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

Facebook: Deborah Ann Fox, CPA

The blog is provided as general information only and should not be considered a substitute for specific advice and services of 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.

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 

 

 

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/