Don’t Rely Upon SALY

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In the income tax world, tax professionals often cringe when a client tells them that their information is the “same as last year.”  The acronym for this is SALY.

SALY information is dangerous and should always be avoided; this is true for income tax and for many other situations as well.  A Best Practice is for Business Owners to review their operations, on at least an annual basis, to ensure that which was true last year, still remains true for the current year. Don’t rely upon SALY.

Owners and/or Managers may be accustomed to an annual review for select items. Let’s use insurance as an example. Each year, before you renew your business insurance policies, you need to provide current exposures, to be used as underwriting criteria, to price your renewal policies correctly:

  • Building and Personal Property values
  • Payroll, by classification, for Worker’s Compensation
  • Vehicle and Driver information for your Auto policy

Smaller items, if not watched, could “fall through the crack” and roll over, year after year, with the SALY data.  While this may be the easy way to do it, it can also lead to the expensive way to do it. Financial penalties and/or legal costs can be costly.

Checklists are recommended tools for process improvement. Regular and thorough use can reduce errors, improve safety, and potentially save money, which can improve or protect the bottom line on our financial statements.

I encourage you to consider creating a checklist with items to be reviewed each year, on/about the same date, and to briefly document and date your answers. A process like this is good risk management and may provide a little audit insurance, if you are audited, because it shows you know, you reviewed, and you documented. At least you tried.

If you want to create a year-end checklist, here are 3 ideas to help get you started :

  1. Do the people you pay as an Independent Contractor, work in that capacity, by IRS standards or should they now be Employees? Use the IRS 20 factor control test as a guide.
  2. Do you pay your Employment Tax Return obligations on time? The Required Deposit can change from Monthly to Semi-Weekly. IRS PUB 15 shows: “Before the beginning of each calendar year, you must determine which of the two deposit schedules you’re required to use.” This is important because a deposit penalty may be accessed for every time you do not pay on time.
  3. Do you know who is a Responsible Party at your company for “Trust Fund Taxes”? Do they know too?

The 3rd suggestion is a bit of a curveball (Baseball Sidebar: I am excited because the World Series starts tonight), and is included to build awareness for something most business people, generally, do not know, but should, if it applies to them. This isn’t important if payroll taxes are always fully paid, on time. However, if they are not, IRS PUB 15 Employers Tax Guide shows:

Trust Fund Recovery Penalty :

If federal income, social security, or Medicare taxes that must be withheld (that is, trust fund taxes) aren’t withheld or aren’t deposited or paid to the U.S. Treasury, the trust fund recovery penalty may apply. The penalty is 100% of the unpaid trust fund tax. If these unpaid taxes can’t be immediately collected from the employer or business, the trust fund recovery penalty may be imposed on all persons who are determined by the IRS to be responsible for collecting, accounting for, or paying over these taxes, and who acted willfully in not doing so.

Responsible Person as :

A responsible person can be an officer or employee of a corporation, a partner or employee of a partnership, an accountant, a volunteer director/trustee, or an employee of a sole proprietorship, or any other person or entity that is responsible for collecting, accounting for, or paying over trust fund taxes. A responsible person also may include one who signs checks for the business or otherwise has authority to cause the spending of business funds.

Closing Thoughts :

Education can prevent problems; hopefully, you learned something today by taking the time to read my blog. I wrote it to help you avoid financial risk and also avoid, potentially, learning the hard way by experience.

Fall is the perfect time to work on your business to prepare for year-end close and a new year. When winter arrives on 12/21, most of us are out of time and are busy with family, holidays, and work.

If I can answer questions or help you, please let me know. Thanks for Reading,

Deb

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA helps Small Business Owners & Individuals build and protect their financial wealth though education, strategy, and proactive tax planning. 

She offers free 30 minute no obligation consultations. 

Website: https://www.DeborahFoxCPA.com

Call 619-549-2717

E-Mail me @ debfoxfinancial@gmail.com 

Twitter: @debfoxfinancial

Facebook: Deborah Ann Fox, CPA

The blog is provided as general information only and should not be considered a substitute for specific advice and services of a Certified Public Accountant, Enrolled Agent, or an Attorney

Alphabet – Tax Terms & Tips

 

“Work Anywhere – includes an ice skating rink @ Hotel Del in Coronado, CA.

 

Almost a year ago, I presented my demo workshop titled “IRS Compliance and Strategy” for the University of Texas at San Antonio, Small Business Development Center (UTSA SBDC). My mentor, Ruben Lopez, MBA, and I identified the need for this class in our conversations. What I thought was important for a small business owner to know, Ruben, thought was important too. He suggested I create a class and if requested, present a demo, which I did, on 11/22/16. Since that time, I have taught this class, thankfully, several times for times for them and I look forward to teaching more.

While the students were learning from me, I, too, was learning from them. Their questions identified new topics that could be taught in class.

Every well-built house begins with a blueprint; I created this class as an IRS Business Basics- a blueprint for entrepreneurs and new small business owners. In today’s “Sharing Economy”, “small business owners” include independent contractors and freelancers. If you are just collecting your 1099-Miscellaneous forms and not tracking expenses, you are probably paying too much tax.

What we don’t know can often hurt us financially and education can prevent a problem.

This blog was created to help others learn, understand, and apply general income tax rules and procedures. I thought the alphabet format would be a fun way to teach tax terms & topics and hope you think so too.

A is for:

  • Accounting Method is how income and expenses are reported for taxation purposes:
  • Cash Method: Income is reported when constructively received (not earned) and expenses when paid (not incurred).
  • Accrual Method: Income is reported when earned (not necessarily received) and expenses when incurred (not necessarily paid).

B is for Basis of an Asset

  • Basis, in an asset, is its cost plus sales tax and other expenses incurred to acquire the property or to place the asset in service for tax purposes. This basis is used to figure depreciation, amortization, depletion, casualty losses, and any gain or loss on the sale, exchange, or other disposition of the property
  • The Initial basis can be increased or decreased for various items = Adjusted Basis
  • Maintain your basis for each asset to determine the accurate gain/loss
  • Retain supporting documentation for the life of the asset
  • Basis Limitation, is the limit on deducting losses, to the extent of the shareholder’s basis in the S Corporation or partner’s basis in the partnership

 

C is for Corporation

  • C-Corporation: “Double-Taxation” applies: the profit of a corporation is taxed to the corporation when earned, and then is taxed to the shareholders when distributed as dividends
  • S-Corporation: Corporations that elect to pass corporate income, losses, deductions and credit through to their shareholders for federal tax purposes. Shareholders of S Corporations report the flow-through of income and losses on their personal tax returns

 

D is for Depreciation:

  • Depreciation is an annual deduction that allows taxpayers to recover the cost of property used in a trade or business or held for the production of income. The amount of depreciation depends on the basis of the property, its recovery period, and the depreciation method.
  • Depreciation Recapture: Amount of depreciation or section 179 deduction that must be reported as ordinary income when property is sold at a gain.

 

E is for: Estimated Tax

  • Method used to pay tax on income that is not subject to withholding (for example, earnings from self-employment, interest, dividends, rents, alimony)

 

F is for:

  • Failure to File (FTF) Penalty is 5%, of the additional taxes owed amount, for every month, or fraction of a month, the return is late, up to a maximum of 25%.
  • Failure to Pay (PTF) Penalty is the most common penalty issued by the IRS. 0.5% per month, or fraction of a month, up to 25%.

Tax Tip: Note there are 2 penalties. If you cannot afford to pay, at least file, and save yourself the cost of 1 penalty.

 

G is for Gig Economy:

  • Also known as the Sharing Economy or On Demand economy
  • File and Pay estimated taxes
  • Note that Self-Employment Tax is in addition to the Income Tax
  • Expect that a 1099-Misc will be issued to the IRS and to you if payments were more than $600/annually

 

H is for: “Hobby”

  • An activity is either a Hobby or a Business
  • An activity is, generally, presumed to be a Hobby if a profit is not earned in at least 3 of 5 taxable years
  • Tax deductions for hobby losses are limited to the income produced

 

I is for Independent Contractor

  • The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if you, the person for whom the services are performed, have the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result.
  • The basic rule is that you must file 1099MISC whenever you pay an unincorporated independent contractor (sole proprietor or member of a partnership or LLC) — $600 or more in a year for work done in the course of your trade or business.

 

J is for Joint and Several Tax Liability

  • Married Filing Joint: Both you and your spouse are generally responsible for the tax and interest or penalties due on the return
  • This means that if one spouse doesn’t pay the tax due, the other may have to
  • Or, if one spouse doesn’t report the correct tax, both spouses may be responsible for any additional taxes assessed by the IRS

 

K is for Kiddie Tax:

Investment income of a child is taxed at the parent’s tax rate

 

L is for Limited Liability Company (LLC)

  • Notice that this is not a corporation
  • An LLC is created by state statue and is not an IRS filing status

 

M is for: Meals and Lodging:

  • You can deduct the cost of meals and lodging if your business trip is overnight or long enough that you need to stop for sleep or rest to perform your duties. In most cases, you can deduct only 50% of your meal expenses.
  • You can deduct entertainment expenses only if they are both ordinary and necessary and meet one of the following tests: Directly –Related test or Associated test
  • In general, you can deduct only 50% of your business-related meal and entertainment expenses

 

N is for Net Operating Loss

  • If your deductions for the year are more than your income for the year (line 41 of your Form 1040 is a negative number), you may have a net operating loss (NOL). You can use an NOL by deducting it from your income in another year or years.

 

O is for Ordinary and Necessary:

  • A business expense must be both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your trade or business. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your trade or business.

 

P is for Profit and Loss

  • Profit & Loss statements are required for small business loans, for a mortgage, and to determine tax owed for the IRS and/or your state
  • Review at least quarterly to determine if Self-Employment Tax & Estimated Tax payments are required

 

Q is for Quarterly Tax Reporting & Payments

  • The U.S. Tax system is “Pay as You Go” and generally not at the end of the year
  • Accounting records must be kept current to determine if quarterly payments are required

 

R is Refundable Credit

  • A Refundable tax credit means you get a refund, even if it is more than you owe
  • A Non-Refundable tax credit means you get a refund only up to the amount that you owe

 

S is for Self-Employment Tax:

  • 2017 Self-Employed Tax Rate, on net earnings of $400+, is 15.3%
  • 4% for Social Security and 2.9% Medicare Tax = 15.3%
  • For 2017, Social Security wages are capped at $127,200
  • Medicare Tax applies to all income; i.e. a wage limit does not apply

 

T is for Taxable Income

  • Gross income, minus any adjustments to income, any allowable exemptions, and either itemized deductions or the standard deduction = Taxable Income

 

U is for Use Tax

  • A tax on purchases made outside the state for use in the state. Residents are responsible for paying the tax on purchases for which no state sales tax has been charged. The tax applies to transactions that would be subject to sales tax if the purchase were made in the state.

 

V is for Vehicle

  • IRS Deduction for operating a vehicle for business, charitable, medical, or moving; track each separately- different rates apply
  • Standard Mileage Rates or the Actual Costs of using the vehicle
  • A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle.

 

W is for Withholding (Federal Income Tax)

  • To avoid an Underpayment Penalty, estimate your 2017 tax liability, to see if you should adjust your withholding, or make an estimated payment before year-end

 

X is a tough one; X “Marks the Spot” or Solving for an Unknown:

  • You can fill in the blank on this one, or choose
  • X = Your Break Even Point
  • Unknown is your 2017 estimated tax liability

 

Y is for Year-End Tax Planning

  • There is still time to setup an appointment for year-end tax planning by December 31. Being in control of your finances & taxes is a great stress reliever.

 

Z is for Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB)

ZBB is a method to prepare cash flow budgets & operating plans. Each year these start from scratch and do not use incremental budgeting, in which past sales and expenses are assumed to continue. ZBB requires a systematic basis for resource allocation; cost-benefit analysis and priority ranking are part of the process.

 ©2017 Deborah Fox, CPA

 

Thanks for reading.

To your success,

Deb

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA helps Small Business Owners & Individuals build and protect their financial wealth though education, strategy, and proactive tax planning. Deb thinks this is the fun part of tax because it makes a financial difference for her clients, their business, and their families.

Debbie offers free 30 minute no obligation consultations. We can discuss/resolve via a mix of e-mail, phone, virtual, and in-person communications.

http://www.DeborahFoxCPA.com 

Call 619-549-2717

E-Mail me @ debfoxfinancial@gmail.com 

Twitter: @debfoxfinancial

Facebook: Deborah Ann Fox, CPA

The blog is provided as general information only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice and services of an attorney or Certified Public Accountant.

4 Step Process – What “Business Entity”?

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Tax and, to a lesser extent, Personal Liability, concerns often create a maze of confusion for those trying to decide what business entity should I choose?

I hope this blog reduces or resolves any confusion, creates clarity, and provides a solution for you.

This blog is intended to provide you a good “Birds Eye View” of your options and a systematic and analytical process to help you discover:

  • What “Business Entity” you may want
  • Why you want it, and
  • How much it will cost

As someone with both an accounting/tax and risk management background, I look at choices from two perspectives:

  1. The number side of me wants to find out if there is a way to save money.
  2. The risk management part of me wants to make sure we are protecting the money we have.

I also look at the “Cost VS Benefit” or the Risk/Return for decision alternatives.

Is the money spent worth the benefit received?

 This same process can work for you as you evaluate the pros and cons of your alternatives.

Before we look at the 4 Steps, it is helpful to see the “big picture” before diving into the details. “First, see the forest, and then see the trees”

Choosing a “Business Entity” involves choosing both a legal entity and also choosing the way you want your business entity to be taxed.

  • Legal Entities are created by state statues
  • Tax Classifications are created by the IRS

Legal Entities:

  • Sole Proprietor
  • General Partnership
  • Corporation
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Limited Partnership
  • Limited Liability Partnership

IRS Federal Tax Classifications are:

  • Sole Proprietor
  • Partnership
  • C Corporation
  • S Corporation

A cursory review of the two (2) lists clearly shows a mismatch; i.e. they are not “apples to apples”.

Hopefully, showing this to you “up front” will help you develop a discerning eye for the difference in terminology. Examples:

  • Corporations and Limited Liability Company’s are legal entities and not tax classifications.
  • A corporation has two tax classifications available to it, the C Corporation and S Corporation.
  • The Corporation is the legal entity and the C Corporation and the S Corporation are tax classifications.

If you get confused as you read through the details below, come back to the two lists to see which term fits where.

 Now, Back to the

Systematic and Analytical Process to Help You Decide:

  • What “Business Entity” you may want
  • Why you want it, and
  • How much it will cost

4 Step Process

  1. Take a Personal Inventory of your Business Needs
  2. Research & Understand your options
  3. Review the Cost VS Benefit of your possible choices
  4. Meet with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and an Attorney to help you finalize your decision

Factors to consider in your decision may include:

  • Your Objective
  • Your Industry
  • Short and Long term goals
  • Tax Implications
  • State law treatment
  • Protection for Personal Assets
  • Formation cost
  • Recordkeeping and ongoing maintenance requirements
  • Capitalization
  • Compensation
  • Allocation of Profits, Losses, and Distributions
  • Fringe Benefits
  • Rights and Duties of Business Owners
  • Management and Control
  • Transfer, Conversion, and Merger
  • Termination/Dissolution

Step 1:

Personal Inventory of your Business Needs:

  • What Do I have to Protect?
  • Liability exposure from your product, services, or location?
  • Am I operating this business by myself or do I have partners, shareholders or members?
  • What are my short and long- term goals?
  • Do I want to retain capital to pay for inventory or to fund growth?
  • Do I want to raise capital?
  • Do I want to establish business credit?

 

Step 2:

Research & Understand Your Options:

Broad Perspective:

Taxes and Personal Liability should both be considered as primary factors in your decision.

  • This blog will focus upon federal taxes; your state statues should also be reviewed. Don’t assume that your state law will follow the IRS. Do the research.
  • Personal Liability and the protection of personal assets, will be addressed within each entity type

The two types of federal taxation that are often considered in entity selection are income tax and self-employment tax.

Income Tax obligations vary depending on the legal structure and tax classification.

The most common forms of business are the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and S corporation.

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a relatively new business structure allowed by state statute; it is not an IRS filing status.

  • With pass-through taxation, generally, no income taxes are paid at the business level. Business profit or loss is passed-through to the owners’ personal tax returns.
  • Corporations, on the other hand, are separate tax entities and are taxed independently from owners.

 

Self-Employment tax is required if your annual net earnings is more than $400.

As an employee, you know that money is withheld from your paycheck for social security and Medicare tax; you and your employer split this 50/50.

Self-Employed individuals must pay both the employer and the employee side of Social Security and Medicare tax.

The self-employment tax rate for 2017 is 15.3% of the first $ 127,200 of income and 2.9% of everything above that amount.

There is an income cap for the Social Security tax; the Medicare tax is not capped.

The Social Security tax rate is 12.4%; the Medicare tax is 2.9% (15.3% combined).

  • Self-Employment taxes are reported on Federal Form Schedule SE
  • Taxpayers can deduct 50% of their self-employment tax in determining their Adjusted Gross Income on Form 1040; the adjustment does not affect the amount of self-employment tax owed.

 

Detail Perspective:

Sole Proprietor: Flying Solo

Sole Proprietorships are an unincorporated business that is owned by one person.

Owner Liability?

  • Unlimited; A Sole Proprietor is always personally liable for the debts, obligations, and liabilities of the business

How Are Income Taxes Paid? :

  • Report business income or losses on your personal income tax return; the business itself is not taxed separately. File form 1040 and use Schedule C- Profit or Loss from Business.

Will I pay Self Employment Tax? –

  • Yes; file Schedule SE with your federal form 1040

Other Entity options for a Single Owner Entity?

  • Corporation
  • Limited Liability Company- Single Member LLC

 

Partnership: Two or More:

A Partnership is a relationship formed by 2 or more persons or entities that join together to carry on a trade or business.

Two primary choices:

  1. General Partnership – By definition, at least 2 General Partners each of whom manage the partnership
  2. Limited Partnership – A Limited Partnership has 1 or more General Partners and 1 or more Limited Partners. The General Partner manages the partnership; Limited Partners are typically passive investors.

 

Owner Liability?

  • General Partners, in a Partnership, are “jointly and severally” liable for the debts, obligations, and liabilities of the business
  • Limited Partners, in a Limited Partnership, have limited liability unless they take an active role in management; General Partners remain personally liable

How Are Income Taxes Paid?

  • Partnerships file an annual information return; file federal form 1065 and Schedule K-1 is used for the individual member’s profit and loss; Individual Partners file their personal tax information on Federal Form 1040 and Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss

Will I pay Self-Employment Tax?

  • Yes, if general partner
  • Generally, No, if limited partner

 

C-Corporation:

A corporation is a separate legal entity with a life beyond that of its owner.

For federal income tax purposes, a C corporation is recognized as a separate taxpaying entity. A corporation conducts business, realizes net income or loss, pays taxes and distributes profits to shareholders.

Double-Taxation applies: the profit of a corporation is taxed to the corporation when earned, and then is taxed to the shareholders when distributed as dividends

Owner Liability?

  • Corporations (C or S) – Shareholders are not personally liable for debts, obligations, or liabilities of the business

 

How are income taxes paid?

  • The C Corporation pays taxes on the annual net earnings and files federal form 1120

Will I pay Self-Employment Tax?

  • No, Self Employment Tax does not apply because payment for services is in the form of wages, which is subject to withholding for social security and Medicare tax

 

S-Corporation

  • An S corporation combines the limited liability of a C corporation with the tax treatment similar to a partnership.
  • You “elect” to become an S Corp by filing Form 2553 with the IRS within the 1st 75 days of the tax year that you want to operate as an S Corp.
  • The S status is only to elect to have all income /losses pass-through to the owners/stockholders and you must qualify to elect.
  • Failure to comply with IRS requirements will cause the S-Corp to lose its status.
  • State taxation of S-Corps vary – see your state rules. Some states treat S corporations, like C corporations, and impose an income or franchise tax.

 

Owner Liability?

  • S Corps limit liability to the same extent as C Corporations
  • Corporations (C or S) – Shareholders are not personally liable for debts, obligations, or liabilities of the business

How is Income Taxes Paid?

  • S Corporations are corporations that elect to pass corporate income, losses, deductions, and credits through to their shareholders for federal tax purposes
  • S Corporations are responsible for tax on certain built-in gains and passive income at the entity level
  • File S-Corp informational return on Federal Form 1120-S and use Schedule K-1 for the individual shareholder’s profit and loss
  • Shareholder-Employees are taxed on their salary income and on any profits distributed by the S-Corporation
  • Shareholder-Employees file Federal Form 1040 and Schedule E – Supplemental Income and Loss

 

Will I pay Self Employment tax?

  • Generally, no, this is why many Small Business Owners elect to be an S-Corp, if they qualify

 

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

State statues create a Limited Liability Company; owners are called members.

There are 2 primary types:

  • Single Member
  • Multi-Member

Owner Liability?

  • LLCs are state entities; the level of legal protection given to a company’s owners depends upon the rules of the state in which the LLC was formed

 

How are Income Taxes paid?

The tax classifications available to an LLC vary based on the number of members

  • All income, gain, loss, and deduction flow through to members unless the LLC is taxed as C-Corp
  • A Single Member LLC, by default, is a disregarded entity
  • A Single Member LLC can choose to be taxed as a “Corporation” *
  • A Multi Member LLC, by default is a Partnership
  • A Multi Member LLC can choose to be taxed as a “Corporation” *

 

Generally, when an LLC only has one member, the fact that it is an LLC, is ignored or “disregarded”, for the purpose of filing a federal tax return, and is treated the same as a Sole Proprietor.

 

If the only member is an individual, LLC income and expenses are reported on federal form 1040 and Schedule C, E, or F unless it files Form 8832 and elects to be treated as a C Corporation. *

 

A domestic LLC with at least two members is classified as a partnership for federal income tax purposes unless it files Federal Form 8832 and elects to be treated as a C Corporation *

An LLC can also elect to be an S Corporation, if they qualify*

The type of legal entity remains the same—only the tax classification changes to impact how the entity reports and pays taxes.

 

Will I pay Self Employment Tax?

  • Yes, Self-Employment Tax applies except if the LLC operates as C-Corp or S-Corp
  • Sole Proprietor and Partners both pay this tax. File Schedule SE with your federal form 1040

Step 3:

Determine the Cost VS The Benefit:

  • Each Option has it’s own “cost” and “benefit”. Understanding this helps you make an educated decision before you spend any money.
  • The options available to you vary by state and by profession. There is no one size fits all rule, for everyone, across the United States.
  • Visit your local SBDC, Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE), and Secretary of State website to find specifics for your area
  • Consider Tax (monetary) and Non-Tax benefits

Costs Include:

  • Filing Fees and Set-Up Costs
  • Annual Maintenance Fees & Services
  • Any State Entity Taxes on Gross or Net Income
  • Tax Return Preparation and Services through out the year
  • Cost, in terms of Time & Money: the amount of paperwork required, Board Meetings, Shareholder meetings, minutes, etc.,

For your state entity taxes, you could use an estimated amount of gross or net income for perhaps, 1, 3, and 5 years and then determine you estimated tax for each year. No, this is not a “real number”, but it does provide a useful illustration to help quantify your cost for alternatives

Benefits Include:

  • Potential Tax Savings
  • Peace of Mind because your personal assets are protected from business liability
  • Other intangibles 

 

Step 4: Meet with an Attorney/CPA to help finalize your choice:

Although a lot of information is included here, it does not cover everything that is important to understand.

Your preliminary research has probably increased your understanding, narrowed your choices, and also created new questions for you.

You could consider this 4 Step process as a good preliminary foundation for your discussions with your attorney and CPA; they can provide more details about income tax and legalities for your situation.

 

Wrapping Up

The entity selection process can seem like a maze of confusing options. I hope this information helped to remove some confusion and perhaps, make a small difference for you? If so, please let me know; I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

 

Thanks for reading.

To your success,

Deb

 

 

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA helps Small Business Owners & Individuals build and protect their financial wealth though education, strategy, and proactive tax planning. She is passionate about helping others. She teaches and also blogs to provide helpful information for individuals, independent contractors entrepreneurs, and small business owners.

Debbie offers free 30 minute no obligation consultations. We can discuss/resolve via a mix of phone, e-mail, virtual, and in-person communications.

 

http://www.DeborahFoxCPA.com

 Call 619-549-2717

E-Mail me @ debfoxfinancial@gmail.com 

Twitter: @debfoxfinancial

Facebook: Deborah Ann Fox, CPA

The blog is provided as general information only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice and services of an attorney or Certified Public Accountant.

Does the IRS think you have a Business?

2013 Tax

Many taxpayers started a business and thought, or were told, “Don’t worry about the expense, it’s a write off on your tax return”.

The truth is that this may or may not be true.

Tax is not a cookie-cutter industry and as you can probably guess, the IRS did not make a “One Size Fits All” tax rule for write-offs.

If your intent is to enjoy your hobby and perhaps make some incidental income, this blog may not be of interest to you.

If your intent is to make money through a legitimate business, as defined by the IRS – this is for you

  • My purpose is to provide you “heads up” and “eyes open” to help ensure your business and financial success
  • This blog is provided to help educate you on how to organize, manage and conduct your business to improve your chances with the IRS in the event that your “activity” is audited ***

 

IRS Hobby VS Business Rules:

  • An “Activity” is either a hobby or a business
  • The IRS uses facts to decide if an activity is a (hobby) or a business
  • Neither the Code nor the Regulations provide an absolute definition
  • It is difficult for a taxpayer to win a hobby-loss case at the Tax Court level
  • If your tax return pays tax as a business and the IRS finds that it is a hobby, your tax return can be corrected and your tax liability could go up; i.e. you might owe the IRS money ***
  • The financial adjustment may be significant. In addition to the loss of the deductions, you, may face a §6662 understatement penalty for the tax years in question ***

 

Hobby Rules:

  • An activity is presumed to be a Hobby if a profit is not earned in at least 3 taxable years of a consecutive 5-year period
  • A taxpayer can overcome the presumption if he/she can show the activity was operated with a For-Profit motive
  • Under IRC §183, a taxpayer’s deduction for Hobby losses is limited to the income produced
  • You must itemize deductions to claim hobby expenses on your tax return
  • Hobby expenses, along with other miscellaneous expenses you itemize on Schedule A, must come to more than 2% of your adjusted gross income before you can deduct them
  • Hobby Expenses can bring your Hobby Gross Income, to zero
  • Income is reported on your IRS Form 1040, Line 21, Other Income
  • I understand that this can be confusing, so I will rephrase differently, to help bring clarity:
  • Hobby Income needs to be reported
  • Hobby Expense deductions have 3 limitations:
  1. Total Itemized Deductions have to be greater than your Standard Deduction
  2. Hobby expense deductions are limited to the hobby income produced, and then
  3. Then those expenses must be reduced by 2% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)

 

Business Rules:

  • A Business has a For-Profit motive
  • A simple, general rule is that if the business makes a profit in 3 of 5 years there will be a presumption of profit
  • IRC § 183(d) is a safe harbor for the taxpayer
  • If the business is For-Profit, no limit on deductions is imposed and the taxpayer may be able to use losses to offset (reduce) other taxable income
  • If an activity has not produced profits in three of the past five years, the taxpayer may still argue that the business has a profit motive by relying on Reg. §1.183-2, which provides for a nine-factor test
  • More weight is given by the courts to the objective facts (rather than to the taxpayer’s statement intent) Dreicer v. Comr., 78 T.C. 642 (1982)
  • Judicial decisions suggest that no one factor is controlling
  • Court decisions often seem to consistently rely on the first factor as the most important

 

The prevailing regulations list nine critical factors for determining whether an activity constitutes a Hobby or a Business. They are:

  1. The manner in which the taxpayer carries on the activity
  2. The expertise of the taxpayer or his or her advisers
  3. The time and effort expended by the taxpayer in carrying on the activity
  4. The expectation that assets used in the activity may appreciate in value
  5. The success of the taxpayer in carrying on other similar or dissimilar activities
  6. The taxpayer’s history of income or losses with respect to the activity
  7. The amount of occasional profits, if any, which are earned by the taxpayer
  8. The financial status of the taxpayer
  9. Any elements of personal pleasure or recreation

 

Business Tax Reporting:

  • A Sole Proprietor or Qualified Joint Venture will file a federal return on Form 1040 and Schedule C- Profit or Loss from Business
  • If you have another Schedule C business activity; a separate Schedule C is required for each business; the same is true for your business records
  • Check to see what tax reporting is required by your state tax board and local municipality
  • The IRS expects you to pay tax as the money is earned
  • If you operate on a calendar year, due dates are 4/15, 6/15, 9/15, and 1/15 for the previous year
  • Quarterly estimated tax payments should be paid if you expect to owe more than $1,000 in federal taxes on an annual basis
  • Use 1040ES for Individual Estimated Payments
  • Reconcile payments on your annual Year End tax return
  • Self-Employment tax of 15.30% is required on all Annual Net Earnings of more than $400

 

Building the Foundation for a For-Profit Business Intent

Tips for Success:

  • Conduct your business, like a business, consistently
  • Consistency includes Quarterly tax reporting and payments – as required
  • Quarterly reporting requires that your accounting records be current – so you know if you have a profit or a loss
  • Taxpayers bear the burden of proving that they engaged in the activity with an actual and honest objective of realizing a profit
  • Keep detailed financial records
  • Credit Card and Bank statements and cancelled checks are not enough- the IRS needs to see the detail of what you bought
  • Receipts are your Audit Protection – the IRS has Strict Substantiation Requirements
  • The Cohen Rule,” states that you can use “other credible evidence,” or rely on IRS Publication 463 which states that you don’t need to keep receipts for expenses under $75 – it is safer to save all receipts and to follow a consistent business practice
  • Don’t use Cash: it is hard to track, easy to spend and nearly impossible to reconcile with receipts
  • Establish separate checking and credit accounts for your business – don’t co-mingle business & personal funds
  • Keep a Time/Activity Log- Outlook or Google calendar may be requested during an audit
  • If you have had business losses and made changes in the attempt to improve profitability, keep a list of changes made and the date the change was made
  • Establish a level of expertise by attending seminars, networking, and joining professional organizations related to the activity
  • Anticipate that you could be audited ***
  • Pursue your passion, enjoy the journey, and ask questions as you learn along the way

 

If you want to learn more about IRS tax rules, contact for me for a $75.00 Special: includes a 45 minute Q&A phone session plus a free “cheat sheet” for your personal use. The “cheat sheet” includes accounting/tax tips about what is a deductible expense, etc. Offer is valid until 9/5/16.

 

“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day” – Jim Rohn

“To open a shop is easy; to keep it open is an art” –Chinese Proverb

 

Thanks for reading,

Deb

 

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA helps Small Business Owners & Individuals build and protect their financial wealth. She can help by being your financial compass while you captain your ship.

Debbie offers free 30 minute no obligation consultations. We can discuss/resolve via a mix of e-mail, phone, virtual, and in-person communications.

http://www.debfoxfinancial.com

Call 619-549-2717

E-Mail me @ debfoxfinancial@gmail.com 

Twitter: @debfoxfinancial

Facebook: Deborah Ann Fox, CPA

Tax Tips for Independent Contactors & Sole Proprietors

 

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Tax Planning & What Money is Really Yours to Spend?

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin

Death will only come once, while taxes linger with us year after year.

Many of us spend 2,000+ hours a year working to earn money. Doesn’t it make sense to spend a few hours to learn how to manage it, particularly, when it comes to tax, which is our most expensive lifetime expense?

This blog is offered as a tool to help Independent Contractors & Sole Proprietors avoid tax “surprises” and pro-actively plan their cash flow.

Why Read? Cash Flow – You need to know: What money is really yours to spend?

Many taxpayers were surprised earlier this year when they filed their 2015 tax returns. Why? They were not prepared for the tax affect of having earned what the IRS calls “non-employee compensation”.   For example, the 15.3% Self-Employment Tax was an unexpected hit to their cash flow.

Who should read? : (Independent Contractors including Direct Sellers, Freelancers, Airbnb Hosts, Uber & Lyft Drivers, Internet Sellers)

Sole Proprietor: Flying Solo

  • Taxpayer is the owner; the business is not separate
  • Unlimited exposure to liability
  • All debts or claims against the business can be filed against the owners’ personal property
  • If the owner is sued, insurance is the only form of protection
  • The business itself is not taxed separately; The IRS calls this “pass-through” taxation, because the business Profit and Loss passes through the business to be taxed on your personal tax return
  • Tax is based on your personal income level and is taxed at graduated rates
  • File your personal income tax on Federal Form 1040 and all business information on Schedule C, Profit or Loss from the business
  • Self-Employment tax is required if your annual net-earnings is more than $400
  • Net Earnings is determined by tracking both the revenue earned and the corresponding acceptable business expense

What to Do:

Self-Employment requires both basic accounting and additional tax reporting

Accounting:

Maintain a Basic Profit & Loss Statement to determine Net Earnings per Quarter

  • A Profit & Loss statement is needed to determine if you owe income tax and self employment tax
  • If expenses are less than income, the difference is Net Profit
  • If expenses are more than income, the difference is Net Loss
  • Losses may be limited on your tax return
  • Expense definition may differ for “books” and “tax”
  • Tax requires that certain expenses “be capitalized” and expensed over a period of time

Income includes:

IRS Form 1099-Miscellaneous (1099-M)- Income

The Gig Economy is also known as the 1099 Economy because Independent Contractors should receive this form from anyone that has paid them $600 or more during a tax year. The form is sent to both to you and to the IRS. This means, that yes, you need to report the income – even if you did not receive your 1099-M form or if you were paid less than $600 from a single source.

IRS Form 1099-K- shows Income you received through payment processing platforms

  • PayPal and other merchants that process payments for your business will issue this form to you & yes, the IRS
  • The form is issued in settlement of third-party payment network transactions above the minimum reporting thresholds of $20K in transactions and 200 transactions
  • The income reported is the Gross amount of all reportable transactions
  • The Gross amount does not include any adjustments for credits, cash equivalents, discount amounts, fees, refunded amounts
  • The dollar amount of each transaction is determined on the date of the transaction
  • The 1099K only shows income paid to you; it does not include charge backs to your account or fees you paid
  • You are responsible for tracking your “income” – you certainly don’t want to pay tax on more than you actually received

Be aware that possible “double reporting” could occur – Reconcile to avoid  “overlap”:

  • Your clients could issue you a 1099-M and send a copy to the IRS
  • PayPal or another vendor could, theoretically, include this same income when they send you a 1099-K
  • Although it is not required, it is a good idea to at least review, if not reconcile, what is being reported as “income to you”
  • Consider creating a spreadsheet to Cross –Reference payments, for a 1099-M and 1099-K comparison

Business Expense:

1099 Income can be reduced by the related “ordinary and necessary” expense

  • Receipts and mileage logs must be maintained to support the deduction expense you claim on your tax forms
  • Mileage logs should include beginning and ending mileage, where you went, who you saw, and why you went (business purpose)
  • Receipts fade. Add notes in ink and then scan to preserve
  • Ordinary expense = Common or accepted in your trade or business
  • Necessary expense= Helpful or appropriate for your trade or business
  • The IRS code provides for allowable deductible expenses and the IRS can take the deductions away if records are not maintained

When: Tax Tips for Filing Requirements:

Federal, State, & Local Tax may need to be paid each Quarter

  • The IRS expects you to pay tax as the money is earned. If you operate on a calendar year, due dates are 4/15, 6/15, 9/15, and 1/15 for the previous year
  • Quarterly estimated tax payments should be paid if you expect to owe more than $1,000 in federal taxes
  • Use 1040ES- Individual Estimated Payments
  • Reconcile payments on your annual Year End tax return
  • File your federal return on Form 1040 and Schedule C- Profit or Loss from Business (Sole Proprietor)
  • Check to see what tax reporting is required by your state tax board and local municipality

Schedule C:

  • If you drive for Uber and also sell items on ETSY, a separate Schedule C is required for each source of business income.

Self-Employment tax of 15.30% is required on all Annual Net Earnings of more than $400

  • Sole Proprietors & Independent Contractors must pay both the employer and the employee side of Social Security and Medicare taxes; this is called Self-Employment tax
  • The 2015 SE tax rate on Net Earnings is 15.3% (12.4% social security tax plus 2.9% Medicare tax).
  • The Self-Employment tax rate is 15.3% of the first $118,500 of income and 2.9% of everything above that amount
  • If you also work as an employee, be careful that you do not overpay your Social Security tax. The $118,500 applies to your combined wages, tips, and net earnings
  • Self-Employment taxes are reported on Federal Form Schedule SE
  • Sole Proprietors can deduct ½ of this cost on 1040-Line 27, the deductible part of self-employment tax

Tips for Financial Success:

  • Don’t Co-Mingle Personal & Business Money – keep separate accounts
  • Maintaining separate accounts helps to show your business intent of making a profit
  • Use tax planning for better cash flow management
  • Profitability is the goal for most small business and one great tool to get there is to use the tax laws that are designed to help your success

Action Steps:

  • Fine tune your DIY process and use the above information as a guide – schedule time to review financials and calendar dates for payments
  • If you want some help or prefer a “Do it for Me” process, contact me for an introductory special

Your Success matters to me.

My intent is to use my blog to educate and empower others by teaching tax rules to save you money.        Thanks for reading!

You either master money, or on some level, money Masters you” – Scot Alan Turner

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA is working to make a difference in peoples lives and wallets, by helping them build and protect their financial health. Her mission is to be an affordable & accessible resource to help answer money questions for individuals and small business. She can help by being your compass while you captain your ship. 

Debbie offers free 30 minute no obligation consultations and is available for appointments – including remote. More information is available at http://www.debfoxfinancial.com. Questions or comments can be sent to debfoxfinancial@gmail.com 

 

 

10 Quotes to “Invest in Your Success”

In honor of ‘Small Business Week 2016”, I offer you 10 quotes to help you ‘Invest in your Success’, the theme for this years celebration.

Dreams, put into action, are the initial seeds we sow before we might become an Entrepreneur or Small Business Owner

  • “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort”- Jesse Owens

Education

  • The road to success is always under construction” – Paul Harvey

Experience

  • “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is” – Yogi Berra

Self-Development Growth

  • It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.”  – C. S. Lewis

Process – Think, Plan, Execute, Monitor, Measure – Repeat

  • “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. “ – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Investments – Time & Money

  • “Price is what you pay; value is what you get” – Warren Buffet

Measure – Return on Investment (ROI)

  • “The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize” – Shigeo Shingo

Business Efficiencies

  • “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.”  – Georg C. Lichtenberg

Improvement – Mentor- an easier way to learn and increase efficiencies – Avoid learning the “hard way”

  • That’s the result of Leadership. To make sure that which shouldn’t happen, doesn’t happen” – Tony Blair 

Success- is not a seamless journey. Probably boring if it was. We learn as we grow.

  • I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” Diane Ackerman 

The10 most powerful 2 letter words; If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me

Thanks for reading!

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA is working to make a difference in peoples lives and wallets, by helping them build and protect their financial health. Her mission is to be an affordable & accessible resource to help answer money questions for individuals and small business. She can help by being your compass while you captain your ship.

Debbie offers free 30 minute no obligation consultations and is available for appointments – including remote. More information is available at http://www.debfoxfinancial.com. Questions or comments can be sent to debfoxfinancial@gmail.com 

 

 

Money Spent, Wisdom Gained, & 20 Helpful Tips

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Many of us have said, “I wish I had known then what I do now; I would have done things differently”.

This is particularly true when it comes to money & our financial situations. Money trouble or challenges occur for a variety of reasons:

We spend when we shouldn’t or we spend without understanding the true cost:

As a student, perhaps we used some of our student loan to go shopping. Maybe, we bought things we knew we couldn’t afford because we wanted or deserved it, or signed contracts without reading or fully understanding them.

We spend because we lose our job & spent our financial safety net to survive

Sometimes we end up in money trouble just because of unexpected life events. This has happened a lot since 2008 when people suddenly found themselves with a “pink slip” & not able to get another well paying job. Even if you had the now outdated 3-6 months livings expense safety cushion, it wasn’t enough. Debt piled up.

We spend because we don’t have any other choice; it is a revolving circle:

When debt piles up, we may play the “rob Peter to pay Paul” tactic & move debt from one card to another.

We pay the bills for the services that are the most important to us – housing, electric, phone, gas, & food and hope we can pay the rest of the bills -soon. We hope something will change and actively seek solutions.

We spend to pay high service fees: Fringe Banking, Unbanked, & Under -banked:

The movie “Spent: Looking for Change”, is about hardworking Americans who do not have access to traditional banking services. The film tells us that there are nearly 70 million Americans that are unbanked & financially underserved. They use check cashers, pawns shops, payday lenders, & money order services. These alternative financial services are expensive & those that least can afford it spend more than traditional bank users to cash their payroll checks & to pay their bills.

We spend because we want our tax refund now:

Low to moderate income tax payers pay extremely high interest rates & fees to get some or part of their tax refund now rather than wait a couple of weeks and avoid these needless high expense charges.

The National Consumer Law Center’s website provides the following description:

  • Refund anticipation checks (RACs) – RACs are a financial product used to deliver refunds and to pay for tax preparation fees by deducting them from the consumer’s tax refund.
  •  RALs from non-bank lenders – A few payday and other non-bank lenders are offering RALs. These loans could be more expensive and riskier than bank RALs.

Since the 2008 recession, many people have permanently changed the way they spend their money.

Following are 20 tips to help you make your money go further. This, then will provide you the opportunity to either pay down debt, build a safety cushion, or invest in your future.

Money Management & Spending Tips:

  1. Some “assets” appreciate and can go up in value; spending money here makes sense
  1. Other “assets” depreciate as soon as you buy them – cars, furniture; consider buying used or refurbished
  1. Accountants use a term called “Sunk Costs” which means a cost that has already been incurred & cannot be recovered; limit your sunk costs
  1. Opportunity Costs: the value of something that must be given up to achieve something else; limit how much you spend on a things that you want; you might need the money later for a need
  1. Good debt provides you an opportunity to get ahead; there can be a return on your investment; i.e. a mortgage on a home
  1. Bad debt includes high interest rates on unpaid credit card balances
  1. Borrowing on credit is expensive; debt makes you a slave to payments; you’re a hostage with limited life choices & flexibility
  1. Building & Maintaining a good credit score means it will cost you less to borrow money
  1. Forgo bad debt & instead, build toward your dreams
  1. When you want to spend instead of save, think about your long-term goals. Is going out to eat, buying coffee at Starbucks, going shopping because you feel depressed or want something new worth adding more debt or forgoing savings?
  1. Read your contracts & plan for both the best & the worse scenario- can you afford both?
  1. Know that managing money is becoming more simple and that there are is a lot of free help
  1. Use the internet to learn more about personal finance- Coursera offers free classes
  1. Use on line tools to help you determine your best money moves; I have several on my website, on the resources page
  1. Hire someone to help you understand & determine your best possible alternatives
  1. Avoid “problem pile-ups”- it is too hard to solve almost anything that way. Choose one thing to work on, resolve, choose another
  1. Don’t beat yourself up if you made what you consider a “money mistake”. Ideally, we all learn as we grow. This is a normal part of life & it is fully possible to recover & regroup
  1. Don’t assume you know the answer, because you think “it is true” or someone told you. Look for the answer yourself or try to get your answers in writing from an objective source
  1. If you are a parent, be careful that you are not unintentionally teaching your children poor money habits by saying things like, “I am not answering the phone, it is another bill collector”
  1. Sometimes we learned poor money habits as a kid and carried them with us in to adulthood without realizing it. This has become so common that there is a new field of study & help: Behavioral Finance. Learn about this is if it applies to you

Deborah Fox, CPA is working to make financial information affordable & accessible. She helps others improve or protect their personal or business financial health by answering specific money questions. She provides information while building knowledge & practical skill levels for her clients. She is available for local or remote appointments. Thanks for reading.

Website: www.debfoxfinancial.com

e-mail: debfoxfinancial@gmail.com

Phone: 619-549-2717