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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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.

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