Tax Reform & Employee Business Expense

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Before January 1, 2018, Employees, who itemized their deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040, could deduct their appropriate unreimbursed employee expenses that were greater than 2% of their Adjusted Gross Income (line 37 on Form 1040. This is no longer possible.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) suspends all miscellaneous itemized deductions that are subject to the 2 percent of Adjusted Gross Income Floor. This change affects unreimbursed employee expenses such as uniforms, union dues and the deduction for business-related meals, entertainment and travel expenses in taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2026.

While this new rule may change, currently this is the law and it may have a financial detrimental affect upon an employee’s financial “bottom line”; i.e. their spendable income, after tax. Lost deductions may mean a higher taxable income and tax expense. 2018 is about 5/12 over and now is the time to make adjustments – before 2018 is over and it essentially may be too late.

Options:

Employers can use an Accountable Plan to reimburse their employees, for allowable business expenses, without having this amount added as compensation to the employees W2.

With an “Accountable Plan”, the employer’s advance, reimbursement or allowance arrangement must include all of the following rules:

  1. The expense must have a business connection – the employee must have paid or incurred deductible expenses while performing services as an employee of the employer
  2. There must be an adequate accounting of these expenses to the employer within a reasonable time – expense report with receipts; some may qualify to use the Per Diem method
  3. Generally, the expenses must satisfy the substantiation requirement – the employee must report the amount, time, place, and business purpose. An easy way to remember this is to use the 5 “W’s:
  • Who? – Business Relationship
  • What? – Type of Expense
  • Where? – Place
  • When? – Date
  • Why? -Business Purpose

The employee must return any excess reimbursement or allowance within a reasonable time

  • Under an IRS “safe harbor” the following payments are considered to be made within a reasonable time
  • Advance Payments- given to you within 30 days prior
  • Substantiation of Expense – provided within 60 days
  • Return of Excess- done within 120 days of paid or incurred

 Substantiation must be done and the Excess Amount be returned within a reasonable period of time. If this time requirement is not met, the unsubstantiated or excess amounts are treated as reimbursements under a “Non-Accountable Plan”.

A “Non-Accountable Plan” is one that either does not require you to adequately account for your expenses or allows you to keep any excess reimbursements or allowances, over the expenses for which you did adequately account.

  • Employers report the reimbursements or allowances as part of your salary income in Box 1 on your W2, which is subject to FICA tax (Social Security and Medicare) withholding

 

In addition, even if your employer has an Accountable Plan, the following payments will be treated as being paid under an Non-Accountable Plan:

  • Excess Reimbursements
  • Reimbursements of nondeductible expenses

 

New Law and New Procedure?

The TCJA is in its infancy. It is less than 5 months old and many are still learning about it. This blog was specifically written to help provide information for both employees and employers. Financial Education, including tax rules, can make a difference and possibility prevent others from getting hurt financially.

Perhaps, for some, changing the compensation agreement might produce a Win/Win:

  • Employees might consider a “salary reduction” if the employer reimburses them for their business expenses that are no longer deductible as a miscellaneous itemized deduction
  • The employee benefits by having some or all of his expenses paid for and also reduces their taxable income and payroll tax
  • The employer benefits by reduced payroll tax and they can take a business deduction for the qualifying “ordinary and necessary” expense
  • Some Employees might decide they will do better by being an Independent Contractor where they could use Schedule C and deduct expenses as a Sole Proprietor.

When evaluating your options, remember to evaluate both federal and state rules before you act; i.e. Look before You Leap. 

If you are an employer, you can take the lead and help employees:

  • Be proactive and consider telling employees they cannot deduct employee related business expenses on their tax return, which may affect their 2018 annual tax bill. Tax planning can help and payroll withholding can be adjusted if necessary. Sooner is better than later.
  • Education helps to prevent unexpected financial surprises

 

Helpful Tip:

  • Remember, S-Corporation Owners can be both an Investor and an Employee Shareholder. S Corporations may want to consider an Accountable Plan for their Shareholder Employees to obtain reimbursement for their business related expenses such as mileage, travel, and meals.

  

In closing, it is always good to remember Ben Franklin’s famous quote “Beware of little expenses. A small leak can sink a great ship.” While the unreimbursed expenses may never sink a ship, evaluating options to identify cost savings is a smart thing to do. I understand most people do not like “tax”, but most of us like to save money. Right?

 

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.

She 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, Certified Public Accountant or Enrolled Agent.

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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.

Get Started on the “Right Foot” Financial Planning for 2017

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When it comes to your finances, accounting, or tax rules, do you ever feel like a “Duck out of Water?”

If so, this post is designed to help you get started on the right foot, make your 2017 easier, and ideally, more profitable.

Here are 6 tips to help you get started:

1. Employ your money by considering how you can make it work for you:

One way to do this is to work with a tax accountant who can help you learn to use the tax rules to help you improve your financial results by decreasing your income tax expense. A tax software program may help you prepare and file your tax return, but it does not help you plan or make informed financial decisions.

A tax return is based upon the past. The best opportunity to make a difference is in the present.

Tax planning (and acting) may also help you save some money on your 2016 tax return – before you file. You can read the rules, read some of my others blogs, or ask someone for guidance.

 

2.  Self-employment comes with both a lot of perks and responsibilities; this is particularly true for income tax rules and obligations.

The IRS defines Earned Income as all taxable income and wages from working either as an employee or from running or owning a business (net earnings from self-employment).

Last year at tax time, a lot of people were caught by surprise because they had not considered how their UBER or other self-employment income would be taxed. It is important to know the rules to avoid penalties for either not reporting on time and/or for not paying income tax on time.

Use the following information to avoid penalties, price your products/services and to plan your budget:

IRS Business Basics – Compliance – “Must Do”:

  • The U.S. tax system is “Pay as You Go, generally, not at the end of the year
  • If you owe the IRS more than $1K during a year, it is not ok to wait to pay
  • Quarterly Reporting & estimated tax payments are required to avoid late payments, interest & penalties
  • Accounting records must be current to determine – if you need to pay quarterly tax
  • Generally, Calendar Year Due Dates are 4/15, 6/15, 9/15, and 1/15 for the previous year
  • If you don’t pay enough tax by the due date of each of the payment periods, you may be charged a penalty
  • Individuals (Sole Proprietors, Partners, S-Corp Shareholders) need to pay estimated tax if they owe $1,000+
  • Corporations need to pay estimated tax if they owe $500+
  • 2 Possible Penalties: Failure to Fail and Fail to Pay on time – If you can’t pay, at least file; prevents 1 penalty
  • Estimated tax is used for: Income Tax; Self-Employment Tax and Alternative Minimum Tax
  • Reconcile payments on your annual tax return

 

 3. Self-Employment Tax of 15.30% is required on Annual Net Earnings of $400+ – “Must Do”

  • You, need to know “Up front” to budget for cash expense and to consider for product/service profitability
  • Sole Proprietors & Independent Contractors must pay both the employer and the employee side of Social Security and Medicare taxes
  • The 2016 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
  • Sole Proprietors can deduct ½ of this cost on Form 1040-Line 27, the deductible part of self-employment tax

 

  1. QuickBooks Self-Employed can help you with your business recordkeeping and to determine your estimated tax:

This product is a little less than 2 years old and was designed to simplify the basics for those who are self-employed, own a small business, and who do not have employees (payroll) or inventory. Good examples include realtors and independent contractors.

The program allows you to track business income and expenses and to make tax time simple by capturing all expense deductions, including tracking business mileage. The program also estimates your required IRS quarterly tax payments, lets you separate personal and business expense and create and send invoices on the go.

The cost of $10 or less per month makes it affordable. If you work with a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor Accountant, they may be able to provide you a 50% discount on the program cost for your 1st year of use. Reach out to them and ask. If so, they can send you a link to help you get started at the discounted rate.

 

  1. MileIQ is an easy way to track your mileage for expense purposes.

The app is an automatic mileage tracker, which can improve accuracy and add convenience.

2017 rates are:

  • $0.535 for business
  • $0.170 for medical or moving
  • $0.140 for charity

Alternatively, you can use actual expenses incurred.

Either way, the IRS requires documentation, which includes both the beginning and ending mileage, where you went, and why. If you have not been doing this, step outside and record your odometer reading today. That number can provide a good estimate to end your 2016 tax year and to begin 2017.

Also note that if you used accelerated depreciation for your vehicle and used the Section 179 deduction, you cannot revert and use the standard mileage rates.

 

6. Don’t Believe, “Don’t Worry, it’s a Write-Off:

There are a lot of rules for what is an acceptable deductible business expense that apply for who, for what amount, and when.

Following are some general terms that will help you get started in learning IRS terminology and rules.

Note that what is an acceptable taxable deduction in your business may not be acceptable for my business. The “tool belt” is different for a carpenter than for an accountant.

  • Use IRS rules to decrease income tax expense
  • Business Income can be reduced by “ordinary and necessary” expense:
  1. Ordinary expense = Common or Accepted in your trade or business
  2. Necessary expense= Helpful or Appropriate for your trade or business
  • Operating Expense = expense incurred under normal business operations (rent, utilities, insurance, payroll)
  • Capital Expense= benefits more than 1 year (property, plant & equipment)
  • Capital Assets are generally expensed over a period of time by using depreciation and amortization rules
  • Depreciation and Amortization are both a Non-Cash expense
  • They reduce Net Income on an Income Statement, but do not reduce the Cash account on the Balance Sheet
  • The expense can either be based on standard or accelerated rules.
  • Section 179 is an example of an accelerated expense i.e. take a larger deduction in earlier years. Be careful here because you can also be subject to “recapture rules”.
  • This list is not exhaustive nor does it include all the rules. The information is shared to provide general concepts and to plant seeds for future learning.

 

I hope these tips to help you get started on the “right foot” and help you feel less “like a duck out of water”.

We all have gifts we can use to make a difference for each other.

I hope this blog post might have made a small difference for you.

 

Thanks for reading.

To your success,

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.

Deb 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

http://www.DeborahFoxCPA.com

Call 619-549-2717

E-Mail me @ debfoxfinancial@gmail.com 

Twitter: @debfoxfinancial

Facebook: Deborah Ann Fox, CPA

Perspective: A Number Story

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Our observations can be limited by our experience.

For example, recently an architect gave me suggestions for elements to include in a new website that I will launch soon for DeborahFoxCPA.com. His design-eye expertise is invaluable to me. I told him, “You can see things that my eyes do not. I look, but do not see the same detail as you do.” His reply was priceless, “Of course honey this is why we help each other – you see numbers I can’t see LOL.”

Perspective matters.

Numbers tell a story – in our financial statements and on our tax returns. I look for opportunities to make a difference in the story and so can you.

As we approach the end of the year, now is a great time to review the “Big Picture”.

You are the Chief Financial Officer of your home or for your business. You are in the driver’s seat.

Step away from thinking about “working in your business” and focus upon “working on your business”. Think about what you could do to make improvements. Focus upon strategy. Not compliance.

Compliance is filing a tax return. It is what we have to do to comply.

Strategy is about making a difference before you file the return or issue the next financial statements.

Here are 3 ways you can make a difference in your financial story:

  1. Review your financial performance:
  • Are you allocating your budget resources (time and money) for the best use?
  • Compare budget to actual results
  • Compare year-to- year results; identify what changed. Why?
  1. Use financial ratio’s to uncover patterns:
  • Are there areas or activities that are underperforming?
  • Do certain activities provide little value or return on your investment?
  • Can you change your mix to provide more value for you?
  1. Generate new insights:
  • Can you find new opportunities?
  • Can you make changes that would reduce your risk?
  • Could some help from a different perspective find value for you?

 

Henry David Thoreau said, “It is not what you look at that matter’s, it’s what you see.”

What I could see, changed, after I reviewed the architect’s suggestions for my website. Likewise, his perspective changed, too, after I helped him.

We all have gifts we can use to make a difference for each other.

I hope this blog post might have made a small difference for you.

 

Thanks for reading.

To your success,

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

Does the IRS think you have a Business?

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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

5 Ways a CPA can help Small Business

 

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Small Business Owners, particularly in the early stages, are doing it all.

Sometimes it can feel like an up hill battle. There is so much to do, and learn, and not enough time to do it. Financial resources can be scarce and stretched thin.

Sometimes spending a little can help you a lot. The value is apparent.

What We Do:

CPA’s do much more than crunch numbers and report on facts that have already happened in your financial statements.

CPA’s provide advice. We educate our clients and help them improve their financial business results.

Our value can often be quantified, measured, seen and/or felt by business owners.

CPA’s provide a wide variety of services.

I enjoy helping small business owners with income tax and with all the detail that includes. I understand almost no one likes tax; however, we all like to save money. For me, using IRS rules to help others is fun.

How We Help:

1.  A CPA  can help prevent “Blind Spots”:

What you don’t know can hurt you. I’m not telling you this to scare you. Rather, to educate you and provide an objective example.

Many new Small Business Owners do not know that the IRS expects them to pay tax as the money is earned and that quarterly reporting and payments are required if you expect to owe more than $1,000 annual tax to the IRS.

This means that you need to keep your accounting records current so you can determine if you need to begin quarterly reporting and payments. 

2.  A CPA can help with your Budget:

  • Self-Employment tax of 15.30% is required on all Annual Net Earnings of more than $400
  • The 2015 SE tax rate on Net Earnings is 15.3: (12.4% social security tax and 2.9% Medicare tax)
  • Do you include this expense in your budget so you have cash when it is time to pay the IRS?

 

3.  A CPA can help you make Decisions:

  • Data (information) can be used to help you make cost effective decisions
  • Review Forecasted to Actual Financial results – what happened?
  • Help a business owner interpret the financial statements and offer suggestions to improve profitability, cash flow, and efficiency

 

4.  A CPA can help you Minimize your Income Tax:

  • Do you know what you can legally deduct on your tax return?
  • Do you know how to use strategy to reduce your business tax bill?
  • Tax Planning includes education, evaluation, and action

 

5.  CPA can help you improve Profitability:

  • When I told an architect that they were required to pay Self-Employment tax, they were shocked. They told me, I have to raise my prices immediately. I am not making any money.
  • We can help you determine if your pricing is profitable or if you are working for free or for not as much money as you thought you were making
  • You don’t want to wait until year-end to find out
  • As we all know, time is money and the faster we can earn it and build a financial cushion, the more comfortable we feel

 

You have 3 choices:

  1. Do it yourself – inexpensive, but can be costly
  2. Do it for me – expensive & might be seen as a luxury until the cash starts coming in – consistently
  3. Do Some of it for me: a cost effective bridge to obtain education and help on a “as needed” basis

 

Thanks for reading,

Deb

Call me about an Accounting & Tax Tip Cheatsheet  619-549-2717

 

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

 

Financial Fitness: Improving your Tax Story

2013 Tax

Our tax returns tell a story.

A Tax Return is the Story of your recent Past; it is your 2015 financial story.

The story tells the reader lots of information about you:

  • Marital Status (tax rate) Single; Head of Household; Married filing Separate; Married filing Joint; Widowed
  • How you earn your money – employee, self-employed, real-estate investments/rents; royalties
  • How you support yourself if you are not working – unemployment, retired, pension, social security, Required Minimum Distributions
  • How you spent your money: mortgage interest; children; student loans; medical bills; charitable donations
  • Did you have a good year with gambling winnings? Capital Gains?
  • Did you have financially devastating year, as many unfortunately did this year, because of so many natural U.S. catastrophes in 2015?

 

Income Tax Planning is one of the best ways to build your financial wealth.

2015:

Yes, 2015 is over and there is limited opportunity to improve that tax bill. However, depending on your circumstances, there might still be a way to reduce the amount you pay.

  • Contribute to your IRA before 4/18/16
  • If you are married, can you start and fund a Spousal IRA?
  • For 2015 and 2016, your total contributions to all of your traditional and Roth IRAs cannot be more than:

$5,500 ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older), or your taxable compensation for the year, if your compensation was less than this dollar limit

Your Traditional IRA contributions may be tax-deductible. The deduction may be limited if you or your spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work and your income exceeds certain levels.

 

Be Careful of Excess IRA Contributions:

If you exceed the 2015 IRA contribution limit, you may withdraw excess contributions from your account by the due date of your tax return (including extensions). Otherwise, you must pay a 6% tax each year on the excess amounts left in your account

Note that Employer contributions made under a SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) plan do not affect the amount you can contribute to an IRA on your own behalf.  You can both receive employer contributions to a SEP-IRA and make regular, annual contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA.

2016:

Our Financial Life is not stagnant. Like the ocean or a river, it changes all the time – it is a continuous evolving, moving, financial puzzle. New life stages & events provide us an opportunity to make new financial decisions & implement a revised plan.

The key to changing your Tax Story requires you to take action, now, in the present, and in the future.

Here are some tips to help you strengthen your Financial Fitness in this New Year:

  1. If you are an employee, review your withholding allowance on Form W-4. Is it accurate for what you anticipate in 2016? If not adjust, as soon as possible. The earlier you do this during the year, the more accurate your withholding will be.
  1. If you are Self-Employed, even part-time, do you know if you are required to make estimated quarterly payments to the IRS?  Avoid penalties & interest by ensuring that you make the required payments if they apply. Independent Contractors, Freelance workers, those that conduct Internet based sales (Etsy, eBay, Airbnb) and even Uber Drivers should review the information on the IRS website.

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.

  1. If you have a High Deductible Health Insurance Plan, consider setting up a Health Savings Account (HSA). This is a tax- advantaged account to help pay for your medical expenses.

It is also an “Above the Line” deduction on your 1040 Individual tax return, which means you can use it to reduce your income, even if you do not itemize. Lower income, generally indicates, lower taxes.

  1. If you gamble, including playing the lottery, save all of your 2016 “expense” receipts. Why? If you win big, you can reduce the amount you won by the amount that you lost and only pay tax on the difference.

Gambling income includes but is not limited to winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races, and casinos. It includes cash winnings and the fair market value of prizes, such as cars and trips.

To deduct your losses, you must be able to provide receipts, tickets, statements, or other records that show the amount of both your winnings and losses

  1. Defer at least some of your income through a 401K match or similar program to reduce your taxable income for the year & to build savings for the future.
  1. If you itemize or might be able to itemize, record all of the miles you drive, by category: Charity ($0.14); Medical/Moving ($0.19) and Business ($0.54).

It can all add up, faster than you might think and may also make the difference between claiming the standard deduction and being able to itemize. The more you can legally write off, the lower your tax bill.

You can keep a paper calendar in your car & record what, where, why, & how many miles for each trip or use a Smart Phone App to help you.

Whatever you do, ensure you keep good records. If you are audited & can’t prove the deduction, the deduction can be denied and you could owe a penalty and interest for the underpayment.

  1. If you have a business and operate on a cash basis, it is imperative that you keep great records for both cash coming in & cash going out. This recent article highlights the reason why you need to do this: http://smallbiztrends.com/2015/12/recent-irs-case-highlights-need-sophisticated-small-business-management.html

 

  1. Think like a Tax Professional: Know your “Income” Types & their Tax Rates:

Taxable “Income”:

  • Ordinary Income is income earned from providing services or the sales of goods
  • Capital gains are usually associated with the sale or exchange of property characterized as capital assets
  • Short Term Capital Gains are taxed at your Ordinary Income tax rate (10 % to 39.6%)
  • Long Term Capital-Gains tax rates vary by your income tax bracket and the type asset sold
  • Generally, if you’re in the 10% or 15% tax bracket, you’ll pay 0% on those gains. Most other taxpayers pay 15%; however, the rate can also be 20, 25, or 28% for certain asset classes and/or income levels.

Tax Deferred Investment Income includes:

Withdrawals from Traditional IRAs and your 401K, which are, taxed as ordinary income (10% to 39.6%)

Tax Free Investment Income: Roth IRA

  • Tax Free Income as long as the account has been open for at least 5 years
  • Provides flexibility in the timing of future income – you decide
  • Required Minimum Distributions do not apply to Roth accounts as are required by Traditional IRA plans
  • Roth IRA distributions are not considered as income when determining how your Social Security payments are taxed. Qualified Roth distributions are not included in either net investment income or in the modified adjusted gross income calculation for assessing the 3.8% net investment income tax

 

  1. Manage your Tax Bracket:
  • Try to keep your Ordinary Income in the lower tax brackets
  • “Fill up” each bracket, where possible
  • Be aware of tax consequences before making decisions that push you into the next highest rate bracket; i.e. can you defer a bonus or sale to new year if it means you will be taxed 10% less?
  • If you itemize, group deductions where possible; i.e. elective medical or dental procedures; charitable contributions to reduce your taxable income – Plan

 

  1. Your income tax bill is perhaps the biggest bill you will pay over your lifetime. Learn, Plan, Act to reduce and keep more of your money in your pocket, not Theirs (The IRS).

Yes,  to be in compliance, we need to file & pay.  The IRS rules are there for us to use. It is our responsibility and our choice to use them or not. The IRS is not going to tell you, you could have paid less, if you had just (xxx). There are a lot of possible ways to “fill in the blank”. Each Tax Story is unique.

As a CPA – Tax Advisor, I love learning the rules and then sharing information to help other people reduce their tax bills. It is my way to help empower other people and hopefully, make a small difference in their quality of life. Nobody likes paying taxes; almost all of us like to save money.

Have fun leaning, planning, and saving.

Cheers to a happier, healthier, & wealthier 2016!

Thanks for reading,

Deb

 

 

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA is working to make a difference in peoples lives, hearts, and wallets by helping others protect their financial health and is available for side-by-side, remote, or mobile appointments. More information is available at http://www.debfoxfinancial.com. Questions or comments can be sent to debfoxfinancial@gmail.com