Employee Owners and Accountable Plans

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A famous quote by Robert A. Heinlein is “When one teachestwo learn.”

In my experience, with almost every tax return I prepare or tax class I teach, I learn new ways to help others -financially. The missed opportunity for one can become Teachable Moments for others.

Single Member LLC- Transition from Schedule C to S-Corp:

Seasoned Sole Proprietors know they have a variety of “ordinary and necessary” business tax deductions available to them. These may be used long enough that they may just seem “normal” and like something that everyone getsall the time.

The Sole Proprietor may been rolling along, doing great, reached a certain level of net income and decided to change their tax filing classification from a Sole Proprietor to an S-Corp. They file form 2553, receive IRS approval, determine “reasonable compensation” and set up payroll for the Employee Owner.

Let’s pretend the above occurred in 2017 and in 2018 they asked me to help them with their 1st S-Corp tax return (1120S) and with their personal Form 1040 because the K-1 and other rules were new to them. I accept.

When preparing tax returns, it is always a good idea to compare the previous years returns with the current tax return because it helps to identify any significant changes. During this process, I identified 2 deductions used in 2016 that we could not use, retroactively for the 2017 return. For clarification, I am using the term “retroactively” because the 2017 tax year was closed, the W2’s issued, and we were now in 2018. They two (2) deductions identified were:

  • Self Employed Health Deduction
  • Home Office Deduction

 

New Tax Classification = New Tax Rules

A SMLLC, filing their IRS Form 1040 & Schedule C as a Sole Proprietor /Disregarded Entity wears one (1) “Taxpayer Hat” – their own

S Corporation Shareholder-Employees wear 2 “Taxpayer Hats”

  1. Employee who receives a W2 for their reasonable compensation earned during the year
  2. Shareholder/Owner may receive distributions from earnings and profits

Most of us know that we cannot co-mingle business and personal funds- they need to be separate.

  • The Schedule C taxpayer can use a business check to pay for a business flight for her business travel
  • The Employee Shareholder taxpayer needs to use a new process to obtain reimbursement for business travel

I understand this may sound strange, particularly if you are the only shareholder- “it is only me and it is all my money”. The IRS does not look at it like this- let’s use Starbucks as an example. Can a Starbucks employee write a business check to pay for their personal business expense? Usually – they cannot.

Employee Owners can use Accountable Plans to reimburse their allowable personal business expenses such as mileage, travel and meals. In my story, this was not an option for 2017 because the W2’s were already issued. However, this can be set up and used in the 2018 tax year.

  • S Corp Employee Owners must prepare expense reports and submit them to your Employer (company) on a regular basis
  • The S-Corporation issues a business check for the expense reimbursement which can then be deposited in the Employee-Shareholders personal account

My last blog, ‘Tax Reform and Employee Business Expense’, provided information and rules for Accountable Plans. Here are specific tips for the S-Corp Shareholder Employee:

Self-Employed Health Insurance Premiums:

One of the perks of being self-employed is that you can deduct the cost of health insurance premiums as an “Above the Line” deduction (Form 1040, Line 27).

“Above the Line” deductions are preferable because they can apply to everyone and are separate from choosing either to use the Standard Deduction or to Itemize Deductions.

To take this deduction, one of the following statements must be true:

  • You were self-employed and had a net profit for the year reported on Schedule C, C-EZ, or F. (Others may qualify too; the focus of this blog is the change from a Schedule C to an S-Corp)
  • You received wages in 2017 from an S corporation in which you were a more-than-2% shareholder. Health insurance premiums paid or reimbursed by the S corporation are shown as wages on Form W-2
  • The insurance plan must be established under your business. Your personal services must have been a material in- come-producing factor in the business. If you are filing Schedule C, C-EZ, or F, the policy can be either in your name or in the name of the business
  • If you are a more-than-2% shareholder in an S corporation, the policy can be either in your name or in the name of the S corporation. You can either pay the premiums yourself or the S corporation can pay them and report them as wages. If the policy is in your name and you pay the premiums yourself, the S corporation must reimburse you. You can deduct the premiums only if the S corporation reports the premiums paid or reimbursed as wages in box 1 of your Form W-2 in 2017 and you also report the premium payments or reimbursements as wages on Form 1040, line 7

If the health insurance deduction cannot be used “Above the Line”, it is reported “Below the Line” on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, as a medical expense, subject to the 7.5% of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) limitation.

Home Office Deduction- for the convenience of the employer

  • S corporations may be able to use an Accountable Plan to reimburse expenses for the legitimate business use of the home. By doing so, the business can claim a deduction for necessary business expenses, while the taxpayer is allowed to exclude the reimbursements from income
  • Discuss your specific situation with your CPA or EA

This blog was written to help Small Business Owners know that there are many aspects to choosing a tax classification. It is so much more than “checking the box” or submitting the form.  If you want to learn more, reach out and schedule an appointment with your favorite Tax Professional. They, like me, love to help others save money through legitimate and timely deductions and/or tax planning.

In closing, if you are considering changing your IRS tax classification, I suggest you proceed with “informed caution”. Why? Generally, once an LLC has elected to change its classification, it cannot elect again to change its classification during the 60 months after the effective date of the election. Make sure you want to be “married that long” before you tie the knot and sign on the…dot. (Doted line)

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 phone, virtual, and in-person communications.

https://www.DeborahFoxCPA.com

Call 619-549-2717

E-Mail me @ debfoxfinancial@gmail.com 

Twitter: @debfoxfinancial

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

Have you reviewed your legal business structure for tax savings and/or liability?

Tax Time is a great time to review your business financial life and determine if there are changes you can make to help you keep more of the money your earn in your pocket. One way to do this is to see if your legal business structure provides you the best opportunity for tax savings and/ or more limited liability.

In the U.S., there are four major legal choices to chose from when deciding how to operate your business: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and the limited liability company. There are also variations within these categories, such as the S-corporation.

Making this decision is complicated and both an attorney and an accountant should be consulted to provide information to help you decide which form may be best for your business. Factors to consider include:

  • Legal Liability
  • Tax implications
  • Cost of formation and record keeping
  • Flexibility
  • Future needs

As someone with both an accounting and risk management background, I look at choices from both perspectives. The number side of me wants to find out if there is a way to save money. The risk management part of me wants to make sure we are protecting the money we have. The following business entity review focuses upon these two aspects.

Liability can arise from negligence, statutory law, and assumption by contract. The risk of potential liability varies by business entity form.

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 or Schedule F, Profit or Loss from the business
  • Sole Proprietors must pay both the employer and the employee side of Social Security and Medicare taxes; this is called Self-Employment tax
  • Self-Employment tax is required if your annual net-earnings is more than $400
  • The self-employment tax rate for 2014 is 15.3% of the first $117,000 of income and 2.9% of everything above that amount
  • 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 

Partnership: Two or More

  • General Partnerships: Partners are exposed to unlimited liability for business expenses
  • Limited Partnerships: General Partner is personally liable; Limited Partners have limited liability unless they are participating in management
  • Depending on the form, Partners may lose their investment and/or personal assets as well
  • Partners are not employees and should not be issued a W-2
  • Partnerships file an annual information return on Federal Form 1065; Schedule K1 form is used for the individual member’s profit and loss allocations
  • Individual Partners file their personal tax information on Federal Form 1040 and Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss
  • Taxable at the personal income level and at the graduated rates
  • File Self-Employment tax on Schedule SE; see Sole Proprietor for additional information

C-Corporation: Double-Taxation applies

  • Separate legal entity that exists, separately and is distinct from its owners
  • Owners’ personal assets are protected from claims against the corporation
  • Generally, the owners of a corporation cannot lose any more than they have invested in the corporation
  • The corporation is taxed and can be held legally liable for its actions
  • 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
  • Owners do not pay tax on corporate earnings unless they receive money as compensation for services or as dividends
  • The corporation pays taxes on the annual net earnings and files Federal Form 1120
  • Corporate owners, who want to leave some profit in the business, may benefit from lower corporate rates
  • For example, 2013 corporate tax rates are 15% for taxable income below $50K, plus 25% for taxable income between $50K-$75K; perhaps, lower than individual rates
  • Corporate taxation is more complicated than the pass-through taxation
  • Self-Employment tax does not apply; FICA payroll taxes are shared 50/50 between the corporation and the employee

Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Single Member

  • An LLC is an entity created by state statute
  • LLCs are state entities, so the level of legal protection given to a company’s owners depends upon the rules of the state in which the LLC was formed
  • Tax reporting depends on the status of the LLC
  • Depending on elections made by the LLC and the number of members, the IRS will treat an LLC either as a corporation, partnership, or as part of the owner’s tax return; i.e. a disregarded entity
  • An LLC with only one member is treated as an entity disregarded as separate from its owner for income tax purposes unless it files Form 8832 and elects to be treated as a corporation
  • If a single-member LLC does not elect to be treated as a corporation, the LLC is a “disregarded entity,” and the LLC’s activities should be reflected on its owner’s federal tax return on Federal Form 1040 and Schedule C, Schedule E, or Schedule F
  • An individual owner of a single-member LLC that operates a trade or business is subject to the tax on net earnings from self employment in the same manner as a sole proprietorship
  • 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 corporation
  • All income, gain, loss, and deduction flow through to members unless the LLC is taxed as C-Corp
  • No double taxation unless the LLC choses to file as a corporation
  • Taxable at the personal income level and at the graduated rates
  • Self-Employment Tax applies except if the LLC operates as C-Corp
  • File Self-Employment tax on Schedule SE; see Sole Proprietor for additional information

Subchapter S-Corporation (S-Corp): Double Taxation does not apply

  • Separate legal entity
  • Limited liability for shareholders, officers, and directors
  • Generally, a corporation’s shareholders are not personally liable for the corporations debts just because they have ownership in the business; the same is true for the members of an LLC
  • S corporations are corporations that elect to pass corporate income, losses, deductions, and credits through to their shareholders for federal tax purposes
  • Generally, the S-Corp does not pay Income Tax at the Corporate level; they can be responsible for tax on certain built-in gains and passive income at the entity level
  • Self-Employment tax does not apply
  • Many small business owners use S-Corps because they can save a business owner Social Security and Medicare taxes
  • Owners receive a salary and normal payroll taxes apply
  • As an owner-employee, the corporation pays ½ of the payroll tax which can be a substantial tax savings to the owner-employee
  • An S corporation must pay reasonable employee compensation to a shareholder-employee in return for the services the employee provides before a distribution
  • File S-Corp informational return on Federal Form 1120-S
  • Income, gain, loss, and deduction is passed through to share holders
  • Shareholder-employees will receive two tax documents from the S-Corporation: a W-2 wage statement and a Schedule K-1 statement
  • Shareholders report the flow-through of income and losses on their personal tax returns; taxed are based upon the individual income tax rates
  • Double-Taxation does not apply
  • Shareholder-employees are taxed on their salary income and on any profits distributed by the S-Corporation
  • Profit distribution is not subject to FICA payroll taxes; salaries paid must be reasonable for services provided
  • Shareholder-Employees file Federal Form 1040 and Schedule E – Supplemental Income and Loss
  • Under California law, the S corporation is subject to a 1.5 percent tax on its net income
  • See if special tax rules apply in your state

Understandably, reading about tax implications and legal liability might seem a bit boring. Most would agree. Think about it this way:

  • Money saved is money you do not need to earn
  • Knowing you are protected is a good form of “sleep insurance”

Chinese Proverb: To open a shop is easy; to keep it open is an art.

Deb Fox can be reached via twitter @ debfoxfinancial or via e-mail @ debfoxfinancial@gmail.com.

http://www.debfoxfinancial.com/