Understanding Tax Deductions

How to calculate income tax deductions

Filing federal income taxes is a necessary evil most people don’t like to discuss. The 16th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, or the federal income tax amendment, requires all U.S. citizens to pay state and federal taxes on or before April 15th of each year.

To some people, understanding taxes is more difficult than untying the Gordian Knot, in other words, impossible. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has made big changes in the tax system and is considered the largest tax overhaul in over 30 years. It eliminates deductions and credits yet increases the standard tax and child tax credits. As a result, some people will see larger refunds. While others will mourn the loss of deductions.

Some tax breaks may return after provisions of the law expire in 2025. Following are tax deductions that have changed or are no longer available:

The Standard Deduction

The good news is that there is an increase in the $6,350 standard deduction. Single taxpayers will get a much higher deduction for the 2018 tax year. The standard deduction for individuals is now $12,000. Married couples receive a standard deduction of $24,000.

Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions

Several miscellaneous itemized deductions have been eliminated under the Tax Act. Taxpayers can no longer take deductions for tax preparation, professional dues, investment fees, fees for financial services.

Deductions for an Employee’s Unreimbursed Expenses

Workers who buy uniforms and other job-related items can no longer claim them as a deduction.

Moving Expenses

Only military personnel can deduct moving expenses if their job requires the move.

Casualty Loss

Taxpayers can’t deduct casualty losses unless they reside in a presidentially-designated disaster zone.

Alimony

In 2019, alimony is not taxable income; therefore alimony payments can’t be deducted.

Overlooked Deductions

Tax deductions are overlooked every year. Following are deductions taxpayers should consider when filing federal taxes:

State Income or Sales Tax

Taxpayers who itemize can choose to deduct either state income tax or state sales tax payments. Either way, the cap on the deduction is $10,000.

Medical Expenses

In 2019, the expenses must exceed 10% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.

Car Registration Fees

Flat fees and weight-based fees are not tax deductible. The law allows taxpayers to deduct value-based fees.

Non-cash Charitable Giving

Making a cash donation to a charity is deductible. However, so are non-cash gifts, such as clothing.

Property Taxes

Starting in 2018, there is a $10,000 cap on property taxes, sales tax, and state income tax.

Traditional IRA Contributions

In 2018, workers under age 50 can contribute up to $5,500 per tax year, while those age 50 or older can make a $6,500 contribution.

Educational Expenses

Educational deductions include the Lifetime Learning Credit, the American Opportunity Credit, and student loan interest.

Child Care

Working parents may be able to receive the child and dependent care tax credit. The deduction may also include other forms of child care expense such as a day camp or summer program. However, the deduction requires detailed documentation.

 

Collectors List of Best Places to Buy Antique Guns

Antique Revolver

Collectors are always looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They want the rarest of the rare, the one gun that they can’t live without. We’ve all heard the story about that Picasso in the attic. Does that happen with guns? The answer: it just might.

The Search

When you’re looking for the ultimate collectible, anything can happen. The best deals can pop up in the unlikeliest places. Unless you are a seasoned collector, be sure about the items you buy. Not everyone is out to cheat you, but know the basics. Knowing what’s authentic can save tens of thousands of dollars. Newbie collectors should be educated. Know which maker’s marks are pertinent to your weapon. Examine the provenance. Check to see if there have been modifications. If buying from a private seller, know state and federal laws. No one wants to buy a gun only to turn it over to law enforcement. Investing time in research can be the difference between going home with a Mercedes or a Yugo.

Auctions

Places to Buy

Fellow Collectors

Gun collectors have their own community. Becoming a serious collector is made easier if you can find that community. Developing relationships within the group can be extremely beneficial. You can gain knowledge and get rare opportunities to buy guns before they go on the open market. Good friendships can form over common interests, but don’t be foolhardy. Even if you’re about to realize your lifelong dream of becoming the next Sgt. York, don’t buy that vintage Colt 1911 without an appraisal or before checking the provenance. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Live Auctions

A tried and true way to buy collectibles is to attend a live auction. Each auction publishes a catalogue available to the public. It allows you to be able to browse the offerings beforehand. Each listing gives info on items for sale and makes it easier to decide what to buy. Reputable companies like Christie’s have been holding specialty auctions for more than a hundred years. Rare items may be easier to find, but can cost you. Auctions may be more expensive than buying privately, depending on the item being sold and the amount of interest. Don’t get caught up in auction fever and spend more than your bank account allows.

You may examine the merchandise if you attend the auction. That’s when knowledge is most important. If you have any questions, ask. There are sure to be experts everywhere that will help out.

Firearms auctions are usually advertised nationwide. Catalogues may be posted on the internet, giving you time to peruse before the event. If unable to attend the auction in person, you can bid as an absentee buyer. You may also be able to bid through an online service. An absentee bidder must have complete faith in the auctioneer, the process and the gun’s value. Due diligence can determine the reputation of the auctioneer and auction house before bidding.

Specialty Dealers

Looking for one specific item? A reputable specialty dealer may be your best bet. It also saves time if you don’t want to traverse gun shows or spend hours at auctions. A good dealer will have access to items gun shops may not. They also tend to be at the top of the list when a vintage piece or collection goes up for sale. Choose dealers with experience and a longstanding reputation. They tend to have the best connections and aren’t willing to risk their business by hoodwinking a potential customer.

Online

Buying online can be a blessing or a curse. Experienced collectors have been buying online for years. Some find it the easiest way to track down hard to find gems or rare collectibles. Buyers should be savvy to state and federal laws regarding the sale and purchase of firearms. A boon to the industry is that eBay prohibits the sale of firearms. That policy made way for several top sites to create their mark – GunsAmerica.com, GunAuction.com, and GunBroker.com to name a few.

Sadly, there are more disreputable dealers that reputable ones. Before buying, have direct contact with the gun owner. Do not work through a third party. Check references and ratings. Know the seller’s return policy and check out their ratings and references before laying down any money.

Online classified sites may offer opportunities to buy weapons. Seasoned collectors tend to avoid them or proceed with extreme caution.

Gun Shows

Collector shows aren’t as common as commercial shows, but they do exist. It’s a great way to meet like-minded individuals. You can see what other collectors and sellers have to offer. Chances are that you’ll get to see things you’ve never imagined. While you may not be able to buy, you’ll likely go home with a very long wish list.

Yard Sales

Yard sales often offer more than baby strollers and chipped dishes. People saddled with a garage full of boxes often put them out for sale. High end locations may offer valuable surprises.

Storage Lockers

Think buying a storage locker is a sure way to find treasure? Think again. Chances are you’ll end up with a pile of junk. Also, guns found in a storage locker must be turned over to authorities. Save your money and your time.

Estate Sales

Estate sales can be gold mines. Check published listings of items to be sold. Listings aren’t often too specific, but rare gems can be found. Stay until the end and  you could walk away a winner.

No matter which path you choose, be smart. Learn to do your own appraisals to save time, money and heartache. If that’s not an option, develop a relationship with an antique rifle appraiser. You’ll always have someone that can be trusted to steer you in the right direction.

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Gun Collecting

So, you want to start gun collecting. You’ve outgrown your rock collection and stamps don’t excite you, so guns seem to be a good choice. There are many types of collectors out there, from the marksman to the history buff. Each with their own tastes and budgets. No matter what the reason, gun collecting is a noble and interesting way to increase your knowledge, make a few dollars, and decorate your man (or woman) cave.

Some experts will tell you to start with the basics such as a .22 LR, 9mm, .45 ACP, 30-06, and the like but it comes down to your taste and if you are collecting the guns to use, sell or display. Following are some of the types of collectors you’re likely to run across at your local gun show.

Heirloom

Gun collecting often starts with a gun inherited from a family member or perhaps a first hunting rifle. Heirloom guns may also include antiques purchased by the collector or specialty sport shooting models. Typically, these guns are kept for private use or for show although some, if valuable, may sold. Top choices for heirloom guns may include models that are antique or rare such as the Colt 1911 or nearly anything manufactured between 1900-1930.

Military/Historical

Military and history enthusiasts are often rabid about their collections and know their guns down to the finest detail and the name of the artist that incorporated the scroll work. These people are serious collectors. As with any kind of collection, it’s important to verify the history and provenance of the weapon as it directly affects the gun’s value. Whether it’s an antique dueling pistol or military surplus from Desert Storm, know your maker’s marks and get proof of authenticity before laying down your money.

Eclectic

Much to the chagrin of the hard-core collector, some people just like guns and collect them with no discernible rhyme or reason. It may make them more difficult to categorize, but no less valid. Eclectic gun owners tend to start with a gun they have owned and build upon that collection. Usually with something that is handed down or bought second hand. Although the owner of the eclectic gun collection is less likely to sell his collection, it is still important to know the history and use of each piece, if only for personal reference.

Investment

Guns make great investments. They aren’t based on the daily market and rarely does the value significantly decrease. Perhaps more than any other category, condition is key when collecting for investment purposes. As a rule of thumb, the older and more unique a gun is, the more it will be worth if it is well preserved, not refinished, and, of course, authentic. The worst guns for investments tend to be modern weapons such as the AR and AK-platform guns. Want to make the most money? Collect a particular style or guns from a specific manufacturer, e.g., Smith & Wesson to get the biggest bang for your buck.

 

DIY Gun Appraisal: Tips on How to Do It Yourself

It doesn’t matter if you own one gun or more than 40 (if that’s the case, let’s be friends), it’s good to know what their value is. Even if you don’t plan on selling your firearm, it’s important to understand its worth. Although the idea of doing a DIY gun appraisal can seem overwhelming, the first one’s always the hardest. The more you do, the easier they become.

Consider What’s Your Gun Worth to You

A gun’s value doesn’t always lay in what someone’s willing to pay for it.

It could be the Colt 1911 that you’ve shot over a 1,000 times and no matter how many other guns you try, nothing feels as good as it does in your hand. Or maybe you have a snubnose S&W Bodyguard that may not bring in top dollar, but your dad gave it to you when you moved out of the house and it holds sentimental value. That’s fine. Never underestimate the personal value of a gun. The first time you sell one that you really don’t want to sell, you may regret it for the rest of your life.

Do a DIY Gun Appraisal to Determine Your Gun’s Worth

While you may feel like there could never be a price associated with your gun, the fact is there is. Every gun has a specific value that’s determined using a variety of things. Some of the most influential factors that impact your gun’s value include:

  • AGE: In most cases, the older a gun is, the more it’s worth.
  • TYPE: The type of gun influences its value, and some of the most sought after gun types include 1911s and military firearms.
  • CONDITION: Perhaps one of the most important factors during a self appraisal, gun conditions can range from brand new and never shot to so old and rusty you can’t fire it
  • MAKE AND MODEL: When it comes to gun value, the make and model of your firearm makes a difference, with Luger pistols and pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 rifles both having high values.
  • RARITY: Generally, the harder it is to find a gun, the more valuable it’s going to be.

To complete your DIY gun appraisal, write down all of this information about your firearm and start researching. Check out your local gun shop, go to gun shows, hit some (decent) online forums, or maybe even purchase a Book Book of Gun Values to get the best idea of your gun’s worth.