature card.

Control of the Business’ Digital Assets

Today’s business environment is heavily reliant upon a digital, online presence. As such, the executor, administrator, or other decision maker of the affected business will need to gain access to passwords, so that they can control and make decisions relating to those assets.

Laws are being passed in several states to facilitate the transfer of this information, including in the state of California, where a Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act has been passed. This new legislation provides authority over digital assets to those who are fiduciaries of a business. Fiduciaries are those the court has recognized as having obtained authority from the deceased business owner in the absence of explicit instructions. This shows the importance of having guidance from an attorney or accountant, early on, in the establishment of a business, to pre-address issues and avoid potential problems in the event of the death of a business owner.

Selling the Business

If the decision is made to sell the business, it is essential that an outside entity such as a valuation expert is engaged to provide reliable, data-driven information on the business’ value. It would be prudent for the personal representative to familiarize themselves with the concepts involved in a valuation.

There are some scenarios where there is an obvious prospective buyer. This may be a competitor or an individual who has long worked alongside the deceased owner. This is often the easiest and most sensible option, as well as the one that is most likely to deliver favorable, uncomplicated terms. Working with a friendly buyer can expedite the process and alleviate stress.

Be Aware of Personal Guarantee Issues

After the death of a long-time owner, many vendors and creditors might be unwilling to do business with a new individual. This is particularly true for items or services that are capital-intensive or involve incurring significant expenses. The problem is often addressed by asking for a personal guarantee from the new owner – but offering one may not be a good idea. Making long-term decisions and commitments is generally not advised until the disposition of the business has been resolved; so issues such as signing a new lease or purchasing a new piece of equipment might best be delayed until after the larger decision regarding disposition has been made.

If you are the heir to a business owner who did not leave explicit instructions about what to do with their business in the event of their death, it is possible that they assumed or intended that their business would die with them. Even if that is the intention, it is helpful for business owners to make those intentions clear by documenting them.  Consider it the final gift to your heirs.

If you’d like to review your current business plan with one of our advisors, please call the Cray Kaiser office at (630) 953-4900.

When multiple business entities make a decision to start a new business together as a cooperative arrangement, they are creating what is known as a joint venture. In forming a joint venture, each of the involved entities agrees to what assets they will contribute, how they are going to distribute income and share expenses, and how the new entity will move forward.

Forming a Joint Venture

Even though a joint venture represents a cooperative between two or more business entities, each of those original entities retains its original legal status, whether as companies or corporations or as an individual or group of individuals. Not all joint ventures involve the actual formation of a new business entity, but if a new entity is created it will be required to pay its own taxes. The tax liability will be based on the form of business that is adopted: if an unincorporated joint venture, the tax on profits will belong to the entities who originally joined the agreement, while as a corporation it will have its own tax responsibility.

A joint venture can exist solely as an agreement between the original cooperating entities. Whatever form a joint venture takes, it is best arranged via a detailed, comprehensive contract that specifies the assets each participating entities will contribute, how the new entity will be managed, who will be in control of important decisions, and how the distribution of profits and losses will be accomplished.

The Benefits of a Joint Venture

There are numerous advantages to forming a joint venture, including combining distinct talent and background from two separate entities to create a novel product or service, or taking advantage of one entity’s strength in marketing with another’s innovation. A good example of a successful joint venture can be found in BMW Brilliance Automotive, Ltd, which was formed between BMW Group and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings. The two companies created a new entity to sell BMW vehicles in China, leveraging Brilliance China’s geographic presence to sell BMW’s products.

Among the reasons for forming a joint venture are:

Though many joint ventures are formed with an eye to the future, some are created to accomplish short-term goals and then quickly disband upon those goals being achieved.

How Does a Joint Venture Work? 

A joint venture can take the shape of any type of business entity, including a partnership or corporation. Whatever type of entity the founding entities land upon, decisions need to be made regarding division of stock if a corporation, who will be on the board of directors, and how much responsibility for the new entity’s management each original entity will carry.

In some cases, a joint venture is established under a unique federal income tax arrangement called a qualified joint venture that allowed a married couple greater simplicity in filing their joint return than they would find if a business that they operate together were to be established as a partnership.

Though similar, a consortium is not the same as a joint venture, as it is a more casual business arrangement that does not involve the creation of a new entity. Rather, in a consortium, distinct entities remain separate but make the decision to cooperate.

Crafting a Joint Venture Agreement 

Though it is conceivable that multiple entities would be willing to enter a joint venture on a casual basis or via an oral agreement (and there’s no legal requirement that a joint venture register with a state or federal government), it’s still better to involve an attorney who can craft a document requiring the signatures of all parties involved. A well-formulated joint venture agreement may include:

Once a joint venture is formed, there are additional tax considerations that may come into play. If you have any questions about forming a joint venture or a joint venture that you are already involved in, please contact Cray Kaiser.

Are you asking yourself: is my inheritance taxable? This is a frequently misunderstood taxation issue, and the answer can be complicated. When someone passes away, all of their assets (their estate) will be subject to estate taxation, and whatever is left after paying the estate tax passes to the decedent’s beneficiaries.

Sound bleak? Don’t worry, very few decedents’ estates ever pay any estate tax, primarily because the tax code exempts a liberal amount of the estate’s value from taxation; thus, only very large estates are subject to estate tax. In fact, with the passage of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, the estate tax exemption has been increased to $11,580,000* for 2020 and will be inflation-adjusted in future years. Generally, this means that estates valued at $11,580,000* or less will not pay any federal estate taxes, and those in excess of the exemption amount only pay estate tax on the excess amount. Keep in mind that there are less than 10,000 deaths each year for which the decedent’s estate exceeds the exemption amount, so for most estates, there will be no estate tax and the beneficiaries will generally inherit the entire estate.

*Please Note: As with anything tax-related, the exemption is not always a fixed amount. It must be reduced by prior gifts in excess of the annual gift exemption, and it can be increased for a surviving spouse by the decedent’s unused exemption amount.

What are estate tax guidelines in Illinois?

For decedents that are either residents of Illinois at the time of their passing or nonresidents that have property in Illinois, the estate tax exemption is $4,000,000. So, it is possible that an estate may have a state estate tax, but not a federal estate tax.

Of course, once a beneficiary (also referred to as an heir) receives the inherited asset, any income generated by that property — be it interest from cash, rent from real estate, dividends from stocks, etc. — will be taxable to the beneficiary, just as if the property had always belonged to the beneficiary.

What is the fair market value of the estate?

Because the value of an estate is based upon the fair market value (FMV) of the assets owned by the decedent on the date of their death (or in some cases, an alternative valuation date six months after the decedent’s date of death), the beneficiaries will generally receive the inherited assets with a basis equal to the same FMV determined for the estate. What this means to a beneficiary is that if they sell an inherited asset, they will measure their gain or loss from the inherited basis (i.e. the FMV at date of death).

Example #1: Joe inherits shares of XYZ Corporation from his father. Because XYZ Corporation is a publicly traded stock, the FMV can be determined by what it is trading for on the stock market on the date of his father’s passing. Thus, if the inherited basis was $40 per share and the shares are later sold for $50 a share, Joe will have a taxable gain of $10 per share. In addition, the gain will be a long-term capital gain, since all inherited assets are treated as being held long-term by the beneficiary. On the flip side, if the shares are sold for $35 a share, Joe would have a tax loss of $5 per share.

Example #2: Joe inherits his father’s home. Like other inherited property, Joe’s basis is the FMV of the home on the date of his father’s death. However, unlike the stock, the FMV of which could be determined from the trading value, the home needs to be appraised to determine its FMV. It is highly recommended that a certified appraiser performs the appraisal and that it be done reasonably close in time to the decedent’s date of death. This is frequently overlooked and can cause problems if the IRS challenges the amount used for the basis.

This FMV valuation of inherited assets is frequently referred to as a step up in basis, which is really a misnomer because the FMV can, under some circumstances, also be a step down in basis.

What about assets with deferred untaxed income?

Not all inherited assets received by the beneficiary fall under the FMV regime. If the decedent held assets that included deferred untaxed income, those assets will be treated differently by the beneficiary. Examples of those include inherited: 

Traditional IRA Accounts: These are taxable to the beneficiaries, but special rules generally allow a spouse beneficiary to spread the income over the surviving spouse’s lifetime, while the distribution period is capped at 10 years for most non-spouse beneficiaries if the decedent died after 2019. Previously, the rules allowed most non-spouse beneficiaries of decedents who died prior to 2020 to use a lifetime distribution method.

Roth IRAs: Qualified distributions are not taxable to the beneficiary.

Compensation: Amounts received after the decedent’s death as compensation for their personal services are taxable to the beneficiary.

Pension Payments: These are generally taxable to the beneficiary.

The estate tax rules could change dramatically according to the tax plan of President-Elect Joe Biden. His plan includes provisions eliminating the step up in basis. As soon as we have more information, we will update this blog.

In the meantime, if you have questions related to the tax ramifications of an inheritance, please contact Cray Kaiser at 630-953-4900.

Please note that this blog is based on tax laws effective in December 2020, and may not contain later amendments. Please contact Cray Kaiser for most recent information.

Please note that this blog is based on laws effective in September 2020 and may not contain later amendments. Please contact Cray Kaiser for the most recent information.

Regardless of the type of business you’re running, it’s safe to say that you’ve likely already been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With no complete end to the situation in sight, many have begun to try to settle into whatever this “new normal” actually is. This, of course, presents its own fair share of challenges. Once you get your doors opened back up again, if they’re not already, you may start to think about other important events down the line: valuations and appraisals, risk assessments, and succession planning.

Thanks in no small part to COVID-19, many private enterprises and family-owned businesses have been forced to dramatically rethink their points of view on these strategies and other important wealth transition and succession planning topics. As a result, below are some things to take into consideration.

Business Valuations in a COVID World

One of the more unfortunate impacts that COVID-19 has had in the last few months involves a decrease in small business values across the board. The fact that both actual and expected revenues and earnings have likely decreased for many organizations, coupled with an increase in interest-bearing debt and liquidity issues in the market at large, all have a lot to do with this issue.

At the same time, it is entirely possible to mitigate risk to that end by keeping a few key things in mind. First and foremost, focus your attention on cash flows, the cost of capital, and growth as much as possible. One of the most critical considerations for a proper business valuation in these times involves figuring out what a recovery from COVID-19 will look like for your organization.

Obviously, certain industries have bounced back faster than others. Likewise, there are certain things that we just cannot know right now – like when a vaccine will be available and what effect that will have on the world. But you can focus on a few key areas – like whether you will experience a full recovery or only a partial recovery, and how long that impact will last – to make better determinations about projected cash flow and other growth-related factors.

On the plus side, all of this represents a unique opportunity for many people to take advantage of low small business valuations to minimize things like estate and gift taxes. Lower business valuations allow business owners like yourself to transfer a greater portion of your business assets and reduce your taxable estate. So, from that perspective, you’ll be able to gift assets against your lifetime exemption that would have previously been considered a taxable event had COVID-19 not occurred at all. 

Mitigating Risk and Protecting Your Legacy

In general, you need to remember that the major goals of wealth transition and succession planning are that you’re attempting to preserve as much of your wealth AND your business as possible. Yes, it’s about making a plan that you can follow over time. But it’s also about being flexible enough to evolve that plan as conditions can (and likely will) change.

This is true for COVID-19’s impact on the supply chain. Even if your small business isn’t being directly impacted right now, the same might not be true of your supply chain partners or even your largest customers. This could have a considerable impact on your own operations, and if your organization is particularly vulnerable to these types of issues, you need to start thinking about ways to mitigate them as soon as you can.

Likewise, you may be one of the lucky few businesses that wasn’t actually negatively impacted by COVID-19 at all. Some industries are absolutely thriving right now – with manufacturers of personal safety gear and even a lot of food and beverage manufacturers being among them. If this describes your situation, it’s likely that you’ve seen a short-term increase in sales and, in all likelihood, profitability. How will this impact the future of your organization? Is this what the “new normal” looks like for you, or will you eventually return to pre-COVID levels? Do you have a way to determine this right now, or is time going to have to tell the story? These are all critical questions that you need to try to answer to make the best possible decisions in terms of succession planning.

In the end, understand that wealth transition and succession planning were always complicated processes, and COVID-19 has not done anyone any favors. No matter what, you need to recognize that this is an inherently specific process. So much is impacted by your own unique circumstances and the facts surrounding your organization. Likewise, your end goals will play an important role in the decisions you make, along with how they may have changed in the last few months.

However, if you’re able to keep these core best practices in mind and look at things through this new pandemic lens, you’ll be able to create the right plan for your objectives with as few potential downsides as possible. If you’d like to discuss wealth transition and succession planning strategies for your business, please contact Cray Kaiser. We’d be happy to help you.

Please note that this blog is based on laws effective in August 2020 and may not contain later amendments. Please contact Cray Kaiser for most recent information.

With jobs at a premium during the COVID-19 pandemic, you might consider hiring your children to help out in your business. Rather than helping to support your children with your after-tax dollars, you can instead hire them and pay them with tax-deductible dollars. Of course, the employment must be legitimate and the pay commensurate with the hours and the job worked.

If this is something you’re considering, we encourage you to read the following situations that are typically encountered when choosing to hire your child:

Hiring Your Children – Under the Age of 19, or a Student Under the Age of 24

A reasonable salary paid to a child reduces the self-employment income and tax of the parents (business owners) by shifting income to the child. When a child under the age of 19 or a student under the age of 24 is claimed as a dependent of the parents, the child is generally subject to the kiddie tax rules, if their investment income is upward of $2,200. Under these rules, the child’s investment income is taxed at the same rate as the parent’s top marginal rate using a lower $1,100 standard deduction.

However, earned income (income from working) is taxed at the child’s marginal rate, and the earned income is reduced by the lesser of the earned income plus $350, or the regular standard deduction for the year, which is $12,400 for 2020. Assuming that a child has no other income, the child could be paid $12,400 and incur no federal income tax. If the child is paid more, the next $9,875 he or she earns is taxed at 10%.

Example: Let’s say you are in the 24% tax bracket and own an unincorporated business. You hire your child (who has no investment income) and pay the child $16,000 for the year. You reduce your income by $16,000, which saves you $3,840 of federal income tax (24% of $16,000), and your child has taxable income of $3,600, $16,000 less $12,400 standard deduction, on which the federal tax is $360 (10% of $3,600).

Hiring Your Children – Under the Age of 18

If the business is unincorporated and the wages are paid to a child under age 18, he or she will not be subject to FICA – Social Security and Hospital Insurance (HI, aka Medicare) – taxes since employment for FICA tax purposes doesn’t include services performed by a child under the age of 18 while employed in an unincorporated business owned by the parent. Thus, the child will not be required to pay the employee’s share of the FICA taxes, and the business won’t have to pay its half of these payroll taxes either. In addition, by paying the child and thus reducing the business’s net income, the parent’s self-employment tax payable on net self-employment income is also reduced.

Example: Continuing the same parameters as above, assume your business profits are $130,000, by paying your child $16,000, you not only reduce your self-employment income for income tax purposes, but you also reduce your self-employment tax (HI portion) by $429 (2.9% of $16,000 times the SE factor of 92.35%). And since your net profits for the year are less than the maximum SE income ($137,700 for 2020) that is subject to Social Security tax, then the savings would include the 12.4% Social Security portion in addition to the 2.9% HI portion. Thus, your total SE tax savings would be $2,261.

A similar but more liberal exemption applies for FUTA, which exempts from federal unemployment tax the earnings paid to a child under age 21 while employed by his or her parent. The FICA and FUTA exemptions also apply if a child is employed by a partnership consisting solely of his parents. However, the exemptions do not apply to businesses that are incorporated or a partnership that includes non-parent partners. Even so, there’s no extra cost to your business if you’re paying a child for work that you would pay someone else to do anyway.

Additional Savings from Retirement Plans

Additional savings are possible if the child is paid more (or works part-time past the summer) and deposits the extra earnings into a traditional IRA. For 2020, the child can make a tax-deductible contribution of up to $6,000 to his or her own IRA. The business also may be able to provide the child with retirement plan benefits, depending on the type of plan it uses and its terms, the child’s age, and the number of hours worked. By combining the standard deduction ($12,400) and the maximum deductible IRA contribution ($6,000) for 2020, a child could earn $18,400 of wages and pay no federal income tax.

Example: Referring back to the original example, the child’s federal tax to be saved by making a $6,000 traditional IRA contribution is only $360 (tax rate of 10% of $6,000 would be $600, but the savings is limited to the actual tax of $360). So, it might be appropriate to make a Roth IRA contribution instead, especially since the child has so many years before retirement and the future tax-free retirement benefits will far outweigh the current $360 savings.

State Considerations

The above only considers federal income tax savings. As every state has its own rules on tax rates and dependency exemptions, it’s important to speak with your tax advisor about potential state implications of the above federal tax planning.

If you have questions about the implications of hiring your children or other possible tax benefits, please contact Cray Kaiser.

Note: Wages paid to children and other relatives aren’t eligible for the Employee Retention Credit created by Congress in 2020 as part of the COVID-19 emergency relief measures for employers.

When was the last time you or your attorney reviewed or made an update to your will or trust? If it was before the passage of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), your documents may be out of date.

Among the many changes in that law was a more than doubling of the estate tax exemption. Prior to the TCJA, if the value of an individual’s estate at his or her death was about $5.5 million or more, it was subject to the estate tax. For deaths in 2020, and based on the TCJA inflation-adjusted amounts, just over $11.5 million is exempted from estate tax. So, if your will or trust was premised on the lower value, it may need to be revised so that it provides the appropriate estate tax results for your situation.  

No doubt your will or trust was prepared with not just estate taxes in mind but so that your assets will be distributed after your death according to your wishes. However, certain events besides the tax laws being revised can cause these documents to become outdated.

Life’s ever-changing circumstances make estate planning an ongoing process. If you don’t keep your will or trust up to date, your money and assets could end up in the wrong hands. That’s why a periodic review of your will or trust is an essential part of estate planning.  Here is a partial list of occurrences that could cause your will or trust to be outdated:

Are your named beneficiaries up to date on your life insurance policies, IRA accounts, and pension plans? For example, did you forget to remove your ex-spouse or a deceased relative as your beneficiary?

You should never overlook or put off these issues because once you pass on, it will be too late to make changes. If you have questions about how your changed circumstances may impact your estate taxes or if you’d like to update your will or trust, please contact Cray Kaiser at 630-953-4900.

If you asked entrepreneurs to make a list of everything they think might one day pose a threat to their company, you’d probably hear a variety of answers. Some might be (rightfully) worried about ultimately developing a product in search of a marketplace. Others may be worried about how they’re going to overcome cash flow issues. And some may still be worried about getting “taken for a ride” by the venture capital people they’re putting so much of their faith in. While all of these are understandable concerns, there’s one that’s often missing from the list: cofounder conflict.

While it’s absolutely true that founding a business with at least one other person increases your chances of becoming a success, it’s equally true that about 50% of cofounder relationships fail, and most of those failures aren’t pretty.

That’s because cofounder conflict is very real and far more common than many people assume. But by taking the time to learn as much about it as you can, you put yourself (and your colleagues) in the best position to mitigate risks from these issues as much as possible — before it’s too late.

Why Cofounder Conflict Happens

Cofounder conflict can happen for a myriad of reasons, and not all of them are going to be immediately obvious. Sometimes when you start a business with someone else, you don’t realize just how incompatible your managerial styles are because you’ve never had the chance to put them on display. But once your startup is up on its feet and real decisions are being made on a daily basis, you might discover that you and your cofounder have two very different working styles.

Other times it comes down to the fact that roles and responsibilities among cofounders are not clearly defined. Who is actually supposed to be doing what? What is your specific job description and how does it overlap with that of your cofounders? What boundaries are in place that give each of you your necessary space, but that also allow you to truly collaborate with one another in the way you need to run a successful business?

Another issue, and arguably the biggest issue, could be the absence of stipulations on how significant future changes affect the management and control of the business. Without a buy-sell agreement and succession plan in place, your business is at risk if any major event — like your partner’s death, divorce, or bankruptcy — may occur.

Mitigating Cofounder Conflict with a Buy-Sell Agreement

Remember that being an entrepreneur and founding a business with someone else ultimately requires a fair amount of give and take. Therefore, once you start to see conflict develop, don’t be afraid to address it head-on. But also understand that you must be willing to make compromises, too. Don’t just spend time identifying problems with someone else, rather, offer up solutions of your own.

In terms of mitigating some of these potential risks, a buy-sell agreement can be very effective (and should be viewed as a necessity). This legally-binding document spells out how the assets and business interests would be distributed if an owner leaves the business, becomes disabled or passes away.

Consulting with a tax and accounting professional during the process of negotiating a buy-sell agreement can be very beneficial for all parties involved. The team at Cray Kaiser has facilitated several buy-sell agreements and would welcome the opportunity to help you and your cofounder(s) with yours. Please contact us today at 630-953-4900 to get started.