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

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

 

Dive into the Numbers-Who Does What?

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Bookkeepers, Accountants, & CPA’s: Who Does What?

 In my experience, I have found that frequently, many people do not understand the difference between a Bookkeeper, an Accountant, and a Certified Public Accountant.

A business owner may wonder, “ Do I need a bookkeeper or an accountant?”

The answer might be both.

The following general descriptions may provide some insight as to function and how each group may work together to provide value to those they serve.

Bookkeepers: May have Certifications

  • Uses accounting software to record day-to-day financial transactions
  • Generates financial reports
  • Sends invoices to customers
  • Enters invoices received from suppliers into the accounting system
  • Reconciles Bank Statements
  • Prepares Payroll
  • Specific responsibilities will vary by type and size of business
  • Work may be overseen by an accountant and/or the small business owner

Accountants: Bachelors Degree, with an emphasis in Accounting 

  • Assist Business Owners with their accounting systems, financial statements, income tax returns, tax planning, and investment decisions
  • Prepares detailed budgets
  • Works with a corporation’s management in analyzing costs of operations, products, and special projects such as forecasted to actual results
  • Works with management in setting prices of products manufactured or services offered
  • May prepare Cash Flow projections and analysis
  • Works with banks to ensure the company will have funds when required
  • Leads Tax Planning and determines income tax and other taxes payable to governmental entities
  • Assess financial risks associated with projects
  • Accountants and auditors perform overviews of the financial operations of a business in order to help it run efficiently.
  • May Supervise teams of Bookkeepers in a large office or work in conjunction with bookkeepers to provide a different level of service to owners
  • Help a business owner interpret the financial statements and offer suggestions to improve profitability, cash flow, and efficiency

 

Certified Public Accountants (CPA’s)- Licensed by the State and agrees to abide by a Code of Ethics

  • Have met the “Three E’s” – Education, Examination, and Experience – that are required for initial licensure as a CPA and they continue to meet the annual continuing education requirements to renew their license each year
  • The current exam includes 4 parts and includes a testing period of up to 14 hours
  • A minimum of 40 continuing education hours are required each year
  • CPA’s frequently become Trusted Business &/or Personal Financial Advisors
  • We may perform any of the services shown under Accountants, or work in Public Accounting which includes a wide range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting tasks for small business, corporations, non-profit organizations, government, and for individuals (Personal Financial Planning)
  • A CPA can do two things than an accountant without a CPA license cannot:
  1. Provide Attestation Services: Compilations, Reviews & Audits of an entity’s financial statements
  2. Represent clients in front of the Internal Revenue Service
  • Certified Public Accountants, Enrolled Agents, and Attorneys have Unlimited Representation Rights before the IRS. Tax professionals with these credentials may represent their clients on any matters including audits, payment/collection issues, and appeals

 

Accounting and Tax is like a foreign language for most people.

It is an acquired skill.

Experience can be wide and deep.

Yet, most of us “Number Crunchers” have one thing in common, we enjoy helping and we use our knowledge and experience to empower others.

We like to use our gifts to help you.

 

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said” – Dr. Peter F. Drucker

Similarly, an accountant/CPA may find meaning for you by “reading between the lines” and offer suggestions to improve the Bottom Line on your financial statements.

 

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 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 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SBW2015: Showing Gratitude for all Small Business Owners

Risk

America is celebrating National Small Business Week all over the country & special events will be held May 4 – May 8, 2015 in cities across the United States & via the web. It is a time that we as consumers can show our appreciation for local business by shopping locally & promoting them by sharing their information with others.

As a small business owner myself, I also thought it would be fun to share a few financial tips that may be helpful to other small business owners. It is another small way to say thank you & show support to my community.

Take Time to Work On Your Business & Not Just In It:
• Financial Statements & Tax Returns both tell a financial story & can be used as a road map or a compass to help guide profitability
• On at least a quarterly basis, Compare your Budgeted/Forecasted Amounts to Actual Results to identity differences (variance)
• Try to determine why there was a difference, if any, & adjust as necessary
• Also compare Year to Year Actual Results – where is your value being created & lost?

Watch The Bottom Line by Protecting your Assets & Managing your Risk:
• On 10/1/15, the financial responsibility (liability) starts to shift for fraudulent transactions to U.S. merchants if they have not upgraded their payment systems to accept EMV Chip Payment Cards. This is true if the card issuing company has added the chip to their card & you have not upgraded your POS system. Rules vary by issuing card companies & products sold. More information can be found from http://www.darkreading.com at : http://t.co/1OqiwTLY0P
• Know your Net Worth & make a conscious decision about how much of it you want to protect by buying insurance & how much you want to “self-insure”

Try Not to Leave Money on the Table:
• Avoid financial pitfalls, fines, & penalties by knowing & applying FLSA laws correctly including classifying Exempt, Non-Exempt, & Independent Contractors & treat them & pay them correctly
• Use the tax laws to strategically plan your business operations to minimize tax expense & keep more money “in your pocket”

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA helps individuals & small business owners build & protect their financial wealth. She is available for in-person, or remote appointments. See http://www.debfoxfinancial.com for more information.