The Internal Revenue Service has announced that the standard mileage rate for automobiles used for business purposes has been increased from last year's 21 cents a mile to 22.5 cents a mile for 1987 tax returns. If you use the standard rate, you may also add business-related parking fees and tolls.
The standard rate may be used in lieu of calculating actual expenses -- things like gas and oil, maintenance and repairs, depreciation, insurance and license fees. If the auto serves both business and personal use, expenses must be allocated. If you use the standard rate, you need only keep a current diary or log of business miles driven. The general rules governing use of the standard rate have not changed. The 22.5 cent rate applies only to the first 15,000 miles of business use during the year. Excess miles may be claimed at the rate of 11 cents a mile; the same 11 cents should be used for all mileage on a car that had been fully depreciated prior to 1987.
The optional mileage rate for charitable activities remains unchanged from last year's 12 cents, and the nine-cent-a-mile rate allowed in 1986 for calculating medical travel and moving expenses carries over without change to 1987. The 15,000-mile break point does not apply to these deductions. Five years ago, I invested $3,400 in a no-load growth stock fund. My investment has grown to more than $9,000. I recently transferred $2,000 worth of shares to a money market fund. Howwill the $2,000 be taxed? I would like to count it toward my original $3,400 investment and avoid taxes. Sorry, you can't do that. You may only use as your basis for figuring gain the per-share cost of the number of shares sold to generate the $2,000 you transferred. Divide the original $3,400 by the number of shares bought to get the per-share cost, then multiply that figure by the number of shares liquidated for the $2,000 transfer to arrive at the basis for the transaction.
Because you're dealing with a mutual fund, you have another option. I assume dividends and capital gains have been reinvested for you during these five years. If so, you can add the value of those reinvestments to the original $3,400, then divide the total by the number of shares owned just prior to the redemption to get the average per-share cost. If you multiply the average cost by the number of shares redeemed you will have a basis derived from the average-cost method. Whichever method you use, be sure to keep a record of all of these transactions -- purchases, reinvestments and redemptions -- because you will need all the figures whenever you liquidate the rest of the account. I do volunteer work for a nonprofit organization. Can I deduct the cost of transportation and lunches for the days I do volunteer work on my 1987 tax return? Yes -- if the organization is a charitable, religious or educational body qualified for a deduction for contributions. (Simply being "nonprofit" is not enough to qualify.) You may deduct the cost of lunches while you are working, and transportation at 12 cents a mile (plus tolls and parking fees) if you use your own car, or the actual cost if you use public transportation. It is my understanding, from IRS Publication 17, that dividends paid on insurance policies are a partial return of premium, but are taxable when total dividends received exceed total net premiums paid. I have several life policies that are approaching this condition. Who has the responsibility of notifying the IRS when the dividends become taxable? Insurance companies have the wherewithal to make these cumulative calculations and should have the primary responsibility to report them. Your reasoning may be sound, but the regulations don't agree. There is no responsibility levied on insurance companies to track these numbers, notify the IRS or even notify the policyholder by way of a Form 1099. That leaves the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of -- guess who? Sure, you have to keep track of premiums and dividends yourself. Abramson is a family financial counselor and tax adviser. Questions of general interest on tax matters, insurance, investments, estate planning and other aspects of family finances will be answered in this column. Advice cannot be given on an individual basis. Address all questions to E.M. Abramson, The Washington Post, Business News, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.