Question: I delayed selling some stock until after Jan. 1 so that the capital gains tax wouldn't be due until 1982. But the price dropped and the difference in profit was more than the tax would have been. Is there any way to avoid this?
Answer: There is no way to avoid completely the impact of changing market conditions when you delay a sale. You took that gamble when you made the decision to wait.
But of course you're looking at the situation with hindsight, which is usually credited with 20/20 vision. Kep in mind that when you decide to delay the sale, there was also a chance that the price might go up -- and then you could have enjoyed the fruits of your wisdom all the way to the bank.
If the stock you're talking about was in a well-known company, you could have reduced your exposure to risk by selling a January or February option last fall when you thought the price was right.
That simply means that you sell to someone the right to buy your stock by a specified later date for a specified price (usually a couple of points higher than the then-current price).
Writing an option, of course, would have had no effect at all on future market conditions. But consider what could have happened.
If the price dropped (or remained the same) by the expiration date, the buyer of the option let it lapse without exercising his right to buy. You could then sell the stock, perhaps at a lower price -- but your profit would be sweeten by the amount you received for the option.
On the other hand, if the price went up the option would be exercised and you would be called upon to deliver the stock -- but at the higher option price, and in addition you would get to keep the option proceeds, too.
To use an old but appropriate cliche, you can't have your cake and eat it, too. If the share price rose substantially, you couldn't profit further; your sale price is limited by the strike price of the option you sold.
There is a tax implication. Capital gain on the stock itself would be long-term depending on how long you had owned the shares. If the option is exercised, the option price is simpley added to the selling price of the stock. e
But if the option is not exercised, the proceeds must be treated as a short-term capital gain. In either case, however, the proceeds from the option would not be income to you until the expiration date. So you would have deferred any tax liability until you file your 1981 return in the Spring of 1982.
Q: My husband and I both work. The woman who takes care of our two pre-school children during the week also does some housekeeping chores. How do we allocate how much of her pay is deductible as a child-care expense?
A: You don't have to. As long as she is caring for your children so that you and your husband can work, the entire amount your pay her qualifies for the deduction.
The only requirement is that the housekeeping she does provides at least partial benefit to the children -- and this would include practically any cleaning, cooking or other home-care chores.
Within the $4,000 limit on expenses in your case, remember that you include, in addition to wages, the cost of meals if provided any any social security tax you paid on her behalf. (The ceiling is $2,000 if there was only one qualifying child or other dependent.)
Q: The IRS recently levied a sizable assessment on me in connection with an audit of my 1979 income tax. I think they're wrong; but I estimate that my legal fees to fight them could easily be as much as the assessment -- maybe more. This doesn't seem fair. Is there a way to beat this rap?
A: There may be. Late last fall the Congress passed (and President Carter signed) something called the "Equal Access to Justice Act."
This new law provides that if you go to courty to fight a tax assessment and win, the government will pay the costs of the action -- legal fees and other associated expenses.
The door hasn't been opened for a bunch of nuisance suits, because if you lose your case you must pay your own legal fees.
But if you believe your position is right and the court agrees with you, then in addition to having the assessment voided, Uncle Sam will pay the expenses of the suit for you.